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Design art furniture and the boundaries of function : communicative objects, performative things

Over the last two decades a category of artefact has appeared that has come to be termed 'design art': highly expressive furniture and domestic products that are created as self-initiated, often limited edition designs, sold through galleries, exhibited in museums and collected in the manner traditionally ascribed to art. To date no in-depth theoretical analysis of the growth of such design has been conducted and key protagonists such as Droog Design have received little critical attention, as those involved have been largely left to write their own history. Consequently, the aim of this thesis is to account for the development of these objects as the products of particular cultural and historical conditions and ask what the implications of the rise of these particular practices of making, distribution and use may be. This thesis proposes that close analysis of the objects, their form and functional potential, reveals their dialectical qualities, in that in their materiality the tensions and conflicts of the period of their development can be discerned. Through an account of the development of the market for such goods it examines the way in which these things can be studied as commodities, in that they can clearly be understood as status symbols or a form of cultural capital. It is also asserted that by regarding such design as having the potential to impact upon everyday life, and not just as existing as something to be consumed by an elite, such practices illuminate broader problems of the ethics of design in a wider sense. In this way it is argued that these communicative objects, in their ambiguous form and problematic relationship to function, can give an insight into the way we live with performative things: the ideological products of modernity that act upon us as we use them and which contain in their being the protocols and disciplinary forces of their time. The intention therefore is to ask whether design art can be seen as a politically radical practice that suggests ways in which both makers and users can assert a new relationship to the things with which we live.
Date January 2011
CreatorsTaylor, Damon
ContributorsSugg Ryan, Deborah ; Evans, Stuart
PublisherUniversity of the Arts London
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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