Next Session: ‘Space’ Tuesday 8th March

Livia Rezende chairs a session exploring the notion of space. For more information please click on the link below for a poster giving further details.



Review: Copy-Repeat

A year and a half after Dialogues in Design was set up by four PhD students in the History of Design Department of the Royal College of Art/Victoria and Albert Museum, a new spring series of events was initiated on Tuesday 8th February 2011 with an event entitled ‘Copy-Repeat’. The event, organised by one of the founding members Stephen Knott, followed a similar pattern to previous events with speakers drawn from other departments of the Royal College of Art to address a common theme broadly relevant to object-based research.

After a successful first year of existence, with subjects as diverse as post-colonialism, design and craft, amateurism, Latin American representations of the self as well as an event aimed to assist the professional development of PhD students called ‘Afterlife’, the series restarted with an audience that filled the College’s new Research Seminar Room. The panel discussing the relationship between original, copy and forgery included Brigit Connolly, a practising ceramicist undertaking an MPhil in the Criticial and Historical Studies department, and Maisie Broadhead, a former student of the Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery Department.

Stephen Knott started the event by drawing attention to Walter Benjamin’s distinction between technical and manual reproducibility in his famous essay The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. This division defined the talk with the first half interrogating the expectation that technical reproduction produces sameness, with the second focusing on manual reproduction: what happens when a wider audience is given the chance to manually reproduce images through the increasing availability of paints, brushes and artists’ supplies?

The talk by Brigit Connolly that followed shifted attention to the copying of aura that occurs in translation. She asked what qualities of a work were lost or gained through translation and referred to theorists and writers who place this problem at the forefront of their work, such as Walter Benjamin, T S Eliot and Jorge Luis Borges. The latter author’s attempt to re-write Cervantes’ Don Quixote demonstrated the personal colour, uniqueness and aura inherent to attempts to translate ‘authentically’.

Maisie Broadhead used her work as a springboard to talk about forgery, particularly the series of photographs entitled ‘House of Fake’ where she puts prominent forgers of the twentieth century in the same costume of the great artists of the past, imitating mosaics housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her analysis of forgery was sympathetic, explaining how the perceived deception of imitation can actually represent a positive appropriation of the original. The quantity of questions asked to the panel at the end gave some indication of the interest aroused by the theme among a diverse audience.

The Design History Society has supported Dialogues in Design since its inception, contributing to encouraging postgraduate involvement in organising events, fostering discussion and providing an outlet for research, an opportunity often deprived of students in the course of their PhD study.

Written for the Design History Society newsletter

Afterlife reviews


In depth reviews of the Dialgues in Design conference ‘Afterlife’ are now available on line from the following link.

Afterlife audio


The postgraduate conference ‘Dialogues in Design: Afterlife’ held on the 1st June at the Royal College of Art is now available to listen to on-line. Please follow link.

Audio: Amateurism


Parts of the ‘Amateurism’ event held on the 28th January in Department 21 are now available on-line. Please follow link.