Communicating vessels by Julian Gibb

Communicating vessels

An inspection of some overlooked and lesser-known aspects of European and American culture in relation to design practice.

USAmerican homogeneity: power and glamour
European heterogeneity: complexity and contradiction

Biographical Note

One of the peculiarities of Gaelic, the language of pre-urbanised Scotland is avoidance of the genitive in its grammar, amounting to denial of possession. This is my pencil/this pencil is at me I am a doctor/a doctor is in me, echoing a distant time when nothing was owned, everything was borrowed and shared.

I studied and practiced as a graphic designer, moved to product design, moved again to criticism and theory with emphasis on the application of semiology to imagery and material culture. I have never considered design to be circumscribed by a discipline; design is more than ever a transdisciplinary organisational skill, especially if you hope to remain professionally competent at the edge without limit of time.

Warning: this lecture contains historical material, for the simple reason the present has nothing to tell us until it is past, whether by one second or many years. We need time because meaning is slow to emerge, and remains fluid, (meaning is never solid) so that what seemed over and done can suddenly determine your next move. To be effective, interpret the past, inhabit the present and imagine futures all your working life.

About the speaker

Julian Gibb is the former Head of Product Design and Postgraduate course leader in Theatre Design of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art at the Dundee University; also headed the Postgraduate MA Design at the Glasgow School of Art. Since 1990s, he co-founded the Centre Européen de Technoculture, Université Paris-Dauphine in France. He actively worked as design and academic consultant at the same time, widely exhibited in museums around Europe. He has been working closely with PolyU SD as visiting professor and chief editor of our major publications since 1995.

All SD staff and students are welcome.


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