1. Introduction: art history and design in dialogue: abutments and confluences

Renate Dohmen (The Open University)


This special issue stages a cross-disciplinary conversation between art history and design as taught at The Open University (OU) where these subjects are situated in the Humanities and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). The issue’s overarching concern is to open a discussion on how a pedagogy for the future can be conceived that rises to the challenge of the climate catastrophe and the project of decoloniality. In so doing it poses the related question: how might the OU harness the pioneering spirit of its founding years, just over 50 years ago, and yet again be a trailblazer of radical innovation in higher education in response to the urgencies of our time?
To start this conversation the special issue brings together contributions by art historians and designers. It offers discussions that look back to the early days of teaching art history and design at the University when courses such as A305 History of Architecture and Design 1890–1939 and T262 Man-made Futures were broadcast by the BBC, and takes stock of how the separation of art and design, and the hierarchy between intellectual and manual labour on which this divide is historically based, have been conceived in the Global North. The issue also presents reflections on a recent current collaborative design project in the community, and an experiment in method that entails a photographic interpolation between anthropology and urban design, as well as a roundtable discussion between members of the OU’s Art History and Design Departments that brings approaches in their fields into proximity in relation to issues of museum classification, community engagement, co-design and design thinking, FabLabs, colonialism, representation and transnational movements of practices and people. The special issue ends with a rallying call for change by Tony Fry.

Keywords:art history, design, climate crisis, pedagogy, Anthropocene, Open University, decoloniality, modernity/ coloniality, hand/mind binary, Western exceptionalism, non-Occidental West, cross-disciplinarity, Dewesternization, Eurocentricity, disegno, Vasari, Tony Fry

Full text: OAJ_Issue9_Introduction_Final (PDF 1.6 MB).

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5456/issn.2050-3679/2020w01

Biographical note 

Renate Dohmen is Lecturer in Art History at The Open University. She edited and co-authored Art and Empire: British India (Manchester University Press and The Open University, 2018). Her monograph, Encounters beyond the Gallery: Relational Aesthetics and Cultural Difference (I.B. Tauris, 2016), examines issues of contemporary art, relational aesthetics and Deleuze-Guattarean thought, anthropology and issues of cultural translation, challenging Eurocentric perceptions and modes of critical address of tribal and folk visual practices. She has published in journals including the Journal of Design History, Ecumene: A Journal of Cultural Geographies, Victorian Literature and Culture and South Asian Popular Culture, and is currently working on a book-length study of nineteenth-century exhibition culture in British India supported by the Leverhulme Trust that examines issues of amateurism, gender and race.