7. Colonial histories, museum collections, FabLabs and community engagement: flows of practices, cultures and people – a roundtable

Amy Jane Barnes, Kim Charnley, Renate Dohmen and Nicole Lotz (The Open University)


This roundtable explores how issues of the local and the global register and are negotiated in the disciplines of art history and design with regard to two projects: Suits and Saris by Amy Jane Barnes (Art History) and La Campana Community FabLab by Nicole Lotz (Design). It seeks to probe what such a transdisciplinary discussion might entail and what the differences and similarities in our approaches might be. The discussion aimed at enriching our practice by stepping out of familiar frames of professional reference and becoming familiar with perspectives and discourses from the related but also disciplinarily distant fields of art history and design respectively, which, moreover, at the Open University are embedded in the humanities and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and therefore inhabit distinctly different vocational worlds.

Keywords: British-Asian fashion, design thinking, colonialism, community engagement, design, art history, museums, FabLab, exhibitions, museum classifications, East-African Asians, co-design, cultural heritage, clothing, digital fabrication, participatory design, Mexico

Full text: OAJ_Issue9_Roundtable_Final (PDF 10.9 MB).

DOI:  http://dx.doi.org/10.5456/issn.2050-3679/2020w07

Biographical notes 

Amy Jane Barnes is an academic, curator and researcher with wide-reaching interests from Asian art and visual cultures, to museums, their collections and the stories they tell. She has an academic background in art history and museum studies, with a particular interest in how art and design from twentieth-century China is collected, interpreted and displayed in British museums. She has worked in museums as a curator and researcher, and taught art history and museum and heritage studies at several universities. Since November 2019, she has been Staff Tutor in Art History at The Open University. Amy is the author of a monograph, Museum Representations of Maoist China (Ashgate/Routledge, 2014), and several edited volumes, most recently A Museum Studies Approach to Heritage (Routledge, 2018).


Kim Charnley is Lecturer and Staff Tutor at The Open University. His research specialism is contemporary art with a focus on ‘post-object’, socially engaged art such as ‘social practice’, art activism and institutional critique. This research into the politics of contemporary art involves an interest in the intersection between contemporary art, design and craft. He has published in journals including Art and the Public Sphere, Art Journal, Historical Materialism and The Large Glass and contributed an introduction to Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism, a collection of essays by the artist and theorist Gregory Sholette (Pluto, 2017). A monograph exploring the role of the collective in contemporary art’s politics, titled Sociopolitical Aesthetics: Art, Crisis, Neoliberalism, will be published by Bloomsbury in early 2021.

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.

Nicole Lotz is Senior Lecturer in Design at The Open University. She is interested in design processes, collaboration and engagement across boundaries and at the margins. She has published multiple articles in journals across the disciplines of design, education and international development. Her work seeks to offer opportunities for disadvantaged communities to engage and persevere through social and communal learning, even in challenging situations. Nic’s research is heavily influenced by her upbringing in East Germany, lived experiences in Hong Kong and the UK, and fieldwork carried out in South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America.