Speaker/Event

Bess Williamson
Art History, Theory, and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Problems in Design History Research: The Body, Disability, and Modern Industrial Design

Date

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Time

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Place

Lecture Hall, 38 West 86th St.

212.501.3019, academicevents@bgc.bard.edu

Description

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Bess Williamson will be coming to speak at the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation Seminar in New York and American Material Culture on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Her talk is entitled “Problems in Design History Research: The Body, Disability, and Modern Industrial Design.”

Bess Williamson is an Assistant Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she teaches courses in design history and theory. She received her PhD in American History from the University of Delaware, and holds a Masters in the History of Design and Decorative Arts from Parsons The New School for Design/Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Her current book project, Designing an Accessible America, traces the history of design responses to disability rights from 1945 to recent times. Her writing has appeared in Winterthur Portfolio and American Studies, with reviews in Design and Culture and Design Issues.

In her talk at the BGC, Williamson will discuss her research on bodies that are hard to find in design history: those of the disabled, ill, and elderly. Disability is a little-discussed topic in the history of design, particularly given the propensity of Modernism toward idealized, engineered forms rather than aberrance or idiosyncrasy. Looking at (and for) bodies left out of mainstream design provides an opportunity to interrogate design research, and ask: where do we look for difficult-to-find subjects in the history of design? What discourses can guide an exploration of modern and contemporary design from the perspective of the body—particularly when design does not function well? What connections can be made between these invisible subjects and other concerns left out of design discourse?

Bess Williamson is an Assistant Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she teaches courses in design history and theory. She received her PhD in American History from the University of Delaware, and holds a Masters in the History of Design and Decorative Arts from Parsons The New School for Design/Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Her current book project, Designing an Accessible America, traces the history of design responses to disability rights from 1945 to recent times. Her writing has appeared in Winterthur Portfolio and American Studies, with reviews in Design and Culture and Design Issues.
In her talk at the BGC, Williamson will discuss her research on bodies that are hard to find in design history: those of the disabled, ill, and elderly. Disability is a little-discussed topic in the history of design, particularly given the propensity of Modernism toward idealized, engineered forms rather than aberrance or idiosyncrasy. Looking at (and for) bodies left out of mainstream design provides an opportunity to interrogate design research, and ask: where do we look for difficult-to-find subjects in the history of design? What discourses can guide an exploration of modern and contemporary design from the perspective of the body—particularly when design does not function well? What connections can be made between these invisible subjects and other concerns left out of design discourse? Light refreshments will be served at 5:45 pm. The presentation will begin at 6:00 pm.

RSVP is required. Please click on the registration link at the bottom of this page or contact academicevents@bgc.bard.edu.

PLEASE NOTE that our Lecture Hall can only accommodate a limited number of people, so please come early if you would like to have a seat in the main room. Registrants who arrive late may be seated in an overflow viewing area.

To live-stream this and other special academic events at BGC, please visit BGCTV, our online live-streaming channel.

To join the discussion remotely via Twitter, either with questions or comments, please use the Twitter hashtag #BardGradCenterTV. During the seminar, the faculty convener will review this feed and ask the speaker questions drawn from Twitter.


Academic Programs, Seminar Series / The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation Seminar in New York and American Material Culture