Steven Leuthold will be giving a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Wednesday, October 8, 2014, from 12 to 1:30pm. His talk is entitled “Design History and the Discourse of Desire.”

From the perspective of each of us, as a consumer or user of design, the images, products, and fashions that we choose are part of the construction and expression of our individual identities, and, as such, an expression of our desires. In his talk at the BGC, Leuthold will discuss “desire” as a basis for understanding design. In particular, the speaker will invite discussion about desire’s cross-cultural and universal function in relation to design. However, desire has often been mistrusted. When is the consideration of desire as a basis of design legitimate? When does it lead to inauthenticity and ripeness for exploitation? In a global context, how is desire related to a taste for the exotic, and to what degree has this taste shaped cross-cultural interactions? A scholar who applied the idea of desire early on was Adrian Forty, who in his book Objects of Desire set forth a firm argument for a history of design in relation to a history of societies. For Forty, myth is the linkage between design and society. Myths appeal to us in the way that they speak to our longings and desires. For instance, one desire satisfied through design is the craving for distinction from other members of one’s own society. Leuthold’s talk will consider and then update Forty’s argument for a global application. The balance of the talk will consider the philosophical attempt to place limits on desire.

Steven Leuthold is Professor of the History of Art and Design at Northern Michigan University, located on the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He will be a Visiting Fellow at the Bard Graduate Center from October to November 2014. In addition to developing and coordinating an academic major and minor in art and design history, Leuthold is involved in design history instruction for studio artists from a wide range of areas including ceramics, metalworking, woodworking, graphic communications, illustration, and human-centered design. Leuthold is currently authoring a history of modern design that integrates this variety of design practices and considers them in a global context. The global aspect of this project is informed by his previous comparative research, published as Cross-Cultural Issues in Art: Frames for Understanding (Routledge, 2011). Leuthold has authored a number of articles related to indigenous art and media along with a book on the topic, Indigenous Aesthetics: Native Art, Media, and Identity (Texas, 1998). His most recent publication is a detailed bibliographic essay on Plains Indian arts for Oxford Bibliographies (2014).

Coffee and tea will be served; attendees are welcome to bring their own lunch.

RSVP is required.