In Focus: Welcome to the Dolls’ House I

What is a doll? This is the first in a series of courses to conceptualize and design “Welcome to the Dolls’ House,” the spring 2025 Focus Project exhibition that will ask why humans all over the world create objects in their own likenesses—objects to which they relate in intimate, complex, and sometimes troubling ways. Why do we make dolls? And how do our dolls reflect ourselves back to us? Where is the line between creator and creature? Moving across disciplines, cultures, and walks of life, the exhibition will explore the doll as both concept and object, inviting the visitor to engage with the fundamental human desire for “likeness,” both historically and in contemporary life. The doll is a unique type of object. It calls into question the relation of subject to object—self to other—like no other material item. It unsettles the categories of real and imaginary, animate and inanimate, in ways that challenge us to rethink our preconceptions about people and things. Dolls push the limits of what we consider design, and reconfigure our understanding and experience of the material world. Dolls stand at cultural crossroads. Their unique engagement with design, materiality, and the construction and perception of the self (and others), positions them at multiple critical intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, and ability. One of the chief aims of this exhibition is to shed light on these intersections as they are embodied—uniquely, and often singularly or for the first time—by dolls. This course will provide students with the opportunity to explore the multivalent concepts and materialities enacted by dolls, while engaging in original research that will contribute to the format, content, and experience of the 2025 exhibition. Working within the preliminary conceptual structure of a doll house comprising a sequence of themed rooms, students will collaborate with the instructor to populate these rooms with objects and ideas. They will also begin to construct the website that will serve ultimately as the exhibition’s permanent, online iteration. 3 credits. This class will satisfy the digital project requirement.