On Semperian surfaces: interweavings between the mid-twentieth curtain wall and Harris Tweed, a study mediated by photography

Carlin, P 2012, On Semperian surfaces: interweavings between the mid-twentieth curtain wall and Harris Tweed, a study mediated by photography, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Architecture and Design, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title On Semperian surfaces: interweavings between the mid-twentieth curtain wall and Harris Tweed, a study mediated by photography
Author(s) Carlin, P
Year 2012
Abstract Recalling the nineteenth century architect and champion of the crafts Gottfried Semper’s claim that textiles are the true antecedents to the wall, On Semperian Surfaces is an interdisciplinary investigation that explores the relationship between the hand-crafted, geographically specific and culturally grounded fabric of Harris Tweed, hand-woven by islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, and the phenomenon of the mass-mediaised surface of the curtain glass wall that patterns our cities across the world. Premised upon interpretation, this research speculates on how allegiances between surfaces might contribute to our understanding of and creation of place, the hyphantic potential of the photograph put to work in its making.

Appropriating the productive art of weaving, On Semperian Surfaces stitches together a series of diptychs from disparate disciplines, architectural and textile, their conjoining founded upon association. The research departs from a series of photographs, Urban Fabric: Greige, portraits of Melbourne’s mid-twentieth century corporate façades, which exposed the latent image of Harris Tweed amidst the buildings’ faces. Operating from the intimate to the architectural, shuttling betwixt body and building, between the rural and the metropolitan, from the hand-crafted to the mass-reproduced, the overarching approach is founded upon analogy, its binding establishing contexts enabling surfaces to appear.

Analogy was a favoured mode of transition for the German scholar and writer Walter Benjamin, and it is through the lens of his writings that this research is largely read, the city a subject of his focus, the language of photography a salient feature of his texts. A constellation of other writers is gathered with the Scrivener, art, architecture and textile historians, philosophers, including poets and novelists too, whose own works and threads of thought enrich the conceptual patterning while lending colour to the prose.

Composed of two parts, On Semperian Surfaces presents a series of art works and texts, each poetically conceived, with the first section containing the images and artist statements, coupled by an essay which locates the work amidst a milieu of inspirations and associations, images lured to and emitted from Urban Fabric: Greige, these images providing an improvised score to which this text is set. The second section is a response to the images in the Urban Fabric suite and their installation. Understood as image-texts, these writings do not seek to describe the work per se, but are presented as another form of transcription, elaborating on the relationships between some of the images that proliferated in the wake of Urban Fabric: Greige. In a series of essays dialogues thus ensue, each text elucidating different aspects, and tied on, the one after the other, like webs of tweed, and pulled through the loom.

As a result of this coursing, it is suggested that On Semperian Surfaces tenders a new-found surface vocabulary for the reading of the city, one that seeks to challenge the banality of the office tower whose façades were once decried as “anonymous,” while activating the unforeseen potential of Harris Tweed, the metaphoricity of the photograph brought to light in its construction.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Architecture and Design
Keyword(s) Architecture
Textile design
Harris Tweed
Curtain wall façades
Gottfried Semper
Walter Benjamin
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Created: Wed, 25 May 2016, 10:01:24 EST by Keely Chapman
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