Caryn Simonson

Course Director for BA Textile Design

Chelsea College of Arts

Biography

Caryn Simonson is Course Director for BA (Hons) Textile Design at Chelsea College of Arts and a member of the Textile Environment Design (TED) and Textile Futures Research Centre groups (TFRC). She completed the MA Textiles at Goldsmiths, University of London (1995). She has presented work across photography, video, sculpture, installation and writing. Caryn co-curated an exhibition of TFRC members’ work in the 3D online social networking environment Second Life™ which was presented at the ICA, London and internationally. In 2008, she guest-edited a special themed issue - Skin and Cloth – for Textile: the journal of Cloth and Culture (Berg, 2008) which explores relationships between skin and cloth, including work on technological advances in textiles. She contributed two interviews for this with artists Franko B and Margi Geerlinks. In 2007, she curated a group exhibition with Renata Brink called Textile Transporter at arttransponder Gallery, Berlin. In 1998, she was invited as guest professor in Textiles at Universität Gesamthochschule, Kassel (Germany) for 5 months and lived and worked in Berlin as a designer/maker of leatherwear and an exhibiting artist (1998-2000).

Teaching posts have included Course Leader for BA (Hons) Contemporary Textile Practices, Norwich School of Art and Design; Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies and Associate Lecturer on MA Textile Futures, CSM; and Lecturer in Textiles and Critical Theory at Goldsmiths. Caryn is a member of the International Advisory Board for Textile: the journal of cloth and culture (Berg).

Research interests

Gender, sexuality, the subversion of identity, clothing and the body.

Research statement

Caryn Simonson is curious about people, their clothes, bodies, passions, harbouring secret lives or holding allegiance to social groups. Her work has centred around the performance of gender, sexuality, the subversion of identity, clothing and the body. Earlier research has explored aspects of the body and new technologies specifically in relation to women, identity and cyberspace.

Caryn Simonson’s work exploits the use of old objects and found materials to render the functional dysfunctional or transform the readings of objects causing us to re-think their context often in relation to identity (individual and group) and gender. Classic or custom motorbikes get ’recycled’ - often passed on to new owners or modified, customised and upgraded. They represent not only a nostalgia for the past but a model for the re-use of objects. Caryn’s recent work forms part of a series of digital photographs depicting motorbikes which are customised using fabrics and found objects from charity shops, personal junk, etc. Semi-documentary portraits are staged in ways to open up questions around individuality or group allegiance, fact and fiction. Esther and Lyn with the Cossack has been described as a contemporary twist on a Gainsborough painting (Phil Gray) – might the figures standing with their bikes have been the land-owners – modern-day nobles, or the chauffeurs?

Caryn Simonson is currently working on a paper for the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies’ conference (University of Colorado Springs, June 2012). The paper - Fashionable ‘Bikers’ and Biker Fashion – explores the relationship between ‘biker’ images and luxury and heritage fashion brands.

Selected research outputs