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26–12 May

Is Beauty Enough?

We are living in times in which change is accelerating, uncertainty amplified.

We see this in society, the economy, politics, the environment and individual lives.  Everything is fluid.  Environmental challenge, automisation of jobs, social fragmentation and individual atomization, mass international flows of people, crises in leadership, crises in identity.  And more locally, an intensification of the marketisation of education, with particular challenges for art and design education.

Change is nothing new. What is different is our developed consciousness of our own agency and our capability to influence and evolve the world.  As designers, makers and creators, we have unprecedented resources, opportunity, time and knowledge to respond to these challenges with creativity and with moral imagination. We have awoken, and yet, sometimes it seems like the potential of design thinking is not yet being harnessed.

In response to the uncertainties which unify our disciplines, from 26–30 April, Central Saint Martins and Cockpit Arts will bring together leading practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and educators for an inaugural series of lunchtime and after-work debates, panels and discussions which explore and challenge values of beauty in making and craft. We will ask how comfortably material practice and object-making sits within our need to radically shift economic, pedagogic and social structures. We will ask who is doing the making. And we will ask, is beauty enough?

Is Beauty Enough will be hosted online, free to attend and open to all. Please explore the full programme below and book your space to attend.

Is Beauty Enough? A CSM X Cockpit Arts Symposium

Economics for a Just and Regenerative Future

Monday 26 April, 5.30–6.30pm

The Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL) was set up in 2019 to propose an economic mindset that's fit for 21st-century contexts and challenges. It recognizes that our times are profoundly troubled and proposes a way of thinking to bring about the regenerative and distributive dynamics that this century calls for.

For the opening session of Is Beauty Enough?, Rob Shorter (Communities and Education Lead at DEAL) will consider how ecological and social foundations must be paramount to building new, transformational economies. He will also be joined in a conversation hosted by Debika Ray (Writer, founder of editorial consultancy Clove Press and contributing editor at Crafts magazine) and with Annie Warburton (CEO, Cockpit Arts) and Rachel Dickson (Dean of Academic Programmes, Central Saint Martins). Together they will ask:

  • What can we learn from doughnut economics in order to reach a just and regenerative future?
  • What assumptions do we rarely unpick when talking about economics in art, craft and design?
  • How can we avoid economic contradictions where sustainable products are made only for the elite?

The session is free, online and open for all to attend. Book for Economics for a Just and Regenerative Future.

Beauty, its power dynamics and its prejudices

Tuesday 27 April, 5.30–6.30pm Postponed: Wednesday 12 May, 5.30-6.30pm

More than mere ornamentation, the beautiful objects we make and surround ourselves with are the physical embodiment of our identities, traditions and relationships. Yet, often the narrative told about our material culture – whether in museums, magazines, academic courses or mainstream discourse – is incomplete, shaped by unequal power dynamics and historic prejudices. In this session, Debika Ray (Writer, founder of editorial consultancy Clove Press and contributing editor at Crafts magazine) will host a conversation between Christine Checinska (curator of African and African diaspora fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum), Steve Ali (silversmith, founder of jewellery brand Road From Damascus and co-founder of the Refugee Media Centre) and Taslima Ahmad (textile designer, founder of Manchester-based non-profit Creative Design & Manufacture UK and winner of the 2020 Heritage National Lottery Award). Together they will ask:

  • How can we ensure the fields of design and craft open up so that everyone has the opportunity to discover their talents, express themselves and make their mark?
  • Should we consider people’s right to express their identity and culture through making to be a basic need? If so, how can we ensure that what we collectively value reflects the richness and diversity of human society?
  • What can craft and design learn from other disciplines, with fewer hierarchies between different types of practice?

The session is free, online and open for all to attend. Book for Beauty, its power dynamics and its prejudices.

Is Beauty Enough?

Wednesday 28 April, 5.30–6.15pm

Objects can easily speak a thousand words. They bring along with them the artistic expression, imagination, creativity, perspective and historicity of their makers. Yet - as sustainable or beautiful as they may be - are we able to tell if the objects around us are forces for good? Or instead, do all our objects come with an unseen cost?

In this session, Jeremy Till (Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Central Saint Martins) will present a short provocation for a debate around the role of beauty in object-making and its influence on contemporary consumer culture and desire. Framing thought within the context of sustainable practices, this session will ask:

  • If our planet is overburdened by production, distribution and consumption, can we justify continuing to make objects for their beauty alone?
  • Have developments in art, craft and design over the past decade genuinely helped us produce alternative models to conspicuous mass production? Or do we mostly continue to produce beauty as either unattainable or unsustainable luxury?
  • What role do beautiful objects play in our world today? Are the objects around us forces of good or bad?

The session is free, online and open for all to attend. Book for Is Beauty Enough?.

Placemaking and Planetary Care

Thursday 29 April, 1.00–2.00pm

Placemaking and Planetary Care

Over the last ten years, the term Placemaking has established itself as a multidisciplinary approach to improve public realm within our cities. ‘The community knows best, is a slogan often associated with good Placemaking, drawing on the local potential of a place with the intention of creating more inclusive and diverse spaces. This lunchtime talk proposes to shift the focus and asks what Placemaking looks like when it centres the non-human and foregrounds planetary care as a key concern. In short, what if ‘the planet knows best’? Together, Andreas Lang, Torange Khonsari, Seetal Solanki and Anita Mckeown will ask:

  • What voice does the non-human have in the Placemaking conversation and how can it be heard?
  • What would regenerative Placemaking look like, which actively counters climate change and biodiversity loss and foregrounds planetary care?
  • What new forms of governance need to emerge if we shift the focus from Place-making to Place-care?

The session is free, online and open for all to attend. Book for Placemaking and Planetary Care.

Making beauty in an endangered world

Thursday 29 April, 5.30–6.30pm

Endangered species. Endangered crafts. Endangered ways of life. Is this the new normal? In a world where our natural resources are under pressure more than ever, with one million species at risk of extinction, how do we reconcile human making with the survival of non-human species? And how do we situate the meaning of beauty in this critical context?

Jared Diamond argues that we must learn from previous societal collapses to prevent the next one. Can we designers truly provoke new models for making? Our panellists Kate Goldsworthy, Maurizio Montalti and Ali Rakib will discuss the notion of making beauty in the context of shifting economic models such as the circular economy, collaborating with living systems and adopting biofabrication principles. Lead in a conversation by Carole Collet, they will also provide an anthropological perspective on the value of craft knowledge in the context of a climate and biodiversity emergency, asking:

  • What does beauty mean in the context of a circular economy?
  • How do we generate beauty when working with living systems?
  • What can anthropology teach us about making beauty in an endangered world?

The session is free, online and open for all to attend. Book for Making beauty in an endangered world.

What Futures are there for Beauty?

Friday 30 April, 1.00–2.00pm

Over the past week, Is Beauty Enough? has staged numerous conversations, debates and talks which have sketched out the role of beauty across regenerative economics, the circular economy, Placemaking, activism, consumer behaviour and identity and culture in craft, art and design. For its closing session on 30 April, we've invited recent CSM graduates to showcase their response to one or all these themes by asking some central questions:

  • How can we defend material practices and object-making in a world overflowing with stuff?
  • What role(s) do we play as makers and designers in redefining beauty?
  • In the context of multiple crises which we are facing, is making and designing for beauty enough?

The session is free, online and open for all to attend. Book for What Futures are there for Beauty?.

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