Wim Crouwel Lecture by Alice Twemlow

"Design Criticism in the Age of the Anthropocene"

16Sept2017 15:45 - 19:00


On September 16 Alice Twemlow will give the Wim Crouwel Lecture 2017 in the Aula of the University of Amsterdam. The lecture will be in English.


Just like the scavengers who combed through Victorian London’s rubbish heaps in Our Mutual Friend—hoping to find treasure in the dust—design critics have sifted through the looming detritus of contemporary society, allocating things positions on a value hierarchy that extends from the revered status of treasure at one end to the reviled status of trash at the other. These positions are only ever temporary, however; the status of design is in constant flux. The products of design are dislodged and re-lodged by the combined and shifting forces of the market, the design canon, and taste. Now that we are living in an era of climate change, however, new factors are in play, and new values are needed: what metrics and metaphors must be engaged with to assess design’s complicity in over-consumption at a global scale? And, conversely, how might design be able to contribute to a better and more nuanced awareness of the implications of a warming planet—through its capacity to visualise data, to provide an axis at the centre of multidisciplinary problem solving, and to cement new images in the popular imagination? This talk presents a historical survey of instances when critics attempted to question design’s impact on the physical environment and will offer an array of precedents for how an evolving practice of design criticism might be conducted in the future.

Alice Twemlow

Alice Twemlow is a design historian, writer, and educator. She is the Design Lector at KABK/University of Leiden and head of the MA in Design Curating & Writing at Design Academy Eindhoven. Before moving to Amsterdam in 2015, she was the founding director of the SVA MA in Design Research, Writing & Criticism in New York. Twemlow has a Ph.D from the History of Design program run jointly by the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal College of Art in London, and her book, Sifting the Trash: A History of Design Criticism, was published by MIT Press earlier this year. Her current research focuses on the material manifestations and the meanings of design when it becomes trash, via the social behaviours, infrastructures, economies, governance, language, and systems of practice that shape and gather around its disposal


Wim Crouwel Lecture

The Wim Crouwel Lecture is organized annually by the Wim Crouwel Institute- founded in 2013 by the Dutch Graphic Design Archive and the Special Collections of the UvA. Since 2013 there have been three lectures, given by Joost Elffers (2014), Gilian Schrofer (2015) and Huda Abifares (2016).

Published by  Special Collections UvA