*introduction*The focus of this lecture class is, self-reflexively, the medium of the lecture itself. Through a series of lectures, guest speakers, group tutorials and workshops we will interrogate the lecture as a much maligned but nonetheless enduring pedagogical platform that exists at the confluence of oral and written forms, and (re)consider it in relation to design practice and forms of distribution, exchange and transmission.
The word “lecture” has its roots in the Latin lectus, meaning “to read” or to “pick out words”. And this meaning has shifted over time; to “a reading aloud” (either in divine worship or to a group of students) in English in the early fifteenth century and later in the sixteenth century to “a discourse on a given subject before an audience for purposes of instruction”. We will trace this shifting history, one which Norm Friesen describes as ‘being first manifest as dictation and manuscript reproduction, then as authorial reproduction, then as authorial performance, and finally as textually enabled dramaturgical effect.’ Collectively, we will approach the lecture as an act that ‘transforms the artifact of the text into an event — an event in which the text is brought into conversational relationship with the audience and with the present’.
The title of the class is drawn from Erving Goffman’s 1981 book Forms of Talk — specifically a chapter in it aptly titled ‘The Lecture’ — in which he describes a speaker writing ‘reading text in the spoken register’ and in doing so having ‘tied himself in advance to his upcoming audience with a typewriter ribbon’. Following this, we will pay close attention to reading (aloud) as a performative act, and in turn, the role of the voice, of scripting, of staging, of improvisation, of reenactment, of design.
We will also draw heavily on the lecture-performance as artistic medium, a commonly discussed but critically neglected hybrid format that ‘like a multiple adaptor, can connect diverse artistic forms with each other.’ A subgenre that draws from elements of the academic lecture and of artistic performance, and ‘as such challenge[s] established ideas about the production of knowledge in each of the forms to which they refer.’ Further, as Rike Frank puts it, the lecture-performance ‘hinge[s] on the recognition of the conflicts present in performing, lecturing and exhibiting, and in enabling the creation of a space in which conversation can exist.’
Through this lens we will look to historical precedents and to the work of contemporary artists and designers. And also begin to question the power dynamics at play within the lecture theatre space. Questions such as that of who is ‘authorised to speak with authority’, as Pierre Bourdieu puts its, that are always at stake within the lecture theatre.
Fittingly, the class will culminate with you taking over the lectern and presenting a series of group lecture-performances of your own. This will allow us to put theory into practice and collaboratively explore, enact and challenge the performative space of the lecture. It will also provide a chance to investigate and discover a unique set of opportunities and possibilities for (graphic) design within this space.
*assignment*The class will take the form of a series of lectures, screenings, tutorials, workshops, rehearsals and presentations. The primary assignment will be group lecture-performances. Work on these will begin early in the semester, giving you time to experiment, plan, rehearse and script each presentation. The written component / requirement for the class will take the form of a script / set of instructions / directions for these presentations / events / lectures / performances.
*class website*This website will serve as a growing repository and resource for the class as it develops. As such, its form is likely to change / shift / grow over the course of the semester. A pdf syllabus for the class can also be found *here* and will be distributed in hard copy during the first class. Required Readings, Class Schedules and further materials will be updated on the website at regular intervals. A more detailed description / brief for group lecture-performance presentations and the written component / requirement will also follow.