Rachel Harkness, Lecturer, School of Design, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh and Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen

Unfinished Materials and Designs: Interdisciplinary Reflections upon Material Entanglements, Knowledge and Sustainability in Scottish Art, Architecture and Anthropology

In this seminar I'd like to share some reflections upon materials as gathered within the research project 'Knowing from the Inside: Anthropology, Art, Architecture and Design' (KFI), a project based in Scotland that I have been part of since 2013. I will draw upon fieldworks with community groups and artists in Scotland who have been designing, building and making things, sustainably and ecologically, as well as upon playful material experiments that colleagues and I have carried out with the material concrete. As I am currently producing and editing an art-anthropology book for KFI that is taking the shape of an 'Unfinished Compendium of Materials' (with lots of short entries on the various materials the team's researchers have encountered), the book will feature too. Along with the ethnographic observations and material experiments, it will allow me to think with materials on issues of knowing, making, materiality and sustainability. As well as the concrete, other materials that might make an appearance include paper, shipping containers, straw, and polystyrene.

Rachel Harkness is a Lecturer in Contextual Studies in the School of Design, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh and Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen. Her research explores architecture and design as a peopled process, pays particular attention to the social life of the materials involved, and considers how people make manifest their (eco-)designs for living. She writes on issues of art and craft, time, value, materials and the environment, and has produced a number of interdisciplinary art-anthropology exhibitions. She regularly facilitates participatory visual research workshops and between 2010 and 2012 ran an international Mellon Sawyer Seminar Series and conference on the senses and environmental values in the arts and humanities. Her recent work considers vibrant materials in the built environment, and the stories, lives, entanglements and skills that a focus upon them brings to the fore. It does so, in part, through playful experiment and participation in artistic practices of making.

All seminars in the series.