Fleur Elkerton

Fleur is coming to the end of her first year studying V&A/RCA MA in History of Design. Recipient of the Dr Sylvia Lennie England Bursary (V&A Museum), and the Design History Society’s Undergraduate Essay Prize 2019, she spent pre-lockdown 2020 on a term exchange at Bard Graduate Center in NYC. She has a BA History from UCL (First Class Honours), following on from her Art Foundation, and has also been part of National Youth Theatre as a Costume Technician from 2013.

More recently Fleur has produced her own digital heritage focused projects. These include Sustainable Histories, a platform to showcase historical objects which demonstrate repair, repurposing or reuse, and co-founding with Anna Talley in the spring of 2020 a rapid-response digital archive, Design in Quarantine, to collate design responses to COVID-19. This has been featured in the Financial Times, Disegno Journal, and V&A Pandemic Objects

Image: Portico de la Gloria, Cowper, Isabel Agnes,1868, London, Museum No. 3453-1932 © V&A Museum.

Contact

fleur.elkerton@network.rca.ac.uk

https://www.fleurelkerton.com

Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Her research at the RCA/V&A broadly focuses on replication, reproduction and knowledge transference of medieval design technologies - in both modern and medieval contexts. 

She began the MA with an original analysis of a 1870s plaster cast held at the V&A. It was cast in-situ, in pink textured plaster, from the external ornamental decoration of Sultan Hasan’s mosque (1356-63) in Cairo, before being recast into white fine plaster in-house in South Kensington. It is ultimately representative of an educational yet 'othering' relationship with medieval and non-Western architecture in nineteenth century Britain, and how reproductive technologies enabled this.

Researched whilst in NYC, her studies continued with an exploration of the integration of ‘Gothic’ styles with early New York skyscraper design. In particular she examined how this has generated a diverse and multivalent field of scholarship spanning the last century and beyond. The very flexibility of the 'Skyscraper Gothic' enables it to retain relevance and be constantly adapted into different research, generating new and contemporary insights in design historiography. 

Her dissertation is currently focused upon medieval automata. How far were they were designed representations of knowledge networks between Christendom and the Islamic world? How did their creation culturally utilise craft and artisanal practices rather than scholastic adn intellectual persuits? How and why were they were viewed as liminal, marvellous and/or magical objects? How far can they be seen as material manifestations of trying to understand/manipulate the laws of nature?

In particular her current practice explores how space, objects for mass observation and performance in medieval and Early-Modern Christo-Islamic environments promoted these forms of complex design knowledge.

Image: Bellicorum instrumentorum liber cum figuris, Johannes, de Fontana, 1420-30, Venice - BSB Cod.icon. 242, via Münchener DigitalisierungsZentrum (MDZ).

Launch Project

Design in Quarantine

Design in Quarantine

Design in Quarantine was founded in April of 2020 in order to document and preserve in real time design responses to the Coronavirus pandemic. We feel that it is urgent for design historians to respond as swiftly to the coronavirus pandemic as designers are themselves.

The closure of museums, libraries, and archives has forced a shift upon traditional design history research methodologies and forms of archiving. Inspired by the technique of rapid-response curation in museums, the digital collection of this archive is a real-time example of changing research methods in light of recent events. By creating this archive, we aim for the material within to be publicly accessible beyond simply searching within the interface of our site. We seek to collect works which are integral to representing the evolution of design responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Our aim is to represent the range of responses across design disciplines including but not limited to graphics, architectural concepts, product and furniture design, and bespoke craft. We are currently working to export the metadata for each project in our archive. Once this is resolved, we will upload the latest version of the site every Friday to Github for public download. We hope that storage on a cloud service will preserve the data of our site indefinitely and give future researchers the capability to access the archive we have assembled here.

We are open for submissions! If you’d like to submit a project, please first review our style guide on our website, then, send us an email at designinquarantine@gmail.com.

We have been featured in The Financial Times, V&A Pandemic Objects and Disegno Journal.

Anna Talley:

https://annatalleydesign.com
Archive
Collections
coronavirus
COVID-19
Curation
Design History
Design research
Digital
Digital Afterlives
History
Lockdown

History of Design MA, RCA2020 Team

Quarantine, lockdown, social and physical distancing, pandemic: words we usually only encounter in dystopian literature and movies have become the defining motto of our lives. As we adjust to life under new rules, we, as the Royal College and Victoria & Albert Museum’s History of Design programme, like everyone else, have had to radically alter our approach to studying and working. As first-year students, our contributions to RCA2020 form a work-in-progress encounter with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

This serves as a springboard for collecting, discussing and sharing ideas on the topic of Digital Discomforts. The project explores issues brought about by the impact of digitization and the web, such as structural inequalities in digital access, the design of sites and content encountered online, user experiences in the internet and evolving conversation channels.

Resulting from intense weeks of collaborative work, the following diagrams are representations of our practice as design historians, intended to reflect real-life corridor-conversations we would have usually had in person as part of our studies. Impromptu, spontaneous and intellectually unpredictable these conversations embrace spelling mistakes and thematic jumps as characteristic of the method of communication.

Our diagrams show the twists and turns of such informal, creative encounters. You may find them sometimes difficult to navigate, or even difficult to read. This is a deliberate dramatisation of the experience of digital inequality, bringing with it digital discomfort.

For more from our project, the opportunity to digitally navigate and read our maps, and to see all the debates together - please see below, and for all of the maps, please check out our Story feature.

Public Spaces

Reflecting on permanence in an increasingly digital world, this conversation is centred around moving from discussions that could previously be had in person, to the effects of life lived increasingly online. What is the impact of (the lack of) physicality on issues like memory and action? Do we run the risk of “forgetting” current events more easily because of their fleeting digital presence? Can we expect anything to change in the future, through the impact of recorded events? In discussing such questions, examples of recent events including the removal of imperialist monuments and recordings of protests prove central for navigating the relationship between public spaces and the Internet.

Libraries/Archives

Despite the availability of digital repositories, physical libraries and archives have remained an essential asset for design historians. This conversation unravelled the types of discomforts that students have experienced as a result of a lack of access to these resources. On the one hand, it revealed the ways in which design historians have adapted their research methods in order to accomodate this lack. These resources and dealing with catalogue algorithms which promote certain terms and languages over others. Critically, the conversation highlighted the need to question the disproportionate distribution of knowledge in the digital archive, and how digital libraries and archives can act to eradicate these biases. Manoeuvres have involved establishing links with varying institutions for access to specific online.

Remote Working

In this conversation, participants discussed the ways in which remote working has posed difficulties for students’ learning experiences. In the context of the V&A/RCA History of Design MA where online lectures have been a main teaching tool in the past few months, students grappling with the requirements of Zoom learning featured prominently in the discussion. Struggles in feeling connected to peers, issues with privacy and surveillance, ‘touch up’ features, and the curation of Zoom backgrounds were highlighted. With these issues in mind, the conversation concluded by asking how users can adapt to these features, and to what extent digital design responses which seek to alleviate these issues have been successful.
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