Constructing New Signifiers with Aesthetic Intervention: Using Coal in Design
Keywords:Design, Coal, Semiology of Fashion, Material Culture, Organicism
This paper is based on the outcomes of the interdisciplinary project Coal Story conducted by the Faculty of Media and the Faculty of Design in Ljubljana (Slovenia), which was implemented in 2019 in cooperation with the graduate and postgraduate students of Media, Communication, Psychology, and Design, who were working under the mentorship of interdisciplinary researchers and designers. The central designer of the project was Marjeta Hribar with her innovative brand KUOLMi; she is known for her jewelry and object design made of coal found in her local Zasavje region, which has a rich history of industrial coal mining in Slovenia. Design as a form of visual arts is an important social formation with a potential for restructuring the attitude and strategies that we have towards the material culture around us. In this paper, we try to contextualize the findings of the project using two theoretical approaches: firstly, we use the study of signs, semiology, and secondly, the current study of material culture. The latter is introduced through the work of author Daniel Miller and is developed through the theoretical work of the avant-garde artist Vladimir Tatlin, who established the Department of Material Culture already in 1920s.
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