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Joshua Trees


  • Joshua Trees
  • Area

    School of Communication


    Tutor (Research)

  • Joshua Trees is Tutor in Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art, teaching on the Graphic Design and Experimental Communication pathways. He runs New Genres, an interest group for the advancement of experimental, contextual and public practices across vanguard cultures. He also co-organises Common Market (2018), an annual publishing fair and symposium celebrating the free movement of ideas.

  • Biography

  • Joshua Trees is a researcher, publisher and educator. For over twenty years, Josh has been working collaboratively with Yvan Martinez. Together, they make work that explores publishing as a mode of social enquiry, cultural intervention and public engagement.

    Josh studied New Genres (MFA, 1999), an expanded sculpture programme encompassing performance, video, installation and publishing at the San Francisco Art Institute. His thesis project questioned distinctions between archivists, curators and editors through active participation in zine culture.

    Upon graduation Josh and Yvan co-published Math, an owner’s manual for the penis. They sent a copy to Rudy VanderLans, editor of Emigre magazine. Rudy responded with an invitation to guest design Emigre #59 (2001), reaching 36,000 readers internationally.
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  • Practice

  • Joshua Trees is co-founder of Books From The Future, a London-based imprint/school that conducts experiments in learning, reading and publishing in collaboration with leading artists, designer and educators. Recent titles include Performance Society (2017), Model and Countermodel (2016) and Thought Experiments in Graphic Design Education (2013).

    During 1995–1997 Josh was a co-founding member of the performance art collective CCSIS (Creative Community Seriously I Swear) based in San Francisco, Mexico City and Caracas.

    During 1999–2009 Josh practiced under the name Fake I.D. in partnership with Yvan Martinez. Their work has been exhibited and published widely and is part of the permanent collections of Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Denver Art Museum, Design Museum, MoMA and SFMOMA. Commissions include Arkitip, Edwin, Emigre, The Face, Giorgio Camuffo, GLBT Historical Society, MTV, Nike, Urban Outfitters and Wieden+Kennedy.

    Viewing education as critical to his practice, Josh has taught at several schools throughout his career. Previously he was Associate Professor at ArtCenter College of Design (2002–2007), Visiting Faculty at San Francisco Art Institute (2004–2005), Guest Teacher at Gerrit Rietveld Academie (2007), Visiting Lecturer at Bath School of Art and Design (2009–2010), Associate Lecturer at Central Saint Martins (2009–2016) and Lecturer at London College of Communication (2008–2018).

    In 2015 Josh joined the RCA as Visiting Tutor. In 2018, he was appointed Tutor. Alongside his teaching and research at the RCA, Josh is currently also Associate Lecturer at Camberwell College of Arts (2018–present) and Visiting Practitioner at Chelsea College of Arts (2015–present).

    Josh is a member of the Graphic Design Educators’ Network based in the UK.
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  • External collaborations

  • Partnering institutions: London Centre for Book Arts, London College of Communication, Chelsea College of Arts, Sheffield Institute of Arts, Rotherhithe Picture Library, Evening Class

    Practitioners: John Freeman (Granta  ), Dante Carlos (Walker Art Center), Ken Hollings, Gustavo Grandal Montero (Chelsea Special Collections), Sadhna Jain (Chelsea College of Arts), Dr Sheena Calvert (Camberwell College of Arts), Krister Olsson (Hayama Projects), Ben Freeman (Ditto), Ayse Köklü (Central Saint Martins), Jack Clarke (Ideal Press), Òbelo (Claude Marzotto and Maia Sambonet), Tom Joyes, Federico Antonini, Franek Wardyński, Lia Forslund, Jakob Rowlinson

    Contributors: Pablo León de la Barra (Centre for the Aesthetic Revolution), John Freeman (Granta ), Eric Hu, Armand Mevis, Stuart Bertolotti-Bailey, Jaime Gili, Scott King, Victor Boullet (The Institute of Social Hypocrisy), Rens Muis (75B), Ken Hollings, Jon Sueda, Tereza Ruller (The Rodina), Lobregat Balaguer (Office of Culture and Design), Kevin McCaughey, Harrisson / Joël Vermot, Bart de Baets, Corbin Mahieu, Per Törnberg, Darius Ou, Zyxt (Masaki Miwa and Ying Tong Tan), Bryce Wilner, Sean Kuhnke
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  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Publications

    Martinez, Y. and Trees, J. (eds) (2017) Performance Society, London: Books From The Future.

    Martinez, Y. and Trees, J. (eds) (2016) Model and Countermodel, London: Books From The Future.Martinez, Y. and Trees, J. (2016) in Paim, N. (ed) Taking a Line for a Walk: Assignments in Design Education, Leipzig: Spector Books

    Martinez, Y., Raven, D. and Trees, J. (2015) ‘Authentic assessment using think-tanks in assessing Design’ in Brown, S. (ed) Learning, teaching and assessment in higher education: global perspectives, New York: Palgrave MacMillan

    Martinez, Y. and Trees, J. (2010) in VanderLans, R. Emigre No. 70: The Look Back Issue, Berkeley: Gingko Press

    Martinez, Y. and Trees, J. (eds) (2015) The Multiple Lives of a Blank Book, London: Books From The Future

    Martinez, Y. and Trees, J. (eds) (2014) Flatland, see Flatland, London: Books From The Future

    Martinez, Y. and Trees, J. (eds) (2013) Thought Experiments in Graphic Design Education, London: Books From The Future

    Martinez, Y. and Trees, J. (eds) (2012) Jaime Gili: Repetition, London: Books From The Future

    Selected Talks, Keynotes and Panels

    Trees, J. (2018) ‘Aesthetics After Dark’, invited talk for Distributed symposium, Royal College of Art, London

    Trees, J. (2015) ‘Bad Art, Pseudoscience and other experiments...’, invited talk, Chelsea College of Arts, London

    Trees, J. (2014) ‘Thought Experiments in Graphic Design Education’, keynote, Graphic Design Educators’ Network: Formative 3, Design Council, London

    Trees, J. (2013) ‘100% Ghetto’, invited talk for the launch of Arab Spring and Aaron Winter: The Work of 75B, Fons Welters Gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    Trees, J. (2012) ‘Design: ideas, ideals and messages’, panel moderator for discussion between Paulus Dreibholz and Chris Wainwright, Chelsea College of Arts, London

    Trees, J. (2011) ‘Positioning’, panel moderator for a discussion between Jaime Gili, Patrick Lacey (Åbäke) and Yuri Suzuki, London College of Communication, London

    Martinez, Y. and Trees, J. (2008), ‘Three Studies, Three Schools, Three Cities’, co-presented paper, New Views 2: Conversations and Dialogues in Graphic Design, London College of Communication, London

    Selected Exhibitions

    (2017) The Typographic Singularity, Hockney Gallery, Royal College of Art, London

    (2016) Practices of Enquiry, Cookhouse Gallery, Chelsea College of Arts, London

    (2016) Design Research, London Design Festival at LCC, Lower Gallery, London College of Communication, London

    (2015) Bookness: 14 Observations, Books and the Human: AHRC 10th Anniversary Debate, Window Gallery, Central Saint Martins, London

    (2014) Taking a Line for a Walk, 26th International Biennial of Graphic Design, Morovian Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic

    (2012) T/here, Youkobo Art Space, Tokyo
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  • Awards and Grants

  • (2012) White Square Teaching Awards, UAL Students’ Union

    (2010) Best book that’s probably not a book, Best British Books: A Proposal

    (2008) Artist in Residence, ARE Holland

Selected work


Research interests

At macro level, Josh’s practice-led research is about models and counter-models of pedagogy and practice in the expanded field of Visual Communication. At microlevel, his research is about publishing as a transformative act.

Key to studying both foci is the study of experimentation itself. Has ‘experimental’ become an ambiguous word for suggesting both artistic risk and scientific rigour without delivering much of either? How, when, where and why do we experiment? What are we experimenting for?

Current and recent research

Open Source Art School (2018–present) 
This research aims to develop an open source model of art and design education for the twenty-first century.

Queer Space (2018–present) 
This research explores the paradox of ‘queer space’ after the post-digital sexual revolution.

Books From The Future 
This research tests experimental models of learning, reading and publishing across two programmes: BFTF Summer School (conducted independently) and BFTF Workshops (conducted within universities and colleges). Outcomes are published and distributed internationally.

Practices of Enquiry (2016–2017) 
For UAL’s first public exhibition of teaching, this research repositioned the lecture as a mode of enquiry, resulting in a series of lecture performances and a reader of texts on radical enquiry. Outcomes were published in Model and Countermodel (Books From The Future, 2016) and exhibited in Practices of Enquiry, Cookhouse Gallery, Chelsea College of Arts (2016) and UAL Showroom (2017).