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Catherine Gregg

MA work

‘A filthy bloody swine of an animal? But what animal? An animal in the house?’ (Collette, The Cat, 1933)

The significance of the animal in the 1920s and 1930s, as a metaphorical construction, a designed object, and an animate inhabitant of designed space, is the mainstay of this study. Animal beings are potent instruments in the articulation of human identities and social discourses; human-animal relationships are implicated in cultural constructions of modernity. For the design historian, however, the animal strays into new territory. Corporeally shaped by human breeders, primped and preened by human owners, animals are revealed as designed objects, yet living beings. Produced by the designed spaces they animate, animal beings perform the construction of modernity particular to those spaces, as living embodiments of fashion and luxury, for example, or as experimental bodies, articulating the reforming principles of modernist architecture. However, as living objects, animals have the capacity, and the disruptive agency, to subvert human design. Moreover, as a metaphorical construction the animal is loaded with human signification; invoked as a symbol of instinctual life, primitive desire or irrationality, the animal illuminates human states of mind, behaviour and aesthetics. Thus, animal materials and animal beings are engaged in a complex network of human cultural expression. Focusing on the animal in the modern interior, this dissertation establishes a dialogue traversing surrealism and modernism, ornament and utility, sentiment and science. What happened to the modern home when the animal crossed the threshold?

Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2009

  • ‘A filthy bloody swine of an animal? But what animal? An animal in the house?’ (Collette, The Cat, 1933)

    The significance of the animal in the 1920s and 1930s, as a metaphorical construction, a designed object, and an animate inhabitant of designed space, is the mainstay of this study. Animal beings are potent instruments in the articulation of human identities and social discourses; human-animal relationships are implicated in cultural constructions of modernity. For the design historian, however, the animal strays into new territory. Corporeally shaped by human breeders, primped and preened by human owners, animals are revealed as designed objects, yet living beings. Produced by the designed spaces they animate, animal beings perform the construction of modernity particular to those spaces, as living embodiments of fashion and luxury, for example, or as experimental bodies, articulating the reforming principles of modernist architecture. However, as living objects, animals have the capacity, and the disruptive agency, to subvert human design. Moreover, as a metaphorical construction the animal is loaded with human signification; invoked as a symbol of instinctual life, primitive desire or irrationality, the animal illuminates human states of mind, behaviour and aesthetics. Thus, animal materials and animal beings are engaged in a complex network of human cultural expression. Focusing on the animal in the modern interior, this dissertation establishes a dialogue traversing surrealism and modernism, ornament and utility, sentiment and science. What happened to the modern home when the animal crossed the threshold?

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) History (First class), University College London, 2005
  • Experience

  • Fashion & Textiles Audit Assistant, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2008; Tour Guide, 2 Willow Road (National Trust), London, 2006; Catalogue Subscriptions Assistant, Sotheby's, London, 2006
  • Awards

  • AJP Taylor Award for Outstanding Work in 20th Century British History, 2005