Monday 3 October 18:30 - 20:00

Royal College of Art
Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre
1 Hester Road
SW11 4AN

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2022 Peter Dormer Lecture: Mònica Gaspar

Performing & Visual Arts

Please join us for the annual Peter Dormer Lecture.

2021 Peter Dormer Lecture

Like Oil and Water: Experiments with Craft and Theory

Reception with drinks to follow

In the field of craft theory, where the dominant discourse is mainly taking place in English, non-Anglophone practitioners, curators, and writers are constantly negotiating the meaning of words: this includes tweaking and bending them, bouncing them back and forth between at least two languages, and crafting surrogates of them, until a satisfactory result, hopefully in "English English", can be shared amongst an international community. Since the turn of the millennium, this challenge has met the growing academisation of craft discourse. A new generation of writers, often practitioners themselves, have infused the field with critical, intersectional, and decolonial perspectives. It is precisely due to the expanding horizon of craft theory and practice that constructive misunderstandings and the plasticity of language might be needed to guarantee a plural discussion amongst an increasingly global community of writers.

What should the practice of theorising craft look like to embrace this complexity? This lecture will take Peter Dormer's statement about craft and theory being "like oil and water" as an invitation to suggest some answers. Drawing on Gaspar's experiences as curator, writer and educator, the lecture will present examples of exhibitions and events across different geographies and cultural settings, where the practice of theorising craft both shapes and is being shaped by its very subject of study. These examples will be playfully categorised as "oil and water experiments" to imagine otherwise the role of making in today's society.

The Peter Dormer Lecture is the UK’s major annual applied arts lecture, held in memory of Peter Dormer, the writer and critic who died in 1996. Organised by a committee of his friends and colleagues and hosted by the Royal College of Art, the lecture aims to continue the debate about applied art and society that was central to Dormer’s concerns.

Peter Dormer’s writings embraced art, architecture, design, technology and education; and his critical and curatorial work helped to promote the crafts into the freeflowing currents of postmodern visual culture. This connectivity is something these lectures celebrate and promote – previous speakers have embraced architecture, ceramics and modernism, the implications of digital technology, craft history and criticism, and design innovation.

The 2021 lecture will be held in person in the Gorvy Lecture Theatre at the Royal College of Art and live streamed to a global audience. Please ensure you select the correct ticket type on the registration page.


Mònica Gaspar is a curator, writer and educator based in Zürich (Switzerland). She focuses on craft and design as critical practices, and identifies "the applied" as an experimental and socially relevant field of action. She has also specialized in art jewellery, curating, writing and lecturing internationally.

Currently, she is a lecturer of design theory and craft studies at the HSLU Lucerne School of Art and Design.

She studied Art History (Universitat de Barcelona), Cultural and Gender Studies (Zurich University of the Arts) and Jewellery Design (Escola Massana Barcelona). She has curated several exhibitions on the shifting roles of craft discourse within art and design at several museums, such as Nomad Room (Centro Cultural de Belem, Lisboa), Metadomestic (Landesgalerie, Linz and Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) , Rethinking Needlework (Museum Bellerive, Zurich) or Gestures, Actions and Jewelry (Pratt Manhattan Gallery,New York). In the field of jewellery, she was responsible of coordinating the first public collection of contemporary jewelry in a Spanish museum and being its curator at the Design Museum in Barcelona. She has also curated the selection for the ‚Schmuck’ jewellery exhibition at the International Craft and Design Fair in Munich.

She has earned an international reputation through publications, contributions to panel discussions (New Voices in Craft Theory, Saatchi Gallery, London), the organisation of workshops (Theorising with Masking Tape, Auckland Museum) organisation of academic conferences (co-convenor of the 2021 DHS annual conference) and participation in advisory boards (Peer Reviewer for DHS and ICDHS conferences, Editorial Advisory Board Member at the Journal for Jewellery Research). Her experiences in higher education as a lecturer, mentor and external examiner for international art and design universities in Switzerland, Scandinavia, England, the Netherlands and the USA has made her a consultant for processes of academization in the arts, specially its impact in material-led practices.

She engages in several collective endeavours to dynamise craft and design discourse, like being a member of the board of directors at the Design History Foundation in Barcelona, initiating the Network for Design history in Switzerland or having been a member of the Think Tank. A European Initiative for the Applied Arts.

She is currently writing her PhD thesis on 'craft discourse and the cultural category of inbetweenness' at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.

Image: Method, degreaser. Paris, 2015. (photo: Monica Gaspar)


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