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The cave: Writing design history

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The beginnings of design histories are inconsistent. While industrial design histories tend to begin with European industrialization in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries, other design disciplines claim a longer genealogy. Art, interior design and graphic design narratives each claim the Paleolithic caves in Southern France and Spain as their mythical birthplace: Altamira, Lascaux and/or Chauvet are used as a conventional starting point in standard textbook histories. A close analysis of the beginnings of several conventional design histories provides a starting point for addressing the cave's place in design history. While historical writing is rarely considered as a poetic practice, in this article, I will examine the poetic construction of the cave as a space for both the projections of contemporary ideas about design and, more importantly, the starting point of a narrative that anxiously binds progressive civilization to specifically European cultural roots.

Keywords: Lascaux; design history; graphic design; historiography; interior design; narrative

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Swinburne University of Technology.

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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  • The Journal of Writing in Creative Practice is the official organ of the Writing Purposefully in Art and Design (Writing PAD) network. It offers art and design institutions an arena in which to explore and develop the notion of thinking through writing as a parallel to visual discourse in art and design practice. The journal aims to extend the debates to all national and international higher educational art and design institutions.
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