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Gertrud Arndt, from her Maskenphoto series of costumed self-portraits, 1930

Soft Structures in Hard Times Series: T’ai Smith, U of British Columbia

Part of the Design@Large Series at UC San Diego Design Lab

Wednesday, October 19, 2022 at 4:00 P.M.
Design and Innovation Building (DIB), 2nd Floor Large Event Room #202

*This talk is hybrid (in-person & remote). Capacity is limited. Please register ahead of time.


’Peeling’ and ‘Dissolving’ the Aura: Revisiting Walter Benjamin’s Concept through Gertrud Arndt’s Maskenfoto series

T’ai Smith will perform a close reading of former Bauhaus weaver Gertrude Arndt’s self-portraits, known as the Maskenfoto series (1929-31), through the writings of Walter Benjamin.

About the Speaker

T’ai Smith (she/her/hers) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where she teaches modern and contemporary art history and media theory. Through a feminist-queer methodology, Smith seeks to estrange the economic and philosophical discourses that encompass textiles and fashion. Author of Bauhaus Weaving Theory: From Feminine Craft to Mode of Design (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), her articles have appeared in various journals, including Art Journal, Grey Room, Leonardo, and Texte zur Kunst, and in numerous edited volumes and catalogues, most recently for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Modern in London, and the Museum Brandhorst in Munich. She is currently at work on two book manuscripts: “Fashion After Capital: Frock Coats and Philosophy Through Marx to Duchamp”; and “Textile Media: Tangents from Modern to Contemporary Art.”

About Designing Soft Structures in Hard Times

The design of structures and systems brings hard materials to mind: steel, glass, molded plastics, microchips, batteries. But a single layer of graphene, the crumbly-soft graphite used in the pencils we sketch with, is the strongest material we know. The flexibility of “soft” structures like skin, fabric, and the atmosphere makes these forms open to strategic adaptation and imagination, empowering resilience and creativity. For the Design@Large Fall 2022 series, we invite you to consider the power of soft structures in design ecologies ranging from medical research to Indigenous communities, and from the textile industry to web design and the modeling of outer space. We hope you will join us as we consider the power of soft structures in hard times, and as we try our hands at making change through the design of soft structures.


Design@Large is a speaker series hosted by The Design Lab at UC San Diego, where each quarter we examine a topic in society and the relevance and implications through the lens of human centered design.

**If you are needing ASL services for the event, please contact

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