Towards Universal Value✕ close
UG Thesis Studio
Taubman College, University of Michigan, Winter 2014
Students: John Arnold, Mary Kate Bachler, Taylor Carr, Christopher Fris, Phillip Gavrilovski, Catherine Jahnke, Philip Marcantonio, Eric Minton, Madelyn Willey, Seoin Yang, Sarah Zamler
This studio investigates cultural assets and investigates heritage as a socially constructed performance. Specifically, the 759 cultural entrants in UNESCO’s World Heritage List (WHL) are examined. The initial hypothesis is that these sites have obtained their status as supreme cultural assets not because of their iconicity —or stability —but because of their mutability, their capacity to transform and be many things, to many peoples, over many times. The studio conducted historical research and contemporary analysis into UNESCO, the WHL’s selection criteria and into the individual sites. The aim of the studio was to query static assertions of ‘universal value’ as constructed and perpetuated by UNESCO. The studio produced analytical documents that questioned accepted historical narratives, pursued dynamic understandings of heritage, and new formations of value.
To this end, students produced cultural assets and redefined the monument—sometimes understood as material objects and sites that commemorate events and traditions. The notion of permanence was questioned. What are the transient cultural productions and social events that sit outside of the current heritage hegemony, and how can the architecture of monuments further mutate in order to provide amnesty for these volatile exertions? What is the half-life of such fleeting commemorations, and what does constructed heritage look like?