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If you love design and cultural theory, this is the course for you. Prince Studies offers a unique opportunity to study the artist, musician, performer, filmmaker and icon Prince, and the context in which he lived and worked, using fandom as a method to explore visual and material culture.
This course explores Prince’s practice as an artist with a focus on visual and material culture studies. Over the course of ten weeks, we will take a critical tour of Prince’s life and work. Starting with an introduction to fandom and celebrity studies, we will move on to a series of sessions that explore specific aspects of Prince’s career, including performance, fashion, the city, film and television, meme culture, and archives.
Each class will be assigned a creative project brief and at the end of the course you will have a portfolio of nine pieces of creative work made as a response to these briefs. The course culminates in a review of topics and discussion of the creative work made so that you can be critically encouraged to reflect on what Prince can tell us about visual and material culture, and creative practice.
This course is suitable for a range of people, from those with little or no formal design training, through to art and design students and those working in the creative sectors. The course will give students an in-depth critical understanding of Prince’s work and a different perspective on recent cultural theory. The course also provides a valuable opportunity for practitioners to expand their portfolios, with the option to receive critical feedback on work generated on the course.
We are committed to providing reasonable teaching adjustments for students with disabilities that may impact on their learning experience. If you require adjustments, please complete the relevant section on the booking form and also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can respond to your requests as soon as possible.
Please note our short courses sell-out quickly, so early booking is advisable.
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J C Kristensen
J C Kristensen is Lecturer in the Department of Design at Goldsmiths. With a background in philosophy, cultural studies and critical theory, she is a visual and material culture specialist and has taught critical and contextual studies for art and design practice for over fifteen years at a variety of institutions including the Royal College of Art, Kingston Art School and the University of Westminster. She is an External Examiner at London College of Fashion and has worked as an editor of the Journal of Visual Culture and an Executive Member of the Design History Society.
Nina Trivedi is a writer, curator, and Associate Lecturer in the Department of Design at Goldsmiths and Visiting Lecturer in Contextual and Historical Studies at the Royal College of Art where she is completing a PhD. She holds a BFA from Parsons, The New School for Design and an MFA from Goldsmiths College, University of London. She has also taught courses for Kings College in partnership with Tate Modern, the Camden Art Centre and Syracuse University. Her work focuses on the wider socio-political implications of race, gender and visual culture.
Week 1: Fandom as Methodology
What does it mean to be a fan? And what does it mean to be part of a fandom? In this opening session, we will explore this rich aspect of our social and cultural lives, thinking about the acts and activities of fanning and fandom both historically and in the contemporary. We will specifically focus on exploring the approach of being a fan as a method for creative practice and a mode of engagement with the world, focussing on the proposition that fans are “active producers and manipulators of meaning”.
Barron, Lee. Celebrity cultures: An Introduction. Sage, 2014.
Catherine Grant and Kate Random Love, ‘Introduction’, Fandom as Methodology: A Sourcebook for Artists and Writers, Goldsmiths Press, 2019.
Till, Rupert. “Pop stars and idolatry: an investigation of the worship of popular music icons, and the music and cult of Prince.” Journal of Beliefs & Values 31.1 (2010): 69-80.
Week 2: Film and Television: Representations
Prince made a number of guest appearances in television shows, featured metaphorically or conversationally in specific shows and has featured in films.
This session will explore the representation of Prince in film and television as a means to question the mediation between the real and the performative. We will examine the different ways Prince graced the small and big screen through in-depth media and cultural analysis.
New Girl (2014). Fox Broadcasting Company. Series 3, Episode 14 (2 February) -- The Prince Episode. (Available on Netflix)
Black-ish (2018). ABC Studios. Season 5, Episode 4 (13 November) -- Purple Rain. (Available on Amazon Prime)
Chapelle’s Show (2003-2004). Comedy Central Productions. Season 2, Episode 5.
Week 3: Performance: Concerts, Music Videos
Following on from the previous week, this session will focus on the representation of Prince in music videos, from his more DIY videos based at Paisley Park to higher budget narrative based videos. What can these music videos reveal about Prince’s symbols, ideas, identities and influences?
In this session we will perform a visual culture analysis of a series of music videos from different decades, asking ourselves. what does this particular format offer in terms of creativity and expression that other formats do not? We will also examine the relationship Prince had to video platforms on the internet and other forms of video sharing or dissemination.
Smith, Sedrick. "Purple Visions of Blackness: Prince’s Expansion of the Depictions of Black Experiences Through his Music Videos." Howard Journal of Communications 30.2 (2019): 180-195.
McDaniel, Leah Stone, and Shannan Wilson. “‘We can’t hate you, because we love you’: A look at Prince, queerness, misogyny and feminism.” Prince and Popular Music: Critical Perspectives on an Interdisciplinary Life, Bloomsbury, 2020.
Week 4: Fashion - The Purple One
Prince challenged gender normativity with his fashion. This session will explore Prince as a flâneur alongside the cultural history of black dandyism.
We will examine the function and role of his in-house Paisley Park fashion production studio and form a visual culture analysis of his fashion choices from specific concerts, tours, music videos, album covers, performances and awards ceremonies that will dissect the symbols of his fashion and the wider cultural impact of his fashion.
Whiteneir, Kevin. "The Purple Prince: How Prince Subverted Gender Though Costume, Performance, and Eroticism." Dress 42.2 (2016): 75-88.
Benjamin, Walter. The Writer of Modern Life: Essays on Charles Baudelaire. Harvard University Press, 2006.
Week 5: The City
Building on the previous session on black dandyism, this session will explore how the French poet Charles Baudelaire’s idea of the flâneur, the consummate figure of urban modernity born in nineteenth-century Paris, influenced Prince’s understanding and representation of the urban space and the city in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. In these explorations we will centre the idea of an urban imaginary, looking at how Prince constructed his own urban imaginary in his music and in his films.
Baudelaire, C. (1863). "The Painter of Modern Life." in The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, translated and edited by Jonathan Mayne. London: Phaidon Press, 1985: 1-41.
Bautista, Adrian A. “A Flâneur in the Erotic City: Prince and the Urban Imaginary.” Journal of African American Studies 21.3 (2017): 353-372.
Urry, J. (2009). Speeding up and slowing down. In H. Rosa & W. E. Scheuerman (Eds), High speed society: social acceleration, power, and modernity). University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press: 179–198.
Week 6: Freedom Fighter
Prince was an activist, advocate and ally of charities supporting people of colour, black-owned businesses and platforms supporting communities of colour.
In 1981, The New York Times referred to Prince as “the most controversial contemporary rock star precisely because he challenges sexual and racial stereotypes.” Prince challenged complicity and inaction with his songs about police brutality, health crises and systemic racism. This session will focus on the history of Prince’s activism and social justice platforms by looking at the time period in which it took place and offer a critical reappraisal contemporaneously.
Williams, James Gordon. "Black Muse 4 U: Liminality, Self-Determination, and Racial Uplift in the Music of Prince." Journal of African American Studies 21.3 (2017): 296-319
Crystal N. Wise, “It's All About What's in Your Mind: The Origins of Prince's Political Consciousness”. Prince and Popular Music: Critical Perspectives on an Interdisciplinary Life, Bloomsbury, 2020.
Week 7: The Objects of Prince
In 1993 Prince changed his name to the ‘Love Symbol’. In this session, we will examine the political and cultural impact of this symbol as well as the wider relationship of the symbols and production of meaning behind the objects of Prince, from his merchandise to bootlegs, to custom guitars, to his album artwork.
We will question how and what an object-based analysis of Prince can help to offer a new critical lens into the reading of his art and music.
‘Internal Objects’ from The New Dictionary of Kleinian Thought by Bott Spillius, E., Milton, J., Garvey, P., Couve, C. and Steiner, D. Routledge, 2011.
Everything is Alive (Podcast series): Episode 1 -- Louis, Can of Cola
Week 8: Meme Culture
We will examine the visual culture and communication of memes as a way to explore the role of fandom in contemporary meme culture. Biologist Richard Dawkins’ definition of a meme as something that ‘conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation’ will be considered by questioning how and why the circulation of memes matters within the nexus between sharing, re-enactment and reconstruction.
Nooney, Laine, and Laura Portwood-Stacer. "One does not simply: an introduction to the special issue on Internet memes." Journal of Visual Culture 13.3 (2014): 248-252.
Angela Watercutter and Emma Grey Ellis, ‘The WIRED guide to memes’, Wired, 1 April 2018.
Christophe Haubursin, ‘Why do memes matter?’ Vox, 1 November 2019.
Week 9: Archives
Throughout his life, Prince produced prodigious amounts of material, including not only music, both released and unreleased, but also notebooks, photo albums, lyrics, family documents, instruments and clothing. Following his death in 2016, his estate understood the importance of his collection in terms of his legacy and so appointed Angie Marchese as the Director of Archives at Paisley Park to begin the lengthy process of cataloguing this vast collection. By April 2017, Ms Marchese and her team had catalogued 7,000 items, which she estimated was but 5% of the total collection.
In this session, we will explore how artists and designers have created and explored personal archives to develop their own practices, interrogating how archives and collections work as social, cultural and political forms in and of themselves.
De Kosnik, Abigail. Rogue archives: Digital cultural memory and media fandom. MIT Press, 2016.
Smith, John W. "Saving Time: Andy Warhol's Time Capsules." Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 20.1 (2001): 8-10.
Week 10: What Did We Learn?
In this final session of the course, we will discuss and reflect on what we have learnt about being a fan and how studying Prince within a broader cultural and social context can open up new ways of critical thinking and creative practice. In addition, we will be sharing with one another the outcomes of the creative briefs that we set throughout the course, and offer feedback on that work.
By the end of this course, you will have learned to:
Understand how Prince’s work responds to, adapts and recreates a broad range of creative practices, particularly how it might be considered as a form of post-disciplinary design practice.
Understand how contemporary creative practices and debates about identity relate to Prince’s work and contextualise them within practices within the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century.
Critically reflect on the relationships of influence, inspiration and affiliation between the work of Prince and other leading creative practitioners of the period.
Critically reflect on the shifting relationships between post-disciplinary design practices and popular culture.
About the department
This course is offered by the internationally celebrated Department of Design at Goldsmiths. It is driven by the department’s emphasis on post-disciplinary design practice and design theory, and its rigorous investigation of context and culture as critical to design practice. Find out more about Goldsmiths Department of