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The VCFA MFA in Graphic Design Program Blog

Kenneth FitzGerald’s “Singing the Surface”

January 22, 2017

Strictly considered, writing about music is as illogical as singing about economics. All the other arts can be talked about in the terms of ordinary life and experience. A poem, a statue, a painting or a play is a representation of somebody or something, and can be measurably described (the purely aesthetic values aside) by describing what it represents.
— “The Unseen World” by H. K. M., The New Republic (Page 63, Vol. 14, February 9, 1918)

Taking this quotation as prompt and challenge, Kenneth FitzGerald presented “Singing the Surface” to VCFA’s MFA in Graphic Design program. He describes the hybrid essay/presentation like this:

“It’s about critical reading and writing generally, graphic design criticism particularly. How critical reading is a metaphorical and synaesthesic experience. How the creative actors most in need of exacting examination attempt to deflect it. How apparent messages aren’t. How you have to talk about another thing to talk about the thing itself. How music plays the musician. How graphic design should make you break out in song. With pictures.”

“Singing the Surface” acts as manifesto-in-motion, answering the question “Is Design Criticism Dead?” from the recent cover of Print Magazine which featured the essay.

"Is Design Criticism Dead?"

“Is Design Criticism Dead?”

This lecture was recorded at the VCFA MFA in Graphic Design April 2016 residency in Montpelier, VT.