Critical Studies

Critical Studies Program

Critical Studies Program

Cranbrook is a small, graduate-only institution with a unique academic program that complements our 10 studio departments. Both our studios and our Academy-wide programs are free from conventional classes and traditional grades. This allows us to be specialized and flexible — responsive to student and faculty interests. Our academic program is both rigorous and yet approachable. The program takes the form of lectures, discussions, workshops, student-initiated symposia, critiques with visiting curators, dinners with guest thinkers and debates in the studio kitchens. Our Academy-wide academic programs are open to all students at the Academy —regardless of their primary studio department — and are designed to foster inter-departmental exchange.

Our Critical Studies program is the central piece of our academic program. Each semester, we bring a visiting Critical Studies Fellow to be in residence at the Academy. Selected for their perspectives on contemporary theory and culture studies, the visiting Fellows present public lectures, conduct student discussion groups and serve as an active presence in studio critiques and reviews. The visiting fellows are chosen each year to reflect the most current intellectual discourse within contemporary architecture, art, and design.


The Audacious Idea of the Aesthetic: Entropy in Two Parts

The theoretical discourse of aesthetics is the attempt to come to terms with the unique form of experience occasioned by works of art and exceptional aspects of the natural world, namely the so-called aesthetic experience. We will follow the development of a problematic, unstable, and potentially threatening form of experience—the very same form of experience that sustains art today.

Joseph J. Tanke is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Graduate Program in Philosophy the University of Hawaii, Manoa. He has published and lectured extensively on issues in aesthetics, art theory, Continental philosophy, and the history of philosophy. Dr. Tanke is the author of Foucault’s Philosophy of Art: A Genealogy of Modernity (Continuum, 2009), and Jacques Rancière: An Introduction—Philosophy, Politics, Aesthetics (Continuum, 2011).  Dr. Tanke has recently completed (with Colin McQuillan) a major, new anthology of aesthetic theory, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Aesthetics (Bloomsbury, 2012), a textbook for courses on the philosophy of art. Additionally, Dr. Tanke researches established and emerging artists in China, producing essays for exhibitions held at major Chinese art institutions.

Dr. Tanke is currently working on a book entitled Castles In the Sky: Aesthetics as a Philosophical Discourse.  During his time at Cranbrook, Joseph will be working with students on an exhibition and writings regarding Kant’s Critique of Judgment.


Jaimey Hamilton Faris focuses her research around questions of material and subjective relations within our current global economic system. What is material? How limited or unlimited is its potential in the twenty-first century?  What is the artist/designer’s responsibility in addressing the earth’s materiality through their chosen medium of expression?  Inspired by the work of Jane Bennett, Rosi Braidotti, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Édouard Glissant, and others, her examination of current artistic allegorizations of islands as “isolated and floating relations” (Deleuze) will offer useful accounts of translocal cultural ecologies applicable to our most pressing global ethical questions.

Jaimey Hamilton Faris is Associate Professor of Critical Theory and Contemporary Art at the University of Hawai’i Mānoa.   Her writing focuses on issues of commodity aesthetics, globalization, and translocal ethics in contemporary art, often considered through a neo-materialist lens.  She has written articles for Art JournalOctober, and In_Visible Culture, and essays for collections published by the Centre Pompidou and Oxford University Press.  Her recent book, Uncommon Goods: Global Dimensions of the Readymade (Intellect, 2013), explores contemporary art practice in response to expanding definitions of the commodity since the nineties, which now include digital information, intellectual property, labor, and management.

While at Cranbrook, Hamilton Faris will be working on a series of essays entitled Of Islands and the In-Between in which she discusses the importance of contemporary art about islands, straits, and oceans as useful “geopoetic” imaginaries of the possible and impossible conditions of global coexistence in the twenty-first century.