Categories help to shape our understanding of the world. They help us to interpret things and also to define our identity. We use categories from the first moment we make conscious thought. This includes gender, religion, language – even our hair colour.
Yet are we taking these categories for granted?
Lochlann Jain, Visiting Professor in the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, is exploring the ways in which we use categories to make meaning.
“A lot of my research as a social scientist is to think about categories in different ways and to deconstruct what they've meant," explained Lochlann. "For example, a lot of my work tracks the ideas we take for granted. I deconstruct and rethink them in relation to how other disciplines interrupt them – and notice how they mean really different things for different people.”
“I want to push the idea of what fits inside a category and what doesn’t. My intention is to draw attention to the ways in which categories are made, because we have such an unconscious way in which we do that."
When we use methods from the arts – for example drawing, painting and theatre – we experience different ways of understanding conceptual issues. When using paints and sculpture, rather than words and arguments, we are given access to a different dimension to thinking.
This idea is visualised in the exhibition, ‘Things that Art’ – a selection of drawings, from Lochlann’s book of the same name, which reconsider and interrupt the ways in which categories underpin knowledge systems.
The exhibition will officially launch on 19 November. Lochlann will be joined by a panellists: Dr Maria McVarish (architect), Dr Jane Elliott (Reader in Contemporary Literature, Culture and Theory, King's College London) and Dr Lucy Kimbell (Director, Social Design Institute, UAL) to discuss meaning and using arts-based methods to explore meaning.