Theo Humphries is a designer, artist, and Senior Lecturer in Art and Design at Cardiff School of Art & Design, part of Cardiff Metropolitan University — the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2021.
Theo is a member of The Faculty of Minor Disturbances (within which this SARS Wars Toys project was conceived), currently holding the position of Senior Vice President for Satire at the Department of Pop Culture.
Theo’s academic research concerns the study of design, the study of humour, and the study of humorous design.
Many of Theo’s other projects can be viewed at theohumphries.com
Theo lives in Bristol, UK.
Theo on Star Wars (and SARS Wars).
I first encountered the Star Wars universe in utero. My parents watched Star Wars in London’s Leicester Square Odeon cinema in the late 1970’s. As two battling spaceships loomed into the infamous opening shot, accompanied by an overwhelming crescendo of engine noise and laser blasts, my parents hastily covered my mother’s belly with their duffle coats: concerned that the stupendous reverberance might have adverse effects upon their unborn child.
It clearly did.
I first heard these renowned sounds, along with the crackling hum of light-sabres, and the rasping breath of Darth Vader, as they resonated through my sanctuary of amniotic goop.
Sometimes… I think I can almost remember it...
When I was a young child, I didn’t go to church, or any equivalent religious setting: I watched Star Wars. We only had three terrestrial TV channels, and a very limited library of video cassettes — so I watched it a lot. I didn’t encounter the grand narratives of good, evil, love, tyranny, spirituality, redemption or forgiveness through an engagement with religion. Instead, the stories that guided me, my tales good and evil from ‘a long time ago’ and a place ‘far, far away’, were conveyed through colour TV and VHS. I am not belittling the powerful influence that the so-called ‘Hero’s Journey’, Propp’s ’31 Functions’, various religious narratives, allegories, folk tales, myths, and legends have had upon the Star Wars saga — but, as a young child, I was completely unaware of such things.
As I grew, I lost interest in the films, the associated toys, and in the imaginative games that my brothers, cousins, friends, and I, would play with them. Now, in adulthood, these toys occupy a treasured and formative place in my heart, as beloved childhood toys are wont to do — but I haven’t really thought about them for well over three decades.
As the pandemic took hold in 2020, I joined The Faculty of Minor Disturbances. At this time, much of the work that The Faculty produced was a direct response to The Pandemic. I began thinking about how the virus had intruded into my life, and the reactions to it that were emerging through broadcast media, social media, institutional guidelines, governmental actions, everyday conversations, and commonplace observations.
In a quiet moment, I thought rather whimsically about what might happen if the influence of the virus could extend back into my childhood to counterfactually affect the toys of my youth in ways that were resonant with the effects of the pandemic that I saw around me, here, in the present.
That was the inception of the SARS Wars Toys project.