Thursday, September 8, 2011

Responses - Strauss and Fuad-Luke, Pentecost

Slow Design - Strauss and Fuad-Luke

In this piece Strauss and Fuad-Luke enumerate the principles of a design ideology which is meant to foster a significant impact on design sustainability. The principles included are very thoughtful and can demonstrably widen a designer's perspective to consider the systemic impact of the objects they create. But overall I feel like creating a list of commandments like this is perhaps a top-down kind of way to create social change. I absolutely acknowledge that they say that they aren't not rules per-se, only guidelines. But I'm slightly wary of when a set of ideas for solving a problem gets a bit slogan-oriented. It could make it more tempting adopt a marketable/fashionable label like "slow" rather than be focused on the systemic problems on hand. The style that the piece is written in reminds me of Andrea Zittel's "raugh" design ideology which I heard her discuss at a talk at the MCA last year. I'm going to have to paraphrase but she explained that she made up rules like "raugh must be comfy" and "raugh must look messy" as both a way to make fun of design ideologies but also to be able to enjoy the kind of Strauss and Faud-Luke might have in creating and implementing a design ideology. As for the examples, it seems like a lot of the objects offered are conecptual works which contain a critique coming from a slow design perspective, yet are not substitutions for everyday design processes and therefore everyday design objects. A modified car which is designed to move slow and doubles as a bench probably isn't going to replace cars, but only make a critical statement about cars. Still, I don't want too sound cynical. If reviewing these bullets creates a wider conceptual net for designers to make objects within than this is all well and good.

Autonomy, Participation, And - Pentecost

In this piece Claire Pentecost critiques and casts suspicion on the percieved autonomy that professionals in the art world supposedly enjoy. She suggests that this autonomy art figures possess may only function and occur within pre-established conventions and spaces where potential trangression or social change can be contained or compartmentalized. This way a power structure can afford critique and free thinking without having it necessarily interrupt the general slow of power within that strucutre. I understand this skepticism and the desire to make students particularly mindful of how convention can curb your efforts even in a field where were have the impression we can do anything. As an example, there was an event at the MCA last night which was framed as an open dialogue between the institution and its audience about diversity and inclusion. But this discussion was built upon the conventions of the panel discussion so that the only distinguished voices in the discussion were ones that the MCA had chosen. Although there was "Q and A" at the end of the event, it felt like a brief concession. The audience raised thoughtful yet critical questions that didn't seem particularly well attented to. Besides an excellent talk/performance by Hennesey Youngman, which did have moments of trangression which would normally never make it to that kind of platform, it could stand as an example of an institution pre-empting critique by placing it in an appropriate and containable context. For an discussion about inclusion, very few seemed to be included.

On the other hand, when thinking critically about the containing-power of convention I'm reminded of the importance of inflexible "stupid" systems that was brought up in the dialogue between Bratton and Jeremijenko last week. We need some degree of convention to establish the flow of communication in the first place. If we abolished it entirely we would even have agreed upon standards like language to begin communication in the first place. But seeing the event last night reminded me of the importance of keeping these conventions wide; to have them only pre-determine communication in the least amount possible. There is an institional way to evaluate institutions as well as a open one, which might try a more open standard of power relations with no enunciated center.

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