Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Two Responses - Jon

The Slow Design Principles

Carolyn F. Strauss, Alastair Fuad-Luke attempt to propose a new way of thinking about the sustainability of designing objects and even thinking about the products one buys, calling it Slow Design. There are six fundamental principles to their practice: Reveal, Expand, Reflect, Engage, Participate, and Evolve. They claim that these aren’t absolute truths, but rather a guide, as there isn’t an industry standard or practice that looks at environmental impact of goods.

In the over materialized world, these concepts could have a great impact on design, if the design community would care to take up these practices (I can’t image the process would create cheap goods). The three that I felt were the most important were reveal, reflect and evolve. Revealing where ones goods come from can really change the way people think about a product and possibly change their awareness of what they buy. If they, the consumer, knows that the animal was tortured, or that their jacket was made in a sweat shop, and were confronted with images of this torture, usually the person would think twice about buying the product. Reflecting on a designed product also kind of ties in with the revealing. The examples that are used in the article show how an item can become obsolete or background noise, but yet form a significant environment in our lives. I think this concept could go further, as reflecting about the object could make the buyer think about the indirect relationship they have, through this item, to where it came from and what it cost the environment in the process. Finally, the example for evolve has a direct relationship to myself. When I was living in my house in Michigan, my wife and I were in the process of turning our yard into an edible garden and growing native plants. Most of the reason was because the grass was such a waste and that it was so much easier to maintain the yard when it is natural.

Dan Peterman’s work is a good example of engaging and participating in a community. ChicagoGround Cover is a piece made from tiles that are composed of recycled plastic. Dan creates a public space through recycling materials that may have been thrown into landfills.

Autonomy, Participation, And

Pentecost raises the issue about how artists want to remain autonomous and presents a new, less traditional way to do this. It is almost like she is saying that to be completely autonomous, the artist needs to work outside of the white space she talks about early in the article.  She seems to critique this art world, saying, “We can do our work wherever we want or wherever we can afford to do it. In the end though, what we do must be condensed into forms that fit nicely into clean white rooms.” (Pg. 1) So there are these art world preconceptions and conditions that we artists need to conform to. We are not too autonomous then. She says we want validation, have seen it in institutions, are nostalgic about this idea through viewing past art in museums, but there are too few places to be validated. But, “What if we are not interested in the typically individual location of freedom and material well-being, but would rather forge and foster a shared autonomy?” (Pg. 2) So the artist needs to break away from this system to achieve a collective, truer autonomy. This activism can form a new consciousness for the viewer and artist, therefore giving them a new type of autonomy.

One important thing to overcome is ignorance. She states that, “Despite the appearance of an overwhelming quantity of information, knowledge is guarded jealously by groups who benefit from pervasive opacity and myopia.” (Pg. 4) I’m not too sure I buy into this though. The information age has brought with it, yes I agree much more “stupid” distractions, but also much more accessible information to the population. One doesn’t have to be ignorant in this world. Maybe she is talking about how industries aren’t open about their practices, but she wasn’t explicit about this. The artist’s job is to then become the mediator through participation in culture and outside of the art world’s confinements.

I saw the Guerilla Girls speak a couple nights ago, and it reminded me of this kind of ignorance vs. activism. Even though the art institution has absorbed them, they started out, and remain, autonomous. They also educate the population by getting out and showing injustice in the art world and culture at large.  

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