A School of Schools, Part 1: Historical Perspectives at the Swiss Design Network’s Beyond Change conference. Photo Samuel Hanselmann, IXDM.
The 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools, was present at the 2018 Swiss Design Network’s Beyond Change conference in the form of a double session exploring historical and contemporary design education alternatives in order to reflect on the role of design, knowledge, and global connectedness in our contemporary context. The sessions explored the complexities of past and present educational initiatives. The first session, titled Historical Perspectives, included presentations by James Langdon (speaking in the image above), Livia Rezende, and Zara Arshad. It focused on alternative design education initiatives taking place in South America, Western Europe and South Asia. Presentations explored diverse pedagogical positions and their spaces of agency, and reflected on what we can learn from them in our current times.
The second session, titled Contemporary Alternatives, included presentations by Prem Krishnamurthy, Merve Bedir and Benjamin Foerster-Baldenius, transdisciplinary practitioners whose approach is reinforced and permeated by learning. We looked at a research institute that doubles as a community action center and laboratory of learning; a site-specific offshore laboratory and educational experiment that engages multiple educational institutions; and a year-long initiative for a space for production, presentation, and potential pedagogy. These practices create new knowledge, search for alternatives to implemented systems, and, with radical diversity, push the boundaries of design.
The sessions were moderated by Jan Boelen and myself, and sought to make public part of the research that will lead to the biennial opening later this year in Istanbul. Thank you to the organizers, and especially Nina Paim and Claudia Mareis, for the opportunity to bring the discussion surrounding A School of Schools to Basel!
I’m honored to have been working as a program consultant for the upcoming Beyond Change conference, organized by the Swiss Design Network. It will take place in Basel from 8-10 March, and will focus on socially and politically motivated design, fostering feminist, queer and decolonized perspectives. Within the star-studded and very ambitious program, the conference will include a double session curated in collaboration with the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools, focusing on alternative design pedagogies in the past and today. I will be moderating those debates alongside Jan Boelen.
It’s been a pleasure to collaborate with the conference organization team, Claudia Mareis, Nina Paim and Sarah Haug, and I’m very much looking forward to attending Beyond Change! Tickets are available here should you wish to do the same.
At the ECAL Research Day with Xavier Veilhan and Stéphanie Moisdon. Photo courtesy of Zoe Cooper.
I was thrilled to moderate a full day of conversations at ECAL in October, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the EPFL + ECAL Lab and the celebration of 10 years of research at ECAL. The ECAL Research Day was filled with thought-provoking debate and ideas, including the participation of individuals such as Skylar Tibbits from the MIT Self-Assembly Lab, Roel Wouters from Studio Moniker, or Fabio Gramazio from Gramazio Kohler Architects. More information on the event’s official website.
For Making and Unmaking the Environment, the 2017 Design History Society conference, Avinash Rajagopal and I wrote a paper titled “The Unmaking of Autoprogettazione”. I had the pleasure to present it at the University of Oslo last 8 September, and was delighted to discuss this and many other topics with the scholars attending. An abstract of the paper below:
In 1974, Milanese designer Enzo Mari shocked his contemporaries with his Proposta per un’Autoprogettazione, a set of rudimentary furniture pieces sold as cheap instruction manuals rather than physical objects. Anyone with a hammer, nails, and timber could build the pieces for themselves. The project commented on the overlooked social responsibilities of the designer and critiqued the passive role imposed on consumers by the 20th-century design industry. In the last decade, amidst social and economical complexity that echoes the context of its original making, Autoprogettazione has resurfaced as a touchstone project that adds to the contemporary discourse. From Artek’s 2010 re-edition of Sedia 1 to Cucula, a Berlin-based non-profit, producing Autoprogettazione for and with refugees in 2015, the many ways in which the project has been quoted, echoed, repurposed or copied have shifted, altered and reinforced its original meaning. This paper traces the making and unmaking of meanings in Autoprogettazione, analyzing the context that lead to the project’s inception and exploring its comeback in the last decade, whether as a platform for art and design exhibitions, a vehicle for do-goodism in times of humanitarian crisis, or as a propaganda tool for companies and their marketing agencies. Scrutinizing these instances, and exposing the shifts and appropriations the project has been subjected to, reveal how the original aim to critique the design industry has been appropriated and made part of the design industry itself, in varied and at times perfidious ways.
The #SociableMuseum panel at MuseumNext Geneva, April 2015
As part of Superscript, I had the opportunity to co-moderate the #SociableMuseum panel at the European Museum Conference MuseumNext in Geneva, Switzerland. In the midst of one of the most significant gatherings of museum professionals in the world, the panel reunited Alin Tomacov, experience designer and associate partner at C & G Partners in New York, Seb Chan, Director of Digital and Emerging Media at the Cooper Hewitt in New York, and Viviane Stappmanns, Head of Communications at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, to talk about how can museums go from being “social” to becoming “sociable”.
Drawing from extensive research by Superscript co-founders Molly Heintz and Avinash Rajagopal, the panel advocated that while many museums today consciously use technology to become more social and open to the communities around them, there is a need for a further step, where these institutions become sociable — willing to actively engage with other people — creating conversations that forge true connections with their audiences. It was a pleasure to listen to such meaningful insights as the discussion unfolded: the panel (as it was recorded by Twitter users) can be seen here.
With Alec Dudson, Merve Yucel and Elian Stefa at the Një Mendësi Tjëter conference, Tirana
The last days of the year allowed for a fantastic opportunity: to return to the beautiful city of Tirana, and to talk at the Një Mendësi Tjëter conference, on a panel discussing, youth, culture and activism with some of my favorite people. Alec Dudson expanded of the publication he founded and helms from Manchester – Intern magazine –, which was born out of his experiences in the publishing world, among which his period as my intern in Milan. Merve Yucel spoke about the role of youth in established cultural institutions, namely IKSV, the foundation that promotes the Istanbul Design Biennial, and where she works as a production manager. Elian Stefa spoke about transforming grad school assignments into real-world platforms, with the excellent Concrete Mushrooms initiative. For my part, I spoke chiefly about Things the Internet has taught me, largely derived from my experience at Domusweb. I expanded on the many ways in which the internet can serve those who struggle to affirm themselves as young creatives, and how communication and promotion are fundamental skills for a creative professional in our day and age. It was a pleasure to be back in Tirana, and to learn so much from all the conference speakers!
In September 2013, I participated for the first time at a design conference, taking part in the 2013 Design History Society Annual Conference “Towards Global Histories of Design: Postcolonial Perspectives”. It was truly an honor to be among such talented academics and historians, and I was thrilled to be able to present in such a fantastic context as the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India. Beyond the fantastic exchanges I had with all those who participated and attended, I was also able to present the continuation of the research I started developing with my masters thesis at D-Crit, presenting on contemporary social design projects and particularly Marcelo Rosenbaum’s A Gente Transforma initiative. An excerpt of my paper can be read after the jump.