Archive for the 'Critical Studies' Category

Lunch Bytes

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Earlier this year I attended a Lunch Bytes conference at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. (HKW generally puts on fantastic conferences at reasonable costs, and as such, is worth checking out). Also at the conference were vis-com-des people Sophie Dyer and Solveig Suess. The conference was a summary of other various symposia that have taken place under the Lunch Bytes banner (an initiative of the Goethe Institute) on the topic of Post-Internet Art. This is a highly contested term, and rather than try to write up what everyone said, (you can see the videos of the presentations here), I asked if Sophie and Solveig would be interested in exchanging questions and answers from the conference. They generously agreed, and that exchange can be read below.

Continue reading ‘Lunch Bytes’

Everything is Super

Super-Community (and Conversations) are two new interesting platforms (with interesting content) from e-flux.

The Pedagogy of Negating the Institution

“As market logic moulds institutions of learning, treatment and therapy ever more brazenly, co-founder of the Cophenhagen Free University, Jakob Jakobsen, resuscitates some radical histories of deinstitutionalisation, in psychiatry and education, to learn valuable anti-lessons in negation and resistance.”

via Mute.

Critical Practise

If you’re in the Netherlands before the 18 Jan 2015, this exhibition (reported in Eye) exploring the work of Jan Van Toorn would be worth seeking out. I’m intrigued by the structural attempt to create a ‘taxonomy of practise’, (and have reservations about this type of way of viewing design), but it will no doubt be a useful prompt to some more nuanced discussions.

Dying, Designing

Ivor Williams will be Charting Better Ways to Die at the Architectural Association (London) on Friday.

To explore, amongst other things, ideas about the way we identify futures as “probable”, “preferable”, “plausible” and “possible”, join Ivor here.

Why design cannot remain exclusive

The Open Design Now website is well designed. I have the book (available for loan, as are other books), but hadn’t seen the site before. A useful and interesting resource.

It’s sunny in Dundee mostly


Tentsmuir WW2 Coastal Defences

In the spirit of inter-institutional caring and sharing:


Preview: Thursday 27th March 7pm
Exhibition Open: Friday 28th March 12 – 4pm, Saturday 29th March 12 – 4pm

The White Room project space, Tin Roof Studios. 38-40 Bellfield Street
Dundee DD1 5JD

Presenting an exhibition of work created by 3rd year Illustration Students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.

Come along to our show! It consists of hand printed posters and set designs for a series of imagined theatrical adaptations of plays exploring climate change, sustainability, urban planning and related social and political issues.

Exploring subjects such as:
Hydro Fracking, Gentrification, Micro-topias, Climate Activism, Nuclear waste disposal, Nuclear War, Social Housing, The melting ice caps, Surveillance, Community Gardening.

For more information please visit:

Inspiration, Manipulation

“We’ll have Google Glass, but we’ll still have ‘business-casual'”

This video is currently doing the rounds. Bratton is perhaps saying what we all think and feel, but after initially faltering a little, does it in a very convincing and coherent way. A slight tangent, but wonder if it’s linked in some way to this article, many parts of which I disagree with: Why being nice in the online world is no bad thing.


One of my favourite journals – Open! – which recently ceased in its print form due to funding cuts by the Dutch government, has only gone and reimagined itself in amazing website form.

A State of Agreement

This is a very interesting interview with Stephen Willats.

Gareth’s Favourite Band


Gareth’s favourite band Concert, are playing a free gig at Jan’s Bar, 18 Northwold Road, Stoke Newington, London N16 7HR, on Tuesday 24 September, 8pm. With their latest album ‘Behave Like an Audience’ featuring lyrics from Guy Ben-Ner, Mariana Castillo Deball, Dexter Sinister, Patricia Esquivias, Sharon Hayes, Hassan Khan, and Michael Portnoy, they have been variously described as ‘the Travelling Wilbury’s of conceptualism’ and a critical ‘super-group‘. Meta.

Speed? What Speed?

Ivan Illich is a very interesting thinker. I fully realise that starting blog posts with these kind of sentences is glib to say the least, but it’s very difficult, (in blog form and time-limit), to outline why. He’s a perceptive critic of institutions and of many of the givens of contemporary society and contemporary design. Possibly best to defer to giving a flavour of his work; this is from a text he gave at John Thackara’s Doors of Perception conference in 1996, the full link is at the bottom;

“…Here I speak to a very special kind of shaman — not teachers or physicians, not prison officials or transportation engineers, but designers. They do not conduct, rather, they design liturgy. They do not govern the enclaves, but act as advisers to those who construct them. They are not the progeny of shoemakers or masons, but the descendants of a Renaissance brain child, the disegno. They are experts in the intentional and reflected integration of sundry artefacts; sources of a new weave that distinguishes the Baroque from the Gothic.

However, designers not only provide the shape of integration, they inevitably spread guiding assumptions about the principles to which the elements of a whole ought to be subservient. Both the cockpit of the car and the humble door handle sell ergonomics; they tickle and attract your seat and your hand. For half a century ergonomics — things designed to fit the body — has been an assumption spread by designers. But the new given you want to put on the agenda, speed, has the power to disembody. It disembodies one’s perception of the falcon no less than of the Beethoven sonata. That is what my friends Trapp and Rieger have just tried to explain, and that is also my main point.

For decades, design has peddled speed, most of the time surreptitiously and uncritically. Faster seemed better. Now you want to open a new epoch with the claim that slow speed can be beautiful, and appropriate speed optimum. You want to open an era of intense speed awareness, and promote it by means of design. You want design that hails the postmodern slobbies: slower but better working people who punctiliously protect their appropriate pace.”

via Speed? What Speed? Prisoners of Speed, by Ivan Illich: Change Observer: Design Observer.

Facebook Analog Research Laboratory

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Facebook Analog Research Laboratory is, well, odd. Wired magazine, the breathless pronouncers of all that is ‘new’, write about it here. At first glance it would appear that to enter this ‘research lab’ you need to be able to convincingly pretend to yourself that it is 1953, be comfortable with the idea of ‘self-help’, and have read all editions to date of The Little Book of Calm. From the image above, and those in the link, you’ll see that all boxes are ticked. Proofing press (with new lick of paint) – tick!, fixie – tick!, Miley Cyrus (hang on, is this some kind of topical bandwagon jumping? -ed), weird distinction between analog [sic] and digital – tick!…

I am on Facebook, but I really don’t get it, and all this makes me wonder what dynamics are at play here? If it’s a desire to seem human, handmade, authentic, then is that desperation or pure cynicism? Is the supposed reverence of ‘traditional’ tools and techniques an attempt to search for some inspiration, or filling a worrying void in someones life and experiences? I find facebook, from a user perspective, to be a strange combination of simultaneously compelling and boring experiences. This kind of cultish hipster fetishism pushes me one step closer to web suicide 2.0

Critical wake-up call


“I will say, though, that an altered or developed discourse can only occur if the form is altered – not by talking in a new way about the same thing.” Via; Peter Nencini: Limner: the stick that moved on its own.

watching us

this is a fantastic resource that has a wealth of information on topics relevant to modern society and globalised culture.

“There’s already a lot of information on the Internet, so our goal is to cut through the noise and garbage, to present valuable information in a clear way, so it’s accessible, useful and easily digested. This still may not be an easy undertaking though, and we can understand that — especially considering the complexity and interconnectedness of the topics, as well as the crossing over of sources; but also for the fact that the information here can be incomplete, sometimes contradictory or even controversial. But this is the point. It’s all part of what we’re trying to do: provoke critical thinking, questioning… and doing.

We’ve fundamentally built this resource to inform and inspire action — and no, we’re not talking about clicking the stupid ‘Like’ button on Facebook, signing online petitions or letter writing — we mean informing and inspiring real-world action; taking this information away from the computer to rejuvenate the strong networks with the people around you in the real world, to discuss, plan, act. This is not a symbolic action or clicktivism website, nor is it a simple collection of popular content, like the other websites available. It’s a resource that aims to inform, inspire and provoke action; to generate a multitude of responses and reactions. This is just some of what is needed to break paradigms, subservience, acquiescence, and to cultivate inspiration to continue work on the plethora of puzzles and problems addressed in the information published here.”

adam curtis documentaries

Design (Counter) Domains

“And thus the critical force of history was separated into various specialisations and absorbed back into business as usual within the spectacle. Having renounced the criticism of the world, the world – in the form of journalism, art and the academy – can safely ignore it. The margins outside the spectacular world that once harboured a glimmer of negation have been all but foreclosed. What remains is professionalised anaesthesia, mourning communities, discourse clubs, legacy fetishists. Some ages betray a deep respect for their critical thinkers. To Socrates, they offered hemlock; to Jesus, the cross. These days it’s Zoloft, a column – or tenure.” — McKenzie Wark, 50 Years of Recuperation of the Situationist International.

(Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, on Ubuweb)

Re-Brand hype

POW if you don’t know about me

POW better ask someone quickly

’cause POW!

Icarus Redux

“In the later phase of the school, Potter instituted The Arena. Instead of organizing students by year or discipline they formed ‘family groups’. Each informal family would include students from different years and interests who would collaborate on projects and were free to configure their studios and structure their programmes and time as they wanted. The Arena united these families through a space of ‘critical disputation’. The important idea was that the Arena represented the institution, but that it should be thought of as providing a critical service to the family groups.”

via; An Interview with James Langdon on the Legacy of designer Norman Potter | Blog | Frieze Publishing.

Aaron Swartz

Cory Doctorow writes a thoughtful and insightful article in relation to the sad news about Aaron Swartz, and his important and inspiring work.

Attention! Criticism and its Distractions

This article on, and the accompanying audio discussion, may be interesting. I don’t know, I simply haven’t had time to read or listen to it. It may well relate to a lot of the other stuff we have about ‘attention‘. Possibly.