MA Graphic Media Design

Course

Course Philosophy

MA Graphic Media Design welcomes curious, thoughtful and critical participants.

Rooted in the logic of critical thinking through critical making, MA Graphic Media Design participants deal with timely challenges (course and self-initiated) through a broad range of processes and media. Employing established and emergent methods and technologies, we work towards producing new and unlikely perspectives on and for the world.

This practice-led, research-oriented design course is delivered in two modes to accommodate the varied requirements and aspirations of the contemporary practitioner – full-time (45 weeks) and part-time (80 weeks * this mode concludes in 2018).

Participants within the course are situated within a progressive site of award-winning pedagogic development and critical subject debate. An integrated approach to theory and practice threads through the course delivered by an accomplished course team of awarded design practitioners, published researchers and experienced educators. Leading critical thinkers, design practitioners, critics and writers are frequent guests and correspondents to the course.

Though challenging, our approach offers a distinct opportunity to develop a cogent body of work that is relative and progressive. Our graduates enter into complex contexts with curiosity and confidence, informed by in-depth subject knowledge, advanced design skills and a resilient attitude.

Course Leader

Contact

p.bailey@lcc.arts.ac.uk
@LCC_Graphics
Official UAL Page

London College of Communication
University of The Arts London
Elephant and Castle
London SE1 6SB
020 7514 6901

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Site design and build: Oliver Smith

Participants

  • Project

    IS IT?

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  • Project

    Dichotomies Combined_small

    Is it a coincidence that the day after publishing my project, Dichotomies of Belonging, Dominic Raab, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, resigned? As a book, this project acts as a record and repository of the discussions taking place around the symbolic redesign of the British passport. It also acts as a prompt — or an activator — to open up a debate beyond the constraints of ‘blue’ and ‘burgundy’. Dichotomies of Belonging combines a series of interviews, each giving a different insight and perspective on the British passport as an object, our relationship with it and the ideas of national identity that are carried within it. In two archives, it provides context on passport design changes since 1880, and the debates happening in major media outlets since the 2016 EU referendum results.

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  • Project

    Live in

  • Project

    Crowdmask_protest_a

  • Project

    [Femme] city

    ‘Welcome to Femme City, where all the spaces have been designed based on women’s experiences in the city. Become a street hunter and face the same situations. Get ready!’

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  • Project

    Topographia Inter Orbis

  • Project

    Mute Bodies

  • Project

    Intimate or Alienated, Dangerous or Supportive, Multi-relationship With Wild Animals

    The project aims to explore the contemporary and diverse relationship between urban dwellers and wildlife. From trophy hunting on the plains of Africa, to living in the forest of skyscrapers in Western cities, these two seemingly disparate worlds are connected by different approaches. Even if humans have gradually been separated from the wild, we still insist on looking for a means of coexisting with wild animals. The images produced for the project are designed to trigger a critical re-thinking of this multi-relationship through dialogues in visual communication.

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  • Project

    I Can't Speak With a Weapon

    The narrative is based on an innovation of a Syrian activist. With continuous oppression by the Syrian government, the Syrian activists adopts creative and non-violent ways to protest. Ping pong balls with “freedom” and other words written on them were being thrown on the street. Refunctionalization of ping pong becomes an anesthetization in Syria’s revolution. Despite the shifting function of the object, it retains its pure form which carries the essence of peace. The narrative provokes deeper thought from the audience on the issue of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. The visual is an expression of relationship between graphic design and Syrian politics.

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  • Project

    ways of seeing ways of reading

  • Project

    Made in China / Designed in China

    The publication Made in China / Designed in China explores Chinese design education now, and in the future. Made in China focuses on three issues that are mentioned by Chinese critic and educator Chen Danqing: education industrialization, examination standardization and academic politicization. The cube in this project has been mass produced by a mould and performs as a metaphor to symbolize the homogenization of mass education. Designed in China concentrates and questions the public voice in the future of design education.

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  • Project

    Paid Patriotism: The Fabricated National Identity

    Paid Patriotism is an investigation of fabricated national identity within sports game. As a case study, the project demonstrates the tactics that official communities have used to fabricate national identity and patriotism at the Super Bowl in the US. Through the use of design as a convivial tool — a term put forward by Ivan Illich — the role-playing board game PITCH simulates current sports economic activities that fabricate and sell national identity. This game gives audiences opportunities to play with this financial structure. There is both online website and an offline workshop that is also able to open discussion for audiences and help to reframe national identity within sports games.

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  • Project

    SEAMLESS LIE: The Fidelity of Google Earth

  • Project

    Feminist Voices in Technology

    Feminist Voices in Technology is a publishing platform designed with feminist principles; non-hierarchical, collaborative, collective, egalitarian, networked. The platform exists in both print and digital formats. It aims to create an ongoing conversation and a living archive of critical analysis on the issues of gender and technology.

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  • Project

    Instruction

MA Graphic Media Design Full Time 2018

MA Graphic Media Design Full Time 2017

MA Graphic Media Design Full Time 2016

Studio

Projects

In conversation: A Line Which Forms a Volume

The team involved with the design, edit and launch of A Line Which Forms a Volume have recently been in conversation with Theo Inglis at Grafik magazine and Madeleine Morley at…

The team involved with the design, edit and launch of A Line Which Forms a Volume have recently been in conversation with Theo Inglis at Grafik magazine and Madeleine Morley at AIGA Eye on Design. In these features the team discuss their drive for publication, the concerns of the project and their future ambitions for the coming volumes.

‘My hope is that as more emergent design research becomes public, it will demonstrate and reinforce its value within the larger practice-driven framework’
Gabriela Matuszyk (Co-editor, Volume 1)

You can now buy your own copy of A Line Which Forms a Volume in store or online from the lovely people at magCulture.

Twitter

A Line Which Forms A Volume

A Line Which Forms a Volume* is a critical reader and symposium of graphic design-led research that is edited, written, designed and published by participants of the MA Graphic Media Design (MAGMD) course at London College of Communication (LCC).

The concept for A Line Which Forms a Volume belongs to the French novelist and essayist, Michel Butor. ‘Listen to someone making a speech’, Butor wrote in his essay ‘The Book as Object’, ‘every word follows one other, precedes one other. As a result, they take their places along a line activated by a meaning, along an axis.’ The best way to store such a line — ‘such a “thread”’ — he states is to ‘roll it up’. By definition we know that a ‘volume’ — from the Latin, volvere — means ‘to roll’, because that was the way written matter was once stored. But there is also volume in the sense of an occupied or enclosed space, and in the quantity or power of sound. This publication lays claim to all of these definitions.

We intend for this research to be public — voluble — and to resonate. As a record, this publication tracks the reeling of ideas between texts, splicing them together with graphic devices and conceptual links to form a continuous line. ‘Writing’s first advantage, as we all know, is that it enables language to last’, explains Butor, ‘leaving accessible to our eyes what our ears would already have missed’. A Line Which Forms a Volume has formed and filled a space for MA Graphic Media Design research at London College of Communication. This is the first issue but not the last. The editorial team, designers and the group of participants who contribute to each issue will roll-over, gain momentum and continue with lines of inquiry, narrative threads, or any other metaphorical unravelling of graphic design research that they choose.

The first edition of A Line Which Forms a Volume launched at a symposium on December 6, 2017, held at LCC. Current participants who have been published in the first edition presented abstracts from their research at the symposium. They spoke alongside guest speakers who informed the lines of participant inquiry and contributed written responses for the publication, situating emergent research within the wider scope of design research and publishing.

STUART BERTOLOTTI-BAILEY shared how his experience as a designer, writer, editor, publisher, curator and director have evolved from and into each other through Dot Dot Dot, Dexter Sinister, The Serving Library and the ICA.

CATE RICKARDS expounded her MA research The Shadow for the Thing which studies a dummy hand grenade from the Stanley Kubrick Archive to consider how the perception of an object might be problematised through graphic design.

ELEANOR VONNE BROWN described how her role as a curator, of The Publication as Practice series and X-Operative, has contributed to building a community for education, production and exchange.

ALDO CAPRINI gave insight to his MA research which uses Gaddafi’s political primer ‘The Green Book’ to analyse and visualise how objects become rhetorical instruments to manifest ideology.

JACK SELF introduced the activities of the REAL Foundation and Real Review, sharing how his role as a curator, writer, editor, publisher and architect concurrently inform each other.

SOPHIE DEMAY presented a series of video interludes exploring radical pedagogy through Augusto Boal’s figure of the Joker.

With great thanks to Bryony Quinn (editorial advisor), Wayne Daly and Claire Lyon, Daly-Lyon (design advisors).

The Animal Issue

Kiki Chang

‘The zoo cannot but disappoint. The public purpose of zoos is to offer visitors the opportunity to look at animals. Yet nowhere in a zoo can a stranger encounter the look of an animal. At the most, the animal’s gaze flickers and passes on. They look sideways. They look blindly beyond. They scan mechanically. They have been immunised to encounter, because nothing can any more occupy a central place in their attention.’—J. Berger  [1]

Berger, J. (2009). Why Look at Animals? London: Penguin.

As an interdisciplinary activist movement that began in the 21st century, Critical Animal Studies proposes an engaged philosophical understanding of animals. The field is concerned with the issue of depriving animals of their original habitats—in other words, it’s a critique on the captive state of animals. However, it is not only in zoos that animals are ‘captured’. As real animals started disappearing from the natural world, they have increasingly been presented as subjects in the virtual media. We see images of animals on the Internet, in print and in many other kinds of media, and the presence of animals on these platforms can be seen as a form of captivity.

In zoos, the barrier between the animal and the human form a strong metaphor of control, framing, and distance. Throughout this project, an editorial design methodology has been used to form a conceptual link between the audience and the zoo, starting with the concept of barriers. By translating the physicality of barriers into the graphical elements of editorial design, the idea of the frame and the breaking of the frame are explored through different grids, typesetting, and layouts.

Tiger Cam. [Screen capture taken
23 Oct 2017] Edinburgh Zoo. (Available at: edinburghzoo.org.uk/webcams/tiger-cam/)

Tiger Cam. [Screen capture taken
22 Oct 2017] Edinburgh Zoo. (Available at: edinburghzoo.org.uk/webcams/tiger-cam/)

Another key element of this project focuses on the idea of ‘absence’. In John Berger’s Why Look at Animals?, he argues that the artificial environment of the zoo is illusory. The images, products and captive animals are all a reproduction of the real animals, to which humans have lost their proximity. By taking live-streamed webcam footage from zoos and systematically capturing images when the animals are absent from the frame, the viewer is forced to search for the animals, emulating the experience of visiting a zoo. This narrative conveys a sense of alienation and the continuous disappointment of not seeing what people expect to see.

Hantin: A Hybrid Modular Typeface Design for Multilingual Typography

Da Chung

HANTIN is a hybrid modular typeface that combines Hangul (Korean) and Latin letterforms and writing systems. This typeface enables a reader to understand Latin phonetic sounds without needing to study English beforehand. Conversely, the typeface also allows a reader to understand Korean phonetic sounds without the need to study Korean.

An illustrated example of the mixture of Korean and Latin phonetic sound that shows ㅅ equals A and S equals ㅏ and, together, SA = 사.

HANTIN is a response to the multilingual phenomena of several languages being used simultaneously in a single piece of visual communication. Nowadays, different typefaces are frequently seen together and this is having a growing influence on the basics of written communication. In countries where alphabets are not Roman, the contrast is remarkable. It is common to see advertisements, signposts, publications, and newspapers in more than one language – especially in Korea where English can be seen everywhere.

As a bilingual speaker of Korean and English, I intuitively link Latin and Hangul alphabets by the similarity of their shapes or phonetic sounds.

A glyph from HANTIN A that overlays ㅎ and H.

The word ‘Hangul’ set in HANTIN A and the word ‘Latin’ set in HANTIN B.

For example: equals A and S equals and, together, SA equals . Because of the common features in these phonograms, I found this to be a very interesting way to address the phenomena of bilingual speaking and reading.

HANTIN consists of two distinct styles: HANTIN A and HANTIN B. HANTIN A is arranged by following the Korean writing system and allows English speakers to read Korean. The Korean writing system is a phonemic writing system that arranges consonants and vowels —horizontally or vertically, up or down—which gives individual words in Hangul their distinctive forms. HANTIN B writes both alphabets in the linear Latin writing system. This way, Korean speakers can read Latin letters.

In HANTIN A, the phonetic sounds represented by Korean characters are matched with Latin letter counterparts. The HANTIN A alphabet is produced by over-laying glyphs with corresponding sounds. For instance, is a Hangul consonant; its phonetic sound matches the Latin letter H. Thus, in the HANTIN A, the sound ‘huh’ will appear in an overlaid form of and H.

An example of a word written in HANTIN A. This word means ‘type’ in Korean, which
is phonetically pronounced ‘hwal ja’.

An example of a word written in HANTIN B. This word is ‘cat’ in Latin which is phonetically pronounced as ‘캣’ in Korean.

In HANTIN B the process is reversed: the phonetic sounds that are represented by specific Latin letters are matched with corresponding sounds in Hangul. Each letterform in the HANTIN B alphabet is also created by overlaying the two glyphs that share phonetic sounds.

Despite their connection with similar phonetic sounds, HANTIN A and HANTIN B alphabets are quite different because individual letters in the Latin alphabet have more than one sound, while Korean characters represent only one sound. For instance, the letter A can be read as different sounds depending on its location in a word. Thus, in HANTIN B, A is matched with five different Hangul vowels.

HANTIN is a font in the usual sense, but it can also be used to transliterate Korean into Latin and vice versa. This typeface is for Korean or English speakers who want to know or learn about the other’s language.

Better Babies, Higher Humans

Andy Renmei

The following text appeared in a press release distributed by the Higher Humans Genetics Institute

‘HHGI can help you to give your child the best possible chance in life’—F. Galtom [1]

The veracity of its claims is yet to be ascertained, pending juridical enquiry.

Better Babies Calculator (BBcalc) is a digital application developed and introduced by the Higher Humans Genetics Institute (HHGI).

BBcalc offers parents around the world the chance to design their children to be the ‘Better Babies’ of the future. The application collects information about the physical identity of each user and by applying our unique algorithm, BBcalc suggests three exclusive enhancement templates that best match those features. It also allows users to compare, edit and select baby options according to personal preference, regional popularity and global genetic scores.

As part of the full Higher Humans experience, BBcalc is at the centre of the customer journey. The main benefit of BBcalc is to provide an effective, comprehensive, and accessible quotation service for our babies, resulting in a quicker decision-making process, and an increase in customer confidence levels.

The BBcalc experience is immersive and personal. In four easy steps, the user answers a series of short questions regarding the physical attributes they would like to enhance in their baby such as body shape, gender, skin colour, and facial features. All interactive elements are designed using basic shapes and simple blocks of colour to create an abstract language that protects user anonymity while delivering a rich array of personalisation options.

At the final stage of the BBcalc experience, a report is generated that includes a straightforward evaluation and easy price comparison of baby enhancement options. The options are based on an assimilation of the characteristics selected by the user during the BBcalc experience. BBcalc highlights what qualities can be enhanced from parent to child, making sure that the best traits are passed on with the choice of three individually priced templates.

After the report has been issued, the BBcalc application presents the user with a live quotation of their perfect baby. Attributes such as body shape, sexuality and gender can be adjusted according to user preferences–the price will be automatically updated on the application. Once the desired baby template is selected, a unique order code is generated with instructions to follow.

For lower income families, HHGI provides financial support through the Help to Enhance Scheme.

HHGI: we make miracles happen.

Sociolegal Model Making: a Proposition

Amanda Perry-Kessaris

The text below, extracted from an artefact that takes the form of an open letter, is part of a project exploring the benefits and risks of using design-based strategies, specifically model making, to enhance sociolegal research; that is, a particular kind of legal research in which law is systematically reinterpreted as a social phenomenon. [1] The letter is intended to be distributed to and printed by sociolegal researchers to begin provoking and facilitating them into model making.

Cotterrell, R. (1998) ‘Why must legal ideas be interpreted sociologically?’, Journal of Law and Society, 25 (2).

*

If we approach sociolegal research as if it is itself a social phenomenon, then we can begin to reframe it through design-based practices such as model making, improve its quality, and render it more of a communal resource.

We, sociolegal researchers, are distinguished by our commitment to approaching law as a fundamentally social phenomenon. [2]  Many of us understand law as having the potential to act as a ‘communal resource’. By this we mean that law can support relations that are trusting, stable and, therefore, productive. It can do this by provoking participation in different forms of social life, and by facilitating the expression and co-ordination of values and interests that are central to those forms of social life.

Cotterrell, R. (2008) Living Law Aldershot: Ashgate; Perry-Kessaris, A. (2015) ‘Approaching the econo-socio-legal’ Annual Review of Law & Social Science, 11 (16).

Prefiguring a Research Project, 3 October 2017.

Despite our social understanding of law, we, sociolegal researchers, tend to approach our research individualistically. We do not share our process, nor do we tend to share the products of that process in ways that are particularly accessible to non-specialists. If we want our work to be widely appreciated, and to be useful, this needs to change. Making things visible and tangible can help.

This project is about getting us—sociolegal researchers—to use physical models to discover and show—to ourselves and to others—how we are approaching our research and why we are approaching it in this way, and to imagine alternatives.

Lego Workshop, 28 March 2017.

Begin making your research visible and tangible with a visit to the project repository;

A Site [3]  – where you can download and print:

amandaperrykessaris.org/modelmaking

A Guide – In which three forms of model making are explained.

A Space – In which to place sociolegal models.

A Context – In which the theory and practice informing the project are introduced.

A Portfolio – In which the project design process is visualised.

See before you try via the Sociolegal Model Making video collection.

Share your experiences whenever and however you can. [4]

Twitter: @aperrykessaris #sociolegalmodelmaking

Introducing the Epic Struggle of an Apple Calendar User

Louise Courtois

Ancient Egyptian time-reading tools were based on moon cycles. Because moon cycles influenced the annual flooding of the Nile.

So it affected agriculture.

So it affected the economy.

So it affected livelihoods.

So it affected peoples’ conception of time.

Makes sense, right?

Today, the structure for reading time,

Which sometimes jingles in your pocket,

To let you know that you are late,

Was established by a Pope.

In 1582.

Oh, and guess what?

Pope Gregory actually updated

the Julian calendar.

By making a 0.002% adjustment

to the length of a year

And the Julian calendar was a correction

of the Roman calendar.

Created in the 1st century BCE.

Wait,

Isn’t the whole idea of our current Gregorian

calendar based on the fact that it started

on 1st of January 1?

But was it not created BCE?

A year lasts 365.2422 days.

Does it make sense?

Does it really have to be that way?

Let’s say that this structure of time

is nonsense.

By this logic, time management

methods are absurd.

How can you manage time?

‘Time flies’, right?

You can use a digital calendar,

Build your own piece of nonsense.

But really it won’t change anything.

A year lasts 365.2422 days.

Sure, you can add events here and there.

Arrange the blocks of time.

Move them around.

Even pick some lovely colours!

Great.

I don’t want to annoy you.

Not you especially.

But this is exactly what absurdist

fiction does.

And looking at the digital calendar through

an absurdist lens is my strategy.

As I’d like to show you how absurd

your calendar is.

I’ve been playing with the features of

the Apple digital calendar.

Because it’s absurd.

Do you know absurdist fiction?

The post-war ‘Theatre of the Absurd’?

The insights we can draw from absurdist fiction

are actually pretty similar to our situation.

There is a rule, an illogical rule.

And the characters have to follow it.

So I have to follow it.

Even if I don’t really know why.

I am wondering about my power over this rule.

About my power over the calendar grid.

About my power over its features.

What power over my time do I have as I arrange

event blocks on a calendar grid

Or get a new time management app?

Just to be more efficient.

But time flies! Fast.

Really fast.

I have made a body of videos online.

Where you can see how much I am

struggling with the Apple calendar.

There are three videos.

So, was the 1st of January 1, a Monday?

Maybe it was.

Maybe it wasn’t.

Do you want to know?

It’s online actually.

I’d like calendar users to wonder.

Time is universal, and so is the Internet.

Great.

Visit: epic-struggle.com

Here be Dragons: The Geography of Terra Ignota

Eugenia Luchetta

The starting point of an atlas, with the aim of popularising the discovery of an unknown land on the planet, should include a detailed map with meticulous geographic descriptions. Nevertheless, this atlas does not simply deal with the exploration of a remote and difficult to reach island. Indeed, this island does not come under any domain of what is known. Unknown is its shape, unknown is its location, unknown is the journey to reach it. An unknown land. Terra Ignota. Like matter that needs manipulating, like clay, waiting for its final shape to be defined.

 

But where is this island? How can we be sure it exists if it has no shape and no location? The mystery of this ambiguous space begins here.

 

Nobody knows how the island was created, or whether it is natural or artificial. What is known from several exploratory accounts, however, is that the geographic characteristics of the island have never settled. In order to escape from the control and surveillance of Mainland, the island is in constant movement. Adventurers recount that at every turn of the tide, an internal procedure so sophisticated and incredible that no one has ever been able to understand or break it, determines the borders and the coordinates of the island, which suddenly disappears and reappears elsewhere. A string of eleven random ciphers is believed to be at the origin of the coordinates, whereas it is hypothesised by Mainland studies that a more complex and longer code could determine the shape.

*

Here be Dragons is a book that describes Terra Ignota, a mysterious island, autonomous from the rest of the world—‘Mainland’—and alien to the notions of law and government.Terra Ignota, however, is not a far away land in an undefined past. It is, instead, a physical representation of what the darknet is perceived as today. Here be Dragons creates a parallelism between the fascination and terror of remote lands in the past, and the spread of fantasies and fears of the darknet today.

The text above is an excerpt from the first chapter of Here be Dragons, which illustrates the geography of Terra Ignota. The narrative of a remote island where location and shape are shrouded in mystery, broken by an incongruous element: the ‘string of eleven random ciphers’. In fact, this number is an IP address.

When browsing the darknet, before it reaches its final destination, each request travels through a number of relays with different IP addresses. The IP address and, therefore the geolocation of the source, is never revealed during the process.

The parallelism is developed in a similar manner in the following chapters. The second chapter, ‘Nocturnality’, deals with the flora characterised by intricate roots digging deep down underground, representing the rhizomatic and chaotic navigation experience of the darknet. An account of the evil and elusive inhabitants, ‘Shadow People’, follows. The forth chapter, ‘Pirate Utopia’, defines the social structure of the island: Terra Ignota is an anarchic land. The influence of successful black markets, despite their short lives, is so strong that they assume a status comparable to dynasties (as inspired by the fame of legendary darknet market, Silk Road). The book concludes with ‘Spirituality’, a chapter dedicated to paranormal beliefs held by inhabitants which reflect the urban legends that are spread throughout the darknet.

The Plaza

Richard Ashton

Sitting

should

be

socially

comfortable

and

provide

flexible

choices:

sitting

up

front,

in

the

back,

to

the

side,

in

the

sun,

in

the

shade,

in

groups,

off

alone.

Affording

a

good

look

at

the

passing

scene

and

the

pleasure

of

being

comfortable

under

a

tree

provides

a

satisfying

enclosure.

Developers

should

be

encouraged

to

include

trees

in

spaces

for

sitting.

The

number

one

activity

is

people

looking

at

other

people.

Lines Not Short, Not Straight, Crossing and Touching

Bec Worth

Despite, or perhaps because of its infrequent appearance in the landscape of everyday language, the verb traverse pleases both the ear and the mind. Tongue pressed briefly to the roof of the mouth, T–R–A, like a plucked guitar. Then a bitten lip, a fling and a hiss, V–ER–SE. My delivery is voiced with an emphasis on the second syllable, TRA–VERSE, disclosing geographic origins and at the same time performing. A phoneme thrown, outstretched, into the nearby yonder.

To traverse is, at the very least, to set out. The Oxford English Dictionary outlines it as to ‘travel across or through’, which points past any modest beginning to a centre. But what is the quantifiable breadth of across? And what, in fact, are we travelling through? If I step onto the porch, have I traversed? Or must I also progress past the door? And the foyer? And the hall? It’s difficult to comprehend the scope of this centre in an age that offers return flights to Ibiza for the price of a Uniqlo t-shirt.

To engender a less culturally-specific appreciation, it’s worth recalling the origins of the word ‘travel’, which finds its roots in 14th century Middle English as the not-too-distant travailen, ‘to make a journey’. This was adapted from the original ‘to toil, labour’, as all journeys in the Middle Ages were inherently arduous. Going even further, via Old French, we come to the Vulgar Latin tripalium, ‘instrument of torture’ – which is still applicable when flying Ryanair.

Synonyms for traverse present themselves as interchangeable cut-ups pairing journey/pass/go and across/through/over. Negotiate is an exception to this rule and is arguably more telling in its implication of opposition. Walking for fourteen days across the mountainous interior of Corsica reveals a traverse to be equally painful and pleasurable. A dawn start is rewarded by cool air pressing into sleepy skin. The demands of an ascent become peripheral as the sun spills silently over a peak. A heavy body folds, satisfied, into afternoon slumber. To traverse is to journey with a certain amount of endurance.

On implementing Sol Lewitt’s instructions for Wall Drawing #65, draughtsman David Schulman recalls ‘signals of discomfort became an unconscious time clock determining when I would stop and step back from the drawing. Walking up the ramp to look at the drawing from a distance provided momentary relief from the physical strain… Keeping my body totally active in an almost involuntary way – in a sense, totally relaxed my mind. When my mind became relaxed, thoughts would flow at a smoother and fast pace.’ [1]

Goldsmith, K. (2011) Uncreative Writing, New York, Columbia University Press.

Returning to the centre, which could navigate up, down and around. A traverse could advance slowly, possibly sidling, possibly cunning, toward its intended destination. And like your hold luggage, the completion of a journey might not be location-specific. We might traverse toward an endpoint that isn’t fixed or, if walking is the end in itself, we’ve arrived as soon as we set out.

In an increasingly dematerialised and production-oriented environment, how might the act of traversing inform the possibilities of labour? In Wanderlust: A History of Walking Rebecca Solnit writes, ‘walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world’. [2]

Solnit, R. (2014) Wanderlust: A History of Walking, London: Granta Books.

Damned Green

Aldo Caprini

The Green Book is a literal book and rhetorical device that was used by Gaddafi to rule over Libya during a period bookended by two revolutions. In 1969, the Libyan dictator took power after a military coup that he led as Colonel—deposing the old monarch, King Idris I—and he was, in turn, overthrown during the Libyan Civil War in 2011. During his dictatorship, The Green Book became the basic element of Gaddafi’s ideological apparatus, even more so than his political programme.

The content of what would become The Green Book is an elaboration of a series of speeches that Gaddafi gave, starting in the port city of Zawiya in 1971, alongside descriptions of his short, abortive effort at popular rule.

Gaddafi was meaning to replace the incremental efforts of past governments through reform of Libya’s political and economic structures. However, in August 1975, a coup attempt was made against him. It was then that the dictator seized the opportunity to push forward his revolutionary agenda. All that was missing was a coherent ideological treatise that could serve as a guideline for this revolution: within a few weeks of the August 1975 coup, extracts from The Green Book were first printed in the regime newspaper, al-Fajr al-Jadid.

As part of the dominant ideology, the book was an attempt to transform Libya and its citizens into an active mechanism for creating a stateless society. The Green Book was published originally in two different volumes released in 1976, 1977, and combined into one volume in 1979. Each volume contained common themes: a distrust of the hierarchical, bureaucratic structures inherent in modern states, and Gaddafi’s abhorrence towards the presence of intermediaries who prevented individuals from directly managing their own lives. Above all else, the Libyan leader himself clearly viewed The Green Book as a manifesto for action.

Extracts of the book were broadcast daily on television and radio; conferences and seminars were constantly held at schools and universities. Slogans from the book could be seen everywhere: on the exterior walls of public buildings, on billboards in the streets, at the entrance to Tripoli Airport. The Green Book became the pillar of Gaddafi’s rule: a monument in its image.

One of the key symbols of The Green Book was represented by The World Centre for Studies and Research of The Green Book in Tripoli (which also had branches in Sabha, Sirt, Benghazi, and AlBayda). Since its establishment during the 1980s, the centre published thousands of editions and studies on The Green Book. They were dedicated to researching this ideological subject through large seminars that they organised abroad, and through the publication of articles in huge volumes that sometimes reached 800 pages. By 2011, all of the centres were destroyed and in ruins.

The utopian aspirations described in The Green Book that were presented as the only way to an egalitarian society, remained simple theories. In reality this turned into oppression, torture and mass murder.

For this reason, in 2011, during Libyan Civil War, one of the targets, for those who pursued freedom from the regime, was to condemn The Green Book and erase the ideas it represented from the memory of the country.

36 years after its first publication, The Green Book once again assumed a prominent role inspiring dissidents against the dictator—it became a symbol of struggle against the dictatorship. The most recognisable attribute of Gaddafi’s regime became a major contributor to the fall of the longest serving dictator in African postcolonial history.

DAMNED GREEN is a publication that sits within a larger research project titled The Green Book, The Red Book, and The Blue Book. [1]  This project is positioned in an area of study known as political design, and is intended as a think tank for ideas about power and leadership, the status quo and subversion, representation and reproduction. The key inquiry of the research is to establish the original network behind the production and diffusion of The Green Book.

The Green Book, The Red Book, and The Blue Book is a descriptive title for this research project that refers to a monument in Tripoli that was toppled in 2011 during the Libyan Civil War. This monument is lost.

A key example from the research that features in DAMNED GREEN, refers to the concept of damnatio memoriae —a Latin phrase that translates as ‘condemnation of memory’. In Roman times, it was a form of dishonour that could be passed by the Senate on traitors or other people who brought discredit to the Roman State. Damnatio memoriae was widely enacted against The Green Book. Across Libya, in the wake of the 2011 uprising, monuments, centres, and slogans were destroyed.

AHYBXT Tripoli, Libya. Qadhafi Green Book Monument at Traffic Roundabout.

Within a graphic design context, this process of damnatio memoriae reiterates a key notion put forward by the design theorist Tony Fry that ‘every design either serves or subverts the status quo.’ [2] Throughout DAMNED GREEN, there are examples of before and after images of The Green Book monuments, the World Centre for Studies and Research of The Green Book, and of Gaddafi’s own image. The research takes a broad design view that exists between two moments; before and after the capturing of photographic images, and the time between the 1969 and 2011 revolutions. The idea of damnatio memoriae is used to speculate about what occurred in the span of time between these events and these images.

Fry, T. ‘The Archeworks. Papers’, Design Issues: Volume 23, Number 3, MIT Press.

 

The last image of Gaddafi alive, captured from footage of his killing in October 2011, has been printed onto the transparent cover of DAMNED GREEN. Here the image assumes the role of a protective, ideological film over the contents of the book and, at the same moment, depicts the process of damnatio memoriae in action.

On Waviness

Louise Evans

The following text is an extract from a series of essays that deal with the tilde (~), its place in shifting conventions of communication and status as a mark with many meanings.

Consider this punctuation mark: ~

Let’s examine its shape.

What does it suggest?

What is the character of this character?

Waviness, or not-straightness, can be associated with imprecision. Movement, specifically wiggliness, is perhaps connotative of liveliness – it could be cheeky, slippery or evasive. Perhaps it is like the vibrations of an earthquake, shifting ground, destabilising known values.

Eric Gill famously wrote that ‘letters are things, not pictures of things’. [1] It’s a fact, however, that they once emerged from pictures of things. An experiment might be to take this mark ~ (the tilde), which particularly lends itself to being considered as an image, and analyse what it is telling us.

Gill, E. (2013) Essay on Typography. London: Penguin Classics.

In ‘The Rhetoric of the Image’, Roland Barthes offers a structure for breaking down the many ways in which image and text in an advertisement convey meaning to us. [2]  He starts by identifying three types of message within the image: the linguistic message (the text), the symbolic message (connotations and connections hinted at by the image) and the literal message (in which, for instance, an image of a tomato literally represents a tomato).

Barthes, R. (1977) ‘The Rhetoric of the Image’ in Image Music Text, trans. S. Heath. London: Harper Collins.

When using Barthes’ framework to consider what ~ might signify as an image, things are made extra-interesting by the fact that the linguistic message (whatever punctuational use the ~ has been put to) and the symbolic message (whatever its form suggests to any individual reader) are tightly rolled into one. So it’s inevitable that we must consider whether the shape of a mark affects the meaning that is read from it: what came first, the shape or the meaning?

Systematic alteration of the tilde’s form to test at what point it becomes something else.

Adorno sees on the face of a punctuation mark—its ‘physiognomy’—an inseparable link to its syntactic function. [3] In this case punctuation has personality, and therefore sentience, and it has agency to enact its own agenda on the characters it is paired with. But to see a mark and take some sense or meaning from it, it must be recognisable, must fit a certain convention; must be discernibly one thing and not another. When is a punctuation mark not a punctuation mark? What are the tolerances—the permissable limits of variations—within which it can be read as such?

Adorno, T. (1991) ‘Punctuation Marks’ in Notes to Literature, Vol. 1, ed. R. Tiesdemann, trans. S. Weber Nicholsen. New York: Columbia University Press.

There are places where you’d expect to find a punctuation mark, and places where you would not. Context, scale, dimensionality, exact form: if enough of these variables are changed does it cease to be a piece of punctuation? A grapheme?

Is this a punctuation mark? A sculpture? An image of a sculptural punctuation mark?

Has it become a sculpture, a pattern, just a wiggly line? And what of that exact form? A character can go about in the disguise of many different glyphs. What makes them all related? What makes each a tilde, and not something else? Is there a point at which a mark has moved so far away from the convention that, despite the presence of all possible helpful contextual clues, it cannot be recognised? What is it then?

To function properly, punctuation needs to convey the same thing to many. A character with multiplicitous shapes might also, inevitably, have multiplicitous meanings.

~

The Shadow for the Thing

Cate Rickards

The dummy hand grenade held in the Stanley Kubrick Archive at LCC is a copy of a copy. We find its blueprint in the hands of a Mormon gun maker. Moulded into one piece, it is an imitation of a United States training grenade named the MK1A1, [1]  itself a close replica of the MK2 grenade. [2]

1. Department of Defence (1994) TM 43-0001-29 Army Ammunition Data Sheets For Grenades [ebook], Cloudcroft: MilSpecManuals.

2. McCullough, J (2010) Ultimate Guide to U.S. Army Combat Skills, Tactics, and Techniques, New York: Skyhorse Publishing.

The original MK2 was a fragmentation type anti-personnel hand grenade designed in 1918 by John Moses Browning.

John Moses Browning’s father was one of tens of thousands of Mormons who fled from Illinois to the dust bowl of Utah to escape persecution in 1846. Browning’s father established a gunsmith shop in the wild and lawless frontier town of Ogden in 1852, where his son became an apprentice at six years old. The MK2 quickly became standard issue in the US. Manufactured in massive quantities, it was used during American combat in six wars from 1918 to 1969, including the Vietnam War.

Not only can the grenade from the Stanley Kubrick Archive be linked to a person, but also to a landscape. Writing in 1872, Mark Twain recorded his semi-autobiographical experiences of the Great Salt Lake in his book Roughing It:

‘Imagine a vast, waveless ocean stricken dead and turned to ashes; imagine this solemn waste tufted with ash-dusted sage-bushes; imagine the lifeless silence and solitude that belong to such a place. The sun beats down… there is not the faintest breath of air stirring; there is not a merciful shred of cloud in all the brilliant firmament… there is not a sound—not a sigh—not a whisper—not a buzz, or a whir of wings, or distant pipe of bird.’ [3]

Twain, M (1872) Roughing It. gutenberg.org/files/3177/3177-h/3177-h.htm

  

Photography: Cate Rickards and Veronika Papp

The idea of the biography of an object can be traced to the 1960s, when the concept of chaîne opératoire was formed by French archaeologists.  [4] Initially chaîne opératoire was used as a way of chronologically studying the stages of tool production. For example, as a means of understanding the evolution of lithic (stone) tools. This was subsequently extended to an analysis of the ‘social life’ of an object, which gave weight to its symbolic significance and a link to human actions and behaviours. The meaning of an object may be manipulated throughout its life history as it is exchanged, adapted physically and presented or used in new contexts.

Ashby, S (2011) Artefact Biographies: Implications for the curation of archaeological ivories, Available at: ebur.eu/userfiles/file/Artefact biographies final doc.

By understanding the processes inherent in tool production, archaeologists can determine the development of the technology and in doing so understand the ancient culture that surrounded it.

Functioning as a loose biography, this text is an extension of one of several stories drawn from research surrounding a dummy hand grenade in the Stanley Kubrick Archive.

Each story relates directly or indirectly to the form, display, and very existence of this object. In the context of the chaîne opératoire, the manufacture, circulation, ownership, and presentation of this object all affect the way in which it is understood.

Set in the printed form of a monograph, these stories function as brief captions or as ‘monostitches’—single metrical line poems [5]  —and give context to a visual photo essay. As poems, they are deliberately fragmentary, suggesting the contents blown from a detonated device.

Hocquard, E. Royet-Journoud, C. (2015) Monostitches/ One-line Poems, Portland: Yale Union. Available at: castillocorrales.fr/monostichesone-line- poems.

Sugar Trails

Kritika Jhunjhunwala

In his book Sugar: The world corrupted, from slavery to obesity, James Walvin wrote ‘as people have known for millennia, sweetness is the most basic form of tastiness and pleasure itself. The story of sugar, and of mankind’s desire for sweetness in food and drink is a compelling, though confusing story. It is also an historical story’. [1] We can only understand our contemporary dietary concern with sugar by coming to terms with the relationship between society and sweetness over the last two centuries. This relationship is too often viewed in fragments, which gives the sugar network its shrouded personality. This project, sugar trails…, aims to be a space for connection and contemplation by lifting the shroud and promoting the visibility of these networks.

Walvin, J. (2017). Sugar: The World Corrupted, from Slavery to Obesity.London: Little, Brown Book Group.

sugar trails… is an enquiry into network theory that uses design research to map the historical and contemporary paper trail of sugar and its network, from 1700 to the present day. The research aims to situate the role and influence of sugar in our present-day lives, in order to connect the threads that run between politics, capitalism, racism and morality. The outcome is an archive-like collection in nine volumes (labelled I–IX), which are segregated by narrative and defined by strategies that form a network of content, connecting events and artefacts from history and the present. The archive network is the result of a graphic design enquiry into less visible patterns that would help to clearly position the role of sugar in contemporary society.

Each volume is dedicated to a specific artefact (or artefacts) from a distinct period in the history of sugar. These periods of sugar are classified according to their geography: from the origin of sugar in the Far East, to it is cultivation through the slave trade and propagation throughout the British colonies, and finally to the New World with Christopher Columbus. Each artefact (labelled A–X) is presented and discussed chronologically, forming connections with other significant events and artefacts in later volumes. For example, Volume IV looks at Pure, White and Deadly: The Problem of Sugar by Robert Ludwig [2] , which is a key artefact from the 1970s. This book explained the dietary issues with sugar in a time when the sugar lobby was pushing it into diets and consumable products, and would mislead nutritional science for decades to come. As late as 2016, artefacts that came to be known as ‘sugar papers’ (featured in Volume V) accounted for the chain of events and institutions responsible for this manipulation.

Yudkin, J. (1972). Pure, White and Deadly. London: Viking.

To widen the scope of the network beyond the archive, essential discussions and lectures are included in each volume alongside historical and cultural texts. For example, extracts from James Walvin’s Sugar: The world corrupted, from slavery to obesity are used to interject between volumes and navigate the wider contexts of the slave trade and contemporary nutrition and obesity.

In an attempt to analyse its history, the reader is inevitably pointed towards the geographical journey of sugar from the East to the West along a path known as ‘The Triangular Trade’. In sugar trails…, this path is represented through the running trails of type across each volume, repeating and overlaying images and other graphic devices used to create wider connections between individual volumes and artefacts. In particular, the outer and inner edges of pages become spaces to build references that direct the reader to specific points in the network, offering an additional method to navigate sugar trails… through reading. These strategies for guiding the reader in the network can be thought of as an endeavour of graphic design to demystify the shrouded network of sugar in modern society in the form of a networked study of networks.

A World of Swinging, Berthing, and Powered Indirects

James Fraser

26.10.2017 Felixstowe, Suffolk

It’s 7am and the OOCL [1] Japan, one of the largest container ships in the world today, capable of carrying over 20,000 shipping containers, is safely moored and unloading her cargo via the huge cranes in Berth 9 at the Port of Felixstowe.

OOCL – Orient Overseas Container Line is a Hong Kong based container–shipping company. The OOCL Japan was launched this year and is one of three sister ships of a planned six in total, which are currently the world’s largest container vessels.

‘We all missed her actual arrival, it was dark anyway’, claims Dean Cable as he greets me, offering his hand. Dean is a self-confessed ‘ship-spotter’, a filmmaker, and a self-taught ‘outsider expert’ in the field of local shipping and the workings of the port.

We are standing on a pier in the shadow of the ship, at a spot known as Landguard Point. It’s a piece of jutting land that creates a natural harbour and it is the key reason why the largest container port in Britain is located here. It also offers an ideal vantage point to view the flow of ships entering and leaving Felixstowe.

It is from here that Dean fastidiously records the ships and makes notes, which he publishes online along with his films. Here anyone can stop, gaze, and marvel at the seemingly ordinary yet incredible spectacle that takes place daily.

Dean has featured in one of my own short films, and I’m back here to ask him a few questions about some of the unusual ‘swinging and berthing’ techniques performed by the relatively small, yet powerful, tugboats that pull and push the giant ships around.

With the aid of Dean’s hand-crafted model of a container ship and my hastily sketched map chalked directly onto the small pier, we stand on the wind-swept coastline as he patiently explains the action taking place behind us. ‘You want to ask me about the “powered indirect”?’ he asks. This perilous–looking manoeuvre takes place to the aft, stern, or ‘back end’ of the ship (to you and me). That particular action features in one of my films, so I nod and he continues.

‘The tug fast aft of the ship moves out on the starboard quarter’—the right hand side—‘at full line load, which is around 95–110 tonnes, and the tugs produce a fifteen degree angle when they assist the ship with a powered indirect. Most of the pilots that take the larger 18,000+teu’—twenty foot equivalent unit—‘like to have either Svitzer Deben or Svitzer Kent’—the tug boats—‘at the stern to help with the corner. Sometimes a second tug would position on the port side and push up at a 45 degree angle to help steer around the corner.’

I could sort of see what he was describing, but this highlights exactly what my research is attempting to make clear. I am asking my reader/viewer to look beyond this technical data and terminology which is centred around the movement of containerised cargo, the journey of the commodity. To the average person this is seemingly dull, unfathomable jargon and not worthy of attention.

There is, undoubtedly, a disconnect as to where all this ‘stuff’ actually comes from, how this superabundance flows and crucially how important it is to our culture. My project focuses on this unusual choreography that is taking place in front of me at Felixstowe, and the epic cinematic scale of it. After all, the arrival of more than 20,000 shipping containers to facilitate the nation’s craving for mass consumption is certainly worthy of attention.

The Aggregate of Artefacts

Suzanne Green

In the beginning I did not know why I collected junk mail and other disregarded printed matter. On reflection I was sympathetic of, and attracted to, its lowly and humble status, and to how little attention and respect its aesthetic and functional qualities received. In Species of Spaces and other Pieces, [1]  Georges Perec systematically deals with the documentation of accumulation, applying constraints to his process as a means of triggering ideas and inspiration. He asked ‘how should we take account of, question, describe what happens everyday and recurs everyday’. Junk mail and other pieces of ephemeral printed matter occupy our space without question. This prompted me to consider our habitual responses, and how we address certain familiar and ubiquitous objects with customary, fixed, and established routines.

Perec, G. (2008) Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, London: Penguin Classics.

Graphic design as a tool for intervention can be used to question and draw attention to the everyday accumulation of printed matter. Intervention can be interpreted as interfering or subverting, which are themes inherent in the theory of defamiliarisation. Therefore, using intervention strategies throughout the design process provides a foundation for the varied methods and propositions that have advanced my research. Methods such as isolating, rescaling, stacking, and constructing typologies can create a space for critical reflection.

By using the method of stacking, I have created an assemblage of junk mail, revealing only the spines in a colour-coded order reminiscent of a geological stratum. Like the layers of rock compressed beneath the surface of the earth, each piece, format and colour contributes to a larger pattern that tells a story of us, both as individuals and as a collective. The archaeological definition of stratum is aptly given as ‘the aggregate of artefacts’,  [2]    and other remains found on a site, which are considered material evidence in support of a theory concerning the cultures that once inhabited an area. Through stacking, this once overlooked and ignored ephemeron has been given monumental status. It creates, a perhaps, unsettling moment of confusion as the viewer tries to establish its content. This image not only suggests layers of material, naturally or artificially formed, but evokes the levels of class to which people are assigned according to their social status, education, or income: members of other ‘social strata’.

Aggregate of Artefacts. Collins English Dictionary—Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers

This sculpture is the result of more than two years of conscientiously collecting junk mail; a kind of archaeological dig into the present that has evolved into an assemblage through the process of stacking, building, and layering. Framing the material in the most appropriate way, the camera has an important part to play in the defamiliarisation of junk mail. The angle invites the viewer to look upwards as if providing a visual record, like a geologic timescale, thereby chronologically describing the timing and relationships of events that have occurred since I started collecting the junk mail.

The process of collecting is a time-based, linear procedure. Compiling and assembling my collection of junk mail, and considering the logic and treatment of the material, gives order to my design process, and my ideas about time.

The Appearance and Disappearance of Women in Western Advertising Published in Saudi Arabia

Fatma Al Mansoury

The focus of The Appearance and Disappearance of Women is on understanding the ways Western brands advertise in Saudi Arabia. In particular, the research considers how the role of women is compromised during the process of cultural conversion – when a medium is translated from one culture to another – specifically through post-production of photographic imagery. The research is concerned with feminism and social change in the Middle East, and discusses the cross-cultural dialogue between Western and Eastern cultures. The project is targeted at art directors, editors, photographers and strategists who shape the future image of the Saudi woman in advertising.

Women can be represented in advertising in Saudi Arabia, but sexuality is a taboo subject. For many Western advertisers, there is a misconception of Saudi ideologies, and not enough while also bending their brand values when put in a challenging position.

One particular research experiment I conducted was to contrast the Swedish and Saudi version of the IKEA catalogue from 2012. This particular iteration touches on the merging of two cultures and the manipulation of images that happens in the process. From a personal perspective, it also explores my own Swedish and Saudi background, and the struggle of balancing two conflicting cultures. Interestingly, the Arabic version of IKEA uses the feminine form of particular words in its language to target women directly, because they are seen as home keepers. This is an important point to make in this study, as the act of removing the mother from the published family image is contradictory since women are targeted but not visualised.

My research started as a four-frame comparison and finally became an appropriation of the physical form of the IKEA catalogue. By creating a 100-page sequence, the application of transparency was used to show a woman disappearing as you flip through the catalogue. This flipbook was user tested: some readers understood the critical intention but others asked if I had airbrushed the women out. This meant that I had to include far more context to facilitate a more refined and developed discussion of censorship in the world of advertising. This is a result of our biased and pervasive assumptions about postproduction methods, and Western misconceptions about the representation of women in Saudi Arabia.

Reading Books as Networks

Alessia Muscas

Post-digital, being in an advanced state of the digital, is a condition that implies a more conscious understanding and use of technologies, the effects of which are becoming more and more determinant on society. [1]  The way we inform and entertain ourselves is changing. In the case of the book, factors such as the massive growth of daily data consumption, as well as the captivating multimedial and social features of our increasingly virtual lives, have lead us to question whether the book is still a suitable format to convey information.

Cramer F. (2014) ‘What is “Post-digital?”, A Peer-Reviewed Journal About, The Post-Digital Research, Issue 1 Volume 3, available at: aprja.net/what-is-post-digital/

My research demonstrates that when it results from a critical and thoughtful process of conception and production, the book is still the most effective data carrier. However, its evolution, diversity, and flexibility need to be better acknowledged in order to fully exploit its potential. A key aspect of the current state of publishing is that the book is no longer defined by its medium. Paper won’t be substituted by the digital, but rather they will coexist, sometimes in different spheres, sometimes morphing.

Today, the integration of technology into books lacks criticality. Instead, they are superficial add-ons, sterile high-tech features that do not enhance the narrative or the engagement with the reader.

An effective perspective to adopt when analysing the current state of books is to focus on how we experience them. Through this focus, the fluidity of the relationship of books and technology is more evident. It’s important to acknowledge, however, that this discussion is not about format. Arguably the way we read both printed and digital books is increasingly similar due to the general impact of digital technology. For instance, reading a printed book does not prevent us from checking our smartphone or laptop at the same time.

The influence of technology will increasingly be absorbed into books: reading is now a continuous and transversal process of scanning, assessing, sharing, noting, talking, adding, watching, writing, reacting, etc. Through additional layers of information we acquire from platforms like Wikipedia or Google Maps, we create an augmented understanding of a story.

We no longer experience the book as an individual object detached from its environment, but rather as a network in which the ‘traditional’ book is the central element of a dispersed and complex system. A system that includes digital and analogue activities, as well as multimedial data. It is said that since the start of the digital age, people no longer read. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reaction to the digital environment, reading as an activity has become more fragmented, dynamic, and faster. The human brain has efficiently faced the massive increase of information we access everyday and has learned to skim. Skimming allows a reader to gloss over texts, spotting key-words, and developing connections instead of attempting to digest everything word by word.

Furthermore, because this information comes in many shapes—written, visual, audible, tactile, in motion—we have learnt to process varied triggers simultaneously. The result, according to Alice Bell, is that ‘readers may be listeners, viewers, players, performers, humans, avatars, characters, cowriters, or collectors.’ [2]

van de Wiel L. (2011) ‘Context is Queen, Content is King’.In Blauvelt, A. et al (Eds.) I Read Where I Am: Exploring New Informations Cultures. Breda: Vlaiz.

In terms of the reading experience, it’s evident that the digital is changing books. This condition challenges the common opinion that books are static, not suitable with technologies and even likely to disappear in the future. Indeed, when this new paradigm is critically unfolded in the form of the book, the result in any format and medium cannot be obsolete.

Architectural Publishing in the Expanded Field

Carlos Romo-Melgar

Expanding the Field of Architectural Publishing (EF—AP) proposes a new role for speculative graphic design in the definition of publishing processes. The speculative publications are seen as devices that switch the traditional workflow of publishing—the one that provides publishing responses to existing sets of data or problems—by positioning the conceptual design stage first, and postponing the editorial until the conclusion of that initial stage. The alteration in the order of procedures brings with it an ontological shift. The definition of publishing, in the context of EF—AP, is challenged, and the traditional roles become much more dispersed than in a traditional publishing setting. Within this framework, the role of speculative publications is to provoke discussion, and questions around the meaning and forms of architectural publishing. The results of these discussions are then distilled into a collection of small booklets with homogeneous characteristics. EF—AP proposes a definition of the term ‘publication’ as always unfinished, and is rather a sum of processes than the creation of individual artefacts. The final object of production can be understood as the baton used in a relay race; an object that can be continued, as well as being augmented or modified by others.

The methodology employed by EF—AP is an attempt to expose areas for collective expansion in the field of architectural publishing. This publishing project also makes distinctions about how we understand certain roles and ideas that relate to publishing: knowledge as a fluid matter; the authority as peer; the reader as participant. The expansions of the field are multiple and happen within different rooms, they partially overlap and create dissonance in their interpretation.

To date, EF—AP has started with four speculations that have prompted eighteen different booklets containing essays and interviews that create conditions for new speculations and discussions. Three of the speculations follow traditional formats where contents are held: a newspaper, a leaflet and an activity book. They experiment with different understandings of expansion: agency, critique, readership. However, the fourth round of speculations proposes an expansion of the formats for architectural publishing.

Covers is a speculative publication that aims to expand the format and production techniques of architectural publishing. It takes the form of a collection of scarves that establish an analogy between façade tectonics in buildings, and the primarily superficial role of scarves worn on the human body. On one side, the scarves use common verbs that state what the façade does: disguise, expose, enclose, assemble, reveal, and include. The other side features an abstract illustration of the building. This bi-faced narration feeds into the intentions of the speculative publication. Each scarf was designed in collaboration with six architectural offices, and a selection of façades from contemporary architecture. Foremost, this speculation addresses architects and encourages them to share their productions in a less controlled way, contaminating them with the tools of other creative fields. Secondly, the speculation is a development of a very aestheticised version of an architectural representation. This aims to attract members of the public, who do not usually relate to the field of architectural publishing, and to create simplified points of entry into the disciplinary debate.

The four speculations unravel a process of discussion and research that frames the places where these publications sit. The text that follows is an adapted excerpt from an interview with Dr Atxu Amann, professor at the Superior Technical School of Architecture of Madrid (ETSAM), where she teaches initial modules, and coordinates MA and doctorate programmes in architectural communication.

Carlos Romo-Melgar: One of the ideas that I’m putting forward in Expanding the Field of Architectural Publishing is a greater understanding of the concept of post-disciplinarity. We’re too caught up in academic frameworks that are rigid, outdated and prescriptive. When you leave university and enter real life, you begin

to define your professional profile. It is true that architecture necessarily entails a certain set of legal requirements, licenses, and technicalities, however, after my own personal experience—I left architecture for graphic design, and in the meantime flirted with other, similar disciplines—I’ve realised that it’s all the same thing on an intellectual level.

Atxu Amann: Of course! When we were to set up our studio, Nico and Andrés (the other two members) came back to Madrid after doing an MA course in Columbia and military service, respectively. They found me working as the co-director of the magazine for the Higher Council of Architects Associations (CSCAE). That was what put food on the table for us at the very beginning. Afterwards, we spent some years working as graphic designers, putting together designs for IFEMA  [1]  , and ended up designing exhibitions; we never actually decided to become graphic designers. Then, I was hired to teach at a fashion design university, and the rest of the team subsequently joined me. We spent some years at different places and, in the meantime, I was appointed director of editorial design for the Community of Madrid. Finally, we got to teach at ETSAM. Because of all these experiences, I hardly ever talk about architecture. I prefer to discuss the architectural. I share Morales’ understanding of the architectural: it is a cross-sectional condition that arises from applying a strategic order to something. Results depend on which tools and materials you might decide to use in that process. Maybe that’s a very old-fashioned way of viewing architecture, but in my opinion there’s no difference between designing a doorknob, a sink, or a building. For me, the important thing is the projective intelligence that we learn in architecture education. That skill allows us to foresee an alternative present. It shows us how to unfold complex processes, which require a certain level of technical skill, and material knowledge. It doesn’t matter whether you’re putting together a publication or a building; it’s all the same.

IFEMA is Madrid’s Trade Fair Institution

CR: So do you think that architecture professionals run the risk of being left behind if they don’t bring themselves up to date and accept a hybrid reality?

AA: Whether we want it to or not, change is going to happen because there are a huge number of architects. If we assume that 30% of future architects are going to be trained to construct a building, the other 70% will have to train themselves for any one of the different jobs that they will have during their lives. The only thing that university can teach you is how to adapt, and how to learn on your own, the projective intelligence, which at its core is basically a way of managing information: knowing how to conduct a specific complexity.

CR: Following this prognosis, it can be disheartening to weigh up the real return on all that invested time in our education. It is true that with the changes that have been made to the training programme in Spain, we are taking the discipline forwards. However, I think in my time, architecture was taught a bit more generically.

AA: Well, architecture is a generic discipline.

CR: Do you think so?

AA: Yes. Society isn’t asking us to be experts in one specific thing when they say that we need a specific training programme for working with heritage buildings. I always think that it needs to be something additional, rather than something that replaces the basic training. When you finish your generic degree—when you’ve got your projective intelligence—you know how to read the real world. If, after that, you decide that you want to design pencil sharpeners, then great. You will need to understand the materiality of pencil sharpeners, how they are made, etc. You don’t need to be an expert but to work with others who are not architects, that is the difference. The key is to find out how to link our knowledge with that of other disciplines, and to learn how they intertwine. I’m not suggesting that we break the architectural foundations of our training, but that we expand them, and contaminate them.

CR: I’m interested in this idea of the architectural approach as a system of mediation, rather than as a medium or a subject matter.

AA: It’s got a lot to do with the distinction that exists between politics and the political, and between architecture and the architectural. Politics refers to the laws that govern our bodies. Architecture is a discipline. The architectural, just like the political, refers to agency, the possibility of certain things happening to those bodies.

CR: To further explore this idea of agency—of the political—part of the MA Graphic Media Design project that we’re doing this interview for questions the idea of ‘the academic’. Not just the concept of the university as the seat of everything academic, but also academia as a system. I think that it’s got some largely evolutionary methods: legitimation, referencing, creation of evidence… They’re more evolutionary than disruptive. I always think that the contemporary, the cutting-edge can be found in disruption, in the need to break the prejudices and the preconceptions that limit us. This is one of the reasons why I put forward speculation as a valid methodology, beyond ‘scientific’ experimentation.

AA: I’m 100% with you on this. Out of the seven subjects that I teach, I would always choose ‘Speculations Workshop’ as my favourite. It’s a module in which there’s no criticism and no grades; we don’t even have the roles of professors and students. We achieve the module objectives by means of action: by destroying a social imaginary, by learning how to teach/learn possibilities, and by developing strategies. All this, without any subject matter or a curriculum at all. We’re living in a time in which you can download any and all information from the Internet. Teaching has turned into time management. I don’t think that it would make much sense right now to ponder the future of academia, because academia is living on borrowed time. Academia is no longer able to offer actual subject matter. Me, you, your son or mine, the dog – we can download all subject matter from the Internet. The only thing that we can try to teach is a capacity for independent learning, for intersectionality, for hybridisation, for interpretation, for translation, for postproduction, for management. I don’t think contents are relevant anymore.

CR: And then, we can’t find a job.

AA: Of course! The thing is, learning happens in other places. At some point, the concept of ‘university’ is going to atomise, expand, and increase. Just like what’s happened with the concepts of ‘house’ or ‘city’, the concept of ‘university’ is going to shake off all its old associations. We’re not going to stop learning – that would be impossible for us. We’re designed to learn. Obviously, this worry is more relevant to you because you’re young. From a critical position, you’ve got a vested interest in knowing what the new learning environments are going to be. My advice to you would be that instead of worrying about the unknown, you begin the change yourself. That’s why I agree with your idea about the role of speculations. I used to go to thousands of meetings about educational innovation. I actually founded the group for educational innovation. And what did all that get me? Nothing. On the other hand, when I created the speculation workshop, I realised that the participants were learning things that went above and beyond the standard framework. I believe that it’s your task to create this space, and this time for learning, which dismantles the existing model.

If Fidelity

Laurène Ruimy

Today, every book is just a click away. We download classics from Shakespeare, Molière, and Homer in seconds. This is why now more than ever, we need to question the legitimacy of what we read. The aim of this project, If fidelity, is to make the reader pause and consider the evolution of a given text, to question its authorship, and to highlight the contributions brought to it by translators, editors, and ultimately the readers.

In his essay ‘Las Versiones Homéricas’, Jorge Luis Borges questions the many different versions of Homer’s texts: ‘Which of these many translations is faithful? the reader might ask. I repeat: none or all of them.’ [1] The translator is like an author and every author writes with intention, thus making each written piece subjective. The reader contributes to the evolution of a text and adds a particular subjectivity to the version that they are reading at that time.

Borges, J.L. (1932) ‘Las Versiones Homéricas’.In Discusión. Buenos Aires: Manuel Gleizer.

If fidelity presents a first edition of ‘Las Versiones Homéricas’ [2] in English next to Borges’ original in Spanish. Furthermore, the first edition English text is compared to an edited version in English—as a way to contextualise commentary from Borges on the nature of each translation—and other material that relates to each version of the text: publisher details, covers, translator details, dates.

Borges, J.L. and Levine, J.L. (1992) ‘Some Versions of Homer’.In PMLA, Vol. 107 No.5.

To demonstrate this, If fidelity has been divided in two branches. The first looks at the evolutionary metamorphosis of edited and translated texts through layering—specifically folding—of material; a research-through-making strategy to progressively prototype an outcome. The second is a distillation and evaluation of the translator’s editorial choices by making connections and comparisons between the different translations. It is through these two branches that the project conveys, as Borges put it in ‘Las Versiones Homéricas’, ‘our superstition that translations are inferior—reinforced by the age-old Italian adage traduttore traditore [3] —is the result of our naïveté: all great works that we turn to time and again seem unalterable and definitive.’

From Italian ‘translating is betraying’

By experimenting with the notion of evolution, the focus of this project is to form physical and typographical layers that form a strategy to compare translations and a reading order to approach the different versions. Parity between translations can be achieved by putting them side-by-side. By treating them graphically in the same way, we can begin to compare them more objectively. The contextual material—Borges’ commentary, book covers, translator details—can be observed through the use of different methods. Folding and playing with the opacity of the page, gives many possibilities for the compositions. A single fold can be used to layer information and keep a certain manoeuvrability to the book, while French folding can allow up to five layers of content. Inside the folds, the reader can ‘discover’ new information regarding the translation that appears on the outside.

The Whiter White

Zen Du

By naming white, the action of giving it a designation has ‘cropped’ it. This project, Whiter White, uses stills taken from short films as a way of questioning the concept of a naming system for white; with the intention of revealing the variability and fragility of this system.

Naming white is a limitation, but it can also be subverted and used to our advantage in this project where the naming—or the ‘cropping’—of white is used as conceptual and literal action.

In On Photography[1] , Susan Sontag conveys an idea about the photograph as ‘not an image, an interpretation of the real; it is also a trace, something directly stenciled off the real’. Seen as a photograph, a still preserves short moments that are otherwise impossible to remember from a film, and because of this isolation, they will not be connected with any other background or emotion.

Sontag, S. (2010). On Photography. New York: Picador [u.a.].

A still might be cropped to focus a viewer’s attention, to tell a story or to remove unnecessary or misleading information. Harold Evans suggests in his book Pictures on a Page [2] that ‘while there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes often permit us to use’.

Evans, H. (1997). Pictures on a Page: Photo-Journalism, Graphics and Picture Editing. 2nd ed. London, England: PIMLICO.

A History of Art in Three Colours-White. (2012). [film] Directed by J. Fox. UK: BBC.
Chasing Ice. (2012). [film] Directed by J. Orlowski. United States: Submarine Deluxe.
Photo of the Month. (1993). Professional Photographer, Issue 1.

By using these stills, these ‘crops’ of white, and by repeating them, different readings can be made of the same material. Repetition emphasises the fragility of white and the ease with which ideas of white can be manipulated.

Uglicality, new aesthetic in the age of nihilism

Héloïse d’Almeida

The world is currently facing a storm of anti-globalization, populism and anti-cultural political movements. In such a time graphic designers need to rethink the way they talk about themselves within a wider societal scope. Especially as difficult and ugly aesthetics are one of the tools used most when communicating with one another.

Difficult and ugly aesthetics have been inherited by a post-modern tradition of creatives who want to subvert the ontological barriers of a profession that is obliged to pleasing the masses. However, in the current epoch, the notion of ugly aesthetics is also being challenged more than ever before.  [1]   The mixing of cultural and social backgrounds is pushing back again and again the boundaries of bad taste. And now a new tendency to mix ugly, kitsch, vulgar visuals with erudite, sophisticated and elitist ideas has emerged in the sphere of design. This trend can be referred to as ‘Uglicality’.

Eco, U. (2011) On Ugliness, MacLehose Press. According to Eco there is three types of ugliness in arts: the manifestations of ugliness, formal ugliness and artistic ugliness. Ugly aesthetics occur in the latter. It is a sum of specific visual characteristics; similar to a semiotic system that exploits unconventional, gruesome, strange, disturbing, disruptive, subversive reactions from the viewer.

The term is born from a combination of ‘ugly’—a value system based on perceptive factors—and ‘criticality’—the expression of a disagreement with any given system, institution or thought. Uglicality thus designates works and practices that articulate the use of ugliness to convey a critical thought by creating a rift in meaning, or adding a new layer of sense.

Uglicality is a term invented for this research on contemporary aesthetics in critical/speculative design practices. It can be read alongside such terms as ‘criticool’ (Laranjo, 2015)[2] or ‘pretty ugly’ (Gestalten, 2012). [3] Where ‘criticool’ denounced contemporary aesthetics as vague and vain, and ‘pretty ugly’ negated the ontologically destructive power of ugliness by taming it into a pleasing, trendy commodity, Uglicality claims both those visual qualities as the visual signifiers of a critical voice/content.

2. Laranjo, F. (2015) Critical Everything, Grafik. [graphik.net]. ‘Criticool’ refers to the visual language used by a designer or studio when investigating a social, political and cultural issue. The term articulates a critique towards a critical intention that fails to express itself by being stuck in a state of visual indefinability. It defines a failed connection between form and content.

3. Gestalten (2012) Pretty Ugly, Visual Rebellion in Design, Two Points.Net. ‘Pretty cool’ is a term coined to describe the production of ugly visuals in the framework of a graphic design commissioned work. The ‘pretty’ soothes the use of ‘ugly’, and the ‘ugly’ adds an edgy feeling to the use of ‘pretty’, which, as something nice, is often found boring by self-indulgent creatives.

Uglicality is an expression of disagreement against established institutions, instances of abuse of power and social injustices. In a historical sense we can trace the first use of ugly aesthetics as a subversive force back to the work of early 20th century avant-garde art movements, and the period during which they rebelled against governmental and cultural co-opted ways of thinking.

Uglicality manifests itself in the presence of critical or speculative works.
The visual part of the production is layered in a complex and saturated composition: multiplication of recurrent patterns, typographic symbols, as well as tasteless colour combinations give an impression of chaos—a lack of hierarchy.

Fig.1: Screen capture of website arngen.net [accessed 23.10.2017]. The website has an issue with hierarchization of the information. This results in a feeling of visual chaos.

A distinction can be made as to the species of Uglicality one can face.
The first is called Accidental Ugliness Aesthetics. [FIG.1][FIG.2] This initial species emerges from amateur work, a lack of skill or knowledge of conventions, or even a failed production. It is often embodied by a poor use of default settings, a lack of harmony in colour palettes, a poor hierarchization of the information, etc.

Fig. 2: Yungterra (2014) Graphic Design Is My Passion [meme]. In opposition to fig.1, the design has impact because of its simplicity. However, the choices made in this design are building the strangest combination between the different elements. The intentions are not clear: is it ironic? Naïve? Genuine?

The second species of Uglicality is Intentional Ugliness Aesthetics. This secondary type can also be referred to as grotesque works. [FIG. 3][FIG.4] Projects that fall under this categorisation cultivate a strange, unconventional, provocative style by which they deliver their content. Intentional Ugliness Aesthetics is embodied by layered and overlaid works that mix figuration and abstraction, high-end 3D resolution renders, and pixelated textures. Almost schizophrenic, the aesthetic of the second species of Uglicality is made up of contradictions and is balanced between extremes.

Fig. 3: Pinar&Viola (2011) Until We Bleed. The artists articulate a critique towards the current political state of the European Union through saturated, 3D-spaced, digital visuals.

Any categorisation of Uglicality manifests itself in visuals that we cannot break down into digestible units. At the crossroads of maximalism and bad execution, ugly aesthetics offers a wide range of visual productions throughout various media and disciplines. Visually, Uglicality explores the fascination of looking at something that the mind does not comprehend.

Fig. 4 : Metahaven (2013) Islands in the Cloud, exhibited in MoMa: New York. Both species of Uglicality play on the saturation, visual dissonance, and legibility of the design productions.

Possession.Network

Zack Wellin

When we log on to a website, we put on a glass mask. We are reconstituted as the user, an aggregate profile of all the data we share and receive across a network. A tactile flesh and an organic web of neural pathways imprint onto the metallic megastructure of implacable ones and zeros. Electrons slide across beams of copper, encoding likes and dislikes, interests, and behaviour patterns as the end product of a thousand yes/no answers calibrated mathematically into measurable types. And then these data ghosts, the synthetic outlines of who we are, are exchanged across the application layer of a thousand humming servers in refrigerated warehouses and prepared for retransmission as targeted content provision.

YOU ARE 62% FEMALE

YOU ARE 68% INTERESTED IN SPORTS

YOU ARE 45% POPULAR

YOU ARE 48% KIND

YOU ARE 36% HEALTHY

When we are reconfigured as the ‘user’, the act of imprinting redefines us. The inherent dictates of the software platform delineate our range of possible behaviours as predetermined actions and reactions—reply/retweet/like—but also reconstruct our motivations. What do we want? Likes? Retweets? Reblogs? The architecture of the platform insists on specific motivations that propel our networked social existence.

An automated HTTP POST request with a JSON payload arrives on Apple’s servers via the push notification API, which is delivered to your router via undersea transatlantic cables. The request is then translated into a short sequence of radio waves that is picked up by an iPhone’s internal Wi-Fi radio antenna. A popup appears on the screen. ‘XXX has liked your status.’ Your eyes focus on the screen and exocytosis begins. Millions of synaptic vesicles release dopamine molecules into minute synaptic clefts. The neurotransmitter immediately binds to cell surface receptors, generating a warm sense of pleasure and wellbeing. Approval, the basic stimulus of interpersonal interaction, distilled into a single click of a button. [1]

Südhof, T. C.(1995) ‘The Synaptic Vesicle Cycle: A Cascade of Protein–Protein Interactions.’ Nature 375.

We construct our network masks piecemeal—post by post—accumulating a range of interpolated datasets. The social architecture of the platform emerges from its technological architecture and from here our newly reconstituted selves emerge; a face in a mask.

Now we project ourselves onto the network as data masks, but long before the advent of digital technology we projected onto imagined demons. Stating our moral ambivalences in the terms of ‘possession’ and blaming our counter-social impulses on beings beyond ourselves.

BELPHEGOR

KABANDHA

AD-DAJJAL

STHENO

AGALIAREPT

BEELZEBUB

MOLOCH

ASB’EL

ÖRDÖG

CHORONZON

Projecting onto beings of our own imagination gave us some degree of control over our externalised selves. Now, projecting onto networks controlled by others, we have relinquished this control. Who we are has always, to an extent, been determined by where we find ourselves.Who are we now is being increasingly determined by the networks we use.

A Line Which Forms A Volume

Lines of design inquiry connect to form a multidirectional network. Continuously and simultaneously, they represent a multiplicity of individual strands that extend and multiply in response to the field of design research and publishing.

A Volume is both a series of objects and an expression of a whole. A Line brings many research narratives together. It can be read continuously or apart. A Volume is a space that projects, amplifies, and disseminates. A Line is a question, a conversation, a response. A Volume is the expansion of a collective design enquiry. It is an opportunity to share research in the wider context of design criticism and publishing. A Line feeds the relay process: the design informs the editorial approach, and vice versa.

The second issue of A Line Which Forms a Volume is a publication and symposium from the London College of Communication. It fosters the interaction between emergent and established research practices and enables the variety of networks originating from the MA Graphic Media Design course.

MS

Three prospectus sayings: ‘our position is ranged-left and open-ended’; ‘putting things together in ways that make sense’; and ‘design is a field of concern, response, and enquiry, as often as decision and consequence’.1

Norman Potter, What is a designer: things. places. messages, Hyphen Press, London (Fourth edition, 2009)

PB

There is a normative power to design. And any design will hardly manage to escape the dominant definitions and thinking about it, especially if design itself cannot think beyond these definitions.2

Katja Gretzinger, In a Manner of Reading Design: The Blind Spot, Sternberg Press, 2012

COMPOSITION AS PUBLICATION—AND—WHAT ARE MARGINS? (EXTRACT)

Matthew Stadler

Publication is the creation of new publics, an essentially political act. By relinquishing what we write, by giving up our claim to a text and passing authority over its meanings to readers, who are strangers to us and to each other, writers create a public space that beckons new publics into being. Every reader has agency inside a literary text. The meaning each discovers in this uniquely liberatory polity are valid regardless of external authorities (such as fact-checkers, lawyers, experts, peer review, etc., all of those minor police of the world who patrol whatever polity they’re give dominion over, such as academia and the many fact-based professions). Fiction and poetry validate the right of every reader to make her own meanings, and thus they comprise a richly anarchist politics. Readers of novels and poems enjoy all the decorum, autonomy, and giddy affirmation of true anarchism. Their rights are respected; all conflicts are negotiated, never trumped by power; their autonomy is maintained. Literature is a polity—an anarchist polity—and its publication is de facto political.

Composition and publication together advance the primary task of the writer (or artist), which is to refine and then project our imaginations back into the social sphere that birthed them. Participating in the world, the writer’s contribution is her subjectivity. Everything else can be done by machines. The imagination is the blossom of our subjectivity, our unique iteration of the social commonweal, a well-spring of new possibilities that can either be suppressed or brought forth. Its enemy is the normative delusion—the “accepted wisdom”—that usually organises collective life (whether the delusions of corporations that want to sell us useless junk; or the delusions of nations teetering always toward or away from wars; or the delusion of justice that underlies the police and court systems). Most people accept prevailing norms and mute their own imagination when it does not fit. Artists and writers take the peculiar gifts of our imaginations seriously; we don’t dismiss them as insane or unrealistic. Our work must project our delusions back into the social sphere with enough force to let us, anyway, live in their embrace. Maybe we thereby help others, too. It would be wrong to die without trying.

The blank page is never a tabula rasa, a space innocent of politics; it is a stormy plane riven by tempestuous political winds, heaving and furrowing invisibly over a deceptively empty surface. Authority is unfixed, contested. To make any mark will reveal these forces, in the same way that grown trees will expose the pressure and direction of any prevailing winds. Paradoxically, the most definitive marks create the most liberating politics. The anarchist must, against all common sense, find or make a strictly drawn boundary to shape the space of anarch-ism that I am calling “the polity of literature”. When a writer calls what she does “fiction” or “poetry”, she demarcates the space in which every reader enjoys full authority to make their own meanings. Such an exercise of power is, paradoxically, prerequisite to the creation of a truly anarchist polity.

AB

In search of …

SD

1

Image from London Bridge children’s game, Lewis W. Hine

BC: RAMIA MAZE INTERVIEW

Katie Evans and Gabriela Matuszyk

In March 2018, a group of MA Graphic Media Design (MA GMD) participants took part in the Swiss Design Network Summit held in Basel, Switzerland. Organised by Claudia Mareis and coordinated by Brazilian designer Nina Paim, Beyond Change brought together designers, researchers, academics and fellow postgraduate students who, over a three-day symposium, explored urgent questions on ‘the role of design in times of global transformations’. Supported by the Graduate Fund at London College of Communication (LCC), Katie Evans and Gabriela Matuszyk (KE GM) conducted a series of interviews with Ramia Mazé p. 12, Tania Messell p. 61, Francisco Laranjo p. 149. The interviews dispersed throughout A Line Which Forms a Volume 2 explore pertinent issues around feminism, institutional structures and publishing within the current design discourse.

 

Following her keynote ‘Feminist Modes and Politics of Design Practice’1, we spoke with designer and professor Ramia Mazé (RM) about her feminist approach to design and research. We discussed the notion of “becoming” and the importance of designers understanding how and what they are making in relation to others, and the world around them.

Her keynote will be published in a forthcoming book: Mazé, R. (2019) ‘Design Educational Practice: Reflections on feminist modes and politics’ in L. Forlano, M. Wright Steenson and M. Ananny (eds) Bauhaus Futures, Boston: MIT Press

KE GM: In line with Beyond Change’s aims, your keynote explored the idea of that design ought not be fixed or outcome/solution driven. By focusing on the word “change” as a verb—a process and a collective act—you introduced the notion of “becoming”, could you expand on where you’re drawing this concept from?

RM: Yes, sure, I spoke about this in general ways in my keynote. While there are powerful and determining (often patriarchal and sometimes oppressive) structures and systems around us, there is a possibility and necessity to change. I talked about finding power within our everyday micro-practices, in how we go about collaborating, in co-producing knowledge, in building collectivity, in becoming toward others and preferred futures. In this, I’m aligning myself and seeking inspiration in some post-structuralist and feminist philosophies. The point, to me, is to seek out and develop possibilities to change within (and despite) structures. From these philosophies, I am interested in notions of agency and relation, of human and even nonhuman actors, of change that might be organic or also intentionally directed. Feminist approaches also pay attention to materiality, bodies, different kinds of bodies. The concept of “becoming”, as I’ve framed it here it—although, I’m not a philosopher—relates to theories from Deleuze and Guattari. I’m inspired by the temporal notions in their philosophy, processes, dynamics, complexities of change and different ways of conceiving the world. My impression of the Deleuzian conception of the world is that it is very complex, hard to figure out, smooth and kind of opaque. It matches with my own experience. In this world, it can be difficult but still really important to engage and critique. This conception of the world is difficult, particularly after the Frankfurt School where everything was clear and there were good guys and bad guys. It’s been very challenging for architects and designers to critique the world in which the structures are not easily apparent. To critique in a more fluid, affective or experiential space. Power is not as visible or obvious when it’s not in structures—when it’s not possible to isolate in terms of a particular person or an institution.

KE GM: This brought to mind Brian Eno’s text ‘Axis Thinking2. Even though Eno is focussing on identity, what we take great encouragement in is this searching for the “grey”, an examination of the space in-between the points on the axis, instead of focusing on the binarity of black and white.

Eno, B. (1996) Axis Thinking, from A Year With Swollen Appendices. United Kingdom: Faber and Faber

RM: Yes there’s been a lot of discourse surrounding these ideas. The way I approach the notion of “becoming3 is through feminist theory—women, feminists, and queer philosophers have gone on to question and appropriate the concept put forward by Deleuze and Guattari. Hélène Frichot looks to Clare Colebrook’s reading Hélène Cixous—a French philosopher—on the concept of “becoming woman”. The first sense of the concept is that idea that you’re born gendered, but that’s not really what “womanhood” is. In fact, you are encultured, you are structured, you “become”. You are a biological being but you also “become” psychologically and culturally. There is a spectrum that is more complex and varied, with many ways of being, not one nor the other, not black nor white and not simply reducible to biological sex. I find this notion of “becoming woman” to be quite powerful concept, but it’s also potentially too narrowly focused on identity in a way that can be quite interior and self-centered. What I like about Claire Colebrook’s reading of the concept is that she frames it as “becoming in relation to”; in relation to your environment, your climate, your cultures and the others.

Frichot, H. (2016) How to Make Yourself a Feminist Design Power Tool. Baunach: Spurbuch Verlag Eno, B. (1996) Axis Thinking, from A Year With Swollen Appendices. United Kingdom: Faber and Faber

In this way, the notion of “becoming” is a relational concept, and the minute you speak about relations between people, you’re talking about the political space. You are talking about how we organise ourselves in society. It could be as collectives but it could also be an individualist society, it’s not a concept that comes with a particular politics. Fascists become, just as feminists become—everyone is becoming in relation to different things. For me, this relational meaning makes sense; it’s not only up to me, it’s up to me in a context. I’m able to change and the context is able to change me. It’s about a giving up of control, as well as the potential agency that you have within that.

KE GM: As female collaborators, we had a strong affinity to the research by Kristina Lindström and Åsa Stahl that you referred to. From their experience of working and collaborating together, they say ‘knowledge happens in-between, not within4. How can researchers refrain from competition and move towards collaboration as a collective effort, one that is arguably more valuable than the pursuit of the individual? RM: It’s a really important move that we’ve had in the sciences as a whole. What I like about Kristina and Åsa is in their work they look quite specifically to feminist technoscience, or STS, which accounts for non-human as well as human actors. This is where it comes very close to art and design, because you’re thinking, you’re knowledge-making, you’re knowledge “making”. Knowledge-making and theory-building in relation to contexts, collaborators, other bodies, other times, artifacts, materials, non-human others. The interactions that you’ll have with-and-through materials, and with-and-through visuals. It is a very relational and environmental way of thinking about learning, knowledge and research.

Lindström, K. and Ståhl, A. (2014) Patchworking publics-in-the-making: design, media and public engagement. Doctoral Thesis, Malmö University, Sweden. Available at: www.muep. mau.se/handle/2043/16093

KE GM: Another idea we wanted to discuss, is the concept of looking at the “micro” in order to question the “macro”. This has been a prevalent method throughout the conference and, for us as participants, seems a more tangible approach, and one that we see in your own work. For example, you make sure when citing that at least 50% of your references are women and you closely examine the gendered language used in articles and job advertisements. Are there other micro processes you have employed through your many lenses as an educator, designer and researcher?

RM: The problem here is you can get OCD! As you say, I pay attention to a lot of details, even the details of administration and bureaucracy. It’s actually kind of empowering, because especially later in your life and career, it seems like the admin and paperwork grow. As graphic designer James Goggin points out (I’m paraphrasing here), ‘it’s 1% Photoshop and 99% the rest5. But critical practices of design can extend into these admin aspects too. It’s about how all of the processes in your work and life might build up into a critical practice or a way of being in the world, and how you then relate others or bring others into your world, or THE world even. I do all sorts of things—inspired by Sara Ahmed I’ve developed my own counting of citations and references (“critical citational practice6) pretty rigorously. Of course, then I’m co-teaching or supervising a course, I also question how much of others’ practices I should control how much micromanaging I should do.

Practise & Europa (2009). In M. Ericson et al. (eds), Iaspis Forum on Design and Critical Practice—The Reader, pp. 13–64. Berlin: Sternberg

Ahmed, S. (2013) ‘Making Feminist Points’. Available at: www.feministkilljoys.com/2013/09/11/making-feminist-points

In the article that I wrote for the Feminist Futures7 book, I talk about my home decorating practice as a kind of personal domestication of critical theory. I collect a lot of Modernist, Art Nouveau and Art Deco design from auctions, and I try to collect 50% designed by women, This is quite difficult to do, given the exclusion of women historically from design institutions, from the labor force, and from even today’s history books. I do my collecting, like really nerdily, but also as a way of learning about design history in the countries to which I’ve moved. I was new in Sweden, I’m new in Finland, so how do I learn design history? I start by looking for the women, for the women in the archives and in the auctions. I have learned so many amazing stories because of that, stories that art historians, design historians, and students don’t hear about. It’s a very personal thing that I do, and it’s about putting my money where the women are. Here, I’m thinking about the art market, how female artists have been highlighted and raised up over time because of this attention we place now on equality, giving value to forgotten or suppressed histories.

Maze, R. (2017) Future (Im)perfect: Exploring Time, Becoming and difference in design and futures studies from Feminist Futures of Spatial Practice: Materialism, Activism, Dialogues, Pedagogies, Projection. Germany: AADR

KE GM: That’s a really proactive approach. Lastly, A Line Which Forms a Volume is a participant-led publication and symposium which aims to make current research public, through different modes of dissemination. As a live and active medium, a research summit can make public a spectrum of topics, issues, questions, positions and practices, how would you like to see this to continue?

RM: There are many experiences here at Beyond Change, Swiss Design Network Summit, and people will take different things away. My keynote was eclectic, as I was hoping to connect to many within the audience. I think some will go away and rethink the role and the importance of design, and how to argue for design in terms of change or equality. In this sense, people may take it as empowerment. Some might take it more as female or marginalised empowerment. Others might say ‘actually, this is not design as I see it’, and might want to do something else. Nevertheless, design—and the world—are changing and in many positive ways!

MS

Designing is not a profession but an attitude. Design has many connotations. It is the organisation of materials and processes in the most productive way, in a harmonious balance of all elements necessary for a certain function. It is the integration of technological, social and economic requirements, biological necessities, and psychological effects of materials, shape, colour, volume, and space. Thinking in relationships.3

László Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion, 1947

PB

The title of ‘designer’ is not specifically defined, but negatively defined. The title of designer exists by way of what it excludes. Designers have an enormous vocabulary at their disposal, all to describe what they are not, what they do not do and what they cannot do. … Add to this, the long-term obsession with invisibility and absence. Sometimes it is self-censorship, sometimes disinterest, but it is always negative. The cause is undoubtedly deference or modesty. Designers often consider themselves very noble in their through-thick-and-thin work ethic, their noblesse oblige.4

Daniel van der Velden, Research and Destroy: Graphic Design as Investigation, 2006. Published in Graphic Design: Now in Production, Walker Art Centre, 2012

PUBLISHING FEMINIST VOICES IN TECHNOLOGY

Helen Taranowski

When I first encountered the Women and Computing Newsletter (WACN) in the archives at the Feminist Library in London, I had no idea that it would become the pivotal object of my research. The DIY aesthetic of this simple publication—as with many artefacts of second wave feminism—belied the strength and significance of its contents.

Produced from 1981 to 1993, the WACN supported and encouraged women to take up computing education and careers. It called out technology institutions and companies on their sexism and facilitated feminist discussion on gender and technology. I was struck by how the issues back then were very similar to those of today; lack of female representation, appropriation and domination of technology by males, sexism in computer games, advertising and technology design.

Growing up in the 80s, I remember the hype surrounding computing. After pleading with my parents, I finally got a second hand Sinclair ZX Spectrum with games of Space Wars and Dungeons and Dragons. The novelty soon wore off and I realised I’d much rather spend time riding ponies. If only they had made games about ponies!! Clearly, I wasn’t their target consumer.

Fast-forward some years and we have a male-dominated computer games industry1, packed with hyper-sexualised female characters and generally hostile to women as both players and creators. It is a perfect example of what I call the “Women and Technology Loop”; technology created by mainly white men for men, only serves to alienate and exclude women, putting them off careers in tech and leading to further technological developments by men.

Chang, E. (2018) Brotopia: breaking up the boys club of Silicon Valley. New York: Portfolio/Penguin

We have arrived at a stage where technology mediates most of our moves, and as such we need to understand, question and critique it. But how as women can we, when women’s voices have been mainly absent throughout the cycles of technological creation and advancement? Yes, teaching women how to code is a start—however with years of masculinised innovation behind them, how much impact can women make now?

Back in 1991, Judy Wajcman2 stated:
‘By securing control of key technologies, men are denying women the practical experience upon which inventiveness depends […] Innovation […] lies largely in seeing ways in which existing devices can be improved, and in extending the scope of techniques successful in one area into new areas. Therefore giving women access to formal technical knowledge alone does not provide the resources necessary for invention. Experience of existing technology is a precondition for the invention of a new technology.’

Wajcman, J. (1991) Feminism Confronts Technology. Cambridge: Polity Press

During my research I investigated the women and technology discourse from both academic theorists and mainstream media. One thing is clear, whether from the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s or more recent, or whatever the particular tech-related topic is, the Women and Technology Loop is very much in evidence. Women still do not have much say in future tech developments3, but I believe that can change. We need to look backwards as well as forwards. By understanding and learning from the feminist technology discourse of the past, we are better placed to make sound arguments and judgements for the future.

Corneliussen, H. G. (2012) Gender-technology Relations: exploring stability and change. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

The recent technological utopianism of the 1990s and early 2000s has given way to a rising backlash against the tech giants with many questions raised regarding diversity and ethics in the technology industry4. Technology design needs the input of a wider range of voices and views to ensure that fair, ethical and inclusive products are created.

Foer, F. (2017) World Without Mind: the existential threat of big tech. London: Jonathan Cape

Yes, we need more women working in technology but we also need to encourage engaged discourse around sexism and gender bias in technology. But this should not solely come from those working in the industry. We are all affected, as users and consumers, by decisions in technology design that create biases, promote discrimination, reinforce gender stereotyping and facilitate sexual harassment. We need to raise awareness, elevate the discussion and press the technology producers to design more inclusively.

The gender and technology debate should be accessible to many people and available in multiple formats, opening up this very necessary conversation to new readers and encouraging new voices to join the conversation. With a fourth wave of feminism strongly ascendant, I propose that now is the time for a new feminist technology publication—a WACN for the twenty-first century; a space, both online and offline, where we can make our voices heard.

NO! I DON’T WANT TO TAKE AN UBER, I WANT TO BE A STREET HUNTER. [FEMME] URBAN EXPLORER.

Cristina Rosique Gomez

Most cities have been designed by white men for white men, leading to the creation of gendered environments, which predominantly suit the man and heteronormative family’s needs. One can easily argue that the figure of female wanderer was excluded as a reference for urban planning. In this case, invisibility was the issue; we were “othered” along history, our voices and desires forgotten in the architecture and design of the city. We were seen as secondary characters, passive agents rather engaged subjects.

Nowadays, in our daily life, we, as women, confront unwanted experiences or encounters; Rebecca Solnit1 says that a woman’s walk can often be considered a performance rather than a mode of transport. Becoming more visible than ever.

Solnit, R. (2014) Wanderlust: A history of walking. London: Granta 

We can find in the (female) act of walking that there is certainly a desire to blend into the surroundings, to be imperceptible. Sylvia Path2 wrote ‘—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording’.

Plath, S. and Kukil, K. (2000) The unabridged journals of Sylvia Plath. London: Anchor

An understanding of the duality of the word invisibility is key in clarifying the previous two paragraphs. On one hand we have the invisibility/ othering in the design of the cities, the plan of the public space, because there is a lack of women representation. On the other hand, there is invisibility in its physical aspect, the ability to blend within the environment.

The relationship of the gap between gender and interaction with the city can be seen with the term flâneur, this word just refers to the white upper-middle class men, because they were the ones with the privilege to walk alone, with the time and the economical resources to spend their days observing and analysing the society in the streets. Subsequently, going with the idea of gender equality, the word flâneuse has been proposed with the purpose of including women and making us visible in the actions of wandering and observing.

NO! I DON’T WANT TO TAKE AN UBER, I WANT TO BE A STREET HUNTER. [FEMME] URBAN EXPLORER is an attempt to manifest and to spread the female wandering, the way that we experience the city, and our perceptions of it. With the final aim to increase empathy and awareness about our experiences, which never make front page news. They are not rapes nor robberies that get considered in a newspaper, but uncomfortable and stressful situations that we face in our daily lives.

[FEMME] STREET HUNTER—the design resolution—is an interactive video, as the final medium supports my research and allows me to achieve the objective of reaching a wider audience. It shows different spaces based on women’s experiences, which leads to the creation of a [femme] city, and as long as you are wandering inside it, a poetic voice is narrating stories, feelings beyond every spot. A reader, which includes all the urban poems, supports the video, moreover it makes it easier to engage with the content.

 

LEARN TO ANSWER A MAN

Midnight,

3 minutes from home.

A man stands out of the corner.

“Hello, excuse me”

His steps behind me, Next to me…

“You better learn to answer a man

Fucking bitch

Fucking bitch

Fucking bitch”

I didn’t say anything at that moment.

But here is your answer

to everyone and louder.

I do, I do know how to answer men like you.

You don’t own the streets.

You don’t own my answer.

You don’t control my wandering.

You, you are not my insecurity.

And if there is any doubt,

Yes, I am, I am that fucking bitch

who is not going to allow you

to control my fears,

to dictate my walk.

 

 

 

BEGINNING

Crawling is how this begins,

a taste of independence.

Being able to move on our own.

Although, we want more.

One foot after the other,

Walking,

We become explorers.

Every time a bit further.

Time to wander the city on our own,

… Hold on!

When did gender start defining how we navigated the city?

LIVE IN

Tingxi Gong

Online live streaming is a five billion-dollar emerging internet industry in China. The live streaming predominantly consists of young female performers and young male viewers. The primary revenue model for this market is tipping, whereby viewers donate money to performers in the form of virtual gifts. Since the majority of viewers are men, this one-way viewing platform produces a male-dominated power dynamic and propagates content that will attract even more male users.

Live streaming portrays women as a body onto which male viewers project their fantasies. Such unequal structures can shape the vulnerability and innocence within the characteristics of gender performance of East Asian women. As the stereotypical images of these women become more and more habitual and familiar, they become an acceptable component of our perceived reality.

MS

There are two ways of walking through a wood. The first is to try one or serval routes (so as to get out of the wood as fast as possible, say, or to reach the house of grandmother, Tom Thumb, or Hansel and Gretel); the second is to walk so as to discover what the wood is like and find out why some paths are accessible and others are not.5

Umberto Eco, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, Harvard University Press, 1994

PB

The Department of Non-Binaries (thus) understands design neither as a noun nor as a verb, but as an adverb: design as a gaze or a modality, rather than a discipline.6

Nina Paim & Corinne Gisel, www.ikrabiennial.com/ departments, accessed 26 October 2018

MUTE BODIES

Xiaoqing Wang

Is the body trained by discipline and conventions? Did the body already become an object manipulated by power and control mechanisms? What if free movement no longer existed? As people follow discipline and conventions without question, their bodies become prone to inertia. Based on an investigation of a performative discipline “Eye-care” exercise in Chinese schools, MUTE BODIES explores how the body is institutionalised within social power relations. Deconstruction and reconstruction have been incorporated as critical research and design methodologies, to interrogate this discipline and unveil the political forces behind it.

German philosophical anthropologist Helmuth Plessner1 proposed the dual characteristics of embodiment as the ‘lived-animated body’ and the ‘institutionalised body’. This view provides a critical and theoretical framework to examine different dimensions of the body under disciplinary control. Locating the discipline within the institutional environment, the “Eye-care” exercise establishes specific disciplinary patterns, as it has been promoted in Chinese schools and used as a propaganda tool by the Chinese government from the 1960s until the present. The interrelationships between the exercise and political campaigns in China can be observed in the publications advocating this exercise, which have instilled explicitly the political values through references to the cultural revolution of the 1960s. For example, the visual language in the poster Protecting eyesight for revolution not only advocating the cult of personality of Chairman Mao but also contributing to the proletarian revolution.

Plessner, H. (1976) Die Frage nach der Conditio humana, Aufsätze zur philosophischen Anthropologie, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp

As the cultural revolution caused severe damage to the national economy and stagnated the country’s progress, with the confirmation of the new leadership of Chairman Deng in 1978 the new goal of the state emphasised economic prosperity and national modernisation. Subsequently, visual codes in publications mainly focused on texts and illustrations which encouraged the younger generation to protect their eyesight for devoting themselves to the state’s scientific progress and economic development.

From 2000 onwards, China has entered a steady and rapid development period. Accordingly, the need for enhancing national cohesion and the ideology of collectivism has been emphasised officially by the current president Xi. He reaffirmed the importance of executing the collective activities in schools and public spaces, and consequently this exercise is maintained as a collective ritual in current Chinese schools.

The development of the “Eye-care” exercise over decades evidences the evolution of the economic and political system in China. In all, this exercise acts as a discipline which manipulates the body and mind from a young age to fulfil the state’s political goals.

MUTE BODIES uses reconstruction as a vital strategy in the research process. Set in a gloomy, old-fashioned classroom environment these “physical cages” function as dysfunctional learning aids, providing clues to the performance. The participant is encouraged to explore and reveal the intricate interrelationships between the body, disciplinary control and power mechanisms behind this exercise.

MEET NORMAN, A BRITISH PASSPORT.

Gabriela Matuszyk

 

 

 

 

 

 

A SMALL CAFÉ IN CENTRAL LONDON, SUNNY SEPTEMBER AFTERNOON

A CONVERSATION BETWEEN GABRIELA AND NORMAN 

 

I’m cautiously checking the recording equipment whilst apologetically glancing at my guest. The microphone was working just fine ten minutes ago, but now, that blinking, little red light is no-where to be seen, Sod’s law. Finally, I get it to work. 

 

G: Thank you for agreeing to speak with me. As I’ve mentioned, I wanted to interview you as part of a research project I’m conducting called Dichotomies of Belonging. Sparked by a growing polarisation in politics, the recent Brexit vote and rise of anti-migratory rhetoric, I hope our conversation sheds light on the relationship citizens hold with one of the most formal and universal expression of national identity—a passport. Can you start by introducing yourself? 

N:

With pleasure. My name is Norman, and I’m a British passport. I’m biometric, I was issued on the 11 March 2012 by the Passport Office, as a part of the twenty-second series called Scenic Britain. I travel a lot—some even call me a “travel document” which frankly is quite a fitting nickname, as it seems like I’m always moving places. I do also spend a lot of time in a dark drawer. 

G: Do you get bored in the drawer? 

N: Yes, but I guess that’s the price you pay for leading an otherwise exciting life. 

G: What words would you use to best describe yourself? 

N: “Helpful”, “precious”, “potent” and also “secure”. 

G: You say you’re British, does this mean you belong to a British person? 

N: To be precise, I’m the property of Her Majesty’s government in the United Kingdom. A little fun fact: the Queen herself doesn’t actually need a passport since all British passports are issued in her name. Which to me is quite ironic, it means, technically, she owns enough passports to last her a millenia. 

 

Norman laughs loudly and a middle-aged woman reading a book from across the room throws him a strange look. 

 

N: I’m guessing, you were asking about my holder? She is indeed a British citizen, and I do, of course, help them to pass1 from one place to another… you could say I’m autological. 

Passport [noun] from passe, imperative of Old French passer ‘to pass’ + port ‘port’. Source: Harper, D. (2016) Etymology Dictionary. Available at: www.etymonline. comindex.php?term=passport 

 

Someone two tables away drops a cup of tea on the floor. I should have chosen a quieter place… 

 

G: Is it fair to say that you know your holder quite well? 

N: We have a strangely intimate relationship. I know her birthday, where she was born, her middle names—you know, the sort of things a best friend or a partner would know. I’m much smaller than my predecessors, only 88 × 125 mm, so I easily fit into her jeans pocket. I’d say we’re friends, we go on holidays together and I carry her picture everywhere I go. 

G: And is this feeling mutual? 

N: I think she’s quite fond of me, she always seems worried if she can’t find me. On some level, she hasn’t really had much say in me “becoming” her passport—and vice versa. In my early days I was just a sum of parts like any other passports produced in 2012. Then, one day, we were assigned to each other and just like that, I was hers and she was mine—call it fate, call it bureaucracy. 

G: Do you ever worry about being replaced? 

N: I worry about a lot of things—being stolen, forgotten, accidently left behind… I have heard terrifying stories about passports who were abducted, pulled apart, and stitched together with pages that didn’t belong to them. Can you imagine what it’s like losing the part of you that defines you? That gives you purpose? Poor fellas were never the same again… 

 

There’s a moment of silence, Norman stares blankly ahead. He’s brought back to reality when a nearby coffee machine makes a strange noise. 

 

N: Oh! And then there is also the issue of dual nationality.

G: An issue? 

N: Yes, well, from the moment I am assigned to my holder, there’s a written agreement stating that our relationship will be valid for ten years. The working relationship that is. A little while ago, I overheard my holder telling someone, that according to her DNA test, she’s 39% Swedish. She hoped this was grounds for getting a dual nationality, saying something about the EU and a second passport2—I don’t know, I was sitting quite far away, but as a passport, I can’t imagine anything worse than competing with another one. And Swedish passports rank better than British3.

A surge has been recorded in the number of British people obtaining the nationality of another EU member state since the referendum, with German citizenship being the most frequently sought after. Cowburn, A. (2018) ‘Surge in British people obtaining EU citizenship since referendum, new data reveals’ Available at: www. independent.co.uk/news/uk/ politics/british-people-obtaining-eu-citizenship-passports-live-abroad-study-a8424276.html 

According to Global Passport Power Rank 2018 (passports of the world ranked by their total visa-free score) UK’s score is at 164, whilst Sweden’s is 165, Afghanistan’s 30 and Syria’s 38. Available at: www.passportindex.org 

 

 

Norman exhales heavily.

 

N: Then again, imagine being an Afghan or Syrian passport.

G: Afghanistan and Syria in recent years have been suffering from conflicts that caused large-scale migration. Although in both countries it is difficult to gauge the scale of human displacement as statistics are hard to come by, it’s fair to assume this affected their passport rankings.

N: These are among some of the worst ranked passports in the world, but what I’m getting at, is more about the relationship they must have with their holders. As a British passport, I enable entry to many foreign countries without needing a visa, and when I do, it usually requires a quick form filling. Being a Syrian passport must be diametrically different. If only my holder knew how much easier her travel is with me in her pocket, perhaps then she wouldn’t complain so much about queues at airports.

 

Norman giggles to himself.

 

G: Since you were issued in 2012, you still have over three years before you expire, but once this time elapses, a new series of navy passports will be brought into rotation. Do you have any strong feelings about this?

N: There has been a lot of talk in the media about the new post-Brexit passport. From my perspective, passports have changed so much in the last 120 years—particularly in the recent decades—I don’t think colour, frankly, will have much bearing on the travel experience. The urgent questions surrounding this are how much easier or difficult it will be to travel, and I don’t think a separate fancy queue4 is going to cut the mustard.

The PM wants separate lanes for British travellers as an important sign to voters that Brexit has happened and there are tangible benefits from it that everyone can see. Bickerton, J. (2018) ‘Brexit bonus! Brits MUST have own passport lanes at airports after we quit EU insists May’ Available at: www. express.co.uk/news/uk/997112/ Brexit-news-Prime-Minister-Theresa- May-passport-queues-EU-exit 

G: What words do you think will best describe the new passport?

N: “Helpful”, “precious” and “secure”.

G: That’s not much different from how you’d describe yourself.

N: To be honest, other than the ease with which I travel, I don’t think much will change. Not straight away at least, but maybe I’m just being naive.

 

I pause the recording, as Norman asks me for a short break.

AB

What did the participants find? 

SD

… a community

2

I found this series of images in the documenta 5 catalogue, 1972

The Ontology of Things (Ontology, Amazon & Design Research)

Aadhya Baranwal

Systems give power to those who understand it. Language and categorization provide accessibility and hierarchy. If Adam can name the animals in the garden, he has dominance over them. He has designed their identity. 

Ontology, according to American scientist and inventor Tom Gruber, is ‘a formal explicit specification of a shared conceptualization’1. It is that defined area within which things share their identity. As a metaphysical part of objects, it can be designed according to their shared history, archeology, DNA, use etc. 

Gruber, T. (1993) ‘A translation approach to portable ontology specifications’. Knowledge Acquisition, 5(2), pp. 199–220 

In The Order of Things, Michel Foucault2 cites a Chinese encyclopedia that categor-ises animals in sections like “Belonging to the Emperor”, “Embalmed”, “Frenzied” and “Having just broken the water Pitcher”. It sounds impractical, but for those who have gone through a formal western education today, it’s relevance may not be fully comprehensible. 

Foucault, M. (1989) The Order of Things: an archaeology of the human sciences. London: Routledge 

He also talks of aphasiacs, who when given different coloured wool on a table, arranged them according to nameless qualities like “Level of colour pigmentation”, “Softness of texture”, “Length” etc. They would rearrange them anxiously, as if the place was not enough to display the continuous order of identities and differences, because the syntax of language was an alien concept for them. 

Ontology exists in schools with taxonomy of knowledge into subjects, in animals according to DNA, in dictionaries according to alphabets and now in commerce, according to the uses of things. Even though there is no correct way to find a common locus, it provides a background and reduces chaos for those who can practice it. 

The American cloud and e-commerce company Amazon is a great example if one wishes to study the relevance of ontology in today’s contemporary setting. It segregates products according to their uses like “Health & Beauty”, “Business”, “Industry & Science” and “Food & Grocery”. Taxonomy also creates an image for the products which helps their marketing—“The Treasure Truck” is an isolated category focusing on a new product by Amazon; categorising Kindle within “Kindle E-readers & Books”, as opposed to putting it under “Electronics & Computers”, encouraging the shoppers to correlate them. 

The website in this case, becomes the “site” or the “operating table” that Michel mentions, where products are juxtaposed and dissected simultaneously to form powerful relationships and meanings. While the coin collection album in its “Toy & Games” menu takes the pride of the hobby away, its subsequent placement in “Home Accessories” section adds to its charm. 

This being said, environments and contexts are continuously evolving, and so are the ontology of things. Working towards a utopia, where everything has its defined, non-overlapping space is futile as it paradoxically forms its very own category of “non-overlapping things”. 

If not categorising entities leads to chaos, categorising them wrongly is worse. What if Amazon sold things according to colour? What if poultry was sold with cars? 

The field of design research is currently the operating table where operation is in action. Divisions according to skills (UI/UX, print…), intentions (responsible, commercial…) and numerous other disconnected grounds exist, causing designers to submerge in the sea of mini-categories; categories that many find difficult to identify or recognise. Alienated and alone, the design researcher is devoid of a formal space, of a network, of a support structure to belong to, to rely on and to connect through. A space to belong. 

MS

Design cannot be better than the material it has to work with. Good design means interesting content.7

Robin Kinross, ‘MORE LIGHT! For a typography that knows what it’s doing’, 1993

PB

Attempts at new definitions often betray an assumption that ‘graphic design’ itself is too limited… graphic design has always occupied a unique position between reading, writing, editing, and distribution and is a discipline nuanced and expansive enough in it’s everyday activities and processes to make renaming unnecessary. Rather than seeing ‘graphic design’ as too narrow for the multidisciplinarity of contemporary practice, designers, design critics, and historians might instead widen their own perceptions of what exactly the term can logically encompass.8

James Goggin, Practice from Everyday Life: Defining Graphic Design’s Expansive Scope by Its Quotidian Activities, Graphic Design: Now inProduction, Walker Art Centre, 2012

OCCASIONAL WANDERERS

Lan Le

The house, as defined by the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard1, is a form of an initial universe, which in our early years, shapes our knowledge and interpretation of the larger cosmos. The intimacy and immediacy of the private everyday life has an undeniable role in constructing the way we understand the events of the world. Therefore the house and our everyday objects, in a sense, evidence the social, economic and structural changes that have had an intimate and immediate effect on our personal life and sense of identity. 

Bachelard, G. (1958) The Poetics of Space, New York: Penguin Books 

Taking this as a premise, OCCASIONAL WANDERERS looks into how the visual and lyrical qualities of domestic and everyday life can be used as a micro lens to inspect the macro subject of identity. It investigates how the transition through a domestic space can speak to the contemporary state of migration and mobility to further reflect on the global effect of displacement. The outcome of this investigation is a website documenting the collective articulation of the concept of “home” through our lived experiences. The proposed framework of the website provides participants a series of instructional activities, prompting them to explore the home and its mundane objects in a new way, and archive their findings online. 

 

 

LOST AND FOUND 

Equipment: 

– Camera/phone 

– Papers 

– Pen/pencil 

Instructions: 

1. Look under your couch. Look for things that have been swept underneath it. 

2. Place each found object on one piece of paper, write a few words about the item on the paper next to where you place it, the words can be name, time, memories, anything. 

3. Take photos of each item on the paper with its words. 

4. Send the photos to the email: occasional.wanderer2018@gmail.com 

 

 

AB

What have you found? 

SD

… that we need to question reality

3

Image found in the image maze/collection of the Aby Warburg Institute

 

NO FATS. NO FEMS. NO BLACKS. NO ASIANS.

Derrick Thomas

As a gay man, a lot of my personal design and art work is queer focused. As designers, I believe we have a social responsibility to create accessible discursive design which raises awareness around pressing sociological issues. As a politically engaged person, I seek to create work which can facilitate a more open dialogue around LGBTQ+ issues. As a white cis-man, I acknowledge my privilege over other factions within the LGBTQ+ community. 

Since being established in 1984, the Gay Times magazine has had over 430 covers. Some years feature more than 12 issues, due to multiple monthly covers or special editions becoming more popular in the last decade. Over this time period, 77% of the covers featured a white cis-male as it’s focus. Covers that featured women and men of colour—in most cases accompanied by a white man—account to 6% each respectively. 

In its infancy, the magazine cover presented a voice for the marginalised community. The covers featured people and events which addressed the larger LBGTQ community, with the AIDS epidemic and gay rights appearing regularly. Though gender and race was always underrepresented, as the magazine moved towards the millennium, the newer covers favoured an homogenised version of white men “beauty”, in-line with wider mainstream commercial trends at the time. 

Although Gay Times was relaunched as a reimagined inclusive publication following a PR scandal in December 2017, it is vital to archive these images prior to this change. The rebranding is important in the fight for better representation within the queer culture, but it does not address decades of discrimination towards the less visible members of the community. 

In recent years, the idea that white attract-ive gay men are superior is being perpetuated by social media and apps such as Grinder. In projecting the archive back into these spaces, this research aims to create discourse on how the lack of representation within gay media enables and perpetuates inequality. 

On Instagram, @thesearegaytimes is a live memorial of a very specific queer history. The account re-publishes the back catalog of covers into the public space. an act even more necessary today given that almost all of the historic covers have been removed from Gay Times website and its social media accounts. 

NO FATS. NO FEMS. NO BLACKS. NO ASIANS. is not a retrospective. Collected in mass, grouped in clear definable manner, carefully cropped and focused—the archive is a depiction of the long standing diversity problem within queer media. 

AB

What is the role of a place? 

SD

… to go on an adventure and to get lost4

From Augusto Boal’s Games for Actors and Non Actors, 1997

BC: TANIA MESSELL INTERVIEW

Katie Evans and Gabriela Matuszyk

Tania Messel (TM) is a current PhD candidate in History of Design at the University of Brighton. Following a panel discussion ‘Institutions and their Policies of Change’ held at Beyond Change Summit, we spoke to her about her ongoing research on International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) and how/ why conferences are a good sounding board for emerging research. 

KE GM: As current participants on the MA Graphic Media Design Course, we’re interested to know how your practice continued to develop after studying MA History of Design—has it fed into your current PhD research into ICSID? 

TM: During the MA at the Victoria & Albert/ Royal College of Art I did my dissertation on early French corporate identities. Looking at these brought forth a lot of questions about institutions: how design navigates between executive boards and people involved with techniques, but also how graphic designers became key members in designing corporations from within. Through this research, the idea of social relations became clear. At the end of that MA there was an opportunity to work on the history of ICSID. This felt like a good way to continue looking into these issues, namely how designers navigate between different social circles within society. In this new project, I explore how designers organise themselves, which is still very much about institutions. The PhD project itself was “designed” by Professor Jeremy Aynsley of the University of Brighton Centre for Design History and the University of Brighton Design Archives, following which I received funding to work on the ICSID archive held at the University of Brighton Design Archives. Research on ICSID had been conducted previously, but the archive had not been accessible for a long time. In this period of time in design history, it seemed important to understand more about these international actors. 

KE GM: What can contemporary designers learn from ICSID between 1957 and 1980. How does it relate today? 

TM: ICSID is a good case study that shows how, when people from different cultural, social, economical backgrounds—we are talking about Soviet countries, capitalist economies, post-colonial newly independent countries—bring forward their own visions of design, there are still debates on “what design is”. Within ICSID, it always remained in negotiation—and of course, there were attempts from Western design circles to impose modernism. At the time in question, there were also no phones, well there were phones, but it was expensive to make calls, and to travel as well. But ICSID as an organisation allowed for such debates. This situation invites us to ask today, ‘hang on, how is, and what makes my practice different to the one in Canada, or Philippines… and those questions are essential still today’. 

KE GM: In your talk you mentioned when faced with so many materials, it can be hard to avoid distraction. How did you find your argument and a position within the mass of materials? 

TM: Especially with something like ICSID, the whole history had not been written, so I’m lucky enough to have this huge, well structured and very rich archive. It has been many years of leafing through documents and trying to figure out the questions I wanted to ask, and to grasp what this organisation actually was. How can you make meaningful research that is methodologically valid, and not over-simplified either. 

KE GM: During your panel, you spoke briefly about the accessibility of the archive. Why do you think it is important to make the history of design accessible? 

TM: It is always exciting when a practitioner can enter an archival space and see all the material that exists. It allows for self reflection, and reiterates the importance of not repeating past mistakes, whilst revealing questions that have been there for so long. I think it’s about the realisation that whilst the context changes, some interrogations remain. 

KE GM: A research summit, like Beyond Change, is as a live and active medium for making things public. What did you think of the questions raised after your panel? Do you see these discussions continuing after the conference? 

TM: As a researcher, you need feedback from individuals outside your immediate circle, and you want to connect with other’s work, so for example in my joint session, Sria Chatterjee […] brought new questions to my work. This is something you would not encounter by just staying on your own. You want critique and when you are a student, and a researcher more generally, your work is regularly assessed by individuals who will give you suggestions on how to enhance it. I think conferences are good sounding boards—maybe someone will make you realise a loophole, or a gap that you had not noticed. Or someone could highlight a methodological problem, or say ‘wait, this is actually important’. 

KE GM: And then from this, how would you see these discussions and things being captured and then kind of acted upon… 

TM: I think research is about reading the point of view of others, and trying to locate yourself within other’s visions of the world or the topics you are looking at. You end up making your own space. This space then evolves in relation to who is around and what discussions are being held, as well as your own point of view and how it evolves. Being in a conference is, in some sense, material. It is similar to being in journals or on blogs or in academic literature. It is a space that allows for a more alive, a more direct response. 

I think that this conference impacted my research even before I came here. Writing and sharing the paper alone, brought up many of the questions that we are facing as design histor-ians. Moreover, having the ‘Decolonising Design Group’ here as part of the Building Platform project, immediately invited me to be more critical, and to ask: what kind of design are you talking about? And whose voices are not being heard? That’s the good thing with conferences, particularly with calls for papers: they help you to look at your research in a new light, and that’s always very rewarding. 

AB

What is the role of an object?

SD

… to be studied

PLEASE, TAKE A SEAT

Maria Bazhanova

Originally museums were a place that showcased and preserved unique objects, out of reach and behind protective glass. However, nowadays the museum is transforming its static position to become a site for new creations of engagement. PLEASE TAKE A SEAT chooses and studies the omnipresent “chair” in the museum, as a metaphor for the transformations that these spaces are subjected to. 

Previously inaccessible to visitors, the museum hid behind all kinds of barriers and regulations, creating layers of obstacles and inhibiting interaction between the visitor and the artefact. Eventually chairs were introduced into the museum to be utilised by visitors and/or staff. 

In the gallery the chair occupies a number of positions, they possess an evolving peculiarity, shifting between exhibit and functional object. They are placed both behind the glass, and sometimes in the middle of the hall, closer to the visiting audience. There is now an onslaught of exclusively designed chairs; ones that no one has ever seen before, designed especially for one place—the museum, and they exist to serve the visitor. 

PLEASE TAKE A SEAT pays attention to a simple, an often overlooked object, the chair. It encourages one to revisit and experience the museum space from a wholly different and new perspective. 

MS

Design addresses itself to the need.9

Charles & Ray Eames, Design Q&A, 1972

PB

10

Image: Nisshin Maru www. marinetraffic.com/sv/photos/ picture/ships/380894/8705292/ shipid:664599/imo:8705292/ mmsi:-8705292/

READERS: IN ACTION

Núria Pla Cid

Readers became users, and as a consequence of this, their expectations from the text have changed. The users get easily distracted, jumping from text to text, from tab to tab, just to come back later to what they were reading earlier (if they ever do so). The hypertext has created a space where the readers are allowed to play an active role, deciding what and how they read. 

The invention of the Internet has permitted users to construct their own narrative in a much easier way, by making decisions and creating links suitable for their needs. In this way, the web functions as an endless work in progress. As Kenneth Goldsmith1 suggests, the user has become a “virtual flaneur”, wandering the web, looking for the right content. 

Goldsmith, K. (2011) Uncreative Writing. New York: Columbia University Press 

More crucially, the reader now has the agency to decide what is better for their reading, and continues to weave their own web of references. By expanding the web, the reader is allowed to see many other options that were unseen—existing in parallel—supporting and challenging what was thought. However, this is not something completely new. 

Think about a newspaper. The way we read it is different to a book and still very similar to a website. The reader jumps from one article to another while skipping a few of them in the middle. Similarly, with the internet, readers have learnt to; manage, pick and collect information— without the need to read linearly, as they would with a printed book. The introduction of the internet brought another change, which also affected the way users approach the information they find. Today the user; displays, filters or aggregates content to what they were reading. When, how, and where users read makes a difference on the perception of a text. In The Birth of the User2, Ellen Lupton argues ‘how texts are used becomes more important than what they mean’. 

Lupton, E. (2006) ‘The birth of the user’, in Bierut, M. et al. (ed.) Looking Closer 5. New York: Allworth Press 

Instead of leaving annotations on a book, the user now comments on websites. Comments, likes, tagging other people, have all become the marginalia of the internet. Even though these traces take a different and less tangible feel, they give space for dialogue, sharing know-ledge and responses to what has been published. In fact, Alessandro Ludovico3, argues that the power for digital publishing lies on its ‘superior networking capabilities’,and not only by hosting related content to what you read elsewhere but, on ‘other humans willing to share their knowledge online’. This willingness to share knowledge in the hyperspace is similar to what readers find in a library, where multiple people read the same book, in a different way and leave their notes as an unconscious ‘I have been here, I read this book, and this is my contribution to it’. 

Ludovico A. (2012) Post-Digital Print, The Mutation of Publishing since 1894. Eindhoven: Onomatopee 

* 

The active reader seems intrinsic to the digital medium, where taking decisions and following a path seems easier and natural. This, however, doesn’t mean that it is an exclusive aspect from the hyperspace—in fact it was born in the printed book. Pale Fire4 by Vladimir Nabokov, for example, pre-dates the internet and can be seen as a proto-type of hypertext. Nabokov uses footnotes to build several directions in which the readers can immerse themselves in. Moving back and forth and following links, the participants decide what route they are interested in. Working as a primi-tive hypertext system, similar to an “analogue” website. Regardless of what path the reader decides to follow, the user can have an endlessly stimulating literary experience. This work was perceived as an experimental and ground-breaking book, allowed multiple readings of the work by interlocking elements—telling many stories at once. 

Nabokov, V. (2011) Pale Fire. London: Penguin Books 

Another piece from the same period is Composition No.15 by Marc Saporta, an unbounded book confined in a box. Each page has a self-contained narrative, giving the reader agency to decide the order in which they read the book and when to stop. The way users read this book today, raises questions about user-centric, non-linear driven ways of reading—native traits from the hyperspace.

Visual Editions (2017) Composition No.1. Available at: www.visual-editions.com/composition-no-1 

The reason that these works are still relevant today, is due to the fact that they reflect a change on the role of the readers. The selected examples, give the readers and users the authority to collaborate with the writer. Currently, the way we read them equals to the reading experience you can obtain in the hyperspace. In fact, in 1969, IBM used Pale Fire for a demo of an early hypertext-like system. Arguably then, Nabokov not only anticipated the upcoming invention of the internet, but also created one of the first books of the genre, being seen only afterwards as ‘father’ of the hypertext. 

 

AB

If you were the guest, what would the object be?

SD

… a chair, so we can play the Great Game of Power5

www.collectingchildhood. files.wordpress.com/2015/01/ buck-photo001.jpg

Upcycled extracts from Upcycle This Book used in the following order: ‘The five acts of art’, ‘James Langdon interviews Gavin Wade’, and ‘Upcycle this text’

Aadhya Baranwal, Katie Evans, James Langdon, Gabriela Matuszyk, Peter Nencini, Gavin Wade, Calar Wassak, Núria Pla Cid and Shengtao Zhuang

Words by Gavin Wade Upcycled by Aadhya Baranwal, Katie Evans, Gabriela Matuszyk and Shengtao Zhuang Original square span design by James Langdon and redesigned here by Núria Pla Cid and Clara Wassak Images by Peter Nencini 

 

JL: In this book I typeset some of your writing in “square span”, Herbert Bayer’s proposed alternative to the orthodoxy of sentences and paragraphs for the visual organisation of text. It seems appropriate for a number of reasons. Your interest in historical remakes and continuities, and your admiration of Bayer—obviously—but also the tendency in your writing towards simple structures and short, direct expressions. (Bayer wrote that ‘text written in lo-gical, short thought groups lends itself best’ to his system.) I find that square span suits your recent writing best. Texts like ‘The five acts of art’, ‘What makes a good home for art?’ and ‘The act of painting’. I suppose you have become more deliberate in your use of these kinds of formulations? 

GW: I’m using the formulations or structures to instruct me. I often don’t feel in control of my writing. I have accepted that writing is a feral part of me, a response mechanism that I can control to an extent. I sometimes fool myself that I can direct words in a general direction. I hope always that a text is part of learning about myself. Words are a key part of how I relate to what is around me. It is fascinating to me then to see you convert the words and phrasings that I have constructed into something else using Bayer’s square span. They become a new work. I like your use of an existing design system to expand the context and meaning of this book. I think this book might be about using and being used. I want to use what other people have discovered and I want other people to use what I have discovered. I want that process to be art. I consider many of these texts to have the potential to be art. They can exhibit in many ways and this book then is one of the exhib-itions of these works. Your use of square span saves the book from being boring in that sense of nothing happening apart from text. Perhaps Bayer had a sense of that even before Ulises Carrión came up with his statement: 

‘A book is a sequence of spaces. Each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment—a book is also a sequence of moments. A book is not a case of words, nor a bag of words, nor a bearer of words. A writer, contrary to the popular opinion, does not write books. A writer writes texts.’ 

I want to write a book. I want to learn from Carrión and Bayer. I have never thought of myself as a writer. I always consider myself to be an artist-curator—a self taught profession. So I am not a writer writing texts I am an artistcurator making art. 

To learn how to be an artist-curator you need to work with others and learn from others as much as possible. My method might be to collaborate with another artist or a writer or whatever. Or I may need to interview a dead artist as I need more from him or her in order to better use their discoveries. 

I think I’ve become more deliberate with short thought groups over time as I’ve borrowed and employed tempo and brevity from James Ellroy, Kurt Vonnegut and Buckminster Fuller. I’m not sure I’m really to the point or precise with words. I think I might be reckless. I learned some discipline from writing my novel The Interruptors (2003–2005) and from writing renga for my 100 Verses for Three Estates project in 2006 with Alec Finlay and Paul Conneally. I’m often struck by the form of words and phrases acting as sculpture or a set of relationships, a reciprocal gravitation of atoms, ideas and symbols. Writing on Twitter over the past five years has also been an useful and enjoyable space to test out words and hone phrasing and artworks using words. Many of the more recent works in this book were rehearsed and prompted by writing as @eprjcts. 

The five act structure was developed during ‘Narrative Show’ at Eastside Projects in 2011. The structure emerged during the evolving exhibition process and became a way to perform the development of narratives by using an old system again. I find real meaning in the structure of the five act form. What at first appears to be a set of limitations becomes an open set of generative supports. 

JL: This list of voices and approaches represents another important contention in your writing, clearly stated in the title of this book. You have a very confident sense of freedom, liberty—taking liberties with authorship. Your writing is certainly more irreverent than academic. At one point we talked about a possible introduction to the book being a fictional letter from the lawyers of El Lissitzky’s estate! Which I know wouldn’t be the first such letter you’d have received! I understand this aspect of what you do to be about the useful. You seem to be proposing that artistic and literary canons should function not as territorial markers but as inventories of usable materials. 

GW: They are usable experiences. Artworks and experiences are experiments for us to learn from and to apply. I really like that phrase—taking liberties— it is full of misinterpretation! Sounds both positive and negative at the same time. I think most forms of legal letters and intellectual property thinking are not about freedom but the opposite. For every freedom there is an equal and opposite force. We have to find common decency between people or just live with disagreements. Outright exploitation is where it goes wrong, and then laws and rules and weapons come into play to force people to act in a more decent way. But I think you can act in a decent way as you upcycle someone else’s findings. We have to project the idea that it is an honour to have your work upcycled by somebody else.

 

Upcycle this text.

Rewrite it as a manifesto.

Pay what you wish.

Lend. Borrow. Give.

Take. Waste your time.

Be generous with no conditions.

Upcycle this text.

 

MS

Archaeological research is blind and empty without aesthetic re-creation, and aesthetic re-creation is irrational and often misguided without archeological research. 11

Erwin Panofsky, quoted by Hal Foster, ‘Archives of Modern Art’, OCTOBER 99, Winter 2002

PB

There is no such thing as a medium—that’s why they call it a medium—because it’s in the middle—so to speak—it’s between—it mediates a transaction and deflects it.12

David Antin, Real Estate, A Circular 2 (Autumn 2012), originally published in Tuning, New Directions, New York (1984)

IS IT A COINCIDENCE THAT…?

Katie Evans

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subject: Is it a coincidence that…? 

To: D.Spiegelhalter@statslab.cam.ac.uk 

From: k.evans0620161@arts.ac.uk 

 

Dear David, 

I hope this email reaches you through the noise. Normal protocol would be to say something here like “I hope you don’t mind me contacting you out of the blue”, but maybe that is what makes this potential conversation interesting—that it is out of the blue. 

For the past year or so Professor, I’ve been attempting to study coincidence, through practice-led graphic design based research, at the London College of Communication. Now, this is notably odd for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most pertinent being that—similar to mathematics—graphic design is seen, by many, as a problem solving profession. 

I think it was due to the above that I fell into the trap of trying to “solve” or, at the very least, understand coincidence as a phenomenon more clearly. For the first month or so, I stumbled around, trying to trace the roots of coincidences, through observing, mapping, logging, collecting, defining… I used coincidence as a methodology, by setting up scenarios open to chance and random algorithms. I must state, throughout I steered clear of statistics and probability which—as your ongoing research proves—would have been a much more conclusive route. 

Through the trials and errors of the above I began to realise how slippery coincidence is as a subject matter. The etymology of the word alone is a nonlinear one—I am the daughter of an English Language teacher, so I do have a tendency to look at things linguistically. 

In the first volume of The American Journal of Philology, H. E. Shepherd1 states that the words coincide and coincidence are worthy of investigation due to their altering historical development. Published in 1880, the article chronologically tracks these transitions, starting with Roger Bacon’s philosophical writings in the 13th century. Shepherd pinpoints the deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams as the key shift which moved coincidence—from the fields of philosophy, mathematical science and scholarly prose—into its American English usage today. Both former Presidents reportedly died on the same day, 4th July 1826, on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 

Shepherd, H. E. (1880) ‘The History of Coincide and Coincidence’, The American Journal of Philology. Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 271–280. US: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Available at www.jstor.org/stable/287556 

Whether or not these were genuine coincidences—I know you questioned this, in the online Guardian article The myth of meaningful coincidence2—is another question. What is certain is that the deaths were some of the first examples of media reporting rare phenomena as coincidence. Through public speeches and the reporting of the President’s deaths in newspapers, coincidence gained a wider adoption, and hand in hand with this came many new contexts, and therefore more meanings and interpret-ations evolved. As seen by your Cambridge Coincidence Collection on understandinguncertainty.org3, coincidence is used to define or mark such a wide range of events or things. 

Spiegelhalter, D. (2010) ‘The myth of meaningful coincidence’, The Guardian, 6 December. 

University of Cambridge (2018) Understanding Uncertainty. Available at: www.understandinguncertainty.org

Coincidentally, or not, while I was delving into definitions and contexts, Gerhard Richter’s 4900 Colours was showing at my local gallery; The John Hansard. I only later saw you’d written about this Artwork in your blog post Pure randomness in art. Sorry Professor, I digress. I will, from now on try to keep this, appropriately unpredictable and twisted route, as short as possible. 

All of this time I was ignoring a key way in which the word coincidence is being used today. 

I am drawn to a recent video of Congressman Adam Schiff—I suspect you may have seen this clip, but just in case, it is linked here4. Without going into too much detail, the video captures how Adam Schiff, a Democrat sat on the House Intelligence Committee for the Comey hearing, persuasively framed his argument through coincidence. 

Rhodan, M. (2017) ‘Read Rep. Adam Schiff’s Opening Statement on Russian Meddling in the Election’, Time, 20 March. Available at: www.time.com/4706721/ comey-hearing-adam-schiff-transcript 

‘Is it a coincidence that…? 

Is it a coincidence that…? 

Is it a coincidence that…? 

Is it a coincidence that…? 

Is it a coincidence that…?’ 

Of course, the answers to these rhetorical questions or false dilemmas are no—these are not coincidences at all. 

After watching this video, I started to log all occurrences of this phrase, ‘Is it a coincidence that…?’ from the President of the United States of America’s favourite communication medium, Twitter. I employed the help of a developer, who, using the Twitter REST API, set up a database to automatically save these tweets. As seen by the two examples here… 

@ZacheryMantis—Is it a coincidence that the One Leader, to bring us out of Hell? Happens to have a last name “Trump”? No! Because he Trumps everything, Anything, and Anyone that stands in his way of (Bringing America) back to good.. Period! Nuff said. ID1088 

@shackmom—Is it just a coincidence, that Trump plans to meet with Rod Rosenstein, on Thursday? The same day that, Christine Blasey Ford, is scheduled to testify in front of the Judiciary Committee. #stayfocused #Trumpdistracts ID 1449 

…the log captures a wide variety of opinions, theories, thoughts, reactions and responses, on such a range of things, from the socio-political to weird and wonderful personal ponderings —all stemming from this phrase alone. 

For now, the log is public through the online space, Is-it.co.in, which operates as a live and searchable digital archive. It is continuously being updated and added to by the Twitter community. 

The other part of this project are printed logbooks, which through indexing the tweets, invite the reader to investigate this mass of digital communication and argumentation, emerging from coincidence. These are also printed as back-up, as storing these collections online has become increasingly risky—API policies, which allow access to this information, are constantly shifting or being monetised. Another challenge, which you may have encountered from your website, is making sure the page isn’t hacked, this has already happened once. 

I would like to ask whether your department would archive or hold the first issue of the logbook, being published in November 2018? The logbook itself is 288 printed pages, holding approximately 2,000 tweets and is 280 × 418 mm in size. It would be a pleasure to deliver it personally to you and the department, and I wanted to check your availability on Wednesday 28 November? 

I may be falsely predicting that you, more than anyone, may understand this all. 

 

With my very best and thanks,

 

Katie Evans  

 

– – – 

 

Graphic designer, turned Coincidence Questioner 

Is-it.co.in 

AB

If we could travel anywhere, where would we have gone?

SD

… if time travel was an option, I would stay in London but visit a post-war junk playground6

Here is the Notting Hill adventure playground in 1960

I CAN’T SPEAK WITH A WEAPON

Sui-Ki Law

From the historical invention of newsprint to the emergence of virtual reality today, journalists have been adopting different ways to engage audience. I CAN’T SPEAK WITH A WEAPON explores how the Syrian refugee crisis could be broadcasted through virtual reality. 

Critical design methodologies of appropriation, juxtaposition, repetition, overlap and the visual association of textures and objects have been used throughout this project. By challenging the predictable stylish approaches through the development of a radical visual language, the audience is invited to examine the relationship between graphics and political issues. In oppos-ition to the fact reporting methods currently in use by major news media companies, a critical, poetic, audio-visual narrative is generated in virtual reality. 

MS

It is the task of the translator to release in his own language that pure language that is under the spell of another, to liberate the language imprisoned in a work in his re-creation of that work. 

Translation demands a certain, un-condensable, time with a work and therefore, also, with the questions animating that work, the questionsthe translator brings to it and the further questions that will inevitably arise from the gestures of translating it.13

Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, Jonathan Cape Ltd, London, 1970 Kate Briggs, This Little Art, Fitzcarraldo Editions, London, 2017

PB

It took me a long time to see what I was looking at. Now I know that the opening in the text—the negative holes in the positive text—serves apurpose. 14

Jan van Toorn, quoted in Els Kruijpers ‘And/or: on contradiction in the work of Jan van Toorn, Nad, 010 (2013)

ENTITIES OF INTEREST; DIAGRAMS AND OSCILLATIONS

David Benqué

The double nature of the diagram can be described as a constant ‘oscillation between systematising and openness’1 or, in other words, between control and creativity. This was the starting point for a workshop I gave at MA GMD in January 2018, titled Seeing- [:like]->a Diagram2. We looked at graph databases both as systems to organise knowledge and as sites for creative speculations. This work continued later in the year, as part of (Re)distributed Media: Leakage event held at the Design Museum; this time titled Entities of Interest. The workshop continued to focus on graphs, but more specifically about their use in the Panama Papers investigation.

Leeb, S. (2017) ‘A Line with Variable Direction, which Traces No Contour and Delimits No Form’, in Gansterer, N. (ed), Drawing a Hypothesis, de Gruyter 

Benque, D. (2018) ‘SEEING-[:like]->a DIAGRAM’, The Air Pump. Available at: www.theairpump.davidbenque. com/seeing-like-a-diagram 

The Panama Papers graph database3, as released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), was a crucial tool in the 2016 collaborative investigation that led to numerous high profile news stories. It was instrumental in enabling hundreds of journalists worldwide to make sense of over two terabytes of leaked data—emails, documents, passport scans—revealing parts of the dense diagram4 woven by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. This system relied on intricate connections between companies, beneficiaries, intermediaries, and shareholders to help wealthy clients in tax evasion. The resulting web was so opaque, that it took a data leak5, substantial computational infrastructure, and hundreds of trained journalists to begin to grasp and unravel a small fraction of it. 

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (n.d.) ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database. Available at: www.offshoreleaks.icij.org 

Neo4j (2016) ‘How the ICIJ Used Neo4j to Unravel the Panama Papers’ Available at: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=S20XMQyvANY 

Cabra, M. and Klissane, E. (2016) ‘Wrangling 2.6TB of data: The people and the technology behind the Panama Papers’, ICIJ. Available at: www.icij.org/blog/ 2016/04/ data-tech-team-icij 

Understanding offshore finance as a diagram, where ‘power relations are produced through relationships of strength’6. Strength, in this case, is opacity—the luxury of not having your name associated with a bank account in a tax haven. The ICIJ’s investigation begins to reveal these relations as a vast diagram. The use of a graph-database for this mapping echoes Nick Srnicek’s call to put technological tools to work as “cognitive prostheses”7 to grasp highly complex and abstract capitalist systems. 

Leeb, S. (2017) ‘A Line with Variable Direction, which Traces No Contour and Delimits No Form’, in Gansterer, N. (ed), Drawing a Hypothesis, de Gruyter 

Srnicek, N. (2012) ‘Navigating Neoliberalism: Political Aesthetics in an Age of Crisis’, The Matter of Contradiction: Ungrounding the Object. Available at www.academia.edu/1925994/ Navigating_Neoliberalism_Political_ Aesthetics_in_an_Age_of_Crisis 

Against this background, Entities of Interest was about revisiting the diagram of offshore finance as a site of creative speculation. The basic premise was to use the names of shell companies as design briefs inviting quick creative responses. The project was about regaining some kind of agency, however temporary and futile, over the intractable world of offshore finance. This unfolded in three stages: preparing the briefs and website in the run-up to the event, producing the publication during the workshop itself, and disseminating the results. 

The names of the companies were chosen by MA GMD participants and myself in the weeks leading up to the workshop, as we combed through the first 12,000 nodes in the database. This was a subjective process: we selected names (214 in total) that were evocative, poetic, or humorous; examples include ‘DOLPHIN INDUSTRY CO., LTD.’, ‘EXCELLENT SKILL TECHNOLOGIES LTD.’, ‘GOLDEN OCEAN LIMITED’, and ‘PROPHET INVESTMENTS INC.’ Foregrounding these names, when their very purpose is to go unnoticed, was a deliberate gesture. We embraced the subjectivity and interpretation in this selection process. The resulting list is therefore akin to what Johanna Drucker calls capta which are “actively taken” as opposed to data which are “assumed to be a given”8. This serves as a reminder that, like all data, the Panama Papers graph is constructed and interpreted rather than an objective, unmediated reflection of reality. 

Drucker, J. (2011) ‘Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display’, DHQ Digital Humanities Quarterly, vol. 5, no. 1. Available at www. digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/ 5/1/000091/000091.html 

The workshop participants used each company and the available information about it—the diagram of its surroundings in the graph—as a prompt for response. This was an attempt to generate ideas and visuals using diagrams as a starting point. We programmed a brief generator to systematically follow, and visualise, connections to and from each company on our list. Setting the depth to two levels revealed, for example, when the company was one amongst hundreds set up by the same intermediary. We produced and distributed a publication through a peer-to-peer website, using the Dat protocol and the Beaker Browser. The site of the workshop became a local and temporary network—a diagram of sorts—as facilitators and participants hosted and relayed the files to each other, and fed their contributions back into the archive. As a counterpoint to the opaque web of the Panama Papers, our publication is available for anyone to explore, download, and modify. 

The diagram and its ‘oscillations between systematising and openness’ appear in various guises throughout this project, from the database itself to our responses and mode of publication. Programming the Entities of Interest website and the brief generator took a substantial amount of systematic diagramming work to set up the conditions for one afternoon of creativity and speculation. It might be tempting, especially for designers, to reject the diagram as a tool for ordering and control in favour of their open and creative side. However, if we accept that the two are inseparable, a more valuable focus can be placed instead on their oscillations, and on the agency that designers might find within these tensions. 

AB

How did the collaboration inform our practices? 

SD

… they feed one another 7

I love this drawing which I found at the Aby Warburg Institute. It illustrates ‘The Beholder’s share’ a phrase popularised by Gombrich to express that part of an artwork’s meaning which must be contributed by the viewer

ALGORITHMIC PHYSIOGNOMY

Chi Kit Chan

ALGORITHMIC PHYSIOGNOMY1 is a research project about the subjectivity of facial recognition technology. It examines how this technology can propose new insights to people who are concerned with the bias and the top-down control of facial recognition systems. Coming from a visual design perspective, this enquiry investigates and illustrates the problematic nature of this technology and provokes the need to antagonise these systems.

Physiognomy is a practice of assessing a person’s character traits or personality from their outer appearance especially the face 

China has 170 million security cameras now in use for its Skynet surveillance2 system, with 400 million more on the way by 2020. A giant screen was set up over a crosswalk in Xiangyang, displaying names and faces of jaywalkers or people who had not paid their debts. Banks, airports, hotels and even public toilets are equipped with facial recognition systems in order to verify people’s identities. This system can also determine age, gender, race and emotions based on the algorithmic perceptions of human facial features.

BBC News (2017). In Your Face: China’s all-seeing state. Available at: www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/ world-asia-china-42248056/ in-your-face-china-s-allseeing-state 

In 1985 Donna Haraway3 stated, ‘we are living through a movement from an organic, industrial society to a polymorphous, information system—from all work to all play, a deadly game’. In her diagram, The Informatics of Domination, Haraway prognosticates a transformation of power from the “old hierarchical dominations” to the “new networks of informatics of domination”. The organics domination of “sex”, “labor”, “mind”, and “white capitalist patriarchy” will be replaced with “genetic engineering”, “robotics”, “artificial intelligence”, and “informatics of domination”.

Haraway, D. (1991). ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century’, in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Routledge 

This design-led project adopts Haraway’s theoretical framework to contextualise facial recognition technology in relation to physiognomy. Rooted in the proposition that governing with informatics is the new governmental hegemony, the investigations focus on the control and power that comes with facial recognition technology.

In his 1986 essay, Body and the Archive4, Allan Sekula cited Alphonse Bertillon’s criminal photography archive and Francis Galton’s composite portraiture as statistical studies and typology of criminal, under the ideology of physiognomy. Bertillon’s measurement system is comparable to facial landmark measurement, therefore this methodology was employed through photography of people’s faces. After this initial capture, the portraits were collected and inputted as data for analysis and measurement using Face++—one of the facial recognition systems, which is currently used for China’s surveillance system—as the tool to test.

Sekula, A. (1992) ‘The body and the archive’, in Bolton, R. (ed.) The contest of meaning: critical histories of photography. Cambridge: MIT Press 

Adopting Galton’s composite image style, superimposition was then used to compare the results with the intention to visualise the current bias—both within this classification system and the algorithm itself. This research found that the way in which Face++’s algorithm predicts age, gender, emotions and race is inaccurate and biased. For example—a small change in brow ridge, nose or lips—the algorithm could classify someone as a completely different gender and race. Moreover, the system always classifies children as adults, which proves that the training dataset of the algorithm lacks sufficient amount of data.

These composite images act as a narrative tool for exploring the violence of algorithmic classification of human faces, as well as a strategy to hack the facial recognition systems. In feeding the facial recognition system the wrong data, the inaccuracy of the algorithm prediction is reinforced. Through this activist action, ALGORITHMIC PHYSIOGNOMY aims to promote the antagonism of facial recognition in order to challenge people’s perception of this emerging technology.

MS

The “as found”, where the art is in the picking up, turning over and putting with… and the “found” where the art is in the process and the watchful eye…. 15

Alison & Peter Smithson, ‘The “As Found” and the “Found”’, in David Robbins ed., The Independent Group: Postwar Britain and the Aesthetic Plenty, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1990 

PB

16

People holding/pushing up against a structure, Grounding, Limerick (July 2017)

TOPOGRAPHIA INTER ORBIS

Clara Wassak

It is out of question, that through digitalisation, technological progress and the internet our modern society has created a hyperreality. Today, many believe that we are living in a simulation, or at the very least that we have created another layer of reality. Pre-internet, pre-smartphone and pre-social media—Jean Baudrillard predicted this will happen. The exponents of this ideology range from scientists like Sherry Turkle, to design theorists Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley, and artists, such as James Bridle. We have created and designed a new layer of reality. This new layer of reality is a whole new world, constructed from 3D renderings and computer simulations. This space is the link in-between the allegedly real and the utterly virtual—namely the Inter Orbis.

The Inter Orbis is very close to our world, yet is entirely digital—imaginative. The topography of the Inter Orbis is characterised by ‘hybrid objects’, that shift between the virtual and the tangible world—computer renderings that materialise through 3D printing. As these objects float in-between two worlds they act as a connection between layers of reality. These layers are connected with each other through a feedback loop that keeps on informing each reality mutually, allowing certain objects to shift between those layers—with the Inter Orbis acting as a portal or influx. It is a whole new world that we have yet to explore, drawn by its in-betweenness and icons of the digital era.

In his opus Simulacra and Simulation1, Baudrillard argues that the real and the fictional have collapsed into each other—we can no longer differentiate between a simulation and the real anymore. Through digitalisation, computer renderings became daily routine. In her book Simulations and its Discontent2, Sherry Turkle says that these simulations even became ‘a new way of living’. Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) sometimes is so advanced, it becomes hard to question. Nowadays, simulation wants to propose itself as proxy for the real and eventually, it will become a reality itself.

Baudrillard, J. (1988) ‘Simulacra and Simulation’ in Poster, M. (ed.) Selected Writings. Stanford: Stanford University Press 

Turkle, S. (2009) Simulation and its Discontent. Massachusetts: MIT Press 

Another kind of hyperreality is indicated by Colomina and Wigley, who suggest that design used to be just a part of the world. However, due to the human urge to create, design became bigger than the world. We are now living completely within this new, designed reality. In their book are we human?3 they describe a ‘hybrid space between the virtual and the real’ as where this designed reality exists.

Colomina, B. and Wigley, M. (2016) are we human? Zurich: Lars Muller Publishers 

Besides design and technology, another relevant part of the Inter Orbis is fiction. In the book Fiction As Method4 Jon K. Shaw and Theo Reeves-Evison show how fictions have become an operative part of our everyday life. Fictions are actual things that do exist in our world and are a possibility to create alternatives to what “i”… One example is the fictional land Null Island—the point where the equator meets the prime meridian—which shows us how something fictional can become part of our reality. Zero degrees latitude and longitude confuses computers, they need a piece of land to ground their calculations, so computer scientists fed them with a fiction. The location is in the Gulf of Guinea off the west African coast, where, in reality, just a lonely weather buoy is floating in the sea. Whenever your smartphone cannot locate you, it will automatically redirect you to this exact spot. This is how Null Island became one of the most visited places on earth—theoretically.

Shawn, J. K. (2017) in Shawn, J. K. and Reeves-Evison, T. (ed.) Fiction As Method. Berlin: Sternberg Press 

When looking at the Inter Orbis it is also important to think about its citizens. Within the essay The Render Ghosts5, Bridle discusses how architectural renderings and their so called “inhabitants”, are in fact ‘render ghosts’. It explores how photographs of people are used in computer rendered environments to make designs more lively and appealing. The artist describes them as ‘people who live inside our imaginations, in the liminal space between the present and the future, the real and the virtual, the physical and the digital’.

Bridle, J. (2013) Electronic Voice Phenomena—The Render Ghosts. Available at www. electronicvoicephenomena.net/index. php/the-render-ghosts-james-bridle 

Similarly, iconified personas like that of Jennifer, as in the image Jennifer in Paradise have also become a part of this realm. The image received a lot of attention over the decades.

Here, Jennifer, a beautiful woman can be seen sitting on a tropical beach. This woman is the wife of John Knoll—inventor of Adobe Photoshop—and just happened to be the subject of the first photoshopped image ever. For this reason Jennifer in Paradise became one of the most reproduced and altered images in history. Through this process, she lost a part of her human countenance.

Technology and the internet have turned not just Jennifer, but the entire Inter Orbis and its inhabitants into both the icons and the objects of the digital era. They are simultaneously mental and physical. Intangible, yet, undeniable; existing in-between the tangible world and the virtual cyberspace.

TING: TO USE YOUR EARS WITH YOUR EYES, AND PAY ATTENTION TO THE SOUND WITH YOUR HEART

Shengtao Zhuang

Sitting in the library, an environment supposedly silent, I work on my laptop. There are sounds all around, they go unnoticed at first. A pen writing on paper, scratching and stroking. Clicks from fingers tapping a keyboard while typing on a laptop. Printers squeaking, whirring, chugging in the print area, signalling they are working. Have you ever noticed the sound from the printer or any machine nowadays?

Examining the technological shift from analogue to digital, TING1 uses the laser jet printer, a mechanical device, both as an instrument and a process. By observing and listening to the various print rooms at LCC, it was ascertained that the complexity and density of printed information alters the assorted noises produced by the machine. In response, a purpose made graphic based score was devised, through its reproduction the printer is played like an organ.

Pronunciation of “listening” in Mandarin

WE STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT WE ARE EATING: FOOD IN THE AGE OF MECHANICAL REPRODUCTION

Xi Ning

The modern food processing industry significantly impacts food and food culture globally. Especially in the highly developed urbanised and industrialised regions of the world, food is sold in supermarkets in an unnatural way.

SPAM, as an artificial food, has a long history, that demonstrates the essence of modern food processing industry. It shows the shift into perceiving food as a “commodity” rather than utility or nourishment. SPAM was firstly introduced during World War II as an effort in tackling food rationing. Today, in South Korea, SPAM has became a “luxury”, and is often used as a gift.

The core factor leading to these situations is that the modern food processing industry is a business practice based on pursuit of profit maximisation. It does not attach importance to the food itself, therefore food safety and nutrition are not a priority worth considering. Instead, the industry attaches importance to the added value of food under the transformation of food processing technology. This in turn changes the traditional food culture, as under the leadership of the modern food processing industry, the quickest supplemental energy of food has replaced the importance of food culture.

Driven by the modern food processing industry and processing technology, our food has entered the age of mechanical reproduction. Philosopher Walter Benjamin1 stated that the premise of reproducibility is artificial, what can be reflected in modern food processing technology: it’s both a process of transforming food and a process of mass reproduction. Therefore, the food, originally created by nature, has been transformed into a “semi-artificial” or even “completely artificial” product through technology. It progressively detached itself from its origin and is refamiliarised as a finished food product.

Benjamin, J. (1935) ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’. London: Penguin 

Through the exploration of design fiction and speculative design methodologies, SPAM SOYLENT aims to provoke audiences’ critical reflection on the future of food if food processing technology will be continually abused by the food monopolies. By combining the latest genetic techniques CRISPR/Cas9 and meal replacement tactics the project depicts a prediction of our extreme future foods: ‘We live, we breathe, we eat without knowing what we eat’.

Under the leadership of the modern food processing industry, the “aura” of food which is “unique”, “natural”, “cultural”, “limited”, “knowable” and “social”, has disappeared.

MS

Manifestations of support occur and come up, appear in configurations few and far between, where and when necessary, always in relationship to forms of organisations and society. Something or someone is supported, while something or someone is supporting, sometimes reciprocally. The activity, the work we are concerned with here is a ver, and therefore connective, relational; it takes place between entities which are themselves localisable. 17

Céline Condorelli, Support Structures, Sternberg Press (2009)

PB

The field of graphic design seems particularly succible to existential crisis. Fields such as architecture, landscape architecture and product design have had a much more stable disciplinary frameworks—particularly in museological or curatorial terms… Graphic design seems almost elsewhere in exhibitions—kind of fugitive, of ephemeral materials, supporting evidence, documentation, archival materials—everything but the main event itself.18

Andrew Blauvelt, ‘Graphic Design: Discipline, Medium, Practice, Tool, or Other?’ counter/point: D-Crit Conference(2013): www.vimeo. com/66385792

E.A.T: EVOLUTION, AESTHETICS, TECHNOLOGY

Jaya Modi

Claude Lévi-Strauss theorised in his 1968 text, The Raw and the Cooked 1that our progression from gathering rotten foods found on the ground, to picking fresh raw produce, and eventually consuming cooked and prepared food, is a clear indicator of advancing civility amongst humans.

Lévi-Strauss,C. (1986) The Raw and the Cooked. Translated by Weightman, J. and Weightman, D. London: Penguin 

Expatiating this, E.A.T is an anthropocentric project that studies the act of eating as varying permutations of our progressing evolution, aesthetics and technology. Tracing the provenance and evolution of eating tools, E.A.T comprehends the ubiquity of cutlery around us to accept the finding that eating is, and will always be, inherently ritualised. By reflecting on the conviviality of our eating implements, it begets a contemporary conversation about their future interpretation and influence.

The relationships between humans and objects are fundamentally dictated by efficacy. An object’s design is carefully considered to enable the fulfilment of its purposed capacities. As regular patterns of interactions with such objects become habitual, these interrelations further feed into behaviours and experiences. This is how our recurring routines can unconsciously perpetuate specific conditioning. While eating, we purposely set our surroundings to stimulate appetite and enjoyment—which strongly determine our response to food and also premeditate our conduct.

Food increases our reciprocity with one another, intermediating valuable real time interactions that help us harmonise and bond as social units. Our coalescent operation of eating has imminent socio-cultural, eco-political and eventual environmental impacts. Within this ceremony, the tools used for eating, become part of a system in place that arbitrates more than just the food to mouth delivery system. Conventions and norms specify the procedure of consumption, and we adhere to these unwritten rules very strictly—whether out of habit or conformity. The communal act of eating has thereby distinguished itself from other generic activities; underscoring an additional value to the settings and tools used in its process.

The spoon is an archetypal tool that has very well integrated into our living—its unique universal affordance is natural and instinctive to us today, thereby making it a mandatory convivial tool.

The spoon is central to this study also because of its ability to hold liquid—this crucial attribute makes it indispensable to our culinary habits and to the understanding of the future of eating implements.

E.A.T tries to unravel ideas of its preconditioning by engaging in a speculative study of its future form and functionality through the aesthetic capacities of design. By experimenting with the presumed shapes and functions of the spoon through clay modelling, E.A.T uses the notion of discomfort to repurpose the utilitarian governance of the tool with regard to structure, usability and placement. Working with a malleable substance like clay, one that allows for playful, haptic and pleasurable exploration, brought about an ancillary discourse into the duality of the matter versus material value.

Presenting a perspective on possible future foods and eating experiences, E.A.T argues for a cultural engineering that is motivated by multiple factors ranging from personal health concerns to global resource depletion. This engineering activates an internal dialogue into our preconditioned ritualistic behaviours, and tacit acceptance of the normative, while preempting certain necessary re-interpretative adaptations to the inheritance of our conditioning. Therefore, holding currency in the field of design anthropology, it opens a discursive conversation with the subliminal elements that operate us.

TRANSFORMING CONCRETE: THE GRADUAL TRANSFORMATION OF BRUTALIST ARCHITECTURE IN LONDON

Ruiqing Cao

Although architectural traces disappear, space can never be demolished but instead transforms into other forms. This project studies the demolition of brutalist buildings in London to investigate the relationship between architecture, people and object in response to such transformation. 

The Welbeck Street car park is facing demolition to make way for a luxury hotel in Marylebone. This is a form of architectural transformation. 

As Neil Cummings says, in his book Reading Things1, ‘all objects can be brought to the level of speech’. If brutalist architecture is perceived as a speaking object, then what is its message? 

Cummings, N. (1993). Reading Things. London: Chance Books 

Now, take a closer look the Welbeck Street car park, the concrete surface is a silent docu-mentary itself. The fabrication process, the marks caused by the weather and the passengers, all remarkable traces that have recorded an entire lifetime only to eventually be erased, replaced by a high-end money-making machine. 

A series of soaps now embody the transformation of the old brutalist car park into a product for the new hotel. The interaction between the soap and the user in the hotel convey the visual disappearance of the brutalist building; symbolises man’s attempt to benefit from demolition. Enabling the users to continue interacting with the old car park; this is a recording on the surface, of the concrete but of its transformation. 

Here, concrete is the message—the message sent by the people (architects/users), by the environment (furnishings/accessories/weather) and also by itself (material/culture). 

 

MS

I guess I’m never sure that print is truly linear… Designers know a lot about how to control perception, how to present information in some way that helps you find what you need, or what it is they think you need. Information is only useful when it can be understood. 19

Muriel Cooper, quoted in Muriel Cooper, ed. by David Reinfurt and Robert Wiesenberger, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2017

PB

20

Katja Gretzinger, In a Manner of Reading Design: The Blind Spot, Sternberg Press (2012)

THE DELICATE CREATION OF MISINFORMATION

Colm McDermott

Crows can recognise the features of a human face. These devilishly intelligent creatures1 can distinguish people apart by sight alone. If a crow had a vendetta against you, for whatever reason, it could follow you from a distance. If a crow wanted it could easily follow you home. Or worse. This slightly sinister piece of information became the impetus for an ongoing, anonymous design project that I have been working on intermittently over the last four years.

Crows are actually considered to be one of the most intelligent animals. They have quick learning abilities, play sports and games, communicate verbally and make and use a variety of tools 

As products of an increasingly urban society, warning signs were initially developed with delicately balanced minimalism; positioned to give enough information that is useful, yet not complicated enough to cause visual confusion2. They have become—along with wayfinding signage—a required product of the built environment, a type of design that hides in plain sight, accessed only when required.

The governing principle was that any person regardless of location, language or culture should immediately and completely understand what a sign means 

Consider a daily commute.

WAY OUT—EMERGENCY CALL BUTTON— MIND THE GAP—YIELD—LOOK RIGHT

Wayfinding and warning signs are components of a larger visual vocabulary. It’s a modern optical language governed by legislation at all levels, from local fire-safety codes to United Nations treaties3, and approved typefaces. They need to stand out from the background by necessity, and yet do so in a uniform way, leading to the root of an obvious issue; information signage has a ubiquity problem4.

Yes, really. The Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals is a fifty year old UN treaty, was created to standardise the signage systems for road traffic at an international level, just one of several similar pieces of legislation 

Where the contents are not generic, are they successful? Take ISO 7010— P043 for example. A sign that seems more humorous than serious 

When I made my first fake warning sign, I was purposely exploiting this information blindspot. Over time, some signs were removed quickly, but many lasted for several months. Their longevity encouraged me to continue in a wide variety of locations, from supermarket shelves to bus stops.

Of course, street artists have been exploiting the monotony of the built environment for decades, but while an artist such as Clet Abraham uses the form as a basis for obvious subversion5, my approach was to deliberately introduce more subtle changes in order to create confusion. I do have rules…

And he does so wonderfully. This Italian street artist is widely known for altering street signs, his work is well worth looking into if you don’t know it alreadyAnd he does so wonderfully. This Italian street artist is widely known for altering street signs, his work is well worth looking into if you don’t know it already

 

· Signs should not damage property or necessitate expense to repair

· Signs should be relatively easy to remove

· Signs should not obscure actual information signs

· Signs should not be placed in locations that might cause undue confusion or danger

 

It’s nice to think that certain signs have stayed in place for long periods because they have been noticed, that they caused momentary scepticism, followed by amusement.

There is also a component of their function informed by the situationist perspective of cities, and how urban spaces influence and control behaviour. These signs aim to act as a counterpoint to that influence; noticing a misinformation sign while waiting for your cash to dispense or your train to arrive provides a momentary antidote to the usual coma of information blindness.

Finally there is the important question of whether current signage formats are actually fit for purpose. No design standard can claim to be eternally relevant—systems to deteriorate regardless of how well formed they may once have been. Messages whose un-coordinated proliferation negates their initial balance are bound to be overlooked as irrelevant. Ultimately, I believe it is the nature of modern life that causes the need for us to consciously question the information presented to us.

MS

21

Schematic diagram of a general communication system, Claude E. Shannon, ‘A Mathematical Theory of Communication’, reprinted in Mobile Computing and Communications Review, Volume 5, Number 1, 2001

PB

22

Katja Gretzinger, In a Manner of Reading Design: The Blind Spot, Sternberg Press (2012)

MS

La cuisine, c’est quand les choses ont le goût de ce qu’elles sont. Good cooking is when things taste of what they are.23

Curnonsky (aka Maurice Edmond Sailland)

BC: FRANCISCO LARANJO INTERVIEW

Katie Evans and Gabriela Matuszyk

This short interview with designer Francisco Laranjo (FL) focuses on his design criticism journal Modes of Criticism. He speaks about how having a public platform helped him engage with other researchers and how the process of making knowledge and debate public encourages accountability. 

GM KE: As part of the ‘Publishing as Critical Design Practice’ panel discussion, you mentioned that your Modes of Criticism project was intended as an enabler for people to meet and connect to more ideas, sources and references. Did the act of publishing change your design research practice, and how is the act of publishing a research process for you? 

FL: I wouldn’t say that it was just the act of publishing that influenced my practice, but the use of design writing and criticism as a form of expanding and informing my research. It engaged other researchers with shared interests and agendas in a way that could permanently inform, contest and challenge not only my own practice, but also the theorisation I was doing in my thesis—while simultaneously debating other researcher’s work and points of view. I always looked at the intention of publishing and being scrutinisable throughout the research, instead of wanting to publish a finished outcome that I would have been doing for 3 or 4, or even 5 years. The goal was to have a public platform throughout the research—to make my work accountable and to inform what I was researching in real time. A platform that could flag up what I was either unaware of, what I was unsure of, with the intention of being able to let other researchers and other people intervene in what I was questioning and to change or expand my own interpretations or ways of being within that specific subject. My aim is to theorise and contest preconceptions about design discourse with contributors, and not to be perceived as some archaical voice that was defining the only way of looking and interpreting the subjects under debate. 

Publishing is just one manifestation of the self-initiated research and work I do with students, and it is one that materialises into a physical form but it cannot be disassociated from all the others. Of course it had a tremendous impact on my research because it was generating networks of solidarity. It allowed me to meet other designers, researchers and individuals who intersect the graphic design field, from disciplines such as architecture, or sociology, sound and gender studies. It expanded my understandings and collectively shaped a document that could be distributed, and consequently contribute to a greater politicisation of practice and discourse, which was one of the central elements of my research. 

GM KE: This echoes Ramia Mazé’s thoughts on socialising research, seeing it as a collaborative effort, pursued in relation to the other, rather than as an individual act. When Modes of Criticism 3 (MoC3) was published, we read the introduction collectively with a group of peers. It sparked a lively round-table discussion, as the level of your criticality was perceived by some as “radical” and “pessimistic”. It seemed to echo a talk you gave on happiness in the design industry at the Uncertainty Playground symposium held at London in September 2017. What were your intentions behind these provocations? 

FL: The intention of the provocatory tone is, at a personal level, to create this kind of body of writing that functions as a compass, to use as a point of reference, which reminds us to be accountable for the kind of practice we do (and want do do) and establish with others. It is a powerful element that is always sitting next to us, always making sure that we don’t put one foot wrong, or when we do, it helps us question how we negotiate that action in relation to what we’ve argued and what we’ve claimed to be a preferred future, next to ones that we couldn’t or shouldn’t do. 

I’ve been accused of trying to negate and shut down everything, particularly after the introduction of MoC3. But I think I’m not doing that. I’m trying to cancel, trying to suggest design should not just create something new as a way to address problematic issues that are systemic within the industry. Maybe the idea of undoing them might also be a pertinent approach, rather than just building upon the clutter. In that sense, it is as much an alert at a personal practice level, as it is to the manifestations that reverberate across a wider practice. I couldn’t separate the introduction from the rest of the publication, and I’m aware that the introduction uses a negative tone, but throughout the publication there are different strategies that counter these initial realities. It is a discourse I’m building as a whole, so I wouldn’t treat the introduction completely separate, it could still work as an entertaining, or maybe for the time, a critique reflecting a current state of design. 

The Uncertainty Playground presentation was more performative, with supporting images, whereas the writing on its own works in a different way. I see it as an effort to try to challenge the hegemonic powers of the design discipline under capitalism, and an attempt to open up different kinds of practices and alternatives. Revealing the tension of what is often offered as the only way of surviving as something that is inevitable, and the others that are at odds with the political system that allows for the hegemonic practice to exist and thrive. 

GM KE: You talk about survival—what are, in your opinion, the critical practices that are surviving, and thriving today? 

FL: We were discussing yesterday, as a part of our debate on precarity, how critical practice is at odds under capitalism because it will always be extremely marginal. It is not realistic for the amount of students who aspire to continue to do such work after leaving academia. I’m no exception in having that struggle. As we can see from the majority of the practitioners that maintain this kind of attitude—regardless of it being either more politicised or being more disciplinary and self-reflexive—the vast majority are sustained by an academic position, either part or full-time. But, of course, there are not enough teaching positions for all the students who want to sustain a critical practice. So there is no ideal example of a studio or a practice that I can remember, who I could say have somehow cracked the code, because we don’t know what cracking the code is. How could there be a thriving critical practice in a capitalist system? Only with a very substantial amount of compromise and concessions. 

I think that the struggle, the resistance, the thriving for some sort of emancipation, and its difficulty, is an integral part of someone trying to develop a critical practice. This kind of practice is both at odds with the political and financial context, but also with the deeply ingrained positioning of the discipline. It’s related to what Mia Charlene1 was talking about: politics and institutions prevent such practices from existing. 

White, M. C. (2018) Love: A Blues Epistemology from the Undercommons [Keynote], Beyond Change. Swiss Design Network Research Summit. 10 March 2018 

GM KE: Lastly, in order to ensure that these discussions, debates and discourses continue past this event, or beyond the institution, what would you recommend? 

FL: I think it’s important to have public accountability—especially when, but not only, there’s public funding involved—as a way to expose yourself to a point where you are able to demonstrate design and designers’ significant contribution to the wider public discourse. And also to the ways in which design can contribute to betterment of society as a whole. 

In that sense, the act of making something public is a pertinent method to make yourself accountable, rather than to continually reproduce the idea of individuality, of individual achievements, and portfolio showcasing—normally exclusively through exhibitions. It’s crucial to challenge the validity of what you’ve done during the 1, 2 or 3 years at university, and examine your contribution towards questioning the discipline, both as an individual and especially as a collective group of student-citizens. 

AB

Why are we searching? 

SD

…to escape this! 8

Animals as Actors: Circus: Dogs, Billy Rose Theatre Collection photograph file 

WHAT IS PUBLICATION STUDIO? (extract)

Matthew Stadler

Literature is politics. It is radically egalitarian, even anarchistic. Literature opens up meanings over which no single party—not the author, not the reader, not the critic, the fact-checker or the lawyer—can ever hold full authority. That’s what makes it literature. It opens a space of mutually negotiated meanings that never close or conclude. 

In this, literature differs from other writing. In non-fiction, there are established legal standards of fact that grant authority over the meanings in a non-fiction work, and these can be argued in court, or informally outside of court, until they conclude with a binding judgement. Literature also differs from private communications that mean only what the writer says they mean. Literature must be given up by the writer. She or he must relinquish it to the public. In the act of relinquishing authority over the text—giving it up to a public—the writer makes literature. This is a political act called publication, which creates a political space called public space. 

In the public space of literature, negotiation and dialogue among equals are a permanent condition. We read and reread and never arrive at any single answer. Literature suspends us in a deeply social arrangement that is never closed by answers, authority, or ownership. Which is why the retail life of literature has always been, at best, awkward. Literature—bent on opening up, inviting shared agency—gets packaged as a private possession for sale in markets. It’s awkward, but it works, and we have managed to buy and sell the rights to books, and now eBooks, so writers and publishers possess a thing they can withhold, store, or sell to consumers. 

Moreover, and more important, the ability to print and circulate a book remains a unique and powerful tool. When a community, however small or intimate, can take that power into their own hands—determining the availability and circulation of ideas and texts without reliance on outside arbiters of taste, marketability or politics—then the local suddenly becomes legible to others, everywhere. It can be books or it can be the Internet. In many ways the book and the printed page are the proto-Internet, a network of circulation that has always formed viral, horizontal networks of solidarity by bringing the hyper-local into legibility and welcoming hands everywhere. 

MANIFESTING PERSPECTIVES, METAPHORS, DEFINITIONS AND CONTRADICTIONS

Paul Bailey AND Matthew Stuart

What occurs when we speak of (graphic) design through other voices in word and image, upon and within the page? A Line Which Forms a Volume advisor, Matthew Stuart (MS), and MA Graphic Media Design course leader, Paul Bailey (PB) exchange collected observations on the manifold perspectives, metaphors, definitions and contradictions that are prevalent in the drive to advance, mature, or perhaps simply grasp, the requirements and potential of graphic design, and its place as/in/through research.

IN SEARCH OF… INTERVIEW

Aadhya Baranwal AND Sophie Demay

Scattered throughout the pages of this issue is an interview with Sophie Demay, the curator of a series of workshops designed for MA GMD participants titled In Search of… Running thematically across the year, together they investigated objects, explored space and spoke with established practitioners working in and around graphic design. In this exchange, volume editor Aadhya Baranwal poses questions and Sophie Responds with images.