Category: Guest Contributions

[Guest Post] Barbed Wire: The Colonial Legacy of Design in Postcolonial Times

Words by Ksenija Berk

I am writing this paper from a schizophrenic location behind the barbed wire. No, I am not in occupied territories. There is no war going on around me, and no state of exception has officially been declared. And yet, large amounts of barbed wire are mounted on the southern border between Slovenia and Croatia. As if the situation were not problematic enough, metal doors have been placed on several bridges connecting both countries, ready to be shut any minute. Their purpose, in the words of the politicians, is to ‘keep us safe’ if ‘a large number of refugees would have arrived from the South’.[1] What has actually happened, one might ask, to bring us to this point? Let’s take a look at the course of events that has brought about this situation. Over the years, we have borne witness to the appalling situation of more than six million people being internally displaced, with thousands becoming refugees, mostly due to armed conflicts in the Middle East region (Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan). These refugees have embarked upon impossible journeys and attempts to escape from the places of armed conflict to the promise of asylum and shelter in European Union countries. During these journeys, their lives have been endangered in more ways than we can possibly imagine. At the end of 2013, the world witnessed, for the first time since WW2, more than 50 million people being forcibly displaced.[2] Over 5000 of those lost their lives just in the year 2016 alone, with most perishing in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea. Several regulatory regimes of bio-politics [3] on the Balkan route were instituted, and discriminatory power-relations established in order to ‘regulate’ the flow of refugees. In 2015, and for the first time since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, walls between European countries started to emerge again. From the dark periods of Europe’s past, harmful and controlling objects and devices, such as barbed wire, have quickly made their way from political talk and history books, back into everyday reality. Barbed wire was first introduced by Hungary in 2015, when it was used on the Hungarian and Serbian border; this approach was adopted, rather quickly, by Slovenia when, in 2016, it decided to mount barbed wire on the southern border with Croatia.

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[Guest Post] Shaping mutant desires: exhibiting Gynepunk at the Biennale Internationale Design 2017

Note: This poster was accepted to be presented at the NORDES 2017 Conference in Oslo, Norway; however due to financial constraints and the lack of alternatives offered by the conference itself, the authors had to unfortunately withdraw their submission. We at Decolonising Design stand in solidarity with their effort, and are honoured to publish their contribution in our platform.

You can view/download the original poster (.jpg) by clicking here, or read it below.

Words by Tiphaine Kazi-Tani and Hélène Mourrier .
1/ Introduction: context, issues

This poster aims at presenting and explaining the graphic design project imagined to present an immersive practice-based research mission run to investigate Gynepunk, a DITO/DIWO-based [1] healthcare project, reclaiming the decolonization of gynecology. This project is run in the catalan third-place (Oldenburg, 1989; Burret, 2017) [2] CaLaFou.

This short-term research was part of the transdisciplinary research project investigating third-places called « Expérience Tiers-Lieux » (The Third-Place Experiment) and partly based on short & long-term practice-based immersions within various (bio)hacker spaces, maker spaces, fablabs, etc.

The results of this year-long experiment were exhibited during the Biennale Internationale Design 2017, as the Fork The World exhibition (fig.1).

Fork The World was both an open-source exhibition, and a shared reflexive space discussing alternative forms of governmentality, agency, knowledge, politics, identities, etc (Peyricot, 2017).

Presenting the Gynepunk project in this context raised issues that the authors tried to outline and fix through visual design, among which:

  • taking into account the various public of the event;
  • respecting the collective political commitment of the curatorial team while articulating this specific project to a network of heterogenous (and sometimes adversarial) projects and standpoints;
  • respecting and highlighting the political specificity and integrity of the Gynepunk project, to let a certain friction emerge ; these three dynamics seeming divergent.

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[Guest Post] This Was Written On Stolen Indigenous Land

Words by Chris Lee

Sept. 26, 2016

SF Playgrounds

In 2014, a widely shared youtube video recorded a dispute between tech bros in San Francisco’s Mission District and local youth over the use of a public soccer field.[1] The tech bros insisted on their entitlement to use the field exclusively for 1-hour by presenting a San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department permit that for the cost $27 would reinforce their claim. The permit’s legitimacy was contested by the youth who countered that in the local custom, the field had never been “booked,” and thus could not be “booked” now simply because one possessed a permit. The tech bros’ incredulity that the document they held—in this case, a banal graphic design artifact that facilitates the governance of space—did not possess the legitimacy to back their claim is this text’s object of inquiry.

I would like to use this incident to open a consideration of the extent to which graphic design has been mobilized as an instrument of statemaking, and via colonization, impose a normative universalization of its logic. The park permit, as a graphic artifact, with its attendant references to maps and legislation, and to the extent that it enables a presumption of the legitimacy of its issuing agency and the claims of its holders, supplies a lens through which the persistence of colonial dispossession can be apprehended in its most banal forms, and hopefully, can inversely contribute to articulating possibilities of subversion.

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[Guest Post] Message To The Messengers

Words by Seungyong Moon

Copyright and intellectual property are sensitive issues among designers. If someone infringes or rips off their work or style, fundamental questions of intellectual property tend to be raised. While other realms of art, interlinked with democratized technology, focus on sharing their culture and information with the public, designers are concerned about building boundaries — Nobody can achieve their unique identities.

However, more and more, while designers see copyright and intellectual property as a vital issue, they also need to see where they have been in the commons. With this query, my essay will examine how we can build the commons together especially in the digital era focusing on the ideas of autonomy and multitude which go beyond the simple notion of the private space and the public space.

It seems designers can’t get out of the notion that designing is a creative and individual task. Because of its strong obsession for visual effects, the complexity of its production and distribution in design also seems slimmed down into only its skin. As Jan van Toorn once elaborated, is it because the misconception of designer’s position in a market economy leads them to discomfort whenever they need to be brought up to critical parts? [1] Or is it because of the tendency which designers tend to be their own best audiences? Susan Buck-Morss once pointed out that our individual successes to have privileges as educational and cultural producers feeds the privileged ideology. [2]

With the advent of the internet, the digital age has changed people’s minds. Our notion of what a creator is has also shifted to the idea that creativity not only occurs alone, but it is produced when we communicate with each other. Today, people generate new meanings by using and sharing other people’s works and the information which circulates on the internet. These acts question the concept of common, which goes beyond the stale boundary of intellectual property. Conversely, some corporations and companies — those which monopolize the mass media — have choked people to control due to its attribute of the difficulty of controlling. Naturally, with this phenomenon, we wonder where designers position themselves.

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