Panel Conversation IS DESIGN POLITICAL?

Salt Shaker Salt Shaker © Goethe-Institut

Fri, 09/30/2016

The LeRoy Neiman Center

Sharp Building
37 S. Wabash Ave.

Designing More Than the Surface

We all have an image of what design is: the shaping of the objects that surround us. What is political about that? Nothing at first. Design becomes political when we see more in it than the shaping of our environment’s surfaces. Friedrich von Borries, architect and professor of design theory at the HFBK Hamburg, Germany, offers two approaches to this: 
The first approach is empirical: Design is political because designers intervene in the world with their actions. They are constantly changing the world in which we live. 
The second approach is a philosophical one, because empirical observation does not disclose the intentions of designers’ interventions in the world. To create a normative setting, Friedrich von Borries carries forward reflections by philosophers Martin Heidegger and Vilém Flusser.
Bess Williamson will respond to Friedrich von Borries followed by a discussion with the audience moderated by Mechtild Widrich. 

Friedrich von Borries © sd Friedrich von Borries, architect and professor of Design Theory at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK) in Hamburg, Germany, operates between the blurring boundaries of urban planning, architecture, design and art. Focus of his work is the relation of design practice and socio-political development. »As scientists we try to comprehend the world. As designers we try to change this world. That is why we deal with such questions that determine our contemporary situation by designing and researching the matters on hand: global economic inequality, environmental destruction and climate change, technologies of surveillance and security policies.«
Mechtild Widrich © Mechtild Widrich Mechtild Widrich is Assistant Professor of art history, theory and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She holds a PhD from MIT’s Architecture department and has recently co-edited two books: “Presence. A Conversation at Cabaret Voltaire” (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2016), and “Participation in Art and Architecture” (London: I.B. Tauris 2015). She has previously taught at ETH Zurich and the University of Vienna and has published on the intersection of performance and architecture and on global art geographies. Her monograph “Performative Monuments” was published in 2014 by Manchester University Press.

Bess Williamson © Bess Williamson Bess Williamson is a historian of design and material culture, focusing primarily on social and political concerns, including environmental, labor, and civil rights issues as they shape and are shaped by design. Her current book project, An Accessible America: The History of Disability and Design in the United States traces the history of design responses to disability rights from 1945 to recent times. She is assistant professor of Design History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

This lecture is part of the global discussion/debate series “Kritikmaschine.”  Organized by the Goethe-Institut and Kursbuch, one of Germany’s leading intellectual magazines.  Speakers include journalist Meredith Haaf on the new feminism, architect Friedrich von Borries on political design, and Kursbuch editor Armin Nassehi on social criticism. Intellectuals from the respective guest countries will respond to the lectures. The event series seeks to confront mutually “otherised” perspectives with each other; it aims to search for new answers – and new questions. 

  This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago