Arif Kornweitz, 2019

Bright Objects

Class developed for first year students of DesignLAB (BA), Gerrit Rietveld Academie

This class addressed problems springing from dualist notions in design and offered diffraction as an alternative, non-dualist approach. The visual metaphor of diffraction, in contrast to reflection, allows analysing a field of differences. Rather than designing a solution to a clear-cut problem, a bright object that represents progress and innovation, how can we develop devices that lay bare how differences come into being?

In order to address this question, students were asked to think not only about the function of devices, but about their multiple histories and effects. Rather than describing technological objects as entities through mutually exclusive notions such as invisible/visible or bright/dark, technological objects were approached as dynamic phenomena with constantly moving boundaries, that include social and political factors. An summarising question might be: rather than designing for the world, how do we design within and as part of the world?

The class consisted of seminar-style sessions, assignments and field trips. It resulted in a presentation at the Rietveld Uncut exhibition in Stedelijk Museum. Readings included excerpts about diffraction from Karen Barad’s Meeting the Universe Halfway. Field Trips included a workshop with art collective Rybn about derivé & tax evasion locations hidden in plain sight in the city, and a visit of two exhibitions in preparation of the students’ show.

Two guest lecturers joined the class. Exhibition designer Theo Demans hosted a workshop in which the students developed a concept for their final exhibition. Design researcher Tamar Shafrir joined as external critic and gave feedback on the concepts for the final works in extensive individual sessions, a few weeks before the final show.

The final exhibition was titled “ATM inside”, it was fully developed and realised by the students. It consisted of a glass-house in the foyer of the Stedelijk Museum, surrounded by shelves in which the works were stored. Inside the glass house the individual works were shown, at first one at a time and later in different combinations. The works were taken out of storage and presented by the students in an ongoing performance, creating a time-released group show, allowing all students to have a short solo show within a perpetually changing context.

The official exhibition text:

“A time-released group show, for the moment, at the moment. Throughout the day an ongoing performance overexposes individual works. Inside a collectively cared-for space, solo pieces are highlighted. The outside is continuously and patiently making the inside remake the outside. Moving boundaries may be frozen momentarily, but windows for change exist and the future is radically open at every moment.”

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