martha rosler on Fri, 12 Jul 2002 06:10:05 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Learning from Prada?

for the obvious and to my mind very good reason that there is much, much
more at stake than teasing out "creative pontential": the question is
always, potential for what?

 If the aim is to produce visual pleasure alone, stuff that goes down easy
with a ready and increasingly shopping-minded audience, then good (as
attractive) design is not very good. (The 90s typographic turn toward
UNreadability seemed to mark not so much a disruptive argument against
domination as an insistence on the precedence of the formal appearance of
the "page" over any possible moment of meaning.)

As the potential grows for increased communication among people in widely
disparate locations, there is also a grave potential for a vacating of the
public sphere of discussion and dissent from hegemonic cultural as well as
social and political models, reinforcing and perpetuating an
inside/outside of cultural entitlement and decision-making ability. Art
may still be one of the areas in which one can open questions that
normally fall under the purview of philosophy, even if in a somewhat
restricted circle (ie not necessarily the mass audience envisioned all at
once). Too often in the hands of the design practitioners, philosophy
becomes a matter of color and form, and things that are posed as questions
are always and only rhetorical. (The language of design as it is developed
and "spoken" is the language of commodification, alas.)

This is a very very old argument, raised increasingly in the dear old 20th
century as modernism tried to respond to the industrialization of death,
domination and conformity brought toward realization by modernity and
modernization. Postmodernism, whatever it means, need NOT mean a complete
shutting down of imaginative strategizing for another future.
Horizonlessness is a poor motivator for devising such a future. Policing
borders is not at issue, raising new SOCIAL possibilities is. It is hard
to see how design fits the bill.

what say you?
martha rosler
brooklyn, ny

PS among students at my university, by the way, my friends who teach
design tell me that students are consistently angry and annoyed about any
discussions of the implications of design, type face and so on. Techne is
what interests them.The technicalization of every possible aspect of
contemporary life is part of the instrumentalization of all modes of
address and (dare I say it) expression.

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