Weeknotes 14: PDC, and a missed week in Sheffield

  • Last week was mainly spent looking for houses in Sheffield (unsuccessfully).
  • This week was PDC, highlights include:
  • Great workshop by Michael Chew and David Chatting on visualising environmental actions using photo stories. Some good lessons to take from this around speculating on images and then situating oneself and re-thinking assumptions via a walk.
  • Embracing cosmologies exhibition with work from Open Forest project led by Markéta Dolejšová and Andrea Botero Cabrera. I also attended their situated action which involved walking in a ‘forest’ in the city in order to collect stories and reflections on forest experiences. Brilliant experience, and really inspiring for future forest derives.
  • Zineography exhibition by Kiersten Hay showed some of the lovely publications she has put together with various communities. Sadly I missed the workshop but we exchanged notes on co-producing zines.
  • I was in a panel looking at Curious Provocations with Cyril Tjahja, Laura Gottlieb, Maurizio Teli, Mela Bettega and Yoko Akama where we discussed different materials and objects from our practices. Good. Nervous. Lots of interesting discussion around food. Also some nice conversations afterwards around soil as a material.
  • Then a panel on eco-social justice, which made me think of how to design joy-machines/(other things?) as an eco-social practice. Ricelli Laplace raised the problem that environmental melancholia freezes us and makes us lose the possibility to act. So how do we engage with joy. Made me think of the old tandem, and its ability to create joy in what was a hopeless situation — something I think I should write about one day.
  • Thursday Lily Irani gave a great keynote on Claiming Democracy over Social Innovations. First case study involved a long struggle to resist the installation of ‘smart lampposts’ that were basically smuggled into the community to surveil and target already oppressed people. Lily talked about organising across divides to bring multiple communities into a practice of counter expertise, writing a surveillance ordnance that would ensure communities would have to approve any future installations to slow down the process of surveillance. Made me think of that American politician (name?)who talked about how they are always already building reality and that academia is always studying and critiquing what is being made, but that it struggles to resist because it is far slower than the process of making. Interesting to problematise the Stengerian call to slow down — when its perhaps necessary to speed up? Lily also talked about design as a ‘band aid’, (which I totally agree with!) that is patching up fundamentally broken systems e.g. Amazon’s mechanical turk, so she talks about new ways of organising that maybe (probably) don’t really look like ‘design’ any more.
  • Final keynote by Ann Light was brilliant — gave an account of her Creatures project. Wonderful observation that when archaeologists make findings all they find are the remnants of domination and empire (the gold tombs), but not the mechanisms of equitable living because these do not leave any (many?) traces. I guess it will also not be possible to dig up pellets Ehn’s cardboard box computers. So with this in mind she asked is the practice of PD even design (in the normative(?) ways we might understand it as a material practice that shapes/des-ignates worlds). Ann went back to early PD to think the problem of politics-light PD, that is all about the user, but that doesn’t consider if the thing, is actually right!? Lovely point on trust — that trust is not to do with consensus, but is an enabler of difference. That trust allows strangers to become more-than-strangers. Again made me think of the tandem and reminded me I need to write something on trust from that, one day. I also need to look up Ann’s work on collaborative speculation, which I haven’t seen yet (forthcoming?) Quote: ‘Artists can be the circuit breakers of change’. Showed some lovely work on ‘interspecies assemblies’ — giving people masks that represent animals and other species, which they would then LARP with together. Nice reflections that this isn’t anthropomorphism or forcing a voice on ‘the other’, but an attempt to think from an other’s point of view and express that. Lovely. Inspiring for forest project. Point that most processes for transformation are tacit, and felt, which makes them invisible. And of course invisible labour is political (Escobar). Final quote: ‘Start an encounter that holds the seeds of transformation’ (again relates to getting past that problem of melancholia).
  • Sitting on the train home feeling warm about my job and keen to get back to it.
Open Forest walk

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