Call for participation: “Inside/outside: working our way out of the damaged now”

Category: events, featured

INSIDE/OUTSIDE Working our way out of the damaged now is an exhibition and symposium in February 2017 at the San Francisco State University Design Gallery in collaboration with DESIS Philosophy Talk and DESIS Lab LUCA Arts. The exhibition will be in the form of a collection of resources, ideas, artefacts–a kind of wunderkammer–whose aim to offer a dialogue on design as a practice that can “dialectically” change perceptions and reveal unexpressed potentialities. The exhibition and symposium will culminate in a publication.

The theme, the concept, and the assumptions are experimental by nature. It is a proposition and its expectations are open ended and so we are looking for things that will surprise and challenge.

Interested designers, scholars, and graduate students are invited to apply. Check the following video.

For your convenience, a transcript is also provided below.

“Nothing less is demanded of those who think today, than to be at every moment in the matter and outside of the matter – the gesture of Münchhausen, who pulled himself out of the swamp by his own pigtails, becomes a paradigm of everyone who wishes to think besides the categories in which reality is currently interpreted.”

T.W. Adorno, Minima Moralia, Reflections on a Damaged Life (Fragment 46)

What we experience in our everyday life as reality (things, situations, people…), is rich in meaning. Yet, reality is so infinitely complex, that it is impossible for us to take in, to understand, or engage with all of its meanings. According to the German philosopher Theodor Adorno, we over-simplify reality in order to understand and engage with it. When this happens, reality can be more easily used (and abused) as an instrument or a tool for a certain purpose. Politics, economics, the community, the individual, the body, the psyche, nature … these are all infinitely complex entities, which history and the present have shown to be susceptible to over-simplification, and to be instrumentalized. When this happens, reality is impoverished. A whole range of its meanings remains unknown.

Yet, according to Adorno reality has the capacity to resist its over-simplification, and to free itself from instrumentalization. He calls this resistance “dialectics”: a process of spontaneous criticism that unfolds from within reality. Dialectics emerges from a damaged reality (damaged by its oversimplification) and, like the character of the Baron Münchausen, can pull “himself out of the swamp by his own pigtails”. In other words, it creates a critical view that allows reality to be seen in all its richness of meanings.

While design can be seen as a way to instrumentalize reality and thus reaffirm existing categories, it also has the capability to operate within the inner, and often unseen, “dialectics” taking place in reality. Design can question existing categories, reveal meanings and values that commonly remain invisible due to their oversimplification. For example, in design for social innovation, ideas of production, distribution, consumption and community that are not normally considered within typical ways of producing, consuming and living, are finally rendered visible. Alternative behaviours, meanings and values are uncovered, enabling transformation to new realities and thus new outcomes. This example shows how design can be considered a form of “dialectics”–the spontaneous transformation already taking place in society–as it plays both inside and outside reality, dealing with what is explicit and what is not yet fully visible, what is out there and what is not yet out there.

We invite you to create an artefact (an object, a situation, a video, a performance, a story …) that “dialectically” changes the perception of the now, by showing what is normally not visible: its unexpressed or underexpressed potentialities. We will showcase a selection of these artefacts in the exhibition and DESIS Philosophy Talk “Inside/Outside: Design as Dialectics” at San Francisco State University in Spring 2017.

Documentation (5-10 high resolution images) of the work and a 500 word description of the work compiled into a single PDF document. Size not to exceed 20mb. Please send them to by the 1st of December 2016.