Not Speculation

This is tangential…

not about design fictions, but about who art is for…

who are museums for…

who/what belongs in a museum…

what happens when we work in a vacuum…

when we eschew the messiness of collaboration, or discussion, or community…

when we act out of a place of good intentions and smart decisions…

Beyond Prints: A Confrontation at L.A. Art Book Fair

The attached article is confusing. So I’ll try to sum up the events to the best of my knowledge. Printed Matter hosts 2 big Art Book Fairs, one in NY and one in LA. Simultaneous to the LA Art Book Fair at MOCA is an experimental black-authored film exhibition, “Black Radical Imagination Mixtape.” The film exhibition is in a small room and feels tacked on to the sprawling book fair (I’m not sure what the relationship between the two events are). The organizers of the LAABF commission a white artist to create a limited edition print to be used as a ticket to the opening of the LAABF. The ticket costs $10. The ticket features “BLM,” Black Lives Matter. All of the money from the ticket sales goes to LAABF to cover the fair’s costs. The organization, Black Lives Matter, says “hold up, you can’t just use Black Lives Matter to promote your own book fair. What does your (largely white) arts organization for a (largely white) art world have to do with black lives?” A conversation that is fairly interesting and productive ensues.

“Arts organizations and institutions not identified with communities of color are at risk of doing things like what Printed Matter did. They (we, I write, as a member of the board at Human Resources, L.A.) are at risk of thinking that making work “about” racism is synonymous with an anti-racist intervention. The (often white) art-world liberal is at risk of thinking that “raising awareness,” smuggling good intention into the consciousness by way of a limited edition print, is a good-enough aim in and of itself.”

I use this to illustrate how easy it is to design for our own lives at the expense of others. And the dangers of shallow attempts at inclusivity or claiming domain knowledge. For this reason I believe there is a value to inviting multiple voices into our work. At the very least please consider who your work is for, and why you believe it will matter to them. None of us live in a vacuum. I think that’s the “design” challenge of a design future.






2 thoughts on “Not Speculation

  1. Not so tangential when read next to “Guerrilla Futurists:”
    “Humble as it sounds, speaking about your or somebody else’s future is an act of power. It is a “speech act” where language takes on a performative function. Our prefigurative thinking—the way we imagine and articulate the shape of things to come—actually affects the shape of things to come, and the ways in which we perceive them (cf. Speech Act Theory). The sheer naming of something is an act of power. Even knowing the name of something is in some sense a claim to power over that particular something.”

  2. Your post actually coincides with some thoughts I had while reading the book for today, so I will add on my thoughts here. For class tomorrow we were asked to think about some under explored (also some over and unfortunately) topics and communities in speculative design. When getting this prompt, I started to think about the things in my everyday life that would potentially be interesting to think about as everyday futures. As someone that works on educational technology, one of my first thoughts I had was education. I am currently in a school every Friday working with 3rd and 4th grade students. On my first day there, a student was asking me about what I did. When I told them I work on educational technology, the student began to ask me if I did stuff for computers, or cell phone, etc. When he said cell phones, another student who was African American jumped in and said, “Just don’t get an iPhone because the police could track you.”
    When I recalled this story, I began to think about how an everyday future could be designed for this topic. I did not really get past that before knowing that I am not equipped to tackle that subject. As you mentioned, Judy, all I would be able to do is design a future based off of my own life. As you stated, it is necessary to have multiple voices when designing a future. Just because you have knowledge of something, it does not mean that you can design a everyday future that can address the problem. I feel like one of the biggest challenges in designing futures for these everyday topics is how to get the right voices involved and not to drowned out the voices that matter.

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