The event will mark the beginning of the admission cycle for Strelka’s third and final year of The New Normal —a postgraduate design research program & think-tank.
Humanity and technology have always been interwoven. Emerging technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, planetary sensing, etc. allow us to do things we have not done before, but, more importantly, they reveal things about our condition that dfhave always been true. Intelligence emerges from matter, biology is mutable, machines are everywhere. Humans are not one thing. We are one species among many. Cities are actual ecologies.
The implications for design are profound, but habits are hard to change. From Vitruvian Man to Facebook profiles, centuries of human-centered design has brought landfills of consumer goods, social media sophistry, and an inability to articulate futures beyond popular clichés. In the name of amplifying the user’s fertile desires we’ve made a desert. Instead, a Copernican shift in the philosophy of design is needed, one that begins with the sometimes unsettling implications of 21st century circumstances and technologies. It may shift the balance in different ways: from experiences to outcomes, from users to systems, from aesthetics to access, from expedience to ideals.
The event will include a series of Talks:
1. BENJAMIN BRATTON. THE OUTSIDE: LEARNING TO LIVE WITH (BUT NOT IN) HUMAN EXCLUSION ZONES
Today automation’s most comfortable environment within the bubble of the factory, where humans are kept safe from potentially dangerous robots and where robotics grows sheltered from both vandalism and conventional expectations of how occupied areas should be programmed. Automation at urban scale may mean opening the factory doors and generalizing its environmental motifs more widely. Bringing automated factory logics into the city means learning to live with (if not in) Human Exclusion Zones (HEZ).
Benjamin Bratton is a design theorist and author, Programme Director of the Strelka Institute, Professor of Visual Arts and Director of the Center for Design at UCSD, visiting faculty at EGS and SCI_Arc.
2. MARK WIGLEY & BEATRIZ COLOMINA. ARE WE HUMAN?
Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley present their latest research from the 'Are We Human?' project they launched as curators of the third Istanbul Design Biennial and are continuing with their ongoing 'Superhumanity' project with e-flux. They argue that design always presents itself as serving the human but its real ambition is to redesign the human. To talk about design is to talk about the state of our species. We live in a time when everything is designed, from our carefully crafted individual looks and online identities, to the surrounding galaxies of personal devices, new materials, interfaces, networks, systems, infrastructures, data, chemicals, organisms, and genetic codes. We literally live inside design, like the spider lives inside the web constructed from inside its own body.
2.1. PLASTIC HUMAN
Nothing is more human than technology. Mark Wigley explores the continuous self-reconstruction of our species from the invention of the first stone hand-axes to the transformation of humans into insects with the discovery of radio antenna at the end of the 19th century. Suspended in a vast ecology of antenna, the human remains a permanent question mark.
Mark Wigley — Professor and Dean Emeritus at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, architectural theorist, critic, and historian. Wigley is a co-founder of Volume magazine and author of many publications on the theory and practice of architecture.
2.2. ANESTHETIC DESIGN
The history of modern design uncannily parallels that of modern anesthetics. Beatriz Colomina shows that the elimination of ornament was not simply an aesthetic choice, but a neurological or even narcotic one. Smooth white surfaces were an anesthetic to calm “the nerves shattered in the aftermath of war”, as Le Corbusier put it. Modern man has a whole new set of nerves with completely different sensitivities. It is as if nerves themselves were the true clients of modern architecture and remain so today.
Beatriz Colomina — an internationally renowned architectural historian and theorist who has written extensively on questions of architecture, art, technology, sexuality and media. She is Founding Director of the interdisciplinary Media and Modernity Program at Princeton University and Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Architecture.
3. TNN ALUMNI. THE NEW NORMAL PRACTICES
The design of cities involves the design of inhabited spaces, plot subdivisions, construction tenders and building schedules. But it also involves the design of digital protocols, simulated environments, cinematic narratives and new polities. The New Normal — more than a post-graduate programme — is an ongoing speculative urbanism think tank which expands the definition and scope of what urban design could be. As TNN alumni and young professionals in the fields of media, architecture and design, we ask: what are new relevant and actionable urban practices that can shape the future of our cities? We explore this through a range of alternative design projects and outputs, from films to tools, games and strategies.
The New Normal programme is designed for young specialists from around the world with diverse backgrounds: architecture, urbanism, film & cinema, interaction design, software design, humanities & social sciences, game design, economics, and more. It is project-based and runs for 5 months (February 2019–July 2019), combining intensive studies in Moscow with an international field trip and internships. The programme is tuition free, and participants are provided a monthly stipend. The application period will run from August 27 until November 1, 2018.
The event will be held in English with simultaneous translations into Russian.