Note on This is not the project

The symposium Traders Eu, which I attended as part of my ongoing research for Field Essays, gathered  a full house of designers and researchers yesterday to celebrate the launch of a four year PhD project on social design research practices. It feels good to see that design is taken more and more seriously as a reflective practice, able to address critical political and economical issues, and contributing to policy making.

Keynote speaker CHANTAL MOUFFE raised questions and introduced philosophical notions (of mainly BRUNO LATOUR: “What is composed can be decomposed, but this never happens in neutrality”) to define the force fields at play in design practice, summarised with the credo: “To design is always to redesign.” Mouffe added: “Subversiveness in design can only be achieved by problematising your position.” In answer to the question “How can designers learn to discern the external forces that shape each project”, Chantal Mouffe replied with another question: “How can we make room for dissensus (conflictual consensus)?”

Perhaps Z33 director JAN BOELEN gave the best clue so far as to how to do this: while presenting us a preview of the artistic strategy for the HASSELT-GENK UNIE project, BOELEN decided not to show the actual projects since that right (rightly) belongs to the implicated residents; hence every slide was accompanied by an apologising: “This is not the project” – a potentially great way to mislead your client and set your own political agenda… (see eg the Superflex Superkilen square for the Copenhagen municipality)!

Source & further reading: 
TRADERS symposium, HASSELT, Z33
Participation is risky by Liesbeth Huybrechts