Prem Chandavarkar on Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:49:52 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Just as rabid as the Unabomber, but safely on the winning side ...

On 22-Feb-2018, at 9:04 PM, Brian Holmes <> wrote:

My sense is that practices responsive to place, and the educational resources that come out of such practices, only stand a chance of being incorporated into the mainstream *after* the predictable breakdowns and disasters of social and ecological balances that we now see in their nascent phases. The position that puts you in today is a complicated one: you have to make your experiments happen in the current prosperous and jaded environment, while at the same time realizing they could only have their real meaning and value in a much more violent and desperate world whose contours are hard to imagine, and whose very existence as a viable context depends on upsurges and social-justice struggles that may never come to pass. What are your thoughts on this Prem?

Hi Brian - so nice to hear from you.  

I think that we, as designers, have to come up with creative responses on how we can help.  The problem is less one of unsympathetic clients and more a problem internal to the design professions: our training has not provided us with either the language or the conceptual frameworks to even begin the dialogue or exploration.  There is a line from an old comic strip called Pogo which goes “I have met the enemy and he is us!”  We have to recognise this as the problem and begin from scratch.

It has been done before - the architects of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century created a new mode of designing that did become the mainstream eventually.  Their proposals may have been misplaced, but they did what they did from outside the mainstream and without a sympathetic clientele as a starting point.  Of course, the situation is very different from what it was a century ago, but we have become complacent.  We take modernity for granted, whereas that was a generation that was willing to critically reflect within a tradition-bound context on what it meant to be modern and fight for modernity every day.

A philosophy that defines a solution, which is then applied in practice, is likely to remain elusive.  That approach would be a misplaced effort to apply linear logic to a non-linear world.  Our conceptual frame should be that of non-linear network logic, we should act within our circle of influence, avoid being paralysed by the immensity of our circle of concern, commit to the daily fight, and take it one day at a time.

That is the best I can offer right now.  Will share more when there is greater clarity.  To give you a hint on the direction I wish to pursue, I share some recent speculations on sustainable design:


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