Geert Lovink on Tue, 1 Jul 1997 13:14:15 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> design beyond design conference

From: (Jan van Eyck Akademie)

"A democratic civilisation will save itself only if it makes the language
of the image into a stimulus for critical reflection -not an invitation for
Umberto Eco

Design beyond design
Symposium at the Jan van Eyck Akademie Maastricht
Centre for fine arts, design and theory

On 7 and 8 November 1997 the Jan van Eyck Academie will be organizing a
conference entitled 'Design beyond design, critical reflection and the
practice of visual communication'. The academy intends this conference to
launch a debate on the concrete possibilities for a design that adopts a
critical stance vis-a-vis current practice. A practice, whose mediatory
role is largely determined by the conditions of the market and neo-liberal
believe. The intention is that the discussion will be conducted in the
light of the reality of communicational power relations in the world and
their homogenising effects on the formation of public opinion and cultural
Speakers: Cees Hamelink: International communication scientist, University
of Amsterdam; Heinz Paetzold: Philosopher, Univerity of Hamburg; Head
theory department, Jan van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht; Joerg Petruschat:
Design critic and philosopher, Humboldt University, Berlin: Susan
Buck-Morss: Political philosopher and social theortician, Cornell
University, Ithaca; Sheila Levrant de Bretteville: Designer and head MA
course graphic design, Yale University, New Haven; Gui Bonsiepe: Interface
designer, Cologne Design School and University of the Americas, Pueblo
(Mexico): Jan van Toorn: Designer and director Jan van Eyck Akademie,
Maastricht; Michael Rock and Susan Sellers: Designers 2x4, New York
Respondents: Andrew Blauvelt, Max Bruinsma, Alex Jordan, Gerard
Paris-Clavel, Rick Poynor, Lorraine Wild, Carel Kuitenbrouwer, Tomas

The first day of the symposium will focus on the discrepancy between the
socio-economic and symbolic reality of the world-wide information and
consumption culture, the prospects for democratisation of the media, and
the role of visual producers and theoreticians in this process. The second
day will be devoted to design that deliberately aims at 'the abolition of
the boundaries between everyday and aesthetic experience' (Gert Selle) and
will deal with the strategies and forms of expression of the oppositional
and reflexive traditions. It will cover initiatives in fields outside the
realm of official design, as well as dialogic forms of visual mediation in
design aimed at the formation of independent judgement and public

Capitalist media society has also transformed information and knowledge
into commodities. Through growing commercialisation and consolidation, the
monopo=1Flies of the communication and culture industry have created a
global public sphere which does not offer any scope for discussion of
the social and cultural consequences of the 'free flow of information'
organised by them - let alone of democratic control on their activities.
Consequently, we live in a world in which the reality of the
socio-economic condition is camouflaged by 'the 'decorative glorification
of the inevitable' (Rem Koolhaas).

Just like other forms of professional mediation, design owes its success to
the economic and technological-scientific development promoted by industry
and government. This is connected with its share in the planning of
production, but even more with the creation of images and visual stimuli in
the media which is essential to the retail of products, information and
entertainment. Communication design thereby co-ordinates an important part
of the virtual integration of the consumer in the social regulatory
mechanisms of the market, politics and services.
The engagement with private interests that was necessary for this success
has left its mark on the historical and social awareness of designers and
other visual producers. Co-operation with institutions and adaptation to
their structures has resulted in an ideological accommodation, expressed in
a lack of insight into the social practice of the profession and a visual
mediation which is primarily orientated in organisational, technological
and formal aesthetic terms. At the same time, however, the complexity of
the 'information revolution', compels visual producers to assume editorial
and directional responsibilities which entail their confrontation with
uneasy questions about the quality of their own signifying practice.

The sophisticated, but one-dimensional character of our communicational
environment is at least as menacing as the pollution of the natural
environment. That is partly due to the lack of a realistic attitude to the
social-cultural conditions of professional mediation, by which use of
language and methods of the operational critique have been lost as ways of
forming independent public opinion. The organisers of 'Design beyond
design' hope that this conference will bring together makers and thinkers
who are interested in the revitalisation of argumentative, non-consumptive
forms of visual communication - in other words, in the renewal of
communication design as a reflexive public practice.
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