Something of Everything.
Recommended by Gabriele Oropallo
Together with designers and authors who have worked with us on this year’s issues, we have collected a few recommendations for all those who do not have any plans for the week between Christmas and New Year yet, or those who are looking for inspiration for 2018.
Gabriele Oropallo is a senior lecturer in critical and contextual studies and research leader at Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design in London. His most recent research examined how the environmental crisis altered practice and mediation of design and technology. He is a founding member of critical design practices Repair Society and Arquipélagos Urbanos, with which he participated respectively to the Istanbul Design Biennial and São Paulo Architecture Biennial. His future publications include chapters in the books “Design Culture” (2018) and “Crafting Economies” (2018). This year he has written three archive articles on different examples in the history of sustainability: on design in the GDR and the question of how long things should last(form 270), on the philosophy of the architect Paolo Soleri (form 272) and on the history of the plastic bag (form 274).
His recommendations are:
A Podcast: Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything
For a few years now, podcasts seem to have offered a viable option in content-making. Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything is part of the independent Radiotopia network. It is a series about unearthing connections in stories taking place across distances of time and space. The show features many one-off episodes, but it really shines in its mini series in which Walker explores at a steady pace subjects like the gig economy, surveillance or utopias. There is first-person narration, interviews you are never sure whether they are real or imaginary, and everything is carefully referenced. Other discoveries of the year: 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy and Slow Radio, both by the BBC.
A Book: “Are We Human?” by Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley
Colomina and Wigley curated the latest instalment of the Istanbul Design Biennial, but the book “Are We Human? Notes on an Archaeology of Design” is not the event’s catalogue (which confusingly also bears the same title). Instead, this book charts their forays into the subject matter in preparation of the event. Half historical narration and half a book of meditations, the roots to the svelte pocket book might lay in an article written by Boris Groys a decade ago on the “Obligation to Self-Design”. It reads as a series of independent explorations of how humans modified the world around themselves through design, being in turn shaped by the very products of this design activity.
An Exhibition: “Purple” by John Akomfrah
In conversations about art in the Anthropocene and the environmental crisis, often the question is asked about the value of artworks as probes to explore and test the state of things. “Purple” by John Akomfrah at the Curve Gallery in London’s Barbican Centre is a large-scale video triptych in which the raw material has been filmed on purpose or is extrapolated from existing footage. Akomfrah edited it in a choral narration of a global ecosystem in which human activity appears as inextricably embedded in nature. It emerges from it, rather than being laid over on it. Every issue we debate when we argue about the kind of society and economy we want, Akomfrah shows through his close reading, is reflected in the planetary movement of materials and ecological relations we entertain with the rest of the ecosystem.
A Series: Halt and Catch Fire
The old format of narration by instalment has found a new golden age through the format of the contemporary television series. Great examples are The Handmaid’s Tale, Mr. Robot, and Deutschland 83. Halt and Catch Fire is a very balanced series in which character dynamics, background research, and storytelling are all finely orchestrated. The first season of this series charts the exploits of a fictional group of hardware and software engineers rushing to bring the first viable laptop to the market in the early 1980s. In the course of the second and third seasons, the same characters move across North America to chart the shifting frontier of making computing fully personal to the birth of online communities and the digitalisation of economic relations and information. In the process, this meticulously researched show offers insight into the crucial but seldom acknowledged role of women in technology. Also, it gave a faithful portrayal of the way major companies effectively avoid investing in research and development by letting small start-ups fiercely struggle at ground level and then gulping down the winning one.