Critical Mass Critical Mess
APRIL 27, 2023 > 5PM | AUDITÓRIO LAGOA HENRIQUES
Critical mass, in nuclear physics, is the minimum amount necessary to maintain a nuclear chain reaction. Extrapolating the scientific concept to social dynamics, it refers to the point at which a self-sustaining state is reached, where the mindset of a group in relation to a given issue ensures a certain action, relationship or behaviour. An often intangible term, used almost always by default or intuitively in corporate and academic discourse, it usually describes a state one aspires to reach, or has already reached, and which represents added value.
With minimal variation to the theme, in Critical Mass Critical Mess, we use this term as an allusion to the turbulent narrative regarding the critical turning point in design practice. Somewhere between mantra and litany, Critical Mass Critical Mess highlights a discipline in critical mode, caught between desirable autonomy and a state of hesitation, uncertainty, and skepticism. We will seek to challenge the guarantees of critique as a place of privilege, while enhancing awareness of the agenda of critical design, or that of design as critical practice. We’ll measure the strength: from design that wants everything to design that achieves nothing.
Critical Mass Critical Mess begins on theWorld Communication Design Day, April 27th, with one lecture by Silvio Lorusso and a workshop by Afonso de Matos.
Communication Design Department,
Faculty of Fine Arts/ULisboa
Kritikaoke: Criticality as the New Distinction
Lecture by Silvio Lorusso
Auditório Lagoa Henriques, 5 p.m.
Critical, critique, criticism… The semantic sphere of criticality has infiltrated the design practice and discourse to the extent that, at least in the cultural circles of the field, “being critical” has become an undisputed and even expected virtue. But what does it actually mean? In this short presentation, Silvio Lorusso will try to explain what criticality is, by means of what it does. Are the critical thinker and the critical designer the same person? What purpose does the critical disposition actually serve? Can criticality be considered an aesthetic form?
Who Can Afford To Be Critical?
Workshop by Afonso Matos
(for Communication Design students)
The teaching and practice of design have been undergoing a series of ‘tectonic shifts’ that aim to bring into focus political, social and environmental issues once neglected by the discipline. These changes (which fit within the umbrella idea of ‘critical design’) aim to make the designer responsible and aware of their role in the active construction of reality. The young designer, when receiving an education in line with these concerns, creates an image of their importance as a future professional and glimpses the range of action of what design can do to change the conditions in which we currently live. Expectations are high and so are hopes!
But what about what design cannot do? What about the times when the designer finds themself trapped in working conditions that makes them no more than a mere doer, with tight margins to exert any kind of influence through their craft? When you depend on a client or boss to pay the bills at the end of the month, who is the real designer of a certain reality? The designer, or whomever pays them?
Are the power of design (as a system that surrounds us) and the power of the designer (as an individual, as a worker) two interchangeable ideas with the same meaning, or is it in the tension between these two scales that we find the limits of critical design?
With the workshop-debate Who Can Afford To Be Critical?, we start from a series of questions concerning the limits that labor, social class and financial conditions exert on a critical design practice, with the aim of mapping the ecosystem of power that surrounds the designer and involves them in various relations with other agents. Without seeking easy answers, we will explore the greyish nuances that occupy the space between ‘doomer’ nihilism and blind positivism about the designer’s agency over the world around them.