Designing Economic Cultures is a research project that sets out to investigate the relationship between socio-economic precarity and the production of socially and politically engaged design projects.

The fundamental question the project poses is:
how can designers, who through their work want to question and challenge the prevalent economic system, gain a satisfying degree of social and economic security without having to submit themselves to the commercial pressures of the market?  Read more ›

Construction site for non-affirmative practice

Constructive Dismantling

My Castle Is Your Castle

Designing and Transforming Capitalism – conference, Aarhus (DK), 9.2.2012

Bianca Elzenbaumer and Caterina Giuliani participated in the two-day conference Designing and Transforming Capitalism in Aarhus (DK). What follows is the abstract of their presentation:

Construction site for non-affirmative practice: building collective support structures for critically-engaged designers

As designers struggle with precarious labour conditions and an uncertain future, they are also re-evaluating their role in society as creative practitioners. Designers are increasingly questioning the ambitions of a commercial design career in the context of the recent economic crisis, while also expressing concerns that social and environmental problems have reached a critical threshold.

This paper will address the pressing question of how to practice design within a seemingly absolute capitalist system, by discussing and speculating about the common support structures needed to enable practitioners to articulate new modes of practice that do not move along with the usual ‘market forces.’ How do material, intellectual and affective support structures allow for the development of reflexive and critical practices that contribute to a radical reshaping of design practice? How can these new modes of design practice contribute to the multiple projects of transforming capitalism?

To discuss these questions, we will consider a recent example of a collective design project: Construction site for non-affirmative practice. This two-month experiment took place from September to October 2011 at Careof, Fabbrica del Vapore, Milan. The project was a collective attempt to analyse how designers’ labour is mobilized within capitalism, as well as to strategize about how to transform
both the conditions and possibilities of practice from within market logic.

Our presentation will describe the concerns that brought us together in Milan. Next, we will consider the construction site’s form and function in relation to the collective and individual processes of transformation that have been initiated, and the extent to which they constitute the beginning of a shared political struggle. Focusing on design practice as a political act, our contribution will conclude by observing both the limitations and potentials of such moments of collective investigation and construction.