Krzysztof Wodiczko
Room: N51-315H
Telephone: (617) 253-5862
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Fall 2002
Units: 3-3-6
Level: H
Prerequisites: class limit 15

PROTEST - from Latin pro-testari, 'affirm, bear witness to' (testis = witness, as in 'testify'), a pro-active testifying to a wrong in order to bring about a change for the better.

The focus of this workshop will be on those who are striving to break their silence in order to interrupt the world around them in an empowered critical voice. Workshop participants will learn how to conceive and develop communicative equipment, programs and environments to inspire and assist those who are asserting their communcative rights in physical and digital public space. Considering that among these potential "speakers" are those survivors of present-day injustice whose ability to communicate must first be recovered or developed, the design concepts may need to respond not only to ethico-political demands, but also to psychological conditions.

The workshop is offered in the context of present anti-globalization protests suppressed in the name of "global interest," as well as the public debate and resistance against the government-imposed limits on civil liberties and dissent in the name of "national unity" and "security" such as the Patriot Act. The other context of this workshop is an increasing public focus on trauma, memory and testimony and insufficient focus on the struggle for social justice through critical truth-telling and outspokenness (parrhesia).

How can art, design and technology contribute to fearless speech in light of these contexts? More specifically, how can artists, engineers, and scientists, operating physically and on-line within the fields of industrial design, digital communications, wearable media, performance, critical public art, media art, fashion design and other fields inspire, give a presence to, empower and protect fearless speakers?

The course will be based on development of design projects inspired by selected readings, discussions and student presentations. The readings will focus on elements of political theory, developmental and social psychology, ethical philosophy, urban and cyber civil disobedience, and interventionist and protest art.

Readings and discussion topics will focus on:

• Agonistic democracy Agonism/Antagonism • Fearless speech (parrhesia)
• Trauma and testimony

• Ethics of the self

• Ethics of the other
• Ethics of democracy • Public space/Public sphere • Dis-agreement/Difference
• Pro-test • Polis/Police • Socratesian democracy
• Declaration of wrong • Interruption (of natural order) • Stranger/Community
• Prophet/Prosthesis • Victors/Vanquished  

Readings will consist of fragments of texts by: H. Arendt, W. Benjamin, J. Herman, C. Lefort, C. Mouffe, M. Foucault, G. Debord, M. Bakhtin, E. Levinas, D. Winnicott, Deleuze, R. Deutsch, D. Crimp, W. Mitchell, J. Ranciere, S. Critchley, J. Derrida, and others.

Artistic Practices and Theories will be introduced through presentations:

• Situationist International • Act Up
• Women House • Institute for Applied Autonomy
• Guerrilla Girls • Critical Art Ensemble
• Interrogative Design Group • Pret-a-Revolter (Guerrilla Fashion Group)

Workshop participants will undertake research and development of design concepts, however, proposals should be finalized as experimental working models, programs and environments. There will be a mid-term project and a final project. Projects may be either individual or collective. Teams may be composed of students of different skills and interests. Exceptionally, theoretical and historical research may be accepted as a contribution to group projects. Innovative and playful adaptation and redesign of available equipment such as wearable, portable, movable, and mobile devices, instruments, tools, toys, games, prostheses, mechanical and electronic systems will be welcome. Situational and environmental interventions and appropriations are also welcome. As has been the case in the past, students may integrate their ongoing research projects with the agenda of the course in order to explore new cultural and critical directions.