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Design is Fiction 

Alexandra Midal

 

You have probably seen, here or there, a camp creature torn between the silence of the individual who cannot express him/herself and the chitchat of the prolific marionette: it is the ventriloquist’s dummy. Beyond this obvious and classic metaphor, I would claim that fictional speech conveyed by inanimate design, objects, furniture, dummy or MacGuffin, is essential. More precisely, I will claim that fiction gives voice to the critics of design, especially because it is a necessary and opaque lure. Not only design speaks, but when intertwined with fiction, it becomes a valid and powerful instrument of critique that delivers political issues, in disguise.

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This text is the transcription of a lecture given by Alexandra Midal in the context of "The Daily Post-Truth", a joint project between the Department of Communication Design of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon (FBAUL) and maat. The project uses fiction as a motto for a speculative and critical design practice that seeks to question the tenets of the dissemination of disinformation in the post-truth era.

On the highway from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, while driving, you see two massive dinosaurs. They were designed and built up by an ex-Disney prop artist named Claude Bell between the 1960s and the 1980s. The dinosaurs named Mr. Rex and Dinny were meant to attract tourists to stop, eat and relax at the Wheel Inn, his diner. Inside Mr. Rex, where visitors would step up, Bell realised a series representing the theory of evolution, which would lead them to the dinosaur’s belly. Featured in 1985s classics such as Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure by Tim Burton or the music video for Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. You can still see this roadside attraction on your left side when driving to Coachella, even if between Bell’s death in 1988 and today in 2020 the diner’s land has changed hands twice. The first time, in 1996, a company bought the piece of land including the two dinosaurs to expand it. Soon they became part of a museum of science where families would explore a garden filled with kitsch robotic dinosaurs. But behind the heaven of fun for kids, the Cabazon had become a place of promotion for Creationism. According to this belief, dinosaurs are Adam and Eve’s contemporaries, so they kept them intact, to use them as an attraction for their business. From a symbol of Darwinian evolutionary theory, the two sculptures became a Trojan horse, or to be more specific, as designer Emma Pflieger claims (→ i), the Trojan Dinosaurs of a creationist strategy.

God is a designer 

Who doesn’t like dinosaurs? Whose kid is not crazy about these prehistoric creatures and will not wait to see one? One of the strongest symbols and evidence of evolutionist theory was transformed into an appealing emblem for creationists. Even if in Europe we are less familiar with this theory, these teachings, may they be called Creationist or Intelligent Design, are part of the teachings in many private elementary schools in states such as Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota or Indiana. Going back to dinosaurs, creationists explained that they have embarked on Noah’s Ark. Evolutionists are wrong, dinosaurs were far from being mastodons, they were as big as sheep. In 2016, when creationists opened the Christian theme park A Noah’s Ark featuring a “replica” of the original ark in Kentucky, the 152-meter-long boat was designed to accommodate 10,000 visitors a day and all pairs of living animals. Believe it or not, the state of Kentucky has experienced severe flooding coinciding with the opening of the attraction, but the miracle is not complete, if you look for the dinosaurs in the Ark: there are none! 

 

I decided to start with this example, because we all know that we have come to an era where abundance of information does not coincide with quality of information. Call it post-truth, fake news, storytelling, or something else, it is a potent and dangerous tool that we are urged to learn to master if we intend to navigate in our contemporary world. If I have underlined such a conflicting symbol with the dinosaurs, it is not to address Intelligent Design (it defends the idea that design is all pervasive or that living organisms were formed by an “intelligent designer” i.e. god), which from the point of view of the discipline would interestingly induce that the discipline of design is a godly one, but to stress that the relation between form and signification changes according to adversarial beliefs. Or that design is often dealing with fictionalisation. Therefore, I wonder what is the relation between fiction and design, and how does it deal with facts? Is it a recent statement, or not? Is it a goal or a strategic Trojan horse ready to convey any sort of ideas? How good it is and what purpose does it serve?

I wonder what is the relation between fiction and design, and how does it deal with facts? (...) Is it a goal or a strategic Trojan horse ready to convey any sort of ideas?

Darwinian entertainment

To continue with Darwinian ambiguous appropriations, let’s have a look at the edutainment (for education and entertainment) that was perfectly embodied by the famous Phineas Taylor Barnum during the 19th century in his popular museum of wonders in New-York City. Barnum proclaimed himself the emperor of artifice and the first showman in the world. Indeed, he certainly knew how to pitch a compelling story. In his autobiography, The Life of P. T. Barnum: Written by Himself (1855), Barnum shares a childhood memory, that, he claims, changed the course of his life. In minute detail, he recounts how his grandfather, also named Phineas Taylor, was always insisting on introducing him as the heir to a vast and prosperous estate named Ivy Island. At the age of ten, curious, yet confident, young Barnum decided to inspect his future property. But when he arrived, he realised that he had been the laughingstock of the village for all those years. Apart from the little boy, everybody knew that Ivy Island was no more than a wasteland infested with snakes. According to Barnum’s memoir, he considered this life-altering event to be a harmless family prank. This good nature of Barnum reveals how he considered the power of the storytelling, or fictionalisation. This event was written to prefigure the self-proclaimed ‘Prince of the Humbugs’ career he spent elevating confabulation, lye, and hoax to an art form. The owner of the American Museum of ‘countless unique curiosities’, Barnum, had an unequalled talent for crafting the most far-fetched stories, which the audience, according to his account, was inclined to believe with the greatest pleasure. 

 

Crammed with up to 850,000 exhibits, his five-story building museums on Broadway thrived on monsters and marvels – Siamese, a horse with woolly hair, midgets, bearded ladies, etc. to name a few – including the authentic FeeJee mermaid as he spilled it. He was embroidering with hair-raising tales so well that facing this half fish/half monkey, dry and mummified pseudo mermaid, the audience would go on paying to see the so-called wonders. Not only a collector, Barnum was equally versed in the art of storytelling. And then, soon after the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species in 1860, he decided to debate these very questions within his museum. Barnum proclaimed he was educating his fellows citizens to consider the recent Darwin evolutionist theory, with presenting some specimens of the missing links between animals and human beings. His success was significant with the shameful deceit of the exhibition of “What Is It?”, the awful name that Barnum gave to William Henry Johnson. Barnum stated that “It” was the missing link between apes and individuals. Johnson was born in New Jersey and he was suffering from nanism and microcephalia, but he soon became the subject of evolutionist heated debate. “What Is It?” was instrumental for Barnum who would insist on fictionalising Johnson to suit his purpose. Images, photographs, showed him as if he was a savage creature who could hardly stand up, therefore he was given a stick, when he was not dressed up with a costume made of hairy fur when posing in front of the camera. 

 

Barnum would pay him $1.00 a day. As he soon realised the audience was mesmerised by him, Johnson negotiated a significant and well-deserved rise. Eventually, and even if these exhibitions are more than choking and unbearable, it is said that Barnum and Johnson became long-time friends. Johnson was very popular and left Barnum to be in charge of his exhibitions, which he carried on until his death in the 1920’s. No need to say that this success was pleasing the racism of the audience, and that cynical Barnum took great financial advantage of the situation. In this respect, Barnum belongs to the family of immoral storytellers and masters of deceit who place artifice at the service of imagination, determining its own financial and fame profits. Barnum was well known to squeeze the best performance out of unlikely stories in which facts and fiction are rendered indistinguishable.

Design & fiction 

Exploring this horizon cannot be done without coming back to the fictional dimension of the history of design, as measured by the yardstick of its original writing. Taken together, Nikolaus Pevsner’s Pioneers of the Modern Movement (→ ii) and Siegfried Gideon’s Mechanization Takes Command (→ iii) are considered the founding texts of the history of design. If both aspire towards an objective approach, and offer a scheme of reference points from which it is possible to analyse design from its very beginnings, rather than offering a history of design tout court, these two essays provide a history from the sole perspective of modern architecture, not design per se. If it is unusual to be able to refer with certainty to the founding texts of a discipline, an examination of their authors’ intentions raises valid questions, because both texts were produced by authors considered to be major critics of the Modern Movement in architecture, for whom design was far from a primary or even secondary concern. When I wrote Design by Accident: For a New History of Design (→ iv), my title addressed this ambiguity at the origin of the unintentional project that is design history. The notion of the accident holds the history of design as an incursion into a narrative preoccupied with architecture and industrialisation. The forming of design is partly based on a narrative structure and on a way of telling stories based on a mode of tensions likely to catch the reader’s attention. The emergence of design cannot be approached without considering its impact in this narrative. When examined in detail, the line adopted by each of these authors reveals that they built a modernist architectural fiction. This discovery raised a series of questions about the complexity of manufacturing history. And I was puzzled by the fact that such a hegemonic perspective was so persistent, given that neither of these two scholars’ narration was ever devised to formulate a possible history of design. This in turn creates an interruption within the linear course of the modernist flux of history, and thus creates a gap for another expression of design, which would alter the normative story of the functionalist values advocated since Pevsner to the present day. 

  • (ii) Nikolaus Pevsner, Pioneers of the Modern Movement: From William Morris to Walter Gropius (London: Faber & Faber, 1936) (London: Faber & Faber, 1936) 

 

  • (iii) Siegfried Gideon, Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1948)

 

  • (iv) Alexandra Midal, Design by Accident: For a New History of Design (London & Berlin: Sternberg Pres, 2019)

One can notice that designers have continuously appropriated fiction, along with its modes of diffusion (text, manifesto, books…) so as to express dimly disguised political and social criticism.

On the contrary, if Pevsner is considered one of the design discipline historians, one can notice that designers have continuously appropriated fiction, along with its modes of diffusion (text, manifesto, books…) so as to express dimly disguised political and social criticism. Designer William Morris’s seminal book News from Nowhere (→ v), for instance, was published by Morris’s publishing house Kelmscott Press, which set the standard for fiction as a means to describe a parallel reality. Morris’s book was at the crossroads of powerful suggestions that favor dreams, and which his novel is the summit of. He borrowed from the space-time displacement belonging to the Uchronia literary protocol to criticise the recent outcomes of industrial primacy and of the modern civilization that has found its place in England, cradle of the Industrial Revolution. His main character, named William Guest, gets up in the morning after an apparently normal night. As soon as he leaves the house’s threshold, intrigued by many changes, he discovers a British society entirely regenerated by the pairing of everything in art and life. With Morris, the coupling of design and fiction takes as much their shared visionary ambition as their need to combine fiction with a romantic reality through the invention of furniture design.

 

You can also find a striking example of this very mechanism of contestation in the strategies employed by the Italian members of the Radical Architecture at the turn of the 1960s, where some of its members renewed the concept of the critical power of fiction. Intertwined with reality, the “utopia of the real” process consists in redirecting the ideologies advocated by the Modern Movement, pushing them to their own intrinsic contradictions. The “utopia of the real” both contested the modernist utopia and opened a space for a critical imaginary. Contrary to traditional definitions of utopia, the Radical Architects’ vision remained close to their reality. It played a “double role of imposing a different and demystifying vision, and at the same time of translating, in visual terms, the vigorous conceptual workings developed.” (→ vi)

  • (v) William Morris, News from Nowhere was first serialized in Commonweal before being printed in England as News from Nowhere: Or, An Epoch of Rest, Being Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance (London: Reeves & Turner, 1891) 

 

  • (vi) Gianni Pettena, “Radical Architecture,” in Frederic Migayrou (ed.), Architecture radicale, (Villeurbanne: IAC, 2001), p. 297

These critical forms through fiction depicted a series of imaginary situations, with which they hoped the reader would understand how to dismantle the functionalist ethos of moral salvation through technology. These projects invoked the notion of utopia as the only valid locus for critique; this position certainly raised complex questions in light of the accusation levelled by the Radicals against the Modern Movement, and their attack on its tendency towards utopian thinking under the guises of functionalism. The Radical utopia differed from the Modern one in that it was not an end but rather a means of critique. The fictional strategy was at stake with their most eloquent project: Twelve Ideal Cities or Twelve Cautionary Christmas Tales: Premonitions of a Mystic Rebirth of Urbanism (→ vii), a text devised by Gian Piero Frassinelli, member of Superstudio (→ viii), the group of radical architects founded in Florence in 1966. He wrote a series of twelve apocalyptic urban scenarios that were published in the form of a test-game in some architecture and decoration magazines around 1971. These were accompanied by drawings and splendid photomontages, that were also screened in gallery spaces; as a slide show at the Mana Gallery in Rome in 1972, or as a film with recorded voices at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York. This counter-fiction and scathing utopia displays, in a fictional chord, a critical analysis of the norms of urban development and architectural modernism pushed to its extremes responding to the demands of a sovereign capitalism.

 

The role of fiction became a modus operandi for the Italian neo-avant-gardes, and the group Archizoom Associati publicly discussed the benefits of the power of deceit in what they call a Trojan horse strategy:

  • (vii) Superstudio, “The 12 Cautionary Tales for Christmas. Premonitions of the Mystical Rebirth of Urbanism, (also known as “The Twelve Ideal Cities,”) Architectural Design (1971, No. 12): 737-742, 785 

 

  • (viii) The group was formed by Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, and later joined by Piero Frassinelli, Roberto and Alessandro Magris, and Alessandro Poli.

The problem for us […] is how to serve up an ice cream in such a way that he [the customer] loses the desire to eat it for the rest of his life. Or an ice cream that, once it has been bought, grows bigger than him and humiliates him. Or that becomes a piece of the world surrounding him and frightens him […]. In short, an ice cream with no alternatives: either you eat it, or it eats you. Or rather: it starts to eat you as soon as you have finished it. And then we think: apple-bombs, poisonous sweets, false information, in short Trojan blankets, beds, or horses that are brought into the house and destroy everything in it. We want to let in everything that stays outside the door: carefully constructed banality, deliberate vulgarity, urban fittings, dogs that bite (→ ix).

  • (ix) Archizoom Associati, in Domus, October 1967, No. 41, published in English in Andrea Branzi, Complete Works, (New York: Rizzoli, 1992), p. 38 

Radical architects imagined fiction as a revolt against the placid ideal of the coquettish bourgeois interior. They tried to get rid of the grip of capitalism by producing either imposing furniture pieces dismantling the bourgeois comfort, or else, nothing tangible, but poetry, texts, drawings, projects… an Italian Paper Architecture that contained a viciously subversive dimension. Whether as a Trojan horse or a parasite from the inside, fiction proved thus capable of infiltrating the home. If Archizoom Associati and Superstudio pronounced the death of the object (→ x), Adolfo Natalini from Superstudio observed, “If design is merely an inducement to consume, then we must reject design […] design must disappear.(→ xi)” Superstudio’s break with furniture design was particularly swift, as the group began to simplify and reduce their work in order to develop a fiction capable of proposing an alternative to the commodification of consumption goods. In this context, fiction gave voice to the provocative criticism of society by designers. This idea coincides with the definition given by media philosopher Vilém Flusser. Instead of the usual semantic ambivalence of “planning” and “drawing”, which is etymologically linked to every attempt at a conventional definition of the discipline, Flusser moved towards an approach which is malicious and Machiavellian: “the trap,” he writes, “[is] a design formed against nature”, and he continues: “The word ‘design’ is presented in a context where a part is linked to ruse and treachery. A designer is a deceitful plotter who sets traps. In the same context, one comes across other very significant words, notably and especially the words ‘mechanical’ and ‘machine’”. Reflecting on the etymology of the word ‘design’, Flusser points out that it “occurs in contexts associated with cunning and deceit. […] Consequently, a machine is a device designed to deceive; a lever, for example, cheats gravity, and ‘mechanics’ is the trick of fooling heavy bodies.” One might be tempted to think that technology and design have little in common. But one hardly fails to notice a shared tendency to consider design as the self-reflexive art of deceit. Design deals as much with the concept of moral as with the “trickster” and the “ability to turn something to one’s advantage (→ xii)”. It is hardly a coincidence that fiction and design call upon each other with the notion of artifice. These non-orthodox ideas for design defend a vision of the discipline as an amoral vortex that submits itself to a new set of strategies, where design breaks away from the supposedly exclusive moral outcomes set up by Pevsner et al., which were said to be inseparable from design.

  • (x) Archizoom Associati and Superstudio, “Distruzione, metamorfosi e ricostruzione degli oggetti,” Special Issue, No. 2-3, (1971) published in English as “Destruction, Metamorphosis and Reconstruction of the Objects,” Peter Lang and William Menkind, Life without Objects, (Milan: Skira, 2003), p. 120–21 

 

  • (xi) Adolfo Natalini, “AA School of Architecture Lecture,” March 3, 1971; quoted in Ibid., p. 20–21 

 

  • (xii) Vilém Flusser, Vom Stand der Dinge: eine kleine Philosophie des Designs, ed. Fabian Wurm (Göttingen:  Seidl, 1993), English trans. Anthony Mathews, The Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design, ed. Martin Pawley (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), p. 7 

The pact

Worldmaking as we know it, always starts from worlds already on hand; the making is a remaking.

 

Nelson Goodman

If fiction has otherwise occupied a specific place within the field of design, after so many years, that’s maybe because one of its prerequisites is to make allowances to implicit what-if scenarios. Fictions, like design as a subject, are the result of a construction that sets out to engage in dialogue with a fictitious world. And sometimes, in return, it creates a new world as with Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby’s Foragers (→ xiii) (2010). Speculating about a world implies an abstract construction, even if it is from scratch. This position is akin to that of worldmaking, to use the title of a book by art historian Nelson Goodman in which he stated that there is no such thing as a given world, but only worlds which are built, including those which we take to be reality. “Worldmaking as we know it,” he writes, “always starts from worlds already on hand; the making is a remaking.” Designers work with fiction models and remake worlds again and again, as they wonder if our universe is an acceptable simulation or not. Assuming the opaque clearness of the fringe between reality and “permanent fiction,” design gives shape to these mental constructions, and to parallel, possible or plausible universes. Diegetic, the marriage of design and fiction induces stages, a temporary continuum, and a motion which makes it possible to seize a possibility unwilling to limit design to a sole destiny. 

  • (xiii) See http://dunneandraby.co.uk/content/projects/510/0

Once the opaque clearness of reality is assumed, design and speculation start a “permanent fiction.” In order to operate, everyone needs to willingly agree to believe in it, and to yield to the famous concept of a “Willing Suspension of Disbelief” defined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817. You need to accept as true the premises and the semblance of fiction, and to agree on a narrative pact. This aspect is instrumental to the process, it is as much part of the What-if scenarios as it is obvious in the Trojan Horse methods of the 1960s. If there is a pact, even an implicit one, no one is fooling you. It is like when you read a novel or watch a film: you are well aware that you enter a mere semblance realm.

Film

These overlaps overtake the question of film that serves both the theory and the practice of design. When addressing this question of intermedia, in reference to experimental films (→ xiv) by designers, a production that is less conspicuous than those which regroup didactic or explanatory productions, or documentaries on design, designers draw largely on strategies that stem from fiction. With fiction, designers have proven for over a century that they are capable of acting tactically from within, to move into the strongholds of functionalism, liberalism, industry or consumerism, even if only on occasion. Films worked like a vehicle for “the mass production of dreams”,(→ xv) as director Jean Epstein has coined it, and its criticism.

 

Design and film appeared simultaneously at the advent of the Industrial Revolution. They both emerged between 1861 and 1895 in an environment in which inventors and businessmen alike were interested in finding technical solutions for capturing reality so as to better understand it. Although, at its inception, film was no more an industrial and a scientific medium, than considered an artistic expression. Early films show that protodesigners preferred abstract images to ordinary realistic movies. It was possible to embrace reality through film, eventually, via the abstraction of representation. Here, we have no time to present film by designer genealogy, even if many examples would demonstrate its importance since Lillian and Frank Gilbreth, such as László Moholy-Nagy, György Kepes, Werner Graeff, Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, Ray and Charles Eames, Bruno Munari, Gae Aulenti, Ettore Sottsass Jr., etc. But it needs to be underlined that fiction has never been so openly acknowledged by designers as it is nowadays. Most of them have favored forms of abstraction and yearning to dodge the risk of narrative and discourse. Fiction films by designers associate storytelling with objects or products in a way that reshapes a vaster definition and practice of design. 

  • (xiv) By “experimental,” I refer to film as opposed to commercial, documentary, educational, and amateur productions (Forinstance, see Jonas Mekas (ed.). Movie Journal: The Rise of a New American Cinema 1959-1971. (New York: Macmillan, 1972) and Jerome Hill, P. Adams Sitney & Jonas Mekas, 1969).  

 

  • (xv) Jean Epstein. Le cinéma du diable. (Paris: Jacques Melot, 1947).

But today, in a world where fiction is not distinguishable from facts, what is the political role of fiction in design? What does it trigger? And what is fiction good for? Nowadays, countless designers are directing fictional films, with Noam Toran taking center stage. In the vein of dismantling the conformism of functionality attaching to design, Toran directed, among others, Desire Management (2006), a series of five short films whose protagonists are five “hypothetical objects.” By means of short sketches, both intriguing and droll, the objects take place as if they were psychologically useful. In his analysis of Toran’s work, the critic Nav Haq goes over the political dimension of two of Toran’s films – Objects for Lonely Men (2001) and Desire Management – by creating “a physical and psychological space for thinking about the individual position which everyone has in society in general and perhaps we can even reckon that what is involved is their last refuge.” Therefore, I wonder if fictional objects might well be, even if most people suffer from the lock-down, the last remaining refuge we have. Toran’ films question the history and scope of design, its territory, and its limits by shifting its emphasis from functionality to fictionality (→ xvi). Fiction embeds artifice and deceit in films, the modernist medium of space, time, and illusion par excellence. By encouraging us to reconsider the relations between discourse and form, design reiterates the meaning of ‘giving form to something,’ which is etymologically related to fiction. Along with this displacement from function to fiction, designers appropriate a language which, contrary to the general understanding, is not totally alien to them. The very etymology of the word ‘fiction’ is anchored in the notion of ‘giving shape,’ which associates formalization and formulation since the origin of the discipline of design. Forms, fictions, hypotheses and imagination mingle in design. On the surface, the notions of artifice and storytelling seem irrelevant, not important and unrelated to design, but they are instrumental, not only to embrace the design in its complexities and ambiguities. Allow me therefore to turn once more to Flusser who stressed that “[t]he new form of culture which Design was to make possible would be a culture that was aware of the fact that it was deceptive. So, the question is: Who and what are we deceiving when we become involved with culture (with art, with technology – in short, with Design)?(→ xvii)” 

  • (xvi) Additionally, with the MacGuffin library, a project of texts and sculptures co-realised with Onkar Kular, design incorporates fiction into a process of industrial fabrication. By using a rapid prototyping machine to generate the sculptures, the MacGufffin Library redirects a process that ordinarily thinks industrial products, and instead they mix the history of cinema, and fiction, with the industrial production of design. For information: a McGuffin is a term that Hitchcock coined to guarantee the narrative plot of his films. For more see Noam Toran (ed.), Things Uncommon, (Paris: Lieu du design, 2010) 

 

  • (xvii) Vilém Flusser, Op. cit., p. 9 

Since the 1990s, the use of film in critical design has been instrumental in the critique of the design mainstream. Here, I refer to Critical Design as an umbrella term for those intermedia practices in which design proposals challenge assumptions about the agenda and the scope of the discipline (→ xviii). It encompasses a variety of nomenclatures that include, but are not limited to, Conceptual Design, in which concept overrides straightforward function,(→ xix) Speculative Design, where design representations and objects create imaginative projections of alternate presents and possible futures, (→ xx) and Design Fiction, in which diegetic prototypes are used deliberately to suspend disbelief. The dialogue between Critical Design and film occurs outside the terms set by industrialised capital or production and counters conventions of utility, technology, and fiscal gain.(→ xxi)  

 

My very prompt detour around films, that I wish to expand, does not portray the limits and overlaps of a new definition for design, rather it is a proposal for a manifesto and an invitation to explore an undecided ambiguity, where design commits itself to the creation of fictional worlds as a trigger to reverse a general demoralisation and a time of anxiety. Because of the pact, the increase of fiction in design can still formulate antidotes to dominant ideas. It does not bring answers, it does not resolve anything, yet it provides a valuable refuge for thinking. 

  • (xviii) Anthony Dunne. Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience, and Critical Design, (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1999); Paola Antonelli. “States of Design 04: Critical Design,” Domus No. 949 (July- August) 2011; Gillian. Russell. Re/staging: Critical Design and the Curatorial, Ph. D. Thesis, London, RCA, 2017 (unpublished); M. Ericson and R. Mazé. Design Act: Socially and Politically Engaged Design Today. Critical Roles and Emerging Tactics. (Sweden & Berlin: Iaspis & Stenberg Press, 2011). 

 

  • (xix) Daniel Miller. Material Culture and Mass Consumption. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995)

 

  • (xx) Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby, Op.cit.; Carl DiSalvo. Adversarial Design, (Cambridge, Mass.:  The MIT Press, 2012). 

 

  • (xxi) Matt Malpass. “Contextualizing Critical Design: Towards A taxonomy of Critical Practice in Product Design,” Ph.D. Diss., School of Architecture Design and Built Environment, (Nottingham: Trent University, 2012). 

Alexandra Midal is an independent curator and a film essayist. Professor in design at HEAD — Geneva, she combines curating with research in visual culture with exhibitions, films, and books. She has curated several shows in museums worldwide: MUDAM (Luxembourg), Wolfsonian (USA), ADAM (Belgium), MAMC (Japan), CAPC (France), etc. Since 2009, she has set up a critical perspective on the history of ideas in a novel visual theory project that manifests itself as films and as The Design Film Festival in New York, Geneva, Istanbul, London… Her most recent book is entitled Design by Accident: For a New History of Design (Sternberg Press, 2019). 

 

The Daily Post-Truth is a joint project between the Communication Design Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Lisbon, and maat, developed within the scope of “maat Mode 2020” programme. The project is motivated by a renewed interest in fiction, within artistic practices and design in particular, as one of the discursive modes that is best able to restore a sense of reality in an age governed by post-truth. Within this context, the newspaper, as one of the media that most evidently suffered the effects of disinformation, becomes prone to appropriation and recuperation. By creatively exploring this publishing model in crisis, while focusing on the tensions between truth and post-truth, fiction and reality, “The Daily Post-Truth” proposes the development of its own newspaper, through a sequence of four different stages.