An evening that questioned the dominant position of Western design culture and opened it up to new perspectives. Speakers were new media artist Tabita Rezaire, author of The Politics of Design Ruben Pater, culture critic Egbert Alejandro Martina and product design strategist Shahab Zehtabchi. The evening was moderated by curator and author Amal Alhaag. Listen to the audio of this evening above. Ruben Pater made the selection of images shown below.
The modernist design principles that prevailed in Western design education were closely tied to notions of objectivity and universality. But the discussion about Zwarte Piet and the international outcry over the Mohammed cartoons show that things are a little more complicated. Images are interpreted very differently in different cultures. All designers have a cultural background and position from which they design, whether they are aware of it or not. What could 'decolonising design' mean in this context? Should designers be more conscious of the political context within which they work? And how can the design culture take greater account of difference without limiting creativity and experimentation?
This evening put things into perspective and engaged in conversation. Dutch and international designers shared their experiences of cultural difference and its significance for their work.
Tabita Rezaire is a French born Guyanese/Danish new media artist, intersectional preacher, health practitioner, tech-politics researcher and Kemetic/Kundalini Yoga teacher based in Johannesburg, South Africa. As she embraces aesthetics of resistance, her digital healing activism provides alternative readings aiming at decentering occidental authority. Her decolonial trinity preaches for health, technology and spirituality to dismantle our oppressive white-supremacist-patriarchal-cis-hetero-globalized world screen.
Rezaire is invited as part of the International Visitors’ Programme of Het Nieuwe Instituut.
Under the name Untold Stories Ruben Pater creates visual narratives about geopolitical issues. He initiates projects in which research is followed by visual ways of storytelling for a wide audience, creating new relations between journalism and design. His ‘Drone Survival Guide’ (2013), received attention worldwide as an educational and activist tool against military drones. in 2016 he published the book The Politics of Design.
Egbert Alejandro Martina
Egbert Alejandro Martina is an agitator for change, and a founding member of ERIF, a foundation that conducts critical research of media expressions, and provides anti-racist education for a broader audience. He is particularly interested in the implications of what Christina Sharpe calls 'living in the wake', or in the words of Saidiya Hartman: 'the afterlife of slavery'. His aim is to provide both a critique of 'the good life' and the idea of Europe as a 'area of freedom'.
Shahab Zehtabchi is a product design strategist and educator. He has been designing online cross-disciplinary platforms which facilitate collaboration between design and diverse fields of science. He joined The Hague University to develop a new international industrial design programme (IDE) that focuses on responsibilities and challenges of the new generation of world citizen designers. He is now the coordinating lecturer of design project courses at IDE.
Amal Alhaag is an Amsterdam based independent curator, cultural programmer and radio host with an interest in counter-culture, oral histories and global social issues. Her projects infuse music and art with current affairs, post-coloniality, digital anthropology and everyday anecdotes to invite, stage or examine ‘uncomfortable‘ issues, unknown stories and unwelcome audiences to write, share or compose narratives in impermanent settings.
Interested in this subject? Earlier this year Het Nieuwe Instituut also organised the talkshow Designing for Diversity.