Iaspis invites you to an installation, live interviews & seminar at ExperimentaDesign ’09.
Seminar participants: Ana Betancour, Otto von Busch, Tor Lindstrand, Helena Mattsson
Moderators: Ramia Mazé, Magnus Ericson
Panel discussion with international guests

On-site at ExperimentaDesign, DESIGN ACT invites you to a discussion about socially and politically engaged design. Visit and contribute to a seminar featuring Swedish practitioners discussing historical and contemporary projects; live interviews during the opening week, and an installation featuring a participatory archive of project examples where you can collect information and print your own publication. The installed and online archive of DESIGN ACT will be continually updated with media and materials produced from these activities.

How can design materialize ideas that can lead to wider change? Can design reform – or contest – social and political conditions? Where does this take place – in the design studio or on the factory floor, in exhibition settings or on the streets? What are the emerging tactics, outcomes and audiences for such forms of practice?

The DESIGN ACT seminar explores critical roles for designers in society. In Sweden, architecture, fashion and design have historically participated in constructing the ideals – and forms – of the welfare state. Today, practitioners continue to engage in social and societal issues, whether materializing a critique of the status quo, proposing alternatives to reform systems and spaces, or staging participatory design processes and public debates. While too often reduced to questions of form and function, such tendencies expose powerful and political forms of design practice.

Featuring a series of presentations from Swedish designers and a panel session with international guests, the DESIGN ACT seminar at ExperimentaDesign reflects on historical precedents and discusses examples of contemporary practice. Presentations by: Helena Mattsson, on Swedish welfare politics, critique and design; Ana Betancour, on architecture as catalyst for social change; Otto von Busch, on hactivism and participation in fashion design; Tor Lindstrand, on architecture and performance for staging new social interactions.

In the panel session following the presentations, the presenters, international guests and the audience take up the seminar theme in relation to issues in other contexts, disciplines and parts of the world – and, together, reflect on future directions for design.

Socially and politically engaged design today – critical roles and emerging tactics

DESIGN ACT is a project highlighting and discussing contemporary design practices that engage with political and societal issues. It traces current and historical tendencies towards design as a ‘critical practice’ that engages ideologically and practically in such/these issues. Design is a powerful force in shaping material culture, societal values and human behavior. Ideas about how things should be are often embedded within the persuasive visions and forms of design and architecture. As a service profession, design typically operates ‘in service’ to the ideas of its clients. This differentiates it from art, which has a tradition of criticizing its commissioning institutions, and craft, which has long represented a counter-culture to mainstream modes of production and consumption. However, many contemporary designers are countering conventional ideas of what design is, and what it should be about. In emerging genres of ‘social’, ‘critical’ and ‘activist’ design, practitioners question issues of gender and class, ownership and authorship, power and welfare. The critique posed is not of design, as such, but of design blindly serving historical convention or hegemonic ideologies. DESIGN ACT is initiated and produced by Iaspis in collaboration with the Interactive Institute. Project managers: Magnus Ericson (Iaspis), Ramia Mazé (Interactive Institute). Project coordinator: Sara Teleman. Research assistant: Natasha Llorens. Graphic design: Friendly Matters.

Iaspis is the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International Programme for Visual Artists. The main purpose is to promote dialogue between practitioners in Sweden and the international scene. Iaspis encompasses an international studio program in Sweden, a support structure for exhibitions and residences abroad for Swedish-based practitioners, and a program of seminars, exhibitions and publications. The Interactive Institute is a Swedish IT-research institute that combines expertise in art, design and technology, pioneering societal and sustainable approaches to world-leading applied.