Day 2: reflections and comments

I only wish I could split myself into 6 and then I could write about all 6 strands. Otherwise, I can´t really do the conference in its entirety justice. I would be too partial, just filtering what I picked up. But maybe you can fill in your own ´highlights´ in the comments.

I was particularly pleased that Oriol Pibernat, Director of Barcelona´s art and design school Eina, was the first speaker of the Anti- and Radical Design strand. He gave a close and considered discussion of the famous crisis of the school in 1972. Therein, he showed, the school briefly ceased even to be a design school but was instead resolutely experimental and explorative. Oriol Ventura Roda followed with a discussion of Carles Riart´s work of the same period, showing how was at once trying to pursue industrial production but also alternative forms of consumption. Tania Costa Gomez then returned us to Eina, showing how artistic experiments there attempted to place art and design back in the realm of the everyday. I think there´s a great opportunity to pursue this period of design history. It offers a rich expression of some of the problematics of its time, both locally to Barcelona in Francoist Spain and also in what it can contribute to a more global understanding of radical design in the 1970s.

So that´s my plug for today. More Spanish design history now!

Fast forward to the end of the day (at least in terms of the core of the conference). No doubt as I write (midnight), many delegates are continuing the peripheral, but important activities that such a conference as this offer.

So we finished the day with Ken Garland and Huda Abifares in conversation.  Perhaps Ken represents historical experiences (in that he, in his own words, is an ‘old geezer’) and Huda represents geographical experiences (in that she works between European and Arabic typographic practices). Much of the discussion focused on the issue of the control of lack of control, the authorship, that graphic designers have and have had. As if to demonstrate this, both of them were open and generous in their conversational patina, stimulating useful and interesting interventions from the audience.

Slide from Huda Abifares' presentation

To put the beginning and end of, at least my day, together, it seems that a strong theme coming through has been that of design activism being involved in loosening up borders. Perhaps it is less obsessed with differentiation, with claiming territorial spaces for itself than other design practices. So there seems to be a quite interesting contrast between this looseness and the idea that it is and has been also geared to achieving particular political or other ends. Pragmaticism meets experiment.

I look forward to your disagreements.

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