Day 4: reflections, comments and more

Without a hint of jet-lag or hangover, delegates launched into the final day. In fact, it occurred to me that Barcelona has this strange effect — at least on me — which is, the less you sleep here the better you feel. It´s a bit like carnival when you get into that thing called, in the vernacular, ´mas´. This is where a euphoria is induced through a combination of being focused on one thing and very little sleep over several days.

Conference delegates were welcomed at the doors to FAD by an impromptu, unscripted appearance of the activists F*** For Forests.

F*** For Forests activists welcome delegates.

Jody Boenhert gives more explanation in her excellent blog on the conference.

Clive Dilnot and his Parsons posse took the stage for the first part. Billed as ´design as politics´, this colloquium used Tony Fry´s provocative text of the same name as springboard to discuss how designers, design educators and design historians might move up a gear in confronting climate change.

Cameron Tonkinwise gave us a useful and lucid background to Tony Fry, drawing attention to his contra-plurastic politics, practice and pedagogy. Politics, he argues, only deals with margins while design is everywhere else. Sustainment should be made sovereign. And in putting these last two together, Fry looks for a politics that lies outside politics.

Damien White then gave an extended and fascinating critique of Fry´s thinking. In particular, he drew attention to Fry´s lack of attention to the economies of sustainment. (Of course this neatly chimes with my own preoccupations, so forgive the bias here.) Furthermore, Damien posited that the discussion needs to link more obviously and stridently to related issues of gender, the home and labour.

Karen Pinkus argued that we are not apocalyptic enough in the face of what we are dealing with. There is an urgent temporality while at the same time, Fry´s notion of defuturing runs the risk of running to a kind of fossilized notion of sustainment.

So the discussion moves as much to how we might interpret and enact Fry´s work as the work itself. Clearly his work is of deep importance at this juncture and we need to be thinking about how to move design education on, to radicalize it, to risk it, even. And we should indulge ´sceptical gaeity´ or, as Gramsci put it, ´cynicism with optimism´.

Laura Kurgan gave us the final keynote. If Ken Garland had provided something of the historical and Huda Abifares the geographical, perhaps this pattern was repeated between Henk Oosterling´s keynote and Laura´s. The focus was on mapping and how the relationship between information control and spatial control might be opened up for critical inspection by creative practice. But it can also produce new data representations that have important effects and affects by which we interpret and act on the world.

After the profuse thanks in all directions, Paul Jobling introduced the DHS conference for 2012, to take place at the University of Brighton, second week of September again. The theme: Sport.

Drinks, canapés, more talk on the terrace, tours… the conference is still going on as I write.

Speakers: send in your papers. Delegates: think about how the material from the conference can get further diffusion.

Stay in touch and keep sharing your comments.

Beneath the cobble stones, the beach. And that´s where I´m headed for now.

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