Universiteit Leiden

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Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA)

Design and the Deep Future

Research into Post-Design Phenomena

Designed products are usually conceived of in their state of imminence—as shiny and bounded materialisations of creative ingenuity, manufacturing labour and consumer desire. Such a conception represents only one ephemeral moment in their itineraries, however. After their periods of usefulness are over, and they are disposed of, their presence as post-design can become much more permanent in the form of toxin-leaching husks, indelible plastiglomerates or as ingested microplastics—as phenomena with lasting and profound consequences in our deep future.
This research project investigates the relationship between design and geologic time, through topics such as the dematerialisation and self-destruction of matter, repair and re-use, digital detritus, and space junk. The project is led by Dr. Alice Twemlow, who is an Associate Professor at ACPA and Design Lector at KABK (Royal Academy of Art The Hague.) Twemlow conducts research in collaboration with many different actors who are connected to this field, ranging from archaologists and geologists to consumers, designers, waste workers and incineration plant workers, as well as with tutors and students at KABK and Leiden University. The results, but also the processes and resources, are shared in multiple formats, including: a research hub called “Zero-Waste Cabinet of Curiosities” designed and built by KABK students from waste materials sourced at KABK; lexicons of key terms; exhibitions; symposia such as “Fault Lines”; courses including “Speaking Across Deep Time: Design and Nuclear Waste” and “Future Fossils: An Archaeology of the Here and Now”; as well as print and online publications. In line with the impetus of the environmental humanities, this project aims to bring new insights and nuanced understanding to design’s complicity in climate crisis in the public imaginary.

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