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Janneke Wesseling on The Device Paradigm and Contemporary Practices in Art and Design

On May 18 Janneke Wesseling gave a lecture at the conference "Critical by Design? The Potentials and Limitations of Materialized Critique”, taking place at the Academy of Art and Design in Basel, Switzerland.

Critical By Design?

Critical By Design? is a two-day international research conference on the capacity of design as a mode of critique. It offers a unique platform for the interdisciplinary discussion of critical theories and practices from a design perspective. Renowned experts from design theory, history and practice, the philosophy of technology, the art, cultural and media studies as well as the field of human-computer interaction come together to reconsider historical trajectories, advance contemporary understandings and propose future developments of design as a materialized form of critique.

Lecture Janneke Wesseling

The main research question of the NWO project Bridging art, design and technology through Critical Making (led by Janneke Wesseling) is whether, in a technologically informed cultural field, the notion of ‘critical making’ can reinvigorate the concept of criticality in art and design, and, conversely, whether art and design practices can radicalize the criticality of critical making.

Wesseling’s lecture will focus on the concept of ‘device paradigm’ as developed by the American philosopher Alfred Borgmann in his Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life. A Philosophical Inquiry (1984).

Technology promises liberation, enrichment, and the conquering of the scourges of humanity. The irony of it is, according to Borgmann, that liberation by way of disburdenment yields to the disengagement from the world of things.

The device paradigm locates the crucial force that more and more detaches us from the persons, things, and practices that used to engage and grace us in their own right.

What does the device paradigm mean for contemporary art and design practices? And vice versa, what can be the role of art and design in this technology driven world?

Lecture Anja Groten

On that same day, May 18, researcher Anja Groten's lecture proposed, from the perspective of design practice, hands-on modes of learning about technology, calling into question tech-optimist notions such as innovation. Strategies of critical making¹ are hereby put forward as means to force quit (ctrl+c) and reevaluate accelerated technological processes.

Critical Making

The NWO funded research project ‘Bridging art, design and technology through Critical Making’ aims to interrogate Critical Making by experimentally applying it to a broad range of artistic practices. The project will investigate to what extent Critical Making can serve as a comprehensive concept for design, technology, education and activism intersecting with critical contemporary art practices and artistic research.


Photo: Julian Oliver.Transparency Grenade, installation view.

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