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Cruel Design/Disobedient Design – The Art and Politics of Designing for Social Justice

Thursday, April 5th 7-9pm

A talk with Dr. Anna Feigenbaum, Minute Works, and Dr. Gavin Grindon

From drones, border walls, and riot control weapons to protest banners and DIY tear gas masks, design practices are used for both social control and social change. In this free talk we explore how design practices are implemented in the creation of objects used for repression and harm.

Situating this ‘cruel design’ in relation to acts of disobedience, we take the audience on a journey through the creative processes and critical readings of power that lie at the heart of designing for disobedience. Revealing the tensions between ‘cruel design’ and ‘disobedient design,’ we draw on a range of examples. From RiotID infographics to protesting legos, we look at how such objects travel across nations and movements.

As repressive and harmful technologies are continually innovated and adapted, people continue to find new modes of resilience. We argue that beyond the creation of individual artefacts, engaging in civic and participatory design can foster infrastructures of resistance, shape social movement cultures, and innovate tactics that spread around the world.

Dr. Anna Feigenbaum is a Principal Academic in Digital Storytelling at Bournemouth University where she runs the Civic Media Hub. She is coordinator of the RiotID project that uses participatory information design to train people around the world how to identify, monitor and record the use of riot control weapons against civilians around the world.

Minute Works is a graphic design studio whose projects are defined by an enthusiasm for sustainable practice and social solidarity. They work regularly with Greenpeace and the Green Party, among other campaign groups and non-profits. They are the designers on the RiotID project, featured at Banksy’s Dismaland.

Dr. Gavin Grindon is a Lecturer in Art History and Curating at the University of Essex. Gavin recently curated The Museum of Cruel Designs and Guerilla Island at Banksy’s Dismaland show. Before this he co-curated the exhibition Disobedient Objects at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, about objects of art and design produced by protest.


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