Exhibit: Designing for Decentralization

“Exhibit: Designing for Decentralization” is an advanced research- and project-based course initiated by the Art, Design, and the Public Domain (ADPD) MDes concentration in collaboration with IdeasCity, the New Museum’s platform to explore art and culture beyond the walls of the museum. 

In this seminar, “exhibit” is defined as the act of presenting an object, performance, or intervention in the public domain to trigger imagination and enact a response.

Situated at the intersection of (critical) theory and (visual) practice, and art, activism, and design, “Exhibit” explores how artistic practice can be critically engaged with its surroundings—built, social, and natural environments—by addressing local, global, and planetary concerns.

Models of cultural representation developed and deployed by institutions, like museums, foundations, or galleries, provide a unique opportunity to accumulate, generate, exchange, and disseminate knowledge over a short period of time. These institutions and their various models of representation, however, are centralized and co-opted by cultural and market forces that limit radical experimentation, inclusion, dialogue, collaboration, exchange, or long-term engagement. 

How can artistic practices, activism, and design go beyond the framework of centralized institutions, challenge power, and offer agency to a broader set of actors such as local communities, political movements, and people from other disciplines?

“Exhibit” will examine the relationship between cultural production and resistance through various precedents, referring to movements and projects from the Battle of Seattle, Black Audio Film Collective, Decolonize This Place, Immigrant Movement International, and Occupy, to projects by groups such as Superflex, Critical Art Ensemble, Pink Bloque, Yes Men, the Institute for Applied Autonomy, Wavelength Foundation, or the Arctic Cycle. 

Through this advanced research seminar, which includes guest lecturers, workshops, and assignments, “Exhibit: Designing for Decentralization” will examine cases of art and design activism, diverse tactics of culture jamming, decentralization, and aesthetic interventions. The course will engage with artists, activists, curators, designers, and representatives of cultural and grassroots organizations to explore diverse modalities and designs of exhibits as catalysts for research and experimentation with public engagement. 

Throughout the semester, students will produce curatorial research and design concepts, develop public engagement strategies, and install site-specific projects. Concluding the course, students’ work will be featured at the upcoming IdeasCity program in Singapore in February 2020.

Vere van Gool, Associate Director of IdeasCity at the New Museum and the curator of the upcoming IdeasCity programs in Singapore, will contribute to the course.

Goals of the course:

– Explore the agency of art and design to enact public engagement.

– Expose students to methods, techniques, and positions of representation, intervention, and culture jamming.

– Engage with cultural institutions, museums, foundations, and galleries.

– Gain experience in curatorial practice through collaboration with IdeasCity in Singapore.

Student evaluation is based on the participation in class and the final project.