Forms of Assembly (semester two)

"Forms of Assembly" is an advanced two semester research and project-based seminar initiated by Art, Design, and the Public Domain MDes, in collaboration with GSD Exhibitions, that will focus on the Harvard Campus as a site of inquiry, design propositions, and, ultimately, built projects for its common spaces.

The city is a place of complex socioeconomic, cultural, and political entanglements. In its public spaces, we come together, inform and form one another. These spaces of physical, social, and cultural encounters are critical for democracy, freedom, and a just society. The university campus, situated within the city, expresses these tensions along its edges in how it negotiates the city.

Confronted by a global pandemic, we become confined within a minimal space. Physically, our bodies are locked inside the domestic environment, and when outside, they are masked and at six feet apart from one another. Intellectually, our virtual and online exchanges, which are seemingly open, remain highly edited and surveilled. We communicate with a world of similarity, gated in social and professional networks.

Not only the pandemic imperils our public spaces, and, by extension, our freedom, and rights. We are living in times of changing climate and environmental destruction that have immense consequences on human and other species’ lives and habitat. These growing stresses threaten to solidify policies, culture, and spaces of isolation, exclusions, and violence. Walls and detainment camps are forming vast landscapes along national political borders. At this time of public health crisis, precarious public life, and environmental catastrophe, we need to come together in solidarity more than ever before.

How can we imagine today, from the quarantine, our way out of isolationism? Can art and design practices become agents and agencies to conceive, enact, and mobilize agonistic and less striated environments – spaces of unedited, uncontrolled, open exchange, and places of care?

This seminar, at the intersection of art, design, and activism – theory and practice. It includes guest lectures, research, and design assignments. Students will be required to investigate and reimagine the potentiality of public spaces between the campus and the city and use the format of ephemeral interventions, performances, exhibitions, and installations to enact encounters and Forms of Assembly that are critical for democracy, freedom, and a just society.