MDes Open Project: Forms of Assembly. All Things Considered

“When bodies congregate, move, and speak together, they lay claim to a certain space as public space.” – Judith Butler.

In the public space, we pass by, come together, and continuously inform and form one another. It is a space of appearance, disagreement, and encounter critical for participatory democracy, freedom, and a just society.

In “We Have Never Been Modern” and the following works, “Down to Earth” and “Critical Zones,” Bruno Latour expands the notion of the assembly beyond the human into a “Parliament of Things” that includes the invisible, unthinkable, unrepresentable nonhuman, objects, and semi-objects. He calls for a new constitution that considers all things and their properties, relations, abilities, and groupings. This newly imagined formation of an open ended and ever expanding assembly of reciprocity and care is not only just but critical for earthly survival in the time of the Anthropocene.

Climate change, global migration, the imminent possibility of war, threats associated with artificial intelligence, dwindling democracies, and polarization are among the most formidable challenges of our time. These risks and uncertainties have enormous implications for the lives of humans, other species, and our shared planet. They give rise to policies, practices, and spaces of isolation, exclusion, and even violence that impact our daily lives everywhere, urging us to envision and enact the formation of a wider assembly.

At the intersection of art, design, activism, theory, and practice, this open project seeks to investigate and imagine new forms and spaces of assembly where all bodies matter and all things are considered as an ever-expanding, entangled collective while focusing on the articulation of the problematic of spatial equity and considering the expansion of rights to more than humans, subjects, and things. Design is used here as an agent and agency to activate the potentiality of underused and interstitial public spaces and use various interventions to activate the space of appearance and challenge the public(s) imagination.

Students can use a variety of art and design mediums and formats to research, engage with publics, tell stories, and develop strategies throughout the semester. Projects may include performances, exhibitions, large-scale installations, films, publications, symposiums, websites, the creation of critical architectural elements and narratives, or policy recommendations.

The Open Project encompasses a lecture series and in-class workshops. At the end of the semester, we will showcase the projects in a group exhibition.

Please see the MDes Open Project Website for more information.