As the 20th Century opened, design was very quickly ‘outed’ in Marxist thinking as a material world not to be trusted – mechanised and robbed of any sense of subjectivity it became a lackey to the dominant capitalist discourse. As the first decade of the new century unfurled Simmel commented, ‘What is distressing is that we are basically indifferent to those numerous objects that swarm around us, and this is for reasons specific to a money economy: their impersonal origin and easy replaceability’. And, at the twentieth century’s close, the debate on design has matured (if not necessarily moved on?) evidenced in Hal Foster’s Design and Crime; and his investigation of the ‘political economy of design’. Foster provides a scenario where contemporary design is ‘part of a greater revenge of capitalism on postmodernism’.
Design practice and discourse - product, graphic, applied arts - has difficulty in raising its voice above the dominant and accusatory critical left – the tired rhetoric of semiotics would seem to be the only legitimised language to interrogate design.
This paper will look at some key texts in communication/media studies to search for a critical language that might legitimise design as a dynamic actor in the mediation between itself and audience. To allow design a voice outside of anti-consumerist discourse. The framework for the investigation will be violence and its dialogic relationship with the materiality of the object. In particularly I will look at the work on spectatorship by French sociologist Luc Boltanski, and his thesis of the ‘aesthetic topic’ in the construction of an active mediating audience.
|Keywords:||Design, Violence, Mediation|
Head of MA Programmes, School of Art and Design, University of Wolverhampton, London, UK
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