More love for the first lady featured on futurefemmes, Faith Holland! ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I started this post a while back and then put it on hold while moving, etc. I never “finished” it but didn’t want it to just rot away in my drafts since I really like Faith Holland’s work and if one person sees this blog and is exposed to her work then I’ll be happy. Also, since this is a blog and not an academic essay I’ve decided it’s okay to post unfinished pieces, so here goes. Seriously though, check out her website; I didn’t post any images because I didn’t want to do so without permission and I think her work is best experienced in its complete form so go look at it. Now.
Faith Holland received her BA in Media Studies from Vassar in 2007 producing, for her thesis, a series of black and white photographs that re-interpreted Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse (a favorite of mine) from a feminist perspective. Barthes’ book relies on the relationship of an active (masculine) lover to the passive (feminine) lovee. In the essay accompanying Lovers’ Discourse: A Visual, Feminist Re-Interpretation of Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse, Holland cites parallel arguments to this including John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (”men act and women appear”) and bell hooks’ All About Love (“even in non-heterosexual relationships, the paradigms of leader and follower often prevail, with one person assuming the role deemed feminine and another the designated masculine role.”) In representing the lovers (note that Holland pluralizes the title) visually, Holland attempts to show them as equal but different: “The intention is that the viewer is free to identify with either party—active or passive, if the lovers are both or either of those ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼things—whereas Barthes’ language only leaves room to identify with the active, masculinized lover.”
A few months ago you posted a blog that articulately dissents with “speculative and critical design”, claiming the practice in fact to often be an exercise in privileged technological navel-gazing. It’s pretty relative to technological circles, especially as designers ponder “what’s next” and want to be critical about the technological innovation and privilege that they engage in. I know it went viral, but what was the response that you got back?
[I ask:] Is speculative and critical design really necessary? Does it really change anything, or is it just an exercise in privilege, an elitist platform for the precious sensibilities of the european/u.s. american middle/upper class? I think that speculative and critical design does have a lot to offer, but it’s urgent that it takes a good hard look at itself first. The current format, with all its rampant unchecked privilege, its representation of futures where people of colour are virtually nonexistent, where couples are heterosexual, where everybody is cis, where gender is binary and the worst thing you can imagine is not to eat bluefin tuna for dinner… well, that’s not a speculative and critical design that I want to participate in.
(A quick google image search of “Designer” brings up the following)
Prado: Of course there were people who disagreed with what we had to say, but the criticism we received has been mostly constructive. My personal impression is that our text perhaps managed to touch upon some issues in speculative and critical design that had been bothering many people (as evidenced by the comment thread that originally spawned our text @ MoMA’s Design and Violence website), but that nobody had written down yet.
While design is obviously supported and driven by the market as well as its institutions, more speculative and experimental work will be supported by research and universities. How do you think that institutions can address these concerns better?
I graduated from a university where design was seen as a way to make things more functional (in a very narrow understanding of what functional means), prettier (according to what standards?) or better (better according to whom?). Questioning was not something designers were encouraged to do - questioning was something that artists did within the safe confines of gallery spaces. And I believe that design is so much more powerful than that. In Brazil we still have a long way to go, but university programs like the one at UNESP give me a lot of hope.
Design needs urgently to stop being seen as a luxury, as something that can only be accessed by a few select people in the middle and upper classes. I’m not a big believer that the industry is capable of solving anything on its own - all the industry is about is making money, and social justice tends to get on the way of profit. I believe we need a more diverse set of people making things happen in speculative and critical design - latin americans like myself, people from outside of the “developed countries” circuit, gender-nonconforming people, non-hetero people, people who are willing to discuss social justice in the near future. Diversity is key: if you only have privileged voices in SCD you will never hear the other side.