New Geographies of Violence

The University of Sydney
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the 1st Annual Design Research Conference, 2018, pp. 479 - 492
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This paper examines the design research methodologies of Studio Grandeza by analysing the material, discursive and representational qualities of their two latest design research projects, The Plant and Valparaiso Post-Liberal. Both installations were exhibited in 2017. This paper will describe them as one-to-one scale architectural models that stage, perform and debate new geographies of violence associated with late capitalism practices. Situated within the field of critical spatial practice, these works contrast the presence of spatial violence with the seduction of luxurious and excessive atmospheres, thus confronting the audience with an ambiguous magnetism. Ultimately, the spatial interventions aim to turn the audience into performers. These onlookers are included into the core of the production of space and are invited to participate in the construction of new political narratives and to discuss the ways we can live together in a fast-changing world. In this paper, we will make a close reading of the two projects and narrate how research, discourse and design have been articulated and juxtaposed in multiple ways. A multiplicity of meanings has been constructed at the intersection of uncertain realities and feasible fictions. In light of this, the narration of the events will take place at this intersection. Research material, political positions, design proposals and fictional readings of the works will help us to better illustrate the projects and our intentions. None of the analysed projects started as self-directed enquiries, but as a discursive response to specific curatorial questions and commissions. As we will see in both case studies, the research questions formulated by the curators took us to the periphery of the research projects that we were working on. Being in this position meant that projects were simultaneously informed by that research and open to further study and poetic interpretation. The projects presented in this paper articulate a critical response to the curatorial questions. In order to achieve this, we appropriate the use of the performative strategies that were once used in architecture to challenge the cultural and political assumptions of its time (like the political theatre of Bertolt Brecht, who called himself an architect). We combine this with the aspirations of the Situationists and with the irreverence and apparent absurdity of the Dada gesture, which was capable of challenging artistic conventions, and position the audience in a state of pleasant discomfort. Through a pastiche that comprises different architectural, artistic and linguistic expressions (from different movements and times) we intend to talk, with the most serious absurdity, about the present.
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