Design and Violence is an experimental online curatorial project that will stretch over several months, maybe years. Its purpose is to explore the idea of violence in contemporary society using design objects as prompts for wider questions and reflections. Violence, at least at the beginning of the project, is defined as the manifestation of the power to alter circumstances, against the will of others and to their detriment.
Design has a history of violence. It can be an act of creative destruction and a double-edged sword, surprising us with consequences intended or unintended. Although designers aim to work toward the betterment of society, it is and has been easy for them to overstep, indulge in temptation, succumb to the dark side of a moral dilemma, or simply err.
The curators have assembled a wide range of design objects, projects, and concepts that have an ambiguous relationship with violence, either masking it while at the same time enabling it; animating it in order to condemn it; or instigating it in order to prevent it. Most were designed after 2001, a watershed year in the public perception of violence, at least in the United States and other parts of the western world.
The curators are inviting experts from fields as diverse as science, philosophy, literature, music, film, journalism, and politics to respond to selected objects from that list, in order to spark a conversation with all readers. They will post two examples a week for the first month, and one example each week thereafter, for at least a year, perhaps longer. At the bottom of each post by a distinguished author, the curators will ask a provocative question about violence and moderate the discussion. Each object will also be accompanied by museum-standard information and a short description, as well as by images and videos.
In a second phase of our project, a Google Earth extension will be added to pinpoint where each object can be physically found in the world--a dispersed exhibition of sorts--so visitors will be able to match their travel whereabouts with traditional exhibition-style viewing of the artifacts.
Design and Violence is organized by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA; Jamer Hunt, Director, graduate program in Transdisciplinary Design, Parsons The New School for Design; Kate Carmody, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA; and Meagan Durlak, Research Assistant. The website was designed by Shannon Darrough, Senior Media Developer, Department of Digital Media. Initial design by Luke Keller. Creative direction by Allegra Burnette, Creative Director, Department of Digital Media. Website development by Arrow Root Media.
Image: Massoud Hassani (Dutch, b. Afghanistan 1983). Design Academy Eindhoven (The Netherlands, est. 1947). Mine Kafon wind-powered deminer. 2011. Bamboo and biodegradable plastics. 87 x 87 x 87" (221 x 221 x 221 cm). Gift of the Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, 2012. Photographs courtesy of Hassani Design BV