Organic Dictatorship is the intriguing title of this year’s MAID exhibition. It sounds rather like a clue to a crossword puzzle, or perhaps a description of the studio culture at CSM (consensual, one hopes), or the political visions presented in the different projects. It could even be an illustration of the creative process, as when unrelated categories are brought together, to produce work that is thought- provoking and extraordinary. In fact, all these impressions are correct, for the exhibition represents a version of design that is adaptive, collaborative and emergent.
So why now, and why does this work matter?
To start with this is design for a time and a place where problems are seldom simple, and answers are never straightforward. For just as new technology promises to make us smarter, we grow increasingly wary of unintended consequences. Perhaps we would be happier with less stuff, or at least experiences that were more attuned to our real needs; except that it is difficult to disentangle such needs from social norms and spectacle. And then there is the shifting conception of the body in design; from a focus on metrics and ergonomics to consciousness and emotions. What could a brain scan tell us about an intuitive interaction? And we mustn’t forget technological determinism as it is experienced today. In the past the car ‘made’ the suburbs and cultivated a relatively hierarchical form of social status. But now ubiquitous computing and social media facilitate the viral transmission of memes, and a digital self that is in many ways superior to the natural self. So how might we recover the feeling of an authentic memory, how do we become part of a geographical community, and how do we recapture the sense of agency that comes from work?
Welcome to the Organic Dictatorship, it promises to be an unsettling journey
Stuff, this years exhibition title acknowledges the reality that whilst the immaterial, bit and pixel virtual world expands on multiple horizons it is always linked umbilically to the physical and the tactile. Everything is physics and physics is physical right down to molecular level. The digital expands the potential and operation of micro – space but it is tangible, touchable ‘stuff’, which personifies interface, portal, anchor, icon, concept and ritual. Software still needs hardware handles. Stuff persists and sustains. The problem is in engaging intelligent restraint, anticipatory recycling, informed custodianship and enlightened self-interest.