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Büsse Michaela

Analysing design through the lens of human-material entanglements

Beginn des PhD-Programms / Start of the PhD-Program: WS 2017

Betreuung / Supervision:
Claudia Mareis (ECAM; HGK FHNW in Basel)
Karin Harrasser
Adam Nocek

In my ongoing practice-based PhD research I analyse design through the lens of human-material relationships. Despite philosophical claims toward a mutuality of becoming (and thus a co-authorship of material and designer) I argue that design enforces a separation between human and nonhuman because of the politics it carries with it. Focussing on matter as a common denominator for all forms of life ignores scale effects as well as constraints in becoming. By using sand as an interscalar vehicle (Hecht 2018) I’m laying out how design is implicated with extraction, passivisation and commodification of materials in order to manage and control the environment and its inhabitants. Sand is one of the five resources with the highest global demand being in the centre stage of political, economic and ecological warfare. In the form of quartz and silica it is essential to the technological infrastructures shaping our everyday life; as cement and steel it acts as the literal building block of modernity; in the form of land mass it demarcates the poor and the rich—those who mine and export land and those who import and ‘recover’. My fieldwork-based approach traces sand in places where it’s transformed the most: Singapore and the Netherlands. Here, my work attempts to register the various entanglements between different bodies and sand: from the mine worker to the engineer; from those who lost their home because of erosion as a consequence of heavy dredging to those enjoying a newly renaturalised beach; from the granular nature of the material to geological rifts caused by large-scale infrastructure design. The manifold of life worlds, places and temporalities become part of the same planetary design project: the denaturalisation of matter into material and thus the internalisation of ‘nature’ into the logics of capital. A material-based view on design allows to unpack the unspoken politics implicated in design and the unequal distribution of agency, human and other, that comes with it. In the face of a constant widening of scope of design and with many well-intended attempts to overcome design dualisms, it is crucial for designers and others to understand the politics ingrained in design.

Kurz-Biographie / Short Bio
Michaela Büsse is a design researcher and editor. Her interest spans design cultures, visual anthropology, urban studies and human geography. She is a PhD candidate at the European Centre for Art, Design and Media based Research (ECAM) and a Junior Researcher at the Critical Media Lab in Basel, Switzerland. Michaela regularly lectures on critical design and media studies at various institutions, is part of the editorial board at Migrant Journal, and co-founder of OTHERWISE - a festival-as-research.

about 25% of Singapore is artificial land reclaimed in less than 50 years and with resources from Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia © Google Maps, 2019