[-empyre-] Hactivating Design

Ricardo Dominguez rrdominguez at ucsd.edu
Thu Nov 19 22:54:24 EST 2009

Hola all and Brooke,

I really enjoyed "undesigning" poster Brooke and it would be really great
to slip into classrooms from pre-k to post-grad spaces. (I will work on

I do think that the tactical re-engineering is an important gesture and
one that has been important in my thinking since I first encountered
the community research initiatives that ACT UP/SF - Golden Gate established
in late 80's as a response to the viral politics of therapeutic state at
the time.
And by creating a "hactivating design" gesture of smashing popular
toothpaste with the politics of the question that can become viral - which
at the core of its performative matrix is that anyone can do it. Now that
I have a young son everything becomes amplified in terms of toxicities at
all levels. We are encountering particle capitalism(s) clouds at every
scale of being. Which, is an important theme for the *particle group* as
well (http://pitmm.net).

As, part of video mediation on Open Fabrication systems, the attempted to
bring together EDT/*particle group* and the other gestures that
criss-crossed each other under the sign of “science of the oppressed”
(which I came to understand came from Monique Wittig – really fantastico)
- here is a section of the text that I thought might fall into the sphere
of “hactivating design”:

[science of the oppressed and garageScience]

We can imagine Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, Chela Sandoval’s
Methodology of the Oppressed, Critical Art Ensemble’s tactical science,
Natalie Jeremijenko public experiments and what the Electronic Disturbance
Theater has framed today as the “science of the oppressed” – each of these
parts of a wide area call for a re-framed relationalilty between
spectator, poesis, praxis, experimentation and Sandoval’s differential
consciousness of the “la conciencia de la metiza”.  Each gesture diagrams
alternative social forms of life and art that fall between the known and
unknown, between fiction and the real, between clean science and dirty
science – each a part of a long history of an epistemology of social
production which privileges the standpoint of the proletariat, the
multitude, the open hacks of the DIY moments, and of autonomous
investigators who stage test zones of cognitive styles-as/and out of –
concrete practices as speculation and speculation as concrete practices –
at the speed of dreams.

What the artivist adds to this circuit is the ability to stage potential
rehearsals for the now-and-future community laboratories, for the
nanoGarages to come, for the current empirical speculations of new
ecologies of social formations that can create a space for the agency of
actor-spectators – that can route around the neoliberal walls of “venture
science” as only protocol for “scientific” research and instead offer a
counter-frame/unframe of a science for and by the people. As Boal stated,
“we must move towards a rehearsal-theater and away from a
spectacle-theater.” The “science of the oppressed” for EDT is type of
“rehearsal-lab” that imagines community laboratories blooming from the
always/already “lowrider” robotics of East L.A., from the Zapatista “Open
Seed” an assemblage Open Wetware lab(s) – each garage a “rehearsal-lab”
for new agency(s) defined by the people/the citizen/the nomad to “resume
their protgonistic function” between/within/without art and science.

The whole video is here:


Also, some other thoughts on these themes by *particle group*'s
Nanosférica presentation:

nano nano,

> These are some of the specifics I am dealing with, but I am interested in
> this general premise: if design is about intention and if we want to
> create
> change through design then we have to design with a broader set of
> objectives in mind. Reverse engineering our everyday products is a good
> starting point. And when I rebuild with broader objectives as I define
> them,
> financial considerations are part of the equation but not top of the list
> or
> the lead imperative as with mega-corporations that are designing popular
> toothpastes.
> I came across this paper a few weeks back by Scott Burnham called "Finding
> the Truth in Systems: In Praise of Design Hacking" that is quite relevant
> to
> this discussion (http://scottburnham.com/?p=521).
> A brief sample from that paper:
>     * Hacking creates new engagements between the product and the consumer
>     * Hacking mandates relevance and necessity in design
>     * Hacking is resourceful
>     * Hacking creates abundance from limited resources
>     * Hacking finds the truth in systems
> And, I leave you with a short essay of mine (this is actually text from a
> poster you can download here: http://undesigning.org/cmos.html) for those
> who want to read more.
> Best, Brooke
> Our Chemically Modified Organisms (CMOs)
> Industrial chemistry is a 20th century phenomenon. During World War I,
> military demand for war gas was a great boon for the burgeoning industry.
> But, in 1925, with the signing of the Geneva Protocol that banned chemical
> warfare, industry had to look for other markets. The production of nerve
> gas
> (a phosphorous-containing chemical) gave way to a new line of insecticides
> and the chlorine used in weapons such as phosgene and mustard gas became
> feedstock for newly designed solvents, PCBs and, eventually, plastics.
> The chemical industry really took off after World War II. In the United
> States, synthetic organic chemical production has grown more than
> thirty-fold since 1940. Today industry produces billions of tons of
> chemicals per year of approximately 90,000 substances. These man-made
> chemicals are the foundation of our built environment. They form our
> plastics, cosmetics, household cleaners, pharmaceuticals, resins,
> pesticides, food packaging, paper, clothing, flame-retardants,
> electronics,
> solvents, paint, automobile parts, mattresses, lumber, pigments,
> refrigeration, detergents, PVC, silicone, dry cleaning, disinfectants,
> lubricants ­ the list is truly endless.
> Many of these chemicals and the byproducts produced during their life
> cycle
> are stable and persist in the environment. These chemicals also
> bio-accumulate, meaning they increase in concentration as they move up the
> food chain. Chemicals can travel great distances on currents of wind and
> water, making remote regions like the Arctic just as susceptible to
> degradation.
> New research demonstrates that some of these pollutants, even at very low
> doses, can cause serious health problems. Previously it was thought that
> decreasing the concentration of a substance would mitigate its impact.
> Dilution is no longer seen as the pollution solution. Timing of exposure
> is
> crucial and sensitivity is particularly high when exposure occurs in utero
> or early development.
> For many years, cancer was the primary health concern. Today, laboratory
> studies and wildlife observations demonstrate that chemical dangers are
> extensive. Chemical exposures disrupt endocrine, reproductive, immune and
> nervous systems as well as contribute to cancer and other diseases.
> In its first scientific statement published in 2009, The Endrocrine
> Society
> -- an international body with 14,000 members founded in 1916 -- stated:
> "Results from animal models, human clinical observations, and
> epidemiological studies converge to implicate EDCs [endocrine-disrupting
> chemicals] as a significant concern to public health."
> The United States government does not require manufacturers to prove a
> chemical is safe before use and companies generally do not voluntarily do
> so. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has only required
> testing
> for some 200 of the 90,000 chemicals already in circulation. In response,
> many groups and concerned citizens are promoting the precautionary
> principle, which states that the manufacture of certain products should
> cease even when there are only hypothetical and untested risks. This
> places
> the burden of proof on the industry to show that a substance is safe
> rather
> than on society to demonstrate there is a specific risk.
> Some scientists are creating new frameworks, citing the failure of the
> scientific method alone to sufficiently protect human health and
> ecological
> effects. Funtowicz and Ravetz, for example, have introduced postnormal
> science, which is useful when facts are uncertain, the stakes are high and
> decisions are urgent. These scientists encourage dialogue and
> participation
> with a full range of stakeholders since scientific objectivity cannot
> provide all that is needed for decision-making on high, risk issues.
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Ricardo Dominguez
Associate Professor
Hellman Fellow

Visual Arts Department, UCSD
Principal Investigator, CALIT2
Co-Chair gallery at calit2
CRCA Researcher
Ethnic Studies Affiliate
Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies Affiliate

Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics,
Board Member

University of California, San Diego,
9500 Gilman Drive Drive,
La Jolla, CA 92093-0436
Phone: (619) 322-7571
e-mail: rrdominguez at ucsd.edu

Project sites:
site: http://gallery.calit2.net
site: http://pitmm.net
site: http://bang.calit2.net
site: http://www.thing.net/~rdom

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