Tuesday, March 27, 2012

thinking about design

I've been occupied for the last few days with my website. I recently decided that perhaps, just maybe, if I embrace social media, I will grow to love it. To that end, I purchased clarelouiseharmon.com, my very own domain name. In preparing to post my design portfolio, I began to cobble together some thoughts on design. It often troubles me, to participate in a media that, essentially, produces waste. Posters are disposable. The streets are filled with cheap fliers, disintegrating in the gutter. Soon enough the following (or some form of it) will be posted on my website. For now, here it is. I began with three questions: What is it to design? What does design do? Why is design important to me?

What is it to design, to make objects? As a musician, I worked primarily with temporal forms that lack specific objects. Intangible and transient, the quintessence of the ineffable constituted my study and continues to inform my thought. Indeed, the musical media draw us near Deleuzian immanence: they offer an image of time, a sense of the conceivable yet inarticulable, the truth that is grasped only as it slips through our fingers. 

What does design do? Design produces a negative dialectic between the material and the imaginary; the actual and virtual. In this way, design produces endless Becomings. The tension between material and virtual--incapable of converging in perfect Hegelian unity--spurs the creation of perceptions, contexts, interpretations. Design creates an open system through its process of Rhizomatic proliferation.

 Why is design important to me? Existing as we do in this an-aesthetic epoch--plagued by hierarchicalization of every stripe--that which is beautiful is either dehumanized, commodified, or restricted. Presently, poignancy is inextricable from art objects past and present. Art was once connected to individual bodies, the hands that made it and the eyes that saw it. Art was once an experience, singular and special. Art was once a human behavior, available to all and fully embodied. Now, we must do the best we can. The mass-produced object is a reality. A century of mechanical reproduction has obliterated Benjamin’s aura. Class stratification has undergone an ostensibly irreversible process of calcification. As a designer, I am compelled to create objects that reference and honor the hands that made them. I am compelled to explore an expressive form that resists commodification by embracing its own reproducibility. I am compelled to provide an aesthetic experience to the passer-by, not just to the museum-goer.

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