1 June 2014 -

5T 2014: Design and Resistance The 9th Conference of Turkish Design History Society

The 9th Conference of the Turkish Design History Society, 5T 2014 was held at Yaşar University in İzmir, Turkey between the 15th and 16th of May 2014. Beginning with the 8th conference in 2013, the national interest of the organization has been expanded to cover the dialogue of local design history with the global context. This also carried the conference to an international platform where design researchers from around the world would find the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences concerning the conference subject. The theme of the 5T 2014 “Design and Resistance” was inspired by such engagement with the global context. Moving forward from the recent outburst of creative resistance movements almost simultaneously in different regions of the world, the conference was intended to contemplate on the relation of design to social dissent. As stated in the call for papers, for an inquiry of the cultivation, organization and expression of social dissent through design practices such questions regarding the representative and/or constitutive roles of design practices, the ways design addresses and transforms power relations within a given society/social order and the transformations that design thinking and practice undergo during periods of strong dissent were arised. Participants were called to participate in the discussions under the subthemes “resistance with design,” “resistance in design” and “resistance to design.”

The meeting attracted researchers from a wide range of design disciplines including architecture, urban design, visual communication design, industrial design and fashion design. Twenty-six participants from different countries like Turkey, the United States, England and the Netherlands presented their papers under eight sessions spanning two days. Prof. Guy Julier, the University of Brighton Principal Research Fellow in Contemporary Design at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the author of The Culture of Design (2007) among many other books, delivered the keynote speech of the conference. In his address Julier dwelt on the issue of design activism and elaborated the concept through a widely political-economic perspective. Then he exemplified the potential practical applications of design activism through the urban regeneration project LeedsLoveItShareIt in which he was also involved as a co-director.

A considerable amount of the papers presented during the meeting were concerned with the visual and material cultures of resistance. Within this context graffiti received a particular attention as a popular tool of protest. The subject was comprehensively handled with papers focusing on the historical trajectory of the art in expressing unrest, introducing digitized versions of graffiti through a comparison with the conventional applications and elaborating on the ways the abusive language of graffiti was contested and transformed by the people. The appropriation of everyday objects such as shoes, pots and pans; spatial organizations like urban settings; and images by the users to act out their rage was also on the agenda. Do it yourself (DIY) practices were in this sense brought up as effective strategies to both challenge the authority of the designer on the objects and images s/he creates and to perform resistance through recontextualizing the functions and transforming the forms of the things. On the other hand designers' opportunities to challenge the conventional, market driven practice of the design activity was argued through such notions like social design, activist design and citizen designers with examples from the fields of typography and graphic design education. Yet, design's potential to undermine the prevailing power relations in society or the structure of the market did not go uncontested. On the contrary, the limits of the counter design practices and discourses were also pointed at in pursuance of more profoundly articulated positions. In brief the 5T 2014 conference provided a productive venue to elaborate on the dissident face of design with and emphasis on both its promises and limitations.

Bahar Emgin


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