This talk on SPECULATIVE ACTIVISM was an opportunity to hear two of the designers who were participating in VIENNA DESIGN WEEK 2020, together with a professor of design from the University of Applied Arts Vienna, as they discussed the subject of current, socially-relevant design for everyday life. The professor, Anab Jain, who joined the talk live from London, raised questions about critical thinking in connection with creation and consumption in the future. How, for example, can design indulge in activism and function as a critic of the system? One potential answer to this question is the work of Helga Schmid. For years, her artistic and research activities have addressed the notion of time, which – in her opinion – is our most precious asset. Schmid spoke of restructuring time – something that the pandemic, in certain ways, has already forced us to do. Our design templates could be animals, cats for example, whose approach to time (15 hours sleeping, 30 seconds eating) could inspire us as we reshape our own relationship with time. Once we have unlearned the apparently “normal” approach to time we can appreciate, perceive, and employ it in a completely new way. Helga Schmid was represented in the Festival Headquarters of the VIENNA DESIGN WEEK by the installation TAKE YOUR TIME. The next room contained the work POLITICAL ATMOSPHERE by Felix Lenz. In the talk, he spoke of the non-linear connections between the factors air traffic, climate change, and war. In a comprehensive research project he has shed light on these interdependencies, which, although invisible at first glance, have huge repercussions. The installation in the Festival Headquarters, which consisted of an antenna that measured the air traffic over Vienna and triggered a siren when a certain density of aircraft had been reached, depicted these complex relationships in a direct and palpable way. A common feature of these two projects about speculative activism was their success in using good design to represent complex socio-political interdependencies and to make these tangible and directly comprehensible to the festival visitors.
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