Functional Failures, Operative Fakes & Tenuous Techniques
“This acknowledgement of powerlessness before the upsurge of unexpected, catastrophic events forces us to reverse the usual trend which exposes us to accidents and inaugurate a new kind of museology and museography: one which consists in exposing or exhibiting the accident, all accidents, from the most commonplace to the most tragic, from natural catastrophes to industrial and scientific disasters, including also the kind that is too often neglected, the happy accident, the stroke of luck, the coup de foudre or even the coup de grâce!” — Paul Virilio
Progress, innovation and linear growth are cornerstones of our contemporary economies, social systems, even personal faith and belief. The very pervasiveness and prevalence of these models and values requires that we unearth, create and circulate alternative, counter-narrative and parallel accounts. Technological development is often recounted as the exploitation and instrumentalisation of heroic moments and individuals, ignoring the long shadow of aborted projects, flops, errors, malfunctions, ethical disavowals and disasters. Further, we witness how speculation, as irresponsible and flagrant futurism, projects magic and imagination while the mantras of innovation are functionalizing failure itself (i.e. “Fail Fast, Fail Often”, “Fail Better” and “Fail Forward”). How does the act of excavating and archiving the failures of innovation and techno-science become a fruitful tactic to inform a better understanding of our technological society? How could this contribute to complexify our views and inform our choices as a society in an era of rampant techno-solutionism facing paramount challenges like those of the Anthropocene?
From another standpoint, confusions and categorical errors abound as to how, where and why to assess technical, economic, social and personal utility, function or value, providing the outlining for and diagnosing cultures, habits and beings troubled by conflict, contradiction and crisis. How do we determine or define the status of something as “working” or not? We speak of the “performance” of technical objects, as if to highlight the perspectival, illusory and projective role that human psychologies play in operational measures and evaluation. What could be the performative powers of a popularisation of malfunctions, fakes and failures in a techno-positivist society? We understand revised custom airport or border security to “work” despite their ceremonial contrivances, and fantasy of complete containment and control. There exist tensions between our imagining of the technological and its apprehension as a lived reality. We are promised much yet live realities far removed from these projections. We are often asked in what ways we must suffer how much is changing and how fast, but we must also account for how little has changed, or what has only changed in our minds, or in cumbersome, aborted, stuttering, unthinking ways?
Topics related to the discussion and case studies we hope to collect include:
Esoteric and Spiritual Functionality / Magic and Technology / Imagination and Technology / Crap Futures / Evil Media / Dead Media / Apocryphal Technologies / Design Research Failures / Disasters Studies (Risk, Speculation) / Economic Failure (Disaster Capitalism & Crisis) / Obsolescence (planned, perceived, intended, unintended, etc.) / Maintenance and Repair / Critical Making / Epistemologies, Etymologies and Archaeologies of Function / Technical Myth, Pseudo-science and Propaganda / Organisational & Institutional Failure
CASE STUDIES, DOCUMENTS & OBJECTS
Nov 21, 10am — 4pm
A one-day workshop, gathering contributions, constellations, networks of media, circuits organic and inorganic conjunctions of signals which enframe, define and describe what is supposed to be working and failed, possible and believed-in. Hardware, physical phenomena, organisations, institutions, systems and techniques are brought under focus in order to describe, highlight and interfere with the presumptions and belief of the cultures surrounding media and technology, and their development.
Presentations, contributions, or performative-lectures to be brief (~20 minutes in length), and might include texts (previously published or new for this event), video or photo essays, document or evidence discussions of specific instances where failure is operative, symbolic, problematic or intervening in the world. Participants are expected to come with at least one such case or document or example or technical object, oriented around workshop themes.
TACTICS, PLANS & PROPOSALS FOR A “MUSEUM OF FAILURES”
Nov 22 & 23, 10am — 4pm
Following on from the discussion on November 21st, you’re invited for a two days workshop. A open-ended art and design project development toward a series of radical “tactics & proposals for a Museum of Failures”. Lead by Nicolas Maigret, Maria Roszkowska and Jamie Allen these sessions will conceptualise the possibility of an imagined institution that gathers contributions and case studies, as a site for the development of further critical counter narratives. The results of these sessions, collections and gathering will be compiled and produced as an experimental publication and create an online, participatory repository for statements, artifacts, anecdotes, documents, essays and case studies.
Critical Media Lab Basel
Case Studies, Documents & Objects
Nov 21, 10am – 4pm
Tactics, Plans & Proposals for a “Museum of Failures”
Nov 22 & 23, 10am – 4pm
Attendance and participation to some or all of the sessions is free and open.
Please email the Critical Media Lab (email@example.com) if you have questions, or would like to register your involvement.
Online participants not able to get to the event are also welcomed.