Design and violence

Design and violence aren't often two words used in the same sentence. MoMA explores the entanglement between design and violence in the 20th century.
Christoph Niemann’s "War by Extracurricular Means".
Christoph Niemann’s "War by Extracurricular Means".

We often laud design's commercial, aesthetic and even problem-solving successes but design also has a history of violence. 

In an ongoing online curatorial experiment called Design and Violence, MoMA explores the manifestations of violence in contemporary society by pairing critical thinkers with examples of challenging design work. The experiment also encourages debate with events and online commentary. 

A recent post featuring work from Yosuke Ushigome and Christoph Niemann begs the question, is war a game, and can design change the playing field and rules of engagement to mitigate its irreparability? 

According to the curators Yosuke Ushigome’s Commoditised Warfare series moves conflict between world super powers and bordering nation states beyond bloodshed. A critical-design version of The Hunger Games, Ushigome’s work suggests that shared spectacle may be one solution to decades of political deadlock and military aggression between countries like North and South Korea, Japan and the USA, or India and Pakistan.

Commoditised Warfare sees sworn enemies come together to participate in rituals centered around sports games and technologies. Reflecting the customs and interests of the regions in which they are designed to operate, these performances offer resolutions the UN could only dream of. While his work may seem like a light-hearted provocation, by swapping one ritualized set of operations for another, Ushigome highlights how organized, collective acts that bring us together so closely mirror those acts of violence that tear us apart.

According to the curators Christoph Niemann’s animated GIFs titled War by Extracurricular Means respond in kind—an elegant meditation on the well-worn plea, “Can’t we all just learn to play nice?” As Niemann suggests: “Turning war into a competitive spectacle is a much better idea than having actual armies butchering each other. The world has already spent so much money on military equipment, though, that we should try to make do with what we have.”

Christoph Niemann’s "War by Extracurricular Means".

Watch the Talk with Christoph Niemann