I literally got a designer to discuss fashion with a weapons designer who made weapons that killed people.
Hans Ulrich Obrist, notorious interviewer and curator just keeps popping up at the moment. Here he is talking with hero-of-mine Adam Curits about his origins and way of working in e-flux journal. Obrist's little 'conversations' series have always caught my eye, I keep coming across the Robert Crumb one and although I'm no fanatic about Crumb as opposed to other comic artists, the idea of a humble comiker being considered for high-brow cross-examination interests me and I've picked it up a couple of times wondering if gems of insight on Blues heroes and the Bible might be gleaned form it's well-designed pages.
More recently, I was scrounging for physical material from Rem Koolhaas, an architect who's name is often being punted in my direction as comparison, particularly with reference to his AMO research group. So I was delighted when I bumped into a copy of Project Japan on the internet.
The book mostly deals with the history of the Metabolist movement in Japan in interview format. Here Obrist is again, tracking down the minds that led and followed this avant-garde architecture throughout postwar Japan. The illustrations and diagrams are sumptuous and delicate and the book is both physically thick and dense with information and eye candy. Obrist moves through a conversations with Soviet force, relentlessly forcing the subject forward against their own resistances into corners of thought they might not have considered before, teasing out new storylines for his conversations.
I had worked out that that we were beginning to live in an increasingly complicated age where power worked in all sorts of ways other than how it was understood by political journalists, but I had no way of articulating that. I entered academia at the moment when the way power works in the modern world was basically becoming much wider and far more intricate. It flowed through culture and consumerism and public relations. It flowed through scientific ideas, and how those scientific ideas were then taken up and turned into technocratic dreams—and dystopias. It flowed through modern ideas drawn from psychotherapy and how to express yourself as an individual. I instinctively recognized that this had happened, but I had no idea how to deal with it, because academia hadn’t realized it yet.And here I find myself in a similar position to Curtis - trying to talk about and analyse power and systems in new ways. He discusses at length the dialectic relationship between the individual and the greater forces of society - something that will outlive the individual's set of desires. Too much of one might lead to the crisis of debt and consumerism we find ourselves in now and too much of the other can lead to populist movements such as fascism and the horrors they entail.
He talks briefly about a re-emergence of collectivism, darting around the edges of the Occupy movement as a dangerous reactionary populist movement formed to attack scapegoats without much collective consideration for the root causes and culprits of the income disparity they attack. I imagine that to these protestors their individual security is enhanced by these numbers, and the feelings of collective right, but they want change now, simply because their unhappy with the current.
That fixation on the primacy of individual experience and feeling is not going to go away. But we’re beginning to realize two things: first, that this individualism is limited, and second, that when things get tough economically, socially, and politically, and you are on your own, you feel isolated, and you feel weak. And actually, there are other collective ways of experiencing things, and thus acting, which need to be recaptured. It doesn’t mean finding this sense of being part of something will mean throwing away our individualism. But this other way of being, this sense of being part of something, of losing yourself in something grander than you—we’re frightened of that...
...there’s something else waiting to be rediscovered, some new thing that will fuse with that individualism—that will empower individuals and make them stronger collectively, yet not mean that they have to surrender their feelings of uniqueness as individuals. Eric Hobsbawm is right that it won’t be fascism. But it’s going to be something else, beyond the individual. It’s going to borrow from religion. But it won’t be religion again.I still haven't delved into the second part but he makes a lot of fantastic points about the consideration of wider consequences and causes particularly in reference to the philosopher Max Weber who wrote to explain that ideas have consequences and ramifications and aren't just expressions of a human social systems.
It's a fascinating read and there's a Part Two that can only apparently be found by sticking an extra 'i' on the end of the URL which I'm going to save for later.