UIC School of Design Public Seminar Series 2017–18
In his 1961 feature film Through a Glass Darkly, Ingmar Bergman portrays a character named Karin who has returned to her estranged family after being institutionalized for a period of time. Karin’s husband, brother, and father live on a tiny island. While living with them, Karin begins to hear voices and eventually can no longer differentiate between reality and her imagined world. It becomes clear to Karin that she cannot live successfully in both realities. Eventually, she agrees to be institutionalized again in order to continue living her own fiction.
This series of seminars aims to investigate the parameters of design as a practice. Rather than showcasing “best practices”—optimal ways for designers to take on predetermined roles—it looks at alternative models for the profession in which designers develop their own agendas and territories.
As a field, design has changed dramatically over the past few decades. While Modernist designers worked to rationalize their output in the 1950s and 60s, Postmodernism shattered that seemingly objective (yet authoritative) Modernist world view in the 1980s and 90s. Postmodernism’s lack of agenda, alongside the democratization of production tools and the World Wide Web, allowed for the nostalgic return of Modernism as a so-called “Global Style”/”Zombie Modernism” in the early 2000’s, but without early Modernism’s sense of public mission and service. Now the question is: where do we stand as design practitioners, writers, and educators in the post-digital and post-internet era? How do we redefine the role of the contemporary designer?
Through a Glass Darkly questions notions of design practice today by considering alternative agendas for design. It showcases practices that go beyond surface, image, and form and utilize design as a tool capable of generating references and agendas outside predetermined boundaries. It introduces designers that elevate design discourse by repurposing design in the form of writing, producing, and publishing. It brings together designers who reject the status quo and seek to create their own alternative realities; designers who endeavor to remain relevant by redefining their practice and adopting positions outside traditionally defined domains.