les presses du réel

Design for change

Léa Gauthier

What, then, is time? If no one ask of me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not. Yet I say with confidence, that I know that if nothing passed away, there would not be past time; and if nothing were coming, there would not be future time; and if nothing were, there would not be present time. Those two times, therefore, past and future, how are they, when even the past now is not; and the future is not as yet? But should the present be always present, and should it not pass into time past, time truly it could not be, but eternity. If, then, time present -- if it be time -- only comes into existence because it passes into time past, how do we say that even this is, whose cause of being is that it shall not be -- namely, so that we cannot truly say that time is, unless because it tends not to be?
St. Augustine, Confessions, book XI, chapter 14.398

Post-postmodernism is spelling itself out in a cluster of horizons which we don't know what to do with. Through a strange exposure, fictitious or real, contemporaneousness has lessened hopes and perspectives. In a geography frozen in business and leisure tourism, in a time-frame blocked in instantaneousness, the “here and now” is suffocating, losing track of its past, and forgetting about its future. And new technologies appear to be (re-)offering a new volumetric perspective, proposing a time and a space being used in different ways. Then come the prisms of the technological diktat, of alienation from process, and of the paranoia in which everyone and everything is being manipulated.
From the little we do know, the only thing we can say is that our time is metaphorical. From the little we do know, the only thing we can say is that changes are called for, and we are both the people ushering them in, and their subjects.
How is it possible not to be taken in by the present? What can be done to reconstruct perspectives? How are new circulations to be established? How is there to be a dialogue between disciplines compartmentalized in their specialities, but without them losing their keenness? How are we to (re-) construct a hypothesis of an active, and not simply reactive, society? How are we to reconstruct our cities with their obsolete designs, as we struggle to live in them?
At the beginning of Giorgio Agamben's Infancy and History he writes: “Just as contemporary man has been deprived of his biography, so he has been dispossessed of his experience: it is even possible that the inability to have and transmit experiences is one of the rare certain data he has about his condition. [...] It is indeed this impossibility for us to translate it into experience which makes our daily life unbearable, more so than it has ever been; there is in no way a drop in quality, or an alleged meaninglessness of contemporary life (never, perhaps, has daily existence been as rich as it is today in meaningful events).” (1)
The only way of getting back to experience is to bring forth a way whose end purpose is simply itself, and reinvent the gesture. “In this sense, the gesture is the communication of something communicable. Strictly speaking, it has nothing to say. [...] The gesture is always a gesture of not being found in language; always a gag, in the full accepted sense of the word, which literally indicates what one obstructs the mouth with to prevent words coming out, then what the person involved improvises to make up for a memory gap or the impossibility of talking.” (2)
Working in confusion, reconsidering paradigms, taking time to observe things, but without losing the time of decompartmentalizations... Putting pebbles in your mouth, trying. The book Design for Change is a seething mass of questions and issues through which avenues and options are outlined, and, whatever else it may do, if offers food for thought. Here, the texts are at times contradictory. Here, there is no monolithic version of the world, of things, and of statements. The book casts its eyes upon (hi)stories, offers ambiguous readings of the present, and imagines scenarios for “later times”. Some texts are investigations, others are reports, or hypotheses. Design for Change is constructed in an organic way, with authors working on the West's manyfacettedness. In the strict sense of the word, this book is an essay, and thus perforce full of gaps.

Léa Gauthier - Blackjack éditions

1. Giorgio Agamben, Infanzia e storia: Distruzione dell'esperienza e origine della storia (1978). Trans. Liz Heron as Infancy and History: The Destruction of Experience (1993)
2. Mezzi senza fine. Note sulla politica (1996). Trans. Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino as Means Without End: Notes of Politics (2000)

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