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October 29, 2004

Miffed Missive From Massive

Bruce Mau has written to say he is "surprised" by the tone and content of my email newsletter piece last week about his new exhibiton, Massive Change.

What I said originally was:
"We will build a global mind. We will design evolution. We will eradicate poverty". No ifs and no buts are discernable in Bruce Mau's new exhibition, Massive Change, which has opened in Vancouver. The website boasts that "few things remain beyond the reach of our fantastically augmented vision" - but it's nonetheless hard to see from a distance whether such proclamations are meant ironically. The masculine, can-do, rhetorical style of Massive Change seems on first encounter to be a conversation stopper rather than starter. That said, the book promises a "cautious look at our limitations" as well. To January 3 2005, Vancouver Art Gallery. http://massivechange.com/

I did not mean to sound cynical - and if that's what came across, I regret that. I spend much of my time telling non-design people that, although many of our problems are the result of poor design decisions, designers, as a group, should not be blamed. But a real backlash is brewing against the perceived notion that designers are arrogant and pay far too little attention to the possible downsides of their actions. Harry Kunzru's new book Transmission, for example, (it's about Bollywood movies and computer viruses) includes a pretty sharp attack on "Design". Design is bound to get hammered by a NoLogo type of book in the near future.

Posted by John Thackara at October 29, 2004 06:21 PM


Not to nitpick, but it's actually Hari Kunzru, for anyone who's looking for Transmission on Amazon. I haven't bothered reading it yet, as I felt Kunzru's debut novel, The Impressionist, was pretty weak, but based on what you're saying I might give it a shot. I'm definitely going to pick up Massive Change when I get some downtime, "arrogant" or not.

Personally, I support anyone tackling big-picture problems and providing some blue-sky thinking. Not having read it yet, I don't know how feasible Mau's proposals are, but I'm looking forward to hearing them nevertheless.

Posted by: Geoffrey Long at November 5, 2004 04:00 AM

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