As I revisit and rewrite parts of the manifest, the about us profile, for this site, I keep thinking about why the blog has lasted for as long as it has and why I continue to post and write bits (however fragmented, cryptic or undigested they might be). The quick answer is because the questions never end, but the truth is that the task of learning how to ask better questions hasn’t been that simple. The facts and fictions, the assertions and answers given to the public (myself being part of it) have been seldom clear, and at times contextually senseless. Hence, the persistence of the question why every time I succumb to the mental and physical exhaustion of keeping the blog/ facebook page up and running, voluntarily. It may or may not be a labor of love, unlike the trendy and unruffled pages that populate the ether, but it certainly is labor. It certainly is a struggle (especially for an introvert as myself): a struggle to think out loud, to write; a struggle to cope with a number of designers and projects that have grown numb to social problems, choosing to be intoxicated by a culture of consumption instead; a struggle to find peers, friends, and mentors to think independently and polemically with; a struggle to find the time and energy to be available to this space and the people and conversations in it, because whoever comes to it is the space, it wouldn’t exist otherwise.
At the beginning, it was the struggle of not finding a space or community, an online forum (an architectural/urban one) to be a part of, outside of grad school and work. Now, I’d say, it is not so much out of love, although it is there, but out of the necessity for such a place — which occupies only a tiny and obscure thread really — that ups my determination to continue it. I am grateful too, for all the people I’ve found along the way, and with whom I share my thoughts and this space. [Feel free to tell me to get off my high horse.]
I understand that each why can be answered with a why not or a so what, thus I want to expand on it a bit more. The longer version might read at times like the work of Nietzsche’s undigested stones of history, or as a struggle in/of form, where windmills and labyrinths of the mind battle for sense, but such is the matter of an unfinished self, the us part of the blog, which, at this point in time, is positioned in the midst of and can be described only through the distance of setting aspirations for itself and not quite reaching them yet. [Hence, feedback is much appreciated.]
Initially, PERfACT(s) was meant as a virtual channel to communicate and express voices in formation, starting with mine, as a way to assemble and often dismantle myself, my position toward life, the world and how being a designer (we’re all designers really) might steer it a certain way or might not have any use in/for it.
Throughout the years, it has become a process of discovering the self within and without a community that has been as familiar as it has been estranged to me (as an immigrant driven by a certain need to demystify some of the nostalgia that comes with longing). It has become a learning of and with the characters that have populated the posts, be they people, buildings, design concepts, cities or media — characters that have inhabited the space or were imagined in it and of it. It has become a growing with, through and along the distance of these relations, through a simultaneous curiosity and spectatorship, as much as growing weary of it too at times.
The aim has always been to ask better questions, for a clearer and more in depth understanding of the context and the issues Albania faces — which might be specific to the country, but are not isolated from the rest of the world’s — as one way ofcontributing to the agency needed for a possible social and spatial change there. Another aim is to understand the role of design and designers in shaping such change. That is why I post ‘stuff’.
I do think that our everyday life has been already and totally designed through an aesthetic that desensitizes courage, as it accelerates an extravagant and unrestrained fantasy (fetishizing hope in a way). I am not against imagination whatsoever, but I remain sceptic of how this source of creativity has been used by those in power, charged against those that are not. It has been deployed as a weapon to widen the gap of inequality, a gap that has been fantasized, imagined and now implemented at full speed. So, the intent has always been to unstuff the ‘stuff’, knowing all along that I’d fall short of properly unpacking most of it — which is the true or ideal aim of this endeavor.
The position taken here is one of simply showing how shockingly unfree design is today, how unfreely and repressively society has been designed.
Even though, ours is not a direct approach of ‘boots on the ground’ activity, we are determined to contribute — at least to try to, within our limits, even if indirectly — to unravel this design as an anaesthetic tool and strategy (per N. Leach) through different latencies: efficiencies, possibilities, leverages, critiques, etc. — to speak for what the initial shock of design anaesthetics, its ‘beauty‘ and ‘innovation’, render invisible and insignificant.
We have always operated on a minor and often off key, a stammering of sorts (per D&G’s work on Kafka), always considering the and any creative act of design as one of resistance; as a process of demystification and stripping bare the stuffed progress too often mistaken as an even more ‘sustainable’ or ‘beneficial’ way toward democratization.
So, yes, the page is political in that it is public and open to a multifaceted public, but it stands politically independent in regard to the already established party lines. We are political because the questions we ask are political.
If everything is done by design, then how can we redesign our freedom? How do we redesign ourselves to unlearn the freedom we’ve been designated (assigned) by each passing or staying regime (be it political or economic)? If we predict a future through a design done today, driven by the aneasthetics of today, then would it be free at all?
What we see happening in Albania and elsewhere is a redesign of hope, not freedom, with nothing left to chance other than the consequences of such a shortsighted design.
The prospect of a future is the fundamental aspect of human life. It is the promise of freedom that everyone wants; many of us imagine this promise as hope, something to hope for, but only few take it on as life itself, as the courage to actually live freely day in and day out. For them, life itself is at stake. So, to pursue social and spatial change, we need to rethink the promise of freedom, to undesign it as hope and redesign it as courage, within ourselves but also and most importantly within the community we’re a part of and share our lives with, online and offline.
As I write this, I realize that I am indeed speaking to myself first, as a way to understand my growth or what does it mean to change, but also, and as my personal and professional motto is Whitman’s famous verse “I contain multitudes”, I realize that each individual contains a public within, hence is political in the sense (to fully utilize the greek origin of the word pertaining to sense perception, perceptible, sensitive; aesthetics) of the distances (relationships) we construct (design) between thinking and doing, feeling and knowing, thus to change is to extend oneself outward (from without) toward other characters that make (but don’t necessarily define) us. This is courage.
And this is what I and this page strive for, at the very least our endeavor has been many a lesson on (growth through) vulnerability and resilience. Said otherwise: PERfACT(s) has been and continues to be a stammering, an enunciation of vulnerable but persistent experiences of experimenting with form as/of formation. Hence, it approaches (it wants to, it tries to) design as the distance between form and formation. It approaches courage as a form of designing the self and the other (body politic, social body). It approaches critique as an inquiry into (1) the desensitization and perceptual stagnation of design; and (2) the legitimacy of known regimes of ‘freedom’. It also approaches critique as an assemblage of graspings and (s)crypts, which is not interested in the average of their multitude, but in the strength of the plurality that comes from their differences (per Bakhtin). And, ultimately, it approaches critique as another form of design(ing)/designation.
We agree with Hannah Arendt that freedom is something fundamentally strange, and to design it, or for design to achieve it, we can utilize its estrangement, our estrangement from it, not only as a creative device (per Shklovsky) but as a craft of resistance (per Brecht), which synthesizes political rigor (i.e. reality, i.e. act) and aesthetic freedom (i.e. ideology, i.e. myth or image) with a revolutionary (high historical) consciousness.
Ultimately, we understand design as an organism (act+image) of survival and practice of freedom.
I use us and we to note that even though at the moment I am the only one that manages the page, there have been more than a few collaborations with others, as well as many contributors to the blog over the years. Another reason why, is the fact that the blog / page is more than just an extension of myself or my life; it has become a fluid organism (through commentary, discussions and troll messages) with an existence all its own, and to deny it as such is to pretend that I have it all under control.