Collapse: Center for Complexity Fourth Annual Symposium

September 21–23 2022 — speakers, panel discussions, and group inquiry into the meaning and consequences of collapse.

CollapseWe are pleased to announce plans for our fourth annual symposium. Once again live on RISD’s campus after two years of COVID-necessitated virtual events, the 2022 symposium will focus on collapse in relation to the dynamic and static forces of systems change. Speakers, panel discussions and group inquiry will advance a collective understanding of the meaning and consequences of collapse. September 21–23 10:00am–5:00pm. Free and open to the public. Register here to show your interest.


A variety of designed interactions among artists, designers, scholars, inspirational speakers and the public will advance the ambitious goals of the event. “This forum is not for the transmission of known knowledge, but for the construction of new knowledge,” explains CfC Founding Director Justin Cook. “It is a space for collective inquiry and discovery, entwining diverse areas of expertise, experience and ways of knowing.”

The event will highlight the art and creative scholarship of accomplished faculty and staff members at RISD. “CfC is a systems design and research team,” says Cook, “but one of the ways in which our approach is perhaps unique is in our conviction that creative practice is a path toward deeper understanding and meaningful change. This is why we are situated at a leading art and design school, and not a business school.”

That commitment to the value of creative practice inspired the establishment this year of the Art & Inquiry grant, funding made available to RISD faculty and staff members to create work for the symposium, which will be on view in the lobby of 20 Washington Place as well as online. Including original artwork, essays and short fiction created by 19 RISD faculty and staff members, the exhibition will provide a diverse framing of the theme of collapse.

Artwork in the exhibition includes a short film by Peter Yeadon, professor of Industrial Design, in conversation with Philosopher Artificial Intelligence (AI) about the meaning of the word collapse and AI’s predictions for the future; an assemblage by Lisi Raskin, associate professor of Sculpture, exploring themes of mutual support, touch, tenderness and collapse; a soft sculpture by VF Wolf, night watchman at the RISD Museum; an essay on mental health collapse by Damion Vania, clinician in Counseling and Psychological Services; and two self-regulating machines created by Andrew Hlynsky, adjunct faculty member in Film/Animation/Video, that illustrate the phenomenon of “catastrophic collapse.”

“This is not a dystopian undertaking,” Cook says of the symposium. “While we may be living at a moment in human and planetary history in which many human-built and natural systems are in a precarious state, we hope to improve our understanding of collapse as a natural and anthropic force, as a mindset that shapes our approaches to collective problem solving that can actually be empowering rather that paralyzing.”

Michael Lomonaco, chef/partner of Porter House and Grill, will be the main speaker on Wednesday, September 21. Former culinary director of the Windows on the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center’s North Tower, Lomonaco survived the attacks on 9/11 by a twist of fate. As a New York City restaurateur navigating the catastrophic impact of the COVID pandemic, Lomonaco’s experience provides a unique perspective on adapting, adjusting and responding to crises with creativity and compassion. These experiences have given him, he says, “an acute appreciation for humanity, courage and determination.”

The main speaker on Friday, September 23 is Jack Halberstam, among many accomplishments, professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia, author of seven books including The Queer Art of Failure, and lecturer on An Aethetics of Collapse. His creative capacity to disrupt conventional understandings is certain to inspire fresh perspectives.

Other collaborators include RISD Assistant Professor of Architecture Jess Myers; astrophysicist, artist, RISD graduate and new RISD faculty member Jack Madden MFA 22 DM; and Judah Armani, head of the Social Impact Challenge Lab at the Royal College of Art and designer-in-residence at Innovation RCA.