Social Practice: New Directions in Community Engaged Art and Design

Organized by the Center for Complexity and RISD ISE, this panel discussed new directions in social practice through community-engaged art and design.

The panel featured Sio Man Lam: Civic Arts Program Coordinator for Public Art, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; Carlos Medellin: Assistant Professor, Architecture Department, RISD; Shey Rivera Ríos: Artist, MA ‘23 (Global Arts and Cultures); and Elder González Trejo: Climate Justice Specialist, Sustainability Policy Associate, City of Providence, Rhode Island.

Jack Halberstam – Unworlding: An Aesthetics of Collapse

Professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia University, Halberstam is the author of seven books including: In A Queer Time and Place (NYU Press, 2005), The Queer Art of Failure (Duke UP, 2011), Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Beacon Press, 2012) and Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire (Duke UP, 2020). Places Journal awarded Halberstam its Arcus/Places Prize in 2018 for innovative public scholarship on the relationship between gender, sexuality and the built environment. Halberstam’s presentation explores the theme of collapse building on his research and lecture: An Aesthetics of Collapse. Halberstam writes: the term “collapse” derives from Latin and contains “col” meaning “together” and “labi” meaning slip. This etymology offers us a glimpse of the potential aesthetic folds hidden in the term.

Recorded at RISD September 23, 2022

Mining Waste: Designing in a Broken World

Architecture is premised on waste. As buildings erode, decay, or become obsolete over time, waste from their demolition and repair is often poorly managed with little focus on ecological care. New construction produces its own excesses which are exacerbated by the boom/bust cycle of real estate development and short-term speculation. As designers and architects, our understanding of material and construction practices still largely ignore these ever-growing streams of waste. Faced with climate emergency, designers continue to optimize construction, to reuse buildings, and to recycle materials — all without accounting for the accrual and persistence of waste.
What if we understood that the collapse of our built environment is not the failure or “end” of architecture, but rather as preconditions for future practice? Engaging broken-world thinking, how might design anticipate and reimagine waste futures in construction, occupation, and demolition? What if waste sites were reframed as quarries?
Panelists: Ang Li, Billy Dufala, and Amy Seo
Moderators: Arianna Deane, Cara Liberatore, Amelyn Ng

Recorded at RISD September 22, 2022

This panel discussion was a collaboration between Center for Complexity and the Architecture Department at Rhode Island School of Design as the first in a year-long series of conversations curated for students undertaking their Thesis Degree Project.

Kameelah Janan Rasheed – The Ecology of Learning and Unlearning

Rasheed (she/they) spoke to a packed auditorium via Zoom to discuss her work as a writer, educator, and artist. Born in East Palo Alto, CA, and currently living in Brooklyn, NY, Rasheed is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in Fine Arts known for her work in installations, book arts, immersive text-based installations, large-scale public text pieces, publications, collage, and audio recordings. She earned an MA in Secondary Social Studies Education from Stanford University (2008) and a BA in Public Policy from Pomona College (2006). She was an Amy Biehl U.S. Fulbright Scholar at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa (2006–7).

A learner, Rasheed grapples with the poetics-pleasures-politics of Black knowledge production, information technologies, [un]learning, and belief formation. They are a recipient of a 2022 Schering Stiftung Award for Artistic Research, 2022 Creative Capital Award, a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts. Rasheed is the author of three artist’s books: An Alphabetical Accumulation of Approximate Observations (Endless Editions, 2019), No New Theories (Printed Matter, 2019), and the digital publication Scoring the Stacks (Brooklyn Public Library, 2021). Their writing has appeared in Triple Canopy, The New Inquiry, Shift Space, Active Cultures, and The Believer.

Recorded at RISD September 22, 2022

“Some Freedom Now”: Liberatory Practice and Community—Building in the Face of Collapse

The title of this panel is taken from an influential 2018 essay by panelist Ed Whitfield titled “What Must We Do to Be Free? On the Building of Liberated Zones.” Whitfield, chef and food activist Neftali Duran, and RISD faculty and staff from the departments of Landscape Architecture, Sculpture and Counseling and Psychological Services discuss the future and how we can start building it now through new ecological, labor, artistic, mental health, and community care practices.
Panelists: Taylor Baldwin, Netfali Duran, Ellen Garret, Damion Vania, Ed Whitfield
Moderators: Marisa Brown, Tim Maly

Recorded at RISD September 21, 2022

Reclaim / Occupy / Rebuild

Longtime activist Bill Di Paola, founder of the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space on New York’s Lower East Side, leads a participatory session on community change-making (past, present, future)—and squatting, community gardens, environmental activism, and the power of collective action.

Recorded at RISD September 21, 2022

Chef Michael Lomonaco – The Human Spirit: Resilience and Adapting to Crises with Creativity & Compassion

Director of the Windows on the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Lomonaco discusses his experiences and unique perspectives on collapse as a survivor of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and 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 “an acute appreciation for humanity, courage and determination.”

Recorded at the Metcalf Auditorium at RISD Museum September 21, 2022

Collapse Symposium welcoming comments by CfC Founding Director Justin W Cook

Welcoming comments from Center for Complexity Founding Director, Justin Cook at Collapse – CfCs 4th annual symposium at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) September 21-23, 2022

Practitioner’s Talk at the Royal College of Art

Toban Shadlyn shares about her design practice with the Service Design Students at the Royal College of Art in London. She explores the various role of designer in her most recent work at the Center for Complexity engaging in the ongoing overdose crisis in the USA.


Design and Social Impact

Justin Cook, in conversation with Judah Armani and the Service Design Students at the Royal College of Art in London. They discuss and share reflections on the role of design and designers in creating social impact.