Research Project: STATE OF UNSETTLEMENT
Project Founders: Anne Vaandrager, Lisa Mandemaker, Judith van den Boom
Research Collaboratory: Helen Carnac, Fabrizio Cocchiarella, Paul Harper, Thor ter Kulve, Tetsuo Mukai, Abbie Vickress. With special support by Creative Industries Fund NL, ArtEZ University of the Arts Arnhem, Manchester Metropolitan University.
29 March 2019 at 11PM (GMT), marks a key moment in time, connecting a period of the unforeseeable tumult called Brexit, and the collaborative project State of Unsettlement. Brexit is representing a lingering challenge for Europe and the United Kingdom, and became the start of this research collective where British and Dutch makers and researchers joined forces in the backyard of Brexit.
On the day of Brexit, 29 March 2019, we share this first publication of State of Unsettlement. It is a captured moment of work in progress for the collective, featuring documentation of our journey thus far through Brexit. It contains a collection of eight project proposals by various creatives and researchers, all with the ambition to use our creative practices to contribute towards or facilitate alternative views on our current social climate.
“The Brexit campaign exposed divisions in and outside British society. What steps do we need to take to establish a geographic and political shift, towards a collaborative inventiveness?”
On the morning of June 24th 2016 London woke up to discover that the United Kingdom had voted to leave the European Union. The prime minister had resigned and Scotland was considering a referendum that could bring the very existence of the United Kingdom to an end. The narrow victory of 51% for Brexit and 49% against Brexit, shows a clear division within the UK society. What followed was a political meltdown and emotional debate based on complex and untrue information.
Currently, Brexit is being categorised as a British problem, to be negotiated within a conservative economy survival mode. However, Brexit represents something bigger: it highlights the fact we seem embarrassingly unaware of how divided our societies are. The quietness from the design field, from both United Kingdom and The Netherlands, has been remarkable. Retreating from the discussion on what role design and maker-ship plays in times of Brexit, we are missing opportunities to transform possible futures and enact new pathways and perspectives.
The State of Unsettlement is a research collaboratory of like-minded designers, makers and researchers, all being part of a large generation that has been educated at British Master Institutes, worked and lived for many years in the United Kingdom. The fruition of this relationship between Dutch and British practices formed the catalyst to spend essential time together as practices from the United Kingdom and The Netherlands to embrace friction and its uncertainty as positive ground to work from.
Although design is not usually directly associated with politics, its actual guiding force on ourselves and on the world around us makes it inexplicitly and deeply political. Rethinking concepts like democracy and nationhood in the 21st century should be elemental in the practice of design and making. Creative practices should voice and weave through as a political agent, contributing towards new perspectives and tangible objects that initiate a change in ecology.
With this project, we aim to research the backyard of Brexit, and the role of the designer within a divided society. State of Unsettlement uses design as a critical agent and allow the discipline to establish itself as a tool for activism and vision, defying the standard, the constricted and unchanging but proposing a meaning and collective working towards new forms of being society together.
We need to step out of our comfort zone, our prejudicial bubble, to break free from our stereotypical view on Brexit, and discover new perspectives. How can a designer as maker/craftsman, mediator, storyteller, agent or catalyst start and develop a balanced dialogue between opposites? We start with eliminating the word ‘Brexit’ and push the meaning towards new forms of being together and society. Through our personal practice (craft making, writing, film, performance, etc.) we will explore new ways of communicating and transforming delicate topics that impact everyone within society.
Everywhere in the world there are places and societies that are unsettled by social or political issues, affecting a broad generation of practitioners. The choice of participants and partners for the project comes from the wish to connect the project not only with an established network of practitioners, but also a broad generational group of makers and thinkers.
The Dutch and British participants will form a workgroup where practice and work are shared and challenged, bringing a broad experience of design, craft, making and research. Political and national shifts are not bound to one particular group, they affect everyone. State of Unsettlement will evidence the importance and demand to think through different generational practices and viewpoints.
> Design Workshop, Januari 2018, Collaboratory group workshop at Makerversity, London, UK
> Presentation at Salon Finals, July 2018, ArtEZ Arnhem, NL
> Presentation at Brexit Wounds Symposium, 30 October 2018, MMU, Manchester, UK.
> Design Workshop, November 2018, Collaboratory group workshop at MMU Manchester, UK
> Design Workshop, January 2019, SoU/ Control, design student workshop ArtEZ, NL
> Design Collaboratory, January 2019 , Collaboratory group workshop CSM, London, UK
> Presentation SoU Launch Digital Publication, 29 March 2019, Brexit day
> Presentation project and printed publication, UFO Salon, during London Design Festival 2019
Project Website: https://stateofunsettlement.com
Publication design: Abbie Vickress
Text by Project Founders