chapter  4
15 Pages

Critical operationality

Energy and Co-Designing Communities (ECDC) by the Interaction Research Studio (IRS), Goldsmiths, London (2010–2014)
WithKatherine Moline

The terms by which practice can be said to satisfy the definition of research are hotly contested in art and design. Key to the debate is the different expectations of criticality in research and in practice. Tensions between the terms ‘criticism’ and ‘practice’ can be traced to debates in architecture and design in the 1960s and 1970s. This chapter seeks to clarify certain terms in this debate to demonstrate their relevance for design practices that question institutional norms and conventions. To unpack the complex issues that inform current debates on criticism and practice, the chapter reflects on a recent large-scale design project engaged in research and its relationship to art practice and history. The case-study of the Energy and Co-Designing Communities (ECDC) project by the Interaction Research Studio (IRS) at Goldsmiths College, London (2010–2014) considers how the work was influenced by Surrealism and explored irrationality as a countermove to instrumentalisation, as well as the social pacts between producers and consumers that shape design and the significance of interdisciplinarity in art and design. In conclusion, this paper draws out the interrelationships of operational critique and ‘undesign’.