Mark Hurrell.



26 April 2014

I know I keep posting stuff from the recent All Possible Futures exhibition and you’re probably bored with it - but I’ve been reading my way through the catalogue in chunks. I finished it tonight though so you’re getting another two final extracts, this time from Jetset.

We have to admit we've always very much disliked that word, 'speculative' design work. It just has too many negative connotations to us: spec work, financial speculation, et cetera.

Politically, we have always been highly influenced by the Amsterdam squat scene of the 1970s and 1980s - and within that particular idiom, the figure of the speculator was the absolute devil. It represented the real estate broker, the person who somehow made a profit from the vacancy of houses. Within the narrative of the squat scene, there was a strong dichotomy between the symbolic, speculative value of the building (as channelled by the real estate broker), and the actual, material use of the building (as practised by the squatters).

You could also argue that it is exactly the practice of speculation that got us into the current economic crisis. Financial gambling, stock brokerages, banking for profit, and so on. To us, the notion of speculation is intrinsically linked to the whole concept of neoliberalism.

We realise that your use of the term is completely different. But, still, we might just be a bit too materialist (in the Marxist sense of the word) to get excited about it. We like our environment to be clearly grounded in some sort of material base, and the moment things start to 'float' is the moment we get suspicious. Our whole practice is based on this idea of going against the illusory power of the image by revealing the material proportions of the object. So it is only logical that this notion of the 'speculative', as something that only exists as an illusion, doesn't fit well with our way of working and thinking.

Maybe we simply don't believe in the speculative, in general. In our view, something is either real or it isn’t.

The role we try to fulfil - or better said, the obligation we feel - is to design in such a way that the reader (or viewer, or spectator) is constantly aware of the fact that he or she is looking at something human-made: an object that is made by humans, and thus can also be changed by humans. We want to contribute to the constructed, material environment around us, but not without also creating some sort of awareness that this environment is just that: material and constructed.

Experimental Jetset, responding to questions about ‘speculative design’ in the catalogue for All possible futures.

Feels related to some of my reactions to AGI last year, Chinatown, the rivalry between Day-Lewis’ oil prospector and Dano’s church pastor in There Will Be Blood, and maybe Russell & Ben’s poster too.

If you want to chat more about stuff like this, send me an email or get in touch on Twitter.