Social Fiction

'le design face au progresâ', World without us & them : A new Optimism (exhibition)

Social Fiction is a concept proposed  by Satyendra Pakhalé presenting a holistic point of view on progress rather than a modernist euro-centric technology focused perspective. Through sketches, diagrams, aquarelles and moving images - 'Social Fiction' - World without us & them: A new Optimism  installation illustrates inclusive ideas about progress. This thought provocative work was created for the exhibition 'In Progress' at Grand Hornu Images Museum, Belgium.

Design in the face of progress

Jeanne Quéheillard, Laurence Salmon, curators.

Putting design face to face with progress is a tautology. In effect, this dynamic occurs throughout the entire history of design, constantly marked by strong movements of opposition.

Since 1851, the London World’s Fair, along with the construction of the Crystal Palace, has been an elegy to progress. It played witness to a belief in the benefits of advanced technologies (via machines). These instances are on everybody’s lips in those places where progress that is associated with a proliferation of innovation is a leitmotif. Building habitats according to hygienist, functionalists, and economist rules, conserving the artisan’s credibility, uniting beauty and utility to create a mass product, appropriating technologies or new materials, constructing perspective scenarios – these are models of action that attest to an unshakeable faith in the improvement of the conditions of life and production. An entire dialectic develops – between technological progress, like hope, and the social progress of environmental well-being, like design – in which the principles of democratization, standardization, and cost-cutting are at stake. That it incarnates itself in Le Corbusier’s living-machine or in a dream-world, like the internet, where everything communicates objects, allows us to suppose this.

Style, even objects, transports this vision, as described by François Bukhardt, à propos futurism, biotechnology, streamline, and Bolidsm. This theorist considers languages that «express hope for progress through technological evolution» to be propagandist transmitters of progress. In this regard, designers and manufacturers gravitate toward a progress that, as much as it results form an anthropological and social project, cannot detach itself from politics.

"We totally do not know yet how to build a society which is environmentally sustainable, which is shareable with everybody on this planet, which promotes stability, democracy, and human rights and which is doable in a reasonable period, based on the challenges we face. We simply do not know how to do this yet. With my faith in humanity, in our collective future, my vision of the future is the ability of humankind to just be able to do that in a most natural and effective way.

So my stance as a designer and as a protagonist on this matter is to create: Social Fiction, as against science fiction. To address issues like Social Emancipation, Genocides, Massacres and above all political manipulations, with human optimism. As regards the utopian aim of design for me, human optimism is still relevant and not just blind belief in the notion of progress seen only from technological perspective. Unlike the prevalent practice of utopian thinking, I would like to take a stance- to not put emphasis on technology too much, taking a healthy skeptical perspective about technology, that does not mean rejecting it, but to use it in a smart integral way, always keeping human beings at the centre of every scenario of systems we develop." Satyendra Pakhalé