The Disruptive Aesthetics of Design Activism: Enacting design between art and politics

Thomas Markussen


The aim of this article is above all to construct a new conceptual framework for understanding how and why design activism in public space matters. The article sets off by providing a literature review of some of the existing theoretical frameworks in design research for understanding design activism. In so doing, I will identify a theoretical ‘blind spot’ in the research literature, which has blocked our view of how design activism functions as an aesthetic practice and not only a socio-political one. To remedy this shortcoming, I then introduce some notions from Rancière (2004; 2010) that enable design research to better explain the close interrelationship between aesthetics and the political in design activism. This will be further demonstrated through a series of case examples from current urban design activism. On the basis of this, I finally offer an alternative framework for the practice and study of urban design activism.



Design Activism, Design Aesthetics, DIY, Public Space, Urban Environment

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