A rainy day, a terrorist attack, or a first kiss: these events are among countless recollections that we cobble together to shape our perception of the present. Such memories seep uncontrollably into our consciousnesses, where they become tinted by each of our individual proclivities and characters. They are malleable and we recall them selectively. Optimists revel in rosy-eyed delusions of the “good old days”—an era of the Fonz and American manufacturing—while forgetting the race riots and burning rivers. Meanwhile, cynics wallow in nothing but tales of hate and injustice, failing to recall a generation which aspired to make the desert bloom and set foot on the moon. Which is the authentic version of these stories? Oftentimes, it is whichever one chooses to tell.
It is within this context of “competing truths”, that WASH 03 Liabilities showcases a breadth of work from designers and artists, who collect and distill parcels of memories from a globalized pool of intertextual references and interwoven narratives. These works, like curated time-capsules, contain fragments of spolia projected upon futures unknown. They also collectively contain the seeds for future ruins.
While the modern ruin is a physical vestige of the ideological optimism of the 20th century, when devoid of myth and memory, these husks of brick, concrete, and steel become the austere skeletal remains of the dreams of our forefathers. We have no need of them. They are the dreams of futures past—regressive ideas, now silver-lined with age. They are our inheritance turned into a liability; great temples of industry that were supposed to propel us along the road to prosperity now sit idle. As these lofty ambitions fade from memory and the gleaming image of modernity is reduced to shattered windowpanes, we awake to a reality of crumbling masonry bereft of meaning.
Now we find ourselves preoccupied with the challenge of filling in the voids. With the knowledge that the socio-cultural relevance of physical products decays in time, designers are experimenting with processes that extend the generative lifespan of their creations. This they achieve not by means of grand public manifestos or linear narratives, but by fertilizing their works with productive memories. The generative power of these carefully orchestrated compositions resides not merely in their capacity to elicit emotional responses, but also in their ability to convey ambiguous spatial constellations and involuted temporalities. The results of these experiments become moments and platforms that engender hopeful discovery, a sense of “otherness”, and a promise of continual transformation.
It is incumbent upon us to make design that liberates the future production of space, or at the very least, envision projects as launch pads for rupture and subsequent acceleration. By doing so, we may lift the confines of our memories from the flow of time altogether. Perhaps even create places that matter to the peoples of the present and all time to come. Let us aspire to do better than our ancestors.
WASH presents a collection of projects which understand their context and meaning as ruins of the future.