Design in the Anthropocene – in memoriam Marjan Groot

Written by Joana Ozorio de Almeida Meroz

This present Corona pandemic is so much more than a health crisis. Indeed, it throws into light how intimately intertwined our concerns are – concerns that we however often think of in terms of silos: health, politics, the environment, education, culture, the economy, even globalisation… One of the great gifts of our dear late colleague Marjan Groot was her ability, both in her research and in her teaching, to approach design as a type of matter both resulting from and acting alongside such concerns. An excellent example of how she tackled this was in how she taught the Design Cultures MA’s core course Design, Culture and Society. Originally, the course was called Design, History and Culture, but Marjan adapted it, which allowed her to concentrate on contemporary imbroglios between design, culture and society. In the course, she particularly focused on the ethics and practices of Bio Design, one of her latest research interests. After Marjan’s tragic and unexpected passing away last year, I was asked to teach this course. To me, the contested concept of the Anthropocene captures well the Gordian knot that design, culture and society find themselves in today – not so much because of the accuracy or clarity of the concept but on the contrary, precisely because it provokes effort, in our part, to think and act carefully through it. So this year, the focus of Design, Culture and Society was on Design in the Anthropocene. Together, the students and I explored different strands of emerging scholarship that experiment with thinking about design as an agent that has enabled but that can also contest the Anthropocene. The quality of students’ papers was so high and the content so relevant that, currently, there are plans to publish a selection of them as an edited volume with Zazie Edições, a critical, independent and Open Access Brazilian publishing house dedicated to the democratisation of contemporary and theoretical writing. Marjan was a driving and inspiring force in our MA Design Cultures and I am sure that she would have had valuable feedback to give on this project. As her death anniversary draws near, I am deeply aware of how I miss her insightful and critical perspectives on our discipline and our approaches to it.

Basic CMYK

Integrating layers of concern. From:

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