The document is a genre of graphic design that has largely escaped critical scrutiny by graphic designers in spite of its ubiquity and profound consequentiality of its forms.
This Thursday Night Live! event aims to make a case for admitting the document into the practical and theoretical imaginary of graphic design. It derives from Het Nieuwe Instituut Fellow Chris Lee’s project “Immutable: A Mineral History of Currency and Typography,” which researches how standards and documents function as instruments of state-making and colonial/ity/ism. In this conversation, Lee engages media historian Lisa Gitelman and architect/researcher Füsun Türetken to look through the material and thematic lens of minerality. They will unpack the document (with its knowledge producing and evidentiary function) and the ways in which its function as such is premised on its capacity to resist change against movement in time/space and politics—in other words, how documents are designed to be immutable.
Through a genealogy of the humble PDF and the “page image” upon which its status as document rests, Gitelman provides a highly relatable example through which we can conceive immutability as a design imperative. Türetken, through the lens of the methods of forensic architecture, figures the mineral as documentary and readable, but also as an agent that itself plays the role of witness. This conversation aims to furnish graphic design discourse with concepts, language, and formal and material references from which some design principles of immutability might be derived, and admit the document more meaningfully as a critical genre of graphic design.
Lisa Gitelman is a media historian whose research concerns American book history, techniques of inscription, and the new media of yesterday and today. She is particularly concerned with tracing the patterns according to which new media become meaningful within and against the contexts of older media. Gitelman holds a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and is a former editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers University. She has taught in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University, and she helped to create the Department of Media Studies at Catholic University. She is currently appointed in NYU’s Department of English and the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication.
Christopher Lee, research fellow of Het Nieuwe Instituut, is a graphic designer and educator based in Buffalo, New York and Toronto. He is a graduate of Ocadu (Toronto) and the Sandberg Instituut (Amsterdam), and has worked for “The Walrus Magazine,” Metahaven and Bruce Mau design. He has lectured at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, ArtEZ, The Sandberg Instituut, Design Academy Eindhoven, and Ocadu. Lee is an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo Suny, and a member of the programming committee of Gendai Gallery and Squeaky Wheel.
Füsun Türetken, former fellow of Het Nieuwe Instituut, is an architect and visual artist from Istanbul who works across disciplines and teaches interdisciplinary critical strategy modules and design. She is lecturer and graduation supervisor for design at Visual Culture, Lifestyle at Willem de Kooning Academy, and Lecturer and Graduation Supervisor for Design and Critical Strategies with MIARD (Master of Interior Architecture: Design and Research) at Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam. Since 2018 Füsun further is a lecturer at KABK, Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten Den Haag (Royal Academy of Art, The Hague) Graphic Design.
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