Put on by the Center for Complexity at RISD
Funded by Infosys
If you have found your way to this page, welcome. This is the place where we invite you to contribute to our symposium by submitting reflections, analysis, or proposals that respond to our 7 Compass pairings. Take inspiration from the Compass pairings, or the writing and artwork that will be presented on our website every day from June 15 to 19. Details for how to share your original work is outlined below.
We have themed the symposium around 7 word-pairings we are calling Compasses. While not exhaustive and by no means comprehensive, we see them as guides to explore in different directions. They mark places to start and are not constraints on our imaginations or emotions. We hope they may help us find our bearings; glimpse what's ahead.
The Chinese poet Lao Tzu wrote that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And so it is with all challenging tasks. The first steps must be taken. We invite you to take these first steps with us, and with the talented writers and artists whose work you will see unfold over the course of this symposium.
“My pieces are intended as protective garments that can be used to survive Covid 19 virus. They reference medical uniforms, the veil which brings to mind divine protection. During covid 19 the world learned to wear protective masks. The garments are wearable and I am a ﬁrm believer in the need to use protective masks to prevent the spread of Covid 19.” – Melissa Lockwood
The Seven Compass Pairings
What ideas do we develop and apply in order to achieve positive structural transformation for a more just and equitable world?
Crisis & Capacity
How does society deal with crises, particularly concurrent crises, without ignoring them, or becoming dulled to their impact and significance?
What do the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd amidst an ongoing pandemic reveal about society’s capacity for dealing with colliding crises?
What’s the intersection between human and systems’ capacity to deal with the crises?
Guiding Details: climate; policing; governance; education; inequality/inequity; economy; food growth and distribution; public health.
Culture & Constructs
Which societal mental models need revision and new habits of thought?
Guiding Details: property ownership, civil rights, is technology the answer? (Cedric Price)
Collapse & (re)Construct
How do we structurally reorganize our human institutions under the pressures of concurrent crises? Redesign or revolution? If institutions are assemblages of relations and networks between people, what does survival mean under these conditions: stay as is, repurpose, adapt, clone themselves…?
Guiding Details: from parts to wholes; from hierarchical / fragmented / linear institutions/ organizations -> organizations able to deal with complex, interconnected, ambiguous challenges.
Contact & Constraints
What is the human right to square footage? From amphitheaters to asylums, from playgrounds to prisons, humans have built a world to bring people into proximity. When proximity can be deadly, what changes? What does it mean to be human when systems around you are broken or breaking?
Guiding Details: When does the short-term need to avoid human touch threaten long-term well-being? What constitutes “acceptable” risk? What makes a life worth living? (no economy, no touch? living in periods of isolation, how do spaces and habitats need redesign going forward?
Commons & Capital
How do we manage population and provide equitable distribution of food, natural resources, and basics for all?
Is the Green Revolution still relevant?
Guiding Details: equality/equity, competition, economy, waste, distribution.
Chaos & Control
How could conditions for emergence balance tensions between what was and what could be? Crisis enables emergence. What can be controlled to serve better outcomes? Is the idea of control relevant or obsolete? If control is a fallacy, then how do we proceed?
Guiding Details: unintended consequences; parts don’t retain their nature in whole
Compasses & Calibrations
Maps which offer 1:1 certainty are no longer reliable. What are the gauges and guides for individuals and societies that will enable wholescale improvement? What other new tools will point us to true norths?
Guiding Details: beyond measurement, efficiency, optimization
“It is crisis times like these one, that our fears, dreams, hopes and all the most basic characteristics that make us up, emerge from the psyche in disruptive ways, in a natural reaction of survival. In this sense, the states of crisis implicit in a certain chaos, become compulsory terrain in the need for change, this being an inherent aspect of the nature of what is alive. It is here that the idea of control becomes relevant as long as it is not absolute and there is an understanding that the fortuitous will always be present in processes and results, to different degrees. Understanding control more as part of the methodological side and not as the ultimate purpose.” – Regina Arruti Zapata
From My Quarantine To Yours, With Love
hang in the air
like slammed doors
feeling the vacated
void of open sound
creeping into the space
of shouting workmen,
and idling engines
choked our children with poison
Just as commerce
in this familial hour
This is no Blitz blackout
the lights of candles burn bright
into the night
the windows of the city
Lit by a new source of aflame
tender, fraught intuitions
As it could have been?
What are the decisions we have bound ourselves to?
Just as choices were once made by circumstance
how will this Circumstance
imprinted onto collective conscience
How will we touch again
with this codex of mimetic dread
a harder stubbornness
to return to how it was?
Poem by: Silas Gibbins, RISD ID ‘21(?)
Date: March 24th
Location: Tower Hill Wharf, London
How to Contribute:
Submit your reflections, analysis, or proposals to us via firstname.lastname@example.org or send it to us through direct message (DM) on Instagram at @risdcenterforcomplexity.
Work in the medium of your choice. Share something of your own creation, perhaps a diagram, poem, play, essay; send a photo of a painting, model, weaving, or collage, even a short film (2-3 minutes).
Every day, the CfC will choose three submissions to feature on our website and instagram.
Terms for Submissions
To include in your email or Instagram DM:
The Compass pairing or other content you are responding to.
Your name and any other detail that you would like to share about yourself that we will publish with your contribution.
Details you care to share about the medium in which you worked.
Any additional contact information you want us to have for future communication.
For large files, provide a link to submission (i.e. Dropbox).
By submitting, you are providing permission for us to post the contribution in part or whole on our website for the purposes of the symposium. You must submit only your own original work that is not subject to copyright that would preclude us from displaying it on our website.
Generous cultures are nearly extinct
You were young enough to believe
that they would flourish forever
I swear i saw this with my own eyes
Krum sautéed with crushed chilli peppers, garlic and salt
fried potatoes for aloo dum, mixed with Kashmiri achar
in your aunt and uncles kitchen
Remember how they used to remind us
that the most important things in your life
took place in your absence
Generous cultures have become suffocated from your
that began arriving at all of our doorsteps uninvited
My pain and suffering is more important than yours
She gave birth for the first time
Her mother and father both dead in Kashmir
But she wasn’t alone, her brothers standing around her
A temporary home is a gutted basement
But still they greeted her with balloons, handmade cards, trays of jalebis
But still we began to plant seeds
ripping apart years of relationships once thriving
Poem by: Jagdeep Raina
RISD Alumni (PT MFA 2016).
Compass: Compasses & Calibrations