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Bruce Mau: Designing for the Cluster | SXSW 2021

Bruce Mau
Founder at Bruce Mau Studio
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SXSW 2021
March 18, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
SXSW 2021
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Bruce Mau: Designing for the Cluster | SXSW 2021
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About speakers

Bruce Mau
Founder at Bruce Mau Studio
Sanford Kwinter
New York-based writer and architectural theorist at Pratt Institute

Visionary, innovator, designer, educator and author, Bruce Mau is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Massive Change Network, LLC. Additionally, in 2015 he was appointed Chief Design Officer at Freeman, the leading global provider of live brand experiences, in a move to drive innovation in the events industry.Bruce Mau: MC24 - Bruce Mau’s 24 Principles for Designing Massive Change in your Life and Work, published by Phaidon Press in July 2020, features essays, observations, project documentation, and design work by Mau and other high-profile architects, designers, artists, scientists, environmentalists, and thinkers of our time. Practical, playful, and critical, it equips readers with a tool kit and empowers them to make an impact and engender change on all scales.Mau's 30 years of experience in design innovation has included collaborations with many of the world’s leading institutions, corporations, heads of state, entrepreneurs and artists. For Bruce Mau, design is leadership that provides the power to imagine the vision of a future and the method to systematically achieve that vision. While most designers use design to produce things, Mau uses design as a method to produce the future and develop purposeful projects to create positive change in business, education, health, leadership and security.

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Sanford Kwinter is a New York based philosopher and writer. He is Professor of Science and Design at the Pratt Institute and Honorary Professor of Theory at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. He was co-Founder and Editor of ZONE and ZONE BOOKS where he and Bruce Mau established their decades-long set of collaborations and design-philosophy experiments. Kwinter is currently completing a book "What is Energy and How Else Might We Think About it?" and a work on the ecology of sentience with and on the work of neurobiologist Wolf Singer.

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About the talk

Bruce Mau applies his MC24 design principles and his new life-centered approach to confronting the simultaneous cluster cascade of crisis that he calls The Cluster: Pandemics - Racial and social justice - Climate - Food Insecurity - Governance. Mau will demonstrate that all of these global challenges are interrelated and that they have their origin in a fundamental crisis of empathy.

About SXSW:

SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. An essential destination for global professionals, this year’s online event features sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, professional development and a variety of networking opportunities. For more information, please visit sxsw.com.

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Greetings everyone and Welcome to our session. My name is Sanford, Quinter design, theorist writer and educator based in New York City. Designer discuss a variety of topics in his just-published, compendium, Manifesto mc24 my relationship with Mal began many decades ago during the run-up and launch of our publishing Enterprise called his own End Zone. Books among whose ambition was to explore how philosophy and Design. Thought and sensory experience to be integrated into a single

environment to both extend and test of what a book can do. Now, I was going to run to design more than 200 books, not to mention cities National identities institutions, and so forth and to write quite a number of high. as Canadians, we met and shared a lifelong concern inherited from another Canadian Marshall mcluhan who saw never in opposition, always an infinitely, flexible metabolism, medium, and message, Much of today's discussion. I imagine much like Mouse new book will address the ways that design can or indeed

must be construed as an expansive practice, methodology and an Ethics. A way to understand. And the way to act in order to address the urgencies emerging around us today with that, I'd like to turn the presentation over my friend Bruce map. Thank you Sanford. Delighted to be here, I'd like to just share some notes on what we've been working on and, and the approach really that is Central to our practice and outlined in MC 24. The book really started almost 10 years ago and it went to press before the pandemic,

this is the first paragraph of the book. Practically everything we do today needs to change at. We're still doing most things as we have done for the longest time as if we own nature and have unlimited resources, we don't even think of waste as an idea. You don't think it's an invention that we treat nature like a Pantry in a toilet. Paradoxically. We think short-term party like, there's no tomorrow passed the test, the bill, to our children, and future Generations, we done problems, we can't solve into places, you can't see and many of our Solutions create

more problems and I correct. And that challenge that challenge of actually understanding our problems in context in, in a, in an ecology, Urgent. I want to just touch on the context that we start with this. I think the most important fact of the last century that we're now 7.9 billion on our way to something like 10 billion by by mid-century and we can see where that development is happening. The red line is more developed world. The blue line is the less-developed we have a massive challenge in really

meeting this new reality. If you think about the implications of that, I like to think it's not, we don't have to have a failure problems. We have success problem that we have problems because we succeed in solving so many of the challenges that we created. The good news is according to Chris file that we will not face the problems with future with the tools of past. This is his work on our expanding capacity and he shows that it's entirely predictable and and we can

see how how exponential that capacity is. He says that by 2025 will put the power of human brain in your pocket for the price of an iPhone. And by 2050 that device will have the power of the human brain. The bad news is that we have a real crisis in our climate and in our ecology, and according to the ipcc We have now about 10 years to really confront it. I was really quite challenging and we have a real crisis of governance and so what that really amounts to is what I call the crisis stack that we have a kind of layer cake of trouble. That where these

Global challenges, I really smashing on top of one another. We have the pandemic on top of a crisis of racial Justice climate crisis of food, insecurity price on top of governance crisis, I think it's really important to understand these problems in context as an ecosystem. Not as individual individual, plans are really all and needed to gather into the greatest challenge in history. What we see that's really interesting to me, is that All of them have a common denominator

empathy, another where it's our ability to understand the experience of other life and that's really what what design is all about. That design is a is a methodology that begins with caring sharing with the citizen, their community and ultimately their ecology. So we really have a design, a kind of method that we can apply to confront those challenges. Several years ago, we did a project called massive change and the back of a really says it best. It's not about the world that design is with the design of the world. We saw our capacity to

shape the world changing dramatically. And this is probably the most important diagram that came out of the process that we saw. That, that, in fact, business culture, and even nature itself, We're becoming a design project, we were designing the natural world. The project started with extraordinary quotation Arnold toynbee a British national in a lawsuit in history of the twentieth century. Won't be remembered for violence and conflict or for acknowledging and invention. Instead, it will be remembered as an era in which we

imagine the welfare of the whole human race. When I saw that I've ever heard inside 57, I wanted to know. Is it true or did we do that? What's that? I transferred, you know, we it's a disaster, we didn't do that at what we saw was that it was not his radical that we are. We were confronting these challenges and solving problems and really changing the world. After the date when the show open in Vancouver, I went to HighSchool after the presentation young woman came to the microphone and she said Mr. Now, I think you're not thinking big enough

that's like at the moment. Most people are not accuse me of that, I quite the opposite and she said, it's going to be talked about the 20th century thinking about the whole human race. We want to think about, instead all his life. That's our project for the 21st century, and she just totally blew me away. It was incredible and said, she was out to be right in a blind spot. 20b was really thinking about it. You know, I'm 57 in the old way, and that really, set off our journey to what we call Life Center design.

And that's really what we want to talk about today. Yeah, I'm part of the architecture school in Northern Canada. Human skull. It's a try cultural project and that risk was French, English and Indigenous leaders until I've been spending time with these folks up in Canada. And what they, what? I discovered that they have a cosmology that puts life, not humans at the center, and it really fundamentally changes our way of thinking about what what design to do and how we supposed to see our place in

the universe of the question is, are there principles that we can apply? And that's really what is a change is all about. These are the 24 principles that we developed as a way of thinking this way. I know I just want to touch on a couple. The first is first, Inspire, and that is we take responsibility for our ability to optimistically, see the future and it's why I Inspire others to go there. The second is begin with Zak Place optimism. It's not blind Pollyanna

stupidity optimism. It's informed by data and really understanding what's actually going on, which we can see in a way that we haven't ever seen before in history of the work of our world in data and it shows really the kind of positive inversion that has happened in the most important metrics. And the last one is we're not separate from or above nature at all to mately our understanding of our place in the universe has changed. While we were also history, thought of ourselves as quite separate. So that's really what I wanted to introduce in terms of a kind of set of Concepts and

principles. And I'll hand it back to Sanford this point. Well, that's wonderful. Rich and dance presentation. I see no reason in order to apply a proper start with the overarching principle centered design. Although the principal is well explained in the book, meaning is almost certainly trying to be, not the worst thing in the world because it can tell someone to explain the term carefully and continuously Life here is not your life or my life one that undergirds the collected tissue across which all things into the system. The system

that the guts and subsumes the broader adventure of each and every World present or possible. It is an affirmation contrary to all the platitudes in which we endlessly bathed design correctly. Conceived is not properly for us. Would you agree with that? I wouldn't, I think so. Yeah, I did. I mean, you have to say that that working in Northern Canada to meet you in school with the indigenous, is there, it really blew my mind? It was really kind of realization that they had a cosmology that that

I have been searching for for 30 years. That really, they come to life to honor and respect life. With all the living things in, with all the living creatures of the world. And we see ourselves as part of life connected to that kind of a complex web. That's a very different place than human centered design, which is really kind of narcissism of, of human culture places, ourself at the center of the universe. I mean, we're still trying to realize the copernican revolution

where we finally discover the universe does not revolve around us. That we are simply another chapter in the story and I had an incredible experience with the old Wilson beat. We went into the into the jungle and Panama is probably the greatest Life Sciences working today. And Wilson said, there's only one thing on the planet is life and life has an experiment going and we're one of those forms. That's all. We don't have a current special status. We don't have permanence and we're not here forever. We're here for our time. And I think the sooner that we can understand

that our practice of creation, and the impact that we have in the world has to be conceived with life at the center. Not humans. The sooner that we will, confront all of those, in all the crisis in it, in that crisis, stack that I talk to her. Is that make sense? Is there any ties to me? We maybe, if we have time, we can get back to the some of the details, especially in the way, in which this car for a transformation. Ultimately, not only of attitude, but of Consciousness itself. But my second question, I is the way you invoke a series

of compound crises that characterized both are present the story of a predicament and also, Our obligation as designers. It's a list that even our mainstream politicians finally, and recite verbatim exactly as you did. But designers rarely if ever make plans to Ambitions in a national or global scale out of fear of hubris perhaps because they mean something entirely different by the word design. Then you do what I find interesting is to take these two words that you like to use massive and change, and reassess

them separately rather than together. massive suggest something larger than watching, typically, or routinely the apprehended or contained an idea or the idea that a more revealing reality exists at a larger scale, larger than our senses obituary grass, The word change also taken at the cosmological level. And I meant to say that, it's a very important thing to eat. That scale and scope. Understanding and of our predicament, the cosmological, which of course you say, in a way you were brought

up. You like to the foreground of your attention to your engagement with indigenous cultures. The word change taken at that level invokes a reality very different from that, which most designers address when they produce contained solutions, they do not see design as a permanent position to the act of learning, which I think is one of the strongest features of the program that you have one in your book as a call to pay permanent and sustained attention. Not too. What is the, what is

uncertainly and continually unfolding? Do I hand it back to do? What I'm asking you in a way to comment on? Is the idea that design is needs to address entirely different order of magnitude in terms of its conception of the cosmos. And secondly, that that Barry Cosmos is not one that can be mastered, but one that must be followed Adventure Time the concept of change. That's a great. Great, Chris, and great formulation. I didn't, you know, when I first started talking about massive change in the kind of understanding design,

as economies of the Realms of your life that are being produced in design, People said Bruce you know you're a you're a nut your your megalomaniac, you just want to control everything cuz they associate design with control and and singular authorship. So they want it really has a kind of fascist undercurrent of singular control and I said no no no it's not about control. It's about responsibility that we actually have responsibility for the ecosystems that that we that sustain us. And if we fail to design at

that level, we designed for failure, we need to think about design contact. We need to develop a methodology of really understanding the complex ecosystems that we rely on. And when we fail to think of that at that scale, we damaged them. We destroy them. You look around the world over the last hundred years, where we, where we failed to design, we designed for failure. We really put things in crisis because we did not design. And if you think about the way that we think about design, we we

try to isolate the problem. You imagine a discrete entity, that's the problem. And then we lock a solution on to that problem 121. That way of thinking has created all of the damage that that we done that, with of, taking the problem out of context and applying countin ever invented, which is externalities in ecology, there is no externality, there's no outside it all accounts, it all comes back and that way he has to change fundamentally in our methodology, really comes from a book, a project that we did together called in corporations. Wow. That was yeah

that was an incredibly important for minutes. And I for both of us and I just saw the office, I just had to do projects that we worked on beginning in the early nineties, which was a total project design and bringing emergency forms spot which have to do with the shift toward a life, science base model of explanation for the universe and what it did for both of us. The foreground, which I think we both tried to keep as a framework for any form of explanation.

Picture of a problem, which voting your presentation? No one is paying attention can fail to notice that rides. Exactly. In tandem with Life Center design, Empathy is used in your presentation, very much in the way or rather in your work is very much in the way. The Greeks, use the word participation describe a two things, one another something particular, for example, it exists in relation to something Universal, What's beautiful and surprising in your use of empathy, is the

way in Frozen compasses but also moves Beyond a mere psychological. It describes a recognition that states of Mind are states of things of physical things. That Our obligation today is the projectile retention outside ourselves and into the world. Which is where we came from in the first place, as an accidental thing among sings. I need for me that empathy is is core to the methodology and really core to understand walking. Those challenges, the idea that we can somehow super

impose our will on those problems. And superimpose, our will on the on the ecologies that sustain us. Is is really a falsehood what we need to do and then the common denominator in in that crisis stack is the idea of understanding other, living things understanding other living species, other living ways of being. So that we can we can see what we need to do in context and really develop a methodology that isn't about only ultimately it's about, you know, it is the only way to Our Success. So it's about us.

But more importantly, it's about how we all have our all in this together. I mean, if you think about the challenge of race or governance store in this together, well I would like to say as we are closed great challenge that I hear is to bring design into a completely different sphere of action, no longer on behalf of our The Barber of our standard routine Central narcissistic beliefs. But to be put at the service of the of the great adventure of which we are really, really thank you very much Bruce. Thank you, everyone else for

your for your, for your attention and your time. Thank you Sandra really delighted.

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Bruce Mau
Sanford Kwinter