Critical By Design? Potentials and Limitations of Materialized Critique


Project: Visual identity, coordination, moderation and research
Commissioner: IXDM Institute of Experimental Design and Media Cultures
Concept: Moritz Greiner-Petter and m—d—buero
Programming: Moritz Greiner-Petter

“Critical By Design?” is an interdisciplinary research conference on the capacity of design as a mode of critique. International experts from design theory, history and practice, the philosophy of technology, the art, cultural and media studies as well as the field of human-computer interaction, discuss the ambivalent relationship of design and criticality offering theoretical and practice-oriented approaches for an understanding of the potentials and limitations of design as a materialized form of critique. In collaboration with Moritz Greiner-Petter we developed the visual identity of the conference. The idea is to question the term ‘criticality’ by replacing the title of the conference with common terms in the critical design discourse. Besides the design work, I was also part of the conference team and involved as a researcher, project coordinator and conference moderator.

The conference was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and held as part of the research project “Critical Artifacts – Speculative and Critical Design as a reflective approach towards the design of technology”


‘Critical By Design?’ Poster

Festival program and badges. Videos done by Moritz Greiner-Petter


‘Critical By Design?’ Webpage

On and of the grid. Hackers & Designers Publication


Project: Writing
Commissioner: Hackers & Designers Amsterdam
Authors: m—d—buero and me

m—d—buero was asked to write a contemplation about our participation at the H&D Summer Academy 2017 in Amsterdam. The first part of the contribution is a collaborative review by m—d—buero. The second part is a follow-up text about my research in relation to the project RIBL (Research Institute for Botanical Linguistics) which was developed in the framework of H&D Summer Academy.


RIBL Research Institute of Botanical Linguistics

2017 — ongoing

Project: Design, Research, Performance
Concept: Lucia Kolesarova, Dorian de Rijk, Daniela Rota and me


RIBL Research Institute for Botanical Linguistics was founded in the framework of Hackers & Designers Summer Academy in 2017. RIBL’s aspiraton is to explore interdependencies between humans and non-humans. Our goal is to question human-centred knowledge production, normalization processes, and truthmaking in relation to design and art practice. When thinking of design and art practice as an integral part of world making and to establish normalization processes, we believe that it is necessary to consider the world as pluralistic. Therefore the institute's basic intention is to shift the human perspective and to get connected with botanicals, to think “with” them and to use botanical systems as a point of reference for human beliefs and truthmaking. Our practice within RIBL consists of organizing dinner events and hands-on workshops, discussions, and performance in a playful and ironic manner to aim at exploration, design and research.

Building an institute, from fake to reality

This two days project started as an ironic performative installation: A tomato plant got hacked by receiving signals via sound waves. Those datas got connected via a Python program with bitmap pictures in order to visualize the plant's response. A photoshoot was organized in order to document the hacking activities, a webpage was published and we designed RIBL uniforms for the exhibition. This state of making and performing was both a moment of learning through making and sharing a statement. We were simultaneously inhabiting the role of Institute researchers and founders, collectively negotiating our identity, and experiencing the limits of staging the hacking analysis of the botanical landscape. This was the founding momentum of RIBL.


ACT 01 — Case Study#01 Tomatilla 16

Activity: Performance, Hacking, Design

We believe in the resilience of botanicals and challenge ourselves to learn from them. By tuning in on their frequency we familiarize ourselves with their linguistic properties and seek ways to give botanicals a voice. We hope that this voice will help us create a better understanding of our environment. Within the Case Study #01 Tomatilla 16, we do not impose our language upon plants, we let plants 'speak' instead. In order to understand our research method it's important to take our notion of linguistics into account. We study the structure and modification of language created by plants. Our perspective is human but we emphasize the role of the plant as the source and see ourselves as mere interpreters who enable the plants to 'speak' to us. For our first case study, we created a transmission device that can pick up the bioacoustics of our test plant Tomatilla 16. Plant bioacoustics refers to the creation and reception of sound waves among biological organisms. Measured sound emissions by plants as well as differential germination rates, growth rates, and behavioural modifications in response to sound are documented. Plants detect neighbours by means other than well-established communicative signals, including volatile chemicals, light detection, direct contact and root signalling. Because sound waves travel efficiently through the soil and can be produced with minimal energy expenditure, plants may use sound as a means of interpreting their environment and surroundings. The Research Institute of Botanical Linguistics can report that Tomatilla 16 emits bioacoustics. It responds to being stroked and watered and makes it clear when it wants to be left alone. To prevent imposing 'human' language we only use the raw data and developed a tool that Tomatilla 16 can use to express itself. In this phase of our research, it was only possible to communicate with Tomatilla 16 by exposing it to a set of stock images provided by Apple. We enabled Tomatilla 16 to choose the images and rework them. This led to the first examples of botanical linguistics. At the Research Institute of Botanical Linguistics we take into account that botanicals have been here before us and will be here long after us. We can learn from botanicals and our research aims to make a mutual understanding attainable.



Activity: Hands-On methods and round table discussions

From which perspective are we building our world? From which perspective do we make up beliefs and normativities? – All too human? [1] While eating plants we questioned knowledge production and truthmaking which is “all too human”. What can we learn from other-than-human-systems? How can we communicate “with” and think “with” botanicals and use botanical systems as a point of reference to reflect human beliefs and truthmaking?
We gave a workshop in the format of a dinner at HDSA 2018 in Amsterdam. In a performative way we used the dinner as a quick collective think tank, where we discussed the need of pluralistic knowledge production. We discovered our relation to plants while searching for plant pictures in our mobile devices, we discussed the different ways of sensing between humans and non-humans by drawing sketches of how plants perceive humans and moved on to investigate ways of including the non-human as attendant to the dinner by prototyping communication tools. The outcome of the dinner was a mix of well-fed participants, discussions, some dancing and small experiments in forms of sketches, prototypes and performance.

  1. We borrow the expression: „All too human“ of one of Rosi Braidotti´s lecture title: Posthuman, All Too Human. Lecture given at Durham University as part of the Durham Castle Lectures Series 2016/17

ACT 03 — Sensing Species (PICS WILL BE ONLINE SOON)

Activity: Installation and Performance

“Let’s have a ‘cross-species party’ and step out of the traditional club experience” was the motto of “Sensing Species”, an installation presented at the Festival N0 1 FUTURE at Palác Akropolis in Prague. This year, the festival ambition was to create a critical conscious club culture, where we dived into the world of plants by experimenting with sound. We designed an Anduino tool that enabled us to create a sound response by touching the plant. The sonification of touch was also a sonification of the plant’s inner response. Furthermore, we performed and involved people in a plant dance with an exercise instruction video and closed the session with a discussion about plants emotions and senses.

FDRG Feminist Design Reading Group

2017 – ongoing


Future as Present. A capitalistic poetry


Field of work: Design, Art
Concept: Marcel Goethals and Meike Hardt
Coding: Marcel Goethals

Future as Present is a project that experiments with speculation in relation to economy and poetry. Two computational traders are speculating about word values and selling them to each other. Within this microeconomic system, the Communist Manifesto was re-written as a capitalist poetry. This installation was exhibited in the framework of Hackers & Designers Summer Academy in 2016 in Amsterdam and was a collaboration with Marcel Goethals. Currently, we are working on a further elaborated bot which process the capitalist poetry in a publication.


F.R.E.E. Foundation for Research Emancopartoy Economics


Field of work: Design, Research
Collaboration with: Benjamin Bush

An installation with questionnaires about precarious working conditions. F.R.E.E. is a project resulting of shared sentiments on precarious mechanism in the cultural and design disciplines. Project was shown at a Groupexhibition at Kunstverein Rosa–Luxemburg–Platz in Berlin. F.R.E.E. is a collaboration with Benjamin Bush in the framework of Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art in Berlin.


Big Data Conference Report


WALL HOUSE Making and Remaking


Field of work: Editorial Design

Art Direction for a postcard catalogue representing the project WALL HOUSE Making and Remaking by Anupama Kundoo shown at the Architecture Biennale in Venice 2012


Berlin Milano Catalogue



DMY International Design Festival Catalogue


Field of work: Editorial Design
Commissioner: DMY International Design Festival Berlin


Announcement DMY Awards Jury Selection



Field of work: Design
Commissioner: International Design Festival Berlin