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Pasquet: «We have to give serious consideration to other social models and develop true alternatives aimed at developing design in a sustainable and inclusive way»

From her base in Misiones, designer, professor, and researcher, Daniela Pasquet reflects about territorial awareness as a requirement to produce the best solutions to fulfill society’s economic, productive, and cultural needs.

Trained at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), graphic designer Daniela Pasquet moved at a very young age to the city of Posadas. She is currently a faculty member of the School of Art and Design at the National University of Misiones (FAyD-UNaM), where she teaches courses linked to the Design program, besides being co-chair of the Art, Design, and Open Code Technology Lab and vice-dean of the university.

As a tireless promoter of connecting State, academic production, and local creations, she coordinated the Active Design Program of Misiones, under the wing of the National Ministry of Culture, and the Guaraní Mbya Course on Design and Handcraft Commercialization, besides creating the artisan Mbya communities from Misiones, and the Ñandeva Crafts Design Program. She currently coordinates the UNaM and Family Agriculture Ministry joint project to promote visual identification and communication of the products manufactured by agricultural organizations. At present, she also heads the project Design and Praxis in the territory, at the FAyD-UNaM. She has won several awards, given lectures, published texts, and participated in national and international exhibitions throughout her long career.

In this occasion, the executive secretary of the network of Latin American Public Universities Design programs DiSUR and scholar specialized in strategy, management, and innovation, answers the questions posed by the “Expert Opinion” section in January’s issue of the Old&Newsletter and shares her viewpoint about the significance of territory when practicing design.

–Can we rethink or redefine the meaning of design from a territorial standpoint? And redefine the territory from design’s perspective? Can either one be separated from the other?

–Design must permanently dialogue with the territory it inhabits to reshape itself from a solid position. It is impossible to conceive territory as an abstract entity, since it would result in the creation of homogeneous categories. Most of the time, the problem resides in designers’ tendency to understand the inside from an outside perspective, thus applying premises that privilege global considerations over local conditions.

Territory is a complex frame, it is plural, diverse, and vulnerable to social, political, economic, and cultural eventualities; its unique configuration experiences a process of constant contextual and transient transformation which conditions the discipline’s relational models.

In his book Exposed Peoples, People as Extras, Didi-Huberman shares a reflection by Hannah Arendt based on the concept political appearance, the appearance of people: “People are not abstractions, they are made of bodies that talk and act. They present and show their faces, while converging within a crowd made of multiple, countless singularities: movements, desires, words, actions”. When we face others, we must open ourselves to an exchange of wisdom, opinion, knowledge so that we can build a critical, territorial perspective from our particular location, thus enabling interactions from the local to the global sphere.

–What cases, actors, products or elements related to Argentine and international culture embody an uplifting experience of that sort?

–The process of rediscovering local scenes derived from economic and social crisis —such as the one experienced in Argentina in the year 2001— showed us the possibility of creating with minimum resources. That type of production gave a precarious touch to the demand of homogeneous production that presented itself as an adventurous, risky, unpredictable, and rebellious enterprise. Probably one of the main Latin American examples is Cuba, where, due to the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 80’s and the disappearance of the USSR afterwards, its inhabitants faced a deep scarcity crisis by developing what Ernesto Oroza defines as a technological disobedience, an alternative stimulated by the revolution that turned into the fundamental resource individuals had to survive the revolution’s productive inefficiency.

The insignificant federal effort carried out in Argentina to promote productive and technological development led to the creation of “viable” artifacts and strategies by informal organization. A remarkable case is the designer Javier Balcaza, who, from his headquarters at the National University of Misiones and in joint action with the group artisans of Lanas de Misiones, carried out the design, construction, and installation of workshops to wash sheep wool at a low scale and of simple mechanics in the municipalities of Profundidad and Fachinal. The project enabled the artisan community to manufacture objects/products of felt and spinning.

Other interesting projects are the ones carried out by the design cooperative Óita in the neighborhoods linked to the harvest of mate leaves at Aristóbulo del Valle and the one developed in the Mojón Grande women’s volleyball club in the province of Misiones. In both cases, the group of designers worked with the inhabitants and users of both places to produce communication and identity strategies that would showcase their actions. Following the motto “Design to build a sense of community”, the local organizations with territorial roots were guided and supported with the purpose of strengthening and boosting an autonomous citizenship.

–Has the bond between design and territory changed throughout the XXI century as a result of new technologies and new ways of teaching, living, consuming, and interacting?

–Yes, of course the bond has changed, though not enough. Many communities without access to such innovations remain as mere spectators; for that reason, an approach that prioritizes social development and human rights aims must be implemented. The State must guarantee these adjustments so that design can produce the necessary modifications with an enhanced access to different territories. Design must locate, transfer, and translate new technologies to all communities, thus enabling people to enjoy sustainable environments and life conditions.
In our present context, when neoliberal politics have provoked the worst crisis worldwide, we must seriously consider other social models and develop real alternatives that can lead to sustainable and inclusive design products.

–How can we boost the potential of this pairing to produce innovative solutions that foster improvement in such areas as social inclusion, cultural diversity, gender equality, environmental care, and access to education?

–The present health crisis —to which I add its economic and social effects— has revealed our own limitations, while helping us understand how diverse we are, particularly in terms of the inequalities that derive from different ways of living and having access to knowledge.

We must break apart the “truths” imposed by the contemporary world ruled by mass media and globalization, such as “paper is done with”, “radio is past history”, “handcrafts are opposed to global production”, “social media are necessary to produce”, “Massive audiences are mandatory to become an influence and grow”, “the web is free”, “high scale and low cost profitability”, among so many other premises that are considered absolute truths.

Design teaching opens the door to inventive places that question imposed models. However, it is only possible if we do it in a communal, collective way based on collaboration networks among territories; if we share, with open code and open access, in social media the results of scientific and university research; if we conceive all actors related to design production as political agents able to carry out the social changes we deserve; and, if we work together with the State and local organizations in each territory.