Infrastructural Ironies: Notes on the Contradictions of Design-Nature-Politics
Columbia GSAPP, 2018

Research project



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Abstract

A critical investigation of infrastructures is, in many ways, also a charting of ironies.

This pocketbook you hold in your hand is an illustrated companion guide to Infrastructural Imaginaries, a Fall 2018 seminar held by Tei Carpenter at Columbia GSAPP. The inaugural seminar has provided an array of discerning theoretical tools and case study insights into the political and ecological ironies of infrastructure that riddle mainstream discourses of design, climate and politics. As we become better-equipped to contend with these Capitalocentric absurdities that undergird the infrastructural commodity fetishes surrounding us, how might we subsequently communicate these contradictions to others? How to give this new way of “seeing” a productive afterlife beyond the walls of the classroom, and how to relay some of these concepts amongst extra-academic audiences? Infrastructural Ironies: Notes on the Contradictions of Design-Nature-Politics expands the syllabus by constructing broader narratives about the paradoxes, discrepancies, and aporias
that come with the conceptions and construction of infrastructure.


Why the cartoon? The cartoon genre, while deceptively simple and seemingly banalizing, has been known to deal effectively with complex sociopolitical ironies of all kinds. For this, the use of a non-technical, metrically inexact, and putatively “non-architectural” genre such as the cartoon is a useful graphic strategy. The communicative power of a cartoon lies precisely in its ability to rupture disciplinary boundaries with humor, and in its potential to deconstruct given myths, apparent stabilities, self-assured statuses, and self-evidentiary claims surrounding its object of study.