“What pattern connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose and all of them to me? And me to you? And all six of us to the amoeba in one direction and to the back-ward schizophrenic in another?” (Bateson, 1978)
What pattern connects this question to you, me, and us as we work in times of ecological crisis, a time of many proposals such as Green New Deals and a call for a New Bauhaus?
If you are curious about these questions, join us this semester as we embark on a semester-long exploration of the pattern that connects as it appears within the work of Gregory Bateson. The pattern that connects is another term for how Bateson came to redefine 'aesthetics' to encompass the complexity of a more than human world. Bateson was critical of the 1960-70s discourses on 'patterns' emerging across disciplines from information sciences to the design sciences, which used the notion of a 'pattern language' in a technocratic manner to make the environment more manageable. He reframed 'patterns' within a more ecological, aesthetic, and spiritual discussion that acknowledged the systemic complexity of living systems that environmental management models could not fully capture. Bateson pointed out the wrong ways in which design sciences used the notion of the survival of the fittest that sets a competitive relationship between the organism vs. environment, suggesting that the unit of survival was the 'relation' between the organism and environment. He sought to address the complexity of this unity by placing the questions of aesthetics in a 'communicational order,' in contrast to his predecessors of the western world, who framed aesthetics as a quality primarily dependent upon the perceiving human subject. By framing aesthetics as a form of meta-communication, ecological aesthetics denotes a participatory process between the human and non-human systems (animals, institutions, technological) that characterize the living world. He reconfigured how participation, power, system, learning, and flexibility can be reframed as part of a design discussion and an ecological discussion.
In this seminar, we will review the critical texts related to Bateson's concept of ecological aesthetics and engage in conversations with Guest researchers ( Dr. Jon Goodbun, Dr. Ben Sweeting, Dr. Marie Davidova) who have extended these ideas to their respective practices in design politics, ethics, and design material prototyping. In particular, we will entertain the possibility of how a better understanding of 'Batesoian aesthetics' can provide an alternative framework for articulating a better design approach towards a more than human world and reframe this concept in ways that are accessible to other designers and stakeholders of the design process.
Throughout the course we will read selected parts from Bateson, Gregory. Steps to Ecology of Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
(Bateson, Gregory. Ökologie Des Geistes: Anthropologische, Psychologische, Biologische Und Epistemologische Perspektiven. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2017.)
Other recommended readings
Bateson, Gregory. “The pattern which connects,” Co Evolution Quarterly, (Summer 1978): 4-15.
Bateson Gregory.“Restructuring the ecology of a great city,” Radical Software, Vol I, no. 3, Untitled, (Spring 1971).
Guddemi, Phillip, Gregory Bateson on Relational Communication: From Octopuses to Nations. Springer International Publishing, 2020.
Final submission (Output):
Based on the readings, discussions, and guest presentations, the participants are encouraged to unpack what Batesonian 'ecological aesthetics' and its ethical, social, political implications can mean in designing within the current ecological crisis via a creative response. The creative response should be presented via a video of a maximum of 10 min, which can take the form of recording a story, a poem, an artwork, a record of a personal building project, or a manifesto developed with the semester. The objective is to make the notion of 'ecological aesthetics' more accessible to a broader audience.
The project videos and lecture discussions would be edited and compiled as a playlist and would be made available to the greater public.
If you are interested in taking part in the course and have questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org