Jax Wechsler

Design as Performance with Grace Polifrono Turtle

Since 2013, I have been running a community of practice in Sydney, Australia called Social Design Sydney. Our site has over 60 video case studies relating to Design for Social Outcomes filmed at our events. 

Sometimes we run masterclasses on a Saturday morning where we expose our Social Design community to new ways of doing. We have hosted masterclasses with local and international guests including one of my design heroes, Elizabeth Sanders.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Grace Polifroni Turtle and was support excited to learn about her practices. She invited me to another event where we played a game she co-created (ACW) Automated Control Wars with a Spanish collective she is part of called becoming.network

Grace refers to herself as a “Post-disciplinary designer exploring futures, transitions and critical becoming’s produced through collaborative fiction, performance and play.” Read more about her practices on Medium.

Thanks so much to grace for a very fun and informative workshop and to all the participants : ) It was a fun morning!

My key takeaways below:

  • Grace shared practices grounded in her interested in the participatory processes of world building. (About world building
  • The practice Grace introduced us to draws on speculative design, design fiction, theatre of the oppressed, systems theatre, theatre for the living, cybernetics, futures and systems thinking.
  • This practice is performative. Grace discussed how embodied practices gives us access to our intuition. That design practices have become very conceptual and stuck in the head. Embodied practices can help us link with our intuition
  • Language is colonising. Embodied practices can help us get beyond this!
  • We were given different forces/components of a system to embody (which came from another game she developed called Automated Control Wars (which is open source)
  • For one of the activities, the scenario we explored was Sydney city living in 2050. We embodied difference forces of the Sydney in 2050 system and milled around embodying our force and interacting with each other.
  • We were ultimately exploring and playing with different tensions within a system. Through representing dynamic feedback loops in real time we can identify intervention points in the system.
  • This practice helps us to build empathy for the different human and non human actors in the system, allowing us to go beyond being purely human centred.
  • Through embodying the systems forces, we can experientially explore tensions between actors/forces of a system and represent dynamic feedback loops.
  • We become the system observing the system (second order cybernetics)
  • This practice is grounded in performance for action, allowing us to rehearse transitions and systemic interventions.
  • It allows us to author futures in our terms, and importantly helps us to activate our own agency, and question the futures authored for us by films, sitcoms and cultural narratives.
  • The practice is centred on act and reflect. We shared and reflected after each activity. Growing the shared understanding of participants.
  • I noticed that the relational dimension was usually discussed in our reflections, pointing to the realities of interdependence within systems, and ultimately the possibilities of co-creation.
  • Books recommended by grace : 
    + Future Shock by Alvin Toffler
    + Power shift by Alvin Toffler
    + Games for actors and non actors by Augusto Boal
    + Theatre for Living by David Diamond

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