The New Normal Summer at Strelka

, Education

Experience one of the most experimental research programs through a series of public events and workshops organized by Strelka’s The New Normal speculative urbanism think-tank.

The multidisciplinary postgraduate program, led by design theorist Benjamin Bratton, is approaching its end this month with the third cohort of researchers presenting their final projects on Wednesday and Thursday.

Over the course of three years, the program focused on research and design for the city and explored the opportunities posed by emerging technologies for interdisciplinary urban design practices.

Each year 30 researchers from very diverse backgrounds joined the think-tank to invent and articulate new discourses and models. The program explored a broad scope of conceptually interrelated themes and modules, such as AI at Urban Scale, Algorithmic Governance, Inverse Uncanny Valley, Human Exclusion Zones, and many others.

This summer you will have an exceptional opportunity to experience The New Normal, dive in deeper into the key themes of the program, and meet its alumni and faculty. You can take part in a series of short workshops and public events carefully curated by Program Director Benjamin Bratton and faculty members Geoff Manaugh, Liam Young, and Metahaven. The events will be looking at a wide variety of topics, from AI economics to worldbuilding, and the landscapes of quarantine.

You can also participate in a workshop series which simulates The New Normal curriculum. Run by tutors and alumni of the program, this is an opportunity for invited participants in Russia to experience what an educational module within The New Normal program was like.


AI Economy: Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

Curated by Benjamin Bratton

Date: June 27, 19:00

Speakers: Benjamin Bratton, Molly Steenson

AI is already an integral technology driving the world’s most important platforms. It makes things, puts them in motion, and ensures that they show up on time. It sees you and predicts what you want next. In turn, you may not see or feel AI, but the more you use those platforms the more you are training the algorithms that run them. Thus, we make worlds. If AI builds worlds, then what is the role for architects and designers in that world-building? Can design steer how platform-scale AI is steering society?

Design theorist, author of The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty, and Strelka Institute Program Director Benjamin Bratton will talk on “platform cognition” and how competing platforms sense, understand, and model the world (including us).

Molly Steenson, architect, critic, curator, and Senior Associate Dean for Research at the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University will look at the past and future of AI in the field of architecture.

Register here.


In Other Worlds

Curated by Liam Young

Dates: July 15-16

Speakers: Liam Young, Douglas Einar Olsen, Claire Fleming, Mike Hill, Ash Thorp

The second event in TNN series invites you to join an ensemble of directors, concept artists, video game designers, and storytellers for an expedition through an atlas of imaginary worlds, fictional cities, and speculative geographies. The speakers will look into how constructing alternative worlds in film, games, and literature can help us understand our own world in new ways.

The event is curated by speculative architect, film director, and Strelka core faculty member Liam Young. On the first day he will be joined by the award-winning director and storyboard artist Douglas Einar Olsen, who worked on the animation series Rick & Morty. Olsen will also run a one-day workshop on animation design and storyboarding in movies and videogames. His lecture is organized together with the US Embassy in Moscow.

Storyboards by Douglas Einar Olsen

Director and producer Claire Fleming, who has worked on films including Star Wars Ep VII + IX, Ready Player One, Tomb Raider, Sherlock Holmes, and Jason Bourne V will also give a talk on July 15. Her lecture is organized with the support of Marvel.

The second evening will be dedicated to game design. 3D designer Mike Hill will tell about his work on projects including Blade Runner 2049, Love, Death and Robots, the upcoming Dune and Terminator New Dawn, and the game Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

Call of Duty Infinite Warfare - Retribution Design Overview - Mike Hill

He will also run a one day workshop on storytelling and concept-art in movies and video games.

Hill will be joined by movie and video game 3D-designer and art director Ash Thorp, who has worked on Assassin’s Creed, Captain Marvel and X-Men movies, the video game Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and Awaken Akira.


Spatial Fictions of Quarantine

Curated by Geoff Manaugh

Date: August 5

Speakers: Geoff Manaugh, Nicola Twilley

Refugee camp at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Photo courtesy Merrill Smith

Quarantine is the use of space to separate one thing from another for the purpose of preventing infection. Travelers exposed to pandemic diseases are placed in quarantine; spam emails are quarantined; even rock samples from the moon are held in quarantine. All of these examples imply zones of safety and danger, of free inhabitation vs. total control. Quarantine is a medical tool as much as it is a political one. Indeed, quarantine lends itself unusually well to metaphor, suggesting economic, logistical, and even philosophical scenarios that rely on uncertainty and isolation to achieve their goals.

These are the themes that will be covered in a talk by Geoff Manaugh, author of The New York Times best seller A Burglar’s Guide to the City and creator of BLDGBLOG, and Nicola Twilley, designer, curator, contributing writer at The New Yorker, and author of the Edible Geography blog. They will discuss quarantine as a peculiar kind of human exclusion zone, including the diagnostic technologies, algorithmic modeling, and automated infrastructures that will determine its future.


Layered Time

Curated by Metahaven

Date: August 19

Speakers: to be announced later in the summer

EURASIA by Metahaven

Metahaven is a research and design studio operating between art, design and film, based in Amsterdam and founded by Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden. In addition to the international presentation of design and research projects, Metahaven has written and edited numerous publications such as the experimental PSYOP for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and ICA in London (2018) and Digital Tarkovsky, an essay published by Strelka Press (2019).

Metahaven will be joined by electronic musicians for a series of conversations around contemporary electronic music and the creative process behind its creation. The event will also involve live performances.


TNN Workshop Series

Dates: July 27—August 18

Run by The New Normal tutors and alumni, this series of two-day workshop is a great opportunity to experience the program and step into the researchers' shoes. Taking place across four weekends between July 27 and August 18, the workshop will consist of four short versions of the modules of The New Normal. Participants will have a chance to sign up for all workshops as a series or select one or several they are most interested in.

Site and Fiction will be led by speculative designer and film-maker Nathan Su, and multimedia journalist Yulia Gromova. The workshop aims to develop participants’ skills in digital cinematography (camera setup, composition, media management for production), 2D and 3D compositing (using Adobe After Effects and Cinema4D) and editing (using Adobe Premiere). Find out more here.

Dates: July 27–28

This Is Called Theory, led by architect and researcher Francesco Sebregondi, will explore the design of theory, here understood primarily as a tool. It will be about using ideas and concepts like hammers and nails: instruments to build with, support structures, interfaces. Find out more here.

Dates: August 4–5

Eden VR will be led by artist and design researcher Thomas Grogan and AR/VR developer Ivan Puzyrev. It will examine what virtual reality can bring to the practice of terraformation (i.e. modifying an environment to make it suitable or useful to humans). By looking at real world examples, digital and physical, participants will study the automation of agricultural labour and test the probability of its movement toward the digital realm. Find out more here.

Dates: August 10–11

Design as Designation will be led by architect and The New Normal tutor Nicolay Boyadjiev and architect Don Tormanoff. This workshop asks how trans-disciplinary designers can work with various speculatively to communicate more ambitious, ambiguous and open-ended concepts to wider and less conventional audiences. Find out more here.

Dates: August 17–18

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