Reading: Critical Vehicles

There are 2 main ideas I pulled out from this reading that I find reflect a lot in Krzysztof Wodiczko’s work. The first is the idea of “Interrogative Design” (which I like!), which is how design should reflect the real world and not work around it.

Screenshot from the reading

In schools, we always are required to work around a problem instead of directly solve it due to us being just the ‘designer’ and not an engineer that is capable of solving problems with complex solutions. This is especially relevant in product design where we have to imagine new ways to use a product while bypassing a problem faced by an existing product. Now thinking back, that is what fuels our creativity, and I would say it is still a somewhat legitimate way to work towards a solution if designing for trivial objects. However, his point is that design should be real and confrontational, rather than avoidant. This is an interesting and relevant thought for my works.

The second main idea is on the need to add meaning and function to public art.

screenshot from the reading

In this passage, the artist basically mentions that public art is useless. I half agree with this as I think commission spoils the artistic freedom of artists, turning the artwork into an awkward blend of artist intention and corporate influence. Its lack of practical function (other than to beautify the space and assert their dominance through richness) also makes it a redundant creation. However, I think that the best kind of art should really be public, perhaps not commissioned, but public. I mean, other forms of art is already non-functional (practically speaking). I find public art to be one of the least intimidating forms of art as they are all very approachable, or perhaps, designed to be approachable. The lack of symbolic meaning frees the work from all the “deep” meaning that artists like to inject in their work, which not just makes their work intimidating and difficult to understand but also not adding important information for the artwork to be at least functional in doing what it needs to do.

I think I understand his sentiments, and I think there are many ways artists can improve on in their works to make it more ‘useful’. This is the same as us designers trying to make the world a better place through solutions and not just “raise awareness“.

I find that the artist’s work “City Hall Tower Projection” in Krakow, 1996 embodied these 2 ideas. The artist’s use of projection and sound onto an exist ‘permanent’ structure also reminds me of previous week’s reading about ‘relational architecture’ that temporarily changes the narrative and meaning of a space through the use of media and technology. 

screenshot from the reading

The idea goes further into transforming the bell tower into a confrontational figure that discusses the unspoken or taboo topics in the country like homophobia and domestic abuse. The belltower acts as a middle person between victims recounting their narratives of said topics and the general public, essentially becoming the voice of the minority.

screenshot from the reading

This turns the architecture not just into a confrontational work, but also a functional one in terms of speaking out the unspoken, providing perspectives of the people’s humanity while also calls for people to reflect upon themselves.


I think the artist have very valid points and I have some similar sentiments with the artists in his view on art and design. I think we all can be a lot more thoughtful in our works in making it serve an objective function.

One Reply to “Reading: Critical Vehicles”

  1. Though this class focuses on spaces and interaction, you can use the readings and thoughts generated from it to consider project ideation and further research for next term in Interactive Environments.  Wodiczko’s work would be relevant there too, I think.

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