Design and Violence


Sunder-Plassmann, Carlotta Werner Johanna & Thilo Janssen

Everyday objects repurposed for resistance

When Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in December 2010 after being repeatedly harassed by Tunisian authorities, his act galvanised the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring, and contributed to the Occupy protests across Europe and America. Although these protests had different goals and consequences, as designer Carlotta Werner and artist Johanna Sunder-Plassmann highlight here, they are connected through the use of everyday objects that have been hacked in one way or another. Such designs take many different forms and are created for various ends. At first glance, hacked chemical spray bottles held to protesters’ eyes suggest violence, yet they are instead used to mitigate its effects: when filled with milk to counteract. In Hamburg, the seemingly benign toilet brush symbolises public anger; in Kiev, the baseball bat morphs from playful to punitive design. As unrest continues in Syria, Nigeria, Thailand, South Africa and elsewhere, protesters will use any means at their disposal, from mundane objects to their own incommensurable lives.

Hacked pump spray filled with milk and water. Istanbul, Turkey, 2013. Image courtesy of action press/Zuma Press/Pinar Istek.