This text emerges from an investigatory journey to Athens, where the Dirty Art Department stages their graduation show They Swore It Could Talk to Dogs in the Bageion Hotel. Synthesising the projects of the entire class, I stumbled across the multivalent notion of “default”, particularly inspired by Nagare Willemsen’s thesis The precarious body. Default takes on multiple forms.
It is the often unquestioned standard against which we map our idiosyncrasy or the deviation of others. It is also the action by which faults — errors, cracks, weaknesses — are identified, smoothed out, and removed. It is furthermore the process in which responsibility is abdicated and agency ascribed to another entity — in the students’ works, more often than not, a non-human figure. Collectively, the Dirty Art Department confronts responsibility for another life and reconciliation with death; the ideological shaping of space for specific acoustic perception; the standardisation of materials and the aberration of non-matter; the soporific effect of late capitalism on the free subject; the multiplication of hyperrealities; the intractable racism of the contemporary art world; and the displacing narratives of the enchanting faerie kingdom and eerie medievalism on modern life. To default is to refuse the obligation of easy resolution.
Tamar Shafrir is a writer and designer based in Rotterdam. She is a design researcher at Het Nieuwe Instituut and a thesis advisor at the Design Academy Eindhoven, and has previously taught at the Sandberg Instituut and London College of Communication. Her writing has been published in magazines including Disegno, Volume, PIN-UP, MacGuffin, Dirty Furniture, and Real Review, and books including Material Utopias, Symbolic Exchange, and Printing Things. In 2013 she co-founded the studio Space Caviar with Joseph Grima, with whom she co-curated the 2018 exhibition Not for sale.