Jakko Kemper | University of Amsterdam | Dutch Design, Glitches, Misfits: Why Western Europeans Crave the Imperfect | Supervisors: Ellen Rutten, Marie-Aude Baronian
Today’s world is marked by a complex intermingling of digital information technologies, neoliberal capitalism and precarious modes of living (see e.g. Bardot & Laval 2013, Berlin 2011, Liu 2004). In relation to these phenomena, we can discern the upsurge of a post-digital culture that recognizes and accepts digital technologies as an integral part of everyday life yet also struggles to formulate new strategies for cultivating authentic and meaningful experiences within the deluges of pure data that define our world (Lund 2015). This has led to a variety of cross-disciplinary practices that aim to (re)insert a human element into the datascape (see e.g. Openshaw 2015). One of these practices entails a nourishing of objects that are subject to error, decay, contingency and dilapidation; objects, in short, that demonstrate a degree of imperfection. This research wants to read this recent interest in an aesthetics or a logic of imperfection among cultural creatives and consumers in relation to the rise of this post-digital culture. Moreover, it aims to understand these imperfections as engaging with the experience of the sublime — i.e. the affective registers triggered in awe of the rugged, the ruined or the ungraspable (Burke 1998). The core of the dissertation is structured around the case study of Dutch design and around a close reading of a transdisciplinary selection of five Dutch cultural objects in which imperfection plays a pivotal role. In individual chapters, the particular modulations of (sublime) imperfection embodied in the objects are explored. In doing so, the research aims to situate the contemporary fixation with imperfection as embedded in the gestation of a post-digital culture. These sublime imperfections are thus understood as existing in tension with trends of digitization, socio-economic crisis and ecological impairment. Furthermore, the project seeks to map the cultural, social and economic interventions that these sublime imperfections can facilitate.