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Decommissioned: Onkar Kular

Decommissioned: Onkar Kular

15 Jun 2016


In the 2013 Errol Morris documentary, Unknown Known, Donald Rumsfeld describes a method of communication, research and action based on the allegory of ‘snowflakes’. On his personal website The Rumsfeld Papers, Rumsfeld further defines the methodology by declaring that the snowflakes were “A system of communication with the employees of DoD (US Department of Defense), as I would initiate a topic with a short memo to the relevant person, who would in turn provide research, background, or a course of action as necessary. In the digital age it was much easier to keep the originals on file so I could track their progress. They quickly grew in number from mere flurries to a veritable blizzard. The term “snowflake” covers a range of communications, from notes to myself on topics I found interesting, to extended instructions to my associates, to simple requests for a haircut. There was no set template; some are several pages and some just a few words.” 

Rumsfeld states that when reviewed together the snowflakes not only provide an insight into the day-to-day activities of a US Defense Secretary but also offer a larger panoptical view of the role of ‘defense’ within the Bush government.

To coincide with his forthcoming exhibition as a Stanley Picker Fellow, Kular will adopt the allegory of ‘snowflakes’ as an opportunity for mapping his own research focus on institutional environments designed and constructed for training. The lecture will include anecdotes that act not only as supporting research but also as internal agents within a number of recent projects.

Onkar Kular’s work investigates how contemporary design practice, its processes, methodologies and outputs, can be used as a medium to engage with and question the understanding of cultural and popular issues. His work uses a range of different media, appropriate to the particular research project to include new objects, films, events, performances and installations, and is disseminated internationally through exhibitions, workshops, lectures, film festivals and publications. His work is in the collection of the CNAP, France.

Recent exhibitions include Crafting Narrative a Crafts Council Touring Exhibition. Guest curated by Kular, the exhibition investigated the role of narrative and narrative structures within the design and production of artifacts. In May 2014, he designed and curated The Citizens Archive of Pakistan together with Sanam Maher, bringing together a variety of personal stories to critically revisit the history of the Partition today. Other notable exhibitions include Risk Centre, at Arkitekturmuseet in Stockholm on constructed environments used for risk and safety education and I Cling To Virtue, with Noam Toran and Keith R. Jones, recently exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Antwerp which presented a mixed-media collection of objects, narrative texts and videos that reveal the intricate trajectories of the Lövy Singh clan, a fictional East London family of mixed descent.

Onkar Kular is the current Stanley Picker Fellow in Design and the newly appointed Professor in Design Interventions at HDK, Gothenburg University.

In a series of ten lectures, Decommissioned seeks to address how strategies of disavowal, inactivity and transition are employed in contemporary art and design. When encountering cultural bias, uncertainty and co-option across the arts, how can the dominant flows of information, language, policy and ideology be circumvented? Curators, sociologists, artists, politicians, academics, queer-thinkers, bio-designers, film-theorists and others will respond through diverse fields of exciting and critical research.    

This series is curated and convened by Dr. Stephen Wilson and is staged in collaboration with Chelsea College of Arts Postgraduate Community and the University of the Arts London, CCW Graduate School.

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