In November 2015, citizens of Brussels were confronted with an erratic situation, when the police raided twenty-two apartments in the city in search of a terrorist cell and its supporting network. The raids took place in several districts of the city without anyone knowing where exactly. The police asked the media and the public for radio silence during the operations. No locations or addresses of the raids were to be leaked into the news or social media. In the resulting atmosphere of gloomy uncertainty, the people of Brussels spontaneously responded to the request of radio silence with an absurd act. They tweeted thousands of images of cats instead of coordinates of the police operations – cats dressed as Superman, musketeers, ninjas; cats in bikinis and in spa treatments; cats playing, sleeping and just being cats 1. The Federal Police responded to the absurd reaction on the following day with a tweet of an image of a bowl of police cat food thanking all the cats for their help and radio silence.

In situations of great abstract fear and non-tangible threat, people can react with distress and worry, but also with positive counteracts of irony, absurdity and conviviality. These reactions can enable joy, hope, distraction and escapism from the immediate present. Does this offer a possibility to gain back control against indirect, often abstract threats?

During prohibition times – periods in which producing, selling and consuming alcohol was prohibited – speakeasies mushroomed in the basements, and nightlife blossomed in secret wild parties. Recently, hackers responded to the current conflict that reaches Europe non-violently by hacking online ISIS propaganda, replacing fightersʼ online photos to faces of yellow bath ducks 2. In a completely different context, the Italian prime minister proposed in 2015 that the government could combat terrorism by investing the same amount of money invested in military vehicles to culture. Even though these actions are very different, they aim to enable a sense of joyful solidarity amidst uncertainty and fear.

Fear and joy strongly contradict each other. How can design interventions respond to situations of abstract threat? Can design trigger possible positive consequences, such as joy, hope and solidarity and usurp the status quo?__

Joan Vellvé Rafecas
Gif, still images; posters.

The Dots

The Dots analyses social uprisings, collective behaviour and individual pull through a series of illustrations. It is a closed narration and a metaphor to create a bridge to simplify the complexity of social behaviour.

Heini Lehtinen

Design for Errorism

Both abstract fear and hope are illusions; projections of the mind into a possible different tomorrow. Hope, pessimism and joy can be observed as potential contexts to relieve fear caused by abstract threats. What should design aim for – oblivion, counter-realism, or religion?

Aya Bentur, Bili Regev


Flight, fight or freeze responses alert us to danger. Aya Bentur and Bili Regev create an abstraction of these gestures by removing them from their natural context, and placing them in a dance accompanied by upbeat music. The absurdity of dancing without fear, yet with the gestures of fear, facilitates an active control over physical and mental reactions.

Lodovica Guarnieri, Lorenzo Gerbi

Memedom Of Expression

‘Memedom of Expression’ explores the potential of Internet memes as digital folklore. It speculates about memes as the new arena of bottom-up expression, and suggests that they are an element that is already building a European social memory. Therefore, memes are important culture to be archived.

Silvia Neretti, Wei Lun Wang,
Aldo Cancino, Raphael Volkmer
Website, video, images.

The Black Hole Said

“What would you do if you had no fear?” asks the speculative service ‘The Black Hole Said.’ The service allows clients to time travel and change their past, present and future situations to transform themselves and their realities. On the other side of the Black Hole one will live in a fear-free environment.

Corradino Garofalo
Essay, image; glass, rag paper, ink.

Figli del Vesuvio

‘Figli del Vesuvio’ reflects lightheartedness in youth as a spontaneous and natural reaction towards uncertainty of the future. In five short, introspective chapters, Corradino Garofalo analyzes social and cultural contexts of football through memories of social conditions that deeply influenced his vision of society.

Jessica Smarsch

Performance and Symbolism: A Designed Negotiation

The most significant actions of early societies were performed and then literally translated as symbols onto objects of daily or ritual use, creating both an ephemeral and lasting narrative. These symbols and performed actions were part of a belief system that brought joy and hope to often perilous situations. Jessica Smarsch explores the negotiation between performance and symbolism from a historical and contemporary perspective.

Teresa Palmieri
Essay, gif, collage.

The Millennial
Republic of Imagination

In Italy, more than half of the youth cannot envision a future. In a crisis of imagination, the very idea of a possibility is disappearing from the generation of teenagers. As a specialist of imagination, a designer can ignite a dialogue about how to subvert the way we learn and perceive reality.

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