Queer Scaffolds

“How to imagine an actionable otherwise of futures design literacies within (and beyond) the systemic conditions of our educational institutions? ”—Betti Marenko, Silke Lange, Pras Gunasekera.

At the recently concluded third and final convening of FUEL4Design: Future Education and Literacy for Designers (June 7, 2022), I was invited to deliver a provocation to the above question in the format of a mini-keynote presentation. The event’s overall theme was “Building Pedagogical Futures in The Present: Dispatches on How to Imagine and Design an Otherwise.” I structured my discussion of an actionable otherwise for teaching and learning around the question and politics of queer survival, speaking specifically with the project example of “The Office of Anti-Inequity and Anti-Exclusive Excellence” and its potential role in scaffolding the future academy. The embedded link includes a video copy of my presentation.

From my Twitter archive: a threaded documentation of the project and its unfolding in community over a period of five weeks (February 28-April 2, 2022) and a year later reflection and promise as we move campuses.

March 5, 2022: Ever so carefully, we ended the week 01 of Interlude engagements w/in scaffolds, asking how a structured, affective, and intergenerational articulation of inequities and exclusions might inflect the q’n of inhabiting learning. Our project form—the office—is now ready for week 02. To think w/ everyone’s present, absent, in-formation, and dispersed histories has been brilliantly generative for the institutional work at hand and ahead. To build and engage w/ materials in our installed library has been a useful companion for how and which scaffolds matter.

March 10, 2022: As we near the end of Week 02, we invite ourselves into online office hour discussions, collectively centering and clarifying issue-based networks, experiences, and histories of institutional change that also constitute and keep alive our project metadata. Most joyfully, in addition to our library on wheels (also doubling up as a monitor stand), we’ve now set up a mini-pantry w/ baked additions and tea for in-person sessions. Tomorrow, we cont. our engagements w/ discourses on the right to education, or scaffolds denied/ignored.

March 16, 2022: Against the neutrality of space, infrastructure, and being, it was brilliantly refreshing to have Avni Sethi as part of the Interlude talk this AM, and equally brilliant to listen to her engage w/ q’s of expertise and care that matter.

March 17, 2022: The concept of hospitality in learning and inst.-bldg. has been a recurring q’n for us at the Interlude, and I can’t help but think how it is embodied in our project intros and orientations to new folx joining the Scaffolds project each week in-person, online, and asynchronously. And a long week 03 ended w/ an online project intro + orientation, involving my former MAHT-CEPT students, who will be joining the Scaffolds group in a two-day sprint soon — a joy compounded by their affirmations and upon seeing other familiar faces who logged in just to say hi.

March 22, 2022: The firmness + generosity w/ which my co-participants + I have been making critical connections w/ inst. docs and the framing of our lives w/in them marked the start of our final week 04. We’re scaffolding this work further w/ line drag. + zines for our ever deepening metadata. The labour of precise writing is immense as is the labour of editing w/ care and precision our collective work; (re)orienting folx to why citations and their descriptions matter; and being in communication about reminders w/ those participating in sprints and asynchronously.

March 23, 2022: Modeling accountability, modeling affirmation: absolutely and thoroughly grateful for continuing care networks of brilliance! Rupali (SEA) + Tanvi and Chinmay (CEPT): thank you for thinking w/ the Office and being co-present this week as we firm up our commitments in print form.

March 24, 2022: It’s been a long day for the Scaffolds group as we close the Office now for early AM arrangements tomorrow. The printed matter is coming together well, but editing and design whilst orienting and coordinating diverse members seem to never end. Today’s ice-cream outing was fun!

March 26, 2022: Our book proof is here (yay!). Today was a long and tiring day, but w/ co-workers Neeraja, Akshay, and all the students, we accomplished our goals, and whilst at it, I was also able to address new editing and mentorship needs, and end the day w/ a brilliant conference experience. And it’s a wrap! Today, we concluded our four-week long project entitled, “The Office of Anti-Inequity and Anti-Exclusive Excellence” w/ a final set of texts, presentation matter, and glass paper weights (!). Next week, we engage the public and each other on SMI’s new campus. It’s been a joy, learning w/ and from SMI co-participants: Akshay Prakash, Athena David, Gayatri Shanbhag, Hamna, Neeraja D, Nithya Kirti M, and Santhosh Jayakumar + Aishwarya Das (SNU), Chinmay Gheware (CEPT), Rupali Gupte (SEA), and Tanvi Karia (CEPT). Grateful and to be cont.

March 29, 2022: Exhibiting in an under construction site for an under considered project: so brilliantly proud of what my co-members and I have founded, accomplished, and produced jointly, of how we’ve sifted through the noise and passivity to position ourselves ever so clearly and continuously.

March 31, 2022: An exhibition of artifacts from our personal archive that places each object in a reflective dialogue w/ our personal and institutional worlds. Q’s of affirmative action and non-discrimination policy inform our reflections and we invite folx to spend time w/ the collection 1/2 to sit w/ them, to read the zine and the open letter, and share q’s that they generate for you in the context of the Scaffolds project: “The Office of Anti-Inequity and Anti-Exclusive Excellence.” Today, we will enact this work in fuller view and in an even more public forum. 2/2

April 1, 2022: Today’s ending felt very special and a welcoming synthesis of the work of the past four weeks and its directions for the future. My earnest gratitude to all those who engaged w/ our materials and method, who cited and revisited the exhibit just so they could finish what they 1/2 were reading earlier this week, and who showed up w/o subsuming us into a mythical “we.” Thanks to all the visitors (UG and grad students, faculty, and staff peers) for honoring the voice of the Office members by slowing down, asking q’s, taking notes, sharing, and listening. 2/2

Feb 6, 2023: It’s been a year since we produced this work and enacted its promise both publicly and pedagogically. The office enactments critical of prevalent DEI conventions will continue into the new semester and year as we shift campuses w/ these materials, connections, and scaffolds.

Image: Zine of Archival Metadata Cover (Front and Back), “The Office of Anti-Inequity and Anti-Exclusive Excellence” Scaffolds project for Inhabiting Learning: Under Construction Interlude, Bengaluru: Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design, and Technology, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, March 1, 2022. Members included: Aishwarya Das, Akshay Prakash, Athena David, Chinmay Gheware, Gayatri Shanbhag, Hamna, Kush Patel, Neeraja D, Nithya Kirti M, Rupali Gupte, Santhosh Jayakumar, Tanvi Karia. FUEL4Design is a three-year project jointly delivered by the European consortium of leading HEI partners: Oslo School of Architecture and Design (NO), Politecnico di Milano (IT), Elisava (ES) and University of the Arts London (UK).