[artinfo] fwd: The Nightmare of Participation by Markus Miessen

Janos Sugar sj at c3.hu
Wed Oct 29 10:59:44 CET 2014

Sternberg Press and Archive Books are pleased to announce
The Nightmare of Participation
(Crossbench Praxis as a Mode of Criticality)
by Markus Miessen.

Including an introduction by Eyal Weizman, a 
conversation with Chantal Mouffe, an interview by 
Hans Ulrich Obrist, and post-scripts by Bassam El 
Baroni, Jeremy Beaudry, and Carson Chan.

ISBN 978-1-934105-56-6

Welcome to Harmonistan! Over the last decade, the 
term "participation" has become increasingly 
overused. When everyone has been turned into a 
participant, the often uncritical, innocent, and 
romantic use of the term has become frightening. 
Supported by a repeatedly nostalgic veneer of 
worthiness, phony solidarity, and political 
correctness, participation has become the default 
of politicians withdrawing from responsibility. 
Similar to the notion of an independent 
politician dissociated from a specific party, 
this third part of Miessen's Participation 
trilogy encourages the role of what he calls the 
"crossbench practitioner," an "uninterested 
outsider" and "uncalled participator" who is not 
limited by existing protocols, and who enters the 
arena with nothing but creative intellect and the 
will to generate change.
Miessen argues for an urgent inversion of 
participation, a model beyond modes of consensus. 
Instead of reading participation as the 
charitable savior of political struggle, Miessen 
candidly reflects on the limits and traps of its 
real motivations. Rather than breading the next 
generation of consensual facilitators and 
mediators, he argues for conflict as an enabling, 
instead of disabling, force. The book calls for a 
format of conflictual participation-no longer a 
process by which others are invited "in," but a 
means of acting without mandate, as uninvited 
irritant: a forced entry into fields of knowledge 
that arguably benefit from exterior thinking. 
Sometimes, democracy has to be avoided at all 

"One might quickly sense a potential whiff of Ayn 
Rand or crypto-fascism here, but as a means of 
escape, and with the goal of creating critical 
and productive change, Miessen instead advocates 
vigorous cross-disciplinary intrusions-a universe 
of butting in where one isn't necessarily 
invited-to willfully generate alien and 
unexpected new spaces and ideas. He advocates 
individuals to become crossbench practitioners, 
'uninvited outsiders' who actively seek out 
conflict, despising the stillborn texture of 
today's culture, a world whose default design 
mode is one of reflexive consensus.
What could have been a career-trashing minefield 
of a thesis is instead a strikingly intelligent, 
profoundly well-considered Way Forward that feels 
both futuristic and correct. It's not a simple 
read, but this book has earned every nuance of 
its complexity."
-Douglas Coupland

Markus Miessen (*1978) is an architect, 
consultant, and writer based in Berlin. He runs 
the collaborative agency for spatial practice 
Studio Miessen, is co-founder of the 
architectural practice nOffice, and has 
previously taught at the Architectural 
Association, Columbia, and MIT. He is currently a 
Professor for Architecture and Curatorial 
Practice at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in 
Karlsruhe, Germany, a Harvard Fellow, and 
completing his PhD at the Centre for Research 
Architecture (Goldsmiths, London). 

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