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65 5th Ave, Room 411
New York, NY, 10003
United States

Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Graduate Institute for Design, Ethnography & Social Thought at the New School incubates advanced transdisciplinary research and practice at the intersection of social theory and design and fosters dialogue on related themes across the university.

Otto von Busch


The GIDEST seminar is held on Fridays from 12-1:30pm. All seminars take place in the GIDEST Lab at 411, 63 Fifth Avenue.

Sessions are devoted to discussion of pre-circulated papers that can be downloaded one week in advance by clicking on the presentation title below.


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Otto von Busch

Vital Violence: Aesthetic Antagonism and Real Fashion

Otto von Busch is Associate Professor of Integrated Design at Parsons, The New School for Design and a 2016-17 GIDEST Faculty Fellow. In his research, he explores the emergence of a new hacktivist designer role in fashion, where the designer engages participants to reform fashion from a phenomenon of dictations, anxiety, and fear into a collective experience of empowerment and liberation. 

In his GIDEST seminar, Otto explores allure not only as a game of attraction, but also as an aggressively seductive labor of prestige, deception, and cruelty. Most studies of fashion, he argues, are framed from a perspective of idealism, echoing Herbert Simon’s famous claim that design is concerned with "how things ought to be." 

Within the realm of dress, this means interactions are primarily seen as symbolic endeavors, most often aiming at communication, seduction and aesthetic markings of class or conspicuous consumption.





Taking cues from political philosophy, this idealist position could be countered with a realist perspective in which fashion would appear as something else, something more messy and cruel, a quest for power in the form of prestige and popularity. Indeed, it may be the very essence of fashion to be "nasty, brutish, and short" in a true Hobbesian way. 

Not only does realism move from how things ought to be towards how they are, but dress also becomes a more blatant instrument for domination and processes of selection by rejection. Rather than a tool for seduction, fashion becomes a weapon for rivalry, competition and aesthetic violence. 

From such a perspective, conflicts expressed in dress are aesthetic reflections of other social forces, while fashion is a playful arena trying to escape the limits of the socio-economic domain.

Earlier Event: April 29
Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Later Event: September 30
Kalup Linzy