Local Identity, Global Crisis

Keywords: industrial modernization, local identity, design method, visual culture

Moderator: Fedja Vukić


Local identity is a social and intellectual construct associated both with local cultural values and global influences. This hybrid formation has been at play in the Balkans from the modernization efforts of the 19th century to the contemporary global conditions of social and ecological crisis. This workshop aims at reflecting on the relations between the centers and the peripheries of modernization from the point of view of the Balkans. It will focus on the creation, usage and meaning of visual imagery, as it is associated both with the production of industrial/post-industrial culture and its consumption. This topic will be discussed through a historical analysis, focusing from the period of industrial modernization in the 19th century to the contemporary condition of globalization. As contemporary global economic crisis changes even the identity of the centers of industrial modernization, the need of redefining peripheral identity within a de-scaled industrial culture rises. Therefore, how should we understand the notion of local identity in the current era? What are the viewpoints that will help reconsider local identity?


According to Habermas modernity is “an incomplete project.” Nevertheless, in the current global condition of social and environmental crisis this concept is facing its eventual completion. This workshop will concentrate on the experience of modernity from the point of view of the periphery, and particularly from the Balkans. The Balkan region has been seen for centuries as standing at the margins of civilization, and thus of modernity. What is the relation between the centers and margins of modernization as seen in the popular imagery of consumption? The workshop will focus on the creation, usage and meaning of visual imagery, as it is associated both with the production of industrial and post-industrial culture and its consumption. This topic will be discussed through a historical analysis, focusing from the period of industrial modernization in the 19th century to the present production of design within the context of post-industrialism.
Local identity is a social and intellectual construct, associated both with local cultural values and global influences. In the Balkans, this hybrid formation (as understood by Papastergiadis) has been at play from the modernization efforts of the 19th century to the contemporary global conditions of social and ecological crisis. While most histories so far tended to focus on local national contexts, emphasizing the cultural values of each locality and their differences (ethnic and religious, predominantly) this workshop will seek insights on the ways the specific localities of the Balkans perceived and participated in the process of global modernization. Local contexts are echoing global development and their modernization values are based on processes of mass production, mass consumption, realization of self through material possession, concept of abundance and commodity wealth, and cultural industry. Documenting and debating the formative role of visuals in reflecting these values in local context is of significance, particularly when joined with content from local origin. Contradictory trends have shaped local identity in the Balkans, positioned between west-east political divides and north-south demographic and economic collisions. Discussions are expected to focus on how communication design, mostly within the area of commercial communication, corporate identity and advertising, has been a force of modernization in the various social and cultural contexts of the Balkans.
Nevertheless, as actual global economic crisis changes even the identity of former industrial modernization centers, the need of redefining peripheral identity within de-scaled industrial culture rises. Local experiences of “marginal modernization” (Fry) are valuable as interpretative models in design histories. Therefore, how should we understand the notion of local identity in the current era? As economies of scale are in deep crisis, what alternative sustainable models can we envision as a framework for visual communication? Who are the “clients” of the future, and what will be the function of their symbols by design? Throughout the workshop we hope we will be able to explore the new semantic “bonds” of global and local identity in the contemporary multi-centered world, and to provide a potential set of typological guidelines that give new visual meaning to the topoi that were formerly known as centers and peripheries.

The participants are asked to reflect upon these issues through a theoretical viewpoint and also based on examples from the realm of practice. The issues should be reflected upon both taking into account the theory and history of design, and from the experiential point of design practice.

Biographical note:

Fedja Vukić is Associate Professor of design theory and history at the Graduate School of Design, Faculty of Architecture, University of Zagreb, Croatia. Professional training included b.sc in history and theory of visual vrts at University of Split, Croatia and ph.d thesis at University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Fellow of The Wolfsonian Fundation Research Centre, Miami Beach 1995. Publishes reviews, articles and scientific papers on visual communications and design in Croatian and international academic journals and magazines. Author of research on history of advertising in Croatia. Has published and edited several books on topic, including Modern Zagreb 1992, A Century of Croatian Design, 1996, Zagreb-Modernity and the City, 2003., Modernism in Practice, 2008 and Croatian Design Now, 2008 (with Victor Margolin).


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