The Tenth Stage

Designers, Silvio Lorusso stresses, have not properly plumbed the depths of their own uselessness.

There is a Buddhist meditational practice, the nine stages of decay, in which practitioners imagine a dead body as it rots. They contemplate the body’s distention, rupture, blood exudation, and putrefaction; its discoloration and desiccation; its eventual consumption by animals and birds; its dismemberment; its reduction to bones; and, finally, its parching to dust. What Design Can’t Do by Silvio Lorusso attempts a similar project, though after reading it, one doesn’t come away with a deeper feeling of our impermanence, only a spiritual torpor.

Human creativity, in the thematic scheme of What Design Can’t Do, is ignorant and ineffectual, subject to everything but possibility. To even attempt to upend our governing systems, which in this case are paradoxically overdescribed, is evidence of a collective naivete. Hope is the mark of someone who didn’t log onto X last week. The book is aesthetically striking, ironically enough, with type that’s…

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