MA Design Studies Students Self-publish ‘Acts of Olympic Dissent’

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The Olympics have had a long history of contestation from their host cities, marginalized groups threatened by gentrification, and even the athletes who perform on the world’s greatest stage. In the wake of the Rio 2016 Games, students in Jilly Traganou’s Spatial Studies course, which focused on Olympic cities, self-published a collection of papers under the title Acts of Olympic Dissent, exploring the topic at hand.

From Mexico City 1968 to Rio 2016 and looking beyond into the future of Tokyo 2020, the book features cases presented by Parsons School of Design graduate students on how media, stadiums, geography, and art give way to protest. Varying acts of dissent from Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ Black Power stadium salute in ‘68 to the Clays Lane Live Archive following the London 2012 Olympic Games are analyzed alongside a modern-day exploration and critique of Internet-based activism and the effects of place-marketing and city-branding on host cities as well as exploring the alternatives and reactions that locals and designers hired to do spec work provide.

The book features a foreword by Jilly Traganou, associate professor of spatial studies at the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons, who just published her book Designing the Olympics: Representation, Participation, Contestation. In her words: “The aim of the course was seeing the Olympic City as a field of top-down operation enforcement in the ways it employs national and place branding, creates a state of exception, allows for displacement of people and militarization of public space, and affects the environmental equilibrium in a negative way. The Olympic City, therefore, gives room for a space of dissent where both social movements and transnational groups contest the sociopolitical changes that the Olympic Games bring to the city.”

The papers in this book, while produced from students coming from varying backgrounds, all hone in on the performative and designerly elements of resistance, contributing to an emerging field of interdisciplinary study tethered to sporting mega-events.

Click here to download a full PDF version of Acts of Olympic Dissent.

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