Designers have fixated on the visual culture that wrought Casio wrist watches and Superstudio. Mario Carpo explores the reasons why.
It began with a watch—actually, two. Last year I was co-tutoring two brilliant master students in a school of architecture in a European country I shall not name. They had started their thesis project with some very idealistic, “accelerationist” views of technology—assuming, in the footsteps of some improbable political theories currently in fashion, that technological change would “accelerate” the final demise of capitalism. Then one day they showed up for their tutorial sporting two identical black Casio digital watches, and I immediately realized that something had gone awry. As if struck by some illumination on their road to Damascus, they explained to me they had concluded that technology should thenceforth be their foe. From that moment, their project turned into a “critical” reinterpretation of some Superstudio projects from the early ’70s. For their final presentation, some months later, they set up an installation where everything, right down to some fresh baguettes bought from a baker’s next door, was wrapped in carefully executed Superstudio wallpaper—black grid on white background. Most of their friends in attendance were also wearing the same Casio watch, I noticed.