Nina Jun Yuchi

The Subconscious as Politics

Digital design, workshop facilitation, publication design, art education

“The Subconscious as Politics: An Inquiry of Collaborative Design Education through Radical Speculation” is a thesis written and designed for the completion of the RISD TLAD MA program. This is an edited version and the full text can be found here.

Dreaming is a key method in my research to seek out and materialize alternative worlds. It became the object of my obsessive interest in visualizing speculative futures in contrast to the one we currently live in. I harnessed my dreams as a space in which I could freely express my queerness or explore my interests towards celebrities and fictional characters. It became a reality in which I could rekindle trust with those who hurt me and I could engage in abolitionist praxis with my broken relationships. Patterns about my lifestyle and mental state became more and more visible as I annotated and categorized my journal entries, deciphering their implicit meanings. My fantastical dream worlds became a safe refuge for me to mobilize in my politics and rest through burnout. They allow me to extend my reality beyond the oppressive one I currently live in so I can dream towards a world of reflection and liberation. Through my previous and ongoing research, dreaming has become and continues to be an important practice in my politics and life.

My research stemmed from the inquiry of a few particular topics in addition to those mentioned in the introduction, outlined in this chapter. To build a holistic understanding of how they intersect with design and education, it was crucial to learn about existing theories, research, and designers. My individual experiences of dreaming, political identity, and temporalities are as unique as they are shared; they become reference points for me to expand my perspective into the broader communities of which I am apart. After all, “the personal is political”. This ideological foundation guided the conversation between the inquiry of my own and my community’s in this work.

To address my research questions, I conducted a workshop series The Subconscious as Politics which consisted of two events revolving around my practice and inquiries. The first event I hosted was an online workshop with a film screening of Paprika, directed by Satoshi Kon in 2006. Film screenings are a powerful space for community in which participants experience the same piece of media at the same time, then commune to share their reactions. This workshop began with activities on Figma, followed by a presentation, another activity, then the film screening. For the second event, I hosted a collaborative zine workshop that published a final zine.

And yet despite all the labor I have put into this project, I can’t say that I have a clear answer to what I had questioned—How does the collective pedagogical thought of a community inform a design practice? I continue to feel confused and jaded especially given that my resources are limited in this institution and there are so many opportunities I have yet to explore. However, I was able to get a glimpse of what these might look like through my workshops but continue to challenge the ways in which design, education, identity, and temporalities communicate through a sustained inquiry beyond this book.

To expect a comprehensive answer after this research is contradictory to its nature. Just like Octavia Butler (2000) told the skeptical student, there are thousands of answers to my inquiry and thousands of possibilities to arrive at a new understanding. I consider my research one that is lifelong because I will always be learning more about myself, my communities, and our potential for change. I am constantly in a state of becoming and am nervously excited to think about my work growing alongside my research and practice in design and education. Slowly but surely though, I begin to see a blurred vision of the future sharpen into an image of liberation.