MAKE: magazine, Investigating the Bridge between Engineering and Art with Sara Hendren





maxine greene

I talked to MAKE: magazine about my work:

MAKE: That’s something that a lot of your work seems to do: questioning what engineering looks like, and making room for questioning and uncertainty in engineering. In my experience, we usually think about engineering as question answering or problem solving and art as a place to ask and examine questions. So I wonder what you see as the role of your arts and design background in this engineering world, and what that means for you when defining or redefining engineering.

SH: Oh boy, yeah that’s right at the heart of what animates my work: those questions. I’ve been reading a fair amount of Maxine Greene’s work. She was a philosopher of aesthetic education, who thought a lot about teaching. She talks about the work of “social imagination” that’s happening with the Arts, especially when activated in classrooms, when people are gathered together making sense of some artifact or some story— what’s happening there is a kind of collective imagining. And she says something that I find I often say to people: that the Arts and Design are a way to keep claiming that the world as it is might be otherwise. Things might be otherwise.

And I think, in the history of design, there is certainly that kind of problem solving that looks like it comes from a technocratic or policy driven series of decisions, but I’m trying to awaken an alertness to the fact that those design decisions are still a kind of social imagining. Maybe they’re coming from policy, or top down in a technocratic, bureaucratic way, but they’re evidence of social imagination. Maybe of other people, but that means they’re also sites for social re-imagining a different world.