Action to Surface

Rethinking surface production in terms of performance

The Rodina’s text on performative design.

read online thesis here!

We, designers, are used to presenting graphic design as a surface‑centric practice, the way of surface production. In addition to this, Tereza tries to step out of separated media constraints and tend to establish a new field of potential through identifying performative components in graphic design processes and results.

This research establishes links between action, body, designer and surface. It attempts to convince the reader, that surface production could be an action, happening, or chance‑driven act. Therefore the text introduces necessary theoretical, philosophical and historical backgrounds of performance art.

The narrative covers examples from Leonardo da Vinci through Modernists, Post‑War Expressionists and Andy Warhol to recent work by Hito Steyerl. It also presents graphic designers working with action in their design process. For example Sister Corita Kent’s activism, Stefan Sagmeister with his involvement of the body and nomadism, the conceptual approach of Czech designer Petr Babák, Maki Suzuki with his excitement “to do”, ephemeral surfaces and the unforgettable events of Cox and Grusenmeyer, Moniker with their Conditional Design happenings towards surface and Auto Italia’s identity of interactive assistant.

Finally, the text explains why the contemporary form of labour – Sven Lütticken’s concept of general performance – is so important. This thesis is a manifestation of the emerging designer, his/her milieu and effort to position himself/herself into the world of democratised surface production.

Book available at studio The Rodina, Amsterdam, The Royal Academy of Art Library, The Hague and in the library of Stroom Den Haag, The Netherlands, library of ESAC Cambrai.

Lecture and poster commissioned by ESAC Cambrai, FR.

Research, concept, text, design and code by The Rodina


Book (9), • Data Visualization (8), • Participation (10), • Performance (15), • Portfolio (29), • Research (11), • Text (5), • Web (9)