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USELESSNESS: humankind’s most valuable tool?

A new book edited by Michelle Howard and Luciano Parodi, published by De Gruyter, Berlin 2020

ISBN: 978-3-11-067981-6

Covid-19 has shifted our focus on values from use to essence. What now defines essential workers, are those qualities which had previously been grossly undervalued and underpaid. Planned long before the pandemic but intimately related because it addresses the pressing need for a recalibration of worth; this book explores uselessness and the value system which introduced the concept.

Eleven essays by architects, artists, writers, an economist, a sociologist, and a paleoanthropologist take us from the British housing estate through an empty airfield in berlin to the mohawk-like skull of an early primate and, our use of tools, often portrayed as our defining attribute. Tools enabled us to record ideas, tell stories, make objects and places whose uselessness still dumbfounds us today.

The present pandemic has presented the first real threat to the forward march of use-value and the economic growth system which sprung from it. This book proposes that uselessness could become mankind’s most valuable tool, and current events seem to confirm it as a possibility.

Michelle Howard / Uselessness is a Rarefied Thing

Ebru Kurbak / Infrequently asked Questions: Excavating Obsolete Migrant Skills

Miguel Paredes Maldonado / Refusing to Perform: Transutility, or the contemporary value of uselessness in architecture

Ruth Sonderegger / Uselessness and Purposelessness: On the Central Norms and Imperatives of Western Aesthetics

Owen Hatherley / Useless, and then Dangerous: Public Space and Property in 20th century British Modernist Housing

Ryan Stec / Useless Architecture

Kerstin Meyer / USE–LESS–LAND: Two centuries of defending the Tempelhofer Field in Berlin

Friedemann Schrenk / In the Beginning there was Uselessness

Sonia Leimer / Conquest of the Useless

Diedrich Diederichsen / ART—USE—USEFULNESS: Two Discourses: Use Value and Instrumentalization

Luciano Parodi / Uselessness, XXXX XXXXXXi

Proof Reading: Roderick O´Donovan
Translation from German into English: James Gussen
Layout: Carla Veltman
Printed with Financial support from Academy of Fine Arts Vienna