January 7, 2011 - Sternberg Press - Markus Miessen: The Nightmare of Participation Launch at Winter School Middle East
January 7, 2011

Markus Miessen: The Nightmare of Participation Launch at Winter School Middle East

Book Launch at Winter School Middle East, Kuwait
Thursday, January 20, 2011

Markus Miessen
The Nightmare of Participation
(Crossbench Praxis as a Mode of Criticality)

Including an introduction by Eyal Weizman, a conversation with Chantal Mouffe, an interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist, and post-scripts by Bassam El Baroni, Jeremy Beaudry, and Carson Chan


Sternberg Press is pleased to announce The Nightmare of Participation (Crossbench Praxis as a Mode of Criticality) by Markus Miessen to be launched in Kuwait during Winter School Middle East.

“Markus Miessen has looked at current modes of form creation, and found them frozen in a near Soviet-style political ice age of pseudo democracy and pseudo participation. He sees the early twenty-first-century design process as one in which cynical globalized Muppets, drained of all joy, enact outdated hollow rituals grounded in unquestioned capitalism, zombie-style political correctness, and poll-driven mock democracy. The end result of these rituals can only be designs and structures that embody, at best, the stale aesthetics of accommodation—a place and space he cheekily calls Harmonistan—a realm whose inhabitants unflinchingly believe that ‘majority equals smartness.’

One might quickly sense a potential whiff of Ayn Rand or crypto-fascism here, but as a means of escape, and with the goal of creating critical and productive change, Miessen instead advocates vigorous cross-disciplinary intrusions—a universe of butting in where one isn’t necessarily invited—to willfully generate alien and unexpected new spaces and ideas. He advocates individuals to become crossbench practitioners, ‘uninvited outsiders’ who actively seek out conflict, despising the stillborn texture of today’s culture, a world whose default design mode is one of reflexive consensus.

What could have been a career-trashing minefield of a thesis is instead a strikingly intelligent, profoundly well-considered Way Forward that feels both futuristic and correct. It’s not a simple read, but this book has earned every nuance of its complexity.”
—Douglas Coupland

For more information about the launch, or for press inquiries and orders, please contact: mail@sternberg-press.com.

Markus Miessen
The Nightmare of Participation
(Crossbench Praxis as a Mode of Criticality)

English edition published by Sternberg Press, Berlin
October 2010, 304 pages, hardcover
ISBN 978-1-934105-07-8

Further information:

Winter School Middle East is a localized, small-scale nomadic hub, which regularly performs cultural and educational activities in collaboration with local protagonists, groups, and institutions, and, through its new, longer-term presence in Kuwait, develops and houses a critical platform for exchange.

Conceived in 2007, Winter School Middle East was set up as a roaming, mobile institution that has since undertaken a series of workshops, seminars, mini-schools, and conferences, among them: “Learning from Dubai” (2008, Dubai), which addressed the Labour Housing issue, and “Spaces and Scales of Knowledge” (2009, Dubai), which dealt with the question of institution building, both in collaboration with the Architectural Association (London), The Third Line gallery (Dubai), and the American University of Sharjah. In 2011, the Winter School—now a non-profit organization—is moving to Kuwait for longer-term involvement and local engagement regarding the establishment of a platform and ongoing venue for critical exchange.

The 2011 investigatory theme is “Diwaniyah,” an architectural/spatial typology that is also a protagonist in the contemporary history of Kuwaiti political life. Diwaniyah is both a real thing and a metaphor, a spatial construct with concrete political ramifications; it is an architectural typology whose precise historical role in defining a nation’s political identity can be clearly and extensively documented.

Please find more information about the 2011 theme at: www.winterschoolmiddleeast.org/school/2011-2

Director: Markus Miessen
Co-Director: Zahra Ali-Baba

Kick-off workshop and studios: January 20–30, 2011
Further 2011 dates to be announced.

2011 workshops in collaboration with Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main; Bidoun; Arch+; ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen); and Kuwait Cultural Council.


The exhibition “Diwaniyah: Architectural Space of Political Exchange,” a research project by Joseph Grima and Markus Miessen, is on display at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, from December 2, 2010 to January 10, 2011; filmography by Elian Stefa. Local support in Kuwait by Zahra Ali-Baba.


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