Disruption shows in the jitter in the ill-aligned wipes of the old towns’ 3D render. The transition between present and future is abrupt and literally uneven: frames look as if jolted by earthquakes. In replacing a present urban reality characterized by strong social bonds with a sanitized digital projection that renders population replacement, disruptive design shows grief and dispossession thinly plastered over with an opportunist layer of pixels.

Warfare in the old town is far from being irrelevant, marginal or peripheral, since it shows a singular form of disruptive design, a specific design of killing, a special form of wrecked cutting-edge temporality. Futures are hastened, not by spending future incomes, but by making future deaths happen in the present; a sort of application of the mechanism of debt to that of military control, occupation and expropriation.

While dreaming of the one technological singularity to once-and-for-all render humanity superfluous, disruption as a social, aesthetic and militarized process creates countless little singularities, entities trapped within the horizons of what autocrats declare as their own history, identity, culture, ideology, race or religion; each with their own incompatible rules, or more precisely, their own incompatible lack of rules. [13] “Creative disruption” is not just realized by the wrecking of buildings and urban areas. It refers to the wrecking of a horizon of common understanding, replacing it by narrow, parallel, top-down, trimmed and bleached artificial histories.

This is exactly how processes of disruption might affect you, if you live somewhere else that is. Not in the sense that you will necessarily be expropriated, displaced or even worse. This might happen or not, depending on where (and who) you are. But you too might get trapped in your own singular hell of a future repeating invented pasts, with one part of the population hell-bent on getting rid of another. People will peer in from afar, conclude they can’t understand what’s going on, and keep watching cat videos.

What to do about this? What is the opposite design, a type of creation that assists pluriform, horizontal forms of life, and that can be comprehended as part of a shared humanity? What is the contrary to a procedure that inflates, accelerates, purges, disrupts and homogenizes; a process that designs humanity as a uniform, cleansed and allegedly superior product; a superhumanity comprised of sanitized render ghosts?

The contrary is a process that doesn’t grow via destruction, but very literally de-grows constructively. This type of construction is not creating inflation, but devolution. Not centralized competition but cooperative autonomy. Not fragmenting time and dividing people, but reducing expansion, inflation, consumption, debt, disruption, occupation and death. Not superhumanity; humanity as such would perfectly do.


A woman had stayed in the old town on her own throughout the curfew to take care of her cow, who lived in the back stable. Her daughters had climbed through a waterfall in the Roman era walls every week to supply her with basic needs. They kept being shot at by soldiers. This went on for weeks on end. When we talked to her, the cow had just had a baby. One of the team members was a veterinarian.

Daughter: Our calf is sick. Please come and see.
Vet: Sure, what happened? Is it newborn? Did it get the first milk of its mother? 
Mum: No, it didn’t get the colostrum. There was no milk. The labor was difficult. It started five times over and stopped again.
Daughter: The other calf reached first and drank all the milk, we didn’t realize it. 
Daughter: Mum, where is the calf?
Mum: [calls into the stable] Where is it? My little pistachu, where are you?


1. An overview of Al-Jazaris works:Allah's Automata Artifacts of the Arab-Islamic Renaissance (800-1200), eds. Siegfried Zielinski and Peter Weibel (Hatje Cantz, 2015); Donald Hill, "Mechanical Engineering in the Medieval Near East," Scientific American(May 1991), 64–69.

2. “A 13th Century Programmable Robot (Archive),” University of Sheffield. http://web.archive.org/web/20070629182810/http://www.shef.ac.uk/marcoms/eview/articles58/robot.html

3. The elected municipality of the old town was recently deposed under emergency legislation. Then the mayors of the city were arrested under the suspicion of supporting “terror" alongside dozens of other elected lawmakers, journalists, etc.

4. My notion of singularity is based on Peter Hallward’s extremely useful discussion of singular vs. generic situations in Absolutely Postcolonial (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2001) and Frederic Jameson’s extremely useful “Aesthetics of Singularity,” New Left Review 92 (March–April 2015).

5. My notion of singularity is based on Peter Hallward’s extremely useful discussion of singular vs. generic situations in Absolutely Postcolonial (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2001) and Frederic Jameson’s extremely useful “Aesthetics of Singularity,” New Left Review 92 (March–April 2015).

6. Werner Sombart, Krieg Und Kapitalismus (Munich and Leipzig: Verlag von Duncker & Humblot, 1913).

7. ®

8. Karl Marx, Grundrisse (1857), trans. Nicolaus, Martin (1973), (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1993), 750.

9. Even though it seems to apply to a slightly different process: the process of building an entirely new market that then replaces older ones.

10. Again, just to be clear, the situation in the old town is not primarily due to the direct effects of disruptive technologies, even though mass internet surveillance, drones and other—lets say by-now traditional—means of warfare are of course utilized.

11. The term “mob” derives from “mobile vulgus” or “fickle crowd.”

12. Jean-François Lyotard, ‘The Sublime and the Avant-Garde’, in The Inhuman (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991).

13. Ibid., Hallward; Ibid., Jameson.

Benno Premsela Lezing
Hito Steyerl
Floris Alkemade
Hito Steyerl - Factory of the Sun, 2015 & How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, 2013

This project is part of the programme track Landscape and Interior and the folder Benno Premsela Lecture.

Ieder jaar nodigt Het Nieuwe Instituut een spreker uit om zijn of haar visie te geven op actuele ontwikkelingen in de disciplines architectuur, digitale cultuur en design.