MoMA R&D

Salon 26 Friction

Friction is everywhere. Friction, for example, helps us in writing, as our pens would not work on a friction-less surface. Friction also causes nails and screws to hold on to walls; and the friction between the head of a stick and the rubbing surface of the box is what ignites matches. Similarly to the natural world, friction is an essential and omnipresent component of human life, too. Yet, despite its importance, friction is often dismissed as the undesirable by-product of graceless and clumsy interactions. In this salon, we delved into the grey areas between ethics and etiquette that are expected of the majority of people in post-industrial economies. Our goal was to question the assumption that “seamless” is by default preferable to “rugged,” and that bruises and abrasions are always to be avoided.

Some of the questions we strived to answer: Does everything ought to be friction-less and seamless all the time? Are conflicts always inherently negative? Or, rather, is there something to be learnt from difficulties and risks, too? Would our existence be richer, more authentic, perhaps even more beautiful, if there were more room for last-minute improvisation? What are the neurological and psychological mechanisms at play when we are faced with obstacles? How does growing up in a zero risk environment affect children’s capacity to develop creativity, resilience and grit? Under which circumstances challenges function as positive triggers? When, instead, do they become paralyzing factors? What do we make of the schism between the imperatives of political correctness and the fact that, at its core, society is increasingly polarized? When do direct and open confrontations hinder the achievement of shared solutions; and when, instead, are they necessary? How can we discern when the social etiquette that tells us to be “always nice” is used instrumentally as a silencing mechanism? Is the business of (cautiously) introducing frictions in our lives an act of resistance?

This salon took place on June, 27th, 2018.

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