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Olivia de Salve Villedieu


Atlas, Pural, Monumental
High Art: Public Art of the High Line
Et Al 

Bon Appétit: The Food Lover’s Cleanse
Mark Bittman: How to Cook Everything Fast
Body of Work (Thesis Book & Presentation)
End of Days
An Inconvenient Sequel
TED Books

Yale School of Architecture

Process Book

Thesis Compendium

Notebooks 1–15

The Fantastic Archive of Jordan Schwamm


New York Times: A Brief History of Bras in Crosswords
The Baffler: Conserving Liberalism
Editorial Infographics
Modern Farmer Magazine
MoMA Kids Guides
MoMA Swag & Podcasts
Play, Practice, Prototype, Critique
Riso Form Zine
Informed, Weekly

The Petit Cinema of John Baldessari

Remoldable Body



People, Place, Influence (MCNY)

Striking Beauty

Ma Bell: The Mother of Invention In New Jersey
Dorothea Lange (MoMA)

Art Lab (MoMA)

Private Lives Public Spaces (MoMA)
MoMA Temporary Signage System
Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center (Rutgers)
Silver to Steel (CMOA)
Re—Circulation (MFA Exhibition)


Floppy Tools
Harry’s Holiday
Pin Me Against the Wall, Baby

Arthur Moon

Feeeels Scarf


Circa Brewing Co.

Unbound Art Book Fair

Mélange (other)

Arthur Moon: Singles
Making It New 
Painting With Paintings
Mission Blackwell
Wikipedia Still Lifes
Bound to the Eastward / Cruising to the Westward

New Life Form

Miscellaneous Things



Apprendre le Français en 30 secondes
Palindromes 1, 2, 3


Miranda July

Tereza Ruller (of The Rodina)


Making It New


Interview with Tereza Ruller 

(of The Rodina)

May 3, 2019

Tereza Ruller runs the Amsterdam-based studio The Rodina with her partner Vit Ruller. They work collaboratively to activate and reimagine the possibilities of graphic design and its surface. Often working with performance, they coined the term “performative design” and Tereza regularly uses her body in their work. I skyped with Tereza from my apartment in Providence, Rhode Island, to talk about the studio’s practice

Olivia de Salve Villedieu    Can tell me a little bit about your studio and the work that you do?

Tereza Ruller    Yeah, so behind me you see the studio. Somewhere there is also Vit, my partner and colleague. We originally started the studio as a safe space where we could experiment and play together. When we started, we really didn’t understand what graphic design was, and we just wanted to play around with designing. That was a long time ago, but we keep experimenting. Now it’s more focused on music videos or different tools for performative design. We wanted to start a studio because we are a couple and we also wanted to have a space for a baby. Of course we are busy, so there’s no baby. But there’s the studio.

OSV    That’s amazing.

TR     We’ll get there.

Tereza Ruller in The Rodina studio space in Amsterdam, Netherlands

OSV    Where did the studio name, The Rodina, come from?

TR     We are originally from the Czech Republic, and in the Czech language rodina means “family.” We thought yes, we are family because we love each other, care about each other, collaborate, and debate; also, it’s all glued together in one family.

OSV    It is clear that you have done a lot of performances. Do you continue to get to do those kind of performance works or do you do—

TR     We do all sorts of things—mostly for clients from art and cultural institutions, but we also make our own stuff. It’s not that much self-initiated work because we have clients who come to us and say, “Do something for our exhibition,” or, “Extend identity into something more unexpected.” Sometimes we make investments in projects. If we really want to make something and it is not funded, but we know that it will generate other jobs or after it travels and is exhibited, it pay for itself, we will invest upfront.
        We have always been curious. I think the curiosity is the drive. It drives you. We are curious about the world around us.
        Sometimes you have some doubts about the world or about the future, or uncertainties or insecurities. You feel there are some urgencies, talking about social issues or housing issues
or student debt, those are big topics. Or ecology, like what should we do first in time of urgent climate crisis? We think we shouldn’t be silent about these things as designers because we have power to visualize things. We should be responsible designers—that’s why we have these critical projects.

OSV    A lot of the work you make also uses your body. I read in your thesis book that you started using your body for economic reasons, but then it kind of became its own thing. Can you talk about what it’s like to design with your body and if that’s any different from designing with more traditional forms of graphic design?

TR     In that project [Budget Cuts], I really wanted to share a message, like the content of the design itself. It was in 2014, and I realized I wanted to visualize the data of the future budgets of The Netherlands—where the money would go and what the investments would be. Will it go to schools, to education, or to the military, or where will it go? It was after the [2008 economic] crisis, and I realized there would still be big budget cuts, and I asked how I could share this message and make it visible. I thought this needed to be shown visually because people usually don’t spend one month looking at Ministry of Finance Excel sheets to correlate data, but I did, so I had these answers.
        I tried to use my body to visualize [the data] by making a music video clip of a fake band called Budget Cuts that showed where the money went in Dutch education. Because somehow your body is the most useful tool you have, because you can operate it very easily. You don’t have to learn it that much, and it’s very affordable. It’s fully yours. You can just use gestures, facial expressions, different types of movements, and also your voice, ultimately with sound, with the voice. There are so many things to the body. I used it as a narrator or as a tool in the video, and I continue experimenting with what it could be. You can expand the classical graphic design means of production or the tools, you can expand it with what your body can do. I started recording [my body] in the videos, but of course later I also started experimenting in live situations, so there’s a live audience seeing what is happening or people can join in the performance. I asked, “How can I open the graphic design process to all the questions that came later after I started these experiments?”

The Rodina, Budget Cuts, 2014

OSV    I’m interested in what you were saying about ways to open up the graphic design process, and I think performance is such a great one. Do you think that there are other ways to open process that are happening right now in the field?

TR     I think there are also other really great and exciting fields, [like] social design or social work. Education itself I think can really open and redefine the graphic design of design education. Like good schools with good debates, I think they can definitely play a big part. Or maybe fine arts in combination with producing games, like game developers, maybe this could be an interesting discipline to touch on in design.

OSV    How are you using performance as a way to open up and redefine graphic design?

TR     It’s all experimental, yeah? I recently did this alternative publishing of cards on performative design and what it means to me, so these are like different turns—

OSV    Oh my God, those are so cool. Seriously.

The Rodina, Chamber of Transformation, 2018

TR     Through collecting terms and inspirations, I’m getting closer to defining what performative design is for me, now. After some time, I can look back. This design is a practice in that it’s transformative, so you undergo some change and transformation if you are performing as a designer. But also your audience can undergo this transformation with you, which is really nice for social change and social issues. It’s integrative practice. It’s really open and people can join in. It’s really not normalized in saying who can and who cannot. And it is critical practice, so I like that you can talk about the issues that you feel are urgent. It embraces evenness, and evenness is a special term that connects space and time. So this performative design cannot last forever. It’s only a special moment. It’s a special time in a special place, so it cannot happen all the time. And what’s really important is this element of chance, that anything can happen during the performance. That’s really important. And you are somehow through this, you are opening this process of the design itself, because you are not showing a finished surface or design, but you are more designing at the time. Or you can prepare a poster that is a static and a printed surface and during the performance change it or codesign it with the audience, with the viewers. So that’s a really powerful tool, and that’s the design process. 

[continue at the top of the page]
OSV    Is there anything that has really surprised you in one of the performances that you’ve done?

TR     Yeah, once, in Unionize, in one of the later performances, when I was [confined to] a shelf for six hours per day, three days in a row. This work depicts the working conditions in creative industries, but also in other more precarious industries. I was prepared that when I exhibited this performance that people will come to me and say, “What bullshit you are doing. We are okay. Stop complaining.” I was prepared for the worst, that people would basically try to convince me it’s just my bad dreams or something, or that I am way too critical. But they came to me, especially young female designers and culture workers, not curators, but workers in the galleries that we don’t see. They were saying literally the same thing, “Just continue doing that, because this is really difficult situation in the industry, and in the arts, and in creative [work]. But also not just in creative [industries]. Everywhere, we have to have more jobs, it’s really insecure.” I was shocked. I expected the other end of the spectrum.

The Rodina, Unionize, 2018

OSV    That must have been so satisfying, though, to get such a good response?

TR     Yeah. It’s really nice, because they want to support you, but in a way, it’s difficult because you’re taking the voice. And probably a lot of people agree and want to have that, but they don’t want to show it themselves. So then they wait for somebody with a strong voice to do it for them. And I was a little bit scared. Is this me? Is this somebody else? Who is going to make it? So, yeah. But I continue. I think it’s really important to continue, and especially in different countries. So I went to one of the most not precarious countries, like Denmark, to try this, and young people were also like, “Oh, yeah, [we have] really different conditions than our parents had, so it’s changing quite quickly.” And of course, now, I’m going to perform it in France. So let’s see what happens in France.

OSV    Where in France are you going?

TR     Chaumont, it’s a small town with the festival. I will probably read from books aloud to the crowd and see how they react. I bought a lot of critical books about work and labor. What is special about performative design is you are not an extra like in the theater. You are still yourself. You’re a designer and you’re doing this project. You are approachable and it seems more honest. I really like to design special props and objects that I or the viewers can interact with. Garments too. Like a geological poncho so you can really embody nonhuman parts of Earth, or you can embody lithium. You can become lithium for a second. But you always know you are yourself and that you are designing the situation, so it’s not like acting.

The Rodina, Accidental Geopoetics, 2018

OSV    With all of these new fields of graphic design that are popping up—like performative design—I think it is clear that our original understanding of the term graphic design has shifted significantly since it was first coined. It’s not so much about whether we are making pasteboards or something in Illustrator or even a poster or a book: it really can take any form.

TR    Yeah, I agree with you. It starts with asking: what do you want to say? What are you communicating? And then you choose different particular methods to communicate it properly, how you think is best. So if you think making a sculpture about some community or for some community is the best, then you make a sculpture. Or an installation or immersive design environment. If you feel it’s a participatory act that lasts for two hours and then it’s finished, then of course it’s  also design. If you want to make a movie where you narrate a story and you use design elements, it’s also design. I still call myself a graphic designer, but sometimes I say communication designer. And for me, communication is more open towards dynamics. It’s not about static texts and static typography and images arranged in a layout, but it’s more the dynamic event or situation or moving image or voice, sound, feeling. It really ispart of the design, how people feel. You can do anything with fine arts. You can do painting, sculpture, anything. For me, photography is fine arts but could also be overlapping with design. So there are also ways of common methods or interests. And also with architecture. So, for me, these are framing disciplines,but then it shouldn’t be divided.

OSV    As an undergraduate, I went to a university that didn’t separate the departments. Even graphic design was under fine art. You could do what you needed to do whether that was painting, sculpture, video, or all three at the same time.

TR     Exactly. And then you have different experts, like the educators, who are around and they are there to help you out if you have questions. There are also bigger situations, like different geopolitical situations or the colonial past of The Netherlands, that are really touched upon and discussed and opened [up]. So it’s a very sensitive time [with] all this opening. And also a movement of empowerment, like we have the fourth wave of intersectional feminism. And I think it’s time for big changes, full of chance and new opportunities, so that’s a good sign that these things are opening—the world of design,
as well.

OSV    I think it’s great that everything is opening up and being more fluid.

TR     I think it’s important that creators continue doing that, because when it’s very open, like nowadays, the bad guys can take over. So it’s really good to continue with our good energy to try to bring positiveness and good change. When you open something, you’re vulnerable to that. So somehow we need to continue imagining a better space, a better world. And that I’m trying to do through design as well.

OSV    Your work is super playful and curious. Is there anything you’re really excited and curious about exploring?

TR     I want to somehow expand this performative tool set, like the cards. This is the world of self-initiated things, so I invested my time and printed [them] on my own and everything, so it’s my interest, because it was my passion. I really want to explore this passion and think about what’s next. What can I do next with this tool set, because I want to share it? It’s an educational tool, and it’s just helpful sometimes, or it’s fun.
        I want to continue doing proper research, in design, and bring some knowledges that are not Western knowledges, that are from African or Indian or South American designers. Where in Kenya, where in Congo are these people who have this feeling of performativity and who are doing their designs? I need to do some traveling to find that out and make this performative set really inclusive. So not just our Westernized vision, but more global.

The Rodina, States of Play Roleplay Reality, 2018

        I also want to work on more of these computer video games. It’s coded in us that we are players. If you are a kid, you like to play games. Not necessarily computer games, but you have this really strong imagination. So I want to take that on, because as adults, playfulness and imagination are a bit pushed out and we’re supposed to be serious and behave, but actually, we are all very playful. Again, we did a game about the topic of labor and work and industry. We recorded all the sounds of creating design, so there’s a mouse clicking and rendering machines and there are a lot of sounds of the studio here. I think it is a relevant field for our future experiments, that we can expand the performativity into playfulness, so people can play and tell the story through the game. It’s an inclusive kind of experimental place, like indie games, you know?

OSV    Totally. Thank you so much for all your time. It was so lovely to talk with you!


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