Petra Lilja

Mineral Matterings: Diffractive Practices of Design

Photo: Victoria Restrepo Giraldo & Peter Westrup

Engaging with research through design, this doctoral project maps out a range of relational approaches to of matter-material, focusing the attention on minerals and the shared 'mineralness' of humans and other-than-humans which connects the biotic and abiotic realms. Scrutinizing her own extractivist mindset as a designer who took for granted a wide range of materials to be at her disposal, Lilja links this personally situated starting point to the extractivist imaginary on a global scale. In the search for less destructive kinds of relations to matter-materials, two design projects are initiated, Mineral Walk and Critical Clay, which stake out a critical cartography over mineral matter as pharmakon, something that depending on dose and use, can be both a poison and a remedy. Thinking through a posthumanist framework, design is here articulated as processes of materializing intra-actions in the world, importantly pointing to its ethical implications. Intra-actions always already exist, and the design approaches developed in this doctoral project are articulated as boundary-making and diffractive, drawing on feminist theorist and physicist Karen Barad. Lilja suggests that diffractive practices of design acknowledge that the interventions may lead to understanding mineral matter-material otherwise –an emergent tactic for situated practice– making explicit intra-active relations and the performativity of, in this case, human-mineral entanglements of spatiality and temporality.

Petra Lilja was educated in interior and industrial design and works at the intersection of design, art, and research. She previously worked as design lecturer and program director of the Design + Change Programs at Linnaeus University. For four years she ran an eponymous galley in Malmö displaying art, design and research. She is a member of the jury of the annual Swedish Design award UNG and KYDSA in South Korea.

Principal supervisor: Martín Ávila
Assistant supervisor: Meike Schalk och Ola Ståhl
Admitted to Kungliga tekniska högskolan, KTH
Project period: 2019-2024