“Design is invisible”, wrote sociologist Lucius Burckhardt almost 40 years ago. Design doesn’t merely apply to objects, graphics, user interfaces or spaces, but also refers to social processes and complex systems. Democracy is one such a system: it is not a given, but rather a structured process. The 5th edition of the exhibition series Design Display examines how design and democracy intersect in order to effect change in society. On the basis of two different democratic processes, the exhibition presents a spectrum of creative possibilities: from hands-on participation in urban development to new digital technologies that can fundamentally alter the face of democracy. On one side of the two-fold exhibition, the Hamburg-based group PlanBude focuses on promoting public participation in city planning and explores how design can become more inclusive. Shaping and implementing participatory processes is a crucial step to ensuring democracy isn’t just a formal act, but a vital part of everyday life. This means giving voice to those not normally consulted during the stages of development. Architects and city planners are made aware of the residents’ knowledge, desires, and needs, so that site-specific features can be incorporated into their designs. PlanBude advocates moving beyond designing for the people toward designing with the people. The second element of the exhibition turns to the digital world and, in particular, the innovative technology of blockchains and its various applications within the infinite World Wide Web. Blockchains store information in small units, in blocks that aren’t stored on one, but on many different servers connected to each other. This form of storage is extremely secure against hacking and manipulation and thus utilizable for democratic processes. Among other things, this new technology makes it conceivable to cast secret ballots on the Internet, to make management transparent, or to provide tools that promote direct democracy or economic autonomy. Across the world, blockchain solutions are prompting administrative processes to become more transparent and citizens to get involved more directly.
Poster by Karl Holmqvist
Gathering more than 240 independent publishers in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Miss Read is dedicated to building community and creating a public meeting place for discourse around artists’ books, conceptual publications and publishing as practice. The art book fair suffuses art, graphic design, literature and publishing and seeks to cultivate dialogue within various thematics, and essentially give impetus to further cross-pollination between disciplines. Like every year, the fair will be accompanied by a series of lectures, discussions and workshops with the common mission of exploring the boundaries of contemporary publishing and the possibilities of the book. Among other events, the renowned ARCH+ magazine will be celebrated alongside a panel discussion on critical architecture theory, utopias and discursive practice. The 5th Conceptual Poetics Day, a recurring element of the bookfair, will explore the imaginary border between visual art and literature in the form of readings, lectures and performances.
In a small village close to Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, arts and culture take center stage as contributors to the growth of a country and its younger generation. Initiated as an idea in 2009 by the German artist and theater director Christoph Schlingensief (1960-2010), the international art project Operndorf Afrika provides a platform for cultural encounters, workshops and collaborations. Schlingensief envisaged the initiative as a meeting place where people from different backgrounds are able to work as artists and exchange views. Over the last few years, that seed has grown from mere abstract plans into a full-fledged community that includes sustainable homes, education, health care as well as a bedrock for the area to evolve its singular artistic expression and set an example the world over. Operndorf is essentially a center where ideas can be cultivated as people from across the globe merge in one location. Here art paves the way to a thriving community, cross-cultural dialogue and much-needed postcolonial discourses building up a new image of Africa.
“The Operndorf is a project that arouses hope – hope that there can be a relationship between Europe and Africa, which is based on reciprocity and not on dominance. Hope that culture can contribute to the development of children and the development of a country.” — Horst Köhler, former Federal President of Germany
A profound love for words and images shape Pascale Obolo’s world and artistic output. Hailing from Cameroon and raised in Paris, this prolific creative works between publishing, journalism and cinematography. Bureau N met with her in Basel during the I Never Read art book fair where she’s the first exhibitor to represent independent publishers from Africa. As the founder of the African Art Book Fair and the contemporary art journal AFRIKADAA, Obolo seeks to foster artistic voices from Africa, offering them increased visibility and a platform for widespread discourse.
When did you establish the African Art Book Fair?
It’s a very young project. We started in 2016 at the Dakar Biennale, but before that we founded AFRIKADAA, an art journal created by a collective of artists, art critics and book lovers. The idea is to present each issue’s content in an actual exhibition space. We want to have a platform where we can show the artists we collaborate with whether they are from different parts of Africa or the diaspora. Most national museums are not interested in showcasing this kind of artists, they go for safer choices. So the journal acts as a sort of laboratory and a curatorial exercise. Also, we invite various writers from around the world to contribute, and thus the result is a great mix of academic writing, clearly journalistic pieces, and experimental texts.
How did your collaboration with I Never Read come about?
INR is the one who found me and initially we were thinking of joining forces during the Art Paris fair but unfortunately we didn’t manage to get financial backing. Then later on, we picked up the discussion again and they invited me to talk about the projects I’ve been involved in and introduce them to indie publishers from Africa — a completely unknown scene to them. It’s the first time that an African publisher is exhibited at the fair, so that’s very interesting.
What kind of books did you bring with you this time for the fair?
We selected three books (award-winning artist Marc Johnson with lacune féconde, books by artist Sammy Baloji from Galerie Imane Farès and others) and as well as the upcoming issue of AFRIKADAA, which will be out in September 2017. We publish three issues per year plus one special edition. Last year we collaborated with the Centre Pompidou for their group show “Museum On/Off”. The museum gave us a carte blanche to propose ways on how to reinvent the museum in the future. I suggested a fictional museum including artists that I knew the Centre Pompidou had never exhibited before. We decided to do an extension of what we did there and create “paper museum” of sorts for the special issue.
How many publishers did the African Art Book Fair have first?
Not that many, maybe 25. From different places in Africa. We also invited three artists from South Africa who use the book as their artistic medium.
What would a potential collaboration between the African Art Book Fair and I Never Read look like next year?
We actually have plenty of ideas. For the next edition of the fair in Dakar in May 2018, we’re thinking of doing an exchange with Basel and mixing publishers from the north with publishers from the south. It will be more of an artistic project and we’ll question the role and existence of fairs in the contemporary world. Why are there so many nowadays? And what purpose do they serve, especially for independent initiatives.
In 2017, the Swiss Design Competition celebrates its 100th edition. Since then, the promotion has pursued two objectives: on the one hand, direct economic support, which gives designers a boost from prototype to production that pays into the quality and the reputation of Swiss design. On the other hand, it allows an indirect freedom, financially and temporarily, that enables the designers to create new and extraordinary solutions to be worked out and tested. In the exhibition Swiss Design Awards, around 50 works from designers in the fields of graphic design, photography, fashion and textile, products, scenography and mediation are presented to a broad public.
Running parallel to Art Basel, the annual Swiss Art Awards exhibition, organized and conceived by the Federal Office of Culture since 1899, provides a representative overview and unique insight into contemporary art and architecture in Switzerland. It shows the works of the artists that have been invited to the second round of the Swiss Competition for Art and Architecture, and aims to encourage the cultural movers and shakers originating from Switzerland. A definitive index for art professionals and art lovers alike.
Aiming to foster the notable art publishing community worldwide, the annual I Never Read, Art Book Fair is back in Basel for the sixth time. What started as a platform for experimental publishing and printed matter straddling the line between art object and reading material, has now become an integral part of the renowned Art Basel week. More than 130 publishers, authors, artists and designers from more than twenty countries will present their art and artist books, catalogues, monographs, rare editions, magazines and zines from the fields of art, photography, graphic design and architecture. This time around, fair-goers will have the opportunity to also see projects from Latin America and Africa: from works by publishers specializing in risographs, independent books by Latin American artists, and conceptual editions all the way to niche magazines turning the spotlight to African photography and small local publishers. Like every year, the fair will be accompanied by a radio station hosting talks about zine culture and the world of publishing within the arts.
Housing is scarce – that much has become evident in the last few years. As real estate prices in big cities continue to skyrocket, conventional ideas of housing development prove unable to meet demands. The reaction to these challenges has been a silent revolution in contemporary architecture towards collective building and living. Using models, films, and walk-in displays, Vitra Design Museum’s exhibition Together! The New Architecture of the Collective addresses this global phenomenon by presenting a broad array of collective projects from Europe, Asia, and the United States. An overview of historical precedents for the current wave of collectives demonstrates that the idea has been a recurring theme in the history of architecture, from the reformist ideas of the nineteenth century to the hippies and squatters of the twentieth, who touted the slogan “Make love, not lofts”.
As a consequence of “post-modernization” at large, the city seems to have lost its authority as the sole territory we look to for the source of quality existence. Contained within the title of the 25th Biennial of Design, FARAWAY, SO CLOSE, are many topics of the ensuing debate: could we re-occupy distant places, activate remote territories, re-enact ancient relations through our urban habits? Can new frictions between distant conditions emerge, and produce new scenarios for a different present time? Slovenia, with its specific geographical condition, will perform as a paradigm to stimulate, discuss and test the status of this global shift. Rather than an exhibition of existing projects, the biennial is conceived as a production platform where groups of designers develop different scenarios as alternatives to established systems. Seven Slovenian individuals, known for their work outside of the design field, were paired with seven international creative figures, chosen for their ability to use design and architecture as tools for investigating contemporary issues – Studio Formafantasma with Andrej Detela; Matali Crasset with Matej Fegus; Point Supreme with Iztok Kovac; Didier Faustino with Mojca Kumerdej; Studio Mischer’Traxler with Klemen Kosir; Studio Folder with Renata Salecl; Odo Fioravanti with Marin Medak. The resulting collaborations are shown at the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) in Ljubljana, which organises the Biennial, as well as seven sites across the Slovenian environment, ranging from the wild forest of Kocevje to the subterranean world of the Mayor’s Cave.
Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntags SYNTH im Tieranatomischen Theater
Built in 1790, the Tieranatomisches Theater (Veterinary Anatomy Theatre) is the oldest still-existing academic building in Berlin. Since 2013, the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik has used the venue as an experimental exhibition space. Based on research and teaching at the Humboldt-Universität, the programming is dedicated to an interdisciplinary investigation of material cultures of knowledge, and to new practices in displaying them.
SYNTH, an installation on the phantasm of sound and music synthesis by the artist, composer and researcher Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag, is one such investigation. Shown and heard throughout the Theater’s seven rooms, technical and aesthetic objects connect the 19th century’s physiology to Neue Musik, media theory of the 20th century, and contemporary experimental music. For Sonntag, sound art is spacial art, a form that addresses the percipient’s whole body. Space itself becomes corporeal as well: turning the classical anatomy theater into a Rausch-Körper (“body of noise”), the artist composed the three-act chamber opera SINUS especially for the venue’s unique architecture. There will be held a number of discussions, workshops and events regarding the exhibited objects and instruments. All the while, Sonntag’s radio opera RUNDFUNK AETERNA – a work commissioned by Documenta 14 – will be broadcasted worldwide. Sonntag developed his own special circuits for RUNDFUNK AETERNA, and, in the tradition of Marinetti, Arnheim and Brecht, investigates the radio and (radio wave) as a form.