“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.
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.
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.
Refuting the idea of linear time, the 10th-century Arab thinkers of Kalam theorised the radical freedom of every single ‘now’. For the sake of God’s creative freedom, they demanded the dissociation of the present moment from the chains of cause and effect, and their ancient theories of ‘cut-up’ give rise to Fragments From Our Beautiful Future. Contemporary Interventions in The Bumiller Collection #3. The exhibition presents the work of Jerusalem-born Steve Labella and Berlin-based Rebecca Raue in a constellation with ancient chess pieces and Persian mirrors from the Bumiller Collection, dating from the 11th to the 17th century. In his series 38 Days of Re-Collection, Sabella imprints black & white photographs upon colored shards of paint, peeled off the walls of houses in the Old City of Jerusalem. Resembling ancient artifacts, the fifteen fragments present a unique archive of personal and collective memory, of home and displacement. Raue’s Kalila wa Dimna series uses acryl and mixed media to intervene in 18th-century illuminated manuscripts printed on aluminum composite panels. A dense layer of commentary is created on the colourful illustrations, and the artist develops a visual language that draws inspiration from the Lettrist appeal of the underlying Arabic texts.
top work by Steve Sabella / bottom works by Rebecca Raue
Switzerland’s Federal Office of Culture soon presents the seventeenth Swiss Grand Award for Art / Prix Meret Oppenheim to three outstanding Swiss culture practitioners: conceptual artist Daniela Keiser works with the media of photography and language, which she translates into different exhibition and presentation formats. Peter Märkli’s architecture, teachings and drawings are widely recognised and particularly valued by the younger generation of architects. The author and curator Philip Ursprung is honored for his cross-disciplinary research in history, art and architecture. The Swiss Grand Award for Art / Prix Meret Oppenheim was founded in 2001 by the Federal Office of Culture in collaboration with the Federal Art Commission. It honors figures from the worlds of art and architecture as well as criticism, curation and research whose work is of particular relevance and importance for contemporary art and architecture in Switzerland and beyond. The laureates, and this year’s winners of the Swiss Art Awards, will receive their accolades on June 12th, 2017, in Basel. The exhibition SWISS ART AWARDS, which showcases the participants in the second round of the Swiss Art Competition, also includes film portraits of the Swiss Grand Award for Art / Prix Meret Oppenheim 2017 recipients.
How do political and economic interests shape the urban environment? Which boundaries and power structures are encoded in it? In Between Spaces, 15 artists examine questions and contradictions found in urban life. The exhibition places work by Gordon Matta-Clark and perspectives on East Berlin into a dialogue with current artistic positions. The featured artists appropriate unused spaces and lend new forms to the inconspicuous spaces in-between. From 1970s New York to 1980s East Berlin and the global village of today, various frames of reference are brought together with the notion of urban space acting as the social, artistic and political hub of a society. Artistic positions on urbanism and public space, with Gordon Matta-Clark, Isa Melsheimer, Sabine Peuckert, Andrea Pichl, Diana Sirianni, Annemirl Bauer, Sibylle Bergemann, Simon Faithfull, Antje Fretwurst-Colberg, Brigitte Fugmann, Raumlabor, Marjetica Potrc, KUNSTrePUBLIK, Tomás Saraceno, and Ursula Strozynski.
Since 2007, in addition to the Swiss Design Awards, the Federal Office of Culture has presented the Swiss Grand Award for Design to individual designers or established firms that contribute to the renown of Swiss design nationally and internationally. Having originated as a means of encouraging, supporting and ultimately honouring the Swiss design scene, the prize communicates and indicates the traditions of Swiss design. This year the disciplines of the three laureates range from graphic design to jewellery and illustration; all of which have played a key role in the cultural fabric of Switzerland. David Bielander translates simple, everyday objects into items straddling the line between jewellery and artwork. His contemporary pieces open up unexpected lines of communication and discreetly narrate underlying stories for both the wearer and the perceiver. Another mode of storytelling is found in the work of Thomas Ott whose dark, meticulous comics don’t contain words yet manage to be universally comprehensible. As Ott’s work becomes more layered and complex, it gives rise to kaleidoscopic narratives and painstaking detail. This marked the first time that the award goes to a comic artist. Similarly following a precise optical language and consistent set of tools, Jean Widmer, one of the first Swiss graphic designers in Paris, produces clear designs ahead of their time. Among others, he’s created the visual identity for such institutions as Musée?d’Orsay and Centre Georges Pompidou – where his emblematic logo still remains.
With the aim to stimulate discussion on the social dimensions of design, the 4th edition of the Design Display series at Autostadt Wolfsburg (Konzernforum) takes Mexico as its main point of departure. Inside the exhibition’s characteristic 20-metre-long glass display, an intercultural bridge between Mexico and the US is figuratively built through two contemporary designer projects. On the one side is Vestido Cobra, a dress created by Mexican fashion designer Carla Fernández who explores how fashion can uphold traditions and still point the way to the future. By bringing Mexican styles and manufacturing techniques into contemporary fashion, she draws attention to the cultural heritage of her homeland within a modern context. The unisex “snake dress” questions gender roles and embraces craftsmanship. On the other side of the glass display is a multimedia installation dealing with the US-Mexican border by architect Fernando Romero. Conceived as an ideal metropolis with multiple urban centres, Romero’s Border City is a bi-national future city designed to straddle the controversial border, serving as a model for new cities around the world. Romero’s visionary project explores the potential to create organized growth and multiple urban centres in sprawling regions lacking infrastructure.
The exhibition’s accompanying magazine On Display continues the discussion through features on the work of the two participating designers, a detailed piece about the border area between Mexico and the United States, and an essay on the influence of traditional craftsmanship on modern Mexican design.