With their inexhaustible supplies of imagination, intelligent sense of humor and iconic creations, Charles and Ray Eames had a major impact on 20th century culture that extended well beyond design and architecture. Throughout their careers, they focused primarily on finding answers to the simple question of how the basic human needs for living space, comfort and knowledge could best be met. Rather than a luxury, they understood design as a solution. Nowadays, the duo’s name is synonymous with timeless aesthetics and technical precision, embodying the synergy of form and function. In celebration of these two enduring creative forces, the Vitra Design Museum is presenting four parallel exhibitions that offer an unprecedented view of the work created by the ever-referenced designers. From medical splints and airport seating to films and children’s toys, visitors will be invited to explore an all-encompassing spectrum of the Eames’s vision taking over the entirety of the Vitra Campus. The exhibition sequence’s major retrospective will be accompanied by the designers’ cinematic oeuvre of more than 60 films, children toys as well as the full scope of the collection of the Eames Office that is with the museum since 1988.
Credits:Charles and Ray Eames selecting slides / Ray Eames with an early prototype of »The Toy« in the patio of the Eames House, 1950 / Charles and Ray in the living room of the Eames House, 1958 / Installation view of »Glimpses of the U.S.A.«, American National Exhibition, Moscow, 1959 / Photo shoot of the Aluminum Group with Charles Eames, 1960 / Charles and Ray Eames, Film still »Powers of Ten: A Film Dealing with the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero«, 1977. All pictures: © Eames Office LLC
“You can avoid people but you can’t avoid architecture.“
Whether through questions about gender and sexuality, or by investigating architecture’s imposing ability to manipulate our physical actions on a daily basis, Monica Bonvicini consistently explores themes of power and control. Her multidisciplinary approach—videos, installations, drawings and sculptures—touches on identity as well as socio-political and economic issues with a hint of humour. Conceived for the large exhibition hall of the Berlinische Galerie, Bonvicini’s new installation, amongst other things, investigates the term “facade” and its function in the built environment. The institutional viewing space is often the subject of her work and thus, Bonvicini’s site-specific, power-conscious and gendered allusions to the norms of architectural and artistic modernism quite literally operate on the boundary between artwork and spectator.
“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.
Pascale Obolo with one of her colleagues
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.