Suzhou Jinji Lake Art Museum
September 13th 2014 - December 12th 2014
NO.1 Guanfeng St., Suzhou Industrial Park, P.R.China
Being in the world
Jan Konings, curator of Self Unself: ’Design is not about shiny objects and consumerism anymore. It’s not about icons, it’s about issues. Self Unself presents a kind of inventory of positions and solutions born from this new attitude towards design.’ !
Co-design on all levels
Self Unself was originally conceived as a graduation show but was soon expanded to include the work of both graduates and alumni of the Design Academy Eindhoven. The ‘self’ in the exhibition title still first and foremost refers to the student, says Widdershoven. ‘The academy is fully focused on the talents, preferences and fascinations of its students. For their graduation they have to initiate projects themselves, in which these come to the fore. But when you look at those projects – about healthcare, open source production, new economic systems – they come across as pretty altruistic. Contemporary design is very much oriented toward the ‘unself’.’!
A fitting example is PhoneBloks by Dave Hakkens. It’s a flexible cellular phone, which can be produced and assembled modularly. A network of cottage industries produces the universally compatible parts thus breaking the monopoly of market leaders. Every component can be replaced individually, thus making it a much more durable product. ‘Hakkens starts off with the consumers, he remains really close to their actual needs’, says Konings. ‘And he also actively involves them in the realization of the phone. Through his website he has gathered the support of almost a million potential users and he will multiply that number by a thousand through the new social media site Thunderclap. This is co-design on all levels.’
Whereas with Hakkens the ‘unself’ is the audience at large, an organic but anonymous mass which has come within easy, empowering reach through the present means of communication, traditionally the ‘unself’ the designer foremost has to deal with is the client, a well-defined entity with clear wishes and demands. Hella Jongerius, widely known for her research into textiles and colors, was confronted with the strictest of regulations when working on KLM’s World Business Class. Konings: ‘Jongerius managed to keep her experiments intact and apply them outside her studio. This is quite extraordinary since the airline industry is rather conservative by nature and bound by ever tightening inter- national legal regulations. This type of commissions – full of inherent friction – often leads to non-descript, middle of the road design but it constitutes for a sizeable part of our public space. It makes you wonder how open and free this space is and to what extend designers can still influence it.’