Talking about the work of Foreign Legion at the Porto Design Biennale. Photo by Porto Design Biennale.
Last 27 September, Foreign Legion (a curatorial initiative I founded with Matylda Krzykowski) was invited to give a talk in the context of the inaugural Porto Design Biennale in Portugal. We presented the last year of work, starting with the A Woman’s Work symposium in January, and the two iterations of the exhibition Add to the Cake: Transforming the rules of female practitioners, which is on view at Kunstegewerbemuseum Dresden Schloss Pillnitz until 3 November.
The talk was an opportunity to showcase the issues we’ve been researching and working on, and anticipate some of the directions in which we’ll be focusing in the next months. The Porto Design Biennale audience was attentive and engaged, and we had an opportunity to continue the conversation throughout the evening and into the night. Thanks for having us!
On the steps of Wasserpalais at Schloss Pillnitz, Museum of Decorative Arts Dresden. Photo by Klemens Renner.
Last 5 July, the Museum of Decorative Arts Dresden held the official opening of Add to the Cake: Transforming the roles of female practitioners, a project I curated with Matylda Krzykowski under the moniker Foreign Legion. The project started with the A Woman’s Work symposium back in January, and then evolved into a two-part exhibition, with a Preview opening back in 26 April.
With Add to the Cake, we wanted to take the conversation started at the symposium further: We commissioned various practitioners such as Ann Kern, Ji-hee Lee, Gabriel Maher and Garret Nelson to think about What happens when you Add to the Cake? — to think about the future. For the exhibition that opened 5 July 2019, spaces were transformed to give way to a series of installations on visions for the future of female practice. Simultaneously, various Visual Fictions by contributors such as Anne Dessing & Michel van Irsel, Gallery Stephanie Kelly, Kamau Patton and OOIEE, act as an expression of desire for something lacking here and now. The exhibition becomes the transformation it heralds, enacting futures that are inclusive, generous, all-encompassing and joyous.
Add to the Cake advocates that we can – and need to – add to the existing “cake”: infinite layers for an expanded canon. Adding to museum collections and to historical accounts, adding to collective memory and to possible futures. Most importantly, we must realise that “adding” enriches the existing context with multiple, varied voices and perspectives.
After the jump, an outline of all the work and new commissions that were developed as part of Add to the Cake, as well as some installation views.
Continue reading Add to the Cake: Transforming the roles of female practitioners
“Dear gatekeepers”, in Icon Magazine, March 2019
Right after our A Woman’s Work symposium, Matylda Krzykowski and I were thrilled to be able to take the conversation on design and gender politics further, as we jointly authored an op-ed in the March 2019 issue of Icon magazine, titled “Dear Gatekeepers”. The op-ed can be read in the Foreign Legion website, below an excerpt:
On 18 January this year, we made our first attempt to dismantle such structures, organising a collaborative conversation at the Museum of Applied Arts in Dresden. Titled A Woman’s Work, the event gathered voices from the discipline of design to discuss the roles and influence of female practitioners. The symposium took place alongside the exhibition Against Invisibility, which rewrote a fraction of modern design history by rescuing the nearly-forgotten stories of female designers working in the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau in the early decades of the 20th century.
What are the differences between them and us? As design critic Alice Rawsthorn pointed out in the symposium, “we need to build on [past achievements] with a dynamic and critical discourse … While many skirmishes have been won, others await.’
We must ensure that our stories won’t get lost like theirs. We must create spaces for their – and our – voices to be heard once the present generation is long gone. We must ensure that the current enthusiasm doesn’t get lost, and after an object designed by a woman is sold, exhibited, commissioned and exchanged for inflated sums of money, women – and their stories – will remain.
It is the responsibility of the gatekeepers – who write, who teach, who collect, who curate, who sell, who promote, who advocate – to open the gates for the dismantling of past and present conditions, in order to make women’s work, contributions and visibility a permanent condition.
An aspect of the A Woman’s Work symposium at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden. Photo David Pinzer.
Thrilled to have just come out of a lively and thought-provoking day of discussions during A Woman’s Work at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden. If you were not able to make it, you can see a report by Emma Lucek at Pamono Stories on the event. Below an excerpt:
The dominance of women both on the panel and in the audience—curators, designers, educators, students, directors, and more—brought home just how far we’ve come already. The significant rise in the visibility of women in the world of design today is undeniable. But as Rawsthorn very articulately summed it up, “We need to build on [these achievements] with a dynamic and critical discourse… While many skirmishes have been won, others await.”