The Politics of Design

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Cover of Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design, the accompanying publication to the Vitra Design Museum’s most recent exhibition. 

I contributed to the catalogue of the Vitra Design Museum’s most recent exhibition, Victor Papanek: The Politics of Designwith not one but two pieces. One, an interview with Critical Making and Disobedient Electronics author Garnet Hertz, and another, an essay co-written with Jan Boelen on how the spirit of Papanek lives on in the work of several contemporary designers. The publication is impressive and gathers the voices of many luminaries and experts on Papanek and his significance. I’m happy to be among such incredible authors! You can find out more about the book in the e-shop here.

Design as Learning

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Design as Learning: A School of Schools Reader, designed by Offshore Studio and published by Valiz. Image by Offshore Studio.

On the occasion of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools, I edited the accompanying publication, Design as Learning: A School of Schools Reader. The volume was beautifully designed by Zurich-based Offshore Studio (as was the striking visual identity of the whole biennial, explored here in detail) and is published jointly by IKSV and Valiz. The Reader seeks to expand on the many narratives of the biennial and offers a series of critical reflections on the past and present of design education, with contributions by Danah Abdulla, Jan Boelen, Nadine Botha, Corinne Gisel, João Ferreira, Naho Kubota, Nina Paim and myself. Additionally, the book features interviews with Zeynep Celik Alexander, Claudia Mareis, Peter Land and Nelly Ben Hayoun, contextualizing issues on the past and present states of design education. And finally, a series of conversations with participants in the biennial looks at ways to approach design education today. Interviewees include Åbäke, FABB (Burcu Biçer Saner, Efe Gözen), Navine G. Kahn-Dossos, Ebru Kurbak, Mae-ling Lokko, Studio Folder, SulSolSal (Hannes Bernard and Guido Giglio), and Pinar Yoldaş. Below the back cover blurb:

Why do design? What is design for? These are forward-looking questions for a creative discipline that seems more slippery to define than ever. In a world of dwindling natural resources, exhausted social and political systems, and an overload of information there are many urgent reasons to reimagine the design discipline, and there is a growing need to look at design education. Learning and unlearning should become part of an on-going educational practice. We need new proposals for how to organise society, how to structure our governments, how to live with, not against, the planet, how to sift fact from fiction, how to relate to each other, and frankly, how to simply survive.
The 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, and this publication Design as Learning ask: can design and design education provide these critical ideas and strategies?

Spaces of Exception and other formats

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Can Altay presenting at the Spaces of Exception roundtables during the opening weekend of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools.

I was thrilled to be able to curate the public program of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools, as part of my role as a member of the biennial’s curatorial team. As a crucial part of our understanding of the “expanded” character we wanted to give the biennial, the public program was an active and intense part of the biennial’s effort, testing a variety of formats and experimenting with elements of duration, complexity and materialization. Taking place across the six venues of the biennial, the public program was also a way to involve a large local audience and bring several international practitioners to Istanbul, including some international schools who became temporary residents of the exhibition spaces, adding to the show and creating new work while there. In this way, the public program sought to expand and amplify the discussions started by A School of Schools.

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A School of Schools is now open

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Performance by Vivien Tauchmann during the press conference of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools. Photo Ilgin Erarslan Yanmaz.

The 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools, has officially opened its doors to the public. The Orientation Days on 20 and 21 September – open to professionals and other accredited visitors – kicked-off an intense series of events and formats, complementing the main biennial exhibition, which extended over six venues in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul. From 22 September to 4 November, A School of Schools will be free and open to the public.

The biennial brings together projects from more than 100 interdisciplinary practitioners from across the globe. Six of the city’s most iconic cultural institutions in the Beyoğlu district—Akbank Sanat, Yapı Kredi Culture Centre, Arter, Pera Museum, SALT Galata, Studio-X Istanbul—will transform into “schools” where new ideas in relation to expanded notions of design and its role in contemporary culture are explored.

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A School of Schools at Milan Design Week

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Overview of ALCOVA just before the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial presentation

The 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools, was present during Milan Design Week with a public presentation that took place at ALCOVA, amidst the School of Time installation by Z33. The director of the Istanbul Design Biennial, Deniz Ova, introduced the ambitions for the event, and the curatorial team – Jan Boelen, Nadine Botha and myself – anticipated some details of the biennial, which will open next 22 September in Istanbul. Additionally, we also announced a collaboration with Z33, who will bring School of Time to Istanbul as part of the biennial. We are looking forward to seeing you all in Istanbul in the Fall!

Atelier LUMA at Palazzo Clerici

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Two of the Atelier LUMA studiolos at the Palazzo Clerici courtyard.

During the 2018 Milan Design Week, Atelier LUMA took over the courtyard of Palazzo Clerici, where, in four different studiolo structures, it presented recent outcomes of the material exploration and research they are actively conducting in Arles, in the South of France. I was happy to have worked on the project’s brochure, which was presented in Milan for the first time, and with a wonderful design by Andrea Anner, will continue to serve as a fantastic visual and conceptual introduction to the large-scale intervention that is taking shape in Arles. If you don’t follow the journey of Atelier LUMA, I warmly invite you to find out more on their website.

Beyond Change

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I’m honored to have been working as a program consultant for the upcoming Beyond Change conference, organized by the Swiss Design Network. It will take place in Basel from 8-10 March, and will focus on socially and politically motivated design, fostering feminist, queer and decolonized perspectives. Within the star-studded and very ambitious program, the conference will include a double session curated in collaboration with the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools, focusing on alternative design pedagogies in the past and today.  I will be moderating those debates alongside Jan Boelen.
It’s been a pleasure to collaborate with the conference organization team, Claudia Mareis, Nina Paim and Sarah Haug, and I’m very much looking forward to attending Beyond Change! Tickets are available here should you wish to do the same.

The 4th Istanbul Design Biennial – A School of Schools

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A mechanism for a model of the motion of a comet. Engraving after B. Martin, courtesy the Wellcome collection.

I’m thrilled to be joining the curatorial team of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial as Associate Curator, alongside Jan Boelen and Nadine Botha. Titled A School of Schools, it is a multi-platform biennial that will use, test, and revise a variety of educational strategies to reflect on the role of design, knowledge, and global connectedness in contemporary Istanbul and beyond.

The first step in the year-long process of the biennial is an Open Call, open to both to learners and schools. For more information you can visit the biennial’s website at aschoolofschools.iksv.org. Hope to see you all in Istanbul in September 2018!

The inception of atelier LUMA

A view of the Algae Lab team in the Camargue wetlands. Photo © atelier LUMA
A view of the Algae Lab team in the Camargue wetlands. Photo © atelier LUMA

The last days of May were marked by the first open house and public presentation of atelier LUMA, a new, experimental project taking place since mid-2016 in Arles with the artistic direction of Jan Boelen. atelier LUMA is a think tank, a production workshop, a learning network and an archive for knowledge and tools of the LUMA Foundation. Based in Arles, in the Camargue region, atelier LUMA wants to co-develop new ways of producing and caring for a city and a bioregion, using design as a tool for transition.

Since 2016 I have been privileged to follow and document this project, as part of the atelier LUMA team. One of the most visible faces of the project, for those who cannot make the trip down to Arles and see the wonderful, large-scale transformation the initiative promotes in the territory, is the website, which I was happy to work on in the last months. I invite you to visit it, learn more and engage with atelier LUMA – and stay tuned for the many fantastic things that will be coming out of Arles.

Designing Everyday Life

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Designing Everyday Life, MAO and Park Books, Zurich 2014

As part of BIO 50, the 23rd Design Biennial in Ljubljana, I edited Designing Everyday Life, a publication that accompanied the six-month collaborative process that was at the core of the event, while simultaneously reflecting on the state of contemporary design and contemporary design events. With contributions by Jan Boelen, Alice Rawsthorn, Justin McGuirk and David Crowley, among others, the book combines essays, interviews and follows the 11 teams that were brought together by BIO 50, from the kick-off to the materialization of their projects. It was truly a pleasure to work on such an ambitious project. Below a few excerpts of praise for the book.

“Rather than a series of product shots – typical of some other biennials – the catalogue has a scrapbook aesthetic that is replete with sketches, email exchanges, Facebook posts and photographs from field trips. It is an honest and meticulous documentation of the processes integral to the development of each project over the six month period.” Anya Lawrence, Disegno

“While the exhibition offers much to stimulate visitors, Boelen’s particular stroke of genius is Designing Everyday Life, the biennial’s companion text. Edited by design writer, Vera Sacchetti, the 534-page text reveals the glorious mess behind the exhibition’s cleanliness. Drawings, prototypes and even posts from Facebook pages illuminate how these processes of research, experimentation and collaboration worked. It’s a fascinating read.” Crystal Bennes, Icon

“By renouncing “iconic” design and focussing on real urgencies in the world, for which viable alternatives were sought and (sometimes) found, BIO 50 sparks the energy that is currently missing in most of the international design fairs. Moreover, the ambitions have landed in a thought-provoking catalogue, which will last as an optimist testimony of new ways of thinking, new ways of working, and new ways of presenting. The BIO 50 biennial proves that design fairs can reclaim the invigorating role they once played, by facing the real urgencies of the world and showing the surprising and on-going potential design has to offer.” Louise Shouwenberg, Dezeen

 

BIO 50: Opening week

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The “Designing Everyday Life” panel during the BIO 50 opening week. Photo Ana Kovač/MAO

The culmination of my work as a Curatorial Advisor for BIO 50 happened in September, with the biennial’s opening week and the unveiling of the results of a six-month collaborative process that involved more than 120 local and international agents. The intense week included the “Designing Everyday Life” panel, in which I moderated a conversation between BIO 50 chief curator Jan Boelen and design critics Alice Rawsthorn and Justin McGuirk, debating the current state of design and design events, apropos the biennial’s accompanying publication Designing Everyday Life. It was truly enjoyable to moderate a conversation among such luminaries. The conversation was lively and engaging, and can be seen fully here.

Z33 debates: mentorship and collaboration


A view of the Z33 debate last 10 April in the Tiepolo Room, Palazzo Clerici, Milan. Photo by Z33

For the 2014 edition of Salone del Mobile, I’ve been invited to contribute to the Z33 Debates – Designing Futures, writing a small text on the future of design education and mentorship. The text informed the debate that happened last 10 April between Aldo Bakker, Rianne Makkink and Jan Boelen, at the Palazzo Clerici, in Milan, and was included in a small publication distributed during the event. Reflecting on the experiences of the kick-off event of BIO 50, I jotted down some notes for the future of design education, which can be read after the jump. Following the debate, I made a small roundup of the event for Z33– watch the video below as well!

 

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BIO50: 3, 2, 1… TEST


The BIO50 group at the Biennial’s kick-off in Ljubljana. Photo by Lucijan & Vladimir

I’m happy and honoured to announce I’m integrating the fantastic effort behind BIO 50, the 2014 Biennial of Design in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I’ll be serving as an advisor to the curatorial team, alongside curator Jan Boelen and co-curators Maja Vardjan and Cvetka Potzar. BIO 50 is reinventing what a design event can and should be in this day and age, moving from an awards-based competition to a full-fledged six month collaborative process. I’m very excited to take part in this groundbreaking initiative. After the jump, the curatorial statement for the project, by Jan Boelen; and I hope to see you at the opening of the Biennale next September in Ljubljana!

Continue reading BIO50: 3, 2, 1… TEST