Institution Building

I was thrilled to talk about Institution Building for this podcast hosted by Matylda Krzykowski in the context of the exhibition of the same name currently at CIVA, in Brussels. We talked at length about Archipelago: Architectures for the Multiverse, and how institutions should think about listening, perhaps, before starting to build anything. You can listen above!

Failure is not an option?

The digital programming around the 2020 edition of the Swiss Design Awards was structured around the question: “Failure is Not an Option?”. The program aims to question the idea of failure as a malfunction, embraces the reassessment that the absence of normality permits, and entertains the idea that failure might be a better option. In this context, I was happy to moderate three conversations with design luminaries Aric Chen, Catherine Ince, and Matylda Krzykowski, where we sought to frame the present moment and its challenges.

The first conversation, with Aric Chen, curatorial director of Design Miami, reflected on the digital turn, the progressive focus on local and regional realities, and a plural, decentered future for the design discipline. With Catherine Ince, chief curator of the V&A East in London, we talked about the role of museums after the pandemic, the importance of creating conversations, and how institutions can become revolutionary spaces of care. And with Matylda Krzykowski, curator and designer, we discussed different forms of isolation from the desert to the city, the need to embrace new categories for design and its practitioners, and how young designers can claim their space. Thank you to the Federal Office of Culture and the team lead by Anna Niederhäuser for the invitation!

Foreign Legion at the Vitra Speaker Series

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Foreign Legion portrait by Diana Pfammatter.

It was fantastic to have the opportunity to discuss the Foreign Legion project, which I co-founded with Matylda Krzykowski, at the Vitra Speaker Series. We discussed the ambitions and goals of the project, and how the design industry can spearhead the transformation of the discipline into one that is more inclusive and diverse. Thanks to Vitra for the invite!

Add to the Cake at the Zukunftsforum

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Add to the Cake, the exhibition I curated with Matylda Krzykowski (under our moniker Foreign Legion) came to an end last 3 November. To mark the occasion, we had a panel discussion at the Japanisches Palais in Dresden, in the very room where it all started almost one year ago with the A Woman’s Work symposium.

Within the framework of the Zukunftsforum program, we sat with Thomas Geisler, director of the Museum of Decorative Arts Dresden, Kerstin Flasche, lecturer at the HFKD, and Vivien Tauchmann, designer and researcher, to reflect on the results of one year of work around the theme of the invisibility of female practitioners in design, architecture and the arts. The result has been recorded and can be seen in its totality here – mostly in German.

Foreign Legion at the Porto Design Biennale

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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!

Add to the Cake: Transforming the roles of female practitioners

Add to the Cake: Transforming the roles of female practitionersOn 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

Add to the Cake: Preview

Foreign Legion and Raby-Florence Fofana amidst the scenography developed for Add to the Cake. Photo by  Jenny Peñas for Freunde von FreundenForeign Legion and Raby-Florence Fofana amidst the scenography developed for Add to the Cake. Photo by  Jenny Peñas for Freunde von Freunden.

Following the A Woman’s Work symposium which I organized with Matylda Krzykowski under our Foreign Legion moniker, we were invited to transform the symposium material into an exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Dresden. This was an incredible opportunity to further continue working in the themes first developed in the symposium and allowed us to further test and stretch a commonly known format – the exhibition.

We titled the project Add to the Cake: Transforming the Roles of Female Practitioners, and structured it over the course of two iterations. The first was a preview, in which we worked through the themes discussed in the symposium and presented them in a three-dimensional space, surrounded by the many references, examples and role models discussed on that occasion. This was all presented amidst custom scenographic elements developed by Andrea Anner and Raby-Florence Fofana for the occasion.

The second iteration of the exhibition will open on 5 July, and present a variety of visions for the future of female practice specifically commissioned for the show. Below an excerpt of the curatorial text:

Contemporary cultural constructs have us believe that not everyone can get a fair share of the cake, and that only a limited few can write history. In the case of female practitioners in design, architecture and the arts, their erasure from the history and the memory of their disciplines has been systematic; but in the first two decades of the 21st century, they have regained visibility. In this pivotal moment, female practitioners have the chance to usher in an important transformation for their disciplines.

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 realize that ‘adding’ doesn’t mean ‘taking away’, but that it enriches the existing context with multiple, varied voices and perspectives.  

The exhibition Add to the Cake is an exercise in enacting the kind of transformation that design, architecture and arts are about to experience. It develops over the course of an exhibition, an active public program, and a series of performative moments over the course of six months.

Add to the Cake could not have been developed without the unwavering support of the Museum of Decorative Arts Dresden’s team, especially Nils Hilkenbach. A few installation shots, all by Klemens Renner, can be seen after the jump.

Continue reading Add to the Cake: Preview

Dear gatekeepers

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“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.

The birth of Foreign Legion

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A screenshot of the Foreign Legion website, designed by AnnerPerrin.

This year helped materialize the outcome of many months of conversations and discussions between Matylda Krzykowski and myself, and shaped into Foreign Legion, a new curatorial initiative we launched with the A Woman’s Work symposium. The Foreign Legion website documents our work on design, gender politics and other themes, and the several experimental formats we have developed and will continue to develop. You can also follow the initiative over on Instagram.

Claiming space and enacting transformation

SKD_awomanswork_MG_8138_davidpinzer_1901An 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.”

A Woman’s Work

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The visual identity of the symposium, developed by Andrea Anner.

On the occasion of the exhibition “Against Invisibility – Women Designers at the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau 1898 to 1938”, currently on view at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden, Matylda Krzykowski and I were invited to organize a symposium focusing on female practitioners in design. We organized it under the moniker of Foreign Legion, and called it A Woman’s Work, a symposium on the roles, influence and visibility of female practitioners today.

Taking the exhibition as a starting point, A Woman’s Work examines the contemporary, in order to shed light on the invisibility of the female practitioner as it continues to exist today.

Structured in three parts – ‘Advocates of History’, ‘Enablers of Visibility’ and ‘Dismantlers of Existing Conditions’ – the symposium brings together a wide range of practitioners, scholars, writers, critics and curators based in different parts of Europe, aiming to offer transversal, multigenerational and diverse perspectives on the present and the future of female practice.

Throughout the course of one day – 18 January 2019 –, conversations will take place in a variety of formats, creating platforms for exchange and connection. A Woman’s Work aims to bring women in and around design, art and architecture to the fore, advocating for their visibility to become a permanent condition. We hope to see you in Dresden, and that you will join us in conversation!

TEOK XXIII – SPECTACLE

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TEOK XXIII in full throttle at Depot Basel. Photo Depot Basel

In our latest collaboration with Depot Basel, the twenty-third edition of TEOK was conceived to respond to the theme of SPECTACLE. Presenters Mathieu Bujnowskyj and Alfredo Brillembourg (with his band BINZ) took us on a wild ride from the hills of Burma’s new capital Nay Pyi Taw to Basel’s White Horse Hotel, and it felt like a real celebration within the space’s walls. Thank you to our speakers, hosts and audience – on to the next!

TEOK at the Forum for an Attitude

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An aspect of the Forum 4 – Knowledge. Photo courtesy Depot Basel

I was delighted to represent TEOK at Depot Basel’s initiative Forum for an Attitude. During the 4th iteration of the Forum, with the topic “Knowledge”, I gave a lecture on the many different ways of knowing that we encounter in life, and how the development of TEOK allowed us to further our definitions of what we know and what we think we know. It was great to spend some time with the fantastic participants of the Forum and enhance my understanding of knowledge over the weekend. Thanks to Depot Basel and Matylda Krzykowski for the invitation!