Saturday, July 16, 2011

'Design is design is not design'

The 2011 Biennale questions essence of design

Design has become an everyday word, but the meaning of the word is still motley and vague.

The 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale will explore the basics of design and the evolution in its paradigm from Sept. 2 to Oct. 23 at Gwangju Biennale Hall and selected locations in the southern city of Gwangju.

The theme of the event is “Design is design is not design.” The riddle-like phrase comes from Chinese philosopher Laozi’s classic text “Tao Te Ching,” which opens with the phrase “The way that is the way is not always the way.”

“This year’s biennale throws out a basic question — what is the fundamental of design and can it improve the quality of life,” architect Seung H-sang, artistic director of the 2011 biennale, said.

Seung added that the 2011 biennale will present a new vision on design, integrating Asian values.

“The concept of design in the 21th century has expanded to relationships between people and place from just beautifying objects. In these changes that time has brought to us, we will cover named, unnamed, placed and unplaced design and the urban ecological system in the biennale,” the art director said.

One hundred and thirty two artworks by 129 artists and 74 companies from 44 countries will be exhibited.

Ai Weiwei, Chinese artist and political activist who co-directs the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale with Seung, will present his work “Field” at the thematic section.

“Field” is an installation composed of porcelain pipes with the pattern of blue and white porcelain from the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). First showcased at the 2010 Art Basel, the work was said to visualize the social conditions of China.

“The blue and white porcelain pattern symbolizes the long tradition of China, while the pipe modules stand for the country’s industrialization and modernization,” an official of the biennale foundation said.

However, Ai will not attend the biennale in person. The human rights activist was held in custody from April to June due to alleged economic criminal charges, but human rights groups all over the world protest his detention.

Co-director Seung said he visited Ai’s studio in Beijing earlier this month and discussed the progress of the event. “We have been officially notified that Ai cannot attend the biennale, but we want him to come to Gwangju and will try to bring him over until September,” Seung said.

Named and unnamed

The biennale is composed of six sections — Thematic, Named, Un-Named, Communities, Urban Follies and Biennale City.

The Thematic section unravels the event’s theme in various ways.

American composer Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky’s “Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica” and “The Nauru Elegies: A Portrait in Sound and Hypsographic Architecture” explore a new understanding of the environment, while Korean landscape designer Kim Ah-yeon and Park Seung-jin promote the interaction between humans and nature through their multimedia piece “Listening to Forest.”

The Named exhibition presents creations of contemporary designers in established fields such as fashion and graphic and industrial design. Ahn Ji-yong and Lee Sang-hwa’s Manifesto Architecture suggests a new way of using space creatively in dense, crowded city through “Bike Hanger.”

The Desertec Foundation of Germany will describe the production and supply route of recycled energy at the “Transcontinental Energy Grid,” while Ghanaian artist Eric Adjetey Anang will design coffins in a Ghanaian way with Korean cultural hues, seeking the connection between death and design.

The Communities exhibition features 38 works form 56 artists and companies, contemplating meaning in placed and unplaced design and production and consumption.

The food community will incorporate 12 food designers from nations including Korea, U.S., Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to investigate the evolution of the community through culinary culture. The on-site community space will hold various lectures and workshops, with the flexibility to change according to the type of event.

Urban Follies, or the Gwangju Folly Project, will build small, ornamental yet iconic landmarks in the old town center to revitalize the area as a cultural center. Renowned architects including Juan Herreros of Spain, Florian Beigel of Germany, Peter Eisenman of the U.S. and Dominique Perrault of France will each build follies.

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