What does that mean, in design? Awareness is experience, status, knowledge, understood either as a whole or in relation to a selected area of reality. For years, design has been considered in terms of functional and aesthetic awareness. Simply put, the object was supposed to work and look properly. Today these areas are obvious and not worth mentioning. Now we discuss new dimensions of social awareness: ecological, spatial, material, transportational … we can go on forever.
Awareness in design obliges us to ask what the role of design and the designer is? What design can do? In a sense, design speaks less about things, and more and more about the whole processes whose creation involves entire teams, consisting not only of designers, but also experts from the fields of humanities, science and others. Awareness tells us to look back and move forward, and above all to understand that design never exists out of context – human, historical, geographical, social. And nor does it ever exist in isolation. Furthermore, it belongs more and more rarely to only one category – one time it falls in the area of a science, the next in the area of an art.
This year’s main programme for AWARENESS includes three exhibitions: ‘The Future is Stupid‘, prepared by Sven Ehmann; ‘Ways of Seeing‘ by Maria Jeglińska; and ‘Who Are You?‘ by Agnieszka Jacobson-Cielecka and Klara Czerniewska.
In the description of his project, Sven Ehmann, the author and editor of the Gestalten publishing house, writes: “The Future is Stupid is a design exhibition. But it is NOT an exhibition about products, objects, brands, pop star designers, limited editions and status symbols… It is all about design as a tool, as a mindset, an attitude, a process, an approach.” Those who come to the exhibition in search of beautiful items will be amazed, because Ehmann’s exhibition is a collection of inventions and strange ideas – at least on the face of it. In its essence, however, they are things which change the quality of life, the world, and sometimes even the course of history… This exhibition demonstrates that design is not an end in itself, but a means to achieve this change, which requires imagination and courage.
The young designer Maria Jeglińska, a graduate of the famous Swiss ECAL, has already worked with such greats as Konstantin Grcic and Alexander Taylor; in her search for awareness, she has adopted a completely different perspective. Through her objects, she shows how the social changes which we witness and participate in influence the design. The mirror to each of these transformations is the chair, the archetypal object-icon for every designer. It is also a significant subject in discussions about design, because we often repeat that ‘design is not about the beauty of another chair. For Jeglińska, each chair goes hand in hand with another object. Together, in opposition to each other, they illustrate the problems or contrasts of socio-economic phenomena. Global versus local; digital technology versus analogue technology. The curator’s intention is not to build up a category or make a final summary of the phenomena, but to awaken curiosity in the observer, who asks himself questions and will look for the answers.
At first glance, the exhibition ‘Who Are You’ may seem to be a nationalist provocation. It gathers the work of designers for whom the answer to this question is ambiguous. They are Polish emigrants, the children of emigrants, and people who never took the decision to leave, but who live and work outside Polish borders. They have had success there, and here they are unknown. They speak Polish, or they do not. They belong to different generations. If we tried to force them to answer the question ‘Who are you?’ literally, they would be in real trouble. But the curators are not asking the exhibitors about their national identity, but about the their identity of their designs, about the sum of their experiences, which – among many – include being Polish. The implication is that the correct answer to this question is “I am a designer.” What kind of designer and where they come from has no meaning today, because this does not provide any information about how someone designs.