The exhibition displayed at the designforum Vienna was initially presented in autumn 2014 as part of the World Design Capital Cape Town with a goal of building relationships and influencing the design scene of both countries for a long time to come. ‘What should Austria exhibit in South Africa? What can one bring to a country where design and the production methods associated with it are so different but at the same time demonstrate so many parallels?’ These were the fundamental questions posed at the outset regarding this exhibition.
The show was consciously curated with the rationale that it could function as a dialogue in both directions and should not be seen as merely a presentation of Austrian design. The objects on display addressed such themes as social innovation, material innovation, self-production processes, and traditional artisanship.
The self-production processes was given more space in the exhibition, for they demonstrated how new designers pave the way for a product on their own, without waiting for industry. Another equally important subject was the question of how designers deal with the legacy of design and artisanship in their own country, regardless of whether it is in connection with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, as with Thonet, for example, or with something like the social and aesthetic reinterpretation of weaving; these are all areas in which the design worlds of both countries demonstrate more commonalities than are apparent at first glance.
It is especially the flexible, locally producing, small and medium-sized concerns that are experiencing a renaissance in these ecologically difficult times. With their offering of innovation and openness, they exert a strong influence on the design scene of today.
In a combined exhibition of South African and Austrian design, it was not at all about putting on a display of productivity. Nor was it about judging or the superficial attempt to sell as many objects as possible in the respective other country– and shipping them halfway round the world in order to do so. The goal was to create an exchange of cultures and to provide an opportunity to learn from each other and break down the barriers created by stereotypes. The exhibits were intended not only to inspire producers but especially to allow designers to learn from the example of their counterparts to work at times more boldly, colourfully, simply, carefully, or in a relaxed manner, depending. The intended intermingling was demonstrated literally in the exhibition by placing South African and Austrian objects together that related to each other within a particular context. The objects were displayed equally prominently in the individual cubicles, which means that the visitor was only able to discover which object actually came from which country by reading the descriptions.
In order to promote a direct exchange between designers of each of the two countries, a series of workshops was created, which involved Austrian designers going to Cape Town in the autumn to develop contextual, simple objects together with South African designers. This exchange was continued in Vienna, when two South African designers, Atang Tshikare and Renée Rossouw, joined Valentin Vodev und Julia Landsiedl within the framework of the show to develop and realise a few objects.
The exhibition Design Dialogue was initiated by Austria Design Net.
Curator: Maciej Chmara
Location: designforum Vienna, quartier21/MQ, Museumsplatz 1, A-1070 Vienna
Further information: CHMARA.ROSINKE STUDIO