What should one exhibit in South Africa? What can one take to a country that on the one hand is so different and on the other hand has so many parallels to one’s own, both in terms of its new design scene and its production methods? The questions that also need to be asked are: What can Austria learn from South Africa, where can one find inspiration, and how can Austria positively influence the South African design scene without appearing to be there to carry out missionary work?
In the exhibition Design Discourse, social innovations, material innovations, self-production processes, and handicraft traditions were all illustrated with objects. An important theme of the show involved demonstrated how young designers set up their self-production. Another important topic was how these designers engage with the history of design and artisanship in their own country, whether it is the beginnings of industrial production, as with Thonet, or handicrafts like weaving. These were all areas in which the design worlds of both countries have many overlaps and similarities.
It was the flexible, locally producing, small- and medium-sized businesses in particular that were experiencing a renaissance in these ecologically problematic times. They exert a strong influence on today’s emerging design world through the many possibilities, openness, and power of innovation that they offer.
With an exhibition showcasing both South African and Austrian design, it’s not at all about putting on a display of productivity and exhibiting as many objects as possible that will then be shipped halfway round the world afterwards; the show was rather meant to stimulate the players on both the Austrian and South African design scenes to learn from each other, work with each other, and dispel the misconceptions they have about each other. The show was also meant to encourage not only the producers but especially also the designers in both countries to be at times more courageous, creating more colourful or streamlined works, and at others times to be more careful or more relaxed, depending.
The intended intermingling was demonstrated literally by placing South African and Austrian objects together that relate to each other. The objects were displayed equally prominently in the cubicles, which meant that the viewer was compelled to read the descriptions in order to discover which object came from which country. Workshops were also offered in conjunction with the exhibition. At each of them, designers from the two countries were paired together to create in a short time simple objects related to the show. After the exhibition closed in Cape Town, it was taken on the road in Austria so that the dialogue about the two design worlds was continued.
Curator (Design & Concept): Nofrontiere Design
Location: 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town