The Atomization of a Ring

Captura de pantalla 2018-06-15 a la(s) 13.01.03

In her Ph.D. thesis, Chiara Pignotti defines contemporary jewelry as:

 

"… an artistic phenomenon that was born in Europe, after the Second World War,

from the field of traditional jewelry, thanks to the willingness of some goldsmiths to renew

the jewelry language towards the free expression of the artist. As we will see, the communicative

potentials of the materials and the jewel were experienced as a significant object,

seeking new formal and sensory relationships with the body ".

 

Although we have a contemporary or author jewelry history in Mexico, anchored in the 1970’s with artists such as Víctor Fosado and Ana Pellicer, the fact is that little has been discussed on the subject in recent decades, and barely a group of artists and designers are approaching the phenomenon from their trenches. Such is the case of Poleta Rodete, who four years ago founded her own brand Rodete, which in addition to opening up to the commercial and design scene, has also established a research and experimentation platform from where she has managed to access other markets and conceptual investigations.

 

The Atomization of a Ring is the most visible and significant project of this research that Rodete started a long time ago and that places her in the field of contemporary jewelry. Which assumes the author’s position; unique pieces, portable but with stories and concepts behind.

 

The project consisted of a long process of conceptualization, planning, and execution that was born thanks to Young Creators FONCA Scholarship that Rodete won in 2016. This exhibition is finally the summary of almost two years of work and denotes the scope of the contemporary jewelry and the tenacity of the artist.

 

This text seeks to talk about the planning and process of the central piece, and I can do it with real knowledge. Besides having been Rodete’s tutor during her Young Creators development, I was present the day –mythical and unforgettable– of the atomization of the ring… The exhibition, however, is a separate project… It is the result of all those months of work, is the already digested material, thought and processed for an observing audience, eager to understand the different processes of the author's jewelry.

 

Divided into four themes –Matter, Mountain, Atomization, Social Body and Body and Jewelry–, the exhibition narrates the artist's process to generate a project, a discourse and a series of pieces that oscillate between sculpture and author's jewelry and that anchor their essence among the art and design worlds.

 

From the beginning, Rodete opted to work with hard but porous stones, with history and memory and able to submit to the most incredible transformations without losing their materiality. This project is not the exception. She chose a massive piece of marble that turned into a large format ring able to roll, break, manipulate and transform.

 

As well as when making designer jewelry it should be thought the portability and the size of the body, in this project the human scale and the consideration of the body were necessary. Matter and emptiness (in the center of the ring) were required, as they complemented and dialogued with each other.

 

Tracing the route for its destruction was another process. Finding the land, measuring geography, calculating variables according to the slope and speed were also tasks to consider and in which Rodete sought the advice of specialists. Finally, the day arrived. About two dozens of people joined the artist in the hard day. Transporting the ring to the distant location, arriving, placing it, pushing it and hoping for the best. It did not take much, just a few meters in fall and Pum!, the ring exploded into pieces. Then came the forensic and almost archaeological work. Finding the pieces, pointing them out, numbering them, and cataloging them in the artist's studio to define their future. Some would be transformed into jewels, others into sculptures, others would remain immutable as remnants of the action, records of the moment, inert, impassive, eternal.

 

And this is when a second moment begins. The piece is activated and resignified when the community intervenes. That one that had remained static and observer now had to walk downhill and look for the remains, locate them and identify them. An action that by integrating the collectiveness becomes a social sculpture. The ring, instead of being used by a body, becomes part of the collective, of the action.

Later, the remains return to the artist to be transformed –with all that symbolic and emotional charge– into sculptures and jewels that contain stories and meanings that with the contact with the public and/or the user will mutate again.

 

Rodete continually transgresses borders; understands, exploits and manipulates those gray areas between disciplines: the expanded field of art design and sculpture itself. This exhibition is the recount of an action but also the beginning of a new moment of resignification, when those pieces leave the gallery to be worn in a body or occupy a space in a remote place and only then, be witnesses first and protagonists afterwards, of new anecdotes and narratives.

 

Guilherme Wentz: less as luxury

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Guilherme Wentz can be described as one of the contemporary rising designers in Brazil.  After leaving business school, he graduated as a Product Designer from the Universidade de Caxias du Sul in Brazil, worked for the luxurious company Riva and opened his own studio. Wentz’s work can be best defined as simple, yet unconventional, searching for the true essence of things.

 

Mariana Loaiza (ML): In an oversaturated world, where we receive stimuli everywhere we go, seeing your work it’s like taking a pause to catch a breath. When I first saw one of your pieces I thought: “This is what subtraction looks like” Where did this desire for simplicity come from? And is it really a desire, or more of a necessity?

 

Guilherme Wentz (GW): I am very honored to hear this from you. I started studying product design when I decided to quit business school and all the corporate plans I had made for myself during my youth. Back at the time I was starting to surf and to connect with nature in a way I had never experienced before. The lightness, the silence and the connection with nature are things I decided to take for my life and what I hope to express through my work. I would say it is a necessity for me in the present world and I believe there are people out there who wish the same.

 

ML: You have continuously voiced your desire to live in a simpler world, and by researching your work I clearly understand how you’ve successfully translated this into beautiful objects.  But how does the concept of simplicity apply to other areas beyond objects? Lets say, industry, design education, design practice, etc?

 

GW: I once read: “simplicity is complexity resolved”. It may be a cliché, but it is how we face things. Simplicity doesn’t mean lack of effort to progress, but searching for the right answers and the essence of things. Once we are inside the design world, just like in any field of work, we tend to make it more complicated than it was supposed to be. Choosing better partners, superior materials, simpler (yet not conventional) production processes, ethic distribution channels and honest communication are small things that can build a simpler world, or at least a simpler design world.

 

ML: As a young designer trained in Brazil and having worked internationally, do you think design education, both inside and outside Brazil, is training young students to respond accurately to the needs of the outside world? Is design education still relevant?

 

GW: It is relevant indeed. But the education in Brazil, just as its market, tends to import old models, which once worked in another country. Unfortunately, I may say, my country teaches what to think, and not how to think. And this is what makes me feel behind the rest of the world when I face projects from other countries, which have a deeper meaning. I believe other nations are thinking deeper about science, culture and design than we are right now. On the other hand, I feel the local market is growing up fast and with globalization we may (or just need to) have some progress in design education.

 

ML: You worked with big companies and national industry, while also having your own studio. What would you say is the roll of a designer when working with big companies? From your perspective, what is the place of design inside Brazilian, or international industry?

 

GW: I started as a designer inside a company and I am still working with different companies since then. When designing for other brands you have to leave your ego behind and focus in the company ‘s strategy. I try to immerse myself in the brand and design with its mind. Also, it is a great opportunity to learn business, clients and new processes. The way I approached the other companies’ projects lead me to founding my own brand, to have a platform where I could test more freely my design perspectives.

 

ML: As a designer living in Mexico sometimes it’s hard to clearly define what Mexican design is, or should be. Do you think Brazil has a defined voice style-wise? And how do you differentiate yourself from it? Is it even important?

 

GW: I see every designer talking about local identity all the time. It may be important when you think about global market, but it is very hard to really innovate from this perspective. When you think that way it is easy to fall into clichés and repeat what designers did in the last century. My strategy is to just forget about it. Think about contemporary people needs and desires. And in the end, it may look Brazilian because I am here, but if it doesn’t, that is ok too.

 

Design as a dialogical process. Interview with Jamer Hunt

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Jamer Hunt is one of the most analytic and critic design researchers today. His theoretical work has fostered the idea that the design practice is an exercise that not only requires the involvement of other disciplines but also the active participation of all agents that are part of the design process. In his opinion, both the citizen and the designers are able to demand and envision new futures.

 

1. If we think design as a triad, defined by the designer, the design (object/product/idea) and the user or consumer, is it also possible to conceive the discipline as a communication system by analogy: sender-message-recipient?

 

While the analogy makes some sense, I think what we’re seeing more and more in design is that the communication channel is bi-directional. That is, while we still have brilliant designers designing artifacts for a consuming public, we also have the emergence of design platforms that allow the consumer to become a co-producer of the finished product. That opens all kinds of fascinating questions for how we design, what constitutes the final product, and who can even be credited with the design. New means of production and dense networks for communication have the potential to refashion the way we make things.

 

2. How does the process of design must be conceived?

 

I always think of design as a dialogical process. What distinguishes the designer from the artist or craftsperson is that the designer is typically working in direct relationship to the needs of the client and/or the consumer, rather than simply giving form to personal expression. That constraint, to me, is what gives design both its essence and its great, inherent tension.

 

 

3. Education is a key part of how the discipline is thought or executed. I mean, the schools play a fundamental role with regard to the objects of the future, which will have a real impact in societies. What kinds of schools are necessary to educate or to form the designers who will be designing (and defining) the future?

 

We need to develop schools that somehow balance form-giving with critical thinking —aesthetics with social and environmental intelligence—. The idea of the designer a simply a form-giver or executor of industry’s needs is evolving. But the balance is extremely difficult to achieve. I see lots of design projects that look great but are completely superfluous to intense social and environmental pressures; but I also see a lot of projects that respond to those pressures but that are often underwhelming formally. The problem is that students need to learn so much —aesthetics, history, user centered strategies, materials, form-making, sustainability, ergonomics, materials science, programming, supply chain, manufacturing, 3D modeling, filmmaking, and so on— that schools are challenged to deliver such a multi-dimensional experience. Being a designer today is like walking a tightrope, and this makes education an even more complicated endeavor.

 

 

4. From your experience as a professor and considering your own educational proposal at Parsons, how transdisciplinary design should be understood?

 

The premise of the Transdisciplinary Design program at Parsons was simple: how can we use design address large-scale, complex problems that go beyond disciplinary boundaries? But while it was easy to state, the mission is very hard to deliver. The program is still evolving. There is a heavy emphasis on collaboration with experts and stakeholders of all kinds, first and foremost, but also an equal emphasis on moving beyond the design of artifacts to consider systems. The challenge, though, is how do we redesign systems? They are often ephemeral, complex, nonlinear, and multi-scalar. While we still need great programs that teach traditional design approaches —graphics, products, architecture, fashion, landscape, etc.— we also felt that there was a need to develop an experimental program that could open up the question of design and explore the limits of its application.

 

5. Although each territory has its own particularities, in a moment like this, affected by economic, political, social and humanitarian crisis, what kind of design does society need? Or what kind of designers does the society need?

 

We need designers who know how to collaborate, structure systems of participation for complex processes, be responsive to feedback, and give vivid form to alternative visions of how we might live.

 

6. In the last years some practices such as digital design, 3D, DIY, etc. have become more important as part of design processes, even though some of that practices aren’t new at all. What kind of changes do you observe about the manufacture? Is it possible to talk about a third industrial revolution?

 

I think we have to distinguish tools from processes in order to understand the impact of these changes. Tools allow us to do the same things in new ways, and they can be sources of innovation. 3D modeling and printing, for instance, replicate in some ways sketching and model-making. But they also have new affordances and can produce new ideas through experimentation. But I’m more intrigued by new processes of making things. For me, what’s still most intriguing about the next phase of production is that it might look more like biology than mechanics or technology. At a time when we need to be thinking in radical ways about resources, resource distribution, and planetary futures, we must start to edge closer to making things in more biological ways. That is, with zero waste or carbon impact and fully re-usable or biodegradable. Anything else, to me, is just more of the same, and we can no longer afford more of the same. 

 

7. What about consume? Besides of the social, economic or political issues, the transformations of the discipline are also related with the way we get related with design.

 

The consumer is in a vastly different position today than even twenty years ago. First, because there is so much attention to design, and second because there are more processes that can now include the consumer at the level of design, production, consumption and re-use. What I think we need to see is greater demand for lightness—for the luxury of being free of objects, free of waste, free of distraction, and free of guilt. Consumers will need to redefine luxury in these ways, as many have pointed out, if we’re going to actually radically rethink our cultural practices. This does not mean becoming a luddite! Sharing instead of owning a car, for me, is a new form of luxury. Unplugging for a week is a new form of luxury. Spending time with family and friends is a luxury. If we’re going to avert hyper-consumptive patterns and self-destructive practices we need all citizens to demand new ways of living and designers to help to envision those.

 

 

Jamer Hunt is the Director of the MFA Transdiciplinary Design program at Parsons The New School for Design. Hir research practices has explored the design as a mean for exploring the politics and poetics of the everyday life. One of her main interests is analyze and think industrial design in relation with different fields of knowledge, from anthropology to biology. Hunt is editor of the Transdisciplinary Design journal, y as well as author of key essays such as Unnatural Capital: Bataille Beyond Design (Design Philosophy Papers, 2009), Just re-do it: Tactical Formlesssness and Everyday Consumption (Strangely Familiar, ed. Andrew Blauvelt), A Manifesto for Postindustrial Design (I.D. Magazine), or Prototyping the Social: Temporality and Speculative Futures at the Intersection of Design and Culture (Design Anthropology, ed. Alison Clark).

 

 

The Interstice Fashion

"Los diseños fueron realizados específicamente para este evento pero de inmediato atrajeron la mirada de coleccionistas y del Museum of Arts en Boston, que ahora cuenta con dos de estas prendas de protesta".

With the aim of approaching design from a broader perspective, this essay approximates fashion as a practice whose dynamics and effects transcend the material and aesthetic character of clothing. How is design practice understood in fashion? How does it affect the different spheres of society?           

 

I. Fashion as design

 

Clothing, the ornament that also protects, a trick that stimulates the construction of identity, differentiating and at the same time homogenizing. It is the raw material of fashion, the branch of incredibly significant design, which has not been analyzed enough in comparison with architecture or industrial design. This is particularly strange for an element that is part of the everyday life of many societies; even in indigenous populations, clothing is equally important as part of their social rituals. One of the reasons is its more familiar facet, elitism, which for the discourses of academia and journalism has degraded the most interesting aspects of the aesthetic and creative manifestations of the discipline.

 

In the 40’s, the American architect and designer Bernard Rudofsky looked at this abyss with an exhibition named Are Clothes Modern? at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The aim of the exhibition was to explore design and not the designers, as well as the intersections between individual and collective relations through clothes in the context of the Second World War. More than six decades later, Paola Antonelli, curator of the Department of Architecture and Design, wrote in her blog that maybe that was the only moment when an institutionalized space had a serious approach to the discipline. Thus, in 2017 the opening of Items: Is Fashion Modern? was announced, an exhibition that will explore the present, the past and the future of 111 fashion pieces that have had an important impact on history. Like the Levi’s 501, the watch Casio and the Little black dress. In some cases, the item will be unfolded in a new prototype commissioned to different designers.

 

But since Rudofsky provocative question, Are clothes modern?, further inquiries have been made on the inner spheres of fashion, an industry that annually moves millions of bodies and dollars. Just this year, Chanel announced they will support a gallery at the Palais Galliera, in Paris. The gallery was originally built in the 18th century to show important names of the haut couture, as well as themes of the time, but now for the first time will have a permanent collection.

 

In Latin America the documented trail of fashion exhibitions is blurred. However we know that fashion, as always, has followed the impulses of its social, political and economic environment. In 2015, Mexican curator Ana Elena Mallet illustrated this in the exhibition The Art of Clothing and Fashion in Mexico. 1940-2015, presented at Centro Cultural Banamex in Mexico City.

 

Another question hovered above the costumes of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, the clothing of some indigenous communities, the shadows of Ramón Valdiosera or Henri de Chatillon, and also more contemporary pieces by Carla Fernández or Pineda Covalín: What do we talk about when we talk about Mexican fashion? Although the traces of the past are a way to reflect on it, much more remains to be explored in more recent and less “intentional” Mexican manifestations.

 

Perhaps, the identity is somewhere else, far from this map. The truth is that, lately, fashion has become more and more present in museums. Although its rhythm escapes our hands (and our wallets), its tensions with other disciplines are beginning to be recognized as mediums for interpretation.

 

II. Clothing in front of society

 

The designs that we wear design the societies we inhabit. Recently, Swedish brand H&M, known for its low costs, announced that it will have a unisex line called Denim United. It is a collection of 19 denim garments that will explore the traditional silhouettes of genres to present a panorama of inclusive options.

 

The project is not surprising, just over a year after Zara –European and world king pin of fast fashion– created its capsule collection Ungendered with a shared wardrobe between men and women. However, the big stores have not had a revelation by themselves. The new “neutral gender” products respond to latent social trends studied by marketers, which follow the direction of new interests emerging from the most recent impulses of social and political movements in the world.

 

It is also the case with the reactions to the threats against civil rights of the new administration of the United States. Many designers have openly responded to Donald Trump facing migrant vetoes or misogynistic comments, such as the Autumn-Winter 2017 collection of Ashish Gupta. On his runway the faces of the models were painted with what looked like wrestling masks. Furthermore, in one of the sweaters of the collection was printed the phrase “More Glitter, Less Twitter”, an allusion to Trump’s habit of doing politics through comments in social media.

 

On the other hand, in late January, the Mexican designer Carla Fernández showed a series of wearable banners at the Women’s March in Washington to represent the expressions of the people who where part of the contingent. The designs where made specifically for this event, but immediately attracted the eye of collectors and the Museum of Arts in Boston, which now owns two of these protest pieces.

 

Beyond denunciation, some of the Mexican fashion and design proposals walk towards alternative models of subsistence. In the midst of an impossible scenario in the country, artisans and emerging designers have set up at itinerant bazaars taking place, notably in Mexico City, with examples such as La Lonja Mx, Caravana Americana, Rooftop Sale, Tráfico Bazar or Bazar Local.

 

Some of the fashion and design proposals they exhibit, like the illustrations or the vintage garments of Taquicojocoque, MiTu shoes or Dulce Armenta swimwear, have a charm that retailers without a doubt would like to clone, although the quality may vary. The truth is that from the difficulty to enter commercial spaces of high distribution has emerged a party, a place that seeks buying and selling through tricks like music, alcohol, sometimes tattoos and seductive food that also has its own design concepts –like Alien Taco or Pizzatánicos–. This gives the user the value of the experience at the time of consumption, a resource that any brand aimed at the millennial public pursuit without much luck.

 

II. Fashion: a reflection of its time

 

For Hegel, no man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spirit. To think about the zeitgeist[1] in fashion is to be attentive to the crosses between clothing, technology, work, the media and many other spheres.

 

Let’s take the example of Van Herpen’s haute couture. Each piece is an example of cutting-edge technology, futuristic architecture and sometimes a post-apocalyptic reflection of the body. The Dutch designer is one of the most visionary creators in the industry because of her constant expansion of the boundaries of fashion design. Her work combines the most traditional tailoring techniques with the most unsuspected materials for the construction of the garments, infiltrating transdisciplinary methods to achieve this. Beyond haut couture, it is about a “new couture”, as she prefers to call the interstice from which she designs.

 

Currently, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York hosts an exhibition dedicated to the life and work of Rei Kawakubo, founder of Comme des Garçons and one of most proactive names in fashion. Her experimentations with silhouettes are frankly revolutionary due to their construction based on the tensions between fashion and anti-fashion, design and anti-design, present and past, self and other, clothing and nudity. Let us recall her autumn-winter collection of 2004. The sleeve becomes a decorative element, cut and altered in different forms, with Victorian references that at the same time could be the fashion of a utopian future. Unconventional colors, shapes, rhythm and beauty; is this revolutionary design? Kawakubo answered this in an interview saying she never wanted to start a revolution.

 

In spite of the catalogues, press releases and quotes from their creators, the clothes speak for themselves. They also keep their silence and, above all, make you pay attention. From the most authorial garment to a piece of fabric woven by an indigenous woman on the sidewalk, design thinking operates at an instinctive level, always aligned with the whispers of the language its time.

 

 

 


[1] Coined by the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel, the zeitgeist is a concept that refers to the spirit that characterizes and defines an era.
 

Design: a system of relations

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If after the Industrial Revolution the purpose of the industry was the object, at present a design eye has been placed in the system. Facing times like ours, governed by social, economic, humanitarian and ecological crises, which draw critic panoramas at every turn, design practice has begun to rethink its state and its function. More than a fashion and a novelty, it is about an urgent necessity that has been developed for over more than a decade with the aim of being embedded –and not only influenced– in the complexities of the real environment.

 

It is known that the objective of design is to solve problems. But is it just that? Traditionally designers understand their practice in the broadest sense, and they have been educated by a premise that is a legacy of Modernity: product on demand. The dynamic was simple, a limiting methodology that undoubtedly has defined the shape of the world: a client asks, a designer makes, a user consumes. Thus, industrial designers produced chairs; architects, buildings, and the fashion designers, clothes. No more, no less.

 

Exceptions exist, many, but the rule has reigned. During a large part of the 20th century the result has been the most important thing. The current context, however, requires designers that transcend their role as producers to become agents. In order to achieve this, Nigel Snoad[1] says that the eye has to be reoriented, paying more attention to the systems and less to the artifact. If design makes tangible the previously imagined, why not think in what it detonates and then result in an object?

 

In his essay “Systems Design: Working with Change” (The Journal of Design Strategies, 2010) Snoad explains the ancestral tradition of designing life as if it were a standard and fixed model that can be controlled. Now, the effects of this understanding are more visible: with today’s increasing speed of change, not only are more and more bridges being built between individuals and parts of the system, they are being broken down and rebuilt far quicker than ever before. So much for our ability to map, control, and predict outcomes. […] Most services, unfortunately, are designed for a simple world with a small number of neighbors.

In reality, life as a citizen is much more complex.

 

Snoad distinguishes the conventional sense of the system as a group of immovable rules that “subjugate” us from the idea of a system formed by “individuals interacting with each other”, i.e. the society. More importantly, designing for the systems has a key proposition: bet for change. How? Leaving aside the final result to focus on a process of multiple relationships of all orders. 

 

With this in mind, we seek to explore the design practice as a profession that does not enclose itself in the margins of its own discipline, and the role of designers today as agents that, for better or worse, triggers a series of possibilities with their proposals. Thus, thinking of industrial design beyond the product, fashion beyond clothes and architecture beyond buildings. In other words, design in relation to its social, human, political and economic implications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Nigel Snoad is product manager for Google’s Crisis Response team, and advisor to the ICT4Peace foundation, dedicated to design strategies and solutions in case of crisis.

 

México Ciudad Diseño / Mexico City as World Design Capital?

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What does Mexico City has in common with cities like Turin, Seoul, Helsinki, Cape Town or Taipei? All have been named World Design Capital. Anything else? Let's do a little exercise: imagine the best conditions of what was once the Distrito Federal, remember its best areas, review its best projects of urban and social design, and respond based on the first impression: is it a well designed city?

 

The meaning of wide judgments, such as “good” –or “bad”– is as relative as the implications of a general name such as “World Design Capital”. The truth is that there is a big distance between Mexico City and Seoul that stands beyond the imaginary.

 

On October 29, 2015, the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) designated Mexico City as the 2018 World Design Capital. More than a year after the news broke, and in the midst of unfortunate government projects, such as the Corridor Cultural Chapultepec or the Centro de Transferencia Modal (CETRAM) in the same area, the title continues to be questioned. Yes, the capital, as a good centralized territory, enjoys an interesting design scene. "Vibrant," it is said. But there is a long way to go to be a model.

 

It is not fortuitous that the appointment comes in the days of Miguel Angel Mancera, who has been determined to transform the capital into a brand city, such as New York or Paris. The new CDMX logo and advertising strategies around the new name are just a few examples of the political uses of design. For its part, both the title and the paraphernalia around the World Design Capital recalls the absurd stubborness of considering Mexico City as the "New Berlin", which, judging by a couple of texts[1], seems to be held in a bubble where there are a number of art galleries, museums and trendy restaurants.

 

It seems that the same thing happens in terms of design. No, we are not Berlin, not Turin, Helsinki, or Seoul. According to ICSID, the designation of World Design Capital "is awarded every two years to [different] cities based on their commitment to use design as an effective tool for social, economic and cultural development." Let's go back to the initial exercise, what design projects come to mind in this context? It is not enough having colored structures, arranged without any sense on the sidewalk, to park your bicycle. Neither are the zebra steps with the figure of a dog suggesting an "inclusive" design, or LED lighting around a pedestrian circuit to "favor" the night view of the runners.

 

The ICSID adds: "Mexico City will serve as a model for other megacities around the world that face challenges of urbanization and that use design thinking to ensure a safer and more livable city. Beyond the extreme inequality that runs between central and peripheral colonies, at ground level or underground, problems of violence and insecurity, terrible traffic, pollution… Is design beyond all that? Or what design makes Mexico City a "model" and is used to make the "city safer and more habitable"?

 

Other perspectives are possible. The appointment is useful to think about the implications and discuss the challenges and possibilities of designers in such a complex context, but also to celebrate the diversity of local design. Facing the situation, Mario Ballesteros, director of Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura, raises a series of questions with the exhibition México Ciudad Diseño, which far from approaching the territory as a brand, anlyzes different moments of design as a discipline and a tool with the power to generate changes: "What makes a design capital? What implications does this nomination have for an overcrowded urban agglomeration […]? How can we, through design, shorten the tremendous gaps that persist in all areas of our daily lives? "

 

From the approaches and the proposal of the exhibition, other questions arise from this flank: Can Mexico City be a design capital? For Mario Ballesteros the questions are: "What can Mexico City offer in terms of design culture? What makes us different from other global creative cities? To what extent is our production better, worse, or different from what is produced elsewhere? And one more, how can you consolidate design as a tool of positive change for the inhabitants of this city, even for those who have no specific interest in design?

 

On the other hand, Cecilia León de la Barra, from her perspective as a designer and critic, believes that the nomination will allow "people to see, talk, learn or demand design". The title's character, however, can not be left: "It's between marketing and business. But in the end, we must take advantage of its benefits. If we can host the Olympic Games or the World Cup, we can be the [World Design] Capital. There is already design, it is already a capital". In another context, beyond the program of activities of the project, for Ballesteros "what is interesting is what represents 2018 as a conjuncture. 50 years after the Olympic Games and Tlatelolco, in an election year, which is sure to be politically convulsive, 2018 will be an interesting moment to see what design can do for us as a city, society and culture."

 

It is time to overcome the ideals of decoration, to bet on the power of form. A rebellious design is needed in Mexico. "It will be fundamental that design (and designers) come out of its bubble, shake off its superficiality and elitism, embrace the street, approach non-designers, to the millions of people for whom design is not a blessing, a pleasure that can be given or a luxury, but a burden among many others because it is insufficient or deficient. Bad design affects us as much or more as good design. And in this city, the most basic design problems (infrastructure, transportation, accessibility, health, housing, etc.) are the order of the day".

 

While designers have shaped the world with their vision, its power as a tool is a continual rethinking. And that is, perhaps, the opportunity that brings the title of Design Capital. For León de la Barra, "Mexico City has its own requirements: it has a terrible traffic theme, but it is also present in other cities. It does not mean that it is the only one and it is badly designed. Design does not save the world, but it can improve these problems”. However, she adds that designers also have a role as citizens,"it is a social question, of how the human being, the individual or the citizen first observes, analyzes the problem and then proposes changes. They are small acts that try to make improvements. "

 

The subject of education is drawn between answers. It is not surprising. It is inevitable if we think that schools are responsible for training the professionals of the future, who will not only create beautiful objects but will have to make a commitment to their environment. The power of design is largely associated with its role: "[that power] depends on the focus and weight given to the notion of design. If we stay with the traditional definition of school, design as a stylist or 'author signature', its power and relevance to deal with the challenges ahead, as a city, would be absolutely despicable. "

 

As an academic, León de la Barra believes that there is a theme of education that is fragmented: "In classes, sometimes we focus on doing things more than solving social problems. Inside the classroom is very difficult to live them, you have to go outside and observe. It is not bad that in school we teach how to create objects or things that seem superficial, it is a warm-up to contribute later with something much bigger. Communication between areas is another matter: if the student does not know that there is a social problem, how will he solve it?"

 

So far, the title of Mexico City as the World Design Capital has at least put up to discussion a topic that is necessary and urgent in Mexico: the social responsibility of design. Faced with a collaboration between designers and the government, Mario Ballesteros and Cecilia León de la Barra agree: although efforts have been made, more communication between the two sectors is needed to achieve a common good.

 

México Ciudad Diseño also proposes a reading that covers the past and the present of local design. Ballesteros points out that it is necessary "an open, critical and informed view. It is fundamental to know the history of the profession, specially the broad and material culture of design, to learn to question it and to have a (self) critical stance". For León de la Barra," designers must appropriate tradition and not intend to go back or repeat the clichés of the past. It's about going forward to take ownership of yourself plus the one next door. "

 

Design has a long tradition in Mexico and its present looks promising. The discipline has been projected in our territory in its broadest expression: industrial or graphic design, for example, enjoy a good momentum. Not to mention architecture, which also responds to problem solving. In all three areas, architects or designers from different generations have given Mexico City an important symbolic value. To review them in these lines does not grant justice as it seeks to do México Ciudad Diseño, which turns the idea of "Design Capital" to show and highlight the projects that are given in this geography, understanding design not as a final object, but as a process that has an impact in all areas of everyday life.

 

In times like these, the title is a excuse to dialogue and analyze what design needs. Less speech, more action. The current state of the city requires it.

 

 

 


[1] https://amuse-i-d.vice.com/why-everyone-is-moving-to-mexico-city/

 

Cristina Grajales: Passion for Latin American Design

Cristina Grajales es una de las principales galeristas de diseño en el mundo.

Cristina Grajales is one of the most important patrons of Latin American design working as a broadcaster and promoter of the discipline. Her passion for the great masters of the 20th century propelled her to become a pioneer in promoting designers from this region in a time when the spotlight fell on European design.

 

Ángulo Cero conversed with the gallerist and patron about her current interest in Latin American design, and the importance of her work in this sector.

 

1.- Design collecting has increased in past decades. What significant changes have you witnessed since you opened your gallery 20 years ago? What do you think fuels this growing interest?

 

The greatest changes I’ve observed are lead primarily by the large amount of publications, blogs and programs devoted to design. The sum has contributed in broadcasting projects and educating the public.

 

2.- As a gallerist you are also driven by an interest in seeing education as an exercise, yet this is an uncommon relationship. How do you conceive an educational aspect in the context of a commercial gallery?

 

Education, for me, has always been a key part of the business. In 2002 I created a project that revolved around conversations on design for 92Y, which was called “Dialogues with Design Legends.” It was a rousing success, mainly because the idea was to create a democratic design program that included everyone, not just experts, but also the students, housewives and other professionals.

 

3.- While acknowledging the different parts that are involved in the discipline what is the importance of an education on design?

 

The purpose of my conversations regarding different branches of design was to share with the public the creation, inspiration, technical and end product processes.

 

4.- Do you think acquiring a profound knowledge on design will impact the way we consume it?

 

My gallery was the first to show an interest in Latin American design. We began with the great Brazilian masters of the 20th century, such as: Joaquim Tenreiro, Oscar Niemeyer, Lina Bo Bardi, Sergio Rodríguez, Lucio Costa and Roberto Burle Marx, a genius in garden design. Afterwards we began to work with Jorge Lizarazo and his great textiles enterprise Hechizoo in Colombia. It was a rocky start, especially when speaking of a Colombian company and textiles; at the time, there was a lot of prejudice regarding my country. By peddling education and by presenting pieces in a different context we convinced our clients that Hechizoo was worth their time. Now, 14 years later, their pieces are part of collections owned by Cooper Hewitt and the Museum of Art and Design in New York. Later we began to work with the Chilean artist Sebastián Errazuriz, the Paraguayan Pedro Barrail, the Colombian sculptress Alexandra Agudela and Gloria Cortina from Mexico.

 

5.- Slowly but surely Latin American design has began to set its own path in the international spotlight in both commercial and reflective terms. Knowing that including all Latin American design is a foolish endeavor, how do you perceive the performance of this discipline in the region?

 

In the last few years and especially since our clients have begun seeing our pieces, not only at our gallery but also in world renowned art and design fairs, people have begun to build trust and a discerning eye for these pieces.

 

The caliber of designers emerging from Latin America is fantastic. As an example, we are very excited about the opening of a new exhibition by Gloria Cortina in November. She is an outstanding woman with a world of knowledge not only on design but also about her country. What is fascinating about these creators is that they no longer gaze at Europe for inspiration, they are now confident enough to look and study the culture of their own countries, not in a folkloric way, but in a highly refined way. This medley between disciplines is what has taken gallerists, curators and collectors by storm. It shows originality and it is a new market dynamic.

 

6.- Aside from the many strengths of new proposals in Latin American design, collecting has not taken the region. On the one hand, the buying/collecting culture is nonexistent and on the other hand, there are very few galleries dedicated in broadcasting the work of Latina American designers. For this reason many creators seek the support of galleries abroad, mainly in London and New York. How can new pathways be created for Latin American design?

 

To be honest, design in Latin America is a fairly new discipline. It is true that at the moment there isn’t a network of good galleries and collectors to support this market, but it grows each year.

 

8.- The relationship between art and design is a complicated subject that has been exhausted, and yet it’s still relevant. In your experience, how has this relationship been transformed and how has it been conceived in these past decades?

 

Personally, I have fought industriously to breakdown the barriers between art and design. It is all about education and perception. We have pieces, like Sebastián Errazuriz’s furniture, that shifts easily between both disciplines. Three years ago we had a marvelous example, it happened during Design Miami in Basel. In our booth we had a collection of chairs inspired by the Occupy Movement. The next day I traveled to Finland where the same collection was being exhibited in Camouflage at the Museum of Art in Helsinki. Two different events, and yet the same collection was exhibited; one was a design fair, and the other a museum.

 

9.- How do you think current society relates to design?

 

Everyone is fascinated by design; it has become ingrained into our lives and today’s public has become conscious of how to live in harmony with it.

 

10.- Design in the 21st century is:

 

Freedom.

 

The upcoming exhibiton of her gallery, Gloria Cortina: From Within will travel to Mexico City in February 2017 on view at Galeria de Arte Mexicano.

__

 

Cristina Grajales is one of the first gallerists in the world of design, with 20 years of experience under her belt. Since the opening of her own gallery (Cristian Grajales Gallery) in New York she is known for her expertise on Modern and Contemporary design, becoming a patron and supporter of the work by creators such as: Pedro Barrail, Hechizoo Textiles, Tabor & Villalobos, Sam Baron and Alexandra Aguduel, among others. In 2001 she created a program called “Dialogues with Design Legends,” which has become a textbook example on the relationship between education and design collecting.  

New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America

A0 Artículo 6, from the series Artículo 6- Narratives of gender, strength and politics, 2012-2014  Lucia Cuba

After its run in the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York, New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America has finally arrived to the Amparo Museum in Puebla (Mexico.) Pieces from roughly 75 designers, artists, craftsmen and collectives are displayed around ten rooms. MAD curators, Lowery Stokes Sims and William & Milded Landon, organized this exhibition. The project is the result of an extensive collaboration between a committee that includes: Regine Basha, Marcella Echevarría, Susana Torrellas Leval, Ana Elena Mallet, Nessie Leonzini Pope, Mari Carmen Ramírez, Gabriela Ranger and Jorge Rivas-Pérez.

 

Latin America, spoken in broad strokes, can be set as an equivalent to the African imaginary, meaning that this is to be considered as a homogenous place without diversity. The same can be said when referring only to the main cities of the region, such as: Mexico City, Caracas, Santiago de Chile, Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires, adding to this list two emerging markets: San Salvador and San Juan. Nonetheless, this curatorial endeavor attempts to avoid being too obvious or commonplace in its selection of these cities under the pretense of creating a division based on trends. This is illustrated by using examples, no only of Latam designers, but also through showing works of European, and even Asian creatives, that have become involved and work in this region of the world.

 

Therefore the exhibition is divided into six axes: Taking Craftsmanship into the Future (Mexico City and Oaxaca); Creating New Design Markets (San Salvador and San Juan); Upcycling and Repurposing Objects (São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro); Conversations with Artistic Legacies (Caracas); Cultivating Communities and Experimentation (Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires); and Navigation of Personal and Civic Spaces (Habana). Each of these axes seeks to wander between art, design and craftsmanship projects, or through a point in between these, although a higher inclination towards design permeates the collection.

 

There are two questions that ripple throughout New Territories: the first been a questing regarding the nature of a territory, and the second problematizes if it’s still relevant to question the fringe between design, craft and art. Both the concept and curatorial display are based on ideas developed by Gaetano Pesce, Italian architect and designer: “For over 50 years I’ve firmly believed that objects express value that isn’t exclusively utilitarian and that what it’s called art reveals its own functionality, as it has done in the past; and so, the barriers of artistic expressions need to opened towards new territories that eliminate these walls that separate different creative media and generally enrich culture.”

 

Aside from good intentions, Pesce’s “New Territories” don’t seem to carry much force throughout this exhibit. Even though the curators tried to eliminate these barriers the decision to divide each space into cities and disciplines accentuated the differences between Latam territories, at least in a linguistic level. The result highlights the fact that each artistic expression is clearly influenced by a particular political, social and economical context. The exhibition lacked stand alone crafts projects, its presence been reduced to a collaboration between craftsmen and designers, a common occurrence for both fields. New Territories also approached some of the more reflexive themes, such as “Navigation of Personal and Civic Spaces” primordially through art, example: La Plaza Vacia (2012) by Coco Fusco, which exposes the use of the Revolution Plaza in Habana, solely as a public space for politics and tourism. 

 

Meanwhile new territories focuses entirely in the result instead of the processes that highlight the meeting point between art, design and craftsmanship. Even though design traditionally leans towards a materialistic culture, as a discipline its focus does not exhaust itself in the so-called industrial praxis. So, from this outlook, to talk about design is as complex as talking about Latin America, as it was pointed out earlier in this essay. We must not forget that the end result of this praxis doesn’t reside solely in creating aesthetic and functional objects, but also in exploiting possibilities, setting scenarios, influencing the everyday and creating relationships.

 

New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America in broad strokes punctuates the importance of observing design from the point of view of a museum, bestowing design a place that separates it from a purely contemplative state. It is necessary to think about the importance of design exhibitions, especially in a country such as Mexico, where museums are just starting to grant the discipline a place in their halls and and ponder about the following questions: How is design approached through our context? What spaces are idyllic for thinking and observing design? How can this exercise become a way to pass down knowledge?

 

All in all, there are still some questions that remain unanswered: Must crafts reach the future? Are crafts adapting to the demands of the market? Does Latin American design create new markets only through galleries in Europe and Latin America? How can context, particularities and resources be harnessed to fuel new platforms, possibilities and outlets for design? Beyond getting noticed for a hearty production, what are the implications of being considered as creative territory? Then there is the question that keeps popping up: Is design art? “Design ≠ Art. Good ideas in design require further development after they are presented in museums as an experimental and loud gesture. Only then can they add meaning to a world of everyday objects and reach a wider audience.” Hella Jongerious and Louise Shouwenberg, “Beyond the New: A Search for Ideals in Design” 2015.

 

 

 

 

   

The State of Design: An Interview with Susan Yelavich

Yelavich

Currently Susan Yelavich is one of the most important researchers on design. Through this interview she dwells on the purpose and place of contemporary design, its relationship with the future and the social responsibility of designers.

 

1. Although it seems like a commonplace subject, it is still relevant to question design’s function nowadays. Especially in regards to two aspects: overproduction and the responsibility designers have towards their context. What is the state of the discipline at a time when consumerism and overproduction are shaping everyday life?

 

Design faces an enormous challenge in responding to this question. The habit of gratuitous consumption and the economy’s relentless pressure on companies to grow and ‘innovate’ is now deeply ingrained in daily life. What is needed is a cultural shift. Indeed, this was the impetus for the Design Studies MA program at Parsons.[1] We need to spend as much time (if not more) looking at the contexts and questioning the consequences of design as we do designing. 

 

To put consumption in a historical context, we need to remember that it is rooted in ancient trading, and was often how we came to learn about other cultures. Today, consumption serves less of a cosmopolitan role and operates more as entertainment and distraction. Experiencing difference through the purchase of something new is now less important than the confirmation that we ‘belong.’ The challenge is to devise new ways of consuming that acknowledge that people will always have desires (stopping consumption is not the point) while shrinking the carbon footprint involved in satisfying those desires. This can be addressed by design in several ways:

 

  • making more enduring products with adaptable features;
  • designing more sharing systems (i.e., Uber) but also making sure workers’ benefits are built into those systems;
  • modeling examples of DIY, salvaging, and repair;
  • using communication and social media design to advocate for more modest forms of consumption that aren’t punitive, i.e., think of shops like museums, everything you desire will be replace by another ‘exhibition,’ another product line that can offer aesthetic pleasure without the burden of ownership;
  • lastly, when we speak of over-consumption, we are either speaking about relatively affluent people or less-affluent people who purchase very cheap goods in quantity to compensate for status, i.e. in the U.S., places like the Family Dollar Store.[2] But we also have to keep in mind those who live with the consequences of over-consumption, i.e., wearing discarded clothes and foraging in landfills for computer parts.[3] These people are, in essence, denied opportunities to design for themselves. Designers need to address the problem from the opposite perspective here by encouraging making. Failing that many countries fall into  “an imitation trap, productivity and wages are relatively low in that sector, thereby mitigating incentives to invest in higher education. In turn, the lack of highly educated workers constrains production in design activities and prevents the exploitation of externalities associated with knowledge networks.”[4]

 

2. Through time, the designer’s role has been changing. During the Industrial Revolution designers were inclined to be associated with the figure of the inventor, while in the 20th century they were akin to aesthetic practices thanks to the relationship between art and design. How would you define the 21st century’s designer?

 

It is easy to forget that the 20th-century was not entirely driven by aesthetics. In the late 19th-century and especially the early part of the 20th century, the design imperative was to create more affordable products, to create affordable housing, and to advocate for the rights of the worker.  Yes, the design movements of that time had an aesthetic (the Bauhaus and Jugenstil movements certainly did) but that aesthetic was integral to the social ambitions of the designers involved. (One of the more compelling, if naïve, arguments of modernism was that it would be simpler to maintain and reduce the labor of housework.) That those same high modern products and buildings never did really have true mass appeal—and are now costly and fashionable—should not obscure their social ambition.

 

The difference today is that designers have found that declarations about aesthetic movements are not the best means of engaging people who are not designers (or, even like-minded patrons and companies.) Instead of creating affordable objects meant to trigger social reform, now designers who are dedicated to social and environmental justice are more apt to consider objects and situations and people (who some continue to call ‘users,’ as if they were addicts.) This is a far more challenging dynamic, since these variables—objects, situations, and people—are always in flux. In this dynamic, designers are not authors but coauthors who recognize the provisional nature of their work and don’t make big claims for finite solutions. I believe that even more attention should be paid to what happens to things and places once they leave the drawing board and become embedded in the world. In fact, this is the subject of my next book. Below is a brief excerpt of my discussion of Ivo Andrić’s novel The Bridge on The Drina (1945), which makes my point. (Note that the bridge’s kapia is a circular space in the middle of the bridge. Once designed and built, it had a profound affect on people’s lives.)

 

Every bridge is an architectural interlude, an interim space between two embankments. This one, with its kapia, facilitated far more than traffic, it provided a forum. Its very shape enhanced the innate cosmopolitanism of the bridge where Višegrad’s Muslims, Christians, and Jews rubbed shoulders on a regular basis. In the embrace of its kapia they made deals, philosophized, quarreled, and reconciled. Teenagers flirted and children played around it; wedding and funeral processions passed through it; even soldiers quartered in the town lingered from time to time. Above all, the kapia was a place to rest, to have a cup of tea. It was a parenthesis in time.  (Yelavich)[5]

 

This idea of building a place of rest in the middle of a two-way bridge is ancient (this bridge was actually built in the 16th century) but it is an idea that has been reprised in Serbia today!  Thinking of the social life of things and places is not so new and much as it is re-embraced.

 

This can also happen with temporary structures and situations. I’m thinking of a small take-out restaurant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, called Conflict Kitchen, http://conflictkitchen.org/ where design is used to draw people together to eat the cuisine of nations where the United States is embroiled in wars.[6] The point is not so much the colors on the restaurant’s exterior or the menu design, but the interactions they spark.

 

3. Design as praxis has an impact on different fields: science, fashion, urban planning, etc. Does design have the ability to impact in a critical way, or can design be critical without being influenced by decorative or aesthetic aspects?

 

There is no more eloquent way of describing the range of design’s criticality than Parsons design studies scholar Clive Dilnot’s characterization of design’s capacities. As his chart makes clear, those capacities range from the normative to exploratory to the poetic. No category excludes another, but I think the most potent is the second: mediating and attuning relationships.

 

Some Design Capacities

 

Those to do with organizing/planning:-

Organization                                   Planning       

Programming                                  Schematics  

Scenarios

Those to do with mediating and attuning our relationships:-

Negotiation                         Mediation    

Attunement                        Resonance   

Reciprocity

Those that have to do with moving from existing to preferred situations/capacities of intervention:-

Translation                          Intervention

Transfiguration                   (Re-)Configuration

Disposition

Natalic capacities; those involved in bringing something new  into the world

Possibilities                         Propositions

Origination                          Invention

Innovation  

Transfigurative and Poetic Capacities  

Transformation                         Revelation

Transfiguration                         Poetic gauging of existence

Aesthetic Discovery          

 

4.What kind of power does design have over society? I’m thinking particularly about activist design, or the relationship between design and violence as it was presented in Design and Violence, the exhibition curated by Jamer Hunt and Paola Antonelli.

 

True ‘activist’ design rarely makes headlines, and often doesn’t get recognized at all because it is embedded in larger projects, i.e., the UN Habitat projects around the world. Plus, sometimes activist design is conducted by non-designers and their work isn’t publicized as ‘design.’ I’m thinking of journalist Alexander Eaton, who translated his concerns for resource-deprived farmers in Mexico into an amazing product: a biofuel system in a rubber bladder called Sistema Biobolsa. (https://www.clintonfoundation.org/blog/authors/alexander-eaton) Architects in general do a better job of getting the word out about their initiatives and are thus visible to be judged as effective or not. I’m thinking about the Aga Khan Awards, the work of MASS Design, and that of Brian Bell’s Design Corps, to name only three of the many socially-driven practices I know of.

 

Efforts like that of my friends and colleagues Jamer and Paola, plus that of Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, and the students they have taught, are extremely important for stimulating consciousness within the design community. This is no small thing, as their influence will shape practice and practice shapes the world. However, there is one thing that we would all like to do and that is to reach a broader public and go beyond preaching to the converted. But the jury is out as to whether this can happen in a meaningful way when the ‘change agents’ are writers, academicians, and curators. (I include myself among them.) With so many media outlets, blogs, forums, it is near impossible to communicate ideas to a large audience, i.e. “consume more modestly.” Though I always hold out hope that the design community can find new ways to promote and model sustainable practices that will be as effective as, for example, the no-smoking campaign has been.

 

5. I would like to address the concept of “the new” from two different perspectives. The first one is the concept of “the new” that was described by Louise Schouwenberg and Hella Jongerius in their manifesto: “Beyond the New: A Search for Ideal in Design.” The other perspective is “the new” as it was analyzed in your book Design as Future Making. Both theories are defiant of each other; while Jongerius and Schouwenberg are opposed in considering “the new” as a unique category when defining design production, you understand “the new” as a choice. How should this concept be understood?

 

I’m glad you asked this, as it gives me the chance to clarify my view of “the new” in a design context. I would characterize it as a shift in emphasis of how we think and practice design—which I’ve already mentioned in response to your second question. In fact, I’m not sure I used the word ‘new’ at all in Design as Future-Making. Instead as you can see from the excerpt below, I place the emphasis on ‘emergent,’ which suggests that the work I care about comes from a recombination of sources and resources.

 

Design as Future-Making offers emergent models of design that are much needed today.  It positions contemporary practice within a pan-disciplinary framework.  This is especially critical now that virtually every object, place, and phenomenon is understood to exist in an ecology of forces and counterforces.  Of course, it was always so, but the situation is far more complicated today.  Networks are no longer metaphors, but a vast agglomeration of cables, extruding untold billions of electronic exchanges that can and do alter the world at breakneck speed.

 

 

Note the italicized sentence above. I believe that nothing is sui generis, or brand new, and that we are always extrapolating on the past, just under different conditions. (For example, in my essay “Petrified Curtains, Animate Architextiles” in Design as Future-Making, I write about Loop.ph’s luminous pavilions in the context of traditional lace making.)  So, in fact, I am in complete accord with Hella and Louise’s views. I especially like when they point out: “Cultural and historical awareness are woven into the DNA of any worthwhile product.” I often use the DNA metaphor myself. History may be elliptical or cyclical, but it’s never a straight line. A world of the ‘new’ would be a world of amnesiacs.

 

 

6. Should designers have to think of the future while designing? In accordance to your book, what is the relationship between design and the future?

 

Ah, now I see! You’ve equated ‘future’ and ‘new.’ This question helps explain the last. 

 

When the cellphone became a smartphone, I’m not sure we saw something new. What we found was that our cameras and computers were now folded into a single product. Though people’s behaviors did change. There’s a famous cover of the New Yorker Magazine showing parents’ taking their children out for Halloween; instead of watching their kids, they’re all looking at their phones. New? Or just a new level of distraction?

 

The designer’s job is to not only consider the ergonomics of the phone (or any other product) but also all the other factors that they are aware of: distracted behaviors, changes in working, as well as the phone’s materiality, disposability, economics, and social equity. Of course, no one person can control or should try to control all of these factors, but individual designers of conscience can (and do often) work with others to address these issues.  If there is anything ‘new’ today it is the quantity of information at our disposal. We can’t pretend we don’t know the affects of design when we can see them in the media all the time.

 

7. Nowadays design is engaged in the interactive processes, DIY practices, and technologies that invite people to get involved in process of making. At times like this, can we still talk about "consumers"? How would you define “consumers” or “users” of today?

 

As I mentioned earlier, I have a problem with “user” as a term for human beings. “Consumer” is not much better. “Prosumer” seems to be the word of choice to indicate that a person has more than a passive relationship with his or her purchases. There is also much talk of a ‘maker movement,’ which can mean informal knitting groups or three-dimensional printing companies. “Hacker” or “hacktavist” are more aggressive terms of art. I am especially interested in the work of fashion hacktavist Otto von Busch, (http://www.selfpassage.org/) who also teaches at Parsons, as he identifies systems and codes and shares them with others so they can use them too.

 

In general, I think that speed, price point, and social signifiers seem to govern consumption for most people. Online shopping is frighteningly easy. (The environmental costs of shipping are never advertised.)  Yes, there are a growing number of very conscientious firms like Fairphone, Everlane, and Zady that are transparent about their materials, labor, and profits; but their customers tend to be relatively affluent or at least well educated. Again, design may first need to get better at propaganda to maximize the impact of these virtuous efforts.

 

Lastly, to some extent, we have to acknowledge that we are all adaptive. The ways in which we personalize products now may be as shallow as choosing a different pattern for your cell phone cover but if you look around your home, you’ll also see other adaptations that really make a difference in how you go about your days. I’ll bet you’ll find a table that’s also a desk, a frigde that serves as bulletin board, a box that doubles as a table, or an empty can serving as a place to keep your keys. If we could call more attention to these tactical uses of things, we might find even more things that can be multi-purposed.

 

8. I’m very interested in the concept you propose of regarding design as a discipline. Design as a discipline and design as praxis are two different entities nowadays. What is your outlook on this subject? Do you think that designers should think of design more as an integral, historical and social discipline and not just as savoir faire?

 

I think most designers, certainly those coming out of school in the last five to ten years, think of their work contextually. Professionals, who work in academia, for NGOs, non-profits, and/or companies with non-profit divisions, are more readily able to put their ideals into practice. But an art director of a magazine that promotes fishing, or a product designer who works for a packaging firm (to name just two examples), faces a bigger challenge. I recognize the limitations of the job market and the need to find employment, so I always tell my students who don’t have the luxury of staying in academia or being supported by an ‘angel’ that they need to have two jobs: one to pay the rent and other to keep their souls alive!  (Full disclosure: I waitressed at a fast food chain and worked in a down-market textile design company—hardly models of sustainable consumption—before I landed a position in a museum and then at Parsons.)

 

9. Finally, could you please name a few young designers you find interesting and why? 

 

– Otto von Busch: for his joyous approach to helping people become “fashion-able” (vs. fashionable.)[7]

– Jenny Sabin: for her experiments with textiles as responsive architecture.[8]

– Ivan Kucina: for his work in Belgrade, Serbia, on informal ways of making and claiming space.

– Lorraine Wild: for her exquisitely intelligent book designs.[9] 

– Chris Conley: for balancing his corporate work with his work with local communities in Chicago.[10]

– Michael Murphy: for working with local communities in places like Rwanda and Haiti to create architectures of health and beauty.

 

 

 

Susan Yelavich is an Associate Professor and Director of the MA Design Studies program in the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons The New School for Design. She has also taught at Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, Milan, Italy, and The New School’s Democracy & Diversity Institute in Wroclaw, Poland, and most recently been a guest of CENTRO in Mexico City. Her current research explores the parallels between design and literature and the relationship between textiles and architecture. Yelavich is the author of numerous articles and books, including Design as Future-Making (2014), Contemporary World Interiors (2007), Pentagram/Profile (2004), Inside Design Now (2003), Design for Life (1997), and The Edge of the Millennium: An International Critique of Architecture, Urban Planning, Product and Communication Design (1993). She is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome (2003-2004). Previously, she was the assistant director for public programs at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.

 

 

 


[1] Design Studies MA. Parsons the New School. Web 26 May 2016. <http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/ma-design-studies-research/ >.

[2] Family Dollar Store. Web 26 May 2016. <http://bit.ly/1ORjHGR>.

[3] Texas in Africa. Web 26 May 2016 <http://bit.ly/1qBrSvv>.

[4] Excerpt from Agénor, Pierre-Richard, Otaviano Canuto and Michael Jelenic. “Avoiding Middle-Income Growth Traps” in Gökhan Karakuş .“ Dead-End Design – Designers and the Middle Income Trap in Turkey”. Jan 19, 2016.

[5] Yelavich, Susan. “Things and Places in Literature: Reading Writing Design.”

[6] Rubin, Jon and Dawn Weleski. Conflict Kitchen. Web 26 April 2016. < http://conflictkitchen.org/>.

[7] Busch, Otto von. >Self_Passage<. Web 26 May 2016.< http://www.selfpassage.org/>.

[8] Sabin, Jenny. Jenny Sabin. Web 26 May 2016. <http://jennysabin.com/>.

[9] Wild, Lorraine. Green Dragon Office. Web 26 May 2016. < http://greendragonoffice.com/>.

[10] Conley, Chris. Gravity Tank. Web 26 May 2016. <www.gravitytank.com/team_profile/chris_conley >.

Fernando Laposse: Design with Renaissance Soul

"Frothing Soap".
Serie Saponaceous, 2015.

Designer by trade, Fernando Laposse is not limited by the stark definition of title. “Every time I tell someone that I am a designer the first thing they ask me is ‘what do you design?’” To explain his practice, Laposse quotes George Nelson, American architect and designer, by giving us a glimpse into Nelson's conception on design: "Design… is an attempt to make a contribution through change. When no contribution is made or can be made, the only process available for giving the illusion of change is 'styling!'"

 

The question arises, is Laposse an artist, a designer, a chemist or an inventor? How can one define through words what experience registers as a multiplication of the senses? An answer might imply setting boundaries: “To define oneself is, in a way, to limit oneself. In some professions specialization might be desirable, nonetheless, I feel more inclinded to identified with the idea of the Renaissance man or the polymath. Both permit you to be seen as a diasporic collection of skills that complement each other, instead of having just one specialty.”

 

Aside from earning a degree from Central Saint Martins in London , Laposse has perceived that there are particular deficiencies in the educational system; deficiencies that will eventually impact the main objective and practice of the trade. “Nowadays, considering the large amounts of design graduates, the contemporary designer is being trained to find the easy-way-out, meaning styling. I hope this educational model begins to change because design is not only about defining the look of an object, but also about using an ensemble of techniques to question systems and paradigms, and to propose stylish and functional solutions.”

 

Therefore, while not forgetting about the importance of functionality, Laposse’s approach escapes from the rigidity impossed by methodology and becomes a quasi-experimental process that is not constrained by the industry’s dynamics. “I enjoy incorporating none-industry processes because there is great potential residing in the challenge when you create your own methods for producing an object. Homemade is not an equivalent to poorly made.” Recto Verso (2014) — a collection of dessert plates— or Selfridges (2014) — an installation inspired by a Mexican lollipop known as cachetada— are just some of the examples that showcase Laposse’s interest in diverse fields like gastronomy or chemistry.

 

“Unlike art, that has an introspective nature, cooking’s target is producing a result that will be enjoyed by others, just like design. A chef uses ingredients, a designer materials, nonetheless, both seek to achieve a balance between creating something for others and imprinting their own particular style or personality.“ For Laposse, this relationship between food and design is linked to his identity and his childhood. He tells us about his grandfather, who was a pâtissier and baker, and founded a bakery that has been passed down through generations, including to Laposse’s father and brothers. When analyzing his own methodology and techniques, Laposse finds similarities with those of the kitchen: “I am inspired by a chef’s ability to keep experimenting with new combinations. A chef does not imagine a recipe and then finds someone to cook it, instead he tries different outcomes firsthand and maps the direction of a new dish.”

 

Aside from using the kitchen as starting point, in Sugar Glass (2014), a series of edible glasses, made 100% out of sugar, Laposse also uses procedures that bring to mind a science lab. “One of the recurring themes in my work is chemistry. To transform materials it is necessary to understand their behavior, which in some cases means understanding them in a molecular level.” Another example following this line of work is that of the series Saponaceous (2015), in which Laposse saponified animal fat with caustic soda to create soap following an ancient crafting technique.

 

Meanwhile, Totomoxtle (2015), which means corn in Zapotec, is the result of an expansive investigation done in Oaxaca, where cornhusk is used as flywood. This process led Laposse to immerse himself in Mexico’s agricultural politics where  currently a battle between the traditional maize fields and new transgenic farming is being played out. “Totomoxtle attempts to bring to light the great gastronomic diversity and variations of corn that we have, this will highlight the danger that a lack in regulation in transgenic farming creates.”

 

In Totomoxtle, as well as in other projects, Laposse also questions the action of consuming and consumerism. In a time in which design leans towards the veneration of an object, how can one approach this subject through practice? Although Laposse’s answer is extensive, it is food for thought:

 

Consumerism is keenly related to desire. In many ways the job of a designer is to create desirable styled objects. The conundrum I see nowadays is that the design market is becoming more and more like “High Street Fashion”, both in production and consumerism. Therefore, the production and consumption of objects and furniture has become accelerated, taking it to such speeds that it has become very difficult to develop new aesthetic movements. Time has been shortened; between proclaiming a new vogue, commercializing and making it available to the masses the timetable has been reduced, this cuts the aesthetics short, prohibiting them from reaching a level of maturity, like they did in the past.

 

Vance Packard explains this phenomenally in his essay “The Waste Makers” (1960), in which he establishes a distinction between the laid out ephemerality of functionality, the built-in flaws that will manifest at some point, and the obsolescence of a planned desirability —also known as psychological obsolescence — phenomenon were an object ceases to be desirable with the arrival of a newer one.

 

Unfortunately, planned obsolescence has become one of the pillars of our economic and consumer model, and thanks to the Internet it has accelerated at a horrifying speed. Crowdfunding models like Kickstarter; manufacturing databases, such as Alibaba, and new ways of self-promotion like Pinterest or Instagram have created a new generation of entrepreneur designers who are completely independent. In a way this is an interesting development because it has allowed a market that used to be ruled by big companies to diversify. Nevertheless, this production model is much more difficult to regulate and that is what I find disquieting. If we want to revert the serious ecological damage of past decades we need to institute more control over manufacture and distribution processes.

 

Laposse stands behind his own discourse and practice regarding the design processes that he defines as “industrial” exercises. Succeeding Packard, Laposse seeks to revert the dynamic of both desire and novelty: “regarding my non-consumable or non-biodegradable projects, I try to broadcast a lasting uptake, creating a relationship between user and object. The key is to create objects that spark conversation and that are not easily forgotten or replaced by novelty.”

Gabrielle Ammann: A Glance at Design Collecting

Gabrielle Ammann en su galleria en Colonia Alemania.

As one of the most important art and design players in Europe, gallerist Gabrielle Ammann, has been advocating and promoting art and design for the last three decades. In this interview she shares her outlook on collecting and comments on the importance of design fairs.

 

Contrary to the US and Europe, in Mexico, collecting is an incipient culture. What would be the importance of collecting in the realm of design, both as a discipline and a cultural patrimony?

 

Design objects are like mates. These objects are connected to a specific time, culture, and context to the necessities of each epoch. Currently, there is a high interest in surrounding oneself with pieces that go far beyond an utilitarian purpose. People want to showcase their lifestyle and emotions through the items they collect; not only as an art object or as a simple and commonplace table and chairs. What we are witnessing is a dialogue among disciplines, from architecture to design and to art. Collecting is an ancient faculty and fundamentally human, and most people have a passion for collecting [something.]

 

Which are some of the challenges when you become a new collector?

 

The challenge resides in the dimensions of the pieces, if all the pieces that are collected are tridimensional they will seek to fit harmoniously in a designated space. If this is not achieved, discordance will be noticeable in a heartbeat.

When starting a collection, the first step is training the eye and visiting a variety of museums, galleries, and fairs. Even though you can decide between collecting historic or contemporary pieces, my outlook leans towards the latter, which are more exciting because you can have a dialogue with the artists or designers who produced these pieces, as well as with the present, in which you reside.

 

Critics such as Alice Rawsthorn or designers like Jasper Morrison affirm that fairs, such as Salone in Milan, are closer to marketing rather than design. Have these fairs transformed design into a mayor object for consuming?

 

Of course they have. Furniture fairs such as El Salone del Mobile in Milan or the International Furniture Fair in Cologne are consumer driven but they also have the power, and budget, to support up and coming designers while offering a new platform [for exposure.] This is the case of the Fuori Salone (Milan) and Passagen (Cologne). These stages are set primordially for industrial design and functionality; nonetheless, you can also find in such places the “classics” [objects] of tomorrow.

Meanwhile, fairs such as Design Miami have created an entirely new market for new talent that works between the lines of art and design, which is known as applied arts; at the same time they have groundbroken the space for historic design. Therefore, the market for collectors, interior designers and architects is completely different. One cannot compare these displays with those of the typical furniture fairs. A majority of contemporary pieces are being produced in very small quantities and featuring artisan craft or state of the art technology. Artists, as well as designers, are choosing to develop work that is more experimental, or their interests lean towards establishing an intellectual context for their pieces rather than mass production. This way they are laboring as artists who are exploring our time.

 

What is the purpose (or should be the purpose) of these fairs?

 

As a matter of fact, that is a question that is hard to answer. I believe that the fields of design and art are having, at the moment, a very vital dialogue; the work of many artists is becoming design oriented and vice versa, the work of many designers has become art oriented. So what? A significant number of these fairs are fashioning new formats, which feature pieces that are part of this dialogue or have a strong connection between art and design. Design Miami is an example that has allied itself successfully to Art Basel.

 

Although the intersection between art, architecture and design is not a new or recent pursuit in the past few years this interdisciplinary relationship has been more active, but also more apprehensive. Is blurring the lines between art and design an aesthetic ambition, commercial or a labor in favor of design?

 

In all honesty, I think we should stop thinking about boring categories. When we look back in time, would you consider Leonardo Da Vinci an artist, an architect, a designer or a scientist? The hunger of studying the context of art or design is part of the nature of things, and this is the reason why museums, as well as collectors, are interested in exploring the connection.

 

Design in the XXI century is:

The amalgamation between art and architecture.

 

Since the 1980’s Gabrielle Ammann has been zealously promoting the work of artists and designers, both young and established. She has boosted the careers of important creators such as, Studio Alchimia, Ron Arad and Marc Newson. In 2006 she founded ammann//gallery in Cologne, conceived as a promotion platform while including curatorial advice for institutions and collectors.

Inside the Studio: Part I

El estudio de Íker en la Ciudad de México.
Behind every art and design piece there is a creative process. Six of our creators talk about their individual working methods and share images of their studios and workshops:
 
-Sebastián Beltrán

 

“Freedom guides the creative process of my projects. Thinking in different ways and be open for innovation and to push the boundaries of the formal, symbolic and pragmatic possibilities of the projects. As the process continues, each project – due to its many variables – determines whether the intention of breaking those boundaries is feasible or not. Thus, freedom is interwoven with the responsibility and the convergent thinking to arrive at the realization of the pieces.”

 

-Ana Gómez

 

“My creative process varies according to the project, but I have two key approaches: to explore a creative streak from different angles and to use improvisation to confront matter and space. The first is guided by research I am interested in, that is how new ideas emerge. I have very clear vision of what I want to say so I focus on communicating it in the best way possible.  The second one is much more organic, I never know where I will go.”

 

-Íker Ortiz

 

“I usually start with a specific theme for my collections, mostly inspired by architecture, art and design. Throughout the production I sketch and work a lot in paper, playing with the limitations of each material. Once I have the final designs, manufacturing quality must be excellent to achieve flawless and timeless pieces.”

 

-Víctor Pérez-Rul

 

“My creative process is very experimental, I do a lot of scientific and technological research as well as technical development. The core of this process is the use of energy as a scientific, physical and philosophical cause.”

 

-Karla Sotres

 

“My creative process starts and feeds on my context. My numen is each  territory and my journey to it. People, their habits and traditions, their land and roads, their history and heritage, their creative manifestations, guide me in the journey. Technology and materials are my allies. I see the realization of my pieces like memories of who I was and who I am now. My favourite moment while producing a piece is drawing on the wheel, feeling the moisture, modeling its lines and curves. My process is slow and content. It is also recurrent, open, permeable, flexible and continuous. I like to give space to improvisation and intuition, that gives vitality and freedom to the work. I’m a designer, a craftsman, a ceramist and artist.”

 

-Nativo

 

“Our creative process originates from observation and reflection on the wood, a wonderful raw material with which we seek to make pieces that retain their natural essence in the purest form. Nativo designs in response to the shape of the wood with the hollow curves influencing the production. The result: each piece has its own character and is unique. Nativo understands the language of the wood, it has its own characteristics and details which we strive to accentuate. Its shape, color, size, age, history and the touch of the craftsman’s hand, never duplicated. We know the history of each tree with which we work and we are proud to give it a second life.”

 

-Poleta Rodete

 

“To realize an idea I go through different layers or levels of reflection. First, there must be an element that encourages the intention of my research: from a social, natural or cultural phenomenon, to a concept that needs to be further explored. During my creative process experimenting with shapes and materials is essential. I enjoy the idea of playing with accidents and chances to transform matter.”

 

-Abel Zavala

 

“The concepts and forms in my work originate from the observation of my surroundings and the revision of art itself. Although my background is painting, I have chosen a three-dimensional type of production. Using the principles of minimalism, I choose and manipulate the materials so they become the star of the aesthetic experience, with special emphasis on the formal quality and the production processes. I am interested in the intersection between contemporary languages with traditional techniques, such as textiles and ceramics, being the last one my favorite technique because it allows me to have two lines: my personal artistic work and the production of utilitarian objects.”

 

Art Galleries in Mexico City: 4 Emerging Projects

En 2012, Breve surgió como un espacio esporádico, dedicado a presentar exposiciones de un día de duración con el trabajo de artistas jóvenes.
For several decades, different projects have emerged in Mexico City dedicated to contemporary art that seek to generate new approaches to artistic creation, as well as alternative models of promotion to encourage local collecting. Currently, there are several initiatives that address certain blind spots in the artistic system of our country by supporting young talent that can hardly achieve a certain visibility in the media.
 
White Cremnitz, Galería Karen Huber, Galería Breve and The Neon Rex Project, are some of the projects that have emerged in the last three years.  Their founders and directors are art historians, artists or curators, allowing them to conceive a perspective and a model of action that does not respond exclusively to commercial purposes.
 
White Cremnitz is a gallery located in the heart of the historic downtown, opened in 2014,  they represent a group of young artists focused mainly on experimentation with the visual arts. Its location in one of the areas with the greatest diversity and complexity of Mexico City has built the character of the gallery for over a year. As noted by the director, Teresa Marmolejo, "most of the galleries are concentrated in one area, and what we wanted to do was to get out of that circuit for the purpose of generating new audience in the city. It is very interesting to see the reaction of the people who live and converges around the gallery; although there are many museums, many of these people have had in White Cremnitz their first approach to art. "
 
Also in the line of fine arts, Galería Karen Huber focuses on exploration, research and exhibition of contemporary pictorial expression and its relationship with other disciplines. Through a strong academic program and residencies for international artists, it seeks to promote the exchange of ideas and views among its artists. Furthermore, in order to enhance the dissemination of the represented artistic work, numerous activities are held parallel to the openings such as presentations, discussions, concerts, dinners, workshops and round tables activities. In the words of Karen Huber, "our commitment is to promote the contemporary Mexican art scene and acknowledge painting from its various sensitive and formal possibilities."
 
The newly opened Barrio Alameda, a project that, after a restoration of the building which houses them  – Art Deco style from the 1920s – seeks to provide the historic downtown with a space where different commercial and creative offers can coexist. In this new environment we find  Galería Breve and The Neon Rex Project.
 
Galería Breve emerged in 2012 as a sporadic space dedicated to present one day exhibitions of young artists works. Back then, its headquarters was the framing house Rosano in the Roma neighborhood. Since the project started -created by Begoña Irazábal and Jorge Rosano-, its purpose was clear: to assist artists with the production of their works, spread the word of their artistic practice and establish links with potential collectors. According to Irazábal, "the interest of the gallery is to show the work of young artists, be a place of transit and linking projects, and be a launching platform for new generations." Since last year, Breve has hosted several short exhibitions.
 
The Neon Rex Project is a platform dedicated to New Media Art, which aims to support artists´ solid proposals that are based on experimentation and the incorporation of technology into their artwork. Its director, Christopher Martinez, described it as "a 'hybrid gallery', we move between the limits of a commercial gallery, a virtual gallery, a parasite project and an artist-run space. That is, we seek the time and space for projects to take shape ". Throughout their year and a half of operations, Neon Rex has been exhibiting in Spain, United States, Germany and South Korea, and was part of the first edition of the Unpainted fair in Germany.
 
These four initiatives reflect the interests and personality of a new generation of gallerists looking to expand the ongoing dialogue about art and its system, which results in a wide range of emerging and open spaces. On this subject, Martinez says that "the cultural activity that gives rise to these spaces is the result of the sum of certain factors that have to do with the Millennial Generation, to which artists, managers and curators belong to and whose main characteristic features are to incorporate new technologies in everyday life, the intellectual curiosity and yearning for independence. In turn, this has triggered a boom in startups and independent spaces managed mostly, by people of this unsatisfied generation, but also restless and entrepreneurial […] the everyday emergence of new spaces is a symptom of a need to generate a change from independence and self-generated opportunities in an artistic system that seemed far away. "
 
Meanwhile, Irazábal mentions that many spaces have recently emerged "because it was necessary to create a bridge between emerging artists and the current art system. There was no place for young artists to show their work, and for them it is difficult to access consolidated galleries. Furthermore,"it a natural happening in Mexico nowadays where we live realities so different and, at the same time, parallel. On one hand the rapid growth in certain areas and on the other the political misfortunes. Thus, we have no choice than to focus all that negative energy into a positive development", says Huber.
 
As the current situation offers certain advantages such as efficient tools for the dissemination and the interest of new sectors for contemporary art, it also poses certain challenges as the hegemony of certain consolidated galleries. According to Marmolejo, it is an "exclusive closed circle that is difficult to access to. The important thing is not to lose sight of the goal of the gallery, the line of artists who you want to represent and demonstrate professionalism. It is necessary that the exclusive circle gradually becomes more flexible, that emerging spaces have closer ties and to establish bonds. In the end, we have a common purpose: art. The main thing is to see us as allies, not as competition. "
 
On the other hand, Martínez believes that "the wonder of these projects do not necessarily face an antagonism with respect to the already consolidated spaces. We, the new spaces are looking for our own market, our own artists and our own discourse (…) the real challenge is to stay afloat. Finally, Huber adds, "it is a work of years and perseverance, and the challenge is to create confidence in the viewer, the collector and the artistic sphere."
 
Despite their short life and the difficulties of the environment and the current context of Mexico, these galleries give voice to some artists who will shape the next generation of local art and remark certain axes of the Mexican artistic work. Furthermore, with its objectives and specific profiles they contribute to the formation of diverse audiences as well as the joint construction of questions that rather than seeking answers, shed light on the concerns, aspirations and the current situation of the Mexican contemporary art.
 
Galleries:
—Breve
Dr. Mora #9, local 31
Centro Histórico
 
—Karen Huber
Bucareli #128 (Edificio Vizcaya)
Col. Juárez
karen-huber.com
 
—The Neon Rex Project
Dr. Mora #9, local 30
Centro Histórico
 
—White Cremnitz
Bolívar 87 C
Centro Histórico

 
 

Reading Art: Back Bone Books

"The Moulting Season", Claudia de la Torre, 2012.
The act of reading a work of art probably is not exercised as clearly or dramatically than when it is taken to the most obvious reading medium: the book. But in the case of an artists' book, the spine, the covers, and the pages are more than the elements of this medium. As the canvas for painting or architecture for installation, the book becomes a space built and occupied by images and words through significance.
 
At least that was how writer and quasi-artist Ulises Carrión understood it when approaching the materiality and the idea of ​​the book as an object: "A book is a sequence of spaces […] Each one of these spaces is perceived on a different time – a book is also a sequence of moments. " These principles can be seen in some of the exercises by Claudia de la Torre (Mexico City, 1986), where paper is the main stage for visual narratives. In her books not only artistic processes are expressed, but there is also an interest in establishing different reading dynamics.
 
In the Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Spanish Language (2015), in collaboration with Claudia de la Torre, the Spanish artist Emiliana Larraguibel alters the conventional sense of a classic dictionary to establish a correspondence between the meaning of a word and its visual representation. It is not an illustrated dictionary-where image plays only a documentary function-, but a transcript  exercise where text becomes an image to trigger a reading that transcends the limits of written language. The drawings, meanwhile, break the monotony of the sequence of letters to create a composition which prevents a linear reading, common in traditional texts.
 
In this sense, the free structure of the text reaffirms the artistic character of the book while emphasizing its plastic nature more than literary. And although the experimentation of the medium is also based on the material, the arrangement of the written and visual languages ​​on the medium interferes in the behavior of our vision: if, as claimed by Carrion, the written language occupies space and reading, the time, the book as art disrupts the spatiotemporal experience that is established by the object.
 
The pieces by Back Bone Books roam this territory. For De la Torre, the interesting thing is "question the form of the book, what the object is and how it can generate something new." [1]Thus, in artists' books, images can also provide a sequence of signs different from text; as shown in The Moulting Season(2012), where a collection of photographs – arranged as collages with found objects- tell a story at different times, or Look at Me (2013), in which a series of portraits taken in different contexts and times are confronted to cause an imaginative dialogue that is only possible within the margins of the book-object space.
 
After three years of experimentation with publishing possibilities, in 2011 the artist decided to found the independent publishing house Back Bone Books to play with the form and the concept of books. Through this project, she  not only takes the conventions of text and image to their limits, but also explores other ways of distribition of the art objects: "I think a book is organized information and I consider it a visual medium in which the narrative is given by individual decisions, however, this medium may leave the traditional exhibition formats. A book can be extracted from a museum or a gallery and can be read in different ways, depending on where you find it. That's what interests me. "[2]
 
Other ways to intervene the more traditional format of publications can be observed in OT(2013), where a series of reproductions of collages by the artist Michael Block unfold in different directions for crossing the boundaries of the rectangular area and extend the dimensions of the image to other points in the space; or Point Break (2014), where the reader is invited to strip the blue pages to create a body reminiscent of the waves breaking on the shore.
 
In the production of the published books by Back Bone Books, De la Torre collaborates with different artists like Maxime Gambus, Michael Block, Loïc Blairon, Kyel Lincoln and Jörg Sobott, among others. The result: artistic pieces that create different levels of significance.
 

 

 


[1] Interview by Tamara Ibarra: http://www.claudiadelatorre.com/files/entrevistabbblaotral.pdf

[2] Ibidem


Users or Consumers: Relationships with Design

El Salone del Mobile en Milán se lleva a cabo cada abril atrayendo a más de 300 000 visitantes.
In a shop window there is a cup, seductively sculpted with an attractive color. Aside, there is an irregular but functional spoon, a number of small glasses to serve just a sip of any given drink, some plates and various utensils. Opposite, on another shelf, there is a bag, pencil holders, lighters, mirrors, etc. Anything that could may come to your mind. But none is just a cup, a spoon or a plate. At least not the kind that are sold in the market to replace their equals when they are no longer useful. They are designed objects, products of a creative process and the result of the imaginative minds of their creators. They are auteur pieces.
 
How many –spoons, cups or lighters- I have at home? The question resonates while a person examines the cup between his hands, which is just conquering his gaze. The answer is worthless against two possible scenarios: a) buy to satisfy a desire, although it will become a forgotten piece b) not buy it and … nothing. Both resolutions, however, reflect a condition that not only the design industry suffers but also the buyer: consumption. This scene is much more common than you think.
 
The above example works to draw two characteristics commonly attributed to everything that, in a sense, is understood as a solution to a need of any kind. Namely, the function and appeal; both essential in designed objects, but both absent in many cases. But the truth is that design is not only an attractive feature or form, it is not a simple product that satisfies desires.
 
Last April, the designer Hella Jongerius and the theorist Louise Schouwenberg launched their manifesto Beyond the New. A Search for Ideals in Design which set out a series of principles that seek to direct current design, immersed in a production stage obsessed with newness and based on dynamics of wasteful consumption. Jongerius and Schouwenberg are clear: "Design is not about products. Design is about relationships. "[1]
 
There are many products that are produced every year with no sense at all. Most of them are of questionable functionality which is hidden behind a visually appealing aesthetic that, in turn, conquest and awakes the interest of consumers satisfying their desire to buy or rather their consumption interest. In this context, design loses its essence to become a mere seductive image. Therefore, although they are dissimilar in terms of their characteristics, examples such as the cup and a simple glass cup found in a market place put themselves far away from the first sense of the discipline.
 
Without wishing to fall into the naive, and aware of the importance of a social and economic context of greater depth, it is true that the furor over the new is largely responsible for the consumption relationship regarding design. Critics like Alice Rawsthorn or Lucas Verweij attribute this to the growing popularity of design fairs focused on supply and demand, even the designer Jasper Morrison named the Salone del Mobile in Milan as the Hall of Marketing.
 
Meanwhile, designers play a major role in this phenomenon: they create beautiful objects  that end up being designed waste. But beyond politically correct speeches, usually aimed at sustainable design, the design process must consider the life cycle of an object and move away from pure aesthetic interest. Jongerius and Schouwenberg point out that "by addressing the “afterlife” of every product, designers contribute to a change of mentality in both users and producers. An all-encompassing approach requires designers not to focus exclusively on the functionality and expressive power of a design, but also to investigate how maintenance and repair can be integrated into the final product. Designers should be aware of the circular economy they are embedded in."
 
As objects and designers are essential, the end customer is key in the networks established by the discipline. But do we consume, use, or relate to design? Are we consumers or users? [2] In an interview, Paola Antonelli showed her animadversion for the concept of "consumers" and stated that the title of "users" accurately describes the relationship established with design objects. Both words point out a fundamental difference in how we conceive design: while the first word is an obvious reference to a wasteful consumption of not needed products the second projects a functional and symbolic link with objects.
 
Relationships and not products, as indicated by Jongerius and Schouwenberg in their manifesto, in which they also make special emphasis on the potential of materials and their expressive qualities to detonate and establish symbolic communication and relationships with users. Therefore, better to use than consume. Better support designers interested in building relationships, not products.
 

 

 

 

 


[1] Hella Jongerius, Louise Schouwenberg, “Beyond the New. A Search for Ideals in Design.” (2015). http://beyondthenew.jongeriuslab.com/

[2] "The scope of digital design" (2014).). Interview with Paola Antonelli: http://www.revistacodigo.com/los-alcances-del-diseno-digital-entrevista-con-paola-antonelli/

Sumie García Hirata: Moving Narrative

"Memory is a place l", impresión digital sobre papel algodón, 2015.
In his article "The cinema is the epiphany of the Motion Picture" (2013), Román Gubern, a Spaniard theoretical, explains why the cinema is the main projection of motion. One key aspect: its relationship with painting and literature, two static arts until narrative converges in them. While the image on the screen is associated mainly with movement, it is also suggested as being narrative and conceptual, as reflected in the work of Sumie García Hirata.
 
In the caves of Paleolithic, succession in time during a scene is suggested with the repetition of one element, in the work of this Mexican artist it is given through three key aspects that go beyond the animated representation: medium, narrative and memory. Although García Hirata studied fine arts focused on film directing, she has explored different mediums enriching her artistic language. Video, photography, installation and even gifs are the main supports that have allowed her to play with a space-time shift.
 
"Each and every medium I use allows me to manipulate the perception of time in a specific way. One of the main themes in my work is the way in which time and memory can manipulate our perception of life and form our identity. Each medium breaks time in its own way:  video unifies it and creates a narrative, photography freezes it, and gif turns it into an endless small loop. The installations, however, become a very immersive environment where time and space are compressed or suspended. "
 
It is precisely her training in cinema what has approached her to narrative, a key theme in each of her projects and the various mediums she uses allow her the possibility to exploit it: "I like to think that my artistic practice is dynamic. I'm always mixing my work in documentary film with the concepts that I incorporate in photography, gif, video, and vice versa. " Memory Corruption (2014) is a series of impressions intervened with cuts and thread to simulate digital glitches of corrupted files. A subtle images´ fragmentation, which seems to transcend the conventional frame of the photograph, changes the piece into a fragment of an event with a before and an after. Also, there is an overlap of time and space to the viewer which is presented as an incomplete story.
 
According to the artist, the narrative in this series as in most of her work is a suggestive and subtle gesture: "It is only the beginning or a glimpsed story which is not drawn completely. I seek to evoke a sense of mystery in which the narrative elements are not defined but they can be sensed". In this way, the visual composition suggests a succession which at the same time is reinforced by the reading of the beholder.
 
In this series, the narrative is also reflected in the concept of memory, which by definition is a statement of facts from the past, run from the present. This is another nexus between a moving image that transcends the margins of the picture or the screen. This is how in Memory Corruption I, II and III there is a breakdown and deconstruction of memory. "Memory is never something solid. Whenever we remember a moment, it appears as we thought about it for the first time. We never recall the original moment. Colors and dimensions change, the words are distorted. Trying to freeze a moment or memory is pointing to the ephemeral and the possible falsification of that time".
 
In this game, an intimate aspect turns the image into a familiar one. A correspondance is unfolded, promoting the construction of meaning and thus the representation in the work. It is an intention that Sumie García Hirata reflects in her process: "I seek to have a rigorous practice repeating and practicing a lot what I do to be able to approach a conceptual aesthetic ideal which I want to achieve. Although this ideal changes and evolves, there is always something unattainable to improve".
 

Collecting Design in Mexico

Po-Shung-Leong, "Chamela Chair" (1974)  © Archivo de Diseño y Arquitectura. En Colección de Archivo de Diseño y Arquitectura.
When talking about collecting design in a national context, there is a key question: Why is there not a bigger picture of design collections in Mexico?
 
The scope of the discipline in the country has obviously grown in the last five years. Gradually, there have been various actors and spaces for awareness and public / consumer access to design pieces.  Initiatives such as the Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura -my old trench-, the Abierto Mexicano de Diseño (Mexican Design Open), Zona Maco, ADN Gallery, Blend, Onora Casa and La Lonja Mercantil, have contributed to create a healthy scene and atmosphere for development and exchange, although with different purposes and missions.
 
Everyone, from the particularities of their own bets, has generated awareness on the issue, while promoting the encounter between contemporary design and the Mexican public. So it's worth thinking: the user has taken just a few years getting to know the language and dynamics of design from its added value up to the reason to invest in it. Thus, it is still complex to commit, invest and live with design in a daily basis in a more conscious way.
In this context, it is important to mention the effort, ever increasing, of 
those interested in creating informed consumers that understand the 
importance of collecting national design. Agents such as curators Ana 
Elena Mallet and Cecilia León de la Barra are dedicated to undertake this mission which encourages the public -through exhibitions, texts, 
research and others- to understand the importance of transforming their sensitivities and interests and make them love design. The messages are not only aimed at designers but also towards users and future collectors. 
Why investing in design?
In 2008 I set out to start Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura, which is currently the first public collection of design in Mexico and one of the most 
important in Latin America. After four years of intense research, search 
and annexations, the collection of Archivo has about 3000 pieces 
available to the public. The experience and the exercise allowed me to 
generate a particular perspective on the market. 
Here are some notes about it:
 
        1. Design is a field of opportunity.
The national design market is still small. You can still buy Mexican 
historical pieces to a substantially cheaper price compared to the market prices of international historic design. In harsh terms, this is a gap of 
approximately 25-30%, although it is the aspect that will change more 
rapidly in the coming years.
        2.  Consolidate an important collection of design in a medium term is possible.
Archivo de Diseño y Arquitectura is also a useful example for this case: 
thanks to its collection and its contents generation it has been able to 
occupy a worldwide reference position in just three years of public life.
       3.   The investment in a relevant design piece is much lower compared to art piece.
In terms of market segments, a work of art of $ 40,000 USD does not 
necessarily equals a museum piece. In terms of historical design market, 
for example, the cost of a piece of $ 40,000 USD may correspond to buy a Rietveld or to an important piece of the architect Gio Ponti, being these objects of incalculable cultural value in history of design.
       4. There is less competition in the cultural field.
There is still much to do, build and study design both in Mexico and
abroad. A collection injects valuable nutrients to the contemporary scene and would fertilize a space for new curators, producers and design 
enthusiasts.
       5. Design as cultural heritage.
The need for further contribution to the cultural significance of design is only possible in the time when various collections are created, increasing the historical and contemporary cultural richness of our sector and, therefore, the cultural field in our country through the generation of patrimony.

In addition, a design collection – if systematically achieved – is a body of work that catalyzes self-thought by allowing interaction with scholars and enthusiasts. The results of these interactions between professionals and traces will continue to contribute to enhance other areas of cultural production in our country and therefore continue with the tradition that identifies us as a global cultural power.

Abel Zavala: The language of materials

guardapelo alpaca
Abel Zavala studied fine arts at the Universidad Veracruzana, but his creative production processes have led him to a point of convergence between artistic practice and the exercise of design. From art he has assimilated the aesthetic character of an object based on an essentially basic perspective: sensitivity. While from design he has taken the functional relationship between the object and the user. "In my work I opt for simple forms, abstractions and monochromes. The design of the pieces is directed to appeal to a sensory reading rather than to an interpretation. "
 
During college, Zavala (1986) focused on painting and two-dimensional supports until he detected a need to work with a solid matter. It was in ceramics where he found plenty of opportunities not only to explore the three-dimensional but also to approach a more craftsmanship work from a contemporary point of view: "I like the intersections between the languages ​​of contemporary art and traditional materials and processes. And ceramics have a handcraft and ancestral essence. "
 
The nature and culture of his native Xalapa had a significantly influence in his approach to ceramics: "I live in Xalapa, where ceramics have a strong presence, from the pieces at the Museum of Anthropology to the many workshops that currently exist. This material also contains possibilities that go beyond matter. "I think it's interesting to blur the boundaries between art and design. Ceramics allow me to have two lines: sculptural and functional pieces. Thus, art can be integrated into life in a more accessible way."
 
In addition to ceramics, Zavala also works with different animal’s hair such as cat, pony, alpaca, sheep, dog and Pelibuey sheep. As he says himself, in his work there is special attention in the language of materials. It is through them that he can create a specific form or express an idea. When a project begins, the conceptual approach sets the standard for selecting the materials that later will be worked with a spirit of exploration that allows him to understand and manage their virtues.
 
That natural character embodied in his works, granted mainly by the material, can also be reflected both in the organic shape of the pieces as well as in their names. Zavala explains that this has a lot to do with his context and proximity to vegetation. "I transform certain conceptual aspects into formal realities from the observation of nature” .
Epiphyte, ash, larva, orchid, hail or hyperparasites are referents from nature and are part of the names of some of his jugs, jars, vases, bowls and other objects. In the case of the sculptural series Epiphyte (2013) Zavala started from the behavior of plants that live on others without harming them, " a series of white pieces which have a low profile presence emerged to make an analogy of how art is integrated into the space ".
 
Meanwhile, Larvae (2013) are sculptures that use the material aspect in favor of the concept and representation. “These pieces are inspired in the red clay hills in my city. So, I make an interpretation of the forms and include the mud of this land in the composition. Thus, they are not only a representation, they also carry a little of what they represent. "
In these and in other projects as Hiperparásitas (2015), Cuenco Ceniza (2015), Cuencos Turquesa (2015), Jarra Azafrán (2015) and Vasija Serpentina (2014), you can observe a meticulous care for details. According to the material, Zavala explores its elements to highlight and promote the values, ​​shape, textures and colors of the piece.
 
Although his work is more related to art, Zavala does not forget his interest in design: "I see art as an area of ​​freedom, as a language with which I can talk about my concerns or what is important for me to me to say. I decided to be an artist because I love and enjoy the whole process: reflection before, during and after the creation of my work, and then to encourage reflection to the audience”.

Rodrigo Red Sandoval: From the Periphery

Estudio de Rodrigo, Ciudad de México.
The practice of Rodrigo Red Sandoval is multidisciplinary, or more precisely, it is transdiciplinary[1]. In his work it seems there is no place for conventional or established definitions of design, art and architecture. To describe it, he suggests resorting to uncertainty, to that territory of interstices where not only the boundaries are erased, but gives way to a diversity of exchanges: “I like the uncertainty that breaks the boundaries of disciplines and the language with which we approach things.”
 
Therefore, Red Sandoval (Mexico City, 1985) is not defined by the tools or values -aesthetic or conceptual- ​​which he applies in each area to develop his projects. He is not an artist, designer or architect, quite the contrary. “I handle my practice from the periphery of disciplines as an anti designer, an anti artist and an anti architect. The periphery allows you to see things from a distance. However, the artist’s discipline is among all the most labyrinthine one; it is difficult to reach the periphery of the city of art, when it seems that you are about to touch it you find yourself just at the center. It is extremely paradoxical”, he explains.
 
The junction and transversal vision of Sandoval is mediated, perhaps, by his educational background. His education has been marked by artistic experience, technical rigor and analysis of thought, he is a visual artist. He studied industrial design, philosophy and art. This tour was meant to be a strategy in order to achieve the objectives pursued by his projects and to develop a theoretical framework that design did not provide.
 
Each discipline has allowed him to bring multiple perspectives to his work. However, it is in art where he has found a discursive and creative identity axis: “For me, the point of convergence is art. A work of art is a space that allows multilanguages: verbal, nonverbal or a combination of both. On the other hand, I am interested in design in its most basic sense, almost etymological, as a preparation for something that can be created; a starting point where the forms begin to be designed or intended in a prefigurative way.”
 
In this context, and from the intersection of art and design, the creator has explored practically and conceptually one of his main interests: the space, “a dimension of human reality where we project meaning. There lives our memory, our consciousness. Without the space, our sense of individuality disappear, space embraces us physically and symbolically.”
 
To approach that place of exchange, where the present subject is affected while building a sense of context, Sandoval has used the possibilities offered by the languages ​​of sculpture, performance and architecture. If “the space and objects shape the individual and vice versa,” then what is really important is the performance that movement and sculpture are able to detonate. This is evident in Desestructuración (2012), a sculptural piece which from the illusion of a puzzle, deconstructs any given space. Or in Something Sitting Somewhere (2014), where spatial comes at once real and abstract due to the performativity that can be exercised in the real and virtual worlds.
 
In Fruit Tenants (2014) –commissioned by Ángulo Cero-, Sandoval took as inspiration and principles two key aspects in the history of art and design: the metaphysical paintings of Giorgio de Chirico and the Italian movement Memphis from the 80’s. These functional sculptures are small architectures that look like something out of a pictorial space traced by the Italian painter, where fruits exert the three-dimensional nature of the sculpture.
 
These pieces summarizes his interests, and project his perception about the relationship between the performative and the sculptural: “I enjoy to erase the barrier between performance and sculpture.”
 
 
 
 

[1]Transdiscipline is an exercise where the boundaries of every field of knowledge involved in a process or an object, are inconceivable. In this context, languages ​​and methodologies typical of each discipline are essential for a creative production.
.

Karla Sotres: Between the Ordinary and the Extraordinary

"El diseñador ceramista es aquel que, con las herramientas de la disciplina del diseño lleva a cabo una actividad “artesanal”. "
For Karla Sotres, design must respond or speak of context. In her work, the aesthetic and functional qualities of the pieces are results of a rigorous process of observation of colors, shapes, culture and worldview coming from the surrounding territory. In this interview, the designer born in Mexico in 1984, who lives in Rieti (Italy) since 2013, shares the creative forces of her work and her conception of the ordinary and the extraordinary.
 
What are the values ​​in ceramics that make you prefer it over other materials?
Ceramic is undoubtedly the most earthy material. There are values ​​that are shared between different materials, but the relationships among these are those who make ceramics a docile, generous and amazing material:
 
1. Nature. Unlike other materials, ceramic goes through many stages of development to reach a “crystallized” result. Through this process it interacts and is affected by natural conditions that can hardly be controlled a hundred percent. Therefore, it is hypersensitive and vulnerable to its climatic environment. It is not the same to work ceramics in the Huasteca region than in Mexico City, or make pottery in winter or during summer time. Humidity affects the processing time of the material. And even more, there are firings that can last up to 6 months and the equivalent time for drying. In this case, you cannot manipulate the processes of drying or firing, as it is all about changes in the state of the material and energy cycles.
 
2. Itinerant: Both in its physical form as in its chemical composition. In its dry state (without being manipulated) is a compacted powder; in its wet state is plastic like clay. Dry, when it has been manipulated by hand, is fragile and at this point it could return to powder. In its pre-fired state (biscuit) is porous and lightweight; in its firing state (mature) is dense and vitrified. During the interaction with heat and oxygen it changes in color, while with other oxides and minerals (glazes) it dresses in color.
 
3. Diversity: There are a variety of types of pottery, classified by origin (chemical composition) and processing (type of firing). Each is unique and, according to firing processes so are the shades of color, density and texture.
 
4. Docile: There are different piece forming processes, from the primitive such as punch or “cordoncillo” (forming with coils) – to complex and technological like 3D printing. In between these extremes are casting techniques, plate and wheel, which is an ancient technique used for centuries in Asia (China and Korea) and Africa.
 
There seems to be a significant difference between industrial designers and ceramists: the craftmanship and the mass production. As an industrial designer, how do you conceive this relationship or distinction between industrial and craft?
Design was a ‘modern’ response to the problem of “humanization” of the industry; it is clear that design has its origin in the arts and crafts (handicrafts). Crafts are a human expression that has always existed, and its most notable value is the (practice-mythical) dual function that develops in human society (that is why it has endured).  The craftsman provides metaphors to practical functions of each object[1] as supplemental response to their cosmogony. On the other hand, art is the domain of a craft technique; sometimes the artist gives more weight to the aesthetic or mythical functions than to those that are practical. And it is valid.
 
Over the past century, the concepts of art and craft were isolated. Even in some parts of the world, handicrafts were exterminated and a new model emerged: industrial production. Thus, industry largely replaced trades while art (as resistance) became subversive. Design was the “politically correct” response to the need to rationalize and humanize industrial objects. Nowadays humanization is vital, concepts like art, crafts, industry and design become more complex, they integrate, and they coexist. What make them different are the priority values ​​that each society attributes to them.
 
We potters are craftsmen as a source, but designers too. Are there any differences between potters and designers? Yes, the ceramist specializes in a material which handles by hand but with a scientific basis. However, the resources and tools can be similar to those of a product designer. The product designer in turn, interacts with different types of customers, materials and industrial conditions. His designs respond to a specific question (brief), his time and tools are particular to what his profession requires from him.
 
The ceramist designer is the one that with tools from the  design industry performs a “traditional” activity or craft. My work is located there. My training as an industrial designer has been very useful in this new formation as a ceramist. No taboos, I am neither scare of doing things with my hands nor to produce them industrially. I can make 1 single piece and if it works and it is necessary, we can make 1000 with molds (aware that the features and values ​​of the pieces will be different). I love the idea of ​​extruding the ceramic with 3D printing and at the same time have the technical capacity to produce vases on a manual wheel. There is a relationship between craftsmanship and creative industries, between high tech and that of origin. One does not exist without the other.
 
You are interested in medium technology, which is original to its territory or culture. In an era defined by globalization, how do you understand the use of technology into your practice? And what is, from your perspective, technology related to its territory?
I’m interested in all technologies, although my work concentrates and applies the medium technology because it is what I can achieve (as current resources). Before running a practice in a cultural, social, economic or environmental atmosphere, it is necessary to observe what is done, how it is done and why things are done that way. In the case of ceramics, technology has generally remained in the ancestral level.
 
The problem is not the technology, but the ability we have to dialogue with it, to know whether or not it corresponds to the intrinsic values ​​of each context, if it is worthy, if it respects the worldview of communities, whether it is sustainable even through time, if the territory has the human, economic and energy resources that could sustain it.
 
Furthermore, technology related to its territory is the one that nourishes and enriches it. All countries must be reflected in their technologies, know about them and embrace them. Otherwise, it is sterile, alien and alienates society. Generally, in the case of ceramics, local technology is the one that achieves this level of symbiosis, which persists over time and evolves into art.
 
In relation to technology, which in recent years has turned in crisis the notion of the author (with 3D printing, for example), what do you think about authorship? Specially from your practice that is more in touch with human labor.
It is a subject I should deepen more. Some of the best designs of the past century, for example, are anonymous (the most simple and practical) while the more complex are generally developed in groups. To walk through life as a single author you need tenacity and be an incredible genius, but I feel that is very lonely and it should not be easy. I’m more interested in community work.
 
How is your creative process?
I have been working with ceramics since 2011, and my approach started by the need to specialize in a material. I’m very intuitive, so I understood that ceramic would be with me all my life. My process is guided by nine elements:
 
– Useless Objects: At the beginning my projects were a mean to get rid of my profession. At first, I denied all the processes and rational methodologies of an industrial designer to begin working pottery intuitively, as a pleasure. My first projects (Balanus and Useless Objects) are a purely aesthetic, material and ornamental exploration. A constant question was: What is your concept? My answer: objects. When we do not understand what things are for, we hope to find a theory behind them. Then, when I made utilitarian objects it was a success, I did not have to explain anything to anyone. That was when I reconciled with my profession.
 
-Drawing and Color: Drawing has always accompanied me in my creative process. With the potter´s wheel I learned to draw in the air, but I never substituted wheel drawing with the 2D drawing. To draw with pen or stylus, is the true length of my ideas, my most practical and reliable tool. The color, meanwhile, gives my objects identity, continuity, connection and meaning.
 
-Objects/Systems: To work with Hector Galvan made me realize that an object by itself does not have the same value that when it is in use, in a context, in a society. So, I began to understand the objects as part of systems as a means to generate relationships and moods.
 
-Processes: Another key element in the creative process is the construction technique. I like to leave tracks of the construction process in the pieces, not only as a resource but also and above all, as an aesthetic language.
 
-Observation: I observe, listen to the context that will to some extent, define a collection and an object, I like asking and watching people: what do they eat, how they serve their food, how they set a table, how the food is served, where they wash their dishes, where they keep their tableware. Those are the common interfaces that give meaning and distinction to every collection I do.
 
-Repetition: After three years of exploration, I have four defined families with specific aesthetic, mythical and practical characteristics: Progreso, Gracil, Primaria and Arquetípica. Generally, I repeat several times the same family but in the process there are changes in proportions, materials and colors. I love to polish the object until achieving complete results.
 
-Method and discipline: It is important to find the right balance between duty and pleasure, I think that is the most difficult part: to understand the boundary between your freedom and the need to live of this craft. With Ángulo Cero, for example, I found an excellent commitment.
 
-Evaluation: Once the pieces are out of the oven I watch the result, then I begin to classify (between ordinary and extraordinary), I measure, I set prices, I label and do inventory. I do not know if it is clear, but my creative process is very slow and always in development.
 
-Materials: Currently I only work with six neutral enamels because it is very difficult to start with a wide range. Instead, I am exploring with more than eight ceramic bodies (brown, black and white stoneware, terracotta and porcelain), which is a totally new experience for me. To work with these materials is revealing me new secrets from the world of ceramics.
 
Your work consists of two lines: ordinary and extraordinary. What do they project?
Labeling is very complex, and I’m still working on a better definition for these lines. Both lines are functional, located within home or in meeting spaces; they can be made with artisanal or industrial techniques. Today the ordinary is to make slip casting pieces and the extraordinary to make pieces by hand. Tomorrow, the extraordinary will be to make 3D pieces. In general, there are some differences and similarities between the two lines:
 
-Ordinary: It emerges mainly to cover practical functional objectives. Not necessarily by me, it also involves other people or other workshops. You can give a new meaning to an ordinary model and become extraordinary and vice versa: an extraordinary one can be repeated until be controlled and become an ordinary one. The ordinary line is not necessarily composed by unique pieces. And I’d like it to lose the notion of individual authorship.
 
-Extraordinary: This line gives greater weight to functional and mythical values. It is outstanding in its technical qualities and above all in its aesthetic. It may involve a special commission: in the case of Ángulo Cero, I traveled to Mexico and for 40 days I worked only on the extraordinary line. A piece from the ordinary line may be repeated in the extraordinary line, but in a specific material. The extraordinary are unique pieces and have authorship.
 

[1] Fernando Martín Juez. Contribuciones para una antropología del diseño. Editorial Gedisa Mexicana, S.A. Barcelona, España, 2002.

Cooperativa Panorámica: Exploring Design

"LEVEL Tables", Cooperativa Panorámica, 2014.
In design, as in most creative disciplines, the figure of the author has always had great weight. Often, the individualism that accompanies the image of the lonely creative genius, inspired by the halo of his own self, is nothing more than the illusion of a brand.
 
Cooperativa Panorámica is one of those cases that demonstrate that other forms of work are possible. In the margins of a practice dedicated to design that is not only aesthetic but also critical, they opt for dynamics where the other is part of a circle of correspondences. This re-taken model, while not new, offers possibilities and suggests guidelines that ultimately foster their relationship with design.
 
Created in 2012 by six Mexican designers, José de la O (Mexico City, 1980), Joel Escalona (Mexico City, 1986), Jorge Diego Etienne (Tampico, 1983), Moisés Hernandez (Mexico City, 1983), Ian Ortega (Mexico DF, 1983) and Christian Vivanco (San Luis Potosi, 1983) – Cooperativa Panorámica is not a conventional group. Together they pervert the idea of an author absorbed in his knowledge to bring forth the sum of perspectives nourished from different contexts.
 
For its members, this cooperative means "to combine forces and work together, joining our names and styles for the sake of the project. Our goal is that this model of autonomous association of persons, who voluntarily cooperate for mutual, social, economic and cultural benefit, turns into a platform to work with different forms of business according to the exercise we're doing. "
 
The idea of ​​joining, they state, was born out of friendship and admiration among them and to gather as a society based on cooperation -both creatively as well as economical- was certainly not part of a spontaneous plan, much less isolated. Their organization is not ideal, utopian or replicable to any context, but it proved to be a viable strategy to deal with the problems and challenges that each one of them recognized in their independent work, which were present as symptoms of the generation they belong to: the limitations of the domestic market, malpractices in the field and the ambition to create Mexican design with international projection.
 
Concepts such as democracy, responsibility, freedom, solidarity, equality, effort and support are the pillars of their practice. To begin a project, the starting point is the meetings to debate and discuss the relevance, objectives and principles that support the piece or the collection. The distance marked by their different points of residences is not a problem; they have different online tools to assist them: "We begin designing collaboratively across different virtual tools or intensive workshops where we build on the ideas of each one of us to reach the best design representing the sum of the six.”
 
Moreover, they share a vision of design with which they have managed to give identity to the cooperative: "We are interested in creating our design pieces as a mean of expression, being inclusive and diverse critics. We want Panorámica to transcend the object and adopt a discourse with each of its exercises”. That is why we can see that all their collections are distinguished by continuity in forms and concepts.
 
Their first collection, Materiality, was the result of extensive research on the value of materials whose qualities and everyday uses may be considered as common, such as basalt, terrazzo, copper and glass. The interest in materiality is also reflected in the Colored Basalt series, which marked the beginning of works in unexplored territories: the color as a resource to determine the nature of an object and the interaction that the user may have with it, which is undoubtedly an equally distinctive feature of their Mono collection.
 
With their most recent project, LEVEL, created for Ángulo Cero, Panorámica pursues their objective of pushing the boundaries of design through exploration and experimentation. The collection consists of tables based on the concept of the minimum as a resource in order to reach the meeting point and the perfect level between two different elements.
 
"LEVEL was born from the obsession to find a way to bring simplicity and functionality to a minimum. This is a collection of minimalist furniture that balances contrasting materials in one expressive composition. The contrast of these pieces lies in the materials used (tinted glass, marble or anodized aluminum), where each intersected plate relies on another for support and balance”.
 

In LEVEL as well as with the different projects of Panorámica, beauty is the result of experimentation and design study.

Poleta Rodete: The Bones of the Earth

Una pieza de joyería es parte de un relato. Es un vestigio de la historia. No es sólo un adorno, es también un objeto con memoria.
A piece of jewelry is part of a story. It is a relic of history. It is not just an ornament, it is also an object with memory. When you know Poleta Rodete´s work you can notice these statements. Look at the stones, they are rings, necklaces, pins or earrings. Do they recall the ancient jewels, those pieces of archeology that show our journey through space and time?
 
"All existing materials on Earth have memory," says the designer, "the rocks, for example, are witnessing a moment transformed with the passing of time." And yes, her designs evoke a sense of history. At one point in the process, she managed to grant will to materials. Rodete does not seem to handle the granite, clay, marble or rock; its forms, however, emerge to express their own history.
 
 They are not artificial gears. The pieces are the result of a process of discovery and respect for nature. When she begins working with a material, she lets it talk, lets express its essence. She affirms that you need to read the material to understand its physical qualities, "once I get to understand its code, is it easier to sculpt forms".
 
Besides searching for the origin of the materials, Poleta Rodete is interested in communicate it through her designs. For her, the jewelry is not defined by its relationship with fashion, function or aesthetics, but by values ​​associated with communication and personal reflection. Thus, although aware of the languages ​​of fashion nowadays, her work is not outdated or chasing trends.
 
Her interest in the origins and experimentation with marble or granite was detonated by a gradual process. Rodete studied textile design and fashion in CENTRO in Mexico City; however, it was with the lapidary Don Juan -her teacher and friend- from whom she learned to recognize the nature of the materials and the virtues they offer when they are known. In jewelry she found the means to achieve what the textile did not allow her: to study body language. "Since its inception, jewelry has been linked to the body; man's intention has always been to create a sense of identity through the body and jewelry."
 
Away from the conventional notion of jewelry as an accessory, Poleta Rodete´s jewelry is both extensions and reflections of the body. In her most recent collection, The Plastiglomerate Collection (2014), designed for Ángulo Cero, she managed to establish a link from a critical perspective between body structures (bones) and Earth (rocks).
 
Man´s time upon this Earth has already left its indelible mark on the history of geology. More than 10 years ago, in 2004, a group of geologists discovered on the beaches of Hawaii rocks containing polymers in their composition. Although at first it was considered an isolated case, after years of study and research it was identified as an effect of the current geological era. That is, the result of the enormous impact of man over nature.
 
Rodete became interested in these rocks polymer, which was termed as plastiglomerato: a stone, according to the Geological Society of America, formed by the merger of plastic waste with fragments of natural materials. For the designer, this is just one example of the "ability of man to transform nature in its entirety. Man has managed to change the bones of nature. "
 
The Plastiglomerate Collection is a series that emulates the aesthetic characteristics of plastiglomerate, from the mixture of limestone, marble, granite, epoxy resinand plastic waste. According to Poleta Rodete, the result is "a disarticulation of the human body."

Welcome

FOTOJOURNALBOLSA
Ángulo Cero is a project that gathers many years of work, experience, curiosity and, above all, talents. Our goal is to establish meaningful connections between people seeking inspiration, beauty and stories to tell; and creators dedicated to explore, experiment and express their vision of the world through objects.
 
We are a platform dedicated to art and design. Each of our pieces have been carefully selected and produced to conquer the look, mind and sensations of our customers. Here you will find objects with different stories, that appeal to the senses and allow a degree of identification with whomever owns or observes them.
 
We encourage collectecting but above all, we encourage creative production in Latin America. My greatest passions have always been art and design, especially in the points both meet and converge. In life the best results are always triggered by union and dialogue. As the artist Fito Espinosa says, "the magic lies in the intersection."
 
Ángulo Cero is moved precisely by the intersections and interstices between art and design. We propose a space for creation but also for reflection of both disciplines, from beauty and functionality, that are part of everyday becoming.
 
Ángulo Cero is a sum of efforts. I thank each and every one of the people who supported this project in different ways; mainly to all the creators who have ventured in participating with us at this early stage: Poleta Rodete, Karla Sotres, Red Rodrigo Sandoval, Cooperativa Panorámica, Studio Cardinal, Gosbinda Vizarretea, Luis Orozco Madero, Sumie García Hirata and Víctor Pérez-Rul. In addition, I thank in advance those that will surely join this family.
 
To all of you, thank you very much.
 
Montserrat Castañón
Founder and Creative Director