Art Contemplating Design

First Published October 2016 

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Photo still from Christie’s video

In a recent video produced by Christie’s, (click on photo above to watch this 3 minute video) the globally appreciated Chinese contemporary artist Wang Jianwei contemplates and questions the meaning and role of art.

His project above, entitled Distance, is a tower constructed from 407 abandoned cabinets.  He says, “It represents a utopia. We are turning art into a tool.”   This artwork strikes me as a political and social statement about our level of consciousness as a global society when it comes to collecting design in our lives. What does it say about a society that produces, consumes and discards furniture at such a high rate that one artist can find so many ‘abandoned’ cabinets?  What progress can be made and how can we change our relationship with the the objects in our life that will result in meaningful relationships and consequently less waste?

Investing in narratives that resonate with us on an instinctual level is where we start.

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The Global Design Theme of the week is traditional craft.

Below, are some photos from the upcoming  MoCA Tuscan ‘Meeting the Clouds Half Way‘ exhibition created by the architecture firm of Aranda\Lasch and  Terrol Dew Johnson, a Tohono O’odham  (Native Americans living primarily in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico) basket weaver.

Using indigenous materials and traditional basket weaving techniques such as the coil this exhibition seeks to find parallels in the worlds of architecture and weaving and to create relevant contemporary design that utilizes traditional craft in an authentic way.

Mr. Dew Johnson referred to baskets as ‘essentially  something that holds conversation’, in an article by Ariela Gittlen for Artsy. These baskets aren’t functional in the traditional sense but successfully explore the complexities of interacting with design. This quote is a wonderful insight into the social and cultural value of functional creativity. It gives us a peak into the idea of phenomenology which addresses the meaning things have in our experience, notably, the significance of objects as they are experienced in our ‘life world.’

On a surface level they are quite beautiful and pleasing. Acknowledging them as a social practice bringing together groups of people and ultimately the witness and result of their work together supports the poetic idea of them their ultimate function being that of “holding conversations”.

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Photos courtesy of MoCA Tuscan and Artsy.

 

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