Mineral, animal or vegetable, what are you? Substitute designer for mineral, and artist for vegetable and this is the question closest aligned to what we, as designers are asked and asking of ourselves. Designer, animal or artist – is there something in between, an emerging hybrid category perhaps?
Boris Groys described design as having newly invented itself as a twentieth century phenomenon, one that was only responsible for the appearance of things, and it followed that it seemed predestined to conceal the essence of things. Modern design tasked itself
with eliminating the surface of things, rather than concerning itself with ‘window dressing’. “In comparison to the ornamentation synonymous with earlier design movements, genuine Modernist design is reductionist. Stripping design back to simple formal elements helped to shape the viewer’s gaze, leaving space in
the design for people to discover things for themselves.” Groys suggests that modern design has transformed the whole of social space into an exhibition space, “in which individuals appear both as artists and as self-produced works of art.” As the label changed from commercial artist to graphic designer, the connotation lost some of its unworthiness, and became broader and more desirable, opening up the possibility of something more hybrid, a category outside of designer, animal or artist.
Over half a century on, what are designers? Artists or commercial machines? Design. Commodity. Both designers and artists come from varied backgrounds, united in their fluency in aesthetic languages. When you think of design, what comes to mind? Do you think of your ad-stuffed mailbox, minimalist white space, luxury items, or villa embellishments? What would life be like without design?
As designers we often tread the line with work that could just as easily be illustration or fine art. The work in this exhibition intends to create a space of visual possibilities for those who work within the label of ‘designer’. Whether it’s literally showing off industry skills set in type, seeing things in the space between advertising and limited edition prints, reminiscing on the importance of decoration both architectural and hand generated, or taking a light hearted jab at the limitation of the label, designers are shown to be artists too – and vice versa.
Curated by Jess van Zyl & Loren Marks, Tuesday 28 August 2012 - Friday 31 August 2012