In the international design showcase running 4th to 23rd September, the Polish Pavilion's exhibition A Matter of Things reveals the emotions inanimate objects can evoke when seen in the context of historical events.
The seemingly everyday objects selected by curator Małgorzata Wesołowska can evoke feelings of euphoria, joy, anger and despair in the Polish psyche when attributed to significant moments in Polish history from the past 100 years. The exhibit coincides with the celebration of the centenary of Poland regaining independence and explores how the relationships to designed objects impact our memories. Recognising the emotion that the restoration of Poland’s independence stirs in Polish society, Wesołowska explains why it is important to acknowledge the impact of experience on meaning:
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Today, in an era of intercontinental migration, it is still – and perhaps increasingly – necessary to decrypt the meaning of things in order to be familiar with the cultural codes of a given community or nation.
A Matter of Things is the result of a nation-wide open call that the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and National Museum in Warsaw announced in November 2017. The winning exhibition was selected from sixteen entries submitted both by recognized curatorial voices and young curators, by a jury which included London Design Biennale Artistic Director, Christopher Turner. Małgorzata Wesołowska, the curator with the winning proposal, invited a team of designers, including Studio Noodi Design, Studio Szpunar and graphic designer and illustrator Michał Loba to work on the exhibition as a creative team. The resulting showcase explores the fluid meaning of items according to the place, time, language, and culture in which they are presented.
While the ten items selected by Wesołowska arouse significant emotions and memories in the Polish consciousness, others may only perceive the objects as practical, functional designs. Neither design icons nor discernable symbols for the stormy events they accompanied to those less familiar with Polish history, the objects remain inanimate witnesses to the explosion of human emotions through time. Wesolowska explains:
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I want to demonstrate that things are meaningless without our prescribing meaning to them or associating them with feelings. Sometimes objects gain significance somewhat by accident through association with impactful events or phenomena.
Golden curtains, an object from A Matter of Things at the London Design Biennale 2018, photo: promo materials
The installation will display the items selected by the curator in a neutral state, devoid of distinctive characteristics, making them uniform in colour and texture. The predominant grey shade selected by the curator for the presentation mirrors the universal nature of objects which have a cultural impact only when displayed in contexts which reveal that meaning. The historical moments associated with the objects will be demonstrated clearly with mood-boards which blend comic book style drawings from Michał Loba, excerpts from films by the Oscar-winning Andrzej Wajda, and archival photos, inviting international viewers to understand the emotional poignancy of the objects.
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The viewer will themselves apply appropriate layers of meaning through the lens of the cultural stories revealed on the boards, invoking their own emotional experiences.
Małgorzata Wesołowska, curator of A Matter of Things
The installation will also include two interactive exhibits: a 1960s Polish song listened to through headphones, and a 'Big Brother' message heard through the handset of a 1980s telephone.
A graduate from the Oslo School of Architecture and Design and a ph.D. student at the Gdansk Academy of Fine Arts, Wesołowska previously curated an exhibition for the second Warsaw Under Construction festival organised by the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, and has exhibited in the Zachęta National Gallery of Art.
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A manhole cover, an object from A Matter of Things at the London Design Biennale 2018, photo: promo materials
London Design Biennale
London Design Biennale
polish design around the world
The second annual London Design Biennale will feature participants from all six continents as international curators and designers explore big questions and ideas about sustainability, migration, pollution, energy, cities, and social equality with the event’s guiding 'emotional states' motif. All participants, including some of the world’s most celebrated cultural institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum (UK), Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia (Switzerland), Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, and University of the Arts, Berlin (Germany), will develop thought-provoking installations which examine universal and individual expressions of emotion.
The exhibition will be presented at Somerset House, opening on 4th September and concluding on 23rd September 2018.
A Matter of Things is organised by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute operating under the Culture.pl brand and is part of its Polska Design programme promoting Polish design worldwide.
Source: press release, compiled by AZ, Aug 2018
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