‘How can design and innovation make the world better?’ is the question being tackled at the first ever London Design Biennale, due to take place this September at Hampstead’s famous Somerset House. The Polish Pavilion has responded with Cadavre Exquis: An Anatomy of Utopia, an interactive exhibition that investigates utopia, dystopia, and everything in between.
This September, London will host the city’s first design biennale at Somerset House. Among the exhibits, the Polish Pavilion will showcase Cadavre Exquis: An Anatomy of Utopia, a unique and imaginative concept conceived and curated by Maria Jeglińska and Klara Czerniewska.
Created especially for the biennale, their installation questions how the 21st century creates space for new utopias, reflecting on the numerous crises and failures of modernist social, political and urban projects from the previous century. Borrowing from the form of the surrealist word association game, ‘the exquisite corpse’, it invites the viewer to act as a co-creator of a proposed narrative. By assuming the role of the wanderer, visitors face a choice between their own path towards an idyllic utopia or a disturbing dystopia.
Whether their vision will be positive or negative will be up to them. The journey examines questions relevant to the current era and the collective search for a new utopia. Does the age of diversity allow space for idealist uniformity and totality? How can utopia be designed? Is it possible to devise an algorithm to generate a perfect future?
By confronting two streams of (un)consciousness, Jeglinska and Czerniewska have chosen six concepts relating to the problems of the world of today. Distilled to abstract ideas (cloud, sun, house, high-rise, fossil, artificial intelligence) and presented in unexpected juxtapositions, these notions comprise fragments that amount to a symbolic anatomy of Utopia as an inventive tool for change.
Jeglińska and Czerniewska write:
From the very beginning, we knew it would be vital for us to actively engage viewers to participate in our project. We realised that we should position them as the narrative’s protagonists, and make them act according to a pre-designed choreography. Just like in More’s Utopia, we decided to place our audience on a mental journey to a different land, familiar and uncanny at the same time.
Similarly to fairytales and fables, the utopian genre stimulates the imagination, motivating the audience to embark on a voyage. The mental journey to Utopia enlightens and sensitises a person to their surroundings – a critical analysis of the present suggests potential solutions and scenarios for the future. Jeglińska adds:
By now, the road from the outset of a thought to its implementation has become terrifyingly short. What we have previously witnessed as science-fiction narratives are creeping into reality. This is equally a blessing and a curse, sometimes independent of the original intentions.
The creators of the exhibit assert that ‘living in a post-utopian, postmodern age, we have come to a realisation that utopias are human-made constructs, which upon their implementation turn out to be nightmares (dystopias).’
The inaugural London Design Biennale will feature presentations from curators and designers representing thirty countries across six continents. A talented roster of international creatives and industry insiders will explore how design and innovation can make the world better with the event’s guiding motif, Utopia By Design. All participants, including the world’s most influential museums and cultural institutions such as Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (USA), the Triennale Design Museum (Italy), and the Victoria and Albert Museum (UK), have developed thought-provoking installations that ponder the concept of utopia and the impact of design.
Culture.pl values the collaboration with the London Design Biennale as a welcome opportunity to promote Polish design, its key protagonists and most valid ideals and trends. ‘The collaboration with the London Design Biennale has been one of Culture.pl’s cornerstone initiatives in the promotion of Polish design throughout 2016, along with the exhibition Beauty & Pragmatism / Pragmatism & Beauty displayed at the Triennale di Milano,’ says Barbara Krzeska, head of the Polska Design project at the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. ‘Procuring such prestigious partners will enhance the reputation of Polish design and Polish designers in the international arena.’
The Polish Pavilion promises to be a provocative and complementary addition - a must-see for artists, curators, and designers alike.
Cadavre Exquis: An Anatomy of Utopia
7th – 27th September 2016
London Design Biennale
London WC2R 1LA
Curators: Klara Czerniewska, Maria Jeglińska
Installation: Maria Jeglińska
Graphic design: Krzysztof Pyda
Epilogue: Kaja Kusztra
Sound: Paweł Andryszczyk
Exhibition production: Marta Piechocka-Nowakowska, Michał Nowakowski
Support: Fundacja Editions Spotkania
Thanks to: Swiss typefaces (www.swisstypefaces.com)
Adam Mickiewicz Institute Team: Barbara Krzeska, Mirosława Kopka, Małgorzata Miśkowiec, Maria Ostrowska
Source: press materials; edited by AZ, 19 Aug 2016.