by Almas SadiqueSep 14, 2023
After a span of more than two years, the latest edition of the London Design Festival was finally adrift, flooding the city of London with a barrage of art and design events and ushering an enthusiastic throng of design enthusiasts. The design fair, held from September 17 to 25, 2022, hosted a mix of exhibitions and design events. One such show at London Design Festival 2022 that managed to garner a sizeable audience was the Art of Storytelling by the Italian furniture brand Kartell. The event, curated by STIR at Kartell’s showroom in the Brompton Design District was held on September 22. Five immersive and interactive presentations focused on storytelling and the many creative mediums employed to narrate them. Amongst the presenters were art director and production designer Alexandra Walker, British artist Morag Myerscough, visual artist and writer Osman Yousefzada, Chief Executive and Director of Design Museum Tim Marlow OBE, and luxury and culture brand strategist Vadim Grigoryan.
Storytelling serves as a tool for understanding the world better, as a medium of information transmission across the apertures of time and space and as an aide in helping imagine a better and more equitable world. The five presenters at the event understand these implications and hence, attempt, in their own way, to make and break narratives through the creative faculties that they are endowed with. The event presented a special glimpse into each narrator’s ideation process. The audience got a chance to learn about the experiences, beliefs, academic learnings and familial leanings that inform each creative’s mode and art of storytelling.
The evening, dedicated to exploring the art of writing, painting, acting, reciting and building narratives, aligned well with Kartell’s long journey of engaging in new and innovative creative endeavours. Guided always by the values of quality, sustainability, culture, beauty, technology and design, the brand has worked, over the decades, with some of the most renowned creatives from the design industry such as Ron Arad, Philippe Starck, Piero Lissoni and Fabio Novembre, among others. A glimpse of the brand’s temporal presence in the design industry and its consequent influence on shaping the stories of people, places and periods was also made visible at the event through an exposition of old and new Kartell products followed by coffee and cocktails by illy.
The Art of Storytelling started off with a keynote speech by Samta Nadeem, Brand Director - Curation and Communication at STIR. Delineating the idea and concept behind the curatorial angle taken by STIR, she explained the relevance that stories hold in our lives. Enlisting the different forms and modes of storytelling, she introduced the five cross-disciplinary creators that headlined the show. A special acknowledgement of Kartell’s contribution to the design industry was followed by a brief welcome note by Lorenza Luti, Marketing and Retail Director at Kartell. “It’s been a long time since we have been to London and it’s so nice to see so many people in our house. This is our Kartell house in the UK, it’s our soul, where we try to show, through our collections, what we do and what our story is,” said Luti at the event.
The rest of the evening was a fine concoction of presentations, discussions and debates anchored by Amit Gupta, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, STIR.
Speaker 1: Tim Marlow OBE
Tim Marlow OBE, a writer, broadcaster, art historian and Chief Executive and Director of Design Museum, has been an active observer and participant in the world of contemporary art for the past 30 years. In his talk, he narrated stories about three artists he has met over the decades and his experiences and learnings working with them. His basket of stories comprised an assembly of tales told in the third person that he has collected over the years. Marlow’s presentation highlighted how conversations and engagements with an artist, a designer and their works help one create their own stories. A few anecdotes narrated during the talk were those about Sir Anthony Alfred Caro, who he interviewed in the 1960s about sculptures and wrote a critical review on; Gilbert & George, a collaborative art duo whose works Marlow appreciates for the subliminal meaning that they carry and Ai Weiwei, who uses subtle artistic expression as a form of protest. Marlow brought to focus the lack of direct dialogue between the audience and the artist. One may look at art sculptures in a gallery but it is very rare for them to engage in a conversation with the creator of the artwork. He has not only engaged with various artists and designers over the years but has also had the chance to witness them at work, ideating, processing or simply building objects or photographs that go on to feature in galleries and museums. In doing so, Marlow has understood how activism, art, filmmaking, photography, design and architecture can be a part of the same impulse, the same story, a realisation that is difficult to reach when viewing a creative entity objectively, in isolation, sans context. He also describes how stories become richer every time they are told and retold.
Speaker 2: Morag Myerscough
Morag Myerscough, an artist from London who explores and experiments with colours, patterns and words to understand their impact on urban environments and on a person’s perception of space, creates larger-than-life architectural installations with artistic imprints. During the event, Myerscough narrated a short story about her experiences growing up with the paternal half of her family, which was French and listening to her parents talk about falling in love at first sight in Aberdeen. Having grown up around the French side of her family, Myerscough never felt connected to her mother’s Scottish heritage. However, soon after both her parents passed away, and Myerscough was approached for a project in Aberdeen, her experiences in the Scottish city made her realise that she was, perhaps, more Scottish than she had originally surmised. Although usually inclined to pour the narratives of proximal communities into her projects, Myerscough decided to weave the story of her parents in this project. The project is a compilation of a communally painted art installation and a jigsaw poem narrating the ideas and experiences of people from Aberdeen as well as the love story of her parents; it served as the route to help her rediscover her roots and uncover another part of herself.
Speaker 3: Osman Yousefzada
Osman Yousefzada, whose practice revolves around different modes of storytelling, achieved by merging fiction with fact, is an artist and writer from the United Kingdom. He explores various immigrational experiences through the mediums of installations, sculptures, performance arts, garment making and writing. His talk questioned and brought focus to the marginalisation that exists in our society and how creative endeavours can become a route to transcend these borders and boundaries, or at least draw focus to them. One of the projects that he talked about is Her Dreams Are Bigger, which focuses on Bangladeshi workers who stitch glamorous garments. Yousefzada, in this project, highlighted the stark contrast between the way of thinking in a First World country and a Third World country. While the thought process of the former citizens knows no limits, the latter dare to dream only as much as they can afford. He ended the narration of this story with a poignant poem, an ode to the Bangladeshi workers, their sufferings and to the stark disparity that they are a victim of in today’s day and age.
Speaker 4: Alexandra Walker
Alexandra Walker is known for presenting her imagination through art direction and production design in various well-known movies and shows such as Harry Potter, James Bond and The House. She knows and enjoys the process of telling stories through space and time. At the event, she talked about how the script guides and inspires her creative process. While the script builds a world for the audience to enjoy, Walker’s designs decide how this story is experienced by the audience. She talked about displaying known symbols and totems in her creations in order to build a world that appears familiar, but at the same time, also adding newer aspects that build interest and inspire thought.
Speaker 5: Vadim Grigoryan
Vadim Grigoryan is an idiosyncratic creative director and luxury and culture brand strategist. Talking about art as a storytelling tool for brands, Grigoryan talked about various art and design works dating back to the prehistoric period. He asserted, through various examples, how “images are words and words are images”. In the same way, brands always create narratives in their expressions. The emotions sought by them are always sought through narration. In the end, it is the power of storytelling that really builds a brand and takes it forward.
Click here to know everything about London Design Festival 2022. Celebrating its 20th year, the festival takes over the city of London with installations, exhibitions, and talks from major design districts such as Brompton, Shoreditch Design Triangle, Greenwich Peninsula, Design London, Clerkenwell Design Trail, Park Royal, Mayfair, Bankside, King's Cross, William Morris Line, and Islington.