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In the past one decade, the exponential rise of the climate crisis, refugee flows, political surveillance and the recent pandemic has made designers around the world to bring about a radical change in an effort to meet the global challenges. The gravity of the situation is such that if the right actions are not performed with immediate effect, the human could further debilitate the expectancy of their tribe as well ill thought actions could prove detrimental to Earth. The creative collaboration for a collective change is the key to putting the resources to smarter use, which would directly shift the pattern of consumption. The works by a series of 27+ designers, architects, craftsmen and other creatives and experts address crucial issues within the exhibition The Future is Present, at the Design Museum, Denmark. It is divided into four themes: Human, Society, Planet+ and Imagining the Future.
Over the years, design as a discipline is seen as an amalgamation of creative bend and radical mind. Design is about changing the existing into something better. Museums of art and culture mainly exhibit the past and the contemporary. In an interview with STIR, Pernille Stockmarr, the curator at Design Museum Denmark walks us through the title of the exhibition The Future is Present - within the context of the pressing concerns this exhibition intends to meet, “The title of the exhibition reminds us that the future is not something abstract and far away. It is something that happens now, starts now and we are all, designers included, taking part in shaping the future by the choices we make and the actions we take in the present.” Being a Design Museum, the curator aims to look at the future to engage visitors to consider and reflect upon the purpose of design - and invite them into the complex conditions for designing a better future.
The installation Library of Change by Bespoke Manyone gives a glimpse of signals of change, emerging trends, new technologies, changes in values, geopolitical landscapes etc. It is an invitation to immerse yourself into a living map of what is currently emerging in our societies and through that post questions and reflections about our collective future. The textile work Mist, a dress made in a cross-disciplinary collaboration between fashion designers GUDRUN & GUDRUN, material and textile designers Amalie Ege and Charlotte Christensen and Lifestyle and Design Clusters, is directly inspired by the mist - this handmade dress is made by garment created from white milk yarn from goats. To mention, it is the room named “Imagining the Future” room at The Future is Present exhibition, which showcases the radical examples of how designers in the twentieth century imagined and prescribed the future. The centrepiece is the first Danish E-car Ellert developed in 1982-87 by Steen Volmer Sørensen. It was commercially available and created as an alternative to public transport. Few realized then that the electrically powered car was the future.
Stockmarr states, “The works were selected based on their explorative, suggestive or speculative tendency so that the visitors could relate to them and reflect upon them. Some were existing projects; others were created for the exhibition. It was a criterion that the presented works could create a sensuous aesthetic experience for the visitors and that different media were represented. Diversity was prioritized in scale – from objects to installations – and in ways of designing – to show the breadth of the design. Therefore, collaborative experimental research projects, foresight design methods, handicrafts and creative experiments are shown side by side in the exhibition.”
Consequently, an exhibition of this scale puts a spotlight on the importance of the sustainability of infrastructure. In a similar spirit, reflecting on it in the exhibition design was a key premise. A Copenhagen-based design and architecture studio – Spacon & X – known for their ability to push boundaries with materials and spatial zoning were chosen as exhibition designers. They sourced materials to exemplify future choices primarily from local Danish firms. For instance, the podiums are made of acoustics eelgrass mats (The Danish producer Søuld) and a platform made of B-foam (The Danish Natural Material Studio). Using mainly organic and reused materials, textiles were also implemented to create a flexible layout while also considering reusable modules. “A few raw elements from industrial production, such as aerated concrete and bioplastic fascines, have been transformed into reusable modules for use in podiums and seating. Together, they create an interesting contrast to the otherwise exclusive materials used in the museum and reflect the contemporary urge to explore the reuse of existing and the development of new materials also on show in the exhibition,” informs Stockmarr.
Throughout the exhibition, the importance of co-dependence and co-existence between heterogeneous societies is heightened to let the audience feel inspired and emotionally awakened: reflective and aware of how design always influences and creates the new tomorrow, and that we are all creators of the future. Stockmarr puts it succinctly towards the end, “Although we advocate for radical change, it can happen in a desirable ethical and aesthetic way.”
The Future is Present runs at Design Museum Denmark until June 1, 2023.
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