Okolo Offline at Depot Basel

Until April 27th Depot Basel are presenting the exhibition Okolo Offline.

Documenting the first five years of Prague based design collective Okolo, aka Jakub Štěch, Adam Štěch, Jan Kloss and Matěj Činčera, the exhibition presents 25 posts from the Okolo blog – www.okoloweb.cz – in a gallery installation: from Moebius for Hermés to Anatomy of ČZ via rulers and set squares, Meiss ski goggles or “Recent Japanese Inspirations”, the digital world is made tangible as objects, books, posters and film. Each accompanied by the original post in printed form and a QR code link to the Okolo blog.

So no, there is no escaping the, occasional, feeling that, at times, you’re visiting an advert for Okolo’s blog.

And, yes we are aware that this post can be considered as an extension of that advert.
And, yes we did think long and hard about whether or not to post anything about the exhibition. Before deciding yes.

For ultimately, and as we know only too well, if people don’t like what they read on a blog they don’t come back.
And so by extension if they don’t like what they see in the exhibition they won’t visit the blog.

We make no comment on the quality of the Okolo blog. Just the exhibition.

At times very personal, at times very sober and business like, always entertaining and informative, Okolo Offline is on one level an exploration of what inspires, excites and motivates Okolo. Explains why they do what they do; a casual collection of positions on creativity that provides clues as to how the collective thinks and functions.

On an alternative level Okolo Offline also explores the nature of experiencing design online as compared to experiencing it offline.

“How sustainable is the curiosity triggered by the web?”, asks the exhibition’s curatorial statement.

Negligible, as we once very passionately informed a fashion blogger who was of the opinion that because their photo of a man in a tracksuit had attracted a few dozen Facebook likes it was now elevated to some greater cultural relevance. Our argument that most of those who “liked” it had probably already forgotten about it, didn’t go down well. But had to be made.

Curiosity triggered offline isn’t necessarily more intense or longer lasting, but offline sources have never claimed that it is. Have never claimed to do anything more than inform.

But then, aside from marketing executives,  who is claiming that we respond better to things found online than offline? Are the best online locations not depositories of things that amuse the site owner and which are presented for no more altruistic reason than the vanity that they might amuse others. Regardless how fleetingly or sustainably?

In Okolo Offline one can read a text by Berlin design studio plural, aka Kilian Krug and Prof Severin Wucher, dealing with just this position and in which the pair discuss blogs as digital equivalents of the “chambers of curiosities” assembled by the privileged in centuries of yore. A text far too long to discuss here. Except to say it is a very nice extension of the exhibition.

The curators also ask, “How relevant is the option to see objects in a multi-dimensional context, being able to observe them from all perspectives?”

Very. We reply.

It is the principle reason we only write about objects, exhibitions and buildings we have actually seen, touched, smelt, fallen off. You cannot form an independent opinion about something, or if we extend the argument to the internet’s principle field of cultural activity, someone, until you have experienced it first hand.

Too often the internet forgets this.

Comparing Okolo online and Okolo offline one realises the deficits of online in the context of design, that online provides a sense of rather than the essence of, that online tends to reduce creativity to standard universal registers and images, and for all that offline is simply more engaging.

Statements that obviously shouldn’t be understood in context of Okolo alone. They are merely the conduit. For which we are thankful.

“Does the internet spare us a walk to the museum?” ask the curators…… while on account of its relatively compact nature Okolo Offline probably isn’t worth a special journey to Basel; if you happen to be in the vicinity over the coming weeks, it is well worth taking a small stroll to……

Okolo Offline runs at Depot Basel, Voltastrasse 43, 4056 Basel until Sunday April 27th. Entry is free.
Full details, including opening hours, can be found at http://depotbasel.ch

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