Curated by Carwan Gallery Beirut co-founder Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, Unsighted presents projects by eight international designers; the title making reference to the fact that the designers weren’t told for what they were being commissioned, had no external context; were working, as it were, Unsighted.
During Milan Design Week 2018 all became clearer…
As we’ve oft noted in these pages, in terms of furniture and lighting design, context is important, can/does make the critical difference between an object working and an object merely existing.
When we write such we, generally, mean “context” as in a project, a commission, a building, something real and tangible, something that brings with it parameters within which the designer has to move; however, there also exists an internal context, namely the designer’s own understanding of and position to design, if you will, and at the risk of brushing the curve of hyperbole, a direction they aim to follow.
One of the keys to successful design is not only being able to work under both definitions, but to successfully combine the two, to successfully develop a project within external constraints while remaining true to your own design understanding. That a designer can only rarely define the external constraints, it is important to keep training the internal understandings, to test where you are at and question where you should be, thus allowing for development and refinement: in which, context, a project such as Unsighted is interesting and relevant, allowing as it does for a public opportunity to do just that.
Not only did the initial commission leave the designers no external context in which to place the development of their project, it also leaves the viewer with a collection of thoroughly unrelated projects, the Sammelsurium of which we regularly speak, and thereby a collection of objects which can only be assessed and considered individually, as the work standing before you. You have no other handle.
OK with one project we had one further handle.
We first saw Korean designer Jeonghwa Seo’s stools and tables in context of the exhibition Tools for A Break – Korean Crafts and Design at Munich Creative Business Week 2015, then as now we appreciated their unerring simplicity, the way they carried themselves as very neatly proportioned, nicely judged, unassumingly eloquent objects: now over then the acrylic tops add a real glint to their eyes, changes their public persona without altering their essential character and for us takes the project on to a very pleasing new level. As, literally, does the split level version on show in Unsighted, a genuinely joyous object who’s company we shared for little longer than was perhaps prudent.
Our attention was also caught by the Padirac Lighting by French based designer Eric Schmitt, an object which, if you will, sets two light sources in dialogue with each other, albeit without creating a dry, technical discourse on the physics of interacting light, but a thoroughly charming lighting object which even in the confines of the Unsighted exhibition space helps explain how an object can influence a space without dominating it. Yes having two lamps illuminate the same thin slice of air is a little decadent, but hey…
Elsewhere Unsighted features a bronze light sculpture inspired by human volumes from Irish designer Niamh Barry, American textile designer Dana Barnes worked with raw wool’s natural properties to develop the wool sculpture Gnarled; Vancouver/Berlin based designer Omer Arbel created a series of glass vases via a process we’re still trying get our heads around, yet which produces singularly unique results; the Bahrain/Danish collective Bahraini Danish developed a collection of independent yet related tables which are in concept and realisation as much architecture as design; and Politecnico di Milano graduate Roberto Sironi presented with his Ruins project a series of post-industrial, post-modern artificial marble and bronze objects that were maybe a little too obvious, but also arguably all the more endearing for the way they seemed to acknowledge that fact. What we didn’t see, what thus what remained for us Unsighted was the extruded ceramics project by Montana based designer Anton Alvarez, if it wasn’t there or if we just missed it we’re unsure as the fact we realised we’d missed it occurred ex post. Apologies to Anton if we missed it.
If the Unsighted concept helped produce works more interesting than would otherwise have been created is naturally open to conjuncture, the necessary control group being not only absent but impossible; however, free as the works are from any external context or necessity Unsighted does provide for a nice, if brief, singular, introduction to the work of the selected designers.
Unsighted can be viewed at Palazzo dei Demoni, Via Cesare Correnti 14, Milan until Sunday April 22nd.