With his two faces the Roman God Janus was able to look in two different directions at once, a skill he traditionally employed as a gatekeeper, as a guardian of transitions, observing the past while always having his view firmly on the future; but a skill which is also helpful in understanding design processes, allowing as it does one to see simultaneously both the finished article, and the research, experimentation and design philosophy that lead to it.
Presenting works by eight Liège based studios which juxtapose the finished product with the development process, the exhibition Face A – Face B at Design Station Liège allows just such a Janus perspective.
In our instantaneous contemporary world design is all too often reduced to an image or an emotion, something that can be directly visually mediated, consumed, and thereby denied all that it actually is. Including denying the process that lead to it. That which defines it. And which may well lead to it evolving into something else in the future.
Organised by the non-profit agency Wallonie Design, Face A – Face B is a platform for both contemporary design from Wallonia, but also for an exploration of the research and development involved in design, the relationship of that research and development to the finished object and also how the individual designer’s positions to and understandings of design inform that research and development; and a task in which it is ably assisted by a very intelligent exhibition design concept by Liège based studio DesignWithGenius, an intelligent exhibition design concept which tends to imply that on this occasion they have. Doesn’t mean they always do. Have here.
The secret to the exhibition concept is a scenography which sets the finished objects in a room set-up, discreetly veiled behind a curtain, and around which the studios’ research and positions are presented; an exhibition design concept which not only neatly separates the two components, but which forces you to continually criss-cross the exhibition space to make/understand the connections, and thereby not only creating the impression of a much more expansive presentation, but also avoiding a rather mundane research, project, research, project, research, ad nauseam, narrative.
Featuring a mix of design genres including product, furniture, lighting and graphic Face A – Face B touches upon numerous issues in contemporary design including those directly related to the design process such, and amongst others, sustainability of materials/ production process and more general questions of product lifecycles, but also issues relating to the business of design, including the place of the designer in the contemporary design industry, client/designer relationships, the challenges of establishing your own studio, and also the difficulty of explaining the work involved to produce something apparently obvious and effortless.
Which is in many regards the underlying message. That that oh so insouciant instagram photo hides a whole lot of blood, sweat, tears, nerves, (lost and found), not to mention emails and conversations. And, and as we always emphasise, understanding that is important if one is to properly differentiate between design and that which marketeers will have us believe is design. And why is that important? Arguably it isn’t. But if we accept that design is not only a cultural element, one both reflective of contemporary society, but also one proposing new directions, and if we further accept that designers create the objects with which we share our lives, those objects we consume and which are consumed on our behalf, then we’d argue it is helpful to understand design, to learn how different designers think. And even more important to develop, and continually re-consider, your own position to design. And you don’t do that by reading blogs, but by getting out there and exploring.
A readily accessible and clearly formulated exhibition, we’re not going to pretend we were taking with all the realised objects on display, and we hope you wouldn’t ‘t believe us if we did, hope you would scorn us for our insincerity; but then as an exhibition Face A – Face B isn’t primarily about the end products. Which is what makes it interesting and relevant. And each of the designers’ stories is well worth hearing, well worth considering, each contributing as it does to the whole composition and thereby understandings of contemporary design.
An allowing us all to feel a little like Janus…..
Face A – Face B runs at Design Station, Rue Paradis, 78 4000 Liège until Sunday November 25th.
Full details, and information on the complete Reciprocity programme can be found at www.reciprocityliege.be