Christopher Turner, London Design Biennale

The World Reimagines the World: Designers as Provocateurs of Hope and Optimism

Via Blouinartinfo

In its inaugural year, the London Design Bienniale invites designers from around the world to explore the theme "Utopia by Design." Referencing the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s novel “Utopia,” the Biennale's curator Christopher Turner sat down with Blouinartinfo to discuss his thinking behind the concept and how this theme has resonated among the many participating countries around the world.

In the interview, Turner shares his belief that designers can play a powerful role today as provocateurs of hope, as instigators to reimagine our world together:

"Because utopia is a quite contentious issue. Modernist utopias have been ridiculed for a long time. Everyone knows that utopia always tilts into dystopia after a while and that there’s always something totalitarian about a utopia, because one person’s utopia is another person’s nightmare. We obviously didn’t invite countries to submit large-scale social blueprints as in the traditional modernist utopias, but to look at small instances or even big ideas about how design might serve in some way to improve some problem. And we imagined countries looking at large issues and suggesting small improvements; also looking at the future, not only inspiring futures, but also cautionary futures.

Dystopias are a lot more popular today than utopias. In cinema, we’re awash with dystopias. However, in the 1950s, Ernst Bloch spoke of the “Principle of Hope,” wondering whether something could be salvaged from the utopian ideal, the spirit of optimism, which I think most designers have. So it was a good way to mine that interest."

Specific projects among the dozens of entrants included 'White Flag' by Italian curators Annicchiarico and Camuffo. They invited 20 young Italian designers and studios to imagines a global ceasefire and redesign the white flag – traditionally a symbol of surrender or truce. Japanese designer Yashiro Suzuki presented another take on utopia as a 'Journey around the neighborhood globe.' His large transparent helium balloon hovering over the park suggests what it means for people to take a journey in a world that exists as an object beneath our feet and an image in our heads. 

Descriptions of all of the entries can be found on the London Design Biennale website.


Photo Credit: Maria Pina Poledda; Yasuhiro Suzuki