In Search of… Communities Design in Perspective — Wednesday 25th April — Outline: This session aimed at thinking about community and how artists, designers and institutions are working…
In Search of… Communities
Design in Perspective
Wednesday 25th April
This session aimed at thinking about community and how artists, designers and institutions are working for and together with local communities. The day opened with a visit to design studio HATO, who works a lot with local communities. This was followed by a interesting conversation with Amal Khalaf from the Serpentine Gallery’s Education team. She shared her experience, her political approach to education and how the gallery works together with artists, local schools and families. We ended the day at the Showroom Gallery, where we enjoyed an exhibition of art works by eight artists – There’s something in the conversation that is more interesting than the finality of (a title). Finally, we had a conversation with Louise Shelley from the Showroom, who runs their Communal Knowledge programme. It was a whole day journey engaging with terms like: communities, co-creation, designing power, social justice and construction of knowledge. And here are some reflections from the students.
Words by: Rong Tang, Sui-ki Law (Suki), Cristina Rosique, Yuehan Zhu (Hannah) / Images by: Shengtao Zhuang (Till), Xiaoxuan Guo (Kwo) / Editor: Huancui Chen (Clarice)
STUDIO HATO, HATO PRESS
& HATO LAB
The day begun with a visit to design studio HATO, who works a lot with local communities and co-create most of their design projects with their audience. The studio specializes in using design to engage and inspire communities and people around them.
Mélanie Dautreppe-Liermann, Creative Director, introduced serval fantastic works to us. This was an opportunity for the students to have a close conversation about their projects and the process of each design. One of their project “Start with a mark” (D&AD 2018 festival’s visual identity) takes the form of a collaboratively designed 3D digital drawing tool, that promotes creatives within the community to participate in producing a visual identity. The project corresponds to D&AD’s brief of “stimulation, not congratulation.”
All completed marks are then added to a gallery and used by HATO to help develop D&AD festival and its New Blood Awards. Subsequently, HATO uses the sketches to produces augmented reality, where the wide community becomes central in a collaborative context.
In addition, there are also lots of interesting works for children, Mélanie showed us two engaging project “How to make a Space Bus” and “Design for play”. Both of them are exemplars to express the idea of designers ought to design altruistically, not design for ourselves but for the public. So to collaborate with people in the process could produce better results.
HATO taught us when the creative community comes together and get a chance to work to the public, their project outcomes become a connection between designers and audiences, which could express both the public’s view and also designer’s perspective.
THE SERPENTINE GALLERY’S
We had a meaningful conversation with Amal Khalaf from the Serpentine Gallery’s Education team. She pointed out some important ideas, such as citizenship and authorship in a project involving communities. Her whole approach to education (when working with affected communities, such as migrants) is to involve them in the process from start so they can have a sense of ownership of the project.
It is also fascinating to learn about how she approaches and engages with communities. It takes time to build a relationship and get trusted. The key is to be regular and to share. Simply giving free coffee could help creating time for a conversation. People will be much more willing to give you their time if you have taken the initiative to offer value. We could always start with thinking about the needs and habits of those who we want to approach. Casual conversations or even trust can then be developed more easily. Furthermore, there could be creative ways to work with communities. An example she gave is the Implication Theatre, which communities are involved through role play. Her experiences are insightful to many of us whose project involve engagement with the public
THE SHOWROOM GALLERY’S
Through many different collaborative projects we started to think about “Who gets to speak?” and “How designers engage with their neighbours or communities?” Louise Shelly, who runs the programme, mentioned several projects: one was about domestic designer shared authorship, another was about working with teenage groups and women’s groups to talk about female rights… It is not only about inviting enough people to one project, but also trying to let audiences engage in design projects. Getting feedback from the audience is not easy, and it is very slow and long process. There are always many questions and challenges when working with communities. For instance, how deep does the collaboration go? Or how did they use the platform — like gallery space or common room? What is it about certain platforms that attracts different art and design projects? We need to make full use of each platform and get a good interaction with the audience and remember to not only seek feedback for one’s own work but be willing to give constructive feedback to other designers.
When the project is immersed in communities, the empathy is needed. There should be a fellowship which would be feeding with regular meetings and understanding, and try to avoid to come up with the answer to solve “their” problems in order to not end up in othering.
For instance re-projecting (London) by Ricardo Basbaum is an interesting protocol. He connected 9 locations which were determined by placing of an abstract shape onto a map, the shape created a framework for nine individual or groups (women’s refuge, a domestic worker, an LGBT centre…) to work together, and for thoughts, experiences and ideas to circulate. The shape, which Basbaum calls NBP (New Basis for Personality), has formed the basis of numerous works of his.
During our talk at The Showroom, we discussed about not every artist could work with all the issues and communities. And how each agenda demands a different approach, in consequence it will produce different outcomes.
More about The Showroom
There’s something in the conversation that is more interesting than the finality of (a title)
Ricardo Basbaum: re-projecting (london)