by Mariah Lamont-Lennox
There is a special kind of show that has a life after the original exhibition closes. EDIT, an exhibition produced by the Design Exchange in Toronto, is that kind of show. I was lucky enough to visit it on the last day of the show’s ten-day run. It was held in the Unilever factory on the Lakeshore in Toronto, and holding the expo in that space was a brilliant curatorial decision. It was a really unique experience to be surrounded by so much innovation and progress in all areas of design and technology. The show was held in an old factory - now defunct, and soon to be demolished. One could really feel the presence of the past, present and future all held tenuously together within the same site. The space itself leant the show an ironic sense of decay and optimism.
The Design Exchange is the only museum in Canada that is concerned with new design innovations and the history of design. The art of design encompasses a wide range of mediums such as fashion, architecture, interior design and also industrial design. It is visual art for practical use. This show exemplified how visual art can have a tangible real-world impact.
There was an overwhelming number of installations and exhibits, some presenting new inventions and technologies while others were art pieces more concerned with humanitarian issues. This was a space to share innovative ideas dealing with some of the most difficult issues facing the world globally. The Design Exchange partnered with The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to show how design can provide solutions to their Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
The Installation Astrocyte by Philip Beesley, was on the top floor of the expo and the very last piece presented. It was described as an aerial scaffold interwoven with a huge constellation of artificial intelligence that incubates future hybrid growth of thousands of protocells. It was incredibly intricate and beautiful, although I cannot say I actually understood the science behind the piece.
The main exhibit of the expo was called Prosperity for All, curated by Bruce Mau, a well-known Canadian designer and innovator. This exhibit covered the main floor and presented Magnum photographer Paolo Pellegrin’s photography of global conflict, alongside a series of seventeen exciting design creations and inventions corresponding to the UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs).
One of the SDGs represented in this exhibit was a project designed to address goal number five: Gender Equality. This display highlighted three different initiatives from around the world aiming to give visibility to the female experience and showcasing women’s anecdotes.
The first was The Female Lead, bringing to mainstream culture a diverse collection of women’s stories, amalgamated through online short films, a book showcasing 60 women from around the world, a programme for girls in school, and various social media platforms. The second project displayed in this exhibit was a book called Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. This is a children’s publication which tells the biographies of influential women throughout history alongside illustrations by female artists. The last was Girls Driving for a Difference, a program which hosts workshops to empower girls to become leaders of social change through design. Each of these projects shows how art and design are making an impact, in this case providing young girls with examples of successful women from different backgrounds and professional fields whom they can look up to.
Another display that caught my eye in the exhibition was the one for the twelfth SDG: Responsible Consumption and Production. The enterprises chosen to represent this goal were Corelam, a Vancouver based company founded by Christlan Blyt (that has created a new and ecologically efficient material using little energy), and Nanoleaf, a Toronto based company founded by Gimmy Chu, Christian Yan and Tom Rodinger that has produced the world’s most energy-efficient lightbulb, which they have named the Nanoleaf One.
This is just a very small selection of all the notable work that was in the expo. But not only was the art amazing, the show served as a platform to showcase a range of new ideas that have real world impacts in the present and future! It shows the vital role that art and design take on in making a difference in the world.
If given the chance, I would highly encourage you to visit the Design Exchange in Toronto and to check out next year’s expo. In the meantime, if you are interested in any of the installations or organizations I mentioned you can check out their websites, hyperlinked in this article. If you want to learn more about contemporary design, take a look at the World Design Summit which is taking place in Montreal next week!
The World Design Summit will be a meeting of 50 international organizations, looking at the solutions that design can provide in addressing global challenges. It will be taking place from October 23rd - 25th, 2017. Alongside the summit is an expo that appears to derive from a similar conception as EDIT, open to the general public on October 19th from 4-8 pm, and October 20th from 10-3 pm. It will showcase various innovations from designers around the world. Check out their website for more information on activities, presentations, and talks that will be happening throughout the week.
I would also like to suggest a visit to Synergy: A Dialogue Between Art & Design, which aims to “[address] global issues through art, solving problems with design”. This is an exhibition that will look at the six themes of the World Design Summit: Design for Earth, Design for Participation, Design for Transformation, Design for Beauty, Design for Sale? and Design for Extremes. Synergy features the work of six Canadian artists and is curated by Kimberly Glassman and Kevin Poitras. It will be on display from October 16th - 20th, 2017 at the Palais de Congrès in Montreal.