Curating the Future

Curatorship has become speculative in exhibition centres across Sweden. Stockholm’s ArkDes and Malmö’s Form/Design Centre are orientated forward, with exhibitions forecasting design’s function in future scenarios. Oak spoke to both design centre’s directors to understand how they comprehend the responsibilities of the exhibition space in a milieu defined by a tense a future.

ArkDes is Sweden’s national centre for architecture and design. This year’s centrepiece exhibition Future Starts Here catalogues 80 in-development or newly released design technologies with the potential to become future fixtures. Objects are categorised by Self, Public, Planet and Afterlife – expanding outward from the body as a site of design. Produced by design studios, research labs, universities and governments, each piece poses its own ethical question about personal and public infrastructure design futures and what responsibilities we are willing to delegate to technology and what we are compelled to keep for ourselves. “No single creative field discipline will be able to shape the cities of tomorrow alone,” says center director Kieran Long, “ArkDes aims to visualise what happens in our public space when multiple creative practices collectively shape our surroundings.’”.

Cross-disciplinary design is also presented as a resolution to our environmental challenges at Form/Design Center in Malmö.  The centre is a knowledge hub for architecture, design and craftsmanship with a prescient program of rotating exhibitions. The recent What Matter_s exhibition paired academia-based material insights with creative design visions. Over a period of six months, 10 design studios collaborated with 10 material researchers to create a product that showcased the capabilities of non-commercialised materials in meeting future design requirements.

Kunsik Choi a Malmö-based furniture and product designer was guided by Professor Rajni Hatti-Kaul from the Biotechnology Department at Lund University to create Project MATching. The collaborative outcome was a series of candy-coloured plant pots made from bioplastic that exposed the tension between organic matter and artificial and environmentally damaging materials. Designer Kenny Lee of Studio Aikieu worked with Doctor Solmaz Hajizadeh, a biotechnology and chemical engineer researcher a Lund University. Their Living Systems project produced a table and other home products using only the chitin biopolymer found in the shells of crustaceans and insect exoskeletons.

“In general our impression of What Matters_s is that the approach of matching design with research focused on material as an access point and a challenge has been very appreciated among our professional and common public,” reflects Form/Design Center director Dorte Bo Bojesen. “As a meeting place and public place, we see it as our responsibility to raise important issues, share knowledge and make current research available.”

Moving away from ideas of the gallery as an archival space or one purely for spectator edification, these centres are acting as projectionists. ArkDes and Form/Design Centre are reconciling what-might-become and what-might-not-become and presenting new paradigms of living that acknowledge our experience of living on our planet’s limits.

Click here to plan your visit to ArkDes’s Future Starts Here exhibition, on show until August 4, 2019.

Form/Design Center has commissioned What Matter_s 2.0 that will be shown during the inaugural Southern Sweden Design Days from May 7 – 10, 2020. Click here to read more about the new design event.