Visionary, useful, and fantastical—this year's Istanbul Design Biennial offers thought-provoking projects reimagining “the manifesto.”
This year’s second annual Istanbul Design Biennial took on the idea of “the manifesto.” Designers from around the world were tasked with reimagining the traditionally text-centric medium, carefully considering their pieces’ function in the past, present, and, perhaps most importantly, the future. With Zoë Ryan (Art Institute of Chicago) at the curatorial helm, aided by Meredith Carruthers, the 53 projects currently on exhibition include a diverse array of manifestos reinvented as physical objects, useful services, participatory installations, contemplative art, and more.
Adhering to the apt theme of “The Future is Not What it Used to Be,” the designers’ works are wound throughout a historic venue in Turkey’s largest city, the Galata Greek Primary School, systematically arranged into departments by Ryan—the Personal Department, exploring issues affecting our personal lives; the Resource Department, including manifestos that question our relationships with the material world; the Norms and Standards Department, aimed at rethinking the status quo and daily life; and the Civil Relations Department, which investigates collective action and social practice. Visitors snaking through the Galata’s five floors are invited to collect materials, engage with installations, and share their own thoughts on the evolving role of design in society.
As a whole, the Biennial makes for an eclectic display, with works ranging from downright practical to wildly imaginative. Here are three handpicked standout manifestos and the overarching design questions they pose.
Manifesting the Look of Love
From Chicago-based Haelo Design, this project plops two lovers at opposite ends of a table and invites them to look at one another through a transparent divider. The pane, innocuous as it may seem, is actually capturing the patterns of each individual observing their significant other with eye-scanning software, translating it into a cohesive three-dimensional “gaze map.” The rendering is then made into a one-of-a-kind physical design via digital fabrication methods, allowing couples to cart home a material representation of their burning (or waning) emotional connections. The composition of these love/lust sculptures depends on how long a couple has been romantically intertwined—paper for one year, aluminum for 10 years, or ceramic for surpassing the 20 year mark, for example. What better way to celebrate a nine-year anniversary than with an abstract, woven reed object? You can look at it for years to come and reflect fondly, “OMG. That was so us.”
Haleo’s manifesto poses the question: “What might a comparison of ‘many looks of love’ reveal to us?”
Courtesy Clio Capeille
This one’s for all you night owls out there—London-based designer Clio Capeille’s manifesto contemplates: What if we were to hack the natural day-night cycle imposed on us by melatonin and find an alternative use for our nighttime hours? Citing that urban settings are designed primarily for use in the daylight, Capeille proposes a “new kind of landscape,” drumming up architectural renderings of space age buildings deliberately devised for nighttime navigation along with tools like customized night goggles. She wonders if the perception that we should be awake through the daylight and sound asleep when it recedes should be adhered to. What if we could use design to increase our productivity? Or to increase the length of our days?
Capeille’s manifesto asks: “Should we fight against our melatonin to colonize the nighttime?”
As a culture, we’re alarmingly sedentary. Blame what you will—the confines of cubicles or sheer laziness—but the truth is we don’t move nearly enough. Add to that our ever-increasing addiction to and reliance on technology and, well, things don’t look very sunny for the future of physical fitness. Thus, the duo of Berlin-based Desiree Heiss and Paris-based Ines Kaag at design studio Bless suggest meshing the acts of working in an office and working out. Their manifesto, N°41 Workoutcomputer, offers up a prototype computer outfitted with various sized punching bags, each correlating to a particular function on a keyboard. To operate the computer, a user must engage in full-body contact, stomping on the ‘delete’ pedal, throwing a right hook to add an “@” sign, or roundhouse kicking the “enter” button, if a simple punch just won’t do.
Originally begun as a fashion house, Bless has since evolved into a studio that focuses on designing “‘situations’ that challenge perceptions and invite exploration of the world around us.” Displayed in the Biennial, visitors are encouraged to engage with the Workoutcomputer to type out their own messages, ultimately prodding at our constantly evolving idea of what live/work balance will, or should, look like.
Bless’s manifesto asks: “In the future, will ‘brainworks’ (conceptual brain activity) be accompanied by ‘bodyworks?’”