“Design by Distance” -redefines art in times of COVID

Published on : Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Design by Distance a new concept developed out of the new normal condition to showcase how designers from around the world are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic through the development of objects, garments, accessories, and space planning. Curated by Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox of c2-curatorsquared, Design by Distance highlights designers who are proposing new forms.

The Museum of Craft and Design (MCD) presents Design by Distance, curated by Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox of c2-curatorsquared, a timely virtual exhibition showcasing how designers from around the world are responding to the current pandemic through the development of objects, garments, accessories, and space planning. Located in San Francisco, MCD explores the creative process and current perspectives in craft and design through inspired exhibitions and experiential programs.

Design can be defined as invention in response to needs and conditions, and designers see the world as a set of problems to be solved. The natural response of designers to the global pandemic is to develop objects, garments, accessories, and space planning that will guide us through living in an environment threatened and filled by virus. Designers have brought in fantastic advances in the PPE required for those on the front lines. And there is joyful smiles of Matisse’s and Picasso’s figures covering faces, or printed on the masks, rather, of passersby. The re-purposing of clothing has resulted in a huge range of mask styles and configurations; Ikea has made available instructions to build a cardboard fort in your living room. Restaurants are removing tables and installing plexi sheets between tables, even placing them in their own tiny, individual green houses. Airlines are turning seats around and inserting plexi hoods between and around them so that still packed in like sardines, at least passengers won’t be breathing on each other, so much.

So, after shifting out all the projects that Kate Wagner has described as just “coronagrifting” or “PR-chitecture,” there remain, amongst others, Nendo’s joyful projects for ensuring children keep the correct distance even while interacting and playing together; the design screens produced by the Dutch Invertuals collective, headed by Wendy Plomp, which call to mind Light and Space sculptures by Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, Doug Wheeler and Craig Kauffman; the elegant plexiglass “hoods” by French designer Christophe Gernigon which respond to our need to be able to eat together without unthinkable distancing or claustrophobia; the marvellous woven rattan “hoop skirt” reminiscent of the same 18th century model, from Livable – the design and research platform headed by Sep Verboom, which was set up in response to the United Nations’ Global Call out to Creatives – which helps respect current recommended social distancing parameters or, alternatively, the skirts designed by the multiply collective, inspired by Victorian women’s ballet costumes and traditional men’s Highland kilts.

Then there are the costume designer and stylist Veronica Toppino’s “Structure hats,” reminiscent of the wide-brimmed hats of the 18th century; the cleaning kit for people and the surfaces around them, which looks like jewellery set, conceived by Birgit Severin and Guillaume Neu, and Kiran Zhu’s Handy Capsules, which contain a disposable mask, hand sanitiser, sticky labels and disinfectant wipes.

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