Week 30 - 15 August 2021

  • Hello!

  • Im writing this on the Piccadilly juddering back into London. Getting here involved an emergency night in a too-hot Frankfurt hotel, gesticulating security screaming 'Blame London!', the police being called, and a lot of angry Germans. Amongst the chaos I got talking to a journalist who’d been covering a luxury fasting commune just outside of Strasbourg. We put bets on when we’d get back to London. Perhaps that’s all for another time though.

Nice light in the dorms

  • Before all this, I was in Dresden at Design Campus - a summer school setup by The Kunstgewerbemuseum - or Museum of Decorative Arts. The museum is located in a funny series of palaces from the 18th Century designed in an exaggerated 'oriental' style. The buildings employ this trompe l'oeil that is even better in real life. Look at this pillar!

Pillnitz Palace and Park - Trompe L'oeil classical pillar

  • The museum's founding was inspired by the V&A, which was setup to promote industry and consumption. So - the museum, in fact really most museums, finds themselves in a tricky spot at the moment, where the buildings they exist in often reflect the colonial mindset of the time (a mindset that still lingers), and the collection it holds promotes rampant production and consumption - something we know cannot go on with the state of the planet.

Dresden Summer School Design Campus 2021 - Not For You

  • The summer school, in its first year, is a reaction to this question - a reassessment of what a museum can and should be today. A more active space.

  • So a corner of the museum had its collection cleared, a piece of conceptual art - a showbiz lightbulb sign reading NOT FOR YOU by Monica Bonvicini - put up above the entrance, heaps of Konstantin Grcic furniture bought to fill the space with a sort of industrial pedagogical feel, and the Design Campus opened for its first year.

Yellow banner with people all over it - anti-capitalist position

  • The workshop I attended - titled New World Propaganda - was run by Jerszy Seymour, who runs a programme called Dirty Art Department at Sandberg. The intent was for it to be a way of both talking about utopia and living it simultaneously. We began by discussing how the history of design is a history of domination, since we can trace that history right back to when man picked up a rock and used it as a club.

  • We had a fixed point of a performance at the end of the week, and some materials and instruments. We lived utopia by meandering towards it together - a fluid mix of individual and collective work, of making, discussing painting, cooking, jamming. If that sounds hopelessly idealistic, perhaps you’re right! But maybe inhabiting an ideal is a way to manifest space for that ideal on a larger scale.

Dresden Summer School Design Campus 2021 - Performance

  • In the end we cobbled together billboards emblazoned with positions - each one both having individual and collective authorship - and performed a couple of pieces as a band. The absurdity was not lost on us. An elderly visitor told us that our music had ruined the palace, that it had no place, and that she wouldn't be visiting again. And that everyone agreed with her. At a time when we often think art has lost its ability to shock, it was quite fun. I must admit to taking a bit of pleasure in it.

Dresden Summer School Design Campus 2021 - Performance wide

  • As fun as playing in a band was, the real value came from unpicking each of our practices together. The part of our discussion that has stuck with me most is that in a design practice the ideas, social positions, or content can be ordinary and straight forward, while the attitude or artistic strategies used to bring them into being are always unique. That feels obvious - but it's counter what I was taught on my Bachelors - that style doesn't matter, only unique ideas do. Which also feels obvious. Good tension.

  • I have to say a big thanks to Jerszy and Basma (who was running a parallel workshop), who both brought a real generosity to the workshops. I learned a lot from both of them - as well as everyone else there as students - usually in the stolen conversations on the way into town or back to the dorms. As is always the way.

  • Anyway. Enough of that. I'm back home now - finishing these notes listening to New German Wave, which I was suitably schooled in over the week.

  • See ya x x x

Last update: 2021-08-15 12:00:00 -0600