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Above image: Quirky wall storage by Fabrica, shown as part of their Extra Ordinary Gallery show for London Design Festival.
They say London Design Festival (LDF) is the ‘fun one’; the unable-to-put-your-finger-on-what-exactly-it-is design festival. Kind of like London itself. Both egalitarian and determinably exclusive. It’s got definite boundaries but there’s breathing room, openness, insatiability for the new and the future of everything that keeps the cogs turning. Not too serious but recklessly exacting in taste.
Outside the large exhibition halls, a swathe of small venues dotted across the city showcase small exhibitions by fresh Royal College of Art graduates, some established internationals, and gallery group shows. It’s these fringe venues that offer the most in terms of the cutting edge, even though the designers who linger there don’t seem to care about it that much; well, not enough to make it feel wanting or contrived anyway. Once they’ve made it into the exhibition halls the polemic and political has generally been squeezed out them.
The ICON Design Trail Guide gets you around the multitude of small venues but sometimes getting lost is better than stumbling over street curbs with your head stuck in a guide. I managed to find a small shopfront show on a back street near Old Street. ‘The Future Workspace’ group show had a collaboration by Nicholas Gardener and James Shaw that stood out for its fun and quirky ‘new ugly’ simplicity. Their ’Hydro Dipz’ is a marvel of smart context shifting that characterises often polemic and political RCA graduates’ work.
Appropriating technology ordinarily used by gun enthusiasts and boy racers for creating custom finishes on their favourite machines, clunky desktop objects made from the trinity of corporate architectural materials; concrete, glass and steel are ‘dipped’ half coating them with textures like racing flames. A bit of fun for the stuffy corporate environs but also a neat bit of material and context jamming.
Across town at ARAM Gallery’s ‘Future Stars?’, James Shaw was also on show with a series ‘Plastic Baroque’. Then there was Fabrica’s show at the official hub for the Shoreditch Design Triangle, the Ace Hotel.
SCIN Gallery, housing the impressive materials library (a must see), was host to ‘In another Light’ with some artichoke and resin furniture by Spyros Kizis and Adital Ela’s furniture made from compressed earth. Material experimentation suited to the scale of furniture but beautiful and refreshing in our glassy, polished new world.
There’s always the sense that London offers a great confluence of diverse, new, speculative and progressive thinking. It’s not to say it’s the birthplace of them, for one of its advantages is the shifting and ever regenerating soil of new talent washing ashore from afar or across the channel and fed into the stream via the various UK Design Schools.
London Design Festival hits the mark by not taking itself too seriously, showcasing left of field and progressive work alongside the big end of town manufacturers. Put it on the calendar and plan your next Europe trip around it. The flights won’t break the bank at that time of year, the days are still long and the weather isn’t too shabby either. You might also be lucky enough to catch the end of season summer sales to get something fresh for your southern hemisphere wardrobe – just saying.
Article by Genevieve Murray.