Victor Papanek (1923 – 1998) formulated a conception of design back in the 1960s and ’70s that could not be more current. The Austrian-American designer, university lecturer and author spoke about a designer’s responsibility to society and the environment. Throughout his lifetime, he tirelessly demanded this accountability. »There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few of them«, wrote Papanek in his book Design for the Real World, which was first published in Swedish in 1970 and has remained in print ever since, with translations in over 20 languages. It is understandable that his pointed critiques were not universally welcomed, but he has inspired subsequent generations of designers to understand and act upon the social, ecological and political dimensions of their profession. Many contemporary design trends such as Critical Design, Social Design and Participatory Design are informed by Papanek’s philosophy.
It is precisely this understanding of design as a means of social and political change that is so urgently needed in view of the problems facing our world today. Since Papanek’s time, social injustice, environmental pollution and flagrant consumerism not only remain largely unresolved, but have even intensified. These problems cannot be addressed today without bringing design into the equation. Design innately plays a mediating role – between humans and the environment, between humans and technology, and in basic human interactions. Neither our material environment nor the digital world can be changed without design. For this reason, designers always function as political actors. But ultimately, they do not bear this responsibility all alone. Every day, we all make decisions that perpetuate the unfortunate state of the world – or not, as the case may be.
Duration of the exhibition: 29.09.2018 – 10.03.2019
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