Practice of Exhibiting. Interview with Joseph Grima

In the second Z33 Debate, ‘Practice of Exhibiting,’ Jan Boelen and Joseph Grima discuss the background and their ideas for a ‘European Design Parliament.’

Duration 00:51:23, in English.

Functioning in a (design) world, where tourism based on short term events has undermined long term thinking, where time frames have become incredibly compressed, and topics and themes that ought to be addressed are increasingly suffering from a lack of depth, the question asked is whether we can bring design and its ability to intervene in society and improve it, back into the foreground? And if so, under which shape and form?

Towards a European Design Parliament?

Working towards a European Design Parliament is an attempt to do that. Ideally called the Open Design Parliament, Joseph Grima mentions that the word ‘European’ should not be read in reference to the collection of nations or states, but as a first stepping stone dealing with existing structures potentially allowing for the development of such a platform. The most important word in the title, would be ‘Parliament,’ understood as an entity consisting of representatives of the different design attitudes. And maybe only 50 % of the parliament should be made up of designers, the other 50 % presenting other professions and fields. Indeed, the European Design Parliament should function as “a node in a network, a gateway into relationships with other worlds that at the moment designers are isolated from,” as Grima mentions. After all, “design is only useful as an instrument to intervene in other fields.”

Reflecting on the practice of exhibiting design, we are keen to investigate the need, relevance and potential of the European Design Parliament – a traveling biennial for design, explicitly engaged in socio- and geo-political themes, and specifically geared towards promoting critical discourse in design. With no fixed root, the traveling nature of the endeavor would maximize influence from the socio- and geopolitical contexts at hand.

Currently non-existent in the realm of design, this European Design Parliament could fill a void. But, it operates under a number of assumptions, which speak to the hopes and beliefs about the power and responsibilities of design. This panel is aimed to make explicit a number of these assumptions before moving further, and filling the void:

  1. A European Design Parliament can regenerate an entire region.
  2. A European Design Parliament shakes up the design world and refocuses attention to the link between design and society.
  3. Design has the power to mediate socio- and geopolitical themes and forces.
  4. Designers have a responsibility vis-à-vis the social, geopolitical and economic contexts in which they operate.
  5. Design curators, writers, exhibitioners and critics have a responsibility vis-à-vis the social, geopolitical and economic contexts in which they operate.

Thanks again to a great audience for participating, amongst others the Product Design representation of artEZ college in Arnhem, The Netherlands and Thomas Geisler, curator of Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art MAK in Vienna, Austria.

Z33 Debates is a series of in-depth interviews, which take place at Atelier Clerici during the Milan Design Week 2014. With the interviews, Z33 rethinks what design can mean in and for the future. What can design mean for future thinking? What is the value of design exhibitions and biennials? Is there room for a European Design Parliament – a Manifesta for design? What is the role of mentorship and collaboration in design? And, finally, what can Milan Design Week Milan mean for the development of design discourse and critique?

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