The Blueprint curated diary: Jan Boelen

Curator of this year’s Istanbul Design Biennial, Jan Boelen shares his highlights for the autumn

Jan Boelen is artistic director of Z33 House for Contemporary Art in Hasselt, Belgium, and artistic director of Atelier Luma, an experimental laboratory for design in Arles, France. He also holds the position of head of the social design department at Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Boelen also serves on various boards and committees including the advisory board of the new V&A Dundee museum in the UK and the Creative Industries Fund in the Netherlands. This year, he is the curator of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, titled A School of Schools. Here are his recommendations on what to see this autumn.

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design
From 29 September to 3 March

The designer, author and design activist Victor J Papanek (1923–1998) will have his first retrospective at the Vitra Design Museum this autumn. Papanek has anticipated an understanding of design as a tool for political change and social good that is more relevant today than ever. His seminal 1971 book, Design for the Real World, became a manifesto of design activism and remains one of the most widely read books on design published. The exhibition examines Papanek’s preoccupation with the socially excluded and those living outside of the Western world, as well as his attention to ecology, bionics, sustainability and anti-consumerism. Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

The Politics of Design: Act 1
Until 2 December

Image Credit:  Kristof VranckenImage Credit: Kristof Vrancken

Meanwhile, at Z33 this exhibition is about participation and political engagement in current design practices. As one of the curators, I’m interested in asking how participation in the political sphere today takes shape at different levels such as body, community and city. In collaboration with local institutions, the 20 works in the exhibition will be presented to enter debate on public space and the politics of design. This ‘first act’ is the first step in a longer trajectory that aims to start new collaborations in a local, regional and international context, and will result in a ‘final act’ in 2020: The Politics of Design Festival. Z33 House for Contemporary Art, Hasselt, Belgium

The Future Starts Here
Until 4 November

Image Credit: Ale Co. LtdImage Credit: Ale Co. Ltd

This exciting exhibition looks ahead to the near future, investigating the role of design in shaping the future of the world. Will companion robots soon mean that our homes will be run by artificial intelligence? Can design slow, or stop altogether, climate change? Will our roads soon be populated by driverless cars? The exhibition focuses on 100 projects that are at the forefront of innovative design practice and explores how they are shaping our everyday lived experience by changing forever the way we interact with each other, political systems and our natural and built environment. V&A Museum, London, UK

4th Istanbul Design Biennial — A School of Schools
From 22 September to 4 November

Image Credit: Ale Co. Ltd

Ninety-nine years after the Bauhaus, the world is a very different place — yet design education has mostly remained the same. And today the design field and its practitioners find themselves navigating new constraints and challenges regarding relevance, adaptability, accessibility and finances. Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial — a biennial about design as learning, and learning as design — seeks to create new spaces of exception where design can learn from itself through the exchange of knowledge. I am looking forward to witnessing how the biennial, with more than 100 participants, will create new knowledge, search for alternatives to implemented systems and shed light on how we want to live and relate to one another. Various venues, Beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey

Housing the Human

Image Credit: Kosmos ArchitectsImage Credit: Kosmos Architects

Developed as a one-year programme with several highlights in five countries, Housing the Human is a collaborative, interdisciplinary project involving leading European institutions and organisations — including Z33 and IKSV — that revolves around the question of what it might mean to house the human — today and in the future.

Housing the Human focuses on developing methods for practical futurology — a semantic paradox that the project seeks to address by producing prototypes that can be experienced and tested, and presented to the public throughout the year-long process of their development. Conceived as a catalyst for experimentation, the project brings together art, science and technological innovation. Various locations, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Turkey

Machines à Penser
Until 25 November

Curated by Dieter Roelstraete, this exhibition explores correlations between conditions of exile, escape and retreat, and physical or mental places that favour reflection, thought and intellectual production. It focuses on three major philosophers of the 20th century: Adorno, Heidegger and Wittgenstein. While the latter two shared a life-long need for isolation, spending long stretches of time immersed in nature in secluded locations, Adorno was forced into exile from Germany, and he ultimately settled in Los Angeles. The exhibition is a fascinating immersion into the spaces of retreat where these men wrote some of their most influential work. Interspersing reproductions of the huts with lush photography and contemporary art pieces by the likes of Goshka Macuga and Leonor Antunes, the show interweaves art, architecture and philosophy, and is — much like the idea of the huts themselves — a fertile source of inspiration. Fondazione Prada, Venice, Italy

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