OBJECTION’s first event 01_MATERIAL: UNKNOWN is an exhibition on the role and relevance of virtual design.
In 1969, designer Joe Colombo decided to position himself against consumerism and stopped producing goods for the sake of contributing to capitalism. He founded the antidesign movement, as a new look upon the production of objects, in opposition to the design as an elitist symbol. To illustrate his vision, he designed an apartment in Milan, set as a living experiment: the Habitat Futuribile. At this occasion, the prestigious Italian magazine Domus published an article entitled «Casa V.I.P. per un V.I.P.» partly written by Colombo himself. The latter, conscious of the power of medias to diffuse his ideas, decided to build his project in diverse shades of pink, knowing that this color would provide a richer palette of greys once published in the black and white magazine. This project can be considered as one of the first example of media manipulation in the design field.
Thirty years later, the development of 3d modeling softwares and of the Internet enables young and unknown designer Ora-Ito to conceive uncommissioned products for prestigious brands. Advertising them with 3D renderings, he managed to get his non-existing products published in magazines. They became viral online and reached such an audience, that major brands including the ones he had hacked offered him to collaborate.
The first happening 01_ MATERIAL: UNKNOWN takes places in the context of a design fair, a key moment for the design scene to introduce its latest productions to the public. Therefore OBJECTION has set up an exhibition that features some of the latest outcomes of the contemporary design production but instead of curating tangible products, the focus has been set on an underestimated yet very rich kind of contemporary design production: virtual design. Even though they are only made out of pixels, products presented are already inserted and integrated in a cultural and economical context. The question of whether they are produced or not, will be produced, or if they even are producible, fades in the light of the fact that they already cost or generate money, they raise passionate debates, and they are compared with the same tools, the same rules and with the same language as actual tangible objects. In the perspective of designing to generate a cultural content, to have an economical relevance or to assure a certain amount of fame, some of the designs presented in 01_ MATERIAL: UNKNOWN have successfully fulfilled their mission, and their materiality has become secondary.
The production of virtual design is a contemporary phenomenon and it both generates and reveals new behaviors in the creation, the production and the consumption of products. The designer, freed from material constraints, has no limits and can virtually design a revolutionary car, a trendy shoe, a life-saving device or the most expensive piece of jewelry. Even though everything becomes possible and hence serves the lively field of prospective design, it might contribute to the disparagement of real objects. As Marcel Wanders puts it in a recent interview published in Dezeen on virtual design : “All that is realistic starts to look extremely boring in the world of all this inspirational stuff.”
Furthermore, in the realms of overproduction, overconsumption, overexploitation of natural resources, a production that does not require material, neither transport nor storage may find some relevance. Virtual products can be quickly approved or disapproved by pools of Internet connected consumers. The decision to put in production a virtual idea, in order to transform it into a tangible object, can now be based on its success as a virtual good — on crowd funding platforms for instance — legitimizing consequently its materialization.
The production of virtual designs is abundantly fed by creations with a very fleeting lifetime. A project published with a quick rendering, a brief description and a complete ellipse of all the technical and material aspect leaves the viewer baffled. This type of creation, although virtual, participates in the contemporary overload of production where new products appear and disappear daily. It is generating a trail of consequences, a form of pollution and waste as much as mass-produced unwanted consumer goods do.
01_ MATERIAL: UNKNOWN features a selection of 3D renderings published on design blogs over the last six months. At the time these projects were published, none of them had been produced. It questions what brings designers to communicate on projects that are still immaterial. Whether it is to raise funds, to provoke the interest from potential consumers or even out of narcissism, the projects presented illustrate these various motivations.
From relevant ideas and prospective concepts to unproduceable absurdities, this exhibition offers a panorama of virtual design production. The low-resolution images of these projects found online are scaled up to their supposed real size and printed on tracing paper. Through this process, they lose the sleek and flawless appearance of 3D renderings and gain a position in space.
In addition, the presentation includes a selection of articles that confronts different opinions to the subject of virtual products; extracted from international publications spanning over the last 10 years and published on www.objection.eu. They provide a background overview on the growing importance of virtual design in communication, production and consumption.
Date of publication: October 2014