St Etienne Design Biennale to show vision of the future

British designers are contributing to this year’s 2010 Saint Etienne International Design Biennale in France, where the pervading theme will be ’teleportation’.

Biennale general curator Constance Rubini says that, in an age in which consumer demands increasingly dictate immediate design solutions, the teleportation theme allows designers to consider ’an extreme vision of our society, a kind of ideal – or not – which one may strive towards in order to resolve the various issues that confront us’.

Ecological emergency, transport efficiency and lack of time will be talking points, and while physical teleportation is not up for discussion, Rubini says that the digital revolution has led to ’a loss of bearings’ at a time when we are able to ’teleport mentally to any virtual space’.

In the future, designing with ubiquity and mobility in mind will become key, she says. She adds this will happen as the planet shrinks in proportion to increases in transportation speed, ’spatiotemporal convergence’ becomes more important and there are conquests of new grounds in sea or air. Conversely, sustainability and attachment to locality will also need to be considered.

This futurising will be deconstructed by exhibitors and curators, including UK design duo Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, who have been commissioned to design objects explaining teleportation.

The biennale is underpinned by design philosophy and theorising, which is evident in the work of Dunne and Raby (see Profile, page 13), who look to speculate on what a technological future environment might be like. The duo will curate the Between Reality and the Impossible programme and say, ’We must push the boundaries of our modern way of thinking and start taking a glimpse at how things could be, start imagining alternative possibilities and other ways of being, so as to make those new values and priorities become real.’

Dunne, who is also head of the design interaction department at the Royal College of Art, and architect Raby have collaborated with photographer Jason Evans and writer Alex Burrett to produce a series of exhibits designed to provoke debate in the context of teleportation.

The design duo’s subversive take includes a personal euthanasia device, a synthetic digestive system which aids consumption of ’non-human foods’ for a time when other food sources are depleted (’Foragers’, pictured above, left and right), and ’Public Mind’, which, in an epoch of social transparency where ’our minds are the last private space we have’, literally explores the possibility of thought-policing – or ’Stop and Scan’.

Dunne says that all of the examples provide space to ’transport the imagination’ by presenting ideas such as euthanasia as ’everyday and acceptable.’
Although Dunne and Raby are the only UK curators, Saint Etienne organisers say a raft of other UK designers will be involved in the festival as exhibitors – most of whom are students or tutors from the RCA.

Dunne and Raby are part of a team of nine international programme curators – also including Konstantin Grcic, who will look to delineate the complexity of the theme ’comfort’, which he sees as subjective and relevant to context.

Rubini will tackle La Ville Mobile – sustainable 21st-century urban culture brought about by cultural and social innovation resulting from the digital revolution.
The programme runs from 20 November to 5 December, and will interrogate the notion of teleportation hypothetically and broadly. But its purpose is best defined by the mayor of Saint Etienne, Maurice Vincent, who says, ’Our societies, territories and cities all need to evolve, to project into a new way of living in accordance with the demands of the future.’

Exhibition curators
Between Reality and the Impossible – Dunne & Raby
Comfort – Konstantin Grcic
Demain, C’est Aujourd’hui – Claire Fayolle
La Ville Mobile – Constance Rubini
L’Enterprise – Michel Philippon, Emmanuel Tibloux
Prediction – Benjamin Loyaute
Process Design – Collectif Designers +
Design & Shop – Nathalie Arnould
Espagne, Belgique, Japon, Finlande et Chine – Josyane Franc, Constance Rubini

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