Subversive Design

Designing items that are fit for purpose, well-made and on-brief is all well and good.

Dagger Heels by Terry de Havilland (c.2011)
Dagger Heels by Terry de Havilland (c.2011)

But it’s designs that are deliciously subversive, inherently impractical and even marginally dangerous are the focus of a forthcoming show at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.

Russia defeats Napoleon (c.1812)
Russia defeats Napoleon (c.1812)

Featuring 130 objects in disciplines including product, fashion and furniture design, the show looks to explore how the pieces relate to the political and social issues at the time of their creation.

As such, Subversive Design is split into three sections – Big Issues; Form Vs Function; and Subverting the Body.

Booze Britain plate by Andrew Livingstone (2010)
Booze Britain plate by Andrew Livingstone (2010)

The Big Issues section covers political troubles, sobriety concerns – such as in Andrew Livingston’s Booze Britain plate – and environmental predicaments.

Woolboro - framed homage to cigarettes by Kate Jenkins

Source: © Kate Jenkins

Woolboro – framed homage to cigarettes by Kate Jenkins

The fearsome Sitting Comfortably, a 1987 chair by Mishcal Sanders, is formed from razor wire, and is said to be a comment on the Greenham Common anti-nuclear protests.

Sitting Comfortably by Michael Sanders (1987)

Source: © Michael Sanders. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2013

Sitting Comfortably by Michael Sanders (1987)

The Form v Function section calls the idea of designing for purpose most sharply into question. We see some incredible, challenging designs that seem to refute the idea that beauty and utility are essential to good design, such as Tapio Wirkkala’s Tutenvases – crumpled old bags at first glace, which turn out to be ceramic vases.

Tutenvase Brown and Tutenvase White by Tapio Wirkkala (c.1977)

Source: image John Clark, Brighton

Tutenvase Brown and Tutenvase White by Tapio Wirkkala (c.1977)

The final section, Subverting the Body, features work from the likes of Vivienne Westwood (surprise surpise). Jean Paul Gaulter and Giles Deacon, whose controversial 2007 Who Killed Bambi? dress will be on display.

Detail from Who killed Bambi dress by Giles Deacon (2007)

Source: Collection of Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton and Hove

Detail from Who killed Bambi dress by Giles Deacon (2007)

Other designers featured in the show include Leigh Bowery, Timorous Beasties, Grayson Perry, Richard Wentworth, Barbara Hulanicki andSimone Brewster.

Subversive Design runs from 19 October  – 9 March 2014 at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, 4/5, Pavilion Buildings, Prince’s St, Brighton, East Sussex BN1

Lathe v Red by Sebastian Brajkovic (2008)

Source: Courtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Lathe v Red by Sebastian Brajkovic (2008)

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