Restless Futures – Discover emerging designers and trends at Central Saint Martins as part of The London Design Festival

If you’re interested in the future, want to know where design is going, and who will be shaping it – and love architecture, jewellery, ceramics, furniture, textiles, graphics, product and industrial design – then the Restless Futures exhibition 13-20 September 2014 is the key London Design Festival event for you. It’s set in the award-winning Central Saint Martins building, next to the cafes and fountains of Granary Square, and entrance is free.

Restless Futures, an exhibition highlighting how design culture is addressing global issues, has been developed by staff and students at Central Saint Martins. Ideas around Disruptive Technologies, Expanded Boundaries, No More Stuff? and Democratising Innovation are explored through designs, workshops and demos, live exhibits and performances from a global mix of key recent Central Saint Martins graduates. Their 40 plus designs demonstrate richly diverse responses and innovations across a wide range of disciplines and research fields. Indeed, 75 years of industrial and product design education at Central Saint Martins has just been awarded a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize which is also being celebrated at the exhibition.

Themes and examples of designs

No More Stuff?

What role does the designer have in a world of diminishing resources: just adding more stuff to the world – often the default mode of many designers – may no longer be the only, or even viable, solution:

  • No More Stuff? addresses Notions of Sparseness, and challenges the assumption that art and design is mainly defined through the production of the new. Work includes Kensuke Nakata’ Japanese Stoicism, a ceramic installation and performance focusing on the Japanese reaction to the tsunami, which explores ideas of endurance and rebirth through the lens of ceramics. He will be making ceramic cherry petals in a meditative performance (schedule tbc).
  • The Notions of Transferability strand asks in what other ways can our creative intelligence be deployed to look at materials that are abundant or scarce? For example the Edible Lace project by Cecile Rudolph: fish skins, porridge, and beetroot are developed into actual edible lace presented in the exhibition. These will change in substance and appearance due to natural processes of decay over the time of the exhibition.

Sophie Rowley’s Material Illusions: The Poetics of the Everyday looks at using synthetics to mimic organic materials, a preparation for future times when we will not have the luxury to extract finite virgin resources: could we accept a more engineered ‘nature’?

Democratising Innovation

Innovation has become a buzzword for economic success and societal development and as such has been commodified and protected within the realm of the ‘expert’. But who is the expert, and how does innovation work in terms of an ethical engagement? Here designers explore other means by which innovation might be accessed and developed:

  • Through 0pen Tools and Portals:

For example Sarah Gold’s Alternet, which looks at how to regain privacy in an era of global surveillance: a radically reinterpreted Internet structure that gives individuals the choice to decide if they share their data and how their data is used. (presentation, date and time tbc). She recently received a Future Pioneer Award from the Design Council.

Last Orders: Where there is a Will there is a Way aims to tackle the taboos around death. Designer Steve Douch will be running sessions in which the public can set up their last orders, in a format not unlike a board game (schedule tbc)

  • Through User engagement and Co-creation.

Designs include the new skate board kit by Marie Durand Yamamoto which provides a new means to convert the city into a creative playground: cleverly and safely overcoming the regulations of the urban public realm.

Shu (Spencer) Zhou’s social innovation project aims to transform the lives of the many young newcomers to Beijing who are living in labyrinthine, underground basements in very cramped conditions. Spencer collaborates with the basement dwellers to explore low cost ways in which they can take their own initiatives to learn, and find a job.

Disruptive Technologies

Emerging technologies are transforming social and economic life, and bring with them a whole new set of questions:

  • What is the impact of innovative technology on design practice and craft, exploring and pushing boundaries, adapting existing technologies in a positive way? Designs include the Biomimetic Cycling Jacket by Will Verity: a ‘smart’ jacket designed for female cyclists that will respond and transform to the environment, sensing danger and aiming to respond in a way that will keep the user and road traffic apart. The visual language of the garment aims to distance itself from traditional high visibility jackets. A working prototype will be on display.
  • And, looking at science-driven design/design-driven science, can we imagine what the next radical, disruptive technologies might be? For example, Sarah de Costa’s Material Pharmacy asks if we can engineer theraputic properties to soft surfaces for disease prevention. Collaborating with a PhD student at University of Westminster, together they have developed a bra designed to deliver a vital life-saving drug, Tamoxifen, through the skin, specifically for young women diagnosed with Breast Cancer, to reduce side-effects. This represents a first stage prototype, for which they hope to secure funding for further testing and trials. The Haute Bacon collection by Amy Congdon features tissue-engineered jewellery from bone and dried bacon, made using a technique called decellularisation, a process developed for regenerative medicine purposes. The resulting jewellery collection suggests a new way of producing luxury fashion (presentation, date and time tbc). Her previous work has been exhibited in venues such as the EDF Fondation Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Expanded Boundaries

Expanded Boundaries explores a broad and active outward engagement between disciplines, and looks at the ways methods and concepts can be taken into other areas:

  • either as a collaborative practice beyond the usual boundaries of disciplines. For example, Maylinda Bhakdithanaseth’s almost surreal jewellery made from gold and human hair, entitled Organ 33, challenges the perception of the relationship of hair and the female body (presentation about collaborative practice, date/time tbc). The Made in Patachanca collaboration run by Sabrina Kraus Lopez asks how we can safeguard traditional Peruvian handcrafts in an increasingly mechanised future. She works with a remote Peruvian weaving community, to open up the craft to new markets, exploring the role of the designer in the preservation and promotion of traditional craft, and producing a range of clutch bags and accessories. The project was run in collaboration with a local NGO Awamaki.
  • or through projects that explore Notions of the Hybrid, in a cultural or material sense.

Work includes Gigi Barker’s A Body of Skin, extraordinary furniture which seeks to explore the intricate subtleties and varieties of the skin surface, and the volumes of the flesh, made from an artificial skin-like material.

Skye Gwillim’s extraordinary Duplex structure with directional flexibility constructed from cardboard is flexible one side, stable on the other.

Celebrating the Queen’s Anniversary Prize

Seventy-five years of such innovative industrial and product design education has now been awarded a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize. The prize recognises the global impact and the far-reaching contributions to the UK’s economy and social wellbeing made by BA Product Design and MA Industrial Design at Central Saint Martins, part of University of the Arts London.

Graduates include Bill Moggridge, who designed the first production portable computer, Douglas Scott, responsible for the styling of London’s iconic Routemaster bus, and Paul Priestman and Nigel Goode, who have worked with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Trains, and are now focused on designing a concept capsule for World View that will take passengers on balloon flights to the edge of the earth. Projects include working with Transport for London on reducing bicycle theft through better design to partnering with the London Borough of Camden on its Green Camden initiative to explore how design can reduce carbon emissions.

It’s fitting that celebrations to mark the prize run hand-in-hand with Restless Futures, and will include the announcement of a Scholarship Programme for Masters Students in Industrial Design. CSM is also launching an Oral History Project, looking to identify key graduates and pioneering work from each decade since 1940 to create a full, accurate, history and archive for future academic research. If you’re a past or present student please join us in celebrating and recognising your own part in this success: keep in touch by joining the University Alumni Association (www.arts.ac.uk/alumni-and-friends/).

For further information on design works and themes, for a full list of works, to interview designers or discuss features, register for a pdf catalogue or press/photographer preview access etc please contact Lisa Shakespeare l.shakespeare(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)csm.arts.ac.uk.

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