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Estrañamente familiares. Deseño e vida cotiá

Estrañamente familiares. Deseño e vida cotiá


17 June 2005 - 25 September 2005
Ground Floor
Tuesdays to Saturdays (including public holidays), from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Walker Art Center, Mineápolis, EEUU
Andrew Blauvelt

Works exhibited

The exhibition brings together more than 40 innovative projects drawn internationally from the fields of architecture and product, furniture, fashion, and graphic design.

Tour venues

  • Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (June 8 - September 7, 2003)
  • Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (November 8, 2003 - February 15, 2004)
  • Lille 2004 Capitale Européene de la Culture, Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse, Lille, France (September 4 - November 28, 2004)
  • The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona (January 29 - April 24, 2005)
  • MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo, Spain (June 17 - September 25, 2005)


Once again, and following the programmatic line dealing with relations between art and design -that started in 2003 with exhibition "The Undisciplined. Art's Position on the Borders of Design" and resulting in "Creating the Necessary" in 2004- MARCO, Vigo's Museum of Contemporary Art, offers a reflection on one of the subjects most present in contemporaneous creation; the relations between design and everyday life, through an international exhibition. On this occasion, the exhibition -being MARCO the only place where it can be seen in Spain- is curated by the director of the Design Department of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, an institution that MARCO already collaborated with last year in the exhibition "The Last Picture Show".

This exhibition is aimed to enlighten the design in our lives, by gathering some unusual works, including architectural pieces and products, furniture, fashion and graphic design. Objects and projects that explore the role of the user in their creation and function, and that sometimes require the active participation of the user in the realization of the final product. Original purposes through which this authors report the reinvention of the commonplace.

A light that responds to silence, a table that knows where it is, a pig farm the size of a skyscraper, a house that fits in your pocket... Strangely Familiar brings together more than forty innovative projects drawn internationally from the fields of architecture and product, furniture, fashion, and graphic design. These projects question the habitual, transform the commonplace, alter our expectations of dwelling, and blur the boundaries of form and function.

The exhibition is gathered into four main ideas to question the conventional premises related to the design of objects and spaces:

1. polemical objects that force us to reconsider our relationship to products and dictate new rituals of use and expectations of performance

2. portable structures that respond to nomadic conditions of lightness and ephemerality, thereby undermining long-held architectural principles of site-specificity and permanence

3. multifunctional objects that change both shape and use, thereby blurring the traditionally fixed relationship between so-called "form and function"

4. extraordinary designs that reference and transform otherwise ordinary objects and spaces, drawing our attention to everyday conditions.

1. Polemical objetcs: rituals of use

Many projects featured in Strangely Familiar attept to implicate the user as a central figure or participant in a design's realization, exploring the users' behaviour in relation to the designed object. This takes many forms, ranging from greater physical interaction to the reconsideration of common routines and rituals. The point is to include user participation, personalization, customization, and even rejection as a vital element in the work. Allan Wexler's Gardening Sukkah is an outdoor structure that contains all the necessary implements to plant, harvest, and preparea meal to celebrate the Jewish Sukkoth festival. Product designer Michael Anatassiades develops objects that highlight human interaction and product responsiveness. For example, his Anti-Social Light only perform its function in the presence or absence of sound. Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby are particularly interested in how people interact and adapt to electronic products. In Dunne and Raby's Placebo Project users are given the opportunity of living with a newly created object, such as a table embedded with global positioning satellite (GPS) technology to track its own whereabouts. Other projects explore the role of a participatory or "do it yourself" design. A series of products by Do Create requires the physical interaction of the user for their ultimate realization, such as Do Hit, a cube of metal and comes with its own sludge hammer to transform it into a chair, or Do Break, a ceramic vase with a special coating that allows the user to smash it without destroying the piece.

2. Portable structures: mobility

Along with the city, the home is an important site in which to understand the workings of everyday life. The nomadic possibilities of contemporary life are explored in this exhibition through several projects that propose portable dwellings. Not only do such structures acknowledge the desire for mobility and freedom, but they also confront our need for connection and community. The portable house also challenges long-held architectural assumptions of permanence and stability.

The houses and structures featured in this exhibition represent a range of transience and permanence in dwelling. For example, R & Sie...'s Habitat Furtif, a living unit for one person that travels urban streets in search of safe harbour for its inhabitant. While Markku Hedman's Kesä-Kontti is designed for quick escapes to the woods, a kind of mobile week-end cabin, LOT-EK's Mobile Dwelling Unit is envisioned as a permanent dwelling. Jennifer Siegal has developed several projects that utilize portable structures, such as Portable House, conceived of as a more flexible and ecologically friendly version of the conventional prefabricated home. Other examples in this section are Markku Hedman's portable dwelling, Etana; the Prefabricated Wooden House by Alejandro Stöberl; Shigeru Uchida's designs for a trio of teahouses, or architect Shigeru Ban's Paper Loghouse.

3. Multifunctional objects: form and function

The desire for portability corresponds to an interest in products with multiple functions, things that create efficiencies in space or weight, important considerations for mobility. Not surprinsingly, garments and furniture are one locus of activity and exploration. For example, Martín Ruíz de Azúa's Basic House, or Moreno Ferrari's Tent, which can be formed from a translucent raincoat.

Regarding furniture, Julian Lion Boxenbaum's Rugelah Chair captures in one piece a multitude of possibilities for sitting, lounging, and sleeping. Similarly, Paolo Ulian's Cabriolet/Occasional Table is a sofa, storage unit, and coffee table in one. At an architectural scale, Tumble House is a six-sided structure designed by Koers, Zeinstra y Van Gelderen of the Netherlands that allows people to rotate the building into six different positions, and each one changes the functionality of interior elements. For example, a door becomes a window or skylight.

These explorations of multifunctionality express a desire to provide multiple choices for users, allowing functions to be situationally contingent. The multifunctional object displays hybrid formal qualities at odds with the conventional design philosophy of "form follows function."

4. Extraordinary designs: transforming the everyday

A major theme of the exhibition is the re-presentation of the everyday with extraordinary projects that foreground what is commonplace. For example, MVRDV's design of the Netherlands pavillion at Hannover 2000 transforms the typical elements of the Dutch landscape. A typical Swill farming village becomes the site of profound transformation in Roche & Sie's proposal Scrambled Flat. The everyday world of objects is the subject of Tokyo-based Elephant Design, which reworks the typical phone, fax machine, or vacuum through its Insipid Collection, by stripping the objects of the superfluous, leaving a minimal, gosthly white shell to express its functionality. Many projects embody the everyday only to transform it, as Jurgen Bey's Kokon Chair, with its protective polyester-resin coating covering the ghostly presence of the ordinary chair that lies beneath, with a tactic of surprising displacement , making the familiar strange. The transposition of scale, making the small large and the large small, is an important device in altering our perceptions of the everyday, as in Marcel Wanders' Airborne Snotty Vases, or the Constantin and Laurene Leon Boym's series of miniatures, Buildings of Disaster.


    Alejandro Stöberl
    Allan Wexler
    Anthony Dunne y Fiona Raby
    Atelier Bow-Wow
    Blu Dot Design
    Constantin Boym y Laurene Leon Boym
    Doug Garofalo
    Elephant Design
    Frank Tjepkema
    Jennifer Siegal
    Jop van Bennekom
    Julian Lion Boxenbaum
    Jurgen Bey
    Koers, Zeinstra, van Gelderen
    Marcel Wanders
    Marijn van der Poll
    Markku Hedman
    Martín Ruiz de Azúa
    Michael Anastassiades
    Moreno Ferrari
    Paolo Ulian
    Peter van der Jagt
    R & Sie...
    Rachel Whiteread
    Shigeru Ban
    Shigeru Uchida
    SU11 architecture + design
    Thomas Bernstrand

Curatorial text

"A paradoxical presence in our lives, design is both invisible and conspicuous, familiar and strange. It surrounds us while fading from view, becoming second nature and yet seemingly unknowable. Broadly conceived as the world of human-made artifacts, design is everywhere: the tools we use, the furnishings we keep, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the books we read, the houses where we dwell, the offices where we work, and the cities in which we live. Even nature does not escape the reach of design, whether a park, a new species of plant, or the manipulation of human bodies and genes. In a typical day the average person encounters hundreds of objects and thousands of messages, each designed by someone.

While the everyday has played an important role within modern art and the social sciences, it has only recently become central to discussions of design gaining momentum over over the last decade. This tardiness seems implausible given that design, in its most basic sense, always already implicates itself in the construction of the everyday world. Yet, it is one thing to be part osf the everyday -to help create it- and quite another to make it the subject of analysis or even critique. It is not coincidental that the quotidian should be of interest just as contemporary consumer culture is even more intricately woven into all aspects of daily life.

The premise of this exhibition subverts the expectation of ordinariness and anonymity implied in evoking terms such as ‘design' and ‘everyday life'. This is necessary in a world that in which the definition of everyday life is no longer agreed upon or even understood in the way it was originally conceived. Implicit in this strategy is the idea that design can be attuned to the nuances of the quotidian without sacrificing innovation, inventiveness, novelty, or newness.

Some have argued for a kind of anonymous or vernacular design firmly embedded in the landscape of everyday life as the only acceptable alternative to the kind of conspicuous design that has emerged so strongly over the last decade. Indeed, there are many people who subscribe to such an ideal for design, whether a self-effacing architecture so emmeshed in its context as to be barely noticeable or an outright rejection of material culture altogether. However, these strategies of mimesis and negation leave little room for design's creative energies or quest for invention. The projects featured in this exhibition stand out and apart from what we would call ordinary life. By doing so, they performe a self-reflexive action, causing us to reconsider our expectations of design and our approach to living, offering a provocative counterpoint to the habitual, the routine, and the commonplace.

The exhibition intentionally spans multiple fields of practice and includes designers from many different countries whose projects vary in scope and scale. This range of people, ideas, and works is meant to reflect the intrinsic complexity of contemporary design. Some works offer themselves to the world as products to be purchased, while others exist as proposals; nevertheless, all contain compelling ideas that make us think about the world differently, in both large and small ways. The constancy and fluidity of the everyday ensures that it will continue unabated, but not unaffected. Design's task is to make us more aware of its effects, reconciling the growing predictability of design's conspicuousness -the familiarity of the strange- by disrupting its inevitable absorption into the everyday -the strangeness of the familiar."



Andrew Blauvelt

Andrew Blauvelt is Design Director at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. As a practicing graphic designer he has received numerous professional awards and has published and exhibited widely. A critic and historian, Blauvelt has authored essays and guest-edited special issues on design and culture for many publications, including Emigré, Eye, Visible Language and the American Center for Design Journal.