Workshop / WE ALL EXIST IN THE IN-BETWEEN SPACE
De/posium is a newly opened international platform focusing on the exchange of knowledge of the current state of art and design with the emphasis on material, processes, sustainability, social context and new economic models.
De/posium was founded in 2018 in Slovakia by the group of international creatives and initiated by Slovak designer Vlasta Kubušová and French artist and esigner Marlène Huissoud. The platform seeks to make such a space for creatives that would open up a discussion about new topics, actors and perspectives, create respecting coexistence and rever diversity and, not least, encourage a conversation about the importance of transdisciplinary methods in both practice and theory.
The second year of De/posium took place in August 2019 in Banská Štiavnica town with participation of 18 designers and artists from Europe. Its outcomes were presented at the exhibition in Banská St a nica gallery and at the Human by Design exhibition in Bratislava’s Satelit Design Gallery. On the occasion of cooperation between the Slovak Design Centre and Austrian’s Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) on the international project Design and Innovation, cross-border cooperation of institutions in the digital age (supported by Interreg V-A SK-AT 2014 – 2020), De/posium will bring the project to the Viennese Museum of Applied Arts in spring 2020.
We have put together this interview with the intention to approach the way of thinking about different topics as something open, living, forming, about maps with no ends.
Vlasta Kubušová (V): During the second year, we as a collective collaborated with the Banská St a nica art space and gallery where we created and showcased our outcomes for the first time.
We formulated quite a few important questions: Do we need another chair? How is modernity created? What is the relationship between the local and global? What is the role of a designer? Who educates who? What outcome can we provoke or achieve?
Dana Tomečková (D): The outcomes were developed within about twenty-four hours, preceded by four days of discussions. The ending was very spontaneous…
V: Those four days were full of exchanging thoughts, ideas, procedures and knowledge on many roles we all play as artists and designers in both local and global contexts. We’d discussed sustainability, cooperation, work. Finally, we’d arrived to a conclusion that we all are somewhere in-between. The In-Between exhibition involves different processes that reflect collaborative research, procedures between practice and theory, our reactions to the local, Slovak background and the perception of ourselves as professional creatives.
When I imagine the Banská St a nica space an hour before the opening… At some point, we stopped whatever we were doing, leaving it in process. The outcome was supposed to be a commentary on a certain state of matter of a particular period, on issues we find substantially important, issues that influence our life and creative work. Or on the current network of thoughts, work and processes.
D: For instance? What do you find important now?
V: I wonder what the discussions would be like if everybody were a parent. Ever since I became a mother, I’ve been looking at the future in a completely different way. The future is a bit more particular, tangible.
So this year I was asking a lot of questions regarding the future impact of the people’s activities. Whether they think that what they are doing at the moment has and can have a real impact. Sincerely. Many of the participants work on research projects, eco-friendly projects, make social design, cooperate with companies, many of them are influencers or get inspired by the shifting discourse around materials. You learn about them from media, social media, you see them from the angle of their achievements, so, naturally, you think they are less interested in ordinary earthly matters, less human. And then you get to know them in person and you meet the exact opposite, you see honesty. It’s quite invigorating.
D: The first year didn’t see any material outcomes, we spent much time discussing and putting down mental maps as a way of recording thoughts. What appealed to me most back then was the topic of education…
V: The traditional structure of education requires division into categories (fine art, applied art, art design, product design, social design). What’s left as a possibility and more to my liking is an educational system where you choose according to your interests rather than the medium you use (for example Material Futures…)
V: Education is obsolete and we want to change it… articulating it, even if only in the form of a dialogue, is very important in this space.
D: To strengthen the link with other disciplines – to have another perspective.
V: And what’s mostly needed is cooperation, peer-to-peer learning, discussions, active listening and asking questions.
D: Each participant had gone through a different school system and this experience itself was a forming factor for De/posium. For example, it was great to be in Scandinavia to see that their system is one of the options and that I am searching for the one which would be most natural for me. It’s up to me what I choose and add to it. I need to get out my comfort zone. And experiment. Allow myself a failure.
V: And to kick off, stimulate your thinking. Most of the time you don’t feel like expressing a relevant opinion about some issues. But you need to try.
D: This is where the educational potential of De/posium lies. Actually, it’s a pop-up format, with a possible long-term scope.
V: It can be one step that could shift you from school towards the system of thinking.
V: At the very beginning, I was inspired by you telling me about your jewellery artists’ workshops/symposia where you as people from your field meet and create things. I came to realise there is no such thing for designers. Then we discussed it with Marlène and we told ourselves: why not make it this year (2018)?
D: So your idea about the workshop gave rise to De/posium.
V: I imagined it simply as a meeting somewhere that would not be an educational institution or an exhibition, but rather some space where you would have time for discussing an issue and create at the same time. There is an assigned theme or material and you’re supposed to make something. But the people invited from different backgrounds, such as Moritz Maria Karl from the architectural field, grasped the workshop as an all-day lecture, as a conference. Based on where they came from, they each had a different idea about the workshop/symposium. They were asking me what kind of paper they should prepare. Last year it was a symposium, but now it’s become a platform.
D: It’s funny that it was originally a symposium that made it much further. What I miss at an “ordinary” symposium is this continual discussion with people; we’re rather connected on the level of friendship. There is no such an organised, powerful room for discussion, you know, something like a time block dedicated to a certain issue…
V: It’s interesting, because I thought there was. (Laughing)
With Marlène and other people we met abroad at exhibitions, we touched upon issues we wanted to elaborate, but there was no space and time for it, as we had to fly back home. I miss that when you leave school, there is no-one to have a deeper conversation with about what you do. You know, to exchange knowledge and question your own relevancy of your work in dialogues with others. So this is also what we wanted to provide at the symposium. In two years, we’ve managed to put together quite a peculiar new community of people. Each of them has a different background, but, in this way, they can hold together.
D: Is it for designers? For creators? For whom?
V: We didn’t publish any open call. We turned to our friends in the first year. This year we called people based on their work. Whether it’s a designer, a scientist or an artist – it’s not only about new disciplines. We’d also like to connect different generations. Among this year’s participants was the artist Tue Greenfort. His opinions were radically different from those of the designers, and so this confrontation was quite serious.
D: Perhaps a framework (for example, design) is needed to see differences and contrasts, when someone comes from a different field.
V: Right, but I see design as a broad spectrum. In my eyes, you’re a designer as well. In my understanding it falls under the same umbrella. But, in principle, none of the participants feels to be defined just by one specific field, one type of a result or branch. We are connected by a common effort to have a positive impact, whether small or big.
D: At the same, there is no need to blur definitions. Then it’s not about making a highly diverse group (as each person represents diversity as such). It’s more about sharing a common space under this umbrella.
V: One of the topics we brought up in both years was entrepreneurship. It sounds like a very broad area, but it was crucial within De/posium. This discussion included an “honesty session” where everyone was supposed to admit how we really made money. What our work really entails. Whether it consists of gallery sales or some subsidised research programmes, educational activities, commercial projects or jobs that are completely unrelated to what we want to do.
It’s very inspirational and challenging to talk real about how we earn our living and learn how others do. Based on that, we can also draw a conclusion about the role of a designer today: who they are and who they can be.
The map of creativity on the big screen sheds light on the complexity of work and roles of designers, artists or materials researchers today.
D: What made you decide to hold De/posium in Banská Štiavnica?
V: It was the opportunity to leave town. I guess it’s a place where you can switch off better, longer and perceive not just the topic and discussion, but also people with whom you can spend day and night together. Simply take a break.
D: And go to a party at a lake, take an excursion to a mine, go for a walk to the forest, little tasks, long talks about our work until we get sunburnt. I view De/posium as an interesting malleable matter. It moves, it is fluid, it is forming and forming me. All the outcomes so far have been a constant search, letting a room for playfulness, spontaneity or unfinishedness. In some respect, it’s a safe zone of a playground where you play tag with other people. And it’s a great point of departure for realisation what and why I do something, who sees it, in which context and with which impact.
V: Exactly. I no longer remember who, but somebody said that feeling safe was precious. You don’t have to be afraid of confrontation or someone telling you that what you do is great just because you are a woman of colour or a woman. In this respect, you can be sure to be safe, as if you were talking to your family or friends, but on the professional level, because those who came rank in the top of their respective fields.
D: What’s interesting, the inner structure of the group forms along with the search for the from and character of outcomes (discussions, a workshop, an exhibition or a book we plan to publish). Should the group have a leadership, or is it a group without a leader, what principles apply? Everybody has their role or everybody does everything. How to build a platform based on sharing and collaborative principle?
I guess the point is not to make a format that aims to create something particular, but to create conditions where something can happen. To create an opportunity that is very open at the moment.
V: We weren’t really trying to create something mind-blowing. It gives the people some feeling of freedom, of playing or sorts. There is hardly any chance to have such a freedom in real life; you try to work to deadlines or you try to do it as best or good as it gets.
D: Design and art are closely bound in this respect. The same question is how to keep your thinking fresh, unbiased… When you don’t focus on the result – who will read, watch, share, buy or think about it. How can we show the value of process that can be more important than the final result?