SYMBIOSIS (3/3)

PARIS DESIGN WEEK, MUSÉE COGNACQ-JAY, 3-10 SEPTEMBER 2016 (Extended to the 17th of September for EUROPEAN HERITAGE DAYS)

In September 2016 for Paris Design Week, Collective 1992 proposed to Musée Cognacq-Jay an original exhibition of design objects created in symbiosis with their permanent collection of 18th century objects.

SYMBIOSIS is the third and final exhibition in the tripartite exhibitions taking place over the past three years for Paris Design Week. As a reminder, each exhibition treated the following questions: WHY is design so predictable (Unpredictable Design 2014), HOW does design become predictable (#designporn 2015) with an invitation to Russian designers and now WHO can change the game (Symbiosis 2016) which puts in play a dialogue of original pieces created by Dutch and French design professionals for this exhibition.

In Symbiotic terms, Mutualism or Commensalism as opposed to Parasitism (consider the 2008 exhibition of Jeff Koons at the Chateau de Versailles). Some of the designers participated in a workshop where we began the day exploring, not the permanent collection, but music from the 1990s. From Brittney to Blur, Nirvana to Daft Punk, Moby to Deelite – portraits of individuality expressed through sound and the visual apex of music video. If the 18th century portrait revealed the emergence of the individual, and the end of the 20th saw the birth of dematerialized media, is the 21st only a nonstop pile-up of algorithms?

Consider for one moment the world we have transitioned into. The departure of industry, a rigidly formatted education system, the canalized circuitry of social media, homogenized culture creating predictable outcomes. Consider for an instance how design might respond. Consider how one age might reveal the problematics of our own.

The French couple, Cognacq-Jay founded the La Samaritaine department store in the 19th century, and upon their death in 1928 bequeathed their private collection of 18th century objects and paintings to the city of Paris. To the couple, the collection was a reminder of a nobler time, honouring artisanal integrity, refinement and individuality expressed through the decorative arts as opposed to the 19th century frenzy of industrialization and mass distribution.

At the end of the 18th century there were many inter-related networks of people driven by creative industries, revolutionary politics and international commerce. The developing economies required improbable global connections between craftsmen and tradesmen. Dutch ships going to Asia, and returning to France or The Netherlands, returned with objects that could only be produced using techniques that were found abroad, like porcelain, and resulted in pieces that were called “boundary objects”.

This exhibition, based on a series of workshops in both Eindhoven and Paris, was about producing our own “transitional” or “boundary” objects within our own understanding of the turning of an age. The transition of a time, the pivoting of one century to another. This was the perfect moment and venue for 21st century creatives to splice symbiotically their own era into another.