Design, in all forms, is a fundamental part of our daily lives; it's even at the core of the new economy. As a result, design education is such an important topic for discussion that design curator and educator Jan Boelen puts at the center of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial.
As the curator of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, together with associate curators Vera Sacchetti and Nathine Botha, Boelen questions the role of education in design today -- just as the Bauhaus celebrates 100 years.
In a rapidly changing world with an uncertain future we cannot anticipate what will happen in the next few years, nor even the skills that we will need. Instead, we need to develop "learning as an attitude" to constantly deal with change, as Jan discusses in our video interview.
To address these issues the curators laynched an open call with 753 submissions, from which 120 were chosen to be part of "A Schools of Schools". In this strong response Boelen found projects that "are an answer and maybe already a forecast of a new kind of design where speculation, criticality and relational aspects are infusing the traditional design world, that is making solutions for the issues that we have today."
The 120 participations are organized around six schools which occupy six cultural venues in central Istanbul, encouraging visitors to explore the city while visiting the Biennial. Here are the schools and our picks:
Akbank Sanat:" The Unmaking School emphasizes the irrepressible human instinct to be creative as a pedagogical dynamo that drives innovation in production, redefines the future of work, and reframes our engagement with our cities". Our picks: Docendo Discimus Instrumantae (FAAB and contributors), An I: Talking to My Digital Self (Camilo Oliveira), Water School (Studio Makking & Bey).
Yapı Kredi Kültür Sanat: "The Currents School explores flows, networks, distribution, and hierarchies of information and subjects, both digital and analogue, abstract and embodied, to critically examine new technology and systems". Our picks: Infrequently Asked Questions, Stitching Worlds, Open Sesame (CMP Office), Lonely Planet.
Arter: "The Earth School asks what is natural, what is disaster, and what is evolution when the planet and human are forced to renegotiate their pedagogical relationship". Our picks: Atelier Luma Algae Lab, If Alagae Mattered (New South), SulSolSal.
Pera Museum: "The Scales School investigates the fluidity of taxonomies, quantifications, and institutionalised norms, standards and values to highlight biases and assumptions in our social, economic and intellectual agreements". Our picks: Ambiguous Standarts Institute (Cansu Curgen & Avsar Gurpinar), On Instruments and Archetypes (Unfold), Acting Things VII - School of Fluid Measures (performance by Judit Seng), Deep Digital Twin (Legrand Jager).
SALT Galata - "The Time School travels from hyper-speed and acceleration into the expansiveness of deep time, learning about contested pasts and speculative futures from paradoxical durational perspectives and the objects that dictate them". Our picks: A Ditto Online Device (Teis de Greve), A Commonplace Book (Commonplace Studio).
Studio-X Istanbul - "The Digestion School learns from metabolic systems, patterns of consumption, cultural rituals, and food infrastructure to consider how circular education and lifelong learning manifest". Our picks: Object Academy (Gokhan Mura), The People's Dispensary (EAT ART).
Through these different views we can see how education has evolved on its own 100 years after the foundation of the Bauhaus, a cornerstone of contemporary design education. Machine learning and AI-based production pose challenges to the field and basic forms of knowledge are at risk as we rely more and more on technology.
Boelen is also critical of what a Biennial should be, and more than a static exhibit considers a dynamic aspect to the Biennial through an on-going program during the duration of the event and a web component that will develop over time.
The Biennial is able to put together the diversity of the expanded field of design with different forms of education, self learning, and transfer of knowledge that we are exposed to today. It is a Biennial that is dense in numbers and content, but that is easy and fun to explore and to learn from.