London Design Biennale is currently unfolding at Somerset House, with 38 exhibitions from across six continents showcasing the role of design in addressing global challenges. Curated by Artistic Director Es Devlin, the event centres around the theme ‘Resonance’, inviting designers and artists to consider the ripple effect of “ground-breaking design concepts on the way we live, and the choices we make”. At the third edition of the London Design Biennale, the national pavilions highlight new perspectives on world issues, exploring sustainability and the environment, globalisation and migration, history and daily life.
With 30 pavilions representing countries, cities and territories, as well as a series of collateral projects, London Design Biennale showcases design’s potential to raise awareness, start conversations and spark action. As said by Sir John Sorrell, President of the event, “great design ideas can help change things for the better, inspire people and give them hope for the future - never more needed than now.” The national pavilions at the Somerset House explore a wide variety of topics, from the widespread use of plastics to traditional materials, the depletion of resources, domestic space, to the cultural exchanges of colonialism.
Exploring cultural interchanges, Ghana’s exhibition Amplify explores the engagement between the country and its two former colonial rulers, Great Britain and Denmark. The project re-evaluates Ghana’s rich cultural landscape and its influence on the colonial powers. Another pavilion re-evaluating cultural heritage is the Japanese one, with the Reinventing Texture exhibition that pays homage to the ancient art of Washi paper making and paper-mâché through a sensory experience.
In light of the pandemic’s impact on the individual’s relationship with the physical world, Greece's Together creates an immersive installation that showcases illuminated olive trees accompanied by the sound of Greek nature. Argentinian pavilion also explores the local landscape, with the weaved Monte Abierto installation highlighting the Simbol, a plant that grows in the Calchaquí Valleys.
Several national contributions explore issues of sustainability, reflecting on the environment and natural resources. This is the case with Nostalgia, the Guatemalan interactive installation which reflects on the loss of natural water resources, inviting visitors to question their behaviour in relationship with water use and wastage. Reflecting on today’s fundamental issue of waste and is the German contribution titled Spoon Archaeology, a collection of disposable plastic cutlery staged as archaeological artefacts. The exhibition is a nod to Europe’s ban on single-use cutlery and reflects the collective responsibility around this “cultural heritage”.
The Indonesian and Polish pavilions turn their focus on the domestic space. The Invisible: Free the Space! is an investigation into how the indigenous community in Indonesia faces the shortcoming of the modern domestic space. At the same time, The Clothed Home: Tuning in to the Seasonal Imagination Polish installation explores textiles in domestic interiors, reflecting the rhythm of seasonal changes.
The exhibitions illustrate culturally diverse viewpoints on global challenges, intending to nurture conversations around a more sustainable future. “The collective resonance of our ideas and our actions has the power to be truly transformative,” says Artistic Director Es Devlin and the London Design Biennale taps into this potential. The exhibition at the Somerset House is open until June 27.