Featuring rich and previously unexplored materials from the Victor Papanek archive in dialogue with the work of emerging designers from Vienna, London, and New York, this exhibition challenges Victor Papanek’s legacy of socially committed design by bringing it into conversation with contemporary work by a new generation of speculative and critical designers.
In the four decades since How Things Don’t Work (1977) was written by controversial design critic Victor Papanek and his co–author James Hennessey, the context for design has grown ever more complex. Globalization and the rise of information technologies have created both opportunities and challenges that did not exist when Papanek, an out-spoken advocate for social design, was first practicing. Innovations in computer, biological, and financial systems have collided with a looming environmental catastrophe to deeply challenge the core presumption of design as a social good. The rise of interconnected information networks has created unprecedented communication and collaborative possibilities while also inundating us with more information than we can reasonably process.
This tension–between awareness and paralysis and between too much and too little–has intensified exponentially since the 1970s when Papanek’s ideas were most influential. Moreover, design culture over the past decade has seen a dramatic shift from the designing of products to that of systems that support social change and speculation. This has challenged designers to reimagine how they design and for which contexts.
The exhibition’s four sections feature video, digitized slides, and print that juxtapose contemporary, speculative projects from emerging designers with visionary excerpts from the Papanek archive. Together, they create a kaleidoscopic “dreamspace” built out of fragments of our social imaginary and challenging the viewer to consider how we might design ourselves out of our dystopian present.
Curated by Alison Clarke, Director of the Victor Papanek Foundation and Professor of Design History and Theory, University of Applied Arts, Vienna, Jamer Hunt, Director, Transdisciplinary Design, Parsons The New School for Design, and Fiona Raby, Professor of Industrial Design, University of Applied Arts, Vienna.
The exhibition is a collaboration between Parsons The New School for Design and the University of Applied Arts, Vienna.