The exhibition Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design, co-curated by Alison J. Clarke, is a cooperation between the Papanek Foundation, the Vitra Design Museum and the Barcelona Design Museum showcasing the materials of the Papanek archive, and highlighting the crucial theme of design as a political and social tool. Alongside the exploration of Papanek’s links with key thinkers and design figures, the exhibition features contemporary design works dealing with politically pertinent issues.
The show features work from cutting edge practitioners: Forensic Architecture; Faber Futures; Flui Colectivo; Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg; Femke Herregraven; NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism/ Hypen-Labs; Lucy and Jorge Orta; Tomás Saraceno; Maya Jay Varadaraj.
James (Jim) Hennessey
The Papanek Foundation is deeply saddened by the passing of Papanek Foundation Board Member James (Jim) Hennessey earlier this year, and extends heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Jim.
In 1973, Victor Papanek and Jim Hennessey embarked on their first collaboration co-authoring, Nomadic Furniture, which shared with readers: “How to build and where to buy lightweight furniture that folds, inflates, knocks down, stacks, or is disposable and can be recycled.” Trained as a photographer, Jim’s wife Sara contributed much of the photography for the book and its sequel.
Nomadic Furniture remains an influential text into the early DIY movement, and its relevance continues to inspire design students and practitioners today. Jim was honored for his role in co-authoring the book during the Nomadic Furniture 3.0 exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna in 2015. The Papanek Foundation is grateful to Jim for his donation of archival materials in 2017, including photographic slides for Nomadic Furniture.
In 1977, Papanek and Hennessey collaborated again to publish How Things Don’t Work, another influential entry into the anti-design canon and the call for a new system of ethics in industrial design. One reviewer in The Radical Teacher praised the book, lauding Hennessey and Papanek for going “beyond criticizing individual products to emphasize the basic irrationality of production for profit, the hegemony of large manufacturing corporations, and the advertising hype that are the root causes of much shoddy design… some are fascinated and excited by it, others infuriated, but nearly all find it a refreshing supplement to cut-and-dried technical texts.”
Dedicated to design education throughout his life, Jim worked with numerous students as a Professor of Industrial Design at the California Institute of the Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Washington, and a Professor of user-interaction design at the Technical University of Delft, where he served as the Chair of the Design department until 2000.
Design is in crisis: Or, at the very least, in massive transition, exploring and rediscovering its potential during deeply problematic times. Real World: Design, Politics, Future the Papanek Symposium 2019, investigates design’s inherent tensions in the context of rising global far-right populism and the asphyxiating manipulation of information in a post-truth era. What potential is there for envisaging alternative political futures, and what role might design, and its politics, have in contributing to those futures? Strands of contemporary design practice proffer a critical, and often apocalyptic and dystopic vision of the future, while others happily conform to a financial system that demands a new consumable product for each and every multifarious context.