Friday, October 30, 2009

Living by design

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As you walk into the World Art Museum of the China Millennium Monument, what you will see first is a mammoth collection of spoons shaped into a tongue.

This is the work of Beijing-based designer Wang Kaifang, and forms part of his Right of Speech series.

Wang created this piece to commemorate the victims of last May's devastating earthquake in Sichuan. He spent nine months collecting spoons used by people from different walks of life living in the quake zones. He calls it Wen Bao, or adequate food and clothing.

It makes for a stunning introduction to 12 Time Spaces - A Concept Exhibition on Chinese Living Style, a highlight of the ongoing World Design Congress and First Beijing Design Week.

Living by design

Set between 7 pm and 9 pm, 14 artists from Interior Design China show their space featuring two models in their unique dresses.

Wang and other Chinese designers create a living space based on the traditional Chinese idea of shier dizhi, or 12 terrestrial branches, to explain day and night. They arrange everyday home appliances in a day or night setting, and interpret different stories set in a specific two-hour slot. Wang's space, for example, is set between 11 pm and 1 am and puts together smaller versions of his tongue installation.

Explaining his ideas he says, "We Chinese have a saying that food is god. Tongue symbolizes eating and speaking. They are both of fundamental importance to people."

He describes his work as a document of people's livelihoods. "The spoons, some of which are high-quality ones while others look quite ordinary and old, reflect the disparity in living standards among different social classes. Whether placed high or low, all people have the same right of speech," he says.

The exhibition invites the audience to explore the interaction between design and life, specifically how industrial design engages with everyday life and how life enriches and uplifts design. It also provides a platform for Chinese designers to convey their ideas of "China Design" to an international audience.

"A design could be either very simple or highly exquisite, yet the designer has poured all of his/her emotions and vitality into it. People using the product can feel the energy of the designer," says Wang. "But there aren't many such works these days," he says.

Wang also feels that many industrial designs are too superficial and market-oriented. One reason is that many customers favor Western styles and show little confidence in local designers. Also, people put more stress on a design's functionality than on its creativity.

"We don't have our own unique language of design. Most of the time, we are speaking the language of others. When we want to appear different, we simply package our products with some cultural symbols and icons. And this has what has created the current stereotypical image of Chinese design."

One can find the same ideas expressed in Jia Wei's designs.

One of his displays, a tea tray equipped with a water-resistant music player, has grabbed much attention. He says his work tries to present the idea, rooted in Chinese culture, that sipping tea and listening to music go together.

"The Western world is encouraging creative thinking, but many of us are still content with pouring water from a cup, a pot or a thermos, without giving it a cultural context," says Jia.

Chinese design should dig deeper into indigenous culture, he adds. "We have to bring back our strength and confidence.".

Lu Shanhan, another participating designer from Shanghai, says that apart from presenting a global view, Chinese design needs to draw inspiration from real life. Designers should be keenly aware of what is happening in society today, he says.

The exhibition is on till today.

taken from : China Daily

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