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the of­fice of cul­ture and de­sign

Scout - - CONTENT - In­ter­view by MARTIN DIEGOR

THINK OF DE­SIGN as prob­lem-solv­ing, and that the idea of good de­sign be­comes sub­jec­tive, de­pend­ing on the prob­lem it is solv­ing. It can mean a use­ful app, an iconic ar­chi­tec­ture, or good roads. Ba­si­cally, de­sign’s main goal is to make our lives eas­ier.

By “us,” I mean the lucky ones with com­fort­able life­styles in the city. Most of us don’t re­ally get to think about how de­sign can reach far out­side the com­forts of ur­ban liv­ing and stretch to in­volve her­itage sites and com­mu­ni­ties. That’s where the Of ce of ul­ture and De­sign steps in, a pri­vate group headed by cre­ative di­rec­tor lara Bala­guer who es­tab­lished it in as a plat­form for artists to cre­ate projects that aid the de­vel­op­ing world. Big words lara begs to dif­fer. Us­ing art and de­sign as “tools for progress” is a con­cept that can be quite hard to grasp. In that sense, how would you put the work of the Of­fice of Cul­ture and De­sign sim­ply? I would start by say­ing that we use progress in its non-loaded sense. Us­ing de­sign and cul­ture as tools for progress doesn’t, for us, buy into this grand nar­ra­tive of Progress linked to tech­no­cratic, in­fras­truc­tural, or philo­soph­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity.

By progress, we mean re­al­is­tic things. A more open mind. Bet­ter sen­si­tiv­ity to­wards gen­der equal­ity. A bit more money ev­ery day to bring food to the ta­ble. More pride in one’s own cul­ture and less of a feel­ing of in­fe­ri­or­ity to­wards other, more “pro­gres­sive” cul­tures. In a nut­shell, I would say what we do is give value to the over­looked por­tions of our con­tem­po­rary ma­te­rial cul­ture that are slip­ping through the cracks, that are not be­ing doc­u­mented with rigor and crit­i­cal­ity for pos­ter­ity. Even more sim­ply put, we do cul­tural projects for un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties, with a strong com­mit­ment to re­search. What’s the most in­ter­est­ing or sig­nif­i­cant pro­ject you have worked on so far? Em­bark­ing on a pub­lish­ing and de­sign hauz has been what’s been con­sum­ing most of our time lately. on­sol­i­dat­ing the process of our projects into printed for­mats proves to be a good strat­egy for bring­ing the work to a larger au­di­ence, and that’s been a very in­ter­est­ing learn­ing curve.

But in terms of so­cial signi cance, I would say our last en­deavor, a tex­tile res­i­dency in Bo­hol—with two Photo by Stefan Kruse Jør­gensen. RISO Read­ers #1 and #2: Tribal Kitchen:

The Ay­tas (blue) and OCD Note­book Cat­a­logue stu­dents from Rhode Is­land School of De­sign, funded by the Ma­haram STEAM Fel­low­ship for Ap­plied Arts and De­sign—has been eye-open­ing. I’m cur­rently in the eval­u­a­tion phase for the pro­ject and I feel like Dye Try­ing (that’s what we called the book about the pro­ject, and it’s sort of the fond nick­name for the en­tire pro­ject it­self has had the most im­pact. Our nd­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions through­out the res­i­dency process have been ef­fec­tive at in uenc­ing pol­icy for the loom-weav­ing co-op we worked with. Their in­sti­tu­tional part­ners such as the Euro­pean ham­ber of om­merce and DTI have identi ed the nat­u­ral dye re­search we did as a de­vel­op­men­tal pri­or­ity for the Tu­bigon Multi-Pur­pose oomweavers oop­er­a­tive. DTI has in­vited us to share our in­sights at their re­gional plan­ning ses­sion held just this month, and I think we might also have had some­thing to do with a pro­duc­tion man­ager be­ing trained and hired for the coop in the last few months. The in­sti­tu­tional part­ner­ships we built dur­ing this pro­ject were key to its ef­fec­tiv­ity post-im­ple­men­ta­tion. Who would you like to work with in the fu­ture? “Roos­mar­ijn Pal­landt, who does th­ese amaz­ing car­pets with weavers from all over the world. The wo­ven pat­terns are based on Google Maps im­agery. Paul Pfeif­fer would be an­other dream col­lab­o­ra­tor. I saw his last ex­hi­bi­tion Vitru­vian Fig­ure at the Mu­seum of on­tem­po­rary Art and De­sign, and ab­so­lutely loved the sports and syn­chro­nized chore­og­ra­phy-decla­ma­tion pieces done in video. It felt like he has this same soft spot for Filipino pop­u­lar cul­ture (and the sec­ondary mar­ket). I have also been try­ing to gure out how to build a pro­ject around the comedic mil­len­nial ge­nius that is oco uizon, but I don’t think she knows I’m big of a fan of her Twit­ter. Also, zar Kristoff’s pho­to­graphic work on ver­nac­u­lar ar­chi­tec­tural con­structs, speci cally fo­cused on tar­pau­lin, quite takes my breath away, as I’m also ob­sessed with the en­nobling the use of tar­pau­lin.” Your work on doc­u­ment­ing Philip­pine graphic de­sign trends and pub­lish­ing it as Filipino

Folk Foundry is very fas­ci­nat­ing and puts the gen­eral de­sign land­scape in con­trast with for­eign ones. Why do you think it is im­por­tant to do this, and what have you learned from the pro­ject? It’s im­por­tant to doc­u­ment our vis­ual ma­te­rial cul­ture with crit­i­cal rigor be­cause if we don’t, it will dis­ap­pear with­out our hav­ing learned any­thing from its ex­is­tence. What I learned from FFF is that we hold very lit­tle stock in the im­por­tance of ver­nac­u­lar Filipino aes­thet­ics, but nev­er­the­less feel ab­so­lutely okay with co-opt­ing and ap­pro­pri­at­ing and san­i­tiz­ing it. I also learned that clas­sic sign painters are some of the most tal­ented graphic de­sign­ers in the Philip­pines, ex­cept they have no idea that what they are do­ing is in fact graphic de­sign. You have a pub­lish­ing arm, Hard­work­ing Good­look­ing, and as I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced, the art of pub­lish­ing is tech­ni­cally the art of edit­ing, or cu­ra­tion, as some would say. “Cu­ra­tion” is ac­tu­ally a word young peo­ple like to throw around th­ese days. For you, what does it take for a per­son to be a cred­i­ble cu­ra­tor and why is it im­por­tant? I try not to use the word cu­ra­tor pre­cisely be­cause the cu­ra­to­rial has turned into coffee shop par­lance. Only when the con­ver­sa­tion is about ac­tual cu­ra­to­rial de­ci­sions, in terms of putting to­gether a cul­tural pro­gram with a clear line of in­ves­ti­ga­tion, do I use the word. Also, I am not so sure if I know what it takes to be a cred­i­ble cu­ra­tor—per­haps work­ing at an ac­tual art in­sti­tu­tion to stage chal­leng­ing and un­com­pro­mis­ing shows, with a sur­round­ing body of in­tel­li­gent (writ­ten) discourse? Re­al­is­ti­cally, though, if you know the right cu­ra­tor-friendly key­words and ut­ter them of­ten and con­vinc­ingly enough with panache, you’ll prob­a­bly have a great chance of get­ting mis­taken for a cu­ra­tor. (

Photo by Wawi Navar­roza. Left: An Auto-Cor­rected Jour­nal of Print­ing Prop­er­ties… edited by Dis­clab, de­signed by Lo­bre­gat Bala­guer and Stefan Kruse Jør­gensen. Right:Filipino FolkFoundry, an OCD re­search pub­li­ca­tionon ver­nac­u­lar ty­pog­ra­phy in the Philip­pines, de­signed by Dante Car­los andKris­tian Hen­son.

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