By Joana Sousa Lara

The wait has come to an end. One of the UK’s most exciting events of the year is back. Yes, you’ve read it right. Ladies and gentlemen, the London Design Biennale rises from the ashes like a mighty phoenix to present this year’s theme: Resonance. Design after all is a core material in our lives. The multi-award-winning designer Es Devlin is the Artistic Director that wants to approach designers from all over the globe and share culturally diverse perspectives. To discover more, keep reading Resonantia.

After what seemed to be a lifetime of waiting, the London Design Biennale is back. This year’s theme reflects on the impact of groundbreaking design principles on how we live and the decisions we make. The very material of each and every life has been radically changed by the pandemic, hence why the word Resonate is so important right now.

London Design Biennale 2021. Photo by: Ed Reeve.

In today’s digital age, Design can instantaneously cross boundaries and span cultures. It has the potential to favourably influence behaviour and reshape society. When new ideas resonate and are embraced by larger populations, attitudes can shift and improve our lifestyle.

At the same time, we are witnessing the devastation caused by resource mining in our environment and data mining in our democracy. Ours is a time of severe socioeconomic inequality mixed with unparalleled algorithmic use of our personal data, which frequently herds us into digital echo chambers and more isolated groups.

Designers have been working for decades to create responses to these happenings, such as renewable energy technologies, smart products, intelligent architecture, as well as physical and virtual experiences and environments that shift our emotions and change our perspectives.

Designers, philosophers, artists, and creators can inspire and surprise their audiences into dramatic transformations in perspective, leveraging the mass networks at their disposal to reverberate ideas and practices that will help construct a more sustainable future.

Es Devlin – Artistic Director of this year’s London Design Biennale

Devlin explains, “We live in an age of hyper resonance, the consequences of which are both exhilarating and devastating. Everything we design and everything we produce resonates. Each idea we generate has the power to reach a mass digital audience undreamt of by previous generations, while the lifespans of the physical products we create often endure long beyond our own. Whether in the social media feeds of millions or in the bellies of marine animals, our ideas and our objects stick around”.

Taiwan exhibition
Taiwan – Swingphony

This edition counts with more than 20 locations worldwide, each with a type of installation representing the theme of the event. Taiwan, for instance, offers an exhibition to demonstrate that everyone has an effect on society and that every blessing has the potential to bring peace to the globe. We can all relate to one another, regardless of colour, gender, or creed. A coordinated beat, regardless of the arrangement, always inspires faith. We’re all echoing each other. Our article The Light goes more in-depth about Taiwan’s exhibition.

Forest for Change - The Global Goals Pavilion
The Global Goals Pavilion – Forest for Change

Es Devlin chose to counter the idea of human domination over nature by allowing a forest to overrun the entire courtyard while planning this year’s Biennale. Devlin and her colleagues examined the transformative nature of woods in literature to create a place of genuine change by defying the norms of Somerset House’s Enlightenment-era designers.

Placing trees into Somerset House’s courtyard for the first time is a bold statement that reflects the boldness of the Global Goals – an ambitious strategy committed upon all nations to achieve a brighter and fairer society for all by 2030.

The year 2021 will be a watershed moment for the global community as it addresses the most pressing concerns of our day, and this forest of 400 trees will demonstrate how the Goals are the answer to the difficulties we face. It will bring to life the answers required to address climate change, rising inequality, and poor recovery, and will chart a course toward a better and brighter future for everyone, everywhere.

The other pavilions are housed in chambers within the 18th-century structure, although not every participant addresses sustainability explicitly. The underlying subject of Devlin’s work is Resonance, which is literally in Chile’s exhibit, Tectonic Resonances, by Macarena Irarrázaval, Sistema Simple Studio, Design Systems International, and Valentina Aliaga.

When a big stone from a Chilean quarry is struck with a long lithophone stick, it produces a booming “bong!” This oddly pleasant drummer-like experience is meant to connect us to the ancient stone technologies that mark the beginning of the Anthropocene. There are two pavilions dedicated to metronomes.

Japan Pavilion 2021
Japan – Reinventing Texture

Reinventing Texture in Japan is based on designer Toshiki Hirano’s investigation of the textures of urban objects in Tokyo, ranging from vending machines to high-rise skyscrapers, which took place during a lockdown. 

Hirano’s digital scans of diverse surfaces are displayed in the LDB exhibition as a 3D montage composed of traditional Washi paper. Despite its high-resolution data source, the projected colours expose the montage’s items as though they were produced in watercolours, which Hirano desired. Enni-Kukka Tuomala’s Empathy Echo Chamber is an inflatable bubble into which two individuals can enter and spend two minutes looking at each other in silence before communication is permitted.

Somerset House, London – Amplify

Nonetheless, LDB provides a plethora of unforgettable encounters. Two olive trees are shot and shining on one wall in the black chamber of Greece’s HRH Prince Nikolaos’ Together. It’s both strong and hypnotic. The warmth and workmanship of Ghana’s Amplify by textile designer Chrissa Amuah and architect Alice Asafu-Adjaye, composed of a wall of metal disks each decorated with African patterns, will leave you speechless. 

LDB has a sense of unpredictability about it, with the ability to startle both aesthetically and philosophically. Often, the pavilions with the fewest words and images, such as those from Greece, Finland, and Canada, make the most impression. LDB’s tagline asks, “Can we design a better world?” and there are plenty of concepts in Somerset House that suggest we can.

Pre-booking for the LDB is encouraged, but tickets are also available at Somerset House to buy on the day, subject to availability. To pre-book your ticket, click here.

If you enjoyed reading Resonantia, then why not read AZ Legacy.

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