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parachute N°117: dedicated to design

mvrdv, MetaCity/Datatown, 1999 (c) mvrdv

PARACHUTE 117 is the first instalment of a double issue dedicated to design. Design came to occupy a significant place in everyday life in the course of the twentieth century. But what does the twenty-first century hold in store for us? Is design destined to encroach ever further into the realms of art and craft, as many artistic practices today seem to suggest?

Andrea Blum, Sleep/Drink 2004 (c) Fabienne LeClerc, Paris

In the opening essay to this issue, Alexandra Midal explores the recent rapprochement between design and art, especially how both artists and designers engage with design to question the relationship between economics, consumption and morality. Joep Van Lieshout, Droog Design, Philippe Parreno, Martí Guixé, kol/mac Studio and others utilize the strategies of design not only to challenge the uniformity of capitalism and mass production, but to articulate a paradigm for the promotion of individualistic agency and personal identity. Alex Coles homes in with acuity on this relationship between art, design and the intimate sphere by examining furniture in particular. While the similarities between furniture and sculpture in the oeuvre of Donald Judd, for instance, created a certain amount of anxiety for the artist, artworks created by Richard Artschwager, John Chamberlain, Franz West and Gabriel Orozco fully accept their dual status. In these latter works, the fetishization of design and the autonomy of modernist practice is slyly problematized, especially when beholders are invited to interact bodily with the objects, even to the point of destruction. Having mapped out the often antinomical attitudes between design and art, the author nevertheless reveals the fluidity of the relations which prevail between them due to their proximity. Évence Verdier delves still deeper into the junction between art and design in the work of Andrea Blum. Deliberately bewildering, and at times perverse, the artist’s series of drinking fountains, beds, bookcases and other dwelling items are constructed out of improbable materials, fashioned into condensed units, and made portable for nomadic living. The author contextualizes Blum’s work within the emerging coterie of artists and designers (e.g., Andrea Zittel, Jorge Pardo and Jean-Claude Ruggeriello) whose works form acts of resistance to the ideology of standardization. Blum’s “designless design” can be read as a commentary on the furniture and the contrivances of everyday private and public life. Domino, on the other hand, looks back on the work of Iain Baxter, whose meaning is premised on the relationship between user and viewer. His use of plastic and industrial processes to form “paintings,” sculptures, installations and inflatable works created, according to the author, works “without quality,” and radically interrogated the status of the art object and its claims to immanence. For Iain Baxter the commonplace becomes a locus of experience.

aaa Corp, Transmission, 1999; courtesy of the artist

Design as an experimental laboratory is also foremost amongst the concerns of the Barcelona-based anti-designer Marti Guixé, who has produced a visual essay which stands as an unmistakable instance of his particular way of working. Guixé’s work deals with the world of information through a wide spectrum of proposals, which open fields of experience to the user. Jennifer Lacy and set designer Nadia Lauro, as Alexandra Baudelot argues, work together on performance works, which are entirely based on an experience grounded in the body/material relationship and their reciprocal interpenetration. The duo employs and then displaces artifacts and environments drawn from the genres of horror and porn films in order to viscerally address that which is sublimated in daily life. Jean-Louis Violeau introduces us to the world of mvrdv, a collective of architects whose work is closely geared to the real, and for whom sustainable development is a fundamental concern. Using cutting-edge information technology capable of gathering and interpreting the data of a precise situation or a given territory, mvrdv gives free rein to an unbridled imaginary, overturning received ideas in architecture and urbanism. Lastly, Stephen Wright looks at collectives whose work questions the status of art with regard to problematic political and economic predicaments. For the author, the logic of reconciling of art with use value is the conceptual basis for a host of new work in performance, urban intervention and activism. The projects of The Yes Men, bureau d’études, aaa Corp. and the Grupo de Arte Callejero exist outside of the traditional venues for art and are nearly invisible to the artworld, yet they all utilize art-based practices to achieve effects in the public sphere. “Design” in this case becomes a device for questioning and even changing the real.

Chantal Pontbriand

PARACHUTE CONTEMPORARY ART MAGAZINE was founded in 1975 . In the 1970s, art critics were largely silent on contemporary and emerging aesthetic issues; therefore, it became imperative to inform the public about “art as it was happening,” and to develop critical tools to understand it. As stated in PARACHUTE’s first editorial, the objective was to “allow artists, critics and art administrators to express themselves freely within our pages, in order to identify the issues pertinent to today’s art.” In addition, it was imperative that Québec and Canadian art be given the opportunity to decompartmentalize and to escape from the narrow regionalism in which it had been confined, in order to acquire a broader vision that would help it to integrate the international scene. Dedicated to promoting new aesthetic approaches from Canada and abroad, PARACHUTE has become one of the most respected avant-garde journals in the world, and in so doing has achieved one of its primary objectives: to expose world audiences to contemporary Québec and Canadian art. Since its inception, PARACHUTE has striven to develop new critical methodologies and to broaden geographical and cultural horizons. Also since the beginning, it has published in both French and English in order to reach larger audiences and to develop a hybrid approach fostered by two major cultural forces.

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