Subversive design – Brighton Museum Oct 2013 – March 2014

posterThe exhibition at the beautiful Brighton Museum and Art Gallery in the Dome complex is somewhat mis-named, though no less interesting for it. It less design, more art. Nothing is functional; the output of design normally melds form and function.

Everything has a point to make. For example, Simone DSCF0409Brewster’s provocative Negresse Chaise and Mammy Table (including wallpaper) remind us how recent has been our willingness to use such depictions of black people in cinema and elsewhere for commercial profit. The inclusion of female body parts just compounds this.

Also featuring in the exhibition is some work by enfant terrible, Philippe Starck. Two pieces are on display, both of which are part of the museum’s permanent collection. The stool (below left) was designed originally for film director, Wim Wenders, who wanted a stool on which he could lean rather than sit. Starck_stool

Starck has also got his hands dirty with the Italian firm, Alessi, famous for kettles, amongst other kitchen equipment. Starck’s kettle is a rather un-functional. The cone (right) that dissects the body is a handle, filler and spout. It proved not to work, despite the apparently clever internal technology; Starck himself was unrepentant: “I wanted to get myself noticed [and] Starck_kettlemake a masterly sculptural object”. That it certainly is. Alessi did not buy that.

Ceramicist Grayson Perry, former winner of the Turner Prize, not surprisingly features in this exhibition. His vase entitled ‘Difficult Background’ (below left) has in the foreground Perry_Brightonsmiling children against a background of war – burning buildings and fleeing civilians.

There are some beautiful pieces with interesting juxtapositioning. For example, ‘Fragile Future Lamp’ by Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta (2012, below right) has an environmental theme. It represents the construction and deconstruction of dandelion clocks studdedDSCF0414 with LED lights. The fragility of the structure maps on to a fragile earth; though the lights represent hope.

Note the arachnid wallpaper behind.

DSCF0412Finally, shoes. There are two challenging shoe related exhibits. Not surprising, both relate to high-heels, one a modification, the other a hybrid of human and non-human form plus weapons (left). WeaponsDSCF0413 are generally clichéd. Terry de Havilland’s dagger heeled shoes bear the cliché, but the hooves feel very uncomfortable. Belonging to another creature and appropriated by humans.

Other more extensive reviews can be found here:

The official PR for the exhibition is handled by Lianne Jarrett Associates:

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