Design Indaba 2019: HL's Day 2 Highlights
The HL team’s top five notable moments from day two of Design Indaba 2019 touch on the themes of minimalism, meditation and making your mark.
On its second day, Design Indaba 2019 continued to surprise, delight and inform delegates with a range of thought-provoking presentations. Running through almost all of them was an intriguing theme of spirituality and the need to find ways to reconnect or rethink human relationships with the natural world.
Whatever each presenter’s particular take is on the human need for connection, contemplation and healing, they all strive to enable this through the potential of cutting-edge design. And with starchitect John Pawson, as well as acclaimed costume designer Ane Crabtree wowing the crowd with beautiful visuals, it was another day of inspiration too.
Our Day 2 Design Indaba Highlights
1. A Performance Piece by Faith XLVII, Inka Kendzia and Pure
After multidisciplinary artist Faith XLVII had taken the audience on a whistle-stop through some of her recent work – all of which has taken place within the framework of collaboration with other artists – we were treated to a live performance of Aurum. This recent piece, a project on which she worked with Inka Kendzia and Pure, includes compelling visuals, music and dance elements, and expresses a fervent desire to transcend human conflict.
2. Learning to Link Back to Nature with Shaina Garfield
‘We are nature,’ declared Design Indaba Global Graduate Shaina Garfield before going on to describe how the natural world helped her work through the near-death experience of battling Lyme disease. That in turn led Garfield to become interested in what happens to human bodies after death in the Western world – a process that, she stressed, currently functions as yet another attempt to rigidly separate human beings from natural processes such as decomposition.
To reinsert us into the cycle of life – where, she stresses, we actually belong – Garfield conceptualised Leaves, a new kind of ‘coffin’ consisting of a web-like shroud woven from rope treated with fungal spores that enable decomposition and destroy toxins that accumulate within modern human bodies. This is a design project that, as she says, could help create conversations that not many people want to have – but which could ultimately benefit both human beings and the planet we inhabit.
3. Ane Crabtree’s Cerebral Approach to Costume Design
When a costume designer lyrically describes their work as ‘a virtual house for a character’ you know you’re hearing from someone with a unique take on their profession. Ane Crabtree has designed costumes for the award-winning Netflix series The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as post-apocalyptic cult HBO show Westworld and the period-perfect Showtime series Masters of Sex.
The art of costume design, explained Crabtree, is all about generating an immersive experience that helps enable an actor to prepare to step onto the set in character. She spoke of how she sees her role as being that of a collaborator-interpreter, and also understands her own creative process exceptionally well, noting that much of it springs from the fact that she decided ‘early on to retain the child inside’.
4. John Pawson’s Spiritual Minimalism
Architect and interior designer John Pawson has been practicing for almost four decades, having grown up on the edge of the Yorkshire moors in the UK, and studied architecture only in his mid-20s after an initial apprenticeship with Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata. He explained that working with Kuramata showed him that he could indeed become an architect, memorably adding, ‘I didn’t realise that you could be taught to design.’
Pawson’s remarkable buildings and interiors are famous for their minimalist aesthetic, and he has designed especially exquisite churches and chapels. He also has an ongoing design relationship with a community of monks for whom he has created a number of buildings over a 20-year period. The aim for all his spaces, he says, is for them to be ‘calm’ and ‘simple’, with a ‘discipline of subtraction’ constantly informing his practice. ‘I’m interested in places,’ Pawson says, ‘where the eye and the body can be at ease.’
5. Meditations on Technology by Freyja Sewell
Design Indaba Global Graduate Freyja Sewell describes herself as ‘a designer interested in creating for our minds and mental spaces’, and has already designed the privacy enhancing Hush Pod. A practitioner of mindfulness meditation, Sewell drew our attention to the fact that there has been no improvement in Western societal feelings of wellbeing since the 1950s, despite our rapid technological advancement during the same period of time.
While meditation is currently recognised as a useful way to combat the feelings of alienation, anxiety and depression that many 21st century people experience, it is by no means easy to start and maintain its practice. What we need to recognise, says Sewell, is that meditation is a skill – in other words, something that needs to be learned. Her current research interest is in attempting to create biofeedback equipment that might help us do that more easily.