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The Anti Design Festival

THE ANTI DESIGN FESTIVAL: The extroverts – the voice of the people – shout through megaphones that lurch across the ceiling on a primitive pulley and cantilever system; the introverts – the thinkers – are trying out the chairs and benches improvised from a mishmash of leftover wood and industrial stickers.
The Anti Design Festival
Walk into the Anti Design Festival’s hub at the Londonewcastle Project Space in Shoreditch – and walk into chaos. This, however, is happy chaos – an office in disarray full of ageing computer equipment, rusting filing cabinets, papers strewn all over the abandoned desks, an upturned chair – and some rather nice biros, with no need to venture into the stationery cupboard to purloin one. The inaugural Anti Design Festival 2010 has been created as a ‘direct response’ to the ‘prettiness’ and commerciality of the London Design Festival 2010 – and runs concurrently. The idea of design guru Neville Brody, leading practitioners such as Daniel Charny, Yomi Ayeni, Cecilia Wee, Stuart Semple and Terry Jones will curate shows featuring the work of Sarah Temple, Morag Myerscough, Jonathan Barnbrook – and many others – in a ‘fluid’ and somewhat unpredictable programme of events at 10 venues until 26 September. The Anti Design Festival has the backing of Taschen and the Londonewcastle Project Space, which is where the initial chaos has descended. However, among the ransacked office space and in the rooms beyond, the engines of creativity are whirring. Visitors to the show are behaving like children – nosing into filing cabinets, making sponge prints and decorating their own boxes as presents for the Pope (Il Papa may not like them). The extroverts – the voice of the people – shout through megaphones that lurch across the ceiling on a primitive pulley and cantilever system; the introverts – the thinkers – are trying out the chairs and benches improvised from a mishmash of leftover wood and industrial stickers. On one wall, the festival’s organisers have nailed their Manifesto, inviting visitors to email their own manifesto for artistic change back to them. The Anti Design Festival – note the judicious use of the noun ‘anti’, not the adjective – is about delivering space and the objects in it straight back into the hands of those who inhabit the space. No longer do we have to tiptoe round the well-designed chair or stand before a painting, expression sombre, only to pronounce sagely, ‘Hmm, I preferred his/her last work’. Without design we are free within our space – we can touch the objects, reinvent them, trash them if we want; straddle them, laugh on them – laugh at them – or stand so close to a Ben Eine painting or a Therese Morch display case full of ‘ancient artefacts’ that people might start to talk. Without design, we do not regard objects with the same greed or covetousness – nothing can be spoiled, only explored and enjoyed and shared. There is no value to the objects, but what we bestow on them – and the functionality and enjoyment they offer us. We surrender our idolatry and regain our humanity and inventiveness. Without the formality and conventions of design, it is also surprising to find we are not silent in a dull, empty void – we are playful, childlike, brave and a bit silly. The legendary cool of the art world is forgotten and we are equals in the playground – not constricted by someone else’s blueprint for walls that are our boundaries and fixtures and fittings that receive more respect than we do. The curators of the Anti Design Festival have sent out a rallying cry to make art more human – and humans more creative: “The period we are all heading into will see the most change in our society that we have witnessed for generations,” says Neville Brody. “We can own that change and make it work for us. We can take risks, tear up the plans and give ourselves permission to imagine something different, allowing a new creative landscape to emerge where the individual is empowered and new ideas are nurtured.” You are all invited to take part. The Anti Design Festival 2010 runs until 26 September in the area of Redchurch Street, London E2. The festival features a day- and night-time programme of art, image, design, film, sound, interactive and transmedia, 3D, interiors, performance and writing. For more information visit: www.antidesignfestival.com

Angela Meredith

Monday 20 September, 2010

About the author

Angela Meredith is a freelance journalist/writer who covers the Arts, travel and leisure and consumer health. Her work has appeared on websites such as Men’s Health, Discovery Health and TravelZoo – and this year she worked on the launch of the website Moneypage.com as Travel/Leisure writer. She contributes accident and health and safety news to a personal injury website and has written extensively for the b2b journal Pharmacy Business. Angela is a former winner of Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award for new playwrights and has written for BBC TV. In 2007 she was short listed for the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’s New Novel Award. She began her career as an actress and still acts occasionally. She is a full member of the NUJ and Equity and has a BA (Joint Hons) in Literature & History of Art and an MA in Literature.