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Formal Matters and Sparse Elegance

Notes on Beckmans College of Design grad exhibition 2023 May 17 - May 23, 2023

Johanna Ringqvist, "Dune"

"And emptiness still leaves a space", sings Au Revoir Simone, almost as a faint sigh in "Stay Golden", and comes to mind, as we survey the solution chosen to mediate the presence of the Fashion'23 cohort despite their physical absence in this year's exhibition. We're not privy to why this is the case this year following last fall's still recent move to the new premises on Lidingö (to the chagrin of some who decidedly felt Beckmans' nest should be right in the city center in closer proximity to some of the industry outlets that the school "connects" to and as have been case with the school's two last locations in history). Yes, the Fashion cohort has already had and presented their own runway show at Kulturhuset in the city this past week, but such thing hasn't ruled out their featured presentations in the past editions of the on-site at school exhibition, despite what used to be quite crammed and jammed rooms, sometimes devoid of windows at the last domicile on Brahegatan on Östermalm. There was already a feeling that this year's runway show was a bit subdued at Kulturhuset and at subsequent interest to see it again there was the discovery of an edited montage video feature of the show made available on the Beckmans website (instead of something that felt truer to the in real-time running thing) which did not satisfy the urge to reapproach the collections.

In the aerial and beautiful entrance hall of the new Beckmans, the collections are projected on a white hut-like presentation booth; arguably too small for the space and the interest to see the work of the fashion grads. The projection quality in terms of light conditions made the whole thing subdued - again. We can't help to think that what would make sense would be big monumental screens erected, utilziling the grandeur of the space, blasting the sound, as though some sort of Anne Imhof-situation (Balenciaga after all. "She is Balenciaga", said a credible artist of Anne Imhof's art last fall at a panel talk we moderated) at the Palais de Tokyos of this world or let's toy with the idea of the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. Surely there's a good reason for the choice made instead and we're not going to lengths for speculations. Someone upon reading this will fill in the blanks.

Annelie Wihlborg, "Spun Spaces"

Interestingly the absence of a dress, ironically, is "amended" by a lamp over at the FORM section instead that could bring a Halston draping to mind. More on that later. At FORM and Visual Communications is where the benefit of the recent move gets truly evident. All the windows and light streaming into these fresh walls makes Beckmans look like a design musuem, or that design museum we don't actually have in Stockholm (throwback to such plans previously having been in the pipeline for the city). The disposition of three conseuctive rooms rather than one bigger room being allocated to the various displays of FORM certainly has some impact in its allowing of proper breathing space for each designer but to think this alone was a major reason why this year's FORM section of the exhibition strikes a stronger chord than in the recent years would be to undercut the well-considered choices and "edits" this year's cohort has made for their leg of the exhibition.

No one brings excess bagage to the exhibion in the form of tediously didactive and demonstrative features that would strike up an air of trade fair rather than a design exhibition. Almost gone are all superfluous words on view, tv monitors, video featurettes and flow charts. The cohort reveals proper artistic conviction in their designs and inventions enough to think more as curators than sales agents. We know it's hard to not get to manifest the full brilliance of the many steps of your thought and material process but as we often say, as a figure of speech, when tutoring; "if you think you need four pillars to tell a story; subtract one out of view and the mystery of the missing pillar is what can render some poetry instead of documentary." Max Lundén's day bed, "Rooted Origins", which suggest a return to the biomimicry that existed (avant la lettre) in the design aesthetics of yesteryear, prior to the penchant of today's clean minimalist lines, is presented in its ornamented appearance only with a large-scale poster of a forrest scene. The blurring of lines between a sculptural installation and a design display is palpable. Elinor Parra's "Oink"; a piggy bank for digital money teaching today's children the importance of saving, is a project that renders as much nostalgia for a recent generation (ours) that still will remember being gifted a physical piggy bank for our pennies at an actual bank office, accompanying our parents out on errands, as it does service by bringing us tech-phobics (our team) up to speed with how this one fundamental need is translated for present and future day. It's the project that stretches the farthest out of the lot in concept and despite the visual pop, is well-balanced where its display sits in the room alongside visually understated and more coherent projects. It's age group is children aged 7-12 and it was adorable to see a podium used as a stepping stool for the younger visitors to reach the main display. A thoughtful and apt formal gesture in the presentation.

Elinor Parra, "Oink"

Carl Folkesson's" Symbiotic Waste" is based on the idea of a shared waste-and-industrial economy in his native Gnosjö region, where waste parts in different materials, from different manufacturers and producers, are aimed to be combined in the creation of new utilitarian objects. Calling to mind sculptor and installation artist Mikael Johansson (been a while since we came across him), Carl Folkesson presents a grid on the wall based on various waste components, behind a low podium platform with the assembled objects, that looks great. Another artistic feat in the exhibition. Imad Benkkabou's "Stainless Steel Speaker" is just that in a sleek and alluring retro futuristc boxed body that is very quietly humorous without being gimmicky (humour gone right); shooting to mind the head of a robot; or other domestic notions or phenomena such as playing with food, or the fixture of a kitchen stove. If in our head luxury speakers have been assoicated with wood (if we're tech phobics, we're also not audiophiles) and pedestraian speakers with black plastic, then stainless steel is a (still) "novel" visualization (for us).

Imad Benkkabou's "Stainless Steel Speaker"

Carl Folkesson, "Symbiotic Waste"

As for that dress "lamp", that brings us to Annelie Wihlborg’s ”Spun Spaces”; a project for which she approached double weaving as a technique to incorporate into furniture and spatial design…and that without a background in textile crafts. But you’d never not think. Here's a grad who traverses into our chartered terrains of textile art or functional art (akin, by a loose and far stretch, to Anton Alvarez and his "The Thread Wrapping Machine") with a possible pull and appeal for exhibition spaces beyond such that could be thought axised around the Beckmans core and scope. She beautifully utilized air space to exhibit parts of her presentation, adding an overall balance to the use of space in the FORM section.

Annelie Wihborg, "Spun Spaces"

The standout project in our books is Johanna Rinqvist's "Dune"; a modular seating furniture for public spaces that considers the changes in the body's posture and needs over time. Cork is such a beautiful material that appears underused in light of its many qualities; its lesser impact on natural resources as compared to other more common materials, and its fire resistant capacity etc. At the core the design just looks gorgeous and the presentation of one full-size module presented while the many variations instead being exhibited with minature versions on a podium and per an "unassuming" but yet visually pleasing graphic print on the wall left nothing to wish for. Nothing we could think of at least.

Johanna Ringqvist, "Dune"

Anna Eriksson, "Mellanrummen/The Spaces"

Over at the exhibition leg of Visual Communications, a mound of soil is presented in Wasim Harwill's "Ett hus utan dadelpalm är inget hem". Despite having seen our fair share of piles of sand, soil or other earthly material at diverse exhibitions over the years, we are nevertheless intrigued from the offset, to find out how this pile ended up on display here. The text accompanying the installation, a piece centering around the concept of home and how it is perceived/defined, informs the viewer that somewhere in this pile of dirt are postcards documenting conversations Wasim Harwill has had with people that have had to flee their homes. Anna Eriksson's depiction ("The Spaces") is one of the inbetween-ness stemming from her own reflections and exploration of “being in the middle, both physically and metaphorically”, be it between her two countries (Sweden and Gambia), between her parents as well as other experiences that renders her in "the middle". Her research has resulted in the book on display against a backdrop of a series of photos. Eriksson’s assortment of fragmented memories are arrestingly conveyed. On a related note, Julian Redaelli's "Estar perto não é físico" presents a project exploring the concept of closeness in the aftermath of migration. Through the lens of the family history what is presented is a work that tries to grasp after, and convey, the conflicting concepts, this oxymoron; of being physically cut off from one’s home yet emotionally so present. There was a personal pull towards all three projects and their earnest attempts and efforts in conveying the complexities of the trifecta of home-away-and-being.

Axel Wahl's "My process"

Axel Wahl's "My process" sees both the end result and the process that lies behind its realization. Wahl has created a three-dimensional visualization of the work that goes into the final project. It takes the form of a cardboard furnished working space consisting of the elements and tools that have gone into his process. He is literally spelling out all the steps and procedures that precede the end result. In this way Wahl expands the viewer’s grasp of what lies behind the reduction of this process; the end-product. The execution here is flawless. Especially fond of the desktop lamp covered in Instagram comment sections regarding his update on the process. Going from meta to post-meta.

Ashik Zaman & Corina Wahlin


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