Every year, The Group for International Design Education (GIDE) delivers a project internationally across eight different countries. The networks main goal is to create a dynamic intercultural experience
GROUP PROJECT //
where students can engage with one another, to provide insight into different ways of working and improve global design awareness. Partaking in these projects enables students to take a step across the border; the precise topic of this year’s brief.
The aim set by GIDE’s ‘Step Across the Border’ is to create an exhibition that
provokes the visitor to cross into new territory and show the extraordinary within an ordinary space. The space in question, Dundee Contemporary Arts gallery, is situated in the city centre of Dundee. Designed by Richard Murphy, the DCA is an inviting and inclusive institution that attracts a wide audience range - the perfect location for an exhibition encouraging visitors to explore their boundaries.
Gallery culture traditionally dictates that the content of an exhibition remain untouched and viewed from afar. ‘Step Across the Border’ juxtaposes these traits by prompting the visitor to interact with the exhibition and become part of it.
Zep-Pink is one of fifteen exhibits that encourages the visitor to view their domestic routine through a new lens, revealing the extraordinary within the ordinary that so often goes by unseen. The work of Allan Wexler greatly impacted the installation as it is accessible to all; using familiar domestic props removes the preconceptions that contemporary art and design culture is inaccessible to the wider public. Discipline-crossing Wexler layers different ways of working, from architecture, to design, to art; proving that by ignoring the categories that art and design are perpetually forced into, we can reveal new meaning within the everyday. Crate House (1990) illustrates this approach, where the four main factions of our domestic life are divided into individual crates that extend from an 8ft squared box. When a function is required it is rolled into the central box, making it fully reliant on human interaction for the function to be fulfilled. Each crate has restricted movement - only moving backwards and forwards - and not being capable of manoeuvring off their track. Zep-Pink interprets this by making the viewer explore their own limits.
Inspired by the organic form of organs, the installation is both natural in form but unnatural in its position in the gallery, suspended from the ceiling. The positioning has also been influenced an exhibition designed by Magma Architecture, consisting of an organic latex tunnel which has been elevated from the ground.The viewers are immediately encouraged to explore Zep-Pink as it is instantly visible within the gallery, its pink latex skin drawing attention to it instantly. The latex is stretched over the zeppelin inspired steel skeletal structure, that lies beneath. On its underside, three
incisions made to the core, acting as
thresholds into an alternative domestic environment. To make it fully accessible, there are stools moulded to fit the precise shape of each incision, providing access to the interior for everyone visiting the exhibition.
Once inside, the visitor is met with what
seems at first like an ordinary domestic environment, but when examined not all is where it should be. Each one of the incisions made in the structure leads to a specific room based on a specific daily ritual; bedroom, bathroom, kitchen - which are all linked by the central living room. Each one of these rooms is instantly recognisable by one unmodified piece of furniture (bed, toilet, table), which envelopes the incisions. These have taken influence from Wexler’s work, in
that every day domestic objects are modified drastically yet undetectably. In the kitchen, the table remains aesthetically unaltered, providing the viewer with a familiar environment - this contrasts the surrounding objects which have been visibly altered beyond distinction. The interior was developed by collage inspired by Kurt Schwitters and his Merzbau installation that demonstrated how an interior can be abstracted beyond both function and recognition, while still perceived as a domestic interior. This encourages the viewer to reach out and examine what has been altered, however they will discover that these items are out of their grasp - an analogy for the limitations of life in that the visitor is capable of reaching only the realistic objects, never beyond.
An entirely separate viewpoint into the surreal environment is offered by a vertical incision made from the front elevation of the installation into the living room, cut to represent a TV to create a distinction between two different perspectives of reality. Similarly, Wexler takes the bigger picture and dissects it to reveal what lies beneath. This is directly translated into Zep-Pink which relies entirely on interaction, creating a connection and sense of awareness with the viewer in a way that many exhibitions fail to do. By making interaction a fundamental part of the exhibition, more people will be encouraged to become involved and visit the DCA, as it creates a new dimension not often revealed within art and design culture that improves accessibility to the wider public.