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London Design Biennale: ‘Emotional States’ – Around the world in an afternoon of sensory delight…

London Design Biennale: ‘Emotional States’ – Around the world in an afternoon of sensory delight…

Our acv craft expert recommends her picks from the exhibition – which ends on Sunday (September 23), so do not leave it, if you have been meaning to go…

By Momtaz Begum-Hossain

A CHANCE to travel the world through 40 exhibitions, the London Design Biennale, now in its second year, draws together ideas, concepts and experiences from different cultural perspectives and presents them as art and design led installations.

For 2018 the theme is ‘Emotional States’, and the works on display explore how design influences our emotions.

Each response demonstrates the breadth of creativity and talent that exists globally in the design world.

Set over three floors in Somerset House in central London, this isn’t an exhibition you can just pop in to. Expect to spend half a day immersing yourself in the vibrant, interactive displays.

Here’s the five textile-based installations I thought are really worth checking out:

India – Photo ©Jack Hems

The traditional craft of indigo dyeing is the focus of The India Pavilion, where the beauty of this natural pigment used in the fashion and textiles industry is juxtaposed against its darker side: how farming of the product is linked to India’s colonial trade.
Curator Priya Khanchanda observes: “It was once said that no indigo box dispatched to England was without a smear of blood.”
The installation consists of projections bathed in blue light, showing the intensive nature of indigo farming back in the 1600s alongside footage from just two decades ago depicting more recent working conditions of indigo workers.

Pakistan – Photo: Ed Reeve

A positive and uplifting exhibition, Pakistan’s contribution to the biennale captures how traditional handiwork and embroidery skills are lifting women out of poverty and increasing their status in society.
The installation ‘Aangan’, consists of cascading cotton garments, some of which are embellished with colourful embroidered motifs. Women make up 50 per cent of the workforce when it comes to cotton manufacturing in Pakistan, the fourth largest producer of the fibre in the world, and it’s female artisans that largely make the fashion and textiles products that are appreciated in the country and wider world.

Guatemala – Photo Ed Reeve

A room filled with floating off cuts of rainbow coloured handwoven fabrics, this installation represented the remarkable tale of Santa Catarina Palopo, an impoverished town on Lake Atitlan which is using art and craft to boost tourism. The town’s 800+ homes are being painted in vibrant patterns inspired by local textiles to attract visitors and businesses.

Mongolia – Photo: Ed Reeve

Telling the story of how Mongolian cashmere is on display in this section of the exhibition are huge vats of fluffy goat hair that you can touch. There’s also a video that shows the process of cashmere production alongside hanging garments, set against a wall of positive quotes from locals about why they enjoy working in the textiles industry.

Argentina – Photo Ed Reeve

Argentina’s offering in a walk-through winding textiles forest celebrating the weaving culture of the Wichi, an indigenous group who are known for weaving in geometric shapes, whilst remaining sensitive to the craft. The design team who created it TRImarchi Collective say: “We are not spying on a culture from a display cabinet, but understanding this as an opportunity to be amazed by our own origins.”

London Design Biennale, until September 4-23 at Somerset House, Somerset Strand, London WC2R 1LA


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Written by Asian Culture Vulture