Design With a Sea View. A Visual Tale of Nature and Design Intercestions. Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden
The exhibition “Roundabout Baltic” will be on show at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga (10/20 Skārņu Street) from 25 January to 26 February 2017, presenting contemporary design objects from eight countries of the Baltic Sea region – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Sweden.
Every country of the Baltic Sea region is strikingly different, but connected thanks to the coastline. The closest neighbors, but from overseas, therefore rather distant. Familiar strangers. History teaches us that there is a lot that divides us, but we shared a lot in common in the past. We used to be together and stand against each other. Wars and partitions, migrations, marriages, trade. The proximity of the sea is linked to specific professions. The same plants grow at the seaside. People struggle with similar adversities of nature. We shared similar mythologies, superstitions and prejudice because the imagination of very much the same way. But the sights are the most important.
The exhibition Roundabout Baltic, created by the Polish curator Agnieszka Jacobson-Cielecka, is a story with a personal flair, and it has originated after long hours in contemplation of the particular subject: “At its beginnings there were experiences from travels. Or rather something more elusive. An impression. While travelling, I have noticed that there are places where I feel at home. Places I don’t need to learn, because they are comprehensible although I have never been there before. Known-before sights, combinations of forms and colors that seem familiar. I have grasped with time that I get this impression in places related to the sea. With the Baltic Sea. Not always and not only there, however, but it was so palpable that I began to seek for a pattern.
Working on the Roundabout Baltic exhibition, I have put aside my expertise and experience for a while for I was aware that they are always with me. Trusting my impressions, I searched for objects that “looked familiar”. Ignoring the status of selected authors, I have combined together distinguished masters and newcomers, artists and craftsmen with designers, unique pieces and prototypes with commercial products.
The result is a partially artistic, partially personal project, in which the selected objects are both the purpose and the means of narration. Presented works are not grouped by countries, functions, materials or project category. Their selection was driven by the formal and visual affinity, which has enabled me to group these works together to symbolically recreate a landscape divided into successive zones.
We come to the sea from the shore, across forests and meadows, undulating hills, wooden architecture and barren lands cultivated with simple tools. We walk past the dunes and rocks overgrown with austere yet persistent vegetation and just as fine constructions attached with flexible links. Seen against the skyline, they resemble drawings. We carry our belongings in baskets, plaids and mesh bags; we shelter ourselves from the wind, we catch fish in the nets. Sand and water flow through nets and mesh bags which are supple and airy and don’t catch the wind like sails do. Wandering along the coast we watch shapes formed by water. Curved rocks bereft of sharpness; perfectly round pebbles from the hardest of minerals; washed out, oval-shaped lands conquered by water. We admire the unyielding, patient power of nature, of water, rocks, sand, wind, sun. Whatever the sea washes ashore, we collect as talismans. Shells, pieces of wood, pieces of colored glass, amber. They fit into our palms, they seem precious, they shine. Once taken home, they wither away and fade, they lose value and make us go back to the seaside again to study the hues of grey and beige; water that is sometimes green and blue at other times; and sometimes when time and weather is right – to admire the mystery of days changing into nights or the other way around, drenched in such richness and intensity of color, which can’t be predicted by the daily narrow but ever-changing palette.”
Roundabout Baltic is a narrative exhibition. It fails to tell us about the standing of design in the Baltic states. It is not an academic analysis. It doesn’t prove anything. It is an exhibition about designing with a sea view. About unconscious typologies, about intent gaze, about experience. It is an exhibition about the way of thinking or maybe seeing, which, despite the Baltic states being so different and divided by the sea, makes the designers originating from these countries, who have varied goals and inspirations and look for different things in design, in art, in craft be connected by the Baltic. Although, when working on their designs, only some of them pay attention to that or consciously gaze at the sea.
Latvia at the exhibition is represented by Māra Skujeniece, Liene Jākobsone (Sampling), Artūrs Analts and Rūdolfs Strēlis (VARIANT Studio),
Jasmīna Grase and Nils Chudy (Chudy & Grase, Latvia / Germany).
Muzeum Regionalne w Stalowej Woli / Regional Museum in Stalowa Wola
Adam Mickiewicz Institute
Museum of the City of Gdynia, Gdynia Design Centre, Pomeranian Science and Technology Park in Gdynia, Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Riga, Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, Latvian National Museum of Art
EXHIBITION SUPPORTED BY:
Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland