Design foregrounds and drives almost every discussion and activity in the operation of Curatorial Research Bureau. From the color of an accent wall and arrangement of book displays, to the layout of posters and positions of our twenty-four moveable furniture modules, to the sequence of songs on our playlists—design is essential. Even the appearance of an internal memorandum doesn’t escape impromptu critiques. Our attention to the spatial, visual, aural and online characteristics of CRB is part of an intention to critically and comprehensively think about how to provide an effective context and situation to mediate art and ideas for our visitors, guests and students. We see design and its potential for a totalizing affect as indispensable, extending beyond visual communication and object placement. We see this work with design as part of a practice of curating forward.
While aesthetic decisions influence the overall experience of Curatorial Research Bureau, learning about and practicing design is an increasingly important component in the curriculum of the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice. This spring the “Exhibition Design” course is taught by faculty in CCA’s graduate design program. Last year we welcomed figures such as James Goggin whose innovative and imaginative work encompasses publications, exhibitions, printed matter, online technologies, and education. Last month we hosted Julia Born, a Zurich-based designer who, among other incredible projects, has turned catalogues into the spatial reality of exhibitions. And only last week, the artist Josiah McElheny talked about forgotten and overlooked graphic design tactics and fonts during a presentation of his publications. This week: we will collaborate with CCA’s design division to welcome Los Angeles-based designers Shannon Harvey and Adam Michaels, founders of IN-FO.CO and Inventory Press. At the end March, the great Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, who pioneered the use of Supergraphics, will grace the CRB to talk about books as an essential facet of her wide-ranging pursuits.
These are figures whose expansive practices go beyond design. They are practitioners who think holistically about how immaterial concepts and ideas combine visual materials and architecture to foster different kinds of spaces, from the book, web, and public space, to exhibitions and even the interiors of bathrooms. Their critically engaged work is what we would call design forward.
“Design Forward” is the theme this month. With the above in mind, the future-forward Dutch collective Metahaven, who considers design “a mediating force within an economy of signs,” is the focus of our seventh Case Studies. Metahaven is responsible for design of the Antennae book series (a selection featured below) published by Valiz, Amsterdam.
James Voorhies, Chair, CCA Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice