Exhibition Challenges Prevailing Design Systems, Raises Questions of Equity, Access and Use

Published on Apr 18, 2022

APRDELESP, Installation view, Sala-jardín-bar, 2021.

ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena presents “Everyday or Not at All,” an exhibition featuring work by three design studios in Mexico: APRDELESP, Fabien Cappello and Andres Souto.

The exhibition, which opened April 4 and continues through August 28, explores new approaches to design driven by the idea of embracing the everyday, from concept to fabrication.

The name of the exhibition, on view at the Peter and Merle Mullin Gallery at ArtCenter, is derived from French philosopher Henri Lefebvre’s “Critique of Everyday Life,” where he argued that to overcome the alienation of contemporary life, “Man must be everyday, or he will not be at all.”

Only by embracing the trivial, mundane, and familiar, by fully inhabiting the world as it is, can the world be changed, Lefebvre wrote. Throughout their processes – from concept, to design, and fabrication – APRDELESP, Fabien Cappello and Andres Souto challenge prevailing systems of design and raise questions of equity, access and use of designed objects.

“The stakes of such an exploration are high in Mexico,” an ArtCenter statement said. “Subject to the violence of colonialism and later the homogenizing aspirations of modern development, it is a place where the work of design is cross-cut by fissures of power and difference, taste and class. It is also a place where the idea of the everyday often evokes romanticism or nostalgia toward those working outside design’s official bounds, from traditional craftspeople to the urban working class. While these challenges for design practice are unique, they are emblematic of similar challenges in the United States and elsewhere.”

As part of “Everyday or Not at All,” ArtCenter has invited the designers to work in dialogue with ArtCenter students, fabricators and makers in Los Angeles to deploy and adapt their design approach to address the region’s distinct resources and concerns. Rather than represent or redesign the everyday, the resulting projects engage in dialogue with its flows, practices and conflicts. In place of viewing design as a pathway to new norms, they suggest an approach to design practice guided by and in service to the ordinary.

APRDELESP, derived from “apropiación del espacio,” Spanish for “appropriating space,” is an architecture collaborative in Mexico City that  invests with equal commitment in the public and private, physical and digital infrastructures of the office. The firm has developed novel methods of surveying existing social practices and material conditions across their sites to guide a design approach centered in everyday means of appropriating space. Across Mexico City, they have intervened in these flows by creating a network of “subspaces” (subespacios) – a market, print shop, convenience store, radio station, café and others – that extend the office beyond the confines of the studio and bring the work of architecture into immediate dialogue with the mundane and surprising moments of urban life.

In the ArtCenter exhibit, APRDELESP shares a series of “Notes On…,” a research and exhibition format developed to explore a range of topics germane to the built environment but beyond the boundaries of conventional architecture.

Studio Fabien Cappello, owned by French furniture and product designer Fabien Cappello, is a spatial and furniture firm based in Mexico City since 2016. The studio first opened in 2010 in London, to produce work in different contexts; from commercial objects to specific editions and public environments. All works share a high consideration for both craft techniques and industrial production, reflecting design through people and their interactions with space, environment and material culture. Capello moved his studio to Mexico City in 2016.

In “Everyday, or Not at All,” Cappello exhibits a series of projects developed in dialogue with local conditions and resources in Guadalajara and reinterpreted in the context of Los Angeles in partnership with ArtCenter students: an open-source lamp made from broomsticks, a series of home objects designed in keeping with the techniques of Guadalajara’s tin workshops, and directories of local fabricators in Guadalajara and in Los Angeles that invite other designers to begin their work not with a blank page but in dialogue with available skills and resources.

Architect and artist Andrés Souto examines the crossings between built and digital landscapes in Mexico. Taking an ethnographic view of the galleries of SketchUp artists and contractor groups on Facebook, he considers how ubiquitous digital tools, rather than advancing the homogenization of design, might be resources for debating, preserving and disseminating popular approaches to common space.

In tutorial videos edited in the spirit of vintage public television, Souto offers practical techniques for bringing the freedoms of digital design into physical space, contributing to an existing catalog of strategies employed by self-builders to realize design visions through accessible means. For this exhibition, ArtCenter students have developed their own interpretations of these techniques to create the works on view.

“Everyday, or Not at All” is curated by Robert Kett, an anthropologist, curator of design and assistant professor at ArtCenter in the Humanities and Sciences department.

To make a reservation to visit the exhibition, visit www.artcenter.edu/connect/events/everyday-or-not-at-all.html.

To experience an online representation of the exhibition, visit www.artcenter.edu/about/exhibitions/everyday-or-not-at-all.html.

Gallery hours at the Peter and Merle Mullin Gallery, located in the South Campus lobby of ArtCenter’s 1111 building, are Wednesday to Friday, 1 to 5 p.m. Please note that proof of COVID-19 vaccination in advance is required for campus access.

ArtCenter College of Design is at 1111 S. Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena.

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