Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Vitrine Project

Litter Bin, The Vitrine Project, Irish Design 2015 and In the Company of Huskies

Cropping up around Dublin on 20 November and launched on YouTube today, The Vitrine Project is a collaboration between advertising agency In the Company of Huskies and Irish Design 2015 (ID2015) that aims to reframe the everyday. Marking the opening of Liminal, an exhibition of contemporary Irish design that ID2015 has brought home to Dublin following showings in Milan and Eindhoven earlier this year, gallery-style vitrines were deployed for one day across Dublin to re-present the everyday objects that surround us. Placed over bins, street furniture, bar stools and products in shops, the vitrines were accompanied by the type of label you see beside a museum artefact, but in this case the labels told viewers what the objects were, proclaimed that 'Design is everywhere' and asked the question, 'Does this object belong in a design museum?'

Shovel, The Vitrine Project, Irish Design 2015 and In the Company of Huskies

It's an interesting question, particularly given the Irish context it was asked in. Here in Copenhagen, back in London, and in many major cities all over the world, you'll find a design museum that displays mass-produced objects. Sometimes the iconic work of world-famous designers, sometimes the almost anonymous objects of the everyday, but always examples of the stuff that surrounds us, put on display and reframed for closer consideration. Ireland doesn't have one of those. The closest we've got is Collins Barracks, the branch of the National Museum of Ireland that deals with decorative arts and military history. And while that museum has some examples of the historical everyday, their acquisitions policy precludes the collection of contemporary mass-produced objects. With the exception of the museum's fashion and textiles holdings, whose curator will collect the contemporary everyday for its social-historical importance, the only contemporary objects you will find are applied arts and prototypes: the unique, not the mass-produced; the special, not the ordinary.

Light Bulb, The Vitrine Project, Irish Design 2015 and In the Company of Huskies

So, do these objects belong in a design museum? Or is the approach of The Vitrine Project a more direct and meaningful way to highlight design as an everyday, mass-produced, ubiquitous part of our lives? As Alex Calder from ID2015 told me, 'We’re proposing that design is all around you, not just contained within museums, and we hope that viewers rethink what design might be. The great strength of a well designed object is that there is almost no need to remark on how it integrates into your daily life, so we wanted to highlight this in the everyday environment of city streets and make people consider how design plays a central role in every aspect of our lives.' It is certainly more than a little ironic that when a designed object is placed in a museum, it becomes divorced from its function: you can no longer sit in the chair, drink from the glass, wear the garment... But there is a power to framing something, putting it on a pedestal and treating it like a museum artefact. It suggests importance and value, and through the Vitrine Project, ID2015 might have just proved better than they ever have just how valuable, everyday and truly (extra)ordinary design is.

Liminal, ID2015's flagship exhibition, is on in the Design Hub, Dublin Castle, until 30 December 2015. Watch the video of The Vitrine Project below.

Video and images courtesy of In the Company of Huskies