NOMADIC FURNITURE 3.0. New Liberated Living

In today’s world, do-it-yourself culture is practically omnipresent: be it fashion, furniture, cooking or communication—hardly a single area of everyday life and our material culture has not been swept up in the DIY revolution. With its emphasis on the field of furniture design, the exhibition NOMADIC FURNITURE 3.0. New Liberated Living is the first to examine this movement situated on the threshold between the subcultural and the mainstream including a look at its historical context: as early as the first half of the 20th century, home-built furniture came to be regarded as a suitable approach for socially conscious and (since the late 1960s) ecologically sustainable design.

Today’s so-called prosumer culture (i.e., the collaborative interlocking of producers and consumers) entails more than just fundamental changes in the creative process. The end-user’s semi-professional involvement in design and production touches on a wide range of socially relevant agendas and issues such as the criticism of mass consumption, looming resource scarcity, liberation from both the dictate to consume and norms of design, and—last but not least—the democratisation and decentralisation of automated mass production in the interest of improving sustainability.

NOMADIC FURNITURE 3.0 offers a comprehensive overview of contemporary DIY furniture culture while using numerous historical references and examples to also present a clear picture of the developmental history of the DIY movement from its nascence in the early 20th century to the present Web 2.0 culture.

Over the past decade, the new opportunities of communication and participation represented by the Internet and Web 2.0 have taken DIY-cultural hype to a renewed fever-pitch. DIY portals, communities, and blogs are booming, and designers, programmers, constructors of machines, and users are busy developing new Internet-capable modalities of designing and producing furniture and furnishing items.

The principle motifs of the current DIY movement are an intense preoccupation with historical models and prototypes as well as the search for furniture that is low-cost and formally pleasing, as numerous international examples in this exhibition serve to document. Berlin-based architect Van Bo Le-Mentzel, for example, orients his Hartz IV Furniture project (the title of which refers to the German government’s current [un]employment policy) on furniture classics, especially those by Gerrit Rietveld. And works like those of the Swiss duo Kueng Caputo or the London-based designer Martino Gamper bear witness to the continued currency of 1970s projects such as Mari’s Autoprogettazione.

Alongside numerous designs that can be made from wood using simple tools—such as the MAK-Table by the Italian group Recession Design—a major share of this young and flexible mode of home décor consists of objects fashioned from mass-produced, semi-finished wooden elements that can be found in any hardware store. The spectrum ranges from emphatically functional furniture to intricate lighting objects like those produced by the New York-based designer Lindsey Adelman. Designers like Jerszy Seymour and Matali Crasset also deal frequently with the diverse ways of developing furniture that can be built by the end-user.

The most recent developments, such as the open workshops with high-tech equipment known as “fab labs” that have been cropping up in big cities, are now elevating artisanal self-fulfillment to a new professional and economic level. The latest project of Netherlands-based Droog Designers, on the other hand—Design for Download—is oriented toward decidedly professional interfaces: Droog puts designs online and issues production licenses for them.

The site-specific exhibition design by raumlaborberlin has been developed from home-built types of structures, and it provides free space for process-oriented elements including a workshop. The designing duo chmara-rosinke (Maciej Chmara and Ania Rosinke), MAK Designers-in-Residence for 2013, will compliment the exhibition team and develop commentaries on historical and contemporary designs.

Image: Jerszy Seymour, amateur workshop, 2010. Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. © Jerszy Seymour