• Raise Your Voice | International exchange in Milan 

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    Posted: 7 May 2024

    Raise (ing) our Voice (s)

    constantly and collaboratively, even in Milan

    Our group of 15 participants attended Milan Design Week from 17th – 20th April as part of the international exchange in the coaching trajectory of Raise Your Voice. As we have progressed midway through the sessions, the trip to Milan was also an opportunity to understand the context of a Design Week in a different country and how the content absorbed so far from the coaching as well as the peer group lies parallel to what we see from presentations in a public setting.

    With the group, on the first day there we took a trip to Design Variations by Mosca Partners where the exhibition focused on biomaterial and its use in the interior furnishings within architectural design. Within the exhibition the focus was on the space itself, where in the centre of one the busiest districts in Milan an old garage was transformed and gave a rustic and grounded vibe to the display inside.

    The next stop focused on the Super Design Show which took the group through a trip of the finest product designers with their products on display for national and international buyers. The final stop for the day saw us travelling far and long to an abandoned industrial area reaching DOPO? a studio and meeting space for creatives in the field. As we entered the premises, we were immediately greeted by a performative food tasting and conceptual art through discussions on a table. The exhibition ‘Runways’ comprised of various designers working on the housing crisis in the Netherlands also starting a multilogue with the peek pricing during the event of Milan Design Week every year creating a vacuum of housing in the month of April. The exhibition focused not only on the aesthetics of an installation but also, through spatiality and performativity, on the process of an on-ground research with the temporary housing situation created for the design week.

    As the day progressed, the group had plenty to talk about where the central theme of the conversation became the two opposite realms of what design had to offer and who this offering was extended towards. The majority of what design week in Milan followed was a trail of product design and brands, which showed us as research-based designers and artists the contrast from critical, discursive, and conceptual design that is mostly experienced during Dutch Design Week.

    Our second day saw us go a step further from the central station into the abandoned tunnels underneath it. A series of old tunnels were refurbished to become temporary exhibition spaces. The interesting lens used was to view these places as a space to meet, interact, make, and experience culture together. The beauty of the concept is that it worked. Paired with traditionally historical architecture from the old tunnels, the contemporary design through interior and architectural nuances told a narrative through the space created. The latter part of the day saw us visit the hub of BASE, where Baltan also had their own exhibition and public programme ‘The Body is a Movement’. Through the space we encountered many Dutch designers exhibiting work previously presented in a different context and how this work is received in the presence of a different audience.

    With the trip coming to an end the last day marked the most valuable conversations we had with guests Matilde Losi, Matilde Patuelli, Marco Cagnoni, Pablo Grossi and Sympoietic Society. With each of them speaking through their own practice, lens, and specialisation the conversation revolved around the realities of working within the cultural sector and complexities of where creativity and institutional critique merge. They opened up on their experiences as makers, curators, collectives who have worked with several government and bureaucratic bodies across Europe and as recently graduated students who have approached municipalities for their work as an ongoing practice. With an extremely fruitful Q&A session amongst the group and the speakers, most of us had the opportunity to clarify all the hindering questions that we had as upcoming designers within the cultural sector.

    The highlights of the trip expanded in three very important ways for us. The first being the contrast of the world we practice in, where no matter how research oriented and idealistic the work may be, institutional needs along with capital continue to be powerful forces at play. Following the conversations with designers and curators who have worked both in the Dutch and Italian context and in collaboration with several organisations across Europe opened an avenue for us to have critical and meaningful discussions outside the environment of an institution.

    The final and the most coherent experience that came along with this trip was the exchange that all of us peers had with each other. While we have come to know each other through all the sessions, visiting cultural spaces together while also in conversation with one another helped us understand each other’s practices better. It created a bond not only personally but professionally where we see the possibility of collaboration with skills and perspectives that compliment one another.

    Since the trip we have seen intimate change, a lot of growth and a lot of necessary yet magical exchanges in a world where we need to ‘Raise our Voice’, in solidarity and together.


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