Decorative Arts Museum. Barcelona, Andorra
Concepts and desingns for a change of century

An object design exhibition
The exhibition includes a large part of the output of the designers of the generations since 1992, that is, those who embarked on their professional careers just after the Barcelona Olympic Games and the Seville Universal Exhibition. The economic and social situation of the country, with a growing energy crisis and a hangover from the speedy eighties, marked a turning point with the appearance of creators who eluded the classic parameters of industrial design. At the same time, the situation of industry, in clear decline and with the older designers on their payrolls, forced these new generations to look for new territories to develop their creativity. Moreover, in 1996, IKEA opened its first shop in Spain. It was not just one more shop: the IKEA phenomenon changed many of the parameters by which the production and distribution of furniture were modulated. Popular furniture became contemporary and for once design was not a synonym for high prices, quite the opposite. On the other hand, in that decade family economies suffered an obvious loss of purchasing power. Those circumstances increased the value of the object and at the same time encouraged its low cost, with an effect on its material quality, naturally.

New generation of creators
“Offjects” is the territory where those new generations of creators worked. It is a critical look at their output, but also with an open mind, without falling into the dogmas of the past and without wondering, at last, whether an object is design or not; just trying to discover its values and contributions to the user.

Over 100 pieces including furniture, videos and photographs
“Offjects” basically includes household objects, furniture, lamps, carpets … But we can also see that the map of what we regard as design has been enlarged to take in actions, installations, toys and net art. In total, over one hundred pieces, including audiovisual and photographic formats.

13 concepts
“Offjects” sets out to equip us with tools for deciphering or decoding works which, for their conception, may seem more cryptic, beyond their use value: a chair, a lamp, a bicycle. The idea is to extract an essential concept from each piece, in an attempt to make a narrative and readable exhibition.
The concepts are: bare, soft, walkman, kit, ornamentation revisited, fetish, glocal, placebo nature, re(f)use, humour-game, reactive, zebra and owwwject.

bare Less is neither more nor better. Less is usually cheaper, whether because of the object itself or the environmental expenditure involved in its production. Honest objects that have no hidden traps or appearances. These projects are clearly related to the ones from the sixties and seventies: minimal in resources and brilliant in solutions.

soft The tendency to soften things, from technology to furniture, transcends aesthetics and becomes an attitude. The incorporation of materials that favour organic forms and systems of production that reduce the costs of the moulds broadens this tendency. Therapeutic objects which offer themselves to improve comfort and our relation with the environment.

walkman Due to urban nomadism, whether from work mobility or as a personal option, objects to carry with us are generated. In 1979 the Walkman appeared, but it was in 1992 when the mobile phone was standardised. The portable gadgets that connect us not only reconfigure our way of relating to one another; they also influence other objects, which become more flexible, foldable, light..

kit In the face of the considerable distance from the industry, the choice is self-production. The studio becomes the assembly workshop or even the shop. Therefore, the designer not only thinks up the piece, but the whole environment, the instructions and the packaging. The language of ‘do it yourself’ creates open pieces, which are not fully defined until the user appropriates them.

ornamentation revisited The ornament ceases to be incidental and decorative and becomes a generator of objects. The ornament is information. The ornamental motif confers on the object a character of singularity, shunning standards. From Jaime Hayón’s ‘digital Mediterranean Baroque’ to Patricia Urquiola’s glamour.

fetich The fascination with recognisable forms, often from the past, as work elements for generating new objects has led to a glance in the rear-view mirror and the rescue of objects with history, with memory, that provide a new narrative. At the same time, the idea of reliving an experience through an object is here with signs of femininity, liturgy or sophistication.

In the face of the standardisation of the global market, a search for object biodiversity takes over. If our objects are part of our culture, any tendency towards standardising the object universe around us is a waste of cultural wealth. Pieces that retrieve vernacular iconographies or materials, but which bring them to contemporaneity by making prospective rereadings.

placebo nature From the city, nature is seen as part of human production. The difference between natural and artificial is diluted. The most artificial thing is often to try to place nature. Sustainability is a value which is worked on. There is a desire for an approach to the natural as if it were a placebo effect.

re(f)use Urban ecology clearly consists of recycling. The public infrastructures take care of the large amounts, but the designers can find a new use for complete objects. That new life for used objects is not just a matter of recycling; it also grants the objects an intense narrative. A porex box which is a lamp is no longer exactly a lamp, it is something more.

humour—game Humour as a position, not of innocence, but almost of combat. Instead of sacralising design, irony is the approach to the role of the designer as a way of lightening its weight. If the design is laid back, it has humour, if it has humour it is happy, if it is happy it is extroverted, if it is extroverted it is informal, if it is informal it is laid back, if the design is laid back…

The designers of this generation work for industry, but they think about the ethical limits of consumer pressure on the user. Self-criticism and a rethink of the role of design in contemporary society generate projects with a social intention which seek the participation of the user and reject opulence and elitism.

Survival strategy for the dissolution of boundaries. The boundaries between disciplines are broken over and over again; here the indisciplines free of the tics of each profession emerge. Moreover, people work on the boundaries of what is pretty, correct, in good taste; design can touch on subjects such as sex or good manners.

This shows how digital culture and the spread of information on the net have influenced the creation of forms and objects. At the same time, the barrier between the real and the digital is increasingly diffuse, to the extent that the computer screen is seen as another possible territory, not only to create but to place one’s ideas.