Image Credits © Wibke Bramesfeld
“The phantom is an architect, a designer, a composer, a magician: a genius turned to madness.”
The phantom of design was a 9-day curatorial experiment during Dutch Design Week 2020 that explored the aura of a designed object’s mediation in the on- and offline stratosphere.
Today, more than ever before, the duration of an object’s life is extended indefinitely and multidimensionally by means of (digital) sketches, scans, photographs, or virtually 3D rendered images. These can all be considered tools for extending an object’s life both on- and offline, both back and forward in time, and both physically and immaterially. In a way we could say that designing an object in the 21st century equals designing immortally, since its material outcome and digital afterlife will probably outlive us all.
However, when we think of the promotional life of that very object, it seems that the opposite is true. Terms such as ‘short-lived’ and ‘mortality’ are much more relevant and accurate when thinking of an object’s 15 minutes of fame. The promotion or publicity of a designed object is constructed both IRL and IVL (resp. "in real life" and "in virtual life"), making use of promotional tools such as (online) invitations, network events, flyers, hear-say, social media ads, mailings, sponsor deals, and other pr ephemera that try to connect with the intended audience through pre-set targets and conditions, often making use of eerie algorithms.
Grasped and haunted by this publicity ghost, the designed object travels to places never seen before. Once it has had its pr moment, the mediated object is released again and becomes ungraspable when let loose in the infinite dungeon that is the online web and our collective minds. We are left with its phygital remnants, its mental imprint, its diaphonous character, and its spiritual relic, forever. We must pay attention to its (out)reach, its possessiveness, its lack of neutrality, and the ephemeral tools and entities (imagery - flyers - press releases - booklets - social media – algorithms - and whatnot) it uses to legitimize design and designers’ existence today.
A selection of 9 designers / collectives / initiatives were given the assignment to take the stage for the duration of 1 day. The décor in which this experiment takes place portrays the iconography of the theatre and echoes and mirrors the theatricality of today’s levitation of design on display. By playing around with the off- and online stratosphere of design mediation today both literally and figuratively, The Phantom of design highlights the impossibility of physicality in these unprecedented times.
The phantom of design is here, inside our minds.