This year’s London Design Festival ties together the challenge of climate change and sustainability with a celebration of diversity, specifically offering opportunities to young and marginalised people. The Festival once again transforms the capital’s landmarks, neighbourhoods and cultural institutions with a series of public installations, exhibitions and special events that aim to bring people together as London continues to reopen. (Main image Mellifera: The Dancing Beehives By Arthur Mamou-Mani and Fortnum & Mason credit ALT A REVIEW)
As a result of the pandemic, there has been a rise in hyper-localisation. This year’s Festival will provide an inventive enquiry of design and enable audiences to rediscover the entire city, playing a central role in London’s economic recovery. A pavilion constructed from the world’s lowest carbon footprint aluminium, a real-time growing couture gown worn by an artist robot, a holographic dance performance and the museum’s first in- person Friday Late for over a year, featuring DJ sets, live performances, talks and installations with the aim of providing a platform for young designers, will all star as part of the Victoria & Albert’s programming for London Design Festival 2021, running from 18th until 26th of September.
This year – in the lead up to the UK hosting the most important international climate summit, COP26, in November – installations, projects, performances and events explore design thinking in the challenge of climate change with projects focusing on a low-carbon future, the circular economy and climate justice.
Projects curated by the V&A include Between Forests and Skies by Nebbia Works – an immersive, low-carbon aluminium pavilion that will appear to float in the pond of The John Madejski Garden at the V&A and allow visitors to enter and interact. Paula Sello and Alissa Aulbekova’s fashion house Auroboros will showcase a real-time growing couture gown worn by Ai- Da – the world’s first artist robot – that will grow and fall apart during the festival whilst Ai-Da draws a self-portrait that can be experienced virtually.
In response to the impact that the pandemic has had on opportunities for young people, for the first time as part of London Design Festival, the V&A will host a youth-focused area of the programme. Lund Point will involve the transformation of currently empty dwellings in a 23-storey tower block on the edge of the Olympic Park into a multi-lens camera obscura, alongside the creation of ultra large format analogue photographic prints, created by young adults from East London with artist Brendan Barry. The young adults who produced the bulk of these amazing photographs had the help of local children throughout the process, and were driven by the post-pandemic desolation and gentrifying change that their homes in London had witnessed.
Digital Design Weekend, curated by the V&A Learning and Digital Programmes team, will also return this year on 25 and 26 September, where artists, designers and technologists will explore the theme of climate change through immersive installations, creative workshops, talks and interactive demonstrations. The annual Global Design Forum will explore these themes as well as climate justice & resilience, decarbonisation, and meeting Net Zero targets, biodesign and digital futures.
Meneesha Kellay, lead on Festivals at the V&A, said: “The V&A programme for LDF has been carefully curated to address some of the biggest challenges facing society today. We have commissioned installations and will be hosting performances and events exploring design thinking and responses to the ecological crisis by emerging designers. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on young people and the opportunities afforded to them. For the first time as part of LDF at the V&A, we have created a youth-focused area in the iconic Grand Entrance to showcase work by the V&A and V&A East Youth Collective, RESOLVE Collective and young people from across east London. We have also collaborated with inclusive platform, Design Can, to hold a Mentoring Takeover during LDF. We are excited to have young people and their priorities at the heart of our activities for LDF this year.”
RESOLVE Collective’s installation celebrates and interrogates how design can be used as a vehicle to ‘dissipate’ institutional resource in local areas, rather than impose it upon them. The installation will provide a space to explore how, by using the premise of design to convene and collaborate, museums of the future can become essential spaces for the existing aims and aspirations of local youth groups. Whilst the initial artists were within the 16-25 age bracket, RESOLVE’s Akil admits to this “spilling out quite a bit”, ending up working with younger children too.
The annual London Design Festival at the V&A is a unique collaboration between the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance, and London’s foremost contemporary design festival. Now entering the thirteenth year together as the official Festival hub, the programme will see iconic spaces within the V&A transformed by a collection of specially commissioned installations and displays by international contemporary designers, freely accessible for all to enjoy.
For more information please visit: https://www.londondesignfestival.com/
by Phoebe Fraser