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London Design Biennale 2021

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

"We live in an age of hyper resonance, the consequences of which are both devastating and exhilarating. Everything we design and produce resonates." (Es Devlin, Artistic Director)

The 2020 London Design Biennale was put on hold due to COVID-19. The silver lining is that it has given all of us, particularly the artists and pavilions involved, a fresh perspective of the future, and this year’s theme, “Resonance” couldn’t fit any better, as selected by renowned stage designer and this year’s Artistic Director Es Devlin.

What is Resonance?

In an article titled “The Idea of Resonance as a Sociological Concept,” Sociologist and political scientist, Hartmut Rosa explains how sociology often sees resonance as a dual movement of affection (when something touches us from the outside) and emotion (our response to it, which is a poignant symptom proving that a cognitive, psychological, or social connection has been activated).

Each person’s inner and outer reaction triggers a process of progressive self- and world transformation. We all vibrate some sort of resonance daily, by having friends, dialogues, working, playing sports, or musical instruments.

Why is Resonance Important?

On an individual scale, it’s vital to identity formation. We’re often a different person after listening to Mozart or seeing our best childhood friend again. Instrumentally, we consider resonance intrinsically linked to four terms: transformation, affection, emotion, and unpredictability and all must occur in a self-transcendence.

Therefore, the breeding ground for real resonance must contain differences, oppositions, and contradictions. In other words, resonance could not exist in a fully consonant or harmonious since we wouldn’t be able to distinguish the voice of an “other” – and as a result, of developing our own. Resonance calls for a transformative acceptance of difference.

Resonance at London Design Biennale 2021

29 design teams from around the world have accepted the challenge to tackle stringent issues from climate change, to colonialism to the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors get to explore a thought-provoking tour among the world’s most pressing issues. Let’s take a short visual tour of some of the most poignant pavilions and get to know more about their projects (for a complementary IgTV video tour, click here).

Global Goals Pavilion – Forest for Change

This year’s most popular attraction, hands down, is “Forest for Change.” Located right in the middle of Somerset House’s courtyard, it’s a fully-grown lush forest of 400 trees, intriguingly inspired by the banning of trees in the Somerset House courtyard when it was built 250 years ago. Visitors can wander through the trees accompanied by a birdsong soundtrack curated by Brian Eno to discover a space of 17 mirrored pillars. They can pick a goal that resonates with them and record a message to manifest their hopes for change.

Argentina - Monte Abierto

The Argentinian pavilion examines resonance through the dialogue and the relationship between the designer Cristián Mohaded, the artisan Lorenzo Reyes and the Simbol - a plant that grows in the Catamarca’s Calchaquí Valleys located in northwest of Argentina, from which both artists come from. For a decade, Cristián and Lorenzo have maintained a collaborative and experimental practice aimed at designing a shared vision, practice, identity, and a shared world. Monte Abierto is their conversation as landscape — a world made through dialogue.

Czech Republic - Planes of Perception

Within the West Wing of Somerset House, Petr Stanický’s Planes of Perception is a visual intervention that transforms the traditional vista from the inside to the exterior, seeking to expand the possibilities of perception by regrouping space and challenging visitors to perceive reality in a new way. The spatial network of site-specific planes with distinctive window openings that articulate the architectural structure creates a theatrical rhythm.

Israel - The Boiler Room

Israel's pavilion offers a space of self-exploration that explores the perpetual tension between Nationalism (Capsularisation) and Globalisation (Networking) that in recent years has witnessed a re-emergence of efforts to "re-ignite" a sense of national pride and isolate nations.

Israel - The Boiler Room, winner of London Design Biennale 2021 Public Medal.
Israel - The Boiler Room, winner of London Design Biennale 2021 Public Medal.

As the two concepts overlap and ignite each other, they lead us to an imminent boiling point since, ironically, the entities that promote globalisation are those which amplify ultra-nationalism.

By stimulating an everlasting, resonating tension fuelled by the social media’s overflow of information, we’re confronted with alarming levels of apathy and confusion, as ideologies have turned into facile slogans. Every single imbalance between the two leads us to a terminal boiling point.

Taiwan – Swingphony

Taiwan interpreted the London Design Biennale's 2021 theme – Resonance - through the swinging pendulum of a metronome that creates a warm-hearted melody – a “Swingphony”, a melodious concerto of compassion, faith, and goodwill that resonates with us all (watch a short tour here). Sponsored by Taiwan's Ministry of Culture, designed and implemented by design agency Bito, and planned by the Taiwan Design Research Institute (TDRI), the “Swingphony” concept is based on a combination of Taiwan’s famous religious diversity and the Schumann Resonances – the global electromagnetic resonance phenomenon from physics.

Often coined "the heartbeat of the Earth," the Shumann Resonances are generated by lightning discharges in the cavity formed by the ionosphere and the Earth's surface, being widely used to predict earthquakes, lightning, and most recently, climate change.

The frequency of The Shumann Resonances is 7.83Hz. and activities of communal praying, chanting, and meditation increase Alpha Waves - the brain waves known for reducing stress, with a frequency that ranges from 8 to 12 Hz, almost the same as The Shumann Resonances.

The values of diversity and religion are rooted deep within Taiwanese culture, becoming a cornerstone of Taiwan’s social stability for a country whose citizens practice Taoism, Christianity, Buddhism, Mormonism, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Yiguandao.

As many people in Taiwan believe that worship brings blessings, the repetitive swinging of the pendulum symbolises the ritual act of worship, and every blessing can bring peace to the world. The main message is that everyone has an impact on society, regardless of gender, race, or belief, and we can all resonate with one another.

London Design Biennale 2021 Medal: The Chilean Pavilion “Tectonic Resonances” is about the sound of rocks.
The Chilean Pavilion Tectonic Resonances (winner of London Design Biennale 2021 Medal) is about the sound of rocks.

Regardless of the arrangement, a synchronised rhythm always inspires belief as we all echo one another. The immersive installation leads visitors to understand Alpha Waves, harness natural electromagnetic resonances, and experience joint sound rhythms. Swingphony illuminates the power of unity in a fragmented world.

🎯 London Design Biennale 2021 takes place at 📍 Somerset House until 27 June 2021.

Mon-Sun 11.00-19.15


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