‘Over the past century, Central and Eastern Europe have experienced the rise and fall of different political orders and had their borders repeatedly redrawn,” says Agnieszka Jacobson-Cielecka, cocurator of “Common Roots,” a new exhibition at the Design Museum Holon. “In this historical context, design has not been examined in terms of national categories but has instead been examined in relation to the experiences and cultural affiliations that characterize the region as a whole.”
Jacobson-Cielecka is the director of the Department of Design at the New School for Design in Poznan, Poland, as well as director of the Lodz Design Festival.
“Common Roots” focuses on the works of designers from 10 Central European countries whose works address a common experience, even if not in a common language.
Their designs create a cultural road map of sorts, which ties together the people of Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia and, in some cases, relates them back to Israel.
These designers struggle with issues and questions that somehow align, despite the differences in how they manifest themselves.
Klara Czerniewska, co-curator of the exhibition, says, “None of the designers can be perceived as a single representative of this concept. It is the clashes and interrelations between designers and their works that build the narrative of this exhibition.”
Their shared history is what defines the exhibition and sets the stage for how it is presented. It is separated into two parts. The lower gallery displays items created in reference to the Iron Curtain (1945- 1989). These works are characterized by the material shortages of the time and the effort to reinvent the meanings of these items, which was encouraged after the fall of communism. The gallery will display the work of designer and researcher Yael Taragan. Her work investigated the relationship between the movement of textiles from Central Europe to Israel and the growth of the textile industry in Israel since the 1920s.
In the upper gallery, the works relate to the period after the Iron Curtain until today. These works are clearly marked by a unique Central European perspective and an understanding of what the fall of communism means for their countries. They also reflect a sense of nostalgia for the traditions of the region, such as woodwork, embroidery and weaving.
Within the two galleries, says Czerniewska, “The objects are collected in seven categories: Lasting Tradition, Folk Attraction, Ironic Humor, Creative Minds, Citation, New Democracy and New Elegance.
These define some common traits of the Central European design region.
Together, they form a picture of the category.”
She continues, “The groups are not strictly separate from each other. They intersect, and some objects belong to several categories, such as New Democracy and New Elegance, which are very interrelated. Both focus on the processes that took place in design after the Transformation of 1989.”
Galit Gaon, chief curator of Design Museum Holon, says, “A decade ago, one might not have considered the design innovativeness in Poland or its surrounding countries. The communist era’s dark [and gray] shadow deeply influenced the world of objects, architecture and graphic design. Moving to a new era, the liberation has brought the design field new achievements, a feeling of nostalgia and the rediscovery of old traditions. Young designers from the region, with their unique genetic code, are now translating their knowledge into excellent contemporary design.”
“Common Roots” serves to give an overview of contemporary design in the 10 participating countries, and the works illustrate how these countries align and differentiate themselves from each other in experience and tradition.
There will be an online component to the exhibition that will allow designers and spectators alike to continue developing a discourse that defines contemporary Central European design.
“Common Roots” will be on display at the Design Museum Holon from November 15 to March 2. www.dmh.org.il