Design is Design is Not Design

4th Gwangju Design Biennale

The title theme of the 2011 Biennale is DOGADOBISANGDO – “Design is Design is Not Design.” With works by more than 300 artists, designers, and architects from 40 countries, the six sub-themes of the Biennale—Thematic, Named, Un-Named, Communities, Biennale City, and Urban Follies—constitute a fundamental re-examination of design and present the changing concepts, practices and potential of contemporary design.

Inspired by the first lines of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (道德經)—”the way that is the way is not always the way”—the title theme of the Biennale, dogadobisango—”design is design is not design,” adopts but replaces 道(do – the way) with 圖(do – the design) in an effort to re-examine and rename the fundamental issues of design today. The Chinese character 圖 (do), which means to draw, was once used to denote design as a formal practice, similar to the notion of disegno and dessin. We are reminded that the more fundamental meaning of 圖 was to design a city on a piece of paper: that is, to create complex human environments within the frame of a specific medium. 圖 was at base an issue of place and human relations.

Moving beyond the established distinctions of the design industry, the six sections of the 4th Gwangju Design Biennale explores the dynamic of design that is named and un-named, that is placed, un-placed, and displaced, and the communities that are woven through these relations.

The Thematic exhibition engages with the main theme of the Biennale, “dogadobisangdo,” as both an interpretive and an analytical concept. From this approach, it pays special attention to overlaps in the ideas of creativity, innovation, and imitation in contemporary design practice.

The Named Design exhibition is represented as a spectrum extending from less known to globally recognized identities. While exploring how a name functions in contemporary culture and the mass-market, this exhibition illustrates the authority and effects names have on other creative disciplines, and reflects on how people and ideas, whether named or un-named, are connected in fundamental ways.

The Un-Named Design exhibition questions the contemporary definition of design and challenges the myth of the designer. It backgrounds issues of authorship in order to focus on effects—the ways in which design alters perceptions, reinvents, and reveals hidden truths.

The Communities exhibition explores the profound changes in the nature of technology, demographics, and the global economy that give rise to powerful new models of production based on self-organization rather than hierarchy.

The show argues that design is not solely the preserve of professional designers but can also be the work of scientists, activists, computer programmers, hackers and anyone else who applies ingenuity, originality, strategic thinking and other qualities that are indispensable to good design.
Alice Rawsthorn, New York Times