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Mischief Making


‘Les Pliages Longchamp Type’ bag

Creative Counterfeits

In the chapter ‘Counterfeit Design’ in his book Deviant Design, Craig Martin explores the material world of designed goods and looks at how counterfeits function within social flows of production and consumption. Writing about manufacturing processes and cultures in different areas of the world for a range of products, from furniture to clothing and handbags, he examines the interrelationship between formal and informal understandings of design and design’s fundamental place in consumer culture. While addressing notions of illegality and the context of organized criminal activities, he highlights the critiques of copyright law, the ideologies of market exploitation and design’s complicity in the construction of inequality. He also sheds light on the creative innovation that can emerge from illicit designing and the wider debates around design’s radical potential. Otto von Busch’s chapter ‘Fashion Hacking’ in Design as Future-Making, edited by Susan Yelavich and Barbara Adams, also features a discussion of counterfeit goods and the evolving motivations for alternative making practices. This chapter looks particularly at hacking as a strategic and systematic practice from a fashion perspective, and how hacking can challenge ‘interpassive’ consumption. Short definitions of related terms can be found in The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, such as an article on 'Reproduction’ written by Alexis Comfort Holcombe, ‘Copy’ written by Gunnar Swanson and ‘Imitation’ written by Jeremy Ingham.

Superstudio, ‘Encampment’ collage from their ‘Life without Objects’ environment at the exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape: Achievements and Problems of Italian Design, curated by Emilio Ambasz, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1972

Italian Radical Design

Paddy O’Shea gives an overview of Italian Radical Design in his article in The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, describing the mid-1960s avant-garde movement that focused on creating utopian environments. Catharine Rossi traces the trajectory of the second wave of the movement that flourished in the early 1970s in her essay ‘Crafting a Design Counterculture’, in Made in Italy: Rethinking a Century of Italian Design, edited by Grace Lees-Maffei and Kjetil Fallan, and draws comparisons between the approaches to design throughout both waves. Highlighting the ways in which collectives including Superstudio, Global Tools and Gruppo 9999 sought to overcome contemporary crises, Rossi examines design strategies that addressed a sense of alienation between humans and nature throughout the production, consumption and mediation of design, and that criticized the escalating commercialization of objects within the mainstream market. This chapter explores the crucial role of craft in the counterculture and how pastoral expression and an interest in handmade, pre-industrial design methods became key characteristics of the movement. Rossi also considers how Radical Design influenced modernist industrial values and the shifting perceptions of the movement throughout history.

Verein für Fraueninteressen (‘Association of Women’s Interests)

Jugendstil and Women’s Activism

As Siegfried Grönert describes in The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, Jugendstil was the name of Germany’s Art Nouveau movement at the turn of the 19th century. It was taken from the name of the art magazine Jugend (‘youth’), and was driven by a rejection of traditional academic and hierarchical art systems. Sabine Wieber sheds light on the women involved in the Jugendstil movement in her book Jugendstil Women and the Making of Modern Design. In the chapter Activists: The Elvira Photography Studio and Munich Feminist Politics, she writes about the artistic collaboration of Anita Augspurg (1857–1943) and Sophia Goudstikker (1865–1924), who broke away from conventional women’s roles to pursue professional careers, and how their photography studio in Munich, Hof-Atelier Elvira, became one of the most iconic and controversial Jugendstil buildings. The studio was designed by August Endell (1871-1925) in 1897 and featured an innovative aesthetic with ‘kelp-like’ exterior stucco work and ‘spider-web’ railings. As the women established themselves, they gradually became more involved in Germany’s women’s movement and moved among various political groups, and this chapter explores how the studio came to represent a space of radical ideas and intellectual debate. Charlotte Ashby gives an overview of the key ideas that shaped the international Art Nouveau movement in her lesson plan, which includes case studies and further reading. Tara Morton’s chapter in Suffrage and the Arts: Visual Culture, Politics and Enterprise, edited by Miranda Garrett and Zoë Thomas, looks at the political and artistic goals of another group that furthered debates around women’s work in the arts industry, the Suffrage Atelier, which was tied to the Arts and Crafts movement in early 20th-century London.

Stovetop still

OBJECT FOCUS: The Homebrewing Machine

As Otto von Busch writes in his book Making Trouble: Design and Material Activism, ‘someone’s misuse is useful to another’. In the chapter ‘Brewing Dissent’ he explores the power and agency that can be found through primitive making by looking particularly at homebrewing machinery, alongside the long history of alcohol production and its policing. While seemingly a small act of mischief to some, producing alcohol at home was a material form of independence and autonomy under colonial rule for others, and von Busch provides an insight into how a simple domestic object was mobilized in social conflict to disrupt the order of things. He describes the skills and processes involved in distilling alcohol and the design elements of a machine, and focuses on the empty chamber in which alcohol and dissent could brew at the same time. For the context of the contemporary design workshop, he introduces ways to think creatively about material agency and the power infused in making primitive objects.

Image credits:
Homepage: Beer bottles. Photo Getty Images / TonyMaj
Images above: 1) A‘Les Pliages Longchamp Type’ bag. Photo by Craig Martin; 2) Superstudio, ‘Encampment’ collage from their ‘Life without Objects’ environment at the exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape: Achievements and Problems of Italian Design, curated by Emilio Ambasz, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1972. Photo courtesy of Alessandro Poli; 3) Verein für Fraueninteressen (‘Association of Women’s Interests'). Photograph taken by the Elvira photography studio, 1894; 4) Stovetop still. Sketch by Otto von Busch




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