The exhibition Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design is the first big retrospective on the designer, author and activist Victor J. Papanek (1923-1998).
What role should design and designers play in the contemporary world to be truly useful to society? This question has been the focus of widespread debate in recent decades and a reflection made by Victor Papanek, a pioneer of contemporary design and one of the most influential harbingers of social activism and sustainability in design. The ideas and questions addressed by Papanek in the 1960s remain extremely relevant for design and constitute the essence of critical, social, inclusive and interdisciplinary design.
Papanek is the author of the book Design for the Real World (1971), still the most widely read book on design. The work is a call for inclusion, social justice and sustainability, topics which continue to be hugely relevant for design today.
This exhibition explores Papanek’s life and work through an extensive series of original, evocative pieces from the archive of the Victor Papanek Foundation and some objects from some of his contemporaries such as Buckminster Fuller and the radical group Global Tools, among others. Papanek’s ideas and their lasting impact can also be found in the 21st century in projects by various international designers and artists linked to the sphere of critical, social and activist design.
The display is organised by topics based on the work of Papanek and his contemporaries, including policy on data and the media, digital social structures, biotechnology, design methodology, sustainability and social inclusion with an underlying reflection: the importance of design as a political tool.
This exhibition is a cooperation between the Barcelona Design Museum and the Vitra Design Museum, in collaboration with the Victor J. Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna.
Alison Clarke (Victor J. Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna), Amelie Klein (Vitra Design Museum).