mars 6, 2013 0

Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne

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Empathy – from 14th to 31st March 2013

The eigth edition of the Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne places prospective at the centre of its programming, exploring the major issues of society, and revealing through design the innovations which will influence our life tomorrow. The Biennale is founded on the principle of calls for applications, and a confrontation of the points of view of invited curators and exhibitors: it cultivates a non-permanence – and sometimes even a certain impertinence – by offering for each new edition different places to visit, and different curator’s standpoints to discover.

The choice of the theme of empathy results from an intuition, and a collective reflection. Many philosophers and sociologists consider there is an urgent need to re-think a society based on increased respect for the human community.

Empathy proposes an alternative vision and shape of the world, thanks to this capacity to comprehend and to understand the feelings and emotions of others. And empathy possesses an extraordinary investigating force. Is it a skill ? an attitude ? is it a pertinent form of knowledge ? how to reconcile empathy with creation ? Should we forget ourselves to respond to the needs of others ? What then is the role of creation? These interlocking questions can provoke passionate debate at a precise time when practices are being developed to find ways of placing the individual and his uses at the centre of innovation.

WikiCell, 2010, François Azambourg et David Edwards / WikiCell Designs, Edible food packaging*

Collection Axor Bouroullec, 2010, Ronan et Erwan Bouroullec / Hansgrohe, Module de vasque en trois niveaux moulé d’une seule pièce*

The Biennale cannot avoid questioning the place and the role of the designer in this process. Empathy is a dialogue between a creator and a user. How can the designer comprehend the needs of each and everyone of us, and respond to universal expectations ? How can the designer become a mediator in complex systems such as our cities ? What is the relation between the designer and the brand he works for ? To speak of empathy is also to speak of aesthetics. Whatever the standpoint, aesthetics is what incites an intimate comprehension of the other, be he the visitor of the exhibition, or he who creates it.

We will see how digital design is entering our daily environment, with the aim of creating closer relations between people, and to what extent it is desirable to build empathic links with machines. Certain exhibitions will look at our new rapport with the artifact, resembling more and more the relations we hold with living things.

The capacity of empathy is a form of knowledge which creates profound links with creation. The designer feels and perceives; his work is not just cerebral; all of his senses are mobilized. It is one of the treasures of design: to produce singular forms of knowledge which speak differently, and say different things about the world.

Text from Elsa Francès – director of the Biennale

* Objects from Traits d’union Exhibition, Curator and Scenography : eliumstudio

The Traits d’Union exhibition profits therefore from the theme of the 8th Biennale to propose an approach to the industrially produced object, and its relation with the final beneficiary, through the prism of empathy.Traits d’union induces a new interpretation of innovation design, balanced between goods and services, technology and humanity, industry and society, and leaves open a field of multiple questioning, including the central question of who shapes the other ?

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