“The pieces in the collection all are in tune with the new reality we live in; [the] designers explore new possibilities and ways of being, but also refuse to not look back to the past.”
– Kai Lobjakas & Anne Vetik, curator of the Estonian collection, “Can You Feel It?”
“Can You Feel It?” is part of the Virtual Design Destination presented by Adorno at London Design Festival, 12 – 20 September 2020. Join us for a tour of the virtual environment and collection with curators Kai Lobjakas & Anne Vetik in conversation with Kristen de la Vallière of @sayhito_ on Wednesday, 16 September at 15:00 PM BST. “Can You Feel It?” is kindly supported by the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design & Nordic Culture Point.
The long, former textile factory punctuated by tall pillars and the remains of human interaction provides a frame for the collectible pieces presented at its centre. Curiosity draws us to each corner, with the thrill of discovering something new and unique with each step. On the ground, hanging from the rafters, some oversized, these pieces present us with an image of the contemporary Estonian design scene – a design scene which maintains a bold sense of self and desire to experiment. The structure, seemingly abandoned, speaks to the presence of history in everyday life, where the past and present meld into one as people engage with formerly used spaces for new purposes – children play amongst the pillars, others make their mark on empty walls, and makers find inspiration in the architecture and decay.
In light of the present moment, the Estonian collection, “Can You Feel It?”, explores our changing relationship with the objects around us. At the moment when face-to-face interaction became limited, contact with the world and the objects we surround ourselves with became important. In this collection, curators Kai Lobjakas & Anne Vetik approach this changing relationship by presenting pieces which reimagine and recontextualise mundane objects and situations in new and exciting ways, encouraging viewers to seek out the tactility and materiality of each piece. From textural 3D-printed jewellery to uniquely patterned wearables to sustainable seating made for mushroom-based biomaterial, “Can You Feel It?” fuses traditional techniques with contemporary approaches to design, highlighting the strong curiosity and passion of the participating makers and the larger Estonian design scene.
Can You Feel It?
What are the main themes presented across the works in this collection?
Tradition and modernity melting together; a fresh way of working with material; an appreciation of things, materials, and functions as they are; and going back to basics.
Which three words would you use to describe the contemporary design scene in Estonia? Please describe why.
Finally finding its own way. Brave, young, curious.
Can you describe why you have chosen the abandoned, industrial scenography for this collection?
Estonia, as a space, is kind of interrupted, at least used to be. An abandoned industrial complex was just a natural part of the landscape, [a] playground for kids, criminals, creative types. Be it a city or a countryside, you could always find a refuge from reality in those Soviet castles filled with ghosts of prised workers and kholhosniks. So, we all somehow come from this half broken – half amazing land and, as there’s less and less of those spaces, it seems important to somehow incorporate them into our visual history, appreciate them without turning them into fancy lofts and offices.
In connection with this disconnected feeling that has permeated the current moment, why have you chosen “Can you feel it?” as the title for the Estonian collection?
Objects in the collection are all less about rational approach and more about [an] emotional approach to the past and to the current moment.
Recontexualisation and seeking out new approaches to everyday objects plays a large role in this collection. How is this theme reflected in the participating designers’ practices?
All of them have quite different practices, they come from different backgrounds and use different materials. What unites them is (again) [a] desire to feel something while making – or growing, in Siim Karro’s case – an object and to make the person in contact with the object feel something bigger than just the need of constant or instant consumption.
With reference to the Virtual Design Destination’s theme, how does this collection respond to the so-called “New Reality”?
The pieces in the collection all are in tune with the new reality we live in; [the] designers explore new possibilities and ways of being, but also refuse to not look back to the past.
Has your approach to the curation of this collection been affected by the ongoing uncertainty in the world? Why or why not?
Yes, of course, but we think the tweaking is really minor. After constant exposure to stress, you kind of just start to ignore it and still do what you like to do. Your inner mechanics do not change that much.
Meet Kai Lobjakas & Anne Vetik, Curators of “Can You Feel It?”
Kai Lobjakas is an Art Historian and curator, head of Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design (member of international ADD network), and is a head of International Council of Museums ICDAD committee. She has curated several Estonian and international design exhibitions, given lectures on design, studied and written on Soviet and contemporary Estonian design and applied arts practices.
Anne Vetik is an Art Historian, Creative Director, and freelance writer specializing in art and fashion critique. Her main areas of interest are feminist art, fashion- art, and design intersection, Eastern-European fashion scene, and social media impact on fashion. She has been a host of a fashion and design show on Estonian National Television, led seminars on fashion writing at Estonian Academy of Arts and runs a fashion and design show on Ida Radio.
Which aspects of curating a collection for a virtual exhibition have intrigued and/or surprised you?
The way you start thinking changes completely as not all things that work [in real life can] work in virtual space. So, it was an interesting challenge to look at Estonian designers and their work through this new lens, to see how what you value about design changes.
What are you most excited to share (ex. thematically, a piece, a designer, etc.) with the Virtual Design Destination audience?
Darja Popolitova – I believe she has a really bright future ahead of her. [Also,] Siim Karro’s mushroom furniture – there have been tons of all kinds of material experiments in the design scene, but Siim is taking it further and actually grows things you can use that look interesting and take ecologically responsible design on the next level.