“The theme of self-reflection, as a pause in times of trouble is central to this collection. [It] calls for a deep breath in, a time for meditation, a pause for bouncing-off wiser [and] more connected to our roots.”
– Paola Bjäringer, curator of the Swedish collection, “Mirror Mirror Off the Wall”
“Mirror Mirror Off the Wall” 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 curator Paola Bjäringer in conversation with Kristen de la Vallière of @sayhito_ on Sunday, 13 September at 10:00 AM BST. “Mirror Mirror Off the Wall” is kindly supported by the Embassy of Sweden, London & Nordic Culture Point.
Entering the clearing, we are enveloped by the Swedish forest and forced to reflect – physically through the encounter with mirrored surfaces and mentally by the need to reflect on this moment in time. The mirror, as an object, facilitates the need for self-reflection as we encounter ourselves and our society in its reflective surface. Woven into this reflection is the theme of the gaze – a notion which has historically been tied to the male gaze, the image of woman within the male gaze, and the “ideals” that come along with this image. It poses the questions: how do we perceive ourselves? Our place in the world? How do we present our true selves to the outside world?
The Swedish collection, “Mirror Mirror Off the Wall”, curated by Paola Bjäringer, aims to alter this notion of the gaze and strengthen the female gaze by giving the stage to a group of carefully selected leading Swedish women designers and one male designer, presented deep in the Swedish forest. Each piece – from the traditional mirror-making techniques used in “Acid Green Mirror” to the morphing, digital “Mutant Mirror” – portrays the designers’ philosophies of themselves and the world around them. Reflecting the contemporary Swedish collectible design scene, which seeks to challenge the traditional and carve new paths, they present their own narratives and identities openly and unapologetically through their design practices, together asking the viewer to reflect on their own narrative and understanding of self.
“Mirror Mirror Off the Wall” features work by David Taylor, Farvash, Frida Fjellman, Jenny Nordberg, Kajsa Willner, Sara Szyber, and Wang & Söderström. The entire collection is currently available to view in person at the latest pop-up for MISSCHEIFS, a feminist exhibition of collectible design featuring ten trailblazing female designers. MISSCHEIFS is located at Linnegatan 4, Stockholm and runs from 10 August to 8 October 2020.
Mirror Mirror Off the Wall
What are the main themes presented across the works in this collection?
“Mirror Mirror of the Wall” stands for the excellency of Swedish craft and design today. Each designer has been selected for their individual style of mastering the blurring between what is considered ‘art’ and ‘design’ in a contemporary context. Using individual and highly personal research into the materiality of his or her specially made mirror, the designers in this collection make a statement of their own about who they are in this world and who you are as looking into their world looking back at you.
The theme of self-reflection, as a pause in times of trouble is central to this collection. [It] calls for a deep breath in, a time for meditation, a pause for bouncing-off wiser [and] more connected to our roots.
Which three words would you use to describe the contemporary design scene in Sweden?
Feminist. The strongest voices in the Swedish art scene at the moment are female and non-binary.
Sustainable. The forest symbolises the powerful connection of Swedes to mother nature in their everyday life. They respect her, they take care of her. Self-care is, therefore, central to the Swedish way of life.
Punk. Underneath the Swedish traditional discipline, there is a strong art-driven underground force in motion led by the young generation. Alternative ways of living your life are gaining ground.
Why have you chosen the scenography of the Swedish forest for this collection?
The forest symbolises the powerful connection of Swedes to mother nature in their everyday life. They respect her, they take care of her. Self-care is therefore central to Swedish way of life.
This collection consists of a series of mirrors and addresses the need to reclaim the power of the gaze. Why was it important to bring together the theme of feminism and the form of the mirror?
The mirror as object stands as the ultimate symbol of womanhood and the normative beauty standards associated with it. Throughout history and art, women have discovered in the mirror the reflection of the man they are supposed to love and serve, leaving their identity on the side and accepting subconsciously the idea of patriarchal needs. This collection aims at turning the rules of the game on its head, by inviting a majority of women designers and one chosen male designer.
It’s about time the art and design world turned the cards the other way around!
In relation to the theme, what role do you think representation and inclusivity plays in contemporary (and future) design in Sweden?
Sweden, like all countries, has mountains to climbs before we can all claim that we are fairly representing all voices. The gaze of the mirror stands for who is looking at what and in which context. Sweden, as an overtly forward thinking power today, has the duty to [lead] the way for a more inclusive global society. Including the voices of the unheard is the beginning of a new chapter already in motion in Swedish society at large: it’s about time to make it official, public, and the new norm.
With reference to the Virtual Design Destination’s theme, how does this collection respond to the so-called “New Reality”?
Has your approach to the curation of this collection been affected by the ongoing uncertainty in the world? Why or why not?
As the world has been at a standstill, we have all come to terms with what is highly necessary and what is not. Do we need more chairs and tables at this very moment of time and history? Or more self-reflective knowledge about who we are, where we stand, and who are we really addressing in what context?
This collection of mirrors calls for a pause of the hyper consumption of unnecessary objects’ normative voices polluting our lives. Where are the objects of everyday lives made? By whom and with what purpose? This ongoing crisis is a meditation reflected in this walk in the gaze of mother nature, the forest.
Meet Paola Bjäringer, Curator of “Mirror Mirror Off the Wall”
Born in Sweden 1980, Paola Bjäringer grew up in France. After completing her MA in Gender Studies at London School of Economics, she opened Gallery Slott in 2009 in Paris focusing on collectible contemporary design. She has produced her own design collections with matali crasset, Arik Levy and Mathieu Lehanneur and launched young upcoming designers.
Now living in Stockholm, she specializes in managing international design projects ranging from branding to interior architecture, consulting and curation, with special attention to limited edition crafted objects and furniture. Paola is particularly dedicated to design that moves beyond the ornamental into the social and into the political realms. She looks at contemporary design through a sociological lens, with gender at its core. Her latest art project is feminist, it is called MISSCHEIFS.
Which aspects of curating a collection for a virtual exhibition have intrigued and/or surprised you?
Adorno is on the forefront of experimenting with what virtual consumption means. Moving beyond what the usual re-transcription of an actual augmented real-life setting looks like, Adorno takes us into a new journey invented by each curator from a different cultural perspective. It is truly stimulating and encouraging to curate for visionaries like Adorno who dare to step into the realms of what the future holds – much hope!
What are you most excited to share (ex. thematically, a piece, a designer, etc.) with the Virtual Design Destination audience?
I’m super excited about curating this exhibition for Adorno that takes the word “virtual” to a whole new level for the audience. I have deliberately chosen pieces that are strikingly strong in their own design process from idea to finished product and also the individual style of each designer in the specific magical setting of the forest. Farvash’s “Deep Deep Mirror” is my personal favorite with its ego and voice amplifier effect together with the mystical rainbow neon light. Frida Fjellman’s “Piss Off” mirrors are fabulous too! I love them all!