“(Re)New Generation”: Norway at Adorno London 2021

“Considering that products are meant to have an approach towards both design and art, it was natural to look at the young talents who experiment within the two fields. One direction is colorful, playful, and almost avant-garde, and another direction takes a piece of nature and forms the past into the future.”

– Kirsten Visdal, curator of the Norwegian collection, “(Re)New Generation”

“(Re)New Generation” is part of Adorno London 2021, presented during London Design Festival, 18-26 September. The Norwegian collection will be viewable as a virtual exhibition from 18 September. “(Re)New Generation” is kindly supported by the Embassy of Norway & DOGA.

The boundaries between inside and out are thin, almost seeming to waver. Tall windows rise to the ceiling, bending at a right angle to allow for an uninterrupted view of the overcast, Norwegian sky and forested landscape. However, the view is incomplete. Just out of reach behind the thin glass, the objects are blurred, providing only general ideas of their true forms. Turning inward reveals more clarity. The textured, geometric concrete that makes up the walls, stairs, and most of the ceiling does not demand too much attention, preferring to serve as a backdrop for the objects contained within. Clean-cut, wooden floors guide the eyes downwards, away from the hazy fauna outside and towards the minimalistic interior, dotted with objects that draw on raw, natural elements and present abstracted interpretations of form and function.

Presented in a raw, industrial gallery, “(Re)New Generation”, a Norwegian collection curated by Kirsten Visdal, represents a search for identity. It looks to a new generation of Norwegian designers, who are carving out their place in the contemporary design scene, looking to past techniques and traditions and making them their own. With the heritage of Scandinavian design ever-present, they represent a change of pace, with sustainability and climate challenges influencing what is designed and developed. In this space, a window displaying a distant forest serves as a reminder of the collection’s roots. Pieces like “Ash Wood Calligraphy” by Løvfall and “Pedestal Square” by Vilde Hagelund prominently feature wood in a way that underscores its texture and visual properties, while “Vride” Stool by Anna Maria Øfstedal Eng and “White Tubes’ Form – (2)” by Mingshu Li have organic, almost vine-like characteristics. Together, the pieces showcase a new wave in Norwegian design, offering a glimpse of what its future holds. 

“(Re)New Generation” features work by Ali Gallefoss, Anna Maria Øfstedal Eng, Atelier Kaja Dahl, Bergskog, Edvin Klasson, Løvfall, Mingshu Li, HLÍN Studio, Studio Sløyd, and Vilde Hagelund.

(Re)New Generation

What are the main themes present in “(Re)New Generation”?

A new generation of Norwegian designers are finding their own way with abstract interpretations, where function is no longer essential. In a smooth transition between design and art, they interpret the present [through] heritage, crafts, and nature. This results in the use of various materials, techniques, and expressions.

What is the significance of the industrial, gallery environment that your collection is presented in?

The works in the Norwegian collection appear sculptural, and are suited to be lifted up on pedestals with light and air surrounding them. Each and every product is handmade and unique. I wished for the products to emerge in a quiet, but modern space. The organic in the face of raw concrete and minimalistic lines.

How would you describe the contemporary design scene in Norway?

The modern design scene in Norway explores diverse disciplines and plays with both expressions and areas of use. New and creative platforms, where the designers work analogously and on a small scale, have appeared. Some take the entire food chain to use and control every aspect themselves, from product development to PR to the sales process. Some of the talents get selected and offered exhibitions in art galleries, both in their home country and abroad. At the same time, Norway has established designers that work both with Norwegian producers, as well as with big, international brands.

Crafts heritage and the continuation of craft traditions plays an important role in the contemporary Norwegian design scene. In what way(s) does this collection illustrate this revitalisation?

Looking back to find inspiration in traditions, material use, and techniques is a well-known move for Scandinavian designers. In this collection, we can see clear fragments from the past, but they are interpretations that fit in with the present. It appears through the use of stylized forms, simplified décor, abstraction, or a piece of nature that has been added to craftsmanship and ends up as a modern sculpture.

Studio Sløyd, “POM”

For this new generation of designers, sustainability and a slower approach to design is at the forefront when developing new pieces. What do you think sustainable design and craft practices will look like in the future?

Applying processes and collaborating with natural, long-lasting materials is sustainable. At the same time, we want to see greater use of redesign and recycling, for example, marine plastic and wastes from various industries, or the use of new natural materials such as mushrooms, algae, and hemp. In contrast to a digital world, we find meaning and anchoring in the handmade that takes time to make and that appears personal for the customer. However, many see value and utility in technology, such as new drawing programs and machine solutions as part of the manufacturing of crafts. In that way, we can produce more units simultaneously and end up with an affordable price for the consumer.

How do the pieces in your collection relate to the theme of Adorno London 2021, “Designing Futures”?

The future of design has to become more sustainable. To make use of what already exists or opt out of abundance is a circular mindset. Fast trends and mass production that leads to waste products has to come to an end. The products from the Norwegian contribution contain mainly local raw materials, simple production methods, and a small footprint on our already-changed globe.

What do you think the future has in store for contemporary design in Norway?

Consumers are gradually opening their eyes to sustainable solutions that contain a greater degree of production in Norway, as well as quality goods. We need both innovative designs that pave the way, as well as good, profitable products that enter the volume market. Norwegian design is making a mark internationally, but we need bigger plays on design within innovation and export. In the near future, I think design will be embossed by the time we live in. We need a counter-reaction to the seriousness and crisis of color, joy, and playful design. Or something that is solid, timeless, and continuous.


Meet Kirsten Visdal, curator of “(Re)New Generation”

Kirsten Visdal works with visualising concepts in art direction, styling, and interior design. She offers everything from the idea to the finished product, working with manufacturers, magazines, architects and designers, while also taking consulting assignments in interior design, private and public spaces.

Visdal has a love for the natural created together with a modern design language. She deeply appreciates Norwegian design and hopes for a flourishing in Norwegian cultural heritage and crafts. She loves the aesthetics found in processes, everyday life and the moment. She hopes that we as consumers, producers and creative actors will take a greater degree of social responsibility in the future.

Can you give a bit of insight into your approach to curating this collection?

Considering that products are meant to have an approach towards both design and art, it was natural to look at the young talents who experiment within the two fields. One direction is colorful, playful, and almost avant-garde, and another direction takes a piece of nature and forms the past into the future. Within the latter category, I found the most works that suited the theme “Designing Futures”. I wanted to put together a collection that tells a common story and that visually appears great together.

If the viewers of “(Re)New Generation” could take one concept or piece of information away from it, what would you want that to be and why?

A Scandinavian heritage in the face of the present. Imprinted by hand in the face of a modernist expression that is current, but still timeless.

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