The Critical Tide exhibition

A research laboratory that examines the oceans' wellbeing will open at the Design Museum on 6 September 2019.

The Critical Tide exhibition, which combines design and research, will open at the Design Museum’s Gallery in September. The exhibition brings together projects and works that explore the sea and the potential for positive impact through design. Critical Tide will combine research, activism and community engagement within the exhibition space. At a time of deep ecological crises, Critical Tide will open our eyes to the urgent issues our oceans face and showcase creative ways of intervening. The exhibition challenges visitors to experiment, learn and immerse themselves while calling for a complete redesign of our relationship with the seas. It includes a seaweed design laboratory, oil absorbent mats made of hair, and an Ocean Confessional booth for confessing sins against the seas.

“We are showing how design can act on the imperative for sustainability. Asking how can we as humans be more benign – do less harm – to the world we live in?” say the curators. The projects exhibited raise awareness or intervene in marineecosystems to make a positive impact towards sustainability. “We set out to present a range of possibilities that enable visitors to actively engage with sustainability and the oceans.”

The exhibition was created by a multi-professional, international team: Julia Lohmann (designer and professor at Aalto University based in Helsinki), Pirjo Haikola (designer, scuba diving instructor and researcher at RMIT in Melbourne), Gillian Russell (designer, curator and researcher at Emily Carr University in Vancouver) and Gero Grundmann (designer and illustrator based in Helsinki).

Design brings people face-to-face with global problems
Critical Tide casts a critical eye over a topical theme. People's co-existence with nature and other species has been intensively explored in current design practice. For example, the Broken Nature Triennale, which opened in Milan this spring, highlights the importance of design and creative solutions when exploring the interconnecting threads between species. The Ocean Plastics exhibition, which voices concerns about the intensification of plastic waste and its impacts in the oceans, will open in Gothenburg's Röhsska Museum of Design and Craft in June. The curator of Design Museum Suvi Saloniemi has noticed that exhibitions aroundthe world are now examining the environmental crisis and questioning our relationship with the planet and its species – the importance of interspecies cooperation. This process of re-organising the co-existence of different species will also inevitably change the position of design and designers. Exhibitions around the world are suggesting that designers and the design industry should start to beaccountable to our planet instead of the market economy and trade, Saloniemi describes.

PROJECTS
The Critical Tide exhibition presents eight projects and works that visitors can view, hear, test or touch.

Department of Seaweed – an open seaweed laboratory
Julia Lohmann, a curator of the Critical Tide exhibition team, has worked with seaweed and developed it as a sustainable material for making since 2007. The Critical Tide Exhibition includes a seaweed design laboratory in which Lohmann builds objects from seaweed and introduces the Department of Seaweed community of practice. It connects designers and makers, researchers and scientists interested in algae as a sustainable resource for making. Throughout the exhibition, Lohmann and her team will work in the open workshop in the gallery every Wednesday.

Ocean Confessional
Ocean Confessional is a booth where visitors can reveal the sins they have committed against the sea. They will write their confessions on slips of paper, which will be dropped into the sea at a public ceremony held on 26 October. The slips are made of biodegradable paper which releases neutralising substances beneficial to the sea. In connection with this work, a performance will be held on the shores of Southern Helsinki. Canadian designers Pete Fung and Samein Shamsher, will invite passersby to confess their sins to the ocean and cast them into the sea. The work is a form of public ceremony, brought into the community in order to increase ecological sensitivity. Confessions will be gathered between 2.30pm and 5 pm on Friday 6 September and between 1 pm and 4 pm on Saturday 7 September and Sunday 8 September. A video of the performance will be shown at the exhibition.

Matter of Trust Hair Mats
According to the US Matter of Trust organisation, around 4.9 million litres of oil spill into the sea from US territory alone. Matter of Trust has developed mats and booms which can be used to clean up oil and grease from water bodies and water drainage systems. The mats are made of organic and renewable material – human and animal hair and fur, wool and feathers – which absorbs oil without further damaging the marine ecology.

Radical Ocean Futures installation by Andrew Merrie
The Radical Ocean Futures project by Andrew Merrie from New Zealand presents four scientifically grounded narratives of potential future oceans. It combines scientific facts with creative speculation. The work shown at the exhibition includes four brief scenarios based on sound and images. The Radical Ocean Futures project combines art with science and was created by the Stockholm Resilience Centre research institute.

Baltic Characters (EN)
Land may now be our home, but our origins are in the ocean. However, very few of us ever get to experience the underwater world, and no one can stay there for long. How can we reconnect with the species that live beneath the waves, both intellectually and emotionally? After all, they sustain us and produce the air that we breathe. Our empathy exercise ‘Baltic Characters’ explores ways in which we can nurture empathy and reconnect with the seas. Find out which species in the Baltic Sea resonates with you in our character test – and learn what you can do to safeguard its future. It is illustrated by Gero Grundmann, a graphic artist, illustrator and member of the exhibition team. In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." (Baba Dioum, 1968.)

Author: Julia Lohmann (designer and professor at Aalto University based in Helsinki)

Banner picture copyright: University of Tartu

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