make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend

make your fridays matter

The Curated Section at COLLECTIBLE 2024 is 'A Public Display of Affection'
A view of the exhibition space for A Public Display of Affection, curated by Rawad Baaklini for COLLECTIBLE 2024
Image: © Studio Pim Top

The Curated Section at COLLECTIBLE 2024 is 'A Public Display of Affection'

Curated by Rotterdam-based Lebanese curator and educator Rawad Baaklini, the showcase at the contemporary design fair in Brussels gives material form to the expressions of love.

by Mrinmayee Bhoot
Published on : Mar 09, 2024

How do you express love? Is it through your words, or nonverbally through acts? Do you express it publicly, or cringe at the idea of love as a topic for public discussion? People often shy away from talking about the emotion—who or what they love and how they express it—and it has generally been a taboo in academia, as Rotterdam-based Lebanese curator and educator Rawad Baaklini believes. Subverting this reticence, the Curated Section at this year’s Collectible Fair in Brussels, Belgium explores the idea of love and its myriad expressions. The artefacts on display are all centred around the question of how objects can convey intangible emotion in tangible form.

Often relegated to the feminine realm, to romantic novels or films, Baaklini explains the idea behind centring love stories in the objects and artefacts in the showcase, “The concept is rooted in a personal love story that has proven to be a deep well of inspiration. It prompted me to contemplate the many romantic relationships that have served as an endless source of creative inspiration for artists and designers. [While it is] not particularly groundbreaking, as we are aware that designers invest their passion and dedication into crafting their exquisite creations.” Crafting an object can in itself be an expression of love, and it is the many forms of this universality that the design exhibition highlights.

As the curator further notes, the inclusion of "displays of affection" within the context of a commercial design fair carries a hint of irony to it. To Baaklini, collectible design pieces and the visitors or potential buyers who come to look at them are engaged in a sort of flirtation, with the artefacts vying for attention from the onlookers. He cites Roland Barthes as an inspiration for the exhibition’s concept in a conversation with STIR. In A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, Barthes writes, “To try to write love is to confront the muck of language; that region of hysteria where language is both too much and too little, excessive (by the limitless expansion of the ego, by emotive submersion) and impoverished (by the codes on which love diminishes and levels it).” Perhaps the same can be said for design, how do you capture the intensity of an emotion in material form? The narrative behind the object, especially crucial for collectible design objects, is what might hold the key, according to the curator.

As he writes about the display in an interview on the design fair’s website, “My hope is that the emotional and functional aspects are intricately intertwined within the designs themselves, forming a profound connection that enriches our experience with them.” The display features over 20 designers working in different mediums and forms from around Europe and North America. In conversation, the curator details some of the pieces and how they fit into the central idea for the display. Netherlands-based multidisciplinary artist and designer Marius Boekhorst’s Violet explores themes of nostalgia through the use of patterned glass. The artefact, with a bouquet of flowers encased in glass, brings to mind preserving keepsakes from loved ones.

Bringing the feeling of being in love into sculptural form, an interdisciplinary designer from Vienna, Teresa Berger showcases Tactile Red, ceramic sculpture designs that seem to embody the feeling, while the 4E coffee table by Spanish designers Cuatros Cuatros presents an embodiment of love as a binding force. The quirky table design takes inspiration from love locks, a tradition wherein lovers fix padlocks to objects in public spaces such as bridges to symbolise their everlasting affection. In a different iteration of the idea of publicness and intimacy, Lebanese designer Etienne Bastormagi presents My dressing room, a space divider that combines the role of a screen, and the informal functions of becoming a clothes hanger, a shelf, or even a shoe rest. The piece was reimagined in new finishes for the design fair.

Treading this line between functionality and art, Italian designer M'ama edizioni displays Ariel from her Serendipity collection, a furniture design with a dual function: it is both a writing desk and an oven. Other designers also probe the realm of human emotions through their often surrealist objects and the intimate stories behind them, including Julia Ionova, a Russian furniture designer with her Pony Couch (2023) on display, London-based designer Marina Garlo with a chaise lounge design, and Paris-based design studio Sashaxsasha who have displayed Lux Æterna from their Steel collection among others. Bringing the intimate into the public, the display at COLLECTIBLE, till March 10th, 2024, asks one to confront the many aspects of a common emotion, and how it frames our lives.

What do you think?

Comments Added Successfully!