V&A Dundee takes Scottish design on tour
Design in Motion opens in Dundee and travels across Scotland, before ending its journey in London in June
Following hot on the heels of the recent announcement that Dundee is to become an official UNESCO City of Design – a status that places it alongside fellow recipients of the title including Bilbao and Helsinki – a brand new touring exhibition is set to support the public profile of what will eventually become one of the most important artistic exhibition spaces in Scotland, if not the whole of the United Kingdom.
Although recent news reports on the creation of the city’s V&A Museum of Design have focused on budgetary issues, in particular the Scottish Government’s commitment to fund the project by an extra £10m, a poll conducted in late January indicates that the majority of Dundee still appears to be behind the project and what it can do for the city’s regeneration. The Courier pointed to the success of the similar and hugely successful Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts in Gateshead.
And judging the new museum’s impact in terms of public engagement, the new V&A seems firmly pro-active in delivering high-quality exhibitions not just to Dundee, but also to Scotland as a whole. Design in Motion is a collaboration with the Travelling Gallery that will take the work of seven young Scottish designers to locations around Scotland over the next four months, from Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Borders to the Hebridean islands of Lewis, Harris and Skye, culminating in a two-day stopover at the V&A in London in late June.
‘V&A Dundee is for everyone in Scotland, and by going on the road we’ll raise awareness of the museum across the country,’ says Sarah Saunders, head of learning and engagement at V&A Dundee. ‘It’s a chance for us to showcase some of our most innovative contemporary designers and to introduce design and its benefits to society to a much wider audience. Our design heritage can be found all over Scotland and across the globe, so we’re also using the tour as a means of finding out even more about Scottish design – we want to learn from our audiences and encourage people to become more aware of their local design heritage and contemporary designers.
‘We also want to influence the way design is taught in schools and colleges,’ she continues, ‘and to inspire the next generation of designers, architects and engineers. Raising career aspirations in young people is very important to our mission. Design is business – it’s not a soft option. It’s so important to the Scottish and global economy, and we want to get that message across.’ The artists exhibiting include clothing designer Holly Fulton, artist Geoffrey Mann and jewellery designer Lynne MacLachlan, as well as games designer Sophia George and Glasgow-based 3D architectural modelling centre, the Digital Design Studio.
‘Digital technologies allow me to explore and capture the essence of the absolute and work beyond the known properties of our material world,’ says Mann. ‘I’ll be exhibiting a work titled "Nocturne", originally commissioned for the 2009 Jerwood Contemporary Makers Prize and part of the Long Exposure series, which narrates the erratic behaviour of a moth around a light stimulus, captured through high-speed cinematic technology and forming a delicately poetic hanging sculpture. Though the work may not follow the traditional path of a “maker”, I firmly believe the hand of the maker is embedded throughout the design process.’
This digital element, says Saunders, is at the heart of Scottish design in the present day. ‘When we looked at the design industries in Scotland, a strong digital theme immediately became apparent to us – this is demonstrated in Dundee through its growing and very successful computer games industry. It also became clear that it wasn’t just the digital industries that were using digital technologies as tools to innovate – all areas of design were using digital, and we wanted to reflect that. We want to reflect and showcase the zeitgeist of design practice, to capture the mood and the excitement of the changing nature of design and designers.’
As if to accentuate the word ‘zeitgeist’, she also points out that Design in Motion – the latest and largest in an ongoing series of V&A Dundee outreach programmes – has been created and curated by a group of designers and academics remotely online through a Pinterest board, while a Design Scotland app has been created with Dundee developers eeGeo, enabling users to view and contribute to a 3D map of Scottish design heritage. ‘Currently there’s no one place you can go to see the story of this design heritage in its entirety,’ says Saunders. ‘V&A Dundee’s Scottish design galleries will provide that home for the first time. Our outreach programme will continue once we’re open, our schools programme will have a national reach, and the digital resources we create will allow us to connect with people anywhere in Scotland and across the globe. We hope these help as many people as possible to get involved with and inspired by design.’
Design in Motion opens in Dundee on Fri 13 Feb; Friday Late, an after-hours event featuring Ubre Blanca, Machines in Heaven and Paul Thomson (Franz Ferdinand), also takes place on Fri 13 Feb at The Vision Building, Dundee.