Dundee Design Festival offers a collaborative and innovative series of exhibitions in the City of Design (4 stars)

Dundee Design Festival offers a collaborative and innovative series of exhibitions in the City of Design

Print City / credit: Erika Steveson

West Ward Works hosts creative and artistic interventions which focused on design but lent the combined feel of an expansive and varied art exhibition

Wandering West Ward Works, the cavernous warehouse on the north-west corner of Dundee city centre where DC Thomson used to print Broons, Oor Wullie and Beano annuals, the sense isn't just of how far Dundee has come in recent times, but of how much further potential still remains. Inaugurated last year as part of celebrations around Dundee's UNESCO City of Design status, the Dundee Design Festival makes inventive use of these large industrial halls; and yet there's so much more space in other, unoccupied halls that it's possible to imagine expansion here – as it is in the rest of the city's potential art spaces, particularly when the new V&A museum opens.

For nearly a week, the building was filled with creative and artistic interventions which focussed on design but lent the combined feel of an expansive and varied art exhibition. The showcase event is Print City, a collaboration between Print Festival Scotland, Dundee Contemporary Arts and the University of Dundee which took workshopped drawings of Dundee by volunteer residents, combined them with historic images of the city, and live-printed the resulting patterns onto large sheets of corrugated, interlocking cardboard which combined to form an immersive, navigable 'city' of walkways and walls around the viewer. The result was light-hearted yet impressive, and it also established the atmosphere of the festival's 'Factory Floor' theme, a combination of bespoke designed pieces in an environment of industrial mass-production.

On the second floor, a vast space was laid out with display tables featuring an eclectic range of more than twenty individual contemporary design pieces from young international makers. In each case, the details of its practical application were as important to our understanding as the physical piece itself; like the 3-D printed radiotherapy masks created by students of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art alongside Fiona Robertson, a therapeutic radiographer at nearby Ninewells Hospital; German designer Annika Frye's 3-D printed 'woven tables'; James Rigler's imposing but tactile ceramic 'Monument' ornaments; and Kyla McCallum's stunningly intricate folded fabric, card and aluminium designs.

Down in the basement, finally, the odd interactive exhibition 'Our Silent Monitors' reflected upon the use of our data to infer who we are and how we feel in the most simple, eye-catching terms, as each participant chose a paint colour dependent on their mood ('good', 'bad', 'indifferent', 'excellent'), which was then painted into the interlocking grid of triangles on the ground, creating a mood map of every participant. As with the rest of the festival – and the programme of talks, music and maker spaces surrounding it – it was bright, contemporary and relevant, an echo of the City of Design that Dundee is becoming.

West Ward Works, Dundee, run ended

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