Among the many homegrown highlights of this year's DesignMarch festival, a concurrent exhibition at the Reykjavík Art Museum's Kjarvalsstaðir location proved to be well worth the visit. Not only does Dæmisögur, or Case Studies, offer an impressive showcase of contemporary Icelandic design, it also appeals to the general public as a veritable crash course in six different areas of design practice today.
Labeling a designer as a representative of a specific discipline can at times seem oversimplistic or heavyhanded, but curator Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir—a professor of product design at the Iceland Academy of Arts—does well to take a more abstract approach to categorizing the projects. They are, in no particular order: "Experience Design" - Unnur Valdís Kristjánsdóttir; "Workmanship" - Brynjar Sigurðarson; "Local Manufacturing" - Tinna Gunnarsdóttir; "Material Research" - The Search for Icelandic Porcelain; "Mobility" - Össur; and "Mass Production" - Sigga Heimis.
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"It was actually an idea that came from the museum," she relates. "They have been hosting the graduation shows for the Arts Academies for many years, which has has sparked an interest in product design, because they see that it varies a lot. So they asked me to curate a exhibition about different approaches to product design in Iceland."
At once succinct and edifying, what might be a dry or otherwise conventional survey of contemporary design benefits from tight curation and expert execution. (It doesn't hurt that the exhibition is staged in a beautiful venue—the Kjarvalsstaðir is one of three buildings operated by the Reykjavík Art Museum—which was designed by Hannes Kr. Davíðsson and inaugurated in 1973.)
Case Studies will be on view until April 23, but here is a taste of what the exhibition has to offer.
The exhibition more or less begins with craft-based works by Sigurjónsdóttir's former student Brynjar Sigurðarson. Tinna Gunnarsdóttir brings a conceptual approach to working with local producers. Brynjar Sigurðarson diligently documents his projects, such as living and working with an Icelandic fisherman Unnur Valdís Kristjánsdóttir's "Flothetta" float cap has grown into an entire subculture. Drawing on Iceland's traditional bathing culture, "floating" has become a popular activity thanks to Kristjánsdóttir's project. Sigga Heimis is among the few Icelandic designers working on the scale of mass production. Heimis has worked with IKEA since 1999. Her practice has shifted towards design management Among her research insights is that the Euro pallet shipping standard may dictate the dimensions of products. The Search for Icelandic Porcelain is a research project by product designer Brynhildur Pálsdóttir, ceramicist Ólöf Erla Bjarnadóttir, and geologist Snæbjörn Guðmundsson. They are scouring the country for indigenous materials to make porcelain. Össur is an Icelandic prosthetics and orthotics company Össur's flagship product is the Pro-Flex artificial leg. Installation view of Gunnarsdóttir's projects