Workshop beyond borders
How can exploring your own and the other culture promote transcultural dialogue between Germany and Malaysia? What is typically German? What is typically Malaysian? These are the questions explored by Laura Bernhardt and Daniel Juric together with Malaysian design students in their workshop beyond borders. The workshop was held in the context of the presentation of the ifa touring exhibition new olds in Kuala Lumpur and Penang in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut Kuala Lumpur.
Report by Laura Bernhardt and Daniel Juric
In February 2014, Laura Bernhardt and Daniel Juric held two separate workshops by way of initiating a transcultural design dialogue. The first was in Kuala Lumpur with nineteen students of product design and interior architecture from the School of Design at the KBU International College; the second in Penang with eighteen students of communication design and product design from the School of Arts at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). The first step was to analyse cultural features and characteristic elements and objects from Germany and Malaysia. Next snapshots of exchange between the two cultures were made for design plans.
Malaysia is a multiethnic state in which the dominant ethnic group with over fifty percent of Malays is Muslim. A second large group is the immigrant Chinese, and there is a smaller group of Indian immigrants, while just under ten percent of the population is indigenous. This large diversity of peoples, cultures, religions, and traditions was also reflected in the make-up of the students participating in the workshops.
During the workshops it became apparent that the students were concentrating in particular on verbal communication—on language as a direct means of expression, which represents the most important component of their common culture. This led to points of convergence at which independent specificities and elements could be developed, so uniting all the diversity of Malaysian culture. The large mix of languages and approaches to this were thematised in a number of different ways. Eating and drinking culture in Malaysia was also an issue where verbal communication intersected with the world of objects. In their final presentations the students displayed innovative ideas, from a plan for a public and real walk-in chartroom in a metro to an entirely recyclable take-away box made of organic palm waste products for the Mamak street restaurants typical of Malaysia.
The students and the professors of KBU International College and the Universiti Sains Malaysia were fascinated by the workshops’ results and by the idea of developing a design plan from the process of combining two cultures and two apparently irreconcilable objects and their properties. This is an approach that can help students in future projects, and is also in evidence in many of the objects on show in the new olds exhibition.