Kitchen fork and Rangoli cake-cutter
Typically German? Typically Indian? Or: how can a transcultural dialogue be presented by means of a designed object? This question was explored by Laura Bernhardt and Daniel Juric together with Indian design students in their workshop beyond borders, first held during the ifa exhibition new olds in Pune.
Report by Laura Bernhardt and Daniel Juric
Today’s world is defined by global interconnections and mobility, entailing constant exchange with other countries, multinational partners and ever new themes and issues. The borders of unified cultures and cultural areas are breaking open, and traditional ideas are confronted with multicultural influences from all over the world. These cultural interconnections lead to a cultural mix and pave the way with a great diversity of new ways of life in a transcultural society.
When different cultures and ways of life meet then this always offers the potential for intense and meaningful cultural dialogue. Particularly rituals of everyday life and their appertaining objects provide opportunities to link up with other cultures. This communication is important for the development of designed objects. They can create both intercontinental connections between people from different cultures and also between the present and the past. In this, a precise and critical look at traditional, clichéd, and stereotypical forms of behaviour in everyday situations and at everyday objects can be highly rewarding.
What is typically German? What is typically Indian? How can transcultural dialogue be promoted by means of a designed object? These are the questions explored by Laura Bernhardt and Daniel Juric in their design workshop beyond borders. This issue was discussed with thirty-one students from the MIT Institute of Design in Pune, and approaches for new concepts and design solutions were discovered in everyday objects. The workshop was held in conjunction with the new olds exhibition that is presently on show at the MIT. Ideas from in many of the works on show there were used to develop comparable ways of looking at cultural exchange in a deliberately concrete and sensual manner.
While most of the objects in the exhibition place old and traditional elements such as form, function and material in a new context, the workshop explores the cultural differences between Germany and India and their characteristic elements and objects. The aim was to create snapshots of exchange between the two cultures.
The first step was to introduce students to aspects of German culture using typically German customs and habits and objects connected with them. Features of these such as function, form, and material were explored. For example, a typical German coffee table setting was analysed, complete with sugar cubes, cake forks, and Black Forest gateau. Then the students were invited to look at their own culture and some of its objects in the same way. Indian themes included the Chudakarana (ritual head shaving), the Vastu shastra (the correct construction and alignment for rooms), Indian games such as Antakshari (a singing game), Gilli Danda (a game of skill), patang (Indian kite flying game) and Rangoli (symbolic Indian floor decorations). The essences of these rituals and games were then combined with each other, for example by linking the material of an Indian object with the function of an German one. In a small final exhibition, about twenty-five ideas were shown. Many of them were functionally tested in a full-scale model. The students and the institute director, Prof. Dhimant Panchal, were fascinated by the diversity of the results of this workshop, and the students are keen to further develop their objects outside of the workshop.