It may have been tempting for the organisers of Istanbul’s inaugural design biennial (the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts or IKSV) to play it safe with the programme but instead they’ve taken on some intellectually rigorous ideas with real flair. This is exemplified in Adhocracy, a show at the Galata Greek School curated by Domus editor Joseph Grima, which is a nuanced and thought-provoking look at the user as part of the design process.
Joseph has moved the debates around hacking onto the next level and the exhibition is almost a manifesto for designers, governments and businesses to keep up with the pace of change (the presence of a Heineken bottle designed to be used as a brick from 1973 whose release was scuppered by red tape is a powerful metaphor).
There’s a fantastic room dedicated to different iterations of the cheap, simple Arduino circuit board which includes a Geiger counter produced in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake, when suspicions over official radiation readings raged, and an impressive collection of musical instruments made of re-purposed weapons from Mexican designer Pedro Reyes; proving that hacking need not always be something high-tech.
There are bikes and furniture consisting of fixtures that can be used as the basis for the finished product, with whatever happens to be at hand filling in the gaps, and even 3D printers appear in novel and unexpected ways, producing Nutella sculptures and mini souvenirs of visitors’ bodies.
The room dedicated to drone journalist footage filmed in Poland (but now sadly removed from Youtube) makes a more explicitly political connection between the social and democratic potential of grass-roots design, while the top floor hosts an in-depth look at the Paris guerilla movement The UX, who explore the city via its underground networks and whose stunts have included secretly repairing the clock at the Pantheon.
Although the show has a wealth of international contributors, these ideas particularly resonate in a city like Istanbul where the disconnect between designers and makers is much less pronounced than elsewhere. Adhocracy is a perfect example of how to explore and communicate weighty ideas, and a must-visit for anyone in Istanbul in the next few months.