Brendan McGetrick
Recent works and current obsessions

Unnamed Design

Unnamed Design is an exhibition presented as part of the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale.

My catalog text:

As humankind enters the second decade of a new century, it is increasingly apparent that the standard means of describing our world are no longer adequate. The words and values engrained in our books and magazines, in film and online, are unable to accurately describe the forces shaping our lives. If we are to make the most of the present and think more intelligently about the future, we first need to refresh our language. To begin this process, we propose a radical reevaluation of design.

In Europe, the idea of design is well established but poorly understood. Over the past century it has been repeatedly altered to reflect changes in the political climate, elite preferences, or popular mood. In its current form, design projects the values of the free market. It is a vague amalgamation of clothes, home furnishings, personal hygiene, art, antiques, and user interfaces. It is western-centric, commodity-driven, and wealth-dependent. It is hugely influential – much copied and frequently referenced – but it somehow loses depth with each incarnation.

In Asia, the notion of design is newer. Its status remains unclear and its limits are undefined. We propose that the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale seizes this ambiguity as source of strength. Where in the West design is a often tool for exclusion, in Gwangju it can be inclusive, accepting contributors from across cultures and classes. Rather than proposing a single, globalized template for the world to follow, at the Biennale design will become a codeword for the invention of new forms of difference – new slang, new relationships, new organisms, new religions.

As its name suggests, Unnamed Design challenges the myth of the designer. The exhibition backgrounds issues of authorship in order to focus on effects – the ways in which design alters perceptions, reinvents, and reveals hidden truths. It expands the boundaries of design to include fields such as bioengineering, virtual communication, capital punishment, pre-modern technology, and non-violent protest. Ours is an exhibition about the power of ideas, a salvo in honor of the millions of acts of imagination that occur beyond the bounds of ‘design’.


Associate Curators: Hyun Jee Kim, Kayoko Ota
Furniture and Exhibition Designer: Jingjing Naihan Li
Graphic and Exhibition Designer: Mee Michelle Liu
Project Managers: An Xiao Mina, Soik Jung
Translators: Christiana Chae, Jisu Choi
Research & Design Assistants:
Eivind Bjørndalen, Synøve Flobak, Oda Forstrom, Michael Goldin, Lene Haus, Jeanette Jacobsen, Petter Kraglund, Anneline Konradsen, Marie Monsen, Kayla Romberger, Colby Suter, Johannes Vaagland