STA, 14 November - The 26th Biennial of Design (BIO 26) opened in Ljubljana on Thursday. Running until 9 February under the title Common Knowledge, it will explore the information crisis and the struggles of traditional bearers of truth.
Elaborating on the concept of BIO 26 for the STA, its curator Thomas Geisler said design, in particular graphic design, had always had the task of translating information and knowledge or visualising complex content.
Geisler added design was less product-oriented than it used to be, having instead developed more systematic approaches. The history of the Ljubljana biennial is a case in point. What used to be an exhibition of well-designed products has evolved into an experimental platform for new approaches in design that seem more relevant today.
The organisers of BIO 26 have identified the inflation and chaos in the field of information as a key challenge in society, with science, academia, the media and journalism struggling to preserve their Enlightenment status as the four pillars of truth.
The notion of common knowledge relates and refers to what people know; more broadly, if refers to what people think and how they structure their ideas, feelings, and beliefs.
Furthermore, the term common knowledge carries a sense of communal or shared knowledge, with Geisler stressing the need to make access to knowledge not a privilege but something accessible as widely as possible.
BIO 26 will feature a curated exhibition at the Museum of Architecture and Design (Muzej za arhitekturo in oblikovanje - MAO), which Geisler said would provide insight into how and where design can be active in the field of information and communication.
The opening section of the show will present the information crisis, while the hierarchical model of information, starting with data and ending with wisdom, will be outlined later on.
The festival will moreover present six winning projects selected through the Designathon, in which groups of designers and non-designers took on in recent months the challenges pressing on the institutions of knowledge production and knowledge transmission.
Geisler pointed out that traditional institutions, for instance the National University Library, which is build on concepts from the 19th century, are struggling as a result of social changes and digitalisation. Unlike in the 19th century, interaction is the primary mode of information sharing today; the library's users would share knowledge, but the architecture in itself prevents this.
Traditional institutions of knowledge are also very slow to change and the projects started as part of BIO 26 sough to identify ways to adapt to the new challenges.
"This is actually the most we can do. We cannot serve them detailed answers and of course also cannot solve their problems," said the Austrian curator, who is assisted by curator and journalist Aline Lara Rezende.
Along with the library, BIO 26 has also involved the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, the University of Ljubljana, publisher Delo, as well as an elderly home and the Ljubljana Botanical Gardens.
Geisler pointed out that the transmission of knowledge from older people was a tradition that had already disappeared decades ago, while the Anthropocene epoch had also completely divorced humankind from nature, leaving people without even basic knowledge about it.
The projects will be presented at the participating institutions. Pointing out that probably not many of Delo's readers had ever entered the publisher's premises, Geisler said that the idea was getting people to go to these institutions.
He sees the installations as prototypes that will allow the institutions to also get some feedback and use it all in future projects.