an interview with Beatriz Colomina & Paul Wigley
Could you tell us about your project for the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial? How did you come up with the title ‘ARE WE HUMAN? – THE DESIGN OF THE SPECIES – 2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years’?
BC: I suppose the first thing to point out here is that this is not a typical design biennale, exhibiting the latest objects of the last two years in the field, which is the usual timeframe of a biennale. The first question we asked ourselves was “What is design?“ and “What is a design biennale?“ And what we realised is that design is actually much bigger than the role that is usually assigned to it in a biennale; that design is what defines the human, if you want to be dramatic about it. In that sense we were very dissatisfied with the typical two-year framework. We decided that we needed to go back to the beginning of the concept of design that we have today, which was 200 years ago. But actually we went back even further: to the beginning of humanity, which is about 200,000 years ago.
So from that point on we started thinking in terms of the power of ‘2’. You know – the two years of the biennale, the 200 years since the first debates that gave birth to what we understand as design today and the 200,000 years since the birth of humanity. Then we went back to the present and started thinking about how design today is happening in a very short amount of time – for example in the two seconds of social media. That should give you a little bit of an idea of the temporal aspect of this biennale and our refusal of the two-year concept of a design biennale. We expanded the temporal dimension of what we are addressing. We don’t simply address the industrial design of beautiful lamps, but rather approach design as the beginning of humanity.