Born at Night
/ Born at Night 深 夜 里 诞 生
In 2016-2017, in the context of a research fellowship organised by M+/Design Trust, Space Caviar relocated to Huaqiangbei, a neighbourhood of Shenzhen most widely known as home to the world’s largest electronics marketplace.
Arriving there at the peak of the international media’s fascination with Shenzhen as “global factory” in which ideas supposedly conceived elsewhere are manufactured before being shipped to market, they set out to study the city on its own terms. Setting aside conventional notions of authorship, and with it the typecast view of Shenzhen as an economy reliant on imitation, they observed the city as a networked ecology in which a new definition of design is taking form.
In contrast to conventional notions of design, typically predicated on a (largely Western) cult of individual authorship, innovation in the material form of an object is not the primary expression of this new understanding of design visible in Shenzhen. Innovation, in this case, is to be found instead in the natural and almost effortless incorporation of tactics and processes – such as the systematic reuse of components, or the ability to execute small-batch, on-demand orders, or the close collaboration between family members in even the most specialised production outfits – which in the Western design environments would be considered radical expressions of values such as sustainability, frugality and social integration. Its output cannot therefore be read solely in aesthetic or even functional terms; it can only be fully understood if one takes into consideration the tightly integrated social and urban structure from which it was born.
This ongoing research took the form of an exhibition at Kazerne, here presenting a series of products, artefacts and material traces collected by Space Caviar in and around the Shenzhen Electronics Marketplace. It also includes a chapter of an ongoing film, Born at Night, in which the human presence – frequently purged from the study of design practice – is closely observed, shifting between visible and hidden spaces of the market, the dwellings of the workers and from the inside of automated machines to the depth of factories. Through all of this, a picture of a new and unfamiliar design ecology emerges, in which Shenzhen is less an imitator than a pathfinder.
A project by Space Caviar (Joseph Grima, Martina Muzi)
M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship 2016-17
Kazerne – Ruud Balk and Ralph Roelse
Objects – Space Caviar
Special thanks to:
Aric Chen, Jason Hilgefort, Merve Bedir, Future Plus, Zhang Xue Shi.
Additional thanks to:
David Li, Jan Boelen, Silvia Lindtner, Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber, Mary Ann O’Donnell, Luisa Mengoni, Brendan Cormier, Yee Ping, FuNa, Monica Shen, Berlina Li, Jennifer Wong, Sofia Pia Belenky, Gabriele Mariotti, Chiara Clarke Siravo, Simon Beckmann, Alessia Santoro, Warde Ka.
05/04 – 17/09 2018
Born at Night
Paradijslaan 2-8, 5611 KN