Capacity, Design and Gender - An Exploration of Dualities
By Karl Petschke, Exclusive to TorontoPATH.com
Toronto’s Design Exchange, a vibrant meeting place of images and ideas, can be found in what remains of the city’s original Stock Exchange, whose intricately carved stone facade is squeezed in among the imposing figures that make up Toronto Dominion Centre. Perhaps one of the Financial District’s most unique, expressive spaces, the DX falls somewhere between museum, classroom, and gallery, inviting artists and enthusiasts in to admire and discuss the wide range of practices and traditions that make the world of design what it is. Hoping to communicate the value of design – of the thoughtful, artful investment of ideas into the objects that surround us each day – to the countless communities that call this city home, it serves as a forum and a platform for designers from around the city and around the world. These creative, thoughtful minds carve and mould and machine until their works are practically bursting, until the ideas that define them can’t help but spill forth into the mundane realities of our day to day: checking the mail, grabbing breakfast, sitting back after a long day at the office. And so it is this concept, this idea of Capacity, that an innovative design exhibition, now in its second year, hopes to once again explore this fall. I was lucky enough to get a chance speak with Katherine Morley, one of Capacity’s curators, and to attend the thought-provoking discussion that the exhibition couldn’t help but inspire.
And so gradually Capacity began to take on this dual meaning, at once grappling with the idea of capacity (“To withstand? To produce? To learn? To love?”) and with the question of what role the contributors’ femininity played in their careers as designers.
In many ways the exhibition I visited had strayed somewhat from its original intent – it is far from the one originally envisioned by Morley and co-curator Erin McCutcheon more than a year ago. Both Toronto-based designers, the pair shared a studio space prior to their collaboration on the project, and had become increasingly aware of the lack of opportunity and exposure available to many female designers in the city. Feeling that the unique body of work created by these women was not receiving the recognition it was due, even among fellow designers, they decided to bring together a collection themselves in hopes of drawing awareness to the incredible amount of talent and diversity embodied by their community.
But this is where the collection began to take on a life of its own. The pair had never intended for the gender of its all-female cast of contributors to become the exhibition’s focus, rather hoping that the quality and breadth of the work they presented would speak for itself. They would soon find, however, that much of the public’s attention was drawn to this very fact. And so gradually Capacity began to take on this dual meaning, at once grappling with the idea of capacity (“To withstand? To produce? To learn? To love?”) and with the question of what role the contributors’ femininity played in their careers as designers.
Upon visiting the exhibition a number of things became immediately apparent to me. Firstly, the works that made up the collection were not simply examples of crafts or fashion, which Morley explains are all-too-often thought to be the exclusive territory of female designers. No, as I browsed the pieces I saw works in milky porcelain and inviting velvet, in branded wood and polished steel, a body of work as diverse as the practices and principles that formed them, offering examples of everything from industrial to textile to product design. Another aspect of the exhibition that caught my attention was something I couldn’t see at all. Namely that, had I not been told, I would have had no idea that these works were all made by women, only by thoughtful, creative people, each of them exploring that sometimes indescribable balance between the expression of art and the functionality of design. (Continue to page 2...)
Last updated on 12/8/2011 5:05:01 PM