Broke asked a small group designers and artists: What if Nordic designers like Alvar Aalto, Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen and their peers who all helped establish the Scandinavian Design aesthetic felt obliged to pay homage to their Viking past and labored to incorporate their motifs, myths, materials in their designs? Would the whole Scandinavian movement that we now know and appreciate have happened? Could the designs have reached their lasting and iconic status? Did the designers actually break free from tradition or did they just focus on certain aspects of their culture (i.e. rationality, craftsmanship, respect for material, et al.)? If so, could lessons about deviating from the norms of history be learned from this?
We ask these questions in an attempt to shed light on our own dilemma. Most conversations about Filipino design (and art for that matter) would still inevitably touch upon the issue of Filipino Identity, whether there is such a thing and on how we can actually define it. An appeal to delve deep into what makes us unique as a people seems to curiously always fall back on the continuous use of indigenous fibers and materials, a celebration of folklore and other regional and tribal tales and motifs or a wholesale graphic cooptation of some abstract elements of nationhood, like our geographical map, flag and even our national heroes—solutions quite favored by governmental and corporate bodies bent on exuding a nationalistic aura. Most of the people that we talked to have at one point experienced being labeled as non-Filipino or too western oriented at the slightest deviation from this approach. Still, we can’t help but sense that this preferred modus compensated for a latent insecurity.
We do not propose to have the answers. This reimagined mid-century Scandi-Viking integration could very well be flat-out absurd as it collapses more than a thousand years of history. However, it can also result in some interesting pieces that could indeed point to the next trend in international design. Maybe this whole exercise would prove that we are actually ahead of our time. Who knows?
Exhibition notes. Curated by Gary Ross Pastrana