California: Designing Freedom

Museums, Art and design
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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We are all Californians. That’s the bold statement that the Design Museum’s new exhibition makes as it examines how Californian ideals have affected our everyday lives through technology.

The exhibition traces the progression of design in California from the 1960s to the present. It reveals how design was heavily influenced by counterculture movements. Hippies, surfers, gay activists and black activists – all united in their quest for freedom – used design to promote their respective causes. The ideologies of those countercultures were the unwitting precursors to the start-up ethos of Silicon Valley and the technology that we have today.

Freedom is the dominant theme. It’s explored from five different angles: movement, perception, expression, self-reliance and association. The ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ is on display, a self-sufficiency magazine that has been hailed as the original Google. Other highlights include Black Panther posters by Emory Douglas circa 1969, the hand-stitched ‘rainbow flag’ by Gilbert Baker and some impressive Syd Mead ‘Blade Runner’ concept art which fittingly explores the consequences of technology on society.

The centrepiece is the juxtaposition of a replica Captain America chopper from ‘Easy Rider’, a symbol of escapism and individuality, with the Waymo self-driving car, a symbol of ridiculously advanced technology and equally terrifying hands-free jokes.

From skateboards to iPhones, it’s hard to deny that California has influenced and changed the world we live in. This exhibition make you think about what will happen to individual freedom if design technology gets too advanced – but if we’re all Californian we’ll probably just sit back and ride that wave.

By: Fuchsia Millevoi


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