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Saint-Etienne International Design Biennial

The ninth edition of the Saint Etienne International Design Biennial opened its doors on 12 March at the Cité du design, with around sixty exhibitions on the theme "Les sens du beau". Designers came from the four corners of the world to question the public about design and its various applications: at the crossroads of art, technology and society, design is part of our daily lives and is involved in all the wheels of innovation. To promote understanding that it is the basis of all human activities, particularly in companies.

"Beauty is as useful as it is useless. He adds after a silence More, perhaps. Victor Hugo (Cromwell - 1827)

The Biennial did not fall from the sky in Saint-Etienne...

It is the logical and useful extension of the whole identity of Saint-Etienne, a historic city of workers, creators, in constant search of innovation. The city is part of the Unesco network of creative cities, the only one in France among eleven other cities in the world.
The Saint-Etienne Region was the first industrial region in France, just like Manchester in the United Kingdom in the 20th century with the steel industry, the trimmings and ribbons industry which created the two world leaders in medical textiles, Gibaud and Thuasne. A conjunction of art and industry since it was in Saint-Etienne that the first post-graduate diploma in design was created in 1985 in an art school by Jean-Marc Bonnard and Marc Charpin.
It was Jacques Bonnaval, Director of the Regional School of Fine Arts, together with Martine Fontannilles, Deputy for Culture at the Town Hall from 1983 to 2006, who launched the first Biennial in 1998, then the IRDD, the Regional Institute for the Dissemination of Design, which made it possible to develop contacts abroad. Fifty countries were then present for this first edition and there were about a hundred in 2000.

Saint-Etienne, campus city

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The ability of the city's universities to work together is well established. This mixing of students and teachers allows a great transdisciplinarity in the studies: worshops are organized in common, with a common identity, creation. The differences are there to capitalize on skills, in a complementary and enriching way, while overcoming the difficulties of the various university supervision bodies.
Seven years ago, the association Designers + was created, chaired by Bernard Laroche and coordinated by Catherine Buisson, and whose mission is to promote and professionalize the design sector in Rhône-Alpes / Auvergne. The transversal nature of its members' skills within the design professions enables it to optimise responses, thanks to an open-minded approach to the project. Design as a tool for research and forecasting allows us to anticipate needs by relying on the analysis of uses and context. The objective of Designers+ is to help companies understand, through concrete examples, the added value of a design approach. Designing better together allows to optimize costs and participates in the development of the company strategy.

A Biennial at the service of companies

For more than five years, 2,500 companies have already been made aware of design and 250 others have been supported in their search for a designer adapted to their needs, thanks to the Cité du design, which provides them with material resources - the matériauthèque - or methodological resources - the LUPI (laboratory of innovative uses and practices).

During the Biennial, for example, the Labs area, open from 12 March to 5 April, allows the latest prototypes from 24 companies, 18 of which are in the Rhône-Alpes region, to be tested. The company Yamaha has come all the way from Japan to test a new experimental musical composition tool: a guitar, a spherical drum kit, a circular xylophone, an amplifier and ... an incredible motorbike based on an MT07, designed by Manabu Kawada, designer of the Laboratory Yamaha Corporation. The result of the cooperation between the entities of Yamaha Corporation for the music world and Yamaha Motor for the two-wheeler world.

A Biennial that's on the move

This edition will last a whole month (from 12 March to 12 April 2015) so that all audiences can enjoy a vast and varied programme throughout Saint-Etienne. From the Cité du Design (site of the former Weapons Manufacture), to the Museum of Arts and Techniques, via a multitude of "Off" events in around fifty unusual sites where associations, groups of artists, architects and designers, gallery owners, but also students and teachers, will be proposing design as an art of living, thinking and creating: in a world where industrial production is increasingly globalised, how can the multiple needs of individuals be reconciled? What role does design play in industry? What values are conveyed by aesthetics? With what intentions?

There are many questions that the various curators try to answer. Benjamin Loyauté, co-curator general of this 9th Biennial, puts his finger on the urgency to decompartmentalize design in his exhibition "HyperVital", to take it out of the concepts of aesthetics and to make us understand that it must respond more to the current issues of our societies, such as environmental, climate, or anonymity problems of our lives in the face of big data, ... He gives us here the keys to understand the general theme of the International Design Biennial 2015 to better understand this new edition:

The same is true of the exhibition No Randomness." (nothing happens by chance) by Oscar Lhermitte., designer elected Design Of The Year 2014 by the Design Museum of London, which simply demonstrates that design is all about simplicity and consistency. Photo: Oscar Lhermitte

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Sam BaronIn its exhibition showing "The Essence of Beauty", it honours the young generation of design schools, through an anthology of concepts accompanying productions for the very "design" coup, illustrated with quotes such as Beauty is a riddle made of intuition and connotations." by Pablo Mateu-Ardujar, Spanish designer ; or by Pascal Hien, Artificial Purity designer (Germany) : "Beauty lies in imperfection" by Diego Alvès, a Portuguese designer: "I perceive beauty when something honest and simple makes sense." ; "That's when the feature path creates particular objects." by Julien Lizé, designer Intervalle France. Quite a program...

And if you want to be pushed around in your daily life, the exhibition "Did you say weird? "exhibition offers a new and original scenography mixing theatre, games and discoveries for a parody and a grotesque reading of consumption:
The disproportion of volumes pushes us to reflect on the object (it takes on a different meaning), its relationship to the environment (we perceive it differently), but also on our relationship to it and our own identity. This brush is a reflection of our vanity, of the time spent perfecting our external appearance to respond to the changing dictates of a society of appearances. In wanting to correspond to the norm, we respect a notion ofsocial order criticized by the grotesque.
Anonymous hands hug us to cuddle us - or is it to choke us? Between comfort and discomfort, designer Si Chan's jacket is full of subversiveness. Material comfort reassures us and protects us in an immediate and illusory way. It temporarily satisfies our anxieties linked to lack, meets the objectives of the consumer society. But isn't it our over-consumption, this superficial enjoyment of always possessing more, that suffocates us?

What if furniture and objects were to undergo the incessant changes in size of Alice in Wonderland? Doll furniture is not meant to be converted to human scale. Yet the designer enlarged it with a 3D printer that perfectly reproduced all the tiny imperfections. The objects, at scale 1, show the whole universe of their deformations and weirdness. Here we are witnesses to the creation of a theatre, explorers of another reality. 

See Oscar Lhermitte's exhibition: a little design lesson!

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