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CURATORIAL STATEMENT

ARE WE HUMAN?
THE DESIGN OF THE SPECIES
2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years

The 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial explores the intimate relationship between the concepts of “design” and “human.” Design always presents itself as serving the human but its real ambition is to redesign the human. The history of design is therefore a history of evolving conceptions of the human. To talk about design is to talk about the state of our species. Humans have always been radically reshaped by the designs they produce and the world of design keeps expanding. We live in a time when everything is designed, from our carefully crafted individual looks and online identities, to the surrounding galaxies of personal devices, new materials, interfaces, networks, systems, infrastructures, data, chemicals, organisms, and genetic codes. The average day involves the experience of thousands of layers of design that reach to outer space but also reach deep into our bodies and brains. We literally live inside design, like the spider lives inside the web constructed from inside its own body. But unlike the spider, we have spawned countless overlapping and interacting webs. Even the planet itself has been completely encrusted by design as a geological layer. There is no longer an outside to the world of design. Design has become the world.

Design is the most human thing about us. Design is what makes the human. It is the basis of social life, from the very first artefacts to the exponential expansion of human capability. But design also engineers inequalities and new forms of neglect. More people than ever in history are forcibly displaced by war, lawlessness, poverty, and climate at the same time that the human genome and the weather are being actively redesigned. We can no longer reassure ourselves with the idea of “good design.” Design needs to be redesigned.

ARE WE HUMAN? : The Design of the Species : 2 seconds, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years invites a wide arrange of designers and thinkers from around the world to respond to a compact set of eight interlinked propositions:

DESIGN IS ALWAYS DESIGN OF THE HUMAN
THE HUMAN IS THE DESIGNING ANIMAL
OUR SPECIES IS COMPLETELY SUSPENDED IN ENDLESS LAYERS OF DESIGN 
DESIGN RADICALLY EXPANDS HUMAN CAPABILITY
DESIGN ROUTINELY CONSTRUCTS RADICAL INEQUALITIES
DESIGN IS EVEN THE DESIGN OF NEGLECT
“GOOD DESIGN” IS AN ANESTHETIC
DESIGN WITHOUT ANESTHETIC ASKS URGENT QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR HUMANITY

These propositions will be explored over the coming year in events, classes, workshops, and online discussions – including open calls for responses to the propositions by short videos. This year of exploration around the world will culminate in a dense program of exhibitions, debates, broadcasts and publications during the six weeks of the Biennial in Istanbul that opens in October 2016.

This Biennial is an archaeological project. It is not about celebrating particular designers or about visualizing remarkable futures. It will be a multi-media documentary about the state of design today, when everyday reality has outpaced science fiction. It will place the extreme condition of contemporary design into the context of the extended 200,000 year history of our species – from the first standardized ornaments and the footprints of the first shoes to the latest digital and carbon footprints. A Biennial normally focuses on the last 2 years. The time frame for this exhibition will span from the last 2 seconds to the last 200,000 years. Ancient archaeological artefacts from Turkey and the region will be presented at the heart of the Biennial to reframe the latest real-time thinking about design.