Two strong beliefs support the project of the Jerusalem Design Week which this year will open its doors in Jerusalem from 22 to 29 June: the belief that design can and must respond to the most urgent global issues and that Israel can be considered a sort of living laboratory for the analysis of these problems.
The latter concept is very similar to the one that gave rise to the theme of the Biennale Architettura 2023 and to the relationship of its curator, Lesley Lokko, with Africa.
Lies and Falsehoods is the theme around which we reflected for the creation of the products and installations that are the protagonists of Jerusalem Design Week 2023.
The aim is to investigate one of the most delicate issues of our age, that of our relationship with lies and falsehoods and to reflect on how designers can promote authenticity and honesty in their work.
Works that capture the meaning of illusion, knowingly hide, deceive, or give rise to an alternate reality, will be presented, along with others that seek to uncover and explore the truth in the face of lies and falsehoods.
In 2023, Jerusalem Design Week has two new curators joining artistic director Sonja Olitsky: Dana Ben Shalom and Jeremy Fogel.
Dana Ben Shalom, curator and researcher, is a Senior Fellow of the Textile Design Department of Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, Ramat Gan, while Dr. Jeremy Fogel is a Lecturer in the Department of Jewish Philosophy at Tel Aviv University.
Starting from the consideration that it is not so common to meet a philosophy teacher engaged in curating a design event, we interviewed the team.
'Lies and Falsehoods' is a very stimulating theme for an event dedicated to design, it already admits the existence of a problem, without going around it too much. How was it received by the designers and brands you proposed it to?
“Most of the responses were enthusiastic. It seems that the issues raised by the topic are widely perceived by the design community, and more generally by the public, as highly relevant to our lives in the digital age.
It quickly became apparent to all of us that creators from various design disciplines (from craft to digital realms and performance) are already very much involved in their work in various ways.
In particular, given the sense of political and social emergency that one breathes in Israel at the moment, the theme seemed (unfortunately) even more topical than we could have foreseen at the time of its formulation.
It is also important to note that, by raising the theme of Lies and falsehoods, we seek to address not only the theme of the deceptive and the false, but also a renewed search for truth, authenticity and transparency.”
How could you describe for us, in principle, the difference between JDW and a similar event in Europe, the Milan Design Week for example which is the one we know best? Do you happen to have connections with other design fairs?
“JDW is part of the family of similar events around the world: it has exhibited in Tokyo, Milan and Paris and will soon also collaborate with Swedish design week.
Considering that this is the twelfth edition of the event, JDW has now established itself as a central event for the industry both in Israel and internationally.
Perhaps, the first particularity compared to others, is that it is a completely public and non-profit event, which seeks to share the latest design developments with the general public.
We are very proud of the fact that around forty thousand visitors enthusiastically participate in our event and that this audience includes professional designers, students and enthusiasts, but also people who otherwise would not have the opportunity to reflect on the meaning and importance of design in everyday life.
Furthermore, the event greatly supports the design community in Israel. More than 100 works are commissioned specifically by JDW each year.
This is particularly significant for emerging artists who otherwise would not have the opportunity to develop their ideas and supports the design ecosystem in our country.
Finally, the JDW takes place in a truly unique place: the Hansen House, founded in 1887 as a leper colony by the Protestant community of Jerusalem and managed by German nuns, currently used as a cultural center.”
Does JDW involve designers and design studios or even Israeli companies?
"Certainly! JDW collaborates both with independent designers and with institutions (design academies, cultural institutions, etc.), as well as with companies from various relevant sectors.
For example, this year we are partnering with all the leading art and design academies in Israel, with Asif, a non-profit organization and culinary center in Tel Aviv dedicated to cultivating and nurturing Israel's creative and diverse food culture.
We also run the Matchmaker project annually, which aims to connect the local small business community with designers.”
It is very interesting (and I think it is an innovative choice) that one of the curators is a philosophy professor: I would like to be able to ask him why, in his opinion, has it become so easy, with the advent of digital technology, to fall into the traps of lies? How come we don't have tools to defend ourselves? Could design be one of them?
“It seems to me that we are in the midst of the most significant revolution in civilization since the agricultural revolution from which human culture as we know it was born.
The digital age, to put it simply, changes everything: not only the way we communicate, work or entertain ourselves, but also the way we perceive ourselves, the way we think about our lives, our values, to our sense of meaning, indeed, in all likelihood human nature itself will soon change (it already is).
As part of this new world, the ability to deceive people is absolutely unprecedented. Sure, there have been forms of disinformation and propaganda throughout history, but never has the ability to deceive been so complete.
We voluntarily and continually expose ourselves to ever more intelligent systems that are learning our sensibilities and are perfecting the ability to individually convince people on a large scale, by 'hacking' our own conscience.
All this, moreover, is happening at a breathtaking speed, too fast for our obsolete political structures to react in time.
If human society is to develop tools with which to defend itself, we urgently need to regulate our technology and rethink how we educate our children (in particular, by emphasizing critical thinking in their curricula), as well as reflect on how various fields of human activity can continue to promote the values we would like to maintain in the future.
In short, part of what we aim to achieve at this year's JWD is a reflection on how designers can, in their work, promote authenticity, truthfulness and honesty in a world where these values are increasingly at risk.”
The JDW in brief
Jerusalem Design Week takes place June 22-29, 2023 in the Hansen House cultural center, 14 Gedalyahu Alon St , Jerusalem. Admission is free.
Thursday 22 will be open in the evening from 19.00 to 23.00.
For a week, the indoor and outdoor spaces of the Hansen House will fill with dozens of installations, performances and shows, exhibitions and projects from all design disciplines, many of which will be exhibited for the first time.
Among them, international and local design and architecture groups will create captivating immersive spaces.
There will, for example, be an automated photo set by photographer Ella Barak and illustrator Nadav Machete, which will offer visitors the opportunity to be photographed as a souvenir of the imminent end of the world and an avenue of prophecy generating booths will be set up in the courtyard, offering visitors truths and lies about their past and their future.
This year's Matchmaker project will focus on the urban myths of Jerusalem, under the direction of new matchmakers Noa Rich and Yohai Alush . The project will connect Jerusalem's designers, tour guides and storytellers, who will interact with the city's iconic buildings, creating new and surprising souvenirs dedicated to the sites, people and stories they hold.
Cover photo: Agency For Unseen Sights by Esmee Willemsen, photo Nico Fritzenschaft