On 1 September 2011 Samantha Spurr, David Burns and Adrian Lahoud from the Faculty of Design Architecture & Building at the University of Technology Sydney, and Nicole Bearman, a cultural programs producer, also based at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney  opened an exhibition at the Gwangju Biennale. The event was launched by artistic Directors Seung H-Sang and Ai Weiwei, despite it being a long distance affair for Ai Weiwei, who was banned from attending the opening ceremony by Chinese authorities.

Titled Design is Design is not Design the Biennale, which runs until 23 October 2011, presents 130 designers and studios from 44 countries, including big names in the industry such as Dominique Perrault, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Bruce Mau Design, Rei Kawakubo and Peter Eisenman. This year the Australian presence is strong, with over 20 architects, designers, philosophers and photographers from across Sydney represented in the exhibition Networks of surrender.

Seung H-Sang and Ai Weiwei have set an ambitious curatorial vision for the Gwangju Design Biennale, which strives to challenge and reevaluate ‘conventional’ understanding of the term ‘design’. Under five sub-sections: ‘Named design,’ ‘Un- named design,’ ‘Communities,’ ‘Thematics’ and ‘Gwangju Follies,’ the exhibition is a platform for discourse and debate, reexamining the relationship between objects and authorship, places, environments, networks and communities, strategies, designers and design.

‘Ambitious, intellectually provocative and generously funded, the Gwangju biennale seems set to be one of the most compelling design events of the autumn… More than a dozen cities are to stage design festivals, biennales, triennales and so on over the next two months.

‘A Flurry of Design Events in Asia and Europe Fill the Autumn Calendar’, ALICE RAWSTHORN, NY Times, August 28, 2011.

Networks of surrender sits in the ‘Communities’ sub-section of the Biennale alongside four other invited cities: Johannesburg, Macau, Medellín, and Tel Aviv- Jaffa.

For this group of collaborators, the invitation to curate an exhibition about Sydney for the Gwangju Design Biennale presented a perfect opportunity to show an alternative image of Sydney, and Australian design, to a large international audience:Over twenty architects, designers, philosophers and photographers across Sydney have participated in a series of creative conversations, which transform the image of this harbour city from generic postcard perfection to a set of multiplicitous, individual urban narratives.

These are networks of surrender, whose ambition is not the cohesion of a finished, consumerable product, but the construction of new communities for creative work.

Central to the installation is a large table which invites discussion and offers a communal space to share ideas. The expansive light table floats dramatically in a dark room. Visitors gather around the table to read the three editions of a newspaper and collect images of the project from piles of postcards. Facing the table is the original camera obscura used to create the images, through which visitors can experience the magic of the emerging scene.

The project for the Sydney section of the Gwangju Design Biennale is a continuation of work exhibited by the same curators in the Australian Architecture section of the 2011 Prague Quadrennial for Performance Design and Space (http://website- n.com/PQ/). A Sydney exhibition and catalogue will be launched in 2012.

Exhibited Designers

Andrew Benjamin, Robert Beson, Thomas Cole & Felicia Huang, Pia Ednie-Brown & Jondi Keane, Erik Escalante & Alina McConnochie, Chris Fox, Richard Goodwin, Sarah Jamieson & Nadia Wagner, Sarah Hearne, Adam Jasper, Eduardo Kairuz, Byron Kinnaird & Barnaby Bennett, Frank Minnaërt, Fernando Pino & Luke Tipene, Tina Salama, Sam Szwarcbord, Leisa Tough, Marcus Trimble, Oliver Watts, Alexandra Wright

Photography by Jack Dunbar and Tosh van Veenendaal


Sam Spurr is Director of Interior & Spatial Design, UTS David Burns is Director of Photography & Situated Media, UTS Adrian Lahoud is Director of the Master of Advanced Architecture (Urban Design), UTS Nicole Bearman is a cultural programs producer and Co-Director of Trunk, School for the Curious