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Design on Air curator Chris Meplon says of the exhibition that “Air not only forms the object of study in chemistry, physics and biology; it has always been an important inspiration in art, literature and philosophy. We wanted to know what this means in design.” Through six themes, the collection delves into the essential and yet undervalued natural resource of air in both a metaphorical and literal sense. With global warming well underway and the damage we’ve done to our most fundamental resource coming to the forefront of our daily lives, the exhibition hosted by CID Grand-Hornu (Belgium) also explores sustainability in design, utilizing the very air that we in turn use and abuse. The exhibition will be open to the public until October 13.

Although placed within the context of the CID in Grand-Hornu, the exhibition is very much international, representing contemporary and posthumous creators of art, science or both from all over the globe. For example, Quasar Khanh’s innovative and iconic Aérospace series will be on display in the Filled with Air section of the exhibition. Khanh responded to the youthful spirit of the ‘60s in his work and was one of the first to utilize PVC filled with air to make furniture, creating a playful and colourful design that mirrored the zeitgeist of his era. The Formed by Air collection features Belgium’s very own Ben Storms’ designs also, notably a marble coffee table with a metal cushion filled with air. Storms is renowned for his interesting and alternative use of materials, from weightless air to heavy marble.

From the functional to the representational, the exhibition explores the multiplicity and versatility of air. The Clean Air portion sports Julian Melchiorri’s Man-made Leaf biomimicry technology to artificially replicate photosynthesis in his Silk Leaf, which absorbs CO2 and produces oxygen and organic compounds. Thus, Melchiorri provides a groundbreaking solution to man’s ever-rising emission of carbon into the atmosphere.

Conversely, the Air to Float in collection evolves around the poetics of air as opposed to its practicality featuring ethereal work by architect and designer Charles Kaisin, among others. For the exhibition, he’s created hand-blown crystal text balloons whose messages are projected onto the wall, combining all elements that are integral to our modern lives; air, communication and light.

Air is both nothing, weighs nothing, and is everything; to paraphrase German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. Design on Air explores the paradoxical weight of air, its importance, despite its literal lightness.
The exhibition Design on Air is on view until October 13 at Grand-Hornu, Rue Sainte-Louise 82, Boussu (Belgium).

Lara Delmage
Jun Kamei, Amphibio, 2018 © Jun Kamei

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