A Good Design?

The new CHELSEA space exhibition A Good Design? showcases a selection of objects from the I.L.E.A. (Inner London Education Authority)/ Camberwell Collection alongside contextual and archival material. The exhibition was curated by CCW PhD student Maria Georgaki in consultation with Daisy McMullan of CHELSEA space. As with each exhibition at the gallery, A Good Design? is accompanied by a publication expanding upon the show. The book contains a foreword by CCW UAL Senior Research Fellow Dr. Linda Sandino and a longer essay about the history of the I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection by Georgaki.  The book also features images from the Council of Design/ University of Brighton Design Archives, as well as contemporary photographs of a selection of objects from the collection which McMullan took especially for this publication.

Speaking about her work on the exhibition, Georgaki said, ‘One of my research objectives has been to investigate how pedagogies of “good design” were practised through the I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection. While my research has been mainly in the historical context, A Good Design? was organised to coincide with the new academic year in order to open up the conversation between past experiments in design appreciation and current pedagogies of design and curating, especially as practised at UAL. The I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection is an endlessly fascinating resource. Only about 100 of its estimated 20,000 items are included in this exhibition. As a design historian, I was drawn to the range and quality of the object in the Collection, the ambitious scope and its origins which can be traced back to state initiatives like The Festival of Britain of 1951. In my eyes the I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection embodies the optimism of that historical moment in the post-war period when design was embraced as a driving force in British economy and a contributing factor in the improvement of individual lives. The years of the Collection’s circulation in London schools coincided with remarkable social change. I selected objects which trace this change, from the austere modern style of the early 1950s to the advent of pop in the mid-1960s. While the didactic agenda of instigating principles of “good design” on impressionable minds is arguably outdated, in other respects this was a pioneering scheme: as a travelling and handling resource it advanced the benefits of learning through touch at a time when touch in museums was virtually non-existent. The rationale for this show was to showcase one of UAL’s  important but lesser-known resources and to present an example of how research in the discipline of Design History may inform curating practice.’

During the academic year 2013/14, McMullan worked at CHELSEA space as a Research Fellow funded by the Chelsea Arts Club Trust, a Fellowship designed to facilitate in-depth research in curating and exhibitions. This exhibition and book bring together a number of themes and practices that she encountered during the Fellowship, including using collections and archival materials, object handling and producing publications. The exhibition and book also help to establish the new set up at CHELSEA space, which will include the exhibition studio workshop, which is the practice-based strand of Chelsea College of Arts’ MA Curating and Collections course beginning in October 2014.  The I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection and other collections will form the basis of practical experimentation and research that students will undertake on this course.

The publication is available to purchase from the University of the Arts London E-Store for £5, or directly from CHELSEA space for a special exhibition price of £2.

A Good Design? runs: 10 September – 31 October 2014, with a private view on 7 October, 6-8.30pm. CHELSEA space’s opening hours are Wednesday – Friday, 11am – 5pm or by appointment.

For more information about the exhibition and about CHELSEA space contact info@chelseaspace.org.





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