‘Fear and Love – Reactions to a complex world’ is one of the new Design Museum's inaugural exhibitions. Herein, chief curator Justin McGuirk has invited 11 leading designers to respond to the open brief of creating an installation to open debate about how we approach and interpret design today.

Harking back to the first exhibition held by the Design Museum in 1989 – titled ‘Commerce and Culture’ – McGuirk sees a change from the value we once placed on industrial products, now taken for granted in the UK, where it's easy to forget that every single manmade object has an origin and a designer.

Still from 'Room Tone' by Hussein Chalayan. Courtesy of Hussein Chalayan and Intel

Today, society is defined by a feeling of uncertainty towards the future, as shown in designer Madeline Gannon’s jerking robot arm, Mimus, which detects movement in the gallery with a certain aggression. Hussein Chalayan’s wearable devices project out hidden emotions, exploring increasing cases of anxiety in a society perhaps driven by these behaviour-obsessed devices themselves; while architect Andrés Jaque’s Intimate Strangers examines how network culture is changing our relationship to our bodies and our partners. Perhaps all technology is created around a central fear that we will never find love.

From self-love to selflessness, several projects take an outward-looking approach to design. Arquitectura Expandida, an activist architecture collective, has created Potocinema, an installation showing a series of videos by young people in a school which they built in the poorest part of Bogota. Abstract design collective Metahaven advocates the marine wildlife conservation group Sea Shepherd via a video work; and clothing designer Ma Ke, rejecting the detrimental ‘fast fashion’ tag, displays clothes which have an ethical approach to the land and rural traditions in China.

Inside Arquitectura Expandida’s 'Potocinema' installation visitors can watch videos (pictured, film still) which have been made by young people in response to ‘fear’ and ‘love’ in their community

In response to Brexit, OMA has designed a living room filled with objects from the 28 EU member states, suggesting how domestic life has been formed through EU trade, highlighting the fact that, despite our all-consuming desire to be connected, it is clear that we are in fact more disconnected than ever.

The installations demonstrate the increasing polarisation of inward-looking and outward-looking perspectives (selfish vs selfless), the plethora of confusing meanings of the word ‘social’ (social network vs social activist) and an increasing obsession with reading and communicating our emotions. The exhibition opens up questions about how design could be destroying our lives, from increasing pollution in China to perpetuating self-love. The new Design Museum has tapped into these two contemporary emotions and their uneasy juxtaposition.

TAGS: DESIGN MUSEUM, LONDON EXHIBITIONS