Can farmer designers save the planet?

Can farmer designers save the planet?

The future of farming, the climate crisis, and how we can feed ourselves sustainably are at the heart of a new exhibition, ‘Farmer designers: an art of living’, at Bordeaux Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (until 17 January 2022)

‘Today design has to face three subjects: sustainability, food and agriculture,’ states director of Bordeaux Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (Madd-Bordeaux) Constance Rubini. As a response, Madd-Bordeaux has opened a new exhibition dedicated to the future of farming and farming design, featuring an impressive mix of interactive rooms which attempt to distil the highly complex food processes of the 21st century.

Focusing on scales of production and their processes, the display celebrates a new generation of farmers who are not only feeding us but also regenerating the Earth. Farmers – the backbone of society – are having to explore ways in which they can reclaim the production chain as we attempt to sustain the planet. Considering this, the exhibition aims to celebrate the global work of what Madd-Bordeaux calls ’farmer designers’. 

Future of farming explored in an immersive environment

Tools for an agroecological transition, tools on orange background at Farmer Designers exhibition at Madd-Bordeaux
Tools for an agroecological transition in the foreground and a selection of old tools in the background. Exhibition view: ‘Farmer designers, an art of living’ at Madd-Bordeaux. Cultural season Resources / Bordeaux 2021 © Rodolphe Escher

With exhibition design by Jean-Baptiste Fastrez (a Wallpaper* Design Award 2020 winner) and François Bauchet, the show features a series of rooms around two central courtyards in Madd-Bordeaux’s former prison building.

Covering topics such as the climate crisis, the exhibition is a series of stories and narratives as opposed to a showcase of statistical data. 

Standardization of the living, what is the limit? installation by Henk Wildschut, Food series, 2012-2013, at exhibition ‘Farmer designers, an art of living’ at Madd-Bordeaux Cultural season Ressources / Bordeaux 2021 © Rodolphe Escher
Standardization of the living, what is the limit?  Henk Wildschut, Food series, 2012-2013, at the exhibition ‘Farmer designers, an art of living’ at Madd-Bordeaux. Cultural season Resources / Bordeaux 2021 © Rodolphe Escher

‘For each room, we wanted to create an immersive environment which challenges visitors to think carefully about the planet,’ explains Fastrez. Each space offers the public a different method to unpack the overarching subject matter. 

In the courtyard, the museum celebrates ten farmers across the world, from the south of France to Burkina Faso, each of which has been pushing the limits of their practice. Here, viewers learn about the impressive meadow and flora research of Xavier and Séverine Noulhianne  at Planté Farm in Montpezat, France, and the agroecological practices of Sepp and Josef Holzer at Krameterhof Farm, in Ramingstein, Austria. 

ECAL, Erwan Bouroullec and Adrien Rovero on perceptions of farming

Installation view of Real Facts, by ECAL students, for Farmer Designers exhibition at Madd-Bordeaux
Real Facts installation, designed by ECAL bachelor students under the supervision of Erwan Bouroullec and Adrien Rovero, for ‘Farmer designers, an art of living’ at Madd-Bordeaux. © ECAL/Jimmy Rachez

Under Erwan Bouroullec and Adrien Rovero’s instruction, industrial design students from ECAL in Lausanne worked on an installation, Real Facts, that sits at the centre of the exhibition. The second-semester students created a visual translation of the social, economic, and ethical issues that surround scales of production. Working with the notion of time, they invite visitors to question farming processes. 

‘The aim of the installation is not to bring answers but to provoke questions,’ explains Bouroullec. ‘What is interesting about agriculture is that everyone has an image of it, and in a way everyone as a citizen has a certain point of view about how productive nature should be conducted.’ 

According to Rubini, it was important to have a view from young designers, as all the other areas are presented through the lens of farmers. 

Detail of Real Facts installation by ECAL students for Farmer Designers exhibition at Madd-Bordeaux
Detail of Real Facts, designed by ECAL bachelor students under the supervision of Erwan Bouroullec and Adrien Rovero, for ‘Farmer designers, an art of living’ at Madd-Bordeaux. © ECAL/Jimmy Rachez

Farmers are having to invent new processes to adapt to contemporary life in the wake of the climate crisis. Unlike many designers, they see design as a process rather than a sequence of objects. ‘Design started out of necessity. It is a set of processes that aim to solve everyday problems, it is about finding solutions,’ states Rubini. ‘I hope that visitors will understand that this is an important topic and begin to understand that it is imperative that we rethink how we feed ourselves and future generations.’ 

Through this exhibition, the museum aims to attract people that aren’t usually interested in agriculture and remind them that we have a duty to care for the Earth. The planet is in crisis and ‘Farmer designers: an art of living’ is a timely reminder that we need to rethink how we consume food, and farming techniques across the globe. §

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