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Presentation or re-presentation?
Our Polite Society and Na Kim

One of the issue that exhibiting graphic design poses, especially when displaying already existing work, is that of presentation/re-presentation.
Collaborating with Our Polite Society for their exhibition held in 2011 at HBKsaar Gallery, Saarbrücken (DE), the Amsterdam-based photographer and artist Paulien Barbas reflected about this very issue.
As he writes from his website, they decided to “emphasize” «the problem of presenting graphic design work in the context of a gallery.» (See images above.) He explains the idea as follows: «In such a setting the work loses its functionality and to a certain extent represents itself: when the work is hung on the wall in order to be ‘viewed’ and not to be ‘used’ it turns into a representation of an idea rather than a functional object. Trying to not fall into this trap the exhibition focused on the aspect of (re-)presentation of the work in general. In collaboration we showed a series of screen printed sheets (70 × 100 cm) that functioned as backgrounds in a series of photographs made as work documentation for the studio’s website. On an opposite wall this series of documentation photographs was shown as C-prints in 1:1 scale depending on the object shown on the photograph – the representation of a poster would be bigger in size than the representation of a business card. A third part of the exhibition was a (conventional) display of original works on walls and tables. In the interaction of these 3 elements (screen prints, C-prints, originals) the exhibition tried to activate the above mentioned problem within the presentation itself.»

This solution reminds us of the work that Na Kim realized for the Graphic Design Worlds exhibition at the Triennale Design Museum in Milan, 2011. For this exhibition graphic designers were invited to present/represent their idea of graphic design, their “graphic design world.” As a response to this brief, Na Kim decided to show a collective portray of her work. Collaborating with photographer Anu Vahtra she finely displayed her most significative graphic works in the space of her studio and took a picture of it. The portray was then printed on paper and glued on a wall of the exhibition. (See image below of the process of installation.)

(It may be interesting to note that Na Kim and Our Polite Society share their work space in the building of the P/////AKT gallery, in East Amsterdam. As Na explained to us in the interview we made for the book Graphic Design Worlds /Words, «the gallery is the main space in [the] building; the rest of it is divided into small working spaces, rented by people who are involved in the cultural field». The gallery is also used by these people to display their works, especially self-initiated projects, and organize events.)