Exhibition design for the Serpentine Gallery
Konstantin Grcic in collaboration with Jürg Lehni & Alex Rich
Curated by industrial designer Konstantin Grcic, Design Real was the Serpentine Gallery’s first design related exhibition.
Grcic’s selection of exhibits focused on real items, industrially made products with a significance in everyday life, often with a a purely functional background, and with sometimes uncertain authorship.
Apart from showing the physical objects in the gallery spaces, Design Real featured a central information space, expanding on the themes developed in the exhibition and inviting visitors to investigate the origins and applications of the items on view.
The objects themselves were displayed bare, with no descriptive label, only a term as an identifier, representing the object’s essence reduced to a word.
Further information on each of the exhibits was made available on a website that served as the central resource of information to the exhibition, collected by students from different design schools, and connected to the actual items through these identifying words.
To solve the task of how to make this information available as part of the exhibition itself, rather than installing laptops or tablets which would allow visitors to browse the web-site, the Amazon Kindle was reappropriated as an information device. The Kindle, just newly launched in the USA, was at that time yet to be introduced to the British audience.
The Kindles in the show were modified («hacked») in order to display custom content for reading, celebrating their character as a reading device with an awkward yet charming display technology (eInk).
A bespoke software was created to hijack the control of the display, as well as the device’s buttons. The content was compiled in layouts created by automated scripts in Adobe InDesign, processing database imports from the website, all displayed on the Kindle through a bespoke system for navigation and selection of content.
With the user interface and behaviour completely replaced, the resulting devices only shared their physical hull with the Kindle Operating System.