Dance and Design at London Design Biennale 2018

ΑΝΥΠΑΚΟΗ (Disobedience). Photo by Tim Spears

The London Design Biennale brought together design from across the globe with the participation of 40 countries, cities, and territories at Somerset House.

Each design was tied to the central theme of emotional states, a theme that challenged each designer, curator, and innovator to explore humanity in its rawest form.

At the heart of the exhibition standing pride of place in the central courtyard is Greece’s entry, ΑΝΥΠΑΚΟΗ (Disobedience) by Nassia Inglessis and Studio INI (see image below).

The 17 metre-long structure cuts through the space, a kinetic tunnel of white woven recycled plastic which is held in place by a steel spring skeleton. This interactive walkway tempts passes by to enter and with each step, the whole structure reacts, with the floor sinking and the walls ballooning apart.

Inglessis’s design explores the human conflict between obedience and disobedience. As a passive spectator or a curious participant, this duality conjures emotional reactions from wonder and excitement to frustration and temptation.

ΑΝΥΠΑΚΟΗ (Disobedience). Photo by Ed Reeve
ΑΝΥΠΑΚΟΗ (Disobedience). Photo by Ed Reeve

This dynamic design creates the perfect playground for hip-hop and contemporary dancer, Dickson Mbi to explore. He performs in an exclusive solo dance work celebrating the launch of the Biennale, produced by the creative producer of Akram Khan Company, Farooq Chaudry.

This performance not only explores the movement of the Inglessis’s design but also her concept of the emotional experience of disobedience, taking form as an internal struggle within Mbi.

Mbi’s movements combine popping with smooth explorative contemporary dance which evokes an ongoing inner tension.

The piece is set to an atmospheric soundscape that stresses turmoil and dispute with gunshots echoing around the courtyard. The only light used is that of the morning sun which casts speckled shadows through the woven walls, highlighting Mbi as he steadily walks along the outside of the tunnel.

ΑΝΥΠΑΚΟΗ (Disobedience). Photo by Tim Spears
ΑΝΥΠΑΚΟΗ (Disobedience). Photo by Tim Spears

Mbi’s movement was at its most exciting when he passes through the walkway and enters Inglessis’s world of disobedience. At times the design obstructs the view of the ‘in the round’ nature of this performance but once inside the tunnel, even if not in view, Mbi’s movements become clear as the walls dynamically morph around him.

Mbi aggressively stamps along the length of the walkway his frustration building as if he is a caged animal trying to free himself from the waves of plastic that continuously beat down on him.

This conjures images of our plastic infested oceans which Inglessis makes a moral nod to with her recycled structure. Even after leaving the tunnel Mbi continues to stamp across the courtyard, reverberating against each step as if there is no escape from Inglessis defiant walkway.

Mbi’s powerful performance sparks an infectious curiosity amongst the public who jump at the chance to experience the disobedient walkway and explore the dynamic architecture of Inglessis exciting design.

London Design Biennale 2018 is at Somerset House until the 28 September 2018.

Reviewed at Somerset House on the 3rd September.