Two years after Bandung entered the fold of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network in 2015, a group of creatives responded by starting Bandung Design Biennale (BDB), a celebration of design involving the city’s many artists. This year, the event returns for the first time since the pandemic, carrying the theme: ‘Excavate: Mapping the Commons Across the Spectrum’.
On the theme, Head of Director Ardo Ardhana recalled the time he was offered to handle the bi-annual event. “Why should we have BDB this year? Something celebratory would not have fit the situation we’re facing today. So I took this as a moment of reflection, for the city and for design as a whole.”
What came out of that was the desire to uplift the transdisciplinary aspect of the work that goes into every materialisation of design. As Curator Prananda L. Malasan, commonly known as Panda, put it: “Design doesn’t only come from designers. How can we make furniture without the woodworkers, the material stores, and others who are critical in producing this one object?” Along that line, the team seeks to also ‘excavate’ and unpack the idea that design can both solve and create problems. As such, artists and design practitioners, both local and international, have responded with works that explore and unravel the concept.
A case in point is the interactive exhibition of Kota Kita Nanti from Goethe-Institut Bandung. With coloured strings that are differentiated by age group, visitors are invited to map out their version of Bandung through a series of lighthearted anecdotes that are quintessential to the experiences of the city (like having a friend whose name rhymes, shopping for textiles in Tamim), thus unveiling the diversity of perspectives among its inhabitants through design interpretation.
Despite garnering some controversy in the beginning—due to the allegedly intimidating premise—the team persevered, and they soon received 233 design proposals by the time the submission period closed. That number manifested into 72 projects and 126 events that will run throughout the month of November, ranging from lighthearted and explorative exhibitions to critical talk shows on social issues, with anchor venues located at Laswee Creative Space and The Hallway Space Kosambi. One among those numbers is an exhibition from the Indonesian Architects Week, also part of the 27th UIA World Congress of Architects in Rio de Janeiro last July, which boasts 66 works from Indonesian architectural studios, including andramatin and LABO.
With all those in the running, Bandung Design Biennale 2021 amasses a great variety of perspectives into the world of design that visitors can dive or simply dip their feet into. True to Panda’s words, “Design can be more than just what you see looking pretty in galleries and magazines, it’s something that should be universal and everyone can engage with.”