Review 2013


25 February 2014

When Depot Basel was founded in 2011, it didn’t define itself by means of a purpose, but through what it was NOT: no fair, no festival, no museum, no showroom, no gallery. This claim tended to cause some confusion and critical questions, and still does so today. It is a fact that positioning oneself by using negative terms is a tactic often used by those who do not know what they are and what they want to be; by those who lack profile and by the many ‘just another off space’ organizations who disappear as quickly as they came; as well as by those, whose relevance is not founded in content or a stringent concept, but rather in mere being there and being open, and are thus confined to the usage span of their current location. However, not wanting to ‘tie oneself down’ does not necessarily imply a lack of direction.  Those who decided to explore, present and develop at least partial aspects of the rhizome ‘contemporary design’ – like we did – would be wrong to cut themselves short in strict declarations of purpose. A non-hierarchical, ever-changing construct bridging the gap between theory and praxis, between things, processes and ideas; that extends its branches into the most diverse areas of life and of scientific and creative disciplines; into continuously new agents and recipients, into the past and the future – this is something that cannot be met with self-centred structures and inwardly turned tunnel vision, but only with an effort to operate within a moving, versatile picture. Because of this, Depot Basel wants to stay independent from established institutional structures and their tempting tendencies towards comfortableness and distraction. Depot Basel wants to operate outside of a strain for profit and constantly develop, try out, accept and reject new and adequate concepts for reception and reflection as well as ways of presenting and conveying – and set out for unexplored territory.

Many things have happened since 2011: we have ‘survived’ exhibitions, workshops and discussions, an interim location, guest appearances in Switzerland and abroad, and a move; we have declined several promising requests for collaborations due to lack of (financial and personal) resources; we put formats to the test and rejected some as well. A vessel such as the exhibition series ‘Craft & …’, the international lecture series ‘Insight’ and the publications, which are always produced in collaboration with another team of graphic designers, were continued and developed further. During the time since Depot Basel has been founded – nearly three years now – we have grown richer in knowledge and experience, and it has, one might say, become ‘mature’.

The atmosphere of improvisation that had marked the place we started out with, the grain silo in the NT-area, is no to be felt at our new location, the former ‘Wechselstube’ at Voltaplatz. We are aware that we have transformed from pirates with a rookie advantage to a well-publicised ‘brand’. The small space is a big chance: thanks to it, we have the opportunity to strengthen our ‘core’, re-work organizational structures and fine-tune stringent concepts instead of letting large-scale exhibition projects determine our plans or having to deal with non-existent infrastructure. But we will surprise and stay agile. Because for us, the creators of Depot Basel, the negating claim is indeed a memo directed at ourselves – a reminder to constantly re-evaluate our own agility and motivation. Of course, we take it as a compliment that Depot Basel is repeatedly perceived as an institution, because this shows that we are doing a good job. Such a good job, in fact, that outsiders assume a larger group of full-time employees in a clearly structured organizational complex behind the curtains – instead of just us five ‘part-timers’. But whatever flatters us is also a warning: we do not want to rest on a positive response and lose track of our inner desire for adventure and pioneering spirit amongst all of the positive impact.

Everything that happened in 2013, in its entire breadth, is an expression of what Depot Basel is and wants to be. Event 14, the insight into Wrocław: because design is not limited by national or disciplinary borders. Event 15, the exhibition Craft & Drawing in the interim-location at Uferstrasse: because the idea and intention of Depot Basel is independent of a fixed location, because the chosen theme had not been captured and shown in such a manner before, and because once again it became clear, that design is not only about the product, but about the behind, between and everything surrounding it. Event 00, the move to Voltastrasse and the connected collaboration with EMYL scenography in Basel, who implemented the modular exhibition furniture: because Basel is our basis, and because we enjoy working with others. Event 18, the mediation project ‘Special Everyday’ with children: because design has to something in common with all of us (and it is never too early to question what forms our surroundings). Event 19: ‘Changes – Chances’, the discussion of designers from different areas and age groups, as well as the resulting exhibition and its continuation in a publication: because we want to bring people together that would not meet otherwise; because today and tomorrow can’t be without yesterday; because Switzerland as a site of design harbours much unused potential; because different opinions, positions, disciplines and means of design production can exist alongside each other and prosper from friction. This was our 2013.

We are looking forward to 2014!