Serpentine Galleries explores the political and ecological impact of materials in live talk for VDF

In the second part of today's Virtual Design Festival collaboration with Serpentine Galleries, curator Rebecca Lewin speaks to Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew researcher Caroline Cornish and Ma-tt-er founder Seetal Solanki about how histories, politics and ecologies are embedded in materials. Tune in live from 11:00am UK time.

Titled Re-learning Perspectives: Archives, Exhibitions and Studios, the talk sees Lewin, curator of exhibitions and design at the Serpentine Galleries, in conversation with Solanki, founder of design studio Ma-tt-er, and Caroline Cornish, honorary research associate at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The trio discuss how design can support processes of change and look at the relationship between materials and histories, politics and ecologies, from the perspective of an art gallery, botanic garden and design practice.

Cambio by Formafantasma at Serpentine Galleries
Formafantasma's Cambio exhibition investigated the impact of the timber industry. Photo is by George Darrell.

Italian design studio Formafantasma's Serpentine Sackler Gallery exhibition Cambio will be a starting point for the discussion.

Cambio, which is temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, is a research-based exhibition that investigates the impact of the timber industry.

It aims to shed light on the legality and environmental impact of the extraction, production and distribution of wood to make products around the world.

Lewin, Cornish and Solanki will focus on the colonial past of the timber industry and its impacts, as well as strategies for how we can become more responsible in our use of materials.

Serpentine Galleries curator Rebecca Lewin
Serpentine Galleries curator Rebecca Lewin. Portrait by Stephanie Sian Smith

As well as Cambio, Lewin has worked on Serpentine Galleries exhibitions including Design is a State of Mind with Martino Gamper in 2014.

She has also worked on Serpentine Pavilions by Sou Fujimoto in 2013 and Frida Escobedo in 2018.

Ma-tt-er founder Seetal Solanki
Ma-tt-er founder Seetal Solanki. Portrait by Campbell Addy

Solanki is the founder of Ma-tt-er, a design practice focused on building and bridging kinships between people, materials, the immaterial and virtual.

She is also the author of Why Materials Matter: Responsible Design for a Better World, a book exploring natural and manmade materials that could be used to reduce human impact on the planet (pictured top).

Caroline Cornish, research associate at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Caroline Cornish, research associate at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Cornish is honorary research associate in the department of geography at Royal Holloway, University of London, and at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

VDF x Serpentine Galleries

The talk is the second part of today's collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries for Virtual Design Festival exploring ecological design.

Earlier today, we exclusively premiered the galleries' latest Back to Earth podcast, which is co-hosted by Lewin and artist Victoria Sin and features artists and designers Formafantasma, Dunne & Raby and Black Quantum Futurism.

The talk and podcast form part of the Serpentine Galleries ongoing Back to Earth initiative, which invites leading artists, architects, poets, filmmakers, scientists, thinkers and designers, to devise artist-led campaigns, protocols and initiatives responding to the environmental crisis.


About Virtual Design Festival

Virtual Design Festival runs from 15 April to 10 July 2020 and is sponsored by bathroom and kitchen manufacturer Grohe. It brings the architecture and design world together to celebrate the culture and commerce of our industry, and explore how it can adapt and respond to extraordinary circumstances.

To find out what's coming up at VDF, check out the schedule. For more information or to join the mailing list, email vdf@dezeen.com.