February 2023
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Design & Empire [working title]

Grace Wales Bonner, Ezekiel, 2017. Image courtesy Jamie Morgan & Tom Guinness

Christopher Kulendran Thomas, from the ongoing work New Eelam, 2016. In collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, installation view at the 9th Berlin Biennale. Courtesy: the artist and New Galerie, Paris. Photo: Laura Fiorio 

Meriç Öner, One and the Many, 2016. Exhibition view at SALT Galata. Photo: Mustafa Hazneci

Cooking Sections, The Empire Remains Christmas Pudding, 2013. Image courtesy Cooking Sections

Mae-ling Lokko, Window, CASE Chale Wote Upcycling Pavilion, 2016. Photo Elaine Zhang

Frederico Duarte, Non-Electoral Campaign, 2012. Image courtesy Piseagrama

Mohamed Elshahed, Modern Egypt Project pop-up display in Cairo, 2016. Image courtesy British Museum

Image courtesy Project Projects

Grace Wales Bonner, Ezekiel, 2017. Image courtesy Jamie Morgan & Tom Guinness

Design & Empire [working title] is a weekend of events exploring the power structures embedded within contemporary and historical design, visual art, and consumer culture.

Presented by Liverpool Biennial and Liverpool John Moores University and curated by Prem Krishnamurthy, Emily King, and Joasia Krysa, Design & Empire brings together practitioners from the fields of art, design, architecture, and fashion. From guided city tours exploring Liverpool’s architectural past to a cooking event serving up a colonial-style Christmas, the weekend will be underpinned by a series of talks from leading creative voices. These conversations will touch upon topics ranging from national identity and the display of museum collections, the role of copying within creative manufacturing, distributed models of property ownership, postcolonial models for contemporary fashion, the reuse and revaluation of bio-industrial materials, the politics of computer interfaces, and beyond. 

Click here to register for the whole weekend or choose one or more of the free events. See the full schedule and participant biographies here

With Liverpool as both the subject and stage, Design & Empire will collaborate with its citizens in challenging aspects of Liverpool’s imperial legacy whilst reflecting on current practices within design and visual culture. Participants include:

Shumi Bose (curator, RIBA and teacher, Central Saint Martins, University of The Arts London); artist duo Cooking Sections (Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe); Frederico Duarte (curator); Paul Elliman; Mohamed Elshahed (Project Curator, Modern Egypt Project); Christopher Kulendran Thomas (artist); Mae-ling Lokko (architect and Assistant Professor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); Meriç Öner (Director of Research & Programming, SALT); Duro Olowu (fashion designer); Christian Ulrik Andersen (Associate Professor, Aarhus University, Department of Digital Design and Information Studies); and Grace Wales Bonner (fashion designer).

Friday 24 November

Imperial by Design and Drinks Reception
RIBA North / 6 – 8pm
Curators Prem Krishnamurthy and Emily King consider how design functions as a primary force in the production, consumption, and distribution of political and cultural ideologies.

Saturday 25 November

Empire Walks: Guided City Tour
Starting point: RIBA North / 10.30 – 12pm
A set of guided tours of Liverpool by RIBA North, exploring the legacy and impact of colonialism upon the city’s infrastructure and built environment. 

Design & Empire Talks
Liverpool School of Art & Design, Design Studios and The Serving Library / Exhibition Research Lab  / 1.30 – 7.30pm 

Empire Talks I: Shumi Bose & Christopher Kulendran Thomas
Liverpool School of Art & Design / 1.40 – 2.30pm
Curator, educator, and editor Shumi Bose and artist Christopher Kulendran Thomas consider topics including national identity, property ownership, and economic redistribution.

Empire Talks II: Frederico Duarte & Mohamed Elshahed
Liverpool School of Art & Design / 2.30 – 3.30pm
Writer and curator Frederico Duarte and curator Mohamed Elshahed discuss the intersection between design and national identity with reference to the collecting policies of museums that were once at the heart of imperial systems.

One and the Many by Meriç Öner
Liverpool School of Art & Design / 4 – 5pm
Reframing questions of authenticity, manufacturing, and creative genius, Meriç Öner discusses the idea of ‘genuine copies’ within the history of Turkish industrial production.

Empire Talks III: Christian Ulrik Andersen & Mae-ling Lokko
Liverpool School of Art & Design / 5 – 6pm
Christian Ulrik Andersen and Mae-ling Lokko consider hidden dimensions of material production and contemporary consumption, focusing on computer interface design and agro-waste, respectively.

Ruins of Empire: Detroit as Refrain/The Liverpool Echo by Paul Elliman 
The Serving Library at the Exhibition Research Lab / 6.30 – 7.30pm 
Artist and designer Paul Elliman pursues the trajectory implied by the industrial and post-industrial locations of his youth, revisiting them via images and music.

Post-Talk Drinks 
The Serving Library at the Exhibition Research Lab / From 7.30pm
Grab a free drink to round off the day's talks and continue the discussion.

Sunday 26 November

Stir-up Sunday by Cooking Sections (Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe)
The Serving Library at the Exhibition Research Lab / 10.30 – 12pm
In a hybrid performance lecture and food event, artist duo Cooking Sections introduce the myriad web of colonial routes and locations that underlie contemporary culinary fare, taking the pudding as both a case study and object for consumption. 

Empire Talks IV: Grace Wales Bonner & Duro Olowu
The Serving Library at the Exhibition Research Lab / 12 – 1pm
Fashion designers Grace Wales Bonner and Duro Olowu consider the globalised context of contemporary fashion design, addressing questions of cultural origination, export, and value construction.

Delivered in partnership with RIBA North and The Serving Library at Liverpool John Moores University’s Exhibition Research Lab. Funded by Arts Council England.


24 November – 26 November 2017, Various venues

TicketsFree, booking required. Register for the full weekend or selected events via the link.