In a hollowed out industrial factory in the South of Luxembourg is an exhibition that strikes at the fundamentals of human longing. Whether it be for a sip of clean water or the whispers of an admirer the All We Need exhibit cycles us through a reflective, cerebral tunnel of human want and requirement.
According to Manfred Max-Neef, a Chilean economist that has been researching human needs for over a decade, every individual has a set of ten needs. Those needs are; idleness, subsistence, freedom, affection, protection, identity, creation, understanding, transcendence; and participation. I was lucky to visit an exhibit exploring these ideas during a class field trip with my fellow grad students.
Organized in sections based closely on Man-Neef's original themes the exhibit is also a journey through an old steel factory – The Halle des Soufflantes. The warehouse is massive (160 m long, 70 m wide and 28 m high) and still displays some of the machinery that was installed in the early 1900's. The rawness of design and sheer size becomes something to traverse and discover as an element of the exhibit itself.
Headphones and a hand-held device provides auditory samples along with artist and title information. The exhibit has several contributing artists, designers, architects, curators, initiators and other contributors...to find out more visit: allweneed.lu
Read field notes from the exhibit.
Relax + Survive The cavernous size of the first room, the blasting hall, is flooded with dusty sunlight from massive translucent windows. It is reminiscent of the Tate Modern's turbine hall – it is, in fact, exactly the same size. On the is a right is a constructed ocean of plastic water bottles with piles of sand nearby and circled overhead by a miniature aircraft carrier. The far wall is emblazoned with the word Relax.
Towering above the artificial beach scene is gigantic silo etched with the words Survival. Inside the silo is a surprisingly intimate space where visitors can sit, don headphones and join a futuristic storytelling circle of hypothetical futures if society continues to function as it does. Past the silo, tucked into a shower stall plays "Isles des Flores" a film that traces the life of a rotten tomatoe as it is tossed from table to garbage to pig farm and finally to a poverty stricken child clearly showing he inequities of rich and poor narrated ith humour and a catchy retro cadence. Another highlight of this section is the short film of a "hunting trip" to the grocery stores. Where the "hunters" spear frozen turkeys and boxes of pasta with a bow and arrow.
Choose + Love In the next gigantic room we press our fingertips into an ink pad and record our unique print in a massive log recording the tens of thousands hat had already been here. This sections is in cooperations with the Luxembourg polling institutes. The line of wooden out-house sized voting cabins allow us to vote through a laptop. I reflect on the time our class spent at the EU parliament the day before in Brussels – a dizzyingly glimpse into how freedom, trade and policy is continually created through the harried mouths of 23 translators between 27 countries for half a billion people.
The "Love" section is strung with over-sized transparent Christmas baubles - inside are brutal icons such as an AKA 47, another is streaked with blood. In Max-Neef written work, he discusses how needs bring out the constant tension between deprivation and potential. He describes satisfiers as the things that are related to the actualization of our needs. Satisfiers could be a political structure, a behaviour or space, amongst other things, that are constantly addressing the need that is signified and are in a constantly negotiating consolidation and change. I am an international student far from loved ones and I can't help to wonder if Skype chats are now replacing my need for affection. I am also a graphic designer familiar with the power of icons and indexes can bring or at least pose as true satisfaction.
Belong + Protect As the exhibition unfolds we are led through a series small spot-lit hallways and catwalks of creaking metal each which brings us eerily lit displays of medical equipment and ancient vessels. The urinals that the factory workers once used are still on display in the middle of the work area. The extreme heat produced in this factory when it was in full operation made essential for workers to constantly drink water. To avoid lost work time with treks to the bathroom, factory manager's placed the urinals next to work areas. Juxtaposed with this memory is a display discussing the perils of contemporary movement towards water privatization.
In the next room is a video series interviewing shoppers at H&M clothing store and the workers that made the clothes in Indonesia. Both the consumers and producers are asked the same questions such as, "What do you do in your free time?", "What is your daily routine?", and "Who do you go to when you have a problem?"
Understand + Create The set of industrial stairs leads us up to a stark room lined with heaps of rice. Each grain has been individually counted and represents a person. The varying sizes are labeled with what that amount of people represents. Such as the population of Canada compared to Luxembourg. The population counters range in scope from; Amount of people in Africa with HIV aids and, How many people in Africa to Amount of people at the last Scorpions concert, and Amount of Condoleeza Rice's.
The pieces become lighter, funner and uplifting as we venture through the "Create" room where we can play music on a giant bellows.
Dream In the "Dream" section I find myself basking in soft pink fun fur on an endless chaise with inspirational speaking piped melodically from a hanging speaker. I hear Martin Luther King's voice booming "I have a dream." I look around at my classmates lounging with eyes shut across this endless chaise and I think about where we all come from - China, Brazil, Moldova, Sweden, Canada, US, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Sudan, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Pakistan, the UK, Mexico, Morocco, Italy. And how we all made it to the small city of Karlskrona, Sweden share our dreams about sustainable society.
Stand-up And at the end of the Dream room is the promise of rebirth. An 18 meter slide twists like a curly fry is what we take individually to exit the exhibit. I'm nervous as I shimmy into the hole and plunk my rear on the cold, smooth metal. Then I'm gone into a dark exhilarating whoosh that lasts a few seconds maybe half a minute. At the bottom is the last stage of the All We Need exhibit encouraging us to stand up and take action.
And this becomes perhaps he only disappointing part of the exhibit for me. We are asked to calculate our ecological footprint. There are some intriguing information graphics down here but but really the last thing I want to do is go on the internet and fill out a form. I am thinking now how design can change me.