Inflatable of Josep Ponsatí, 1971. Raimon Torres Archive.

Congress Signage, 1971. America Sanchez Archive.

Vacuflex-3, 1971. Joan Antoni Blanc Archive

An Initiative to Explore Design, when Utopia Seemed Possible

Congress signage, 1971. America Sanchez Archive.

Instant City, 1971. Col·lecció MACBA. Centre d'Estudis i Documentació. Fons Xavier Miserachs.

Instant City, 1971. Col·lecció MACBA. Centre d'Estudis i Documentació. Fons Xavier Miserachs.

Debates of the Congressinside of the Instant City, 1971.

Inflatable of Josep Ponsatí, 1971. Arxiu Raimon Torres.

Vacuflex-3, 1971. Joan Antoni Blanc Archive.

 

MACBA
Plaça del Angels 1
+ 34 934120810
Barcelona
Eivissa, 1971: when Utopia was possible
June 21, 2012-January 20, 2013

From October 14-16, 1971 the VII Congress of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) took place in Eivissa. The event was conceived as a point of convergence between design and the most experimental forms of art and architecture. The congress became a test bench for studying the relationship between those practices and marked a new way of understanding design. As such it preceded the Pamplona Meetings, which took place the following year, prolonging the participative spirit that the ICSID had launched in a natural environment. The exhibition commemorates the event and highlights the ideas we can draw on for or own time: sustainability, participation, solidarity, the new relations between industry and society and the liberating role of the experience of art. This exercise in memory includes documentary material, photographs and films from different archives and from the MACBA Collection, as well as samples of oral history.

Creativity in a key context In 1971, the ICSID congress met at Cala de Sant Miquel, outside the usual urban venues. While the rest of the country, still under the Franco dictatorship, showed an image of repression, censorship and lack of freedom, Eivissa was still an environment with few buildings. Since the 1930s, intellectuals and artists like Raoul Hausmann, Walter Benjamin and the GATCPAC architects had settled on the island. The avant garde and cosmopolitanism stood in contrast with a very permissive rural culture, capable of reconciling aesthetic and social differences. As the joint curator of the exhibition, Daniel Giralt-Miracle, points out, the congress cannot be understood without bearing in mind the historical setting in which it was held: “At that time everyone was convinced that the status quo of a society that had become obsolete had to be changed”. And in that process of change design played an outstanding part: “Everything linked to the culture of design was seen as a militancy that was part of the package for renewing society, of everything that needed to be changed in the form and content of that society, which was looking for roads to expand and kept coming up against archaic canons and ideologies. That spirit of renewal, that will to be up to date and the desire to break down borders and open an international dialogue with the design culture, was the seed of the congress held in Eivissa in 1971."

Redesigning the concept of congress The congress was organised on an initiative of the Agrupació de Disseny Industrial del Foment de les Arts Decoratives (ADI/FAD). Among the members of the organising team were André Ricard, Joan Antoni Blanc, Enric Tous, Ferran Freixa, Daniel Giralt-Miracle, Francesc Pernas and the Urquinaona Open Design Group. One of their founding proposals was to shun any kind of programming on principle. As Giralt-Miracle recalls: “Our idea was based on an attempt to innovate forms, to 'design,' or rather to redesign, the concept of congress.”

The meeting was structured in the form of meeting rooms (in the two hotels on the bay), where presentations and discussions on matters of design, town planning, art, new technologies and ideas took place. Among the fundamental contributions of the congress was the idea that design is not only useful for producing particular objects, but also for affecting behaviour. The philosopher Xavier Rubert de Ventós spoke about puritanism in design; the artist José María Yturralde, with members of the Calculation Centre of the Complutense University of Madrid, showed the possibilities of the application of computers to design; Jordi Cerdà, a student at the Massana School at the time, presented his study on the subject of time by using cinema as a medium; and a group of students from the Eina School, led by Lluís Pau, put forward a critique of the situation of design in the country.

The hotel lobbies, where Pau Riba gave a concert, were the setting for exhibitions of popular crafts from Eivissa and modern design, while the Olivetti company introduced •Implicor•, an innovative multiple audiovisual system. The Eivissa Museum of Contemporary Art organised an exhibition of kinetic, programmatic and technological art, coinciding with the congress. All of which brought out the contrast between what is popular, anonymous and traditional and the modern ideas that recognised authorship.

The dream of Instant City One of the most celebrated events was Instant City, which was created to provide accommodation for the students attending the congress. It became the most attractive element of the meeting, since it embodied the sociological spirit of the counterculture, while innovating with the use of new materials such as inflatable plastics. Instant City was a great happening that linked craft skills, improvisation and design with building.

Carlos Ferrater and Fernando Bendito, both students of architecture at the time, set themselves up as an Ad Hoc Committee and drew up the Instant City Manifesto, together with Luis Racionero. The manifesto, which was distributed worldwide, defended participation as a way of building a city that had to be based on work as a means of communication. José Miguel de Prada Poole, a lecturer at the University of Madrid and a specialist in inflatable architecture, provided the technical knowledge behind the project: an ephemeral city, made of plastic, and based on a simple construction system of geometrical figures: interconnected cylinders and spheres that could grow as required. Building technique became a liberating instrument, available to the layman. Instant City defended a collective and craft work inseparable from leisure as way of creating new forms of coexistence based on creativity.

Another way of doing art From the outset, the congress wanted to be open to all kinds of creative expression committed to innovation. The inaugural dinner was a multicolour ceremony organised by the artists Antoni Miralda, Jaume Xifra and Dorothée Selz, in collaboration with Carles Santos conducting an orchestra. These Ceremonials were ritual parties where the décor and coloured food had a central and transgressive role, which set out to break with the rigidity of established social conventions. Artists and audience took part as equals.

Another artistic event was provided by Muntadas and Gonzalo Mezza, who created Vacuflex-3, a mobile sculpture made from a green industrial plastic tube over 250 metres long. The interactive intervention consisted of carrying the tube to the different areas around the bay. The piece became a playful object with which it was possible to sculpt different shapes spontaneously and write words in the sand or the water: art could be a game.

Josep Ponsatí installed a large inflatable sculpture on Cala de Sant Miquel made of big white plastic balloons which reached a height of 40 metres. The organic forms kept changing as it was in constant movement.

An experiment in socialisation The ICSID congress in Eivissa gave a voice to the different tendencies and generations of design which had emerged in the previous decade with the break up of the Elisava School and the creation of Eina: a concept of design that was closer to industry and a more humanistic one associated with art. The Eivissa ICSID was an experiment in socialisation, an example of how communal work, vitality, intellectual reflection and leisure can be used to promote dialogue, and of how imaginative proposals can be created to structure new models of behaviour. As Prada Poole said when referring to •Instant City•, the ICSID congress in Eivissa was proof that "utopia is possible."

Curators of the exhibition are Daniel Giralt-Miracle and Teresa Grandas.

The Exhibition is organised and produced by Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA). With the collaboration of Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya (COAC) and Moritz.

 

Debates of the Congress, 1971. Joan Antoni Blanc Archive.

Ceremonial and Vacuflex 3, 1971. Jordi Gómez Archive.