Diverse forms of expression take centre-stage at the V&A

Sculpture, virtual reality, furniture and flowers come together this year for LDF at the V&A. The multidisciplinary works travel around the world, focusing a lens on political and social challenges while engaging with traditional practices.

“This year’s projects are within a global context, thinking about the local impact design can have on communities,” explains Meneesha Kellay, senior curator of contemporary at the V&A. These projects centre human stories and advocate for design as a tool to empower communities. They champion a deeper understanding of cultural specificities and geographical localities that inform design decisions.

This marks the second year to see an emerging designer commission, with London-based designer Andu Masebo creating an installation dubbed ‘Part exchange’ for 2023. For this, Masebo is disassembling an Alfa Romeo Cloverleaf. “It’s a commentary on our times, where cars have become a contested object,” explains Kellay. “This particular car is not compliant with ULEZ and was destined for the scrap heap.” Masebo’s project is a forensic study of the car and its various owners, taking the vehicle apart and creating new objects informed by interviews Masebo has conducted with them. He is creating a daybed, shelving and coffee table that will be displayed in the ‘Design: 1900 – Now’ galleries, showing the potential circularity and alternative life for these vehicles.

There’s a floral theme to two of the projects this year. Connecting communities in Japan and London is the thought process behind ‘Hana Mikoshi’ or ‘Flower Shrine’. Inspired by the Mino Matsuri Festival in Gifu Prefecture, the sculptural seating installation is by London-based Hayatsu Architects. The structure will be fashioned “using the principles 34 derived from flower shrines that are featured in the festival”, explains Kellay. These are made from 50,000 washi paper flower petals “that will be created by families throughout the summer at the V&A”, and then connected to the bamboo structure in the lead up to LDF.

Palestinian architect, artist and V&A Jameel fellow Dima Srouji will present ‘But She Still Wears Kohl and Smells like Roses’ – objects and a film that reframes the history of glass in Greater Syria and Palestine. The new works include replicas of glassware from the V&A collection excavated from the region. Meanwhile, tapestry, sculpture and film come together in a collaboration between British-born Canadian artist Nirbhai (Nep) Singh Sidhu and UK arts organisation Without Shape Without Form. The project encourages self- discovery through contemporary Sikh teachings while exploring their impact on design now.

Addressing the issues of menstrual exile and violence against women in South Asia is ‘Maya: The Birth of a Superhero’ – an immersive installation and VR experience by Poulomi Basu and CJ Clarke. Inspired by Basu’s law-changing, impact art project ‘Blood Speaks’, the film follows Maya, an ordinary, 21st-century girl, as she transforms into a superhero whose powers derive from menstruation, in an odyssey of womanhood.

Come September, workshops and events will activate the projects even further, which Kellay says will offer more insight into how “these artists and designers are taking a deep dive into their immediate surroundings”.