Kiasma-lehti | Kiasma Magazine
Kiasma-lehti 51 | Kiasma Magazine 51
No 51 Vol 15

Visual Art and Design in Disguise

Visual art and design have often crossed paths in recent years in exhibitions, trade fairs and auctions. They have also come into contact on the pages of glossy magazines on design, art, architecture and urban living, as well as in blogs and online publications. In the Camouflage exhibition, contemporary art and design come even closer, engaging in dialogue and even masquerading as each other.

Contemporary art and design share features that simultaneously unite and separate them: visuality, wit, creativity, a critical attitude, conceptualisation, user orientation, sustainability, durability, commercialism, productisation. The opposite ends of the continuum are the individual’s freedom of expression, on the one hand, and the demands of product development and user orientation, on the other.


I believe the differences and similarities can be found by looking at history and the present moment, at the different circumstances of the multicultural generation, and the situations where art and design are presented and articulated side by side.

Both camps feel attracted to the ideas and practices of the other, yet they frequently try to preserve the dividing lines. Contemporary art is by its very nature receptive to cultural change.With their actions, works, active discussion and concept definition, designers and artists alike have opened the intersecting area in interesting new directions.


Visitors to the Camouflage exhibition can expect to see Finnish design classics and prestigious utility objects. A few can indeed be found – but reused.

Kaisu Koivisto’sReviiri (Territory) has two worn Alvar Aalto chair 69s, encircled by cow horns assembled around them in spirals. The colour of the horns is reflected by the grey patina of the wooden surfaces of the chairs. The disguise is almost perfect, only the red oilcloth on the seats struggle against the deception.

For her piece Gun, So What! Maaria Wirkkala has used Bolle bottles designed for Venini by Tapio Wirkkala in the 1960s. The coloured glass bottles sit on shelves, and the viewer aims a rifle at them. Looking at them through the scope, when the trigger is pulled, they merge with a picture of a child with its back to the viewer.


What will be the real consequence of the interlacing of these two disciplines, contemporary art and design? What will happen when the traditional boundary between the art object and the utility object is dissolved? The Camouflage exhibition focuses on how designers and artists work when they filter impulses, process ideas, seek a direction for their work. The ideas presented here are suggestions, discoveries and carefully aimed provocations that hint at the authors’ future work in relation to the ongoing discussion on the topic.

The artists, designers, duos and collectives live in different parts of the world. In addition to Finland, they come from Argentina, Great Britain, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States. Many of them work between two or more cities and cultures. They come from a range of cross-disciplinary backgrounds, and their changing projects provide them with changing professions and identities.

Leevi Haapala