Safety instructions, safe driving poster campaigns, access control in company lobbies, X-ray tunnels at airports and protective gear for leisure activities are just some of contemporary society’s many rules and procedures designed to improve security or prevent dangers. Insurers, lawyers, engineers, designers and scientists pay very careful attention to public safety.
There is such a plethora of information aimed at ensuring our safety that we no longer pay any attention to it. But what is the point of these items? Are they a shield against fear, whether well-founded or fictional? A need for total control? Do consumers demand them? Are they a pretext for taking risks? Why do we devote so much energy to security these days? Why have certain States made them a virtual profession of political faith? Nowadays, ultrasecurity, the denial of the unexpected and the desire for total foresight are the norm and go together with a certain denial of death that characterises our society.
Current state of surveillance and protection
The exhibition Safe and Sound examines the current state of these phenomena, bringing together design works, everyday objects, photography and contemporary art. It touches on the interconnected subjects of safety, fear, protection and surveillance, four key terms which guided the selection of works in the exhibition. Its starting point is the conviction that these terms are inseparable in human psychologies and in the way society treats them.
Some projects present design solutions to very concrete problems, such as Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin’s airbag for cyclists, which deploys in the event of a collision, or the $1 gauge which enables the right amount of bleach to be diluted in a bucket of water to make it an effective disinfectant. The earthquake-proof table designed by Arthur Brutter & Ido Bruno can shelter two schoolchildren during an earthquake, and protect them from heavy falling debris.
Parodies, appropriation and critical discourses
Other artists and designers, by contrast, take the side of détournement, humorously pointing out the fantasies of security and control. The Earthquake-Proof Table by ECAL/Martino D’Esposito is a parody of this device, com- posed of all the necessary elements for survival in Switzerland: milking stool, fondue pot, sausage and a bottle of Henniez, not forgetting, of course, a military blanket, and leisure material – an adult magazine!
Other projects highlight all the ambiguity of our relationship with security and play on the discomfort it evokes. These include the spectacular installation Fences, by the designer Dejana Kabiljo: a bed enclosed by protective yet disturbing fences. Happylife, a domestic appliance by James Auger, Reyer Zwiggelaar and Bashar Al Rajoub, helps us identify the mood of family members; it is thus an aid to communication, yet it works by submitting them for profiling and regular evaluation by the machine.
Several designers and artists have developed a critical discourse around surveillance and control of the general population’s deeds and actions, particularly in the public sphere. For instance, Ruben Pater and Trevor Paglen address means of identifying threats from the sky. The former is the author of a poster identifying types of drone so that civilians living in the areas where they are used can recognise them and better protect themselves. The latter is a photographer and geographer who tracks and photographs secret satellites in orbit, thanks to data gathered by a vast international amateur network.
Whether the objects in the exhibition are inconspicuous aspects of contemporary life, or were created by artists and designers to express a particular point of view, they combine to form a revealing panorama of these inseparable issues and their everyday ubiquity.
Designers and artists: James Auger & Jimmy Loizeau, Alan Murray & Reyer Zwiggelaar & Bashar Al Rajoub, Claude Baechtold, Josh Begley, James Bridle, Ido Bruno & Arthur Brutter, Bureau A: Daniel Zamarbide & Leopold Banchini, Centre Martin Luther King Lausanne, Dainese, Timothé Deschamps & Paolo Gnazzo / HEAD–Genève, Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby, ECAL/Martino D’Esposito, The Empowerment Plan, Ying Gao, Shilpa Gupta, Mishka Henner, Hövding Airbag, Humans since 1982, Industrial Facility: Sam Hecht & Kim Colin, Forrest Jessee, Dejana & Jasen Kabiljo, Onkar Kular & Inigo Minns, Mathieu Lehanneur, Mamoris, Bujar Marika, Alberto Meda & Francisco Gomez Paz, Christien Meindertsma, Gabriele Meldaikyte, Simon Menner, Sébastien Mettraux, Nils Norman, Studio Orta: Jorge & Lucy Orta, Trevor Paglen, Ruben Pater, Thomas Ruff, Daniel Ruggiero, Leonardo Selvaggio, SEN.SE, Studio GGSV: Stéphane Villard & Gaëlle Gabillet, Superlife: Edrris Gaaloul & Cyrille Verdon, Susana Soares, David Swann, Julia Veldhuijzen van Zanten
With the support of Loterie Romande, Fondation Leenaards, Fondation Sandoz, Fondation Ernst Göhner, Société Académique Vaudoise and Fondation Engelberts.