For the eyes and mind: this exhibition design frames space as a tool for thought

Japan – For a ritual that everyone everywhere performs every day, dressing oneself is a highly personal, psychological act. Dress Code: Are You Playing Fashion? – an exhibition that was first shown at The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, has since come to Kumamoto and will end in Tokyo – invites audiences to explore the archetypes, stereotypes and cultural shifts embedded in our sartorial selections through history. A critical show, the exhibition’s physical space was developed by DDAA to optimize the content’s resonance in audiences’ mental space.

‘In designing exhibition venues,’ explains a spokesperson for DDAA, ‘We always think about ways in which to convey the meaning of the artworks and curation by spatially or empirically amplifying them. Because viewers can easily obtain information about both by reading catalogues – and also gather related information conveniently on the internet – we focus on creating conditions where information and intentions are highlighted and conveyed clearly through a carefully planned sequence and various spatial experiences.’

One example of this strategy in action centres on a denim dress. Displayed by itself, recognized the team, it was simply an entity of its own. But clustered with other garments, the dress becomes a tool for thought, dialogue and learning – audiences are prompted to consider how the meaning of denim clothes has changed over time, cultural differences in attire formality and to appreciate the sartorial differences of the pieces side by side.

The positioning of that single denim dress laid the foundation for DDAA’s overarching design plan. The designers created island-shaped display furniture pieces, an alternative to individual tables. These pieces are easily moveable, made to withstand the travelling exhibition’s multiple journeys. Prefabricated 500mm x 500mm square modules – typically used to construct raised office floors – are left exposed, comprising the stage for the grouped mannequins on display.

‘Today, the world is already full of meanings and things. We can create new scenery by reinterpreting exiting things and ideas without denying ordinary things in front of us – we should thoroughly observe things and redesign styles and relationships.’

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