Exhibition Design for Space Caviar

Born at Night

深 夜 里 诞 生

In 2016-2017, in the context of a research fellowship organised by M+/Design Trust, Space Caviar relocated to Huaqiangbei, a neighbourhood of Shenzhen most widely known as home to the world’s largest electronics marketplace. Arriving there at the peak of the international media’s fascination with Shenzhen as “global factory” in which ideas supposedly conceived elsewhere are manufactured before being shipped to market, they set out to study the city on its own terms. Setting aside conventional notions of authorship, and with it the typecast view of Shenzhen as an economy reliant on imitation, they observed the city as a networked ecology in which a new definition of design is taking form.

This exhibition presents a series of products, artefacts and material traces collected by Space Caviar in and around the Shenzhen Electronics Marketplace in an attempt to capture some key elements of this complex ecosystem through which this emergent definition of design can be understood. It also includes a film, Born at Night, in which the human presence – frequently purged from the study of design practice – is closely observed, shifting between visible and hidden spaces of the market, the dwellings of the workers and from the inside of automated machines to the depth of factories. Through all of this, a picture of a new and unfamiliar design ecology emerges, in which Shenzhen is less an imitator than a pathfinder.

Photos by Ruud Balk and Ralph Roelse