Norwegian Presence, as most people know it, is an exhibition led by Design and Architecture Norway (DOGA) that takes place during Milan Design Week, showcasing the best of Norwegian design and manufacturing. It’s been taking place since 2015 and each exhibition is highly curated, always with a specific and timely theme. Due to the pandemic, however, the organization has embraced new digital avenues for connecting with people through conversations about sustainability.
— We decided to push the limits of what Norwegian Presence is and could be with a range of different tools and strategies, tells Anne-Stine Bae, project manager. There’s so many alternatives, so rather than seeing travel restrictions as a problem, we see this as a fantastic opportunity. Milan is a wonderful platform and has a special role within the design industry, but it was also limiting in different ways. These digital initiatives are a new way of taking part in the international design stage, and in time, I believe they will become part of the natural way of connecting with the world.
And what would you like to highlight from this year’s edition?
— We’ve launched two out of three digital events. The first one was a half day of talks, panel discussions, and films revolving around circular design in connection to mass production. The challenge was to create a vibrant and interesting platform. I think we all have felt a little bit of Zoom fatigue, so it was paramount for us to create something enticing that engaged the audience and elevated the conversations beyond being just another webinar. There’s always been an element of high production and quality to our exhibition, so that had to be reflected in our programme too. We’ve worked with a production company to develop a digital platform which was really versatile and engaging.
— The conversations we find in this year’s event series feel like a refreshing movement forward on important topics like the demand for sustainability, a rapidly changing society, and how we can look to this new future through the lens of design. We have spent much time on how we present the different aspects of the project this year when the aspect of touching a piece of furniture or having a face-to-face conversation is impossible. It’s the stories that make the participants unique, and they are all so different from one another, so focusing on great storytelling whether that is during the digital events, or through the films we are launching later this spring, it’s been a major aspect of this year’s project.
How do you think that Norwegian manufacturers and brands handle the sustainability issue in 2021?
— I have been living abroad for more than 15 years, before I moved back to Oslo in 2020. From afar, it’s clear that many Norwegian companies have a strong reputation for these issues. I have been thoroughly impressed by the level of consciousness and focus to improve the line of production, starting from how they extract the raw materials all the way through to how they work on the aspect of logistics, tells Bae, continuing,
— Consumers are more conscious now than they’ve ever been, and this is only set to increase from my point of view, especially because of Covid-19. To keep up and stay relevant, manufacturers will have to continue to be more and more sustainable. Many Norwegian companies are leading on this issue on an international level, with others at home and abroad recognizing that this is the future and following their lead.
— I believe in promoting honest conversations, and a need for maturity in the industry to own their flaws and imperfections in order to improve and move forward. As we witnessed in the panel discussion with Poppy Lawman, Stine Sofie from Sofie & Tiange, and Hydro at our first digital event, experimental designers can have a massive effect on huge corporations in order to think differently through collaboration. Collaborations can be an important starting off point for new and sustainable ways of production, and hopefully, the stories we tell can be an inspiration for other brands and designers around the world.
What’s next for you?
— Last week, we arranged the second digital event, From maker to museum, which explored the pathways between designers and craftspeople to collectors and museums and considered the role that manufacturers play in the journey between the two.
— On 22 April, in A new paradigm in interior design?, we’re looking into how new products and prototypes in Norwegian industrial design are reflecting new interior trends based on a rapidly changing world due to Covid 19, and how the designers and makers of Norwegian Presence are responding to the shift.
Recordings from the two previous events, as well as tickets for the third and final one, is available on norwegianpresence.no