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González: «There is not one, unique ‘Argentine design’, there are, however, points of intersection and common belonging that don’t mimic design trends from abroad and usually combine origin and innovation»

The Minister of Innovation and Culture of the province of Santa Fe, María de los Ángeles “Chiqui” González, shares her views about diversity within design identity and its key role as a tool for socio-cultural change.

Besides being a provincial minister, Chiqui González is a cultural manager, teacher, theatre director, playwright, and actress. Despite graduating from Law School at the National University of Rosario and having a postgraduate specialty in family law, her artistic vocation –evident since her childhood, when she won many poetry awards– led her to become a main player of the theatre landscape in Rosario during the 80’s.
She entered the public sphere in 1996, acting as director of the Center of Contemporary Expressions (1996-1999); then, she became Rosario City’s secretary of Culture and Education (2006-2007), and she is currently the head of the provincial Ministry of Innovation and Culture (2007-2019). A fierce and committed woman, she has vouched for the creation of social interaction spaces focused in learning, creativity, and innovation from her management position. Projects like “The city of children”, “Childhood Triptych”, and “Imagination Triptych” have been internationally recognized for their ludic devices and outstanding conceptual, architectonic, and urbanistic quality. She has also collaborated with the creation of networking hubs such as El Cairo Cine Público, Plataforma Lavardén, and CasArijón, in Rosario.
Having received an Honoris Causa Doctorate from the University of Aberdeen (Scotland), she has been a professor of the Sound Design program in the School of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism at the National University of Buenos Aires (FADU-UBA), and she has taught at the International School of Cinema and Television of San Antonio de los Baños, in Cuba. She shares her multidisciplinary views and answers our questions for this month’s Expert Opinion section of the Old&Newsletter.

–What is your experience in the area of design?
–Design has interested me through my entire career as a way to integrate the deep gap that exists between form and content in modern educational systems. For 25 years I taught the course Theory and Aesthetic in Mass Media as part of the Image and Sound Design program at the FADU-UBA. As the secretary of Culture and Education in Rosario City and the minister of Innovation and Culture of the province of Santa Fe I created parks and poetic spaces based on the concept of working through matter, in connection to Bauhaus pedagogy, and in opposition of a “thematic” focus. I have conceived ludic devices meant for building (objects, garments, landscapes, and graphics) and I pushed for a change in art education through the concept of design (project, selection and combination, creation originated from the world of need, and poetic world). For the past 12 years, in Rosario, we have also supported a Design Fair in Franja del Río and a plan to incentivize and encourage design.

–What qualities must a piece possess to be considered a fine design?
–First of all, it is necessary to modify split concepts such as body-mind, form-content, theory-practice, reason-emotion, subject-object, etc.
In second place, action must be prioritized, work over matter, and creation must be understood as the integration of usefulness, beauty, and identity… a project that aims to shift images and perceptions into forms and textures in order to produce meaning in everyday life and poetry in an urban context.
Thirdly, widely spread stereotypes about the creative process must be renewed, due to the fact that design integrates a multiple project that contemplates potential audiences while nurturing itself from social imaginaries through innovation, imagination, and openness to new goals. This does not mean merely creating a new decoration, enabling usefulness, and forgetting social collectives. On the contrary, it is about adding value to meaning and belonging, it is the marriage of science and art. It is to conceive a design object that contains its own appropriation, use, and circulation, its whole paradigm embedded in us, something like the art of living as complex acts of through and creation.

–Is there a particular identity of “Argentine design”? Is there a single “Argentine design”?

–Uniformity is not a friend of homogeneity, diversity, and multiplicity. Uniqueness becomes central, hegemonic and it restricts the ability to experiment and experience, it equalizes identities and it is usually one of the most dubious “market” strategies. The so called “identity” is not one and that is our wealth.
Argentine design is growing vigorously in all of its expressions and its plethora of alternatives is mind blowing. There is not one, unique ‘Argentine design’, there are, however, points of intersection and common belonging that don’t mimic design trends from abroad and usually combine origin and innovation. That is why it is amazing when we feel so identified or represented by a “design happening”, when an object, garment, entertainment, image or body names us, tells our story as a society, gives us both meaning and a fundamental purpose.

–Is design socially valued in Argentina?
–Not enough. There are design schools, universities, workshops, fairs, and businesses but we face a critical juncture in which there is more creativity exposed than there is social acceptance and circulation of its potential, quality, and benefits.
In a way, the concept of design is distorted as a simple value that can be added to a garment or jewelry set. On the other hand, there is little debate about design as an action to improve the lives of popular social collectivities. A disagreement. Groups that have a natural right to beauty facing others that price design as art masterpieces and move in exclusive circles that crave design as the only thing that will make them unique and distinguish them from the rest. A process opposite to Bauhaus: the art of living for the working class, not to foster exclusion and differences. This disagreement is a fundamental debate for those that conceive design as a way to improve existence.

–Why are design archives and heritage collections important? Why is it necessary to preserve the memory of design?
–Archives and collections are of huge relevance. Otherwise, social transformation would not be fostered. Without history, without memory, idolizing innovation without reflecting about its meaning and context, design will not be able to consolidate, question itself, groom masters, experience developments, and move forward at all. Such a situation would leave us in a state of solitude, fragility, and snobbism. It will turn into a landscape of many thinking hands and plenty of beauty that will leave no legacy.

–Why is it necessary to safeguard the memory of design?
–My response is probably contained in the previous answer; however, I want to highlight that memory is the childhood of design, its motherhood and its anchorage. It makes possible to trace methods and imaginary techniques of subject and object alike, as well as social diversity and multiple identities. The memory of design is the “gesture” of designing, the first steps and the ones that follow. We need to understand who we are and how we got here. Memory is the fight against oblivion; destroying it is a form of violence.

–What conditions are required for an institution to achieve this purpose?
–¡Oh! We must think carefully about that. It should be an “act” and not an “archive”, it should exhibit memory as a ludic experience, it should have personnel trained in production and combination, and it should be permanently in action to conquer the future.

–Why there are almost no museums that include a space for design in Argentina, in contrast with the rest of the world?
–Argentine museums are seeking new approaches to focus in the visitor rather than the object. We are experimenting with new museum practices but they are based in extremely rational foundations. Design originates from inspiration in non-structured ludic sphere. That is why it usually stays in the museums’ gift shops. Maybe we don’t know how to exhibit objects or garments without having guidelines to do it in a renewed way.

–What future challenges will the design community face?
–We need to emphasize the creation, circulation, and learning processes; search for and produce an ideological, different, encompassing, and overarching view based on the strong conviction that we work for the communities we belong to and that each one of us must assume our own stand as designers. In a nutshell, we must fight for the beauty of living with justice and equality.