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Objects as Agents of Propaganda: How Designers Contribute to Shaping Narratives
Truth and lies have become one, no longer separated by barriers or distance. After the post-modern era, when the truth had gone wrong, and the post-truth era, when the line between truth and lies began to blur, there came a time without truth or falsehood. Anything can be true these days, as long as enough people believe it and some platform is willing to spread the gospel. In this exhibition, we chose to look back and ask: Have things been like this forever? When are we part of the problem and when are we pushing towards a solution?

Since the dawn of human civilization, objects have been mobilized in service of narratives and made to influence behaviors, worldviews, and social and cultural norms. In the 13th century, when eyeglasses became a symbol of wisdom, it became trendy to wear “plain glasses” in order to exhibit intelligence. The Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza (1401–1466), ordered about a dozen pairs of such glasses to signify his literacy and discernment. In the 1940s, glasses became a fashion statement as well: a symbol not only of intelligence but also of socio-economic status. They were a vehicle for promoting and disseminating a personal, social, and cultural narrative.
Another historical example is the nursing bottle. Until the 19th century, most nursing bottles had been made out of clay and used around the house for all kinds of purposes, not just nursing. However, in the 19th century, doctors and industrialists collaborated to create a dedicated nursing bottle. The changes in these bottles’ designs were driven by medical and scientific considerations: measurement markings were added, and the bottles’ shape became more ergonomic, for instance. Furthermore, physicians were the ones who marketed these bottles—an addition to their increasingly central role in shaping the ways infants were fed and, indeed, raised. From a natural, domestic activity, the feeding of babies became a “scientific” endeavor that needed to be measured, monitored, and marketed.

The same happened with the narrative of comfort as a promise for the good life. Much like the medical narrative, this idea has been shaping consumption and marketing in the last century and a half. For example, after the Second World War, it manifested in the production of superbly designed electrical household appliances, which called women back to the home sphere and dictated what they should do there, how they should do it, and how they should look while comfortably using the products. To this day, the marketing of vacuum cleaners is based on a narrative of comfort, ease of use, a futuristic appearance, and the user gaining power and control.
The pursuit of comfort never ends. There will always be a product promising more comfort and even greater relief from the difficulties of existence: more and more dedicated products are popping up and promptly becoming impossible to live without, even though we had been doing just that until mere moments before. An all-purpose bottle used to be enough to satisfy our every need. Suddenly, we need a travel bottle, a sports bottle, a baby bottle, a temperature-insulated bottle, and a wine bottle. One is plastic, one glass, and another—stainless steel. Best not confuse them, lest the relevant narrative collapse. Who wants to show up at the gym carrying a toddler’s water bottle with a picture of a hedgehog on it?!
Does this cultural situation leave room for a personal narrative?
Seven designers have been invited to use “platforms of lies" to create five projects in varied mediums, present new messages relating to the narrative of "comfort," provide new interpretations of existing messages and narratives, and offer alternatives.

UNCOMFORT was Curated together with Prof. Jonathan Ventura for Jerusalem Design Week 2023.

Participants: Dr. Doron Altaratz, Avihai Mizrahi & Neil Nenner, Lealla Solomon & Karolina Dohnalkova, Merav Shacham, Lila Chitayat & Alon Chitayat

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