Society, Medicine, Power, and Design
Since man first started making objects, these were used for medical purposes. It is easy for
us to envisage a bone needle, used for sewing animal skins to create shelter and clothing,
and when necessary also the skin of a wounded man in prehistoric times. It is more difficult
for us to imagine the same situation today: sterilization, a registered nurse, a needle whose
shape, material, and scale are modified for stitching cuts in a living body and the type of
thread stand between us and this possibility.
The term “medicalization” refers to a process that was set in motion at the end of the 18th
century, with the birth of modern medicine, (1) in which the authority over many areas was
handed to the scientific establishment that has since been considered the exclusive keeper
of knowledge. To this day, all other treatment options are seen as dangerous charlatanism.
Gradually, control over the design, manufacturing, marketing, and use of various products
also shifted from the domain of the community to medical experts: not only did most
women in the Western world stopped giving birth at home in favor of medically-controlled
maternity hospitals, most of them also stopped feeding babies from clay jugs, and switched
to industrial glass bottles manufactured under medical supervision, which can be sterilized
and have replaceable latex nipple.
Everyday behaviors and situations are now defined as a disease rather than a transgression
of religious and moral dictates, and therefore we are supposed to treat them with scientific,
medical, and unbiased tools. The call for reduction and minimalism in the design of products,
as coined by architect and theorist Adolf Loos at the beginning of the 20th century, is a direct
expression of the incorporation of this approach in our visual and material culture. This view,
which advocates a clear and objective gaze imbues the field of design to this day: the
promise of enlightenment and liberty is also embodied in how we interpret the “language”
of objects, the “maturity” of designers, the “earnestness” of products.
The inaugural exhibition at Azerieli Gallery – which located on Hanevi’im Street in Jerusalem,
also known as “hospitals street” – offers a glimpse into the world of design and medicine in
Israel, 120 years after Adolf Loos’ call for “clinical and hygienic design”.
The exhibition looks at the diverse relationships between designers and the medical
establishment and their cultural implications. The works featured in it are varied and present
the spectrum of tools that designers bring with them to this field. Among the exhibits you
will find projects developed for companies, single user solutions, independent initiatives,
research projects, and projects that borrow practices, tools, and language from the world of
medicine to the cultural sphere.
The exhibition outlines the fact that designers are an active force, which practically
constructs our perception of health. Future designers have the ability to serve as cultural
commentators on design situations, and formulate new paths that will impact the network
of underlying forces at play in the current medical structure.
1. “Modern medicine has fixed its own date of birth as being in the last years of the
eighteenth century.” Michel Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic: An Archeology of
Participants: Johnathan Anteby, Sophie Oliveira de Barata, Dana Benshalom, Atar Brosh, Saar Dagan, Ohad David, Chanan De Lange, Gideon Dotan and Nekuda DM team, Dov Ganchrow, and Ami Drach, Hadas Ilani, I2D, Ella Kachta for Keni Segal, Yaacov Kaufman, Oded Lahav, Ariane Littman, Haim Parnas, Yoram Pony, Ruth Reuveni, Efrat Rimon, Zohar Shalev, Hadar Shapira and Jonathan Bar-Or Studio team, Ezri Tarazi and Designtech team, Daniella Zilberstein & Dr. Anat Sharon.
Exhibition design: Avihai Mizrahi & Neil Nenner