Multihyphenation is a compound term referring to alternate modes of creative production: “Collab” culture; “brand X brand” projects; and multiple, or even opaque styles of attribution and ownership among the individuals, studios, and practices that engage in such work. For them, the “body of work” they produce matters more than maintaining a singular creative identity as an individual designer, architect, artist, and so on. As Virgil Abloh—the consummate multihyphenate—once remarked in an interview, “it’s explicitly the fact that I split my time among many things that gives me the point of view to know that what I’m doing is relevant.”
This exhibition features a selection of work by a variety of designers and artists that represents a shift toward multihyphenation as a mode of practice. And it is a shift that has emerged amid a seemingly paradoxical feature of our neoliberal world—namely, “vertical disintegration,” a corporate strategy characterized by high degrees of subcontracting and outsourcing of labor and expertise, maximum operational efficiency, and temporary commitments to tangible resources like land, equipment, and buildings. Throughout the neoliberal period, a global shift toward vertical disintegration across corporate structures has resulted in forms of market domination that now exceed even the vertically integrated dynasties of the Gilded Age. At the turn of the 20th century, for example, Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest people in the world at that time, had grown Carnegie Steel into a monopoly force by gaining control of coal and iron suppliers and their mines and operations, railroad lines, and other resources essential to the production and distribution of steel. Today, a century later, when the world’s largest taxi firm can claim that it owns no cars and employs no drivers, and the world’s largest vacation rental firm owns nearly no real estate, we can say we are truly in a new reality. Multihyphenation has emerged as one kind of response. Which is to say that one way of navigating a world dominated by multinational corporate firms and global brands is simply to become a multiplicity: architect-hyphen-curator-hyphen-art director-hyphen-furniture designer-hyphen-theorist-hyphen-fashion designer, etc., etc., ad infinitum.
This exhibition has been organized together with its counterpart, issue 51 of Harvard Design Magazine. In keeping with the media-sensitivity and format-specificity of multihyphenation, the magazine presents itself as a printed object that captures for posterity a fundamental shift in contemporary practice, whereas this exhibition offers an experience of multihyphenate works that is dynamic, experiential, and temporary.
Multihypenation features works by: AD-WO, A-POC ABLE ISSEY MIYAKE, Arielle Assouline-Lichten, groupsports, Höweler+Yoon, Inside Outside | Petra Blaisse, Metahaven, Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample & MOS, OMA, Samuel Ross, SO – IL, Oana Stănescu and WOJR.