A New Exhibition at Friedman Benda Explores the Split Personalities of Design Objects

January 14, 2021

By Adrian Madlener


Guest curated by Alice Stori Liechtenstein, Split Personality offers a diverse survey of contemporary design work that prioritizes story-telling over functionality.

In his seminal 1968 book, The System of Objects, French sociologist Jean Baudrillard wrote, “Could we classify the luxuriant growth of objects as we do a flora or fauna, complete with tropical and glacial species, sudden mutations, and varieties threatened by extinction?”

By this, the post-structuralist thinker suggests that everyday items have two lives—serving a purpose and acquiring symbolic value. Over time, objects are inevitably untethered from their primary functions as cultural, subjective, and philosophical associations evolve to reflect shifts in society, taste, and technology. They then can assume different identities via multiple layers of meaning, either ascribed by the designer or the user.

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