On the 6th of May 2014 the SAN’AT Journal initiated a round table discussion on the issues related to design. Doctor of Art History Kamola Akilova who led the discussion, said: “This is already the fourth round table discussion the SAN’AT Journal holds this year. At the first meeting we addressed the issues of the modern-day fine arts development in Uzbekistan. The second round table was dedicated to the country’s traditional arts and crafts that represent a large stratum in the present-day national culture. The third time, artists and art critics got together in Nukus to discuss contemporary pictorial art of Karakalpakstan; that meeting was organized jointly with the Karakalpak branch of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan. The May’s round table is dedicated to design-related problems in Uzbekistan.
Design today is a dynamically evolving sector in the global art dimension, with its own history, theory, concepts and philosophy. It also has many faces and varieties: the design of architectural environment, landscape design, industrial design, furniture design, fashion design, graphic design, exposition design, etc. Design applies to almost all things produced by man, also encompassing a range of philosophical, worldview, and theoretical problems, as well as problems immediately related to engineering and technical sciences. It should be noted that the current design theory uses methodologies of related humanities: these may include anthropology, sociology, ecology, philosophy, design and national distinctiveness, etc.
What is the situation in the domain of design in Uzbekistan? How are its different kinds evolving? To what extent do we study and apply the world’s experience in design? Is there a design theory? What is the situation with the training of future designers in the country?.. Gathered here today are professionals who immediately deal with design and its different branches.
In the years of independence, fashion design became one of the dominant kinds of design in Uzbekistan. Regularly organized festivals, shows and contests encouraged the emergence of an entire industry that presently engages designers of different generations, creative trends and styles. Local designers take part in fashion shows not only in Uzbekistan, but also abroad. In a number of European countries designers express great interest in our textiles and traditional clothing. The industry though has problems, too. Now I give the floor to Khalida Kamilova, Vice-Rector of the Tashkent Textile and Light Industry Institute, who authored many exciting fashion design projects, to speak on the subject.”
Khalida Kamilova: “I believe that design today is one of the relevant trends not only in art, but also in other sectors of economy. First of all, I would like to note that the design has two components: the object and the functionality. It is impossible to create a good design without considering functionality. Functionality implies both hygienic and other parameters that define the product quality, given certain requirements. For instance, one may create aesthetically beautiful furniture, but if it is uncomfortable, surely, it cannot be called a good quality design. Design is a reaction of culture to civilization. Today, design depends on many factors, including science and technology developments, and the emergence of web design that almost nobody heard of until the arrival of computers and information technology. These days everything is changing so fast that those engaged in web design can hardly keep pace with changes in information science.
Different types of design are rapidly developing, such as landscape and interior design, industrial design, and apparel design. Speaking of fashion design, this has been in focus in Uzbekistan, with certain progress already made. Uzbek designers create apparel in line with global fashion trends, while their product also has a distinct national flavour. Rich traditional Uzbek arts and crafts heritage, as well as elements of the national costume, is skilfully employed by local designers in making modern-day clothes.
Traditional Uzbek hand-woven textiles are truly unique. Mass production of apparel exclusively from locally made fabrics is virtually impossible, as it is to repeat a pattern with a certain step on a piece of fabric 25-30 meters long, manufactured using iqat technique: every time the abr patterns and colour range come out different. These unique textiles are used by designers to create exclusive apparel items.
To expand the range of casual wear, the country would need to establish an adequate capacity to produce dress and suiting cloths. In this area, progress has been made by the UzbekYengilSanoat [light industry] State Joint-Stock Company. Regulations facilitating industry development have been adopted, with several production facilities being put in operation annually to process local raw materials and produce different kinds of textiles.
Growing quite rapidly is knitting industry that produces wonderful knitted fabrics for leisure wear, children’s clothes, and sportswear. Therefore, today one of the most relevant issues in Uzbekistan is the manufacturing of quality textiles in different varieties for everyday wear.”
Marina Borodina: “Design is not just an art; it is a way of thinking, too. Very often we see how fine art images are mixed together with utility objects, resulting in nothing more than kitsch. To teach the art of design one has to teach students to simplify the pictorial part and to understand what stylization is. We often see discrepancies, there is a lot of kitsch in design, yet I think this will be outlived. Things filling up the market are the product of industrial design, such as a lamp, chairs… Recently popular has become the so-called bio-design, when arm-chairs take the shape of human body, or represent some kind of a non-standard, predefined geometric shape. Several works performed by our students are the light source designs. We make sure students learn to work with different materials, such as polycarbonate and Plexiglas, and to use objects, stained glass, textile…
Not so long ago there came about a notion of a compensation landscape, that is, the compensated nature introduced in architecture; examples include vertical gardens and the hanging garden elements. The Institute students developed a conceptual design of an extreme sports park for young people. The project involves transforming platforms, meaning the park would have a changeable scenario we conventionally called “Tamga”. Tamga is an ancient symbol that is now extensively studied. We provided the park with a navigator charting the way. There are obstacle courses, and the navigator has a built-in sign system. You can input a sign, and it will chart the path for you. In Moscow the project received an award. Design truly is the world of magic.”
Kamola Akilova: “At the Young People’s Art Centre we regularly present projects by students and faculty of the Tashkent Institute of Architecture and Civil Engineering. These projects are quite interesting and showy, and we harbour hope for their successful implementation.”
Lyudmila Kodzaeva “Speaking about exposition design, it has two components: “What” and “Where”. There is always an object or objects placed in a certain space. As to the expo design in the country, we are still in the early stage of understanding the whole process, for the exhibition space is limited here. We have very few expositions that could be restructured, or rather, spaces where one could create. These were provided for in the Expo-Centre with pavilions that could be converted into space; yet, as usual, the stands had limited capabilities, although space can be created even in the seemingly unfit areas. A good example is a project implemented a few years ago in an abandoned factory. The project excited strong emotional feedback; huge workshops allowed implementing very interesting ideas, while in showrooms we are compelled to work with already installed lighting, on a certain square area, and with limited resources.
Take, for instance, museums in France or the United States, which hold exhibitions in regular buildings where space can be “destroyed” and created anew whenever needed. This, certainly, requires considerable resources. Suppose a classical museum creates an exposition of African or Greek art. Naturally, the interior, the room and its architecture go unnoticed. On entering the exposition, the viewer finds himself in a world engineered by exhibitors, be it Ancient Greece, Egypt, or Africa; that is, everything is designed to ensure that the object is perceived in a new architectural dimension.
Many museums around the world have every means to exhibit an object in the most advantageous aspect. I like the room we are using now for the way it is lit and the part of isolated spaces that allow doing both large and small expositions. The Central Exhibition Hall was built in 1974, the era of large-scale shows and parade exhibitions. Nowadays we no longer run exchange exhibitions. Thanks to the regularly held international biennial art festivals in the country we know what’s going on in the world of art, while in the rest of the time we only deal with local exhibits. When preparing a project one always has to think about where and how to present it to the audience in the most interesting ways. I definitely like the new showroom of the Fine Arts Gallery, because its ambience and space can work for an idea that needs implementing. There is a tiered area and a large viewing space. So far, this is the most fittingly arranged facility. Unfortunately though, embellishments sometimes get in the way: coloured ceilings or huge chandeliers hinder perception.
In the origins of design and in the national distinctions of any nation’s art one can find wonderful specimens of great design. For instance, in the History Museum in Tokyo we saw an object that could have been displayed at any avant-garde exhibition of small-form sculpture: it was a pestle mill – a stone mortar wrought a millennium ago, which even now is no second to the most exquisite piece of art. Such is the ancient architecture of Uzbekistan, and so is the traditional cut of Uzbek dress – intuitive, economical, made of skilfully woven fabric spent in the minimum; and so are the vessels of amazingly beautiful shapes, and other items of traditional applied art.”
Akbar Khakimov: “The SAN’AT Journal dedicated this roundtable discussion to design. With regard to this session, I have a feeling that, unlike our previous meetings, it tends to be more of a monologue than a discussion, although today we ought to be speaking more about design-related problems in the country. In my opinion, there is no design, by and large. I believe we should formulate the issue in the problem plane and find out what we have achieved and what needs to be done. Design is the aesthetics of human environment. Let us now think about the design of our homes and furniture. When we devised the concept of the Academy of Arts and had to come up with the name for the institute to be structured on the basis of the art department, there was also a sense that design did not exist; perhaps that was the reason behind a suggestion to add the word ‘Design’ to the name of the National Institute of Arts. Some teaching staff members were then wondering why it was needed, which showed carryovers of former attitudes, when design was regarded as a thing of the West.
Speaking of design, now we have the Textile Institute and the Technical University, where students can experiment and invent something, yet when they graduate, we do not see any results. At least I do not know of anything implemented, and this is the first time I hear about exposition design. Apparently, it primarily concerns curatorial projects. In my view, one very serious matter is the personality of the artist, on whose work everything depends. Sadly, the master’s degree program today fails to meet the requirements set for its graduates. This is no longer a problem of design only, but the general problem of training in arts. The government is currently drafting a new resolution on post-graduate education. Since thesis defence was abolished, master’s program should be considered as training for a candidate degree. The designer training standard will largely depend on the teacher and the graduate student alike. It would be good if the Ministries of Education and Culture, as well as the Academy of Arts could join their efforts and perform a design review; the result will depend mostly on people responsible for these academic areas. Holding conferences may be a good idea.”
Khalida Kamilova: “I cannot agree that design does not exist here. I believe that local designers keep apace with the times and have already demonstrated stories of success. The fact that any girl or woman has clothes with the traditional costume elements in her closet is already an achievement designers can take credit for. The participation of local designers in the Fashion Weeks in Italy, the United States and UK, as well as at different fashion shows in Europe, Korea, China and other countries suggests that the Uzbek fashion design is recognized and sought after in places far beyond Uzbekistan, too.
This year alone has seen exhibitions, conferences and workshops organized in Tashkent in collaboration with the leading French, British and Italian designers who also note a boom in the local fashion industry and in turn invite Uzbek colleagues to showcase their collections on runways around the globe.”
Ulugbek Holmuradov: Presently, in the Uzbekistan market the most dynamically developing are graphic design, furniture, interior and light industry design. The majority of student designers seek employment in these industries; they are not adequately trained however, and, when facing reality, there is little they can do to make a difference in the market. In the meantime, many other sectors still experience a strong need in designers.
The key reasons for that are inadequately promoted modern and progressive design, the understanding of design as decorativist and populist trends in the absence of the notion of design in its international sense, and the shortage of mature practitioners and experts in the country.
Good design is very importance for manufacturing industry. Now that Uzbekistan imports many different know-how and consumer goods that are marketed in close cooperation with professional designers, good infrastructure to train professionals of this calibre is a requirement for the country. At present, the local producer often simply “borrows” design from the Internet!
Now the education… Competition to enter a university should be tightened, despite the shortage of professional designers in the manufacturing sector; the quality of training facilities and teaching staff should be improved; we need more frequently running student contests with prizes and an opportunity for students and faculty to take advanced training both at home and abroad; it would also be good to introduce teaching of professional computer-aided design software.”
Kamola Akilova: “Indeed, the problem of education in the field of design is very serious and specific, since the academic system underpinning local art education fails to meet the specific objectives of design as an art. The academic art education system is static, while design is all about innovation driven by free creative inquiry. Design searches for new solutions and masters the project culture that combines artistry with innovative technology. In this process it becomes important to explore the global attainments of design, its experience and artistic concepts. I believe it is time for a large-scale international design exhibition with a parallel science-and-theory conference. This could provide a strong incentive for local designers, yet at the moment it all depends on the availability of funds to support this project.”
Vera Chursina: “In my view, training in design involves several issues that can not be resolved by school alone. This also concerns continuous professional education (from school to college to university) and collaboration between education institutions and sector industries. There has to be a solid and long-term relationship of departments training future designers with industry, as well as with art studios of already reputable designers. Students can be engaged by a design bureau to perform specific tasks and, given the industry’s profile, develop actual models. Thus working on a joint project students not only acquire essential skills, but also master related professions. Industry, however, is not always willing to cooperate; therefore, an alternative may be an international experience when practicing designers, managers, marketing experts and merchandisers are invited to deliver a short lecture course or master classes. It could serve as good career guidance for graduating students, while helping to address employment problem eventually.
I also have to note that a professional training program in design should aim to develop creative potential and artistic personality of every student, in universities and colleges alike. To ensure quality training one has to have modern equipment and better facilities.
Zaur Mansurov: “Firstly, I would like to recall the purpose of our discussion and agree with our maitre Akbar Khakimov that this gathering should not only inform: there has to be a debate to identify the real issue. However, I disagree with the statement that there is no design in Uzbekistan. It is present everywhere. But if you narrow down the concept of design from its general notion to the concept of “modern-day” or “effective” design that involves creating something innovative, here we have a major issue. And the matter is not only funding, and certainly not the absence of information. Most likely, the root of the problem is in our minds, in a kind of neophobia so to say, the fear of the new. This, by the way, is true not only for design, but also for the fine arts, architecture, music, cinematography, etc. After all, finances are not always a factor when it comes to creating something brilliant. Important is to have more area experts and adequate support to implement innovative ideas. This matter requires awareness of the masses, because design essentially is everything that surrounds us. Everything said earlier about landscape, apparel, exposition and other kinds of design proves it. Design is a notion everyone can comprehend, and we need to give people opportunity to realize it. It would be good to hold annual or more regular design-related exhibitions.
The local ExpoCentre hosts annual exhibitions dedicated to architecture, construction and design. Sadly, not always one can find creativity, innovation and bright ideas there. I believe our job is also not to let bad taste invade the market. Perhaps it would be good to invite foreign experts in different fields of design to the country and engage them in workshops, exhibitions, practice sessions and lectures; to run national and international contests with the top prize being not only material, but also one representing professional authority: at stake should be the designer’s reputation. Education is a separate theme.
The educator’s main job is to teach design to his students: once introduced to the technical and functional aspects of the matter, the student should develop a sense of style. This is probably fundamental in domains of art, and design is no exception.
Kamola Akilova: “Well, perhaps it is time to take stock. Design in Uzbekistan is an evolving domain, and the resolution of many of its pressing issues depends on us, including the designers, artists and art critics attending the round table discussion today. Design is an area that covers creativity, art education, manufacturing and consumption, and for this reason its problems can only be resolved through collective effort. So let us all succeed in this endeavour!”