UCCA’s first design exhibition invites Australian studio Broached Commissions to create a private, gendered pavilion of objects that explore histories of globalization, colonialism, and material culture.
Broached Commissions, a Melbourne- based design studio, has pioneered a new approach to the applied arts and to design objects based on extensive curatorial research into overarching historical themes such as colonialism and globalization. One of their central concerns is a key question in international applied arts practice: What happens to design when it migrates?
The group’s first exhibition in China takes as a starting point Australia’s unique position as a mediator between European cultural traditions and its East and Southeast Asian neighbors. Far from merely a show of Australian design in China, “Broached Retreat” invites international designers to collaborate on discussions on the history of design. “Broached Retreat” features twelve pieces by eight designers. The exhibition includes works from the group’s first two highly successful collections, “Broached Colonial” and “Broached East,” alongside new works made for the UCCA presentation. “Broached Colonial” explores the colonial period from the Australian perspective, probing how the country’s unique cultural geography and population—remote yet European, bringing together entrepreneurs, frontiersmen, and convicts—impacted the development of its nascent material culture.
“Broached East” focuses on Australia’s relationship to Asia during the Australian gold rush. This period saw the beginning of mainstream consumer products and lifestyle magazines, an era of consumption that continues today. With an influx of gold rush money, Australia quickly pivoted from being a penal colony to a merchant economy. It is during this period that the arts & crafts movement throws down the challenge to champion the well and locally made over the ubiquitous, cheap, mass-produced version another dichotomy that persists to this day and is at the heart of the industrial dilemmas that Broached focuses on.
“Broached Retreat” situates these collections within a new context: a pavilion constructed out of paper and stone. The pavilion consists of a masculine study and a feminine boudoir. The rooms are conceived as meditative refuge, featuring works that address the question of how we experience private, interior spaces today. A few new works are being created to fit with the show’s pavilion context. A day bed and stools are being made from the Dzek Max Lamb Marmoreal terrazzo stone. A giant loom containing a weaving by Susan Dimasi of MaterialByProduct and a dressing table by Chen Lu are being designed especially for the UCCA exhibition.
Broached Commissions is interested in design as a creative canon unto itself. The group explores narratives of design: how different times and cultures came to produce the forms that they did, and how these ideas grew, shifted, and evolved when adopted by designers and artisans in different parts of the world. The group investigates not just objects, but the locally specific intentions and desires that inspired them. For each commission, core Broached designers are joined by a curator to initiate research into the human and industrial stories of a particular era in Asian-Pacific history. Working with curators and scholars, the group constructs a narrative framework to guide the design. Broached then reaches out to international designers whose interests and practice fit the project, producing concept sketches and prototypes before engaging artisans and specialists to realize the object.
“Broached Retreat” is conceived by Broached Commissions Creative Director Lou Weis. The pavilion is designed by Chen Lu. Participating designers include Broached founding members Adam Goodrum, Trent Jansen, and Charles Wilson alongside works by Keiji Ashizawa (Tokyo), Susan Dimasi (Melbourne), Max Lamb (London), Naihan Li (Beijing), Chen Lu (Sydney), and Azuma Makoto (Tokyo).
Azuma Makoto, Broached East, Paludarium Shigelu, Aluminium and glass, 120 x 80 x 80 cm, Photo: Eric Powell
The floral arts of Japan made a huge impact on the Western world during the Meiji Restoration. Azuma Makoto was chosen to re-present the complex and fascinating history of the transportation of plants that was facilitated by the creation of the Wardian case, a glass enclosure for plants. Paludarium Shigelu, a biosphere for a single plant, is the direct successor of this nineteenth century technology.
Adam Goodrum, Broached East, Inside Out Cabinet, Plywood, Manchurian ash, brass, 152.8 x 60.6 x 690.6 cm, Photo: Eric Powell
Inside Out Cabinet takes the pre- modern necessity of hidden drawers and turns it into a playful centerpiece of a cabinet. Designer Adam Goodrum imagined the cabinet as an old man who had made his money on the gold fields: the calm, sophisticated, white exterior represents his public face, the colorful interior his youth and the origins of his wealth.
Broached Colonial, Dream Lantern, Light: light bulb, brass, glass, Disks: timber, glass, Marblo, brass (four separate pieces), Light: 25.8 x 7.5 x 7.5 cm, Photo: Eric Powell
Chen Lu's Dream Lantern is the result of research into curiosity objects of the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries, such as magic lanterns. The four decorative shades are inspired by different elements in the famous life of escaped convict Mary Bryant. The light is completely mobile and can be hung as a pendant or used as a table lantern.
Broached East, Chinaman’s File Rocking Chair, Manchurian ash and steel, 118 x 98.5 x 84 cmBroached, Photo: Eric Powell
Chinaman's File is a rocking chair designed for the roughly 16,500 Chinese gold diggers who walked from Robe in South Australia to the Victorian goldfields (480 kilometres in as little as 13 days) during the mid-nineteenth century. The rocking motion experienced by the user mimics the movement experienced by an infant slung to its mother's back. Designed by Trent Jansen, Chinaman's File Rocking Chair is a mechanical version of the maternal embrace.
Broached East, Armillary Whisky Bar, Brass and black walnut, 140 x 84 x 84 cm, Photo: Eric Powell
Naihan Li has created a whisky bar for an imagined nineteenth century Chinese entrepreneur. It acts as a gateway to catharsis for a sophisticated, worldly man, isolated but thriving in the Australian frontier culture. The form is inspired by armillary spheres, astrolabes and globe bars.
Broached Retreat, Installation View, Photo: Eric Powell
Marmoreal White, Terrazzo by Max Lamb for Dzek, Photo: Eric Powell
Marmoreal means “real marble” in Italian and is used to describe materials or objects that resemble marble. “Composed of four historically significant Veronese marbles, Marmoreal is a material exploration that celebrates the individual qualities of these stones while acknowledging that the sum of its parts makes for something far more compelling,” explains Dzek Founder Brent Dzekciorius.
Broached was keen to work with Lamb, and the Dzek product provided the perfect opportunity to create a cold, hyper-graphic, strong presence within the masculine part of the “Broached Retreat” pavilion.