Spotlight: Human·Kind


Anna Carnick Wava Carpenter

Wava Carpenter and Anna Carnick share their thoughts on the theme of this year's Design Miami/

As Design Miami/ 2021 opens in Miami Beach, Curatorial Director Wava Carpenter and Editor-in-Chief Anna Carnick share their thoughts on this year’s theme, Human·Kind.

Artfully intertwining formal references from West African furniture archetypes and Euro-centric Brutalist tropes, Samuel Ross’ works propose a projected post-Atlantic Black-futurity, where the intellectual dominance of Modernism has been splintered, expanded, redirected and reconfigured. Photo by Daniel Kukla; courtesy of Friedman Benda and Samuel Ross

Human·Kind is conceived as a call to action—starting where you are, where you can—to improve conditions around the world, guided by new posthuman design thinking and our most humane impulses.

Posthuman ethics arose decades ago, spurred by the anticipation of profound technological advances (such as AI), as well as by the realization that our species is threatened by cataclysmic environmental devastation of our own making. At its foundation, posthumanism seeks to level the traditional, destructive hierarchies that value humans over nature and non-human beings in order to secure a better future.

Tanya Aguiñiga's Extraño series draws from the Spanish word extraño’s two meanings: the experience of missing (to miss) and the adjective, strange. The braided wall works were made in the company of grief, gratitude, rage, exhaustion, and worry experienced in response to the constant threats our BIPOC community faces and the diverse affects and losses of the pandemic. Photo © Volume Gallery

In recent years, amid renewed cries for social justice, posthuman approaches have expanded to embrace the leveling of the traditional hierarchies *among* humans as well, recognizing the perspectives of people(s) who have long been denied access to the full slate of human rights and privileges.

Flora Cabinet by Marcin Rusak, created from discarded flowers from the floral industry. Photo © Mathijs Labadie; courtesy of Twenty First Gallery

The posthuman goal now is to see the world as a multidimensional network of beings entangled with other beings, and to care for all as we care for ourselves. A more familiar way of articulating the new posthumanism may be simply to evoke the age-old notions of empathy, compassion, and collaboration as a promising pathway toward positive transformation—inclusive of BIPOC and LGBTQ communities, developing nations, women, displaced populations, disabled bodies, creatures great and small, and the planet as a whole.

Agnes Studio’s Lana collection explores contrasts—past and the future, the still and the living, ancient crafts and futuristic thinking. The duo envision a posthuman utopia through the evolution of Mesoamerican symbolism in Pre-Columbian architecture and design. Photo © Agnes Studio; courtesy of Ago Projects

The practice of design, at its heart, has always aimed to create a better future. But as the global challenges that humanity faces have approached existential proportions, the future that designers envision increasingly demands a fundamental reorientation of what it means to be human in this world. As an antidote to our most pressing environmental and social problems, today’s leading-edge design thinking strives to empower traditionally overlooked perspectives while expanding the scope of valued narratives.

For Design Miami 2021/ Lexus commissioned Germane Barnes to create an immersive installation exploring ta carbon-neutral vision for the future. Photo © Lexus

As a final thought, this proposition is not an appeal for lone-actors who want to impose solutions on others from a distance. It rather asks those who can to listen harder while striving for change, to engage more broadly for the betterment of humankind and beyond. ◆


Design Miami/ opens to the public December 1, 2021. Watch this space for more information about the show’s live and virtual programming exploring the theme Human·Kind.