As part of the Speculative Design Archive, the Dead Darlings collective organises an anonymous auction of a number of objects that have been put forward by archive creators themselves. Each blow of the auctioneer's gavel confirms the variation in interpretations of the 'value' of archival pieces.
As part of the Speculative Design Archive, the collective platform Dead Darlings is organising an anonymous auction of ‘almost’ or ‘just-not-quite’ archived objects, presented by the makers or archive formers and keepers themselves. The auction is characterised by items that have not survived the process of (self-)selection in accordance with the kill-your-darlings principle.
In this case, these deceased darlings come from the archives of designers, schools, collectives, etc., where – in spite of the significant role played by these pieces in a designer’s development – they are not seen as a key part of his or her oeuvre. They may be sketches or prototypes, but could just as easily be photos, imperfect materials and colour samples, or sources of inspiration. They can change owners for bids starting from the symbolic amount of one Euro, as in principle this auction is not about making money.
The transaction does involve money changing hands, but at least as important is the theatrical intervention, with an important part for the story of the object. Makers and archivists explain why a particular auction lot is a darling which they nevertheless want to let go; potential buyers in turn state why they want to give a new home to the object. Makers, collectors and visitors are challenged to pause and consider processes of value allocation, both in the art and design markets and in the wider world. Every time the auctioneer’s gavel comes down confirms how diverse definitions of the ‘value’ of items related to archives can be.
Ahead of the auction, the objects to be auctioned can be seen during three ‘viewing days’, as a temporary element of the Speculative Design Archive exhibition. Afterwards, they will be taken away by their new owners.
The auction model within the Speculative Design Archive
The auction model within the context of the Speculative Design Archive was prompted partly by the realisation that there seems to be no place for many design archives within the existing formal infrastructure. This means that these are put up for sale on the open market, often leading to them becoming fragmented and the individual elements being ‘adopted’ by private collectors, making it more difficult to consult them.
The general public is familiar mainly with what goes on at front of house in an auction sale: advertisements, viewing days, catalogues and finally the auctioneer’s hammer coming down. But behind the scenes, a long process of finding, selecting, registering, describing, valuing and presenting pieces takes place. This process in many respects resembles comparable steps that are gone through in the case of an archive. In the case of both the auction house and the archive, knowledge plays an important role in the process of documenting, authenticating and determining value. Dead Darlings’ alternative, anonymised(!) auction model undermines this playbook and stimulates us to think again about the complex relationship between makers, collectors and the market on the one hand, and the general significance of items from archives as a source of knowledge on the other.
Het Nieuwe Instituut
3015 CB Rotterdam
Catalogue (incl. entrance fee)€ 7,50
Students, Friends and Members of Het Nieuwe Instituut€ 3,75