Layers of Blak

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  • 2023

  • Architectural
    Installation Design

Commissioned By:

Koorie Heritage Trust

Designed In:

Australia

Layers of Blak is an exhibition of Indigenous contemporary jewellery from the Koorie Heritage Trust’s annual Blak Design program (“the Program”). It opened at KHT in 2022 and will tour to regional public galleries over 2023-24. The exhibition design incorporates bespoke flat-pack display cases/fittings designed to tour with the artworks.


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Image: Installation view of the Layers of Blak exhibition at the Koorie Heritage Trust 1 Oct 2022–19 Feb 2023 (photo: Christian Capurro)
Image: Installation view of the Layers of Blak exhibition at the Koorie Heritage Trust 1 Oct 2022–19 Feb 2023 (photo: Christian Capurro)
Image: Installation view of the Layers of Blak exhibition at the Koorie Heritage Trust 1 Oct 2022–19 Feb 2023 (photo: Christian Capurro)
Image: Installation view of the Layers of Blak exhibition at the Koorie Heritage Trust 1 Oct 2022–19 Feb 2023 (photo: Christian Capurro)
Image: Installation view of the Layers of Blak exhibition at the Koorie Heritage Trust 1 Oct 2022–19 Feb 2023 (photo: Peter King)
Image: Installation view of the Layers of Blak exhibition at the Koorie Heritage Trust 1 Oct 2022–19 Feb 2023 (photo: Peter King)
Image: Installation view of the Layers of Blak exhibition at the Koorie Heritage Trust 1 Oct 2022–19 Feb 2023 (photo: Peter King)
  • CHALLENGE
  • SOLUTION
  • IMPACT
  • MORE
  • Design challenges included: - creating an exhibition design that references and respects Koorie design aesthetics - creating a cohesive, unified design to display jewellery by eleven Koorie artists working with different scales, materials and aesthetics - consulting and incorporating the artists’ display ideas, core to KHT’s Exhibition Protocols for Sharing Indigenous Knowledge, and the Program’s emphasis on decolonising Australian design education - creating an engaging viewing experience at KHT within a narrow, winding interstitial space - ensuring design flexibility by developing bespoke display furniture/fittings that could be flat-packed for deinstall, transport and reinstall at multiple regional venues, and - working within tight budget constraints.

  • Weekly exhibition meetings with the participating artists, KHT curators and exhibition designer, were essential to ensuring that Indigenous perspectives informed an exhibition design that also respected the individual artworks and aesthetics of each artist. Flexibility was an essential design element, resolved by creating modular, self-supporting, and robust flat-pack display furniture that can tour to multiple venues. Diaphanous layers of specially-printed fabric respond to the exhibition theme and create a readily mountable and adaptable display environment that does not require any physical intervention to each venue’s exhibition space. Recycled and repurposed materials contributed to making the design both sustainable and cost-effective.

  • Sustainability: the design allows each venue to use the same bespoke furniture and fittings eliminating the need for additional construction/materials. Sustainable materials were used including repurposing components of existing display furniture. Accessibility: in-built flexibility allows the regional venues to enjoy the same design-rich display values regardless of venue size or resources. This was an important consideration as venues for the tour were selected based on the locations of regionally-based artists participating in the Program. Positive change: a collaborative design process ensured that participating First Nations artists had ownership of the project and gained valuable experience in exhibition design methodologies.

  • Blak Design is a professional development program initiated by KHT in collaboration with the NGV and RMIT University. The Program equips Indigenous creatives with skills, confidence and industry networks to advance their design and commercial expertise, with the goal of nurturing long-term sustainable design practices and, at the same time, ensure that First People’s voices and perspectives contribute to a more equitable, authentic and inclusive Australian design landscape. A fundamental consideration in developing the Program has been the ‘decolonisation’ of design education: in keeping with KHT’s First Peoples First ethos, Blak Design is Indigenous-led, ensuring First Nations creatives are mentored by First Nations expertise. Each year the Program focusses on a single design discipline: the first two iterations focussed on jewellery, the current program on ceramics, and the forthcoming iteration will be devoted to fashion/textile design. A series of intensive workshops, delivered at KHT and at RMIT’s design studios, provides participating First Nations creatives with mentorship and advice on - developing their practical design skills, - commercial production and small business practices, - exhibition development and display, and - industry networking opportunities. The Program culminates in an exhibition of participants’ work at KHT, touring to regional venues, and supported by a substantial catalogue.