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A new exhibition captures mass-produced objects transitioning to one-offs

[THIS WEEK] The industrial revolution of 2013 is powered by bespoke kettles, writes James Pallister

A new exhibition has arrived in London which claims to help define a new era of design. Adhocracy, first commissioned for the inaugural Istanbul Design Biennial in 2012, explores a wide variety of handmade, customised and one-off products. With exhibits ranging from bicycles to kettles and 3D printers, the exhibition tries to capture a moment when mass-produced objects transition to one-offs, enabled by new social and technological shifts: ease of access to the internet, increased access to rapid prototyping technology, as well as more timeless factors of necessity and human ingenuity.

The exhibition was conceived and initially curated by former Domus editor Joseph Grima, who describes how these changes have ‘radically transformed everyday life, suggesting a new industrial revolution. If the last such revolution was about making perfect objects – millions of them, absolutely identical – this one is about making just one, or a few. Its birthplace is not the factory but the workshop, and its lifeline is the network.’

The London iteration of this travelling show is co-curated by Thomas Ermacora, a self-described ‘urban designer and futurist’ and founder of the Clear Village regeneration organisation. It’s hosted in the gallery he runs, Limewharf, a large space which looks out on to Regent’s Canal, one of the many galleries on East London’s Vyner Street.

It’s a big show, and the variety and quantity of work helps its argument live up to the hype, even if at times it feels more like a menagerie of curiosities than a set of objects which convey a coherent narrative. Visiting designers and architects may worry that all this DIY talk means someone is set to steal their lunch, but with intelligent engagement with movements of the type this exhibition documents, there seem to be genuine opportunities for clever design thinking.

Visit Adhocracy, Limewharf, London E2, to 12 October, Tue-Sun, 11am-8pm, £4.00

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