Hello from Gothenburg, where it's grey and misty. The flight from Berlin is a quick one. The Swedish landscape is more Scottish-looking than the German one, though it's an ideal, Platonic Scotland with its pines uncut, its craggy rocks covered in lichen, its barns unusually red, its farms clapperboard-Puritan. Gothenburg airport is surprisingly tiny, and it takes me a while to locate its only cash machine and draw some krone. Yes, like Britain, Sweden is one of those stubborn Schengen states which retains its own currency. I wish they'd both adopt the euro. Currency exchange is so clunky.
I make for the city centre office of Jesper Larsson, an elegant design practice in a room displaying Klein Dytham tape rolls and Japanese character goods. Jesper is just back from Tokyo, but tells me he didn't have time to see much of the three design shows going on there. He took a trip to Kyoto and Kyushu but (like me) finds himself getting quickly bored outside Tokyo.
There was a minor crisis -- trouble in Sweden's liberal paradise, Jesper called it -- over the soft porn images I'd chosen for my pecha kucha presentation. Some members of the committee felt they portrayed women as victims, or that the girls looked under-age (they weren't). There was also concern that the event's local funders might take offense. I'd already offered to blur the images -- to blobs if necessary -- and, though this was at first rejected, in the end that's what we decided to do, with the PK people pointing out that I'd already voluntarily blurred the image I put on my blog.
I can't tell you much about the other presentations, since they were all in Swedish. But the 300-odd people at Nefertiti laughed a lot, which is a good sign. And my presentation went well. I pointed out the double standard in our culture which sees women "degraded" by sexual use, whereas sexual encounters "upgrade" a man's status. I related this to the Platonic tradition of ideal forms -- adapted by capitalism as "commodity fetishism" -- and to the tendency of designers and architects in capitalism to focus on the point of exchange (when something is valuable-because-pristine) rather than the point of use (when, as in the tradition of wabi sabi, signs of use confer value, beauty and dignity). Referring to a recent issue of Domus magazine devoted to Rem Koolhaas' concept of "post-occupancy" (Koolhaas wants architects to pay more attention to their designs after they're occupied, ie used), I referred to the porn models as "post-occupancy women" and said we should see their signs of use (the sperm Jesper had spent the afternoon removing with his radial blur tool, for instance) as beautful. I ended by calling sex the place where nature's creative process meets its production process: isn't that what design is all about?