‘La letra E está por doquier / The Letter E Is Everywhere’
Centro de Diseño de Oaxaca, 22.11.2012 – 3.02.2013
at Galería Manuel García, Portal Benito Juárez núm.
110 altos, Centro Histórico Oaxaca, Mexico

The Centro de Diseño de Oaxaca is a public institution that understands design as a tool for social change in a quest to create empathy with Oaxacan society, giving precise attention to the cultural priorities articulated by the technological capacities of our time in a participative effort. The privilege of collaborating with the Studio Manuel Raeder therefore represents an excellent opportunity to generate new ways of looking at the world of objects from the perspective of an environment rich in techniques, materials, tradition, and history: Oaxaca.

‘The Letter E Is Everywhere’ is the result of Raeder’s probing curiosity about forms defined in their functional, esthetic, and purely formal aspects. His pioneering work as a designer and publisher of artist’s books gradually led him to become interested in the construction of narratives in the form of books, designed spaces, and furniture. Books could then be bearers of information or experimental devices that document and present narratives even as they dialogue with their surroundings. This path of exploration and exchange of ideas originated in the notion of multidisciplinary work as an axis of diverse communications strategies and new forms of knowledge.

‘The Letter E Is Everywhere’ functions as a book containing different stories, letters, texts, and images. Instead of pages, the visualization structures and furnishings allow for the books, prints, objects, and textiles created by the Studio Manuel Raeder over the last ten years to be juxtaposed with other objects found in the course of research carried out in artisans’ workshops in Oaxaca.

‘The Letter E Is Everywhere’ also reflects the extensive collaborations and links of the Studio Manuel Raeder with Mexico. In recent years, Raeder has met and collaborated with variouse Mexican designers and artists such as Mariana Castillo Deball, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Sebastián Romo, and Rodolfo Samperio. The showing includes some of these collaborations and also offers the possibility of creating an exhibition system whereby new pieces can be developed through the exploration of both artisanal and industrial techniques and materials. This process is perfectly suited to the circumstances of the context where it has been developed, namely, the city of Oaxaca in Mexico. A key element in this process has been the Mexican designer Santiago da Silva, who has worked at the Studio Manuel Raeder for more than two years. The work of Manuel Raeder establishes a dialogue with local surroundings, material, and processes. It does not have viewers so much as interlocutors, which is what makes possible the connection between contemporary design and traditional techniques. Thus, the letter E is everywhere, interacting with people and objects in a to and fro between narrative and reading, an action that transforms the experience of what is being observed.

Giving material form to what is imagined is a task that oscillates continually between the dual faces of design: coherence and incoherence, beauty and functionality, subject and object. But making the object speak through design takes it a step further, so that it functions as an object of knowledge. In this sense, the many creations of the Studio Manuel Raeder produce innovative systems of social communication, open to the possibility of multiple readings.

‘The Letter E Is Everywhere’ also recalls the image of the gear mechanism that transmits potential energy from one component of a machine to another. In order for the exhibition to work, each piece has been developed in conjunction with the others. A whole is set in motion that cannot be isolated from each one of its parts. The pieces of furniture, which combine forms and methods of local production, were developed in the course of field research in the city of Oaxaca. They seek to dissolve the line between the objects created by the Studio Manuel Raeder and the other objects on display while questioning the relation between artisanal processes and contemporary design.

The selection of books in the exhibition reflects the central focus of the work of the Studio Manuel Raeder over the last ten years. Most of them may be considered artist’s books. Rather than representing or documenting a work, they function as an extension thereof, generating a discourse parallel to the artistic creation. Thus, the experimentation with different printing techniques and formats has come of this approach to the book as a volume in space, composed of temporal sequences. It explores the way a book can generate a range of different narratives. This experimentation also reflects the way the Studio relates to the artists and curators with whom it works in a multidisciplinary way.

Raeder’s design process is based on dialogue and the exchange of ideas, a naturally dynamic and everyday task that, in the words of ethnologist Marc Augé, corresponds to that kind of open and active culture “where objects circulate, are exhibited, exchanged, and used because they are above all the instrument of relations between human beings.”1 In this sense, design can be understood as a means of reciprocal feedback between practices and objects which strengthens social cohesion and the collective imaginary.

Design always entails dialogue, an understanding of different needs and different ways of thinking and contributing to the solution of problems. The efforts of designers are pointless when they ignore the empathetic process and the social mechanisms that give meaning to their work and enrich the context of their creations.

Lizeth Galván, Oaxaca de Juárez, April 2013

‘La letra E está por doquier / The Letter E Is Everywhere’ publication available at BOM DIA BOA TARDE BOA NOITE