Hannes Bernard and Guido Giglio have been collaborating since 2012 on projects combining urgent societal questions with transdisciplinary research. Giglio is an architect from Brazil and Bernard is a graphic designer from South Africa; both graduated from the Sandberg Instituut’s Design Master programme. Based between Amsterdam, Cape Town and São Paulo, they collaborate under the moniker of SulSolSal, which means “South, Sun, and Salt” in Portuguese. Their projects combine cultural, historical and economic research to create communal spaces, publications and food performance as a means of investigating the complex relationships between design, economy & society. SulSolSal will participate in the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial – A School of Schools with an installation titled  “Staying Alive”, which examines the escalation in recent years of the frequency and scale of disasters, crises and catastrophes: from ecology and socio-economics to politics, ethics and technologies. As a response, the preparation for a broad array of possible doomsday scenarios has sparked new interests, hobbies and communities, as well as alternative channels for the production and distribution of emergent knowledge. As Bernard and Giglio visit Istanbul for the installation set-up, we discuss their work and approach.

Tuğçe Karataş: With regards to your design education, how did you two meet and how did SulSolSal emerge?

Guido Giglio: I am from São Paulo, Brazil. I studied Architecture at the University of São Paulo, which was very much based on Bauhaus and the modernist tradition. Then, I came to the Netherlands in 2010 to attend the Master's programme at Sandberg Institute.

Hannes Bernard: I am originally from Cape Town, South Africa. I studied Graphic Design at the University of South Africa. I came to Amsterdam in 2011. We met while studying at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam and started working together in 2012. What brought us together in the first place was the mutual background and understanding of the “South” or the idea of “Southernness.” We were both interested in the triangulation between Europe, Africa, and Latin America, and the research into the relationship between the north and south, but also the south and south, or Brazil and South Africa.

T.K.: This year the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial has a research and process-orientated approach. How has your project emerged from this perspective?

H.B.:  The nature of where the practice started was already quite research-orientated. What is the Southern design practice look like? What space can you create with the perspective of South within the discourse of design? We couldn’t find good references and direct links within the existing practice. The research angle comes from our understanding of these relationships historically and economically. Our practice is very interdisciplinary but the notions of global development are at the centre of our interest. In the case of the biennial, our involvement is focused towards the performative and food-related side of our practice. We work with food as a medium. Through a series of projects over the last year and a half, we have been extending on the topic of new forms of survivalism. What is the typology of disaster today? There are temporary crises in Europe such as immigration whereas in the South, there is a condition of permanent crisis. What kind of design strategies exist in this kind of permanent crisis? The exhibition idea came from preparing for disasters. It touches on a number of domains such as housing, healthcare, labour conditions.

T.K.: Can you briefly explain the curatorial approach for the installation?

H.B.: We tried to create a number of perspectives not only through our own work, but through the selection of related works. For us, the important thing is to create the connection between all of these domains or to create a platform for all. We want to create all of these intersections between politics, economy, social ecology and technology. In terms of design and engagement, we try to collect all the different approaches and responses to the idea of disaster. For us, it is a way to open up these discussions to the wider public and challenge the idea of what design can or should do.

T.K.: How does your project as a part of 4th Istanbul Design Biennial relate to this year’s theme, A School of Schools? Can you briefly explain your thoughts on design education in its current state?

H.B.: In terms of agency as in preparing for the disaster, governmental infrastructure or governmental bodies are responsible for this form of immediate emergency care. In this age of neo-liberationism, the idea of preparedness falls towards education. During the Cold War, you would get trained for a nuclear attack, whereas today, you are responsible for building your own bunker. Therefore, the solutions come from the private sector. One recent example was Elon Musk and the cave rescue in Thailand.

G.G.: Schooling and learning are related to the idea of preparedness. You are preparing a certain future with a certain amount of knowledge and a belief that it is going to be useful in the future.

H.B.: What design can do is also very related to design education. But when we started to research, we saw two different frames for design education. Designing for the future is very pragmatic, which is the idea of somehow we can accept that we are running out of resources. So design has a role to provide some solutions or responses for the inevitable future. And it is often connected to technology. The democratisation of the technology can allow smart designs. Then, there is also a very different kind of design education that tends to look at things ideologically. Historically, we come from very dystopian hierarchical societies. And we always have scarcity because all the resources have always been in the hand of a few. And it is possible for us to make a new project. So we can say that we don’t accept what is happening today and the role of design is to speculate or radically challenge what kind of a future we can have.

T.K.: How will your project continue after the biennial ends? What will be its legacy?

H.B: It would be interesting for us to break down the hierarchies and the positions of design projects on an international stage by creating unusual relations between things to resonate with the public. It is not about perfect representations of perfect design projects on this big podium. But it is also very accessible. As a legacy, the creation of a new possible network between people is one of the aspects of our practice. •