Dezeen Magazine

Resolve Collective reimagines role of institutions in Barbican installation

In this exclusive video produced by Dezeen, Resolve Collective discusses its latest architectural installation at the Barbican, which takes the form of an interactive landscape to be used for community organisation.

Titled Resolve Collective: them's the breaks, the installation uses materials that have been recycled and foraged from cultural institutions across London and the south coast of England to create a series of structures within the Curve Gallery at cultural centre Barbican.

Interdisciplinary design studio Resolve has filled the gallery with ramps, platforms and plank-like furniture, created from waste materials such as concrete breeze blocks and discarded packaging.

The pieces are designed to be interacted with and can be used as seating, social spaces, or stages for speakers.

The installation is housed in the Barbican Curve Gallery. Photo by Adiam Yemane

The Curve Gallery's walls are also lined with annotations documenting the installation process, as well as a library bookshelf containing books on architectural and social theory for visitors to browse.

The installation was designed to act as a forum for thought and activism and is accompanied by a programme of events, workshops and parties.

The aim of the exhibition was to question the role of social institutions by offering a non-hierarchical alternative space that is open to interpretation, as well as showcasing a circular and community-led method of design that utilises upcycling and material redistribution to reduce waste.

Visitors are encouraged to use the space to organise community events. Photo by Adiam Yemane

Resolve Collective was founded by Melissa Haniff and brothers Seth and Akil Scafe-Smith. Their work focuses on community-led design and uses art, architecture and technology to address social issues within local communities.

Them's the breaks was co-curated by Barbican assistant curator and Dezeen contributor Jon Astbury.

The collective wanted to create a space that felt accessible to all, and that could facilitate wider conversations about infrastructural and socio-economic reform.

"It's actually thinking quite differently about what we would understand to be a gallery or a museum, and thinking quite critically about what that looks like outside of those four walls." said Seth Scafe-Smith.

Resolve Collective was founded by Seth Scafe-Smith, Akil Scafe-Smith and Melissa Haniff. Photo by Adiam Yemane

Unlike a usual exhibition, visitors are invited to touch, climb on and interact with the pieces in the Curve Gallery.

"In our work, we always want people to become part of the installation and the exhibition as a way to remove the hierarchy between the artist and the audience," said Seth-Scafe Smith.

Visitors are invited to use the pieces as furniture. Photo by Vishnu Jayarajan

The installation is accompanied by a programme split into four seasons, running from the end of March to mid-July. Each season gathers a series of artists, musicians and local organisers to reflect on the themes of infrastructural practice, knowledge sharing, and joy.

During the final season of the installation, the materials that make up the installation will be given away in what the collective describes as a "closing-down sale".

Throughout the show's run, visitors will be able to claim wares for their own use, giving the waste materials another life.

"Institutions often throw away or dispose of the contents of old exhibitions. We were interested in how we could intercept some of those waste flows," Akil Scafe-Smith told Dezeen.

Contributors from Resolve's network will take part in a series of events and parties in the space. Photo by Adiam Yemane

"You'll be able to claim a material that you need for a community project or another art installation" explained Haniff.

"[And] you'll be able to mark different materials that you would like to take home using a custom-made Resolve stamp," said Akil Scafe-Smith.

"We would like people to take away material, but we'd also like people to take away a kind of moment where they get to share and support some of the organisations that we are really inspired by and try to imagine a new future in which we organise and support people in a different way," Seth Scafe-Smith added.

Resolve Collective: them's the breaks opened at the Barbican Centre on 30 March 2023 and is on show until 16 July 2023. For more international events, talks and showcases in architecture and design, visit Dezeen's Events Guide.

Partnership content

This video was produced by Dezeen for the Barbican Centre as part of a partnership. Find out more about Dezeen's partnership content here.