The word “exoteric” is derived from the Greek word exō meaning “outer”, or exōterō, meaning “outside”. Exoteric signifies knowledge that is public, universal, without limits, and is accessible to anyone. This is in opposition to “esoteric”, which refers to “internal knowledge” or “inner teachings” that belong to, or are open only to an interior group. The esoteric privilege of knowledge is best exemplified in the history of capitalism, the rise of science and the medical establishment, imperialist expansion and land enclosures that sought to disempower certain groups, while delegitimizing traditional forms of knowledge.
Looking at these complicated histories as the antecedent to design practice, ‘Exoteric Design’ explores the current hegemony around design culture and its tendency to support and legitimize capitalist norms and ideas. This exhibition will explore ways of flipping the value relationship away from the designer and object of design, to re-imagine older, slower forms of meaning-making and exchange. By asking how might materials act as our teachers and mentors? What do they have to teach us about our relationships, patterns and cycles? How might we use them to catalyze important conversations? And who gets to decide what knowledge is formal, legitimate or authorized? This exhibition will explore the intersections of human-centred design, material-led studio-based research, oral traditions and open knowledge-sharing as a means to create meaningful connection and collapse structural hierarchies.