Dotted across Fitzroy and Collingwood are storefront windows lit up in a vivid shade of green. In one you might see a timber hammock. In another, two abstract figures suspended in an eternal dance. One window features a deceptively simple stool with a deep groove down the centre. Another showcases an impossibly balanced table. This is Community, the fifth exhibition by Alt Material, a design collective curated by Collingwood’s Studio Edwards.

“We were wanting to create a platform for designers to be a bit more experimental,” says Nancy Beka, co-director of Studio Edwards and co-organiser of the exhibition. “The idea was that it never needed to be completely refined work or marketable pieces – just more experimental. A bit more out there, I suppose.”

The exhibition features 22 works across 18 different locations – a mix of operational shops and cafes such as Flowers Vasette and Smith Street Alimentari, as well as closed storefronts.

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“We were looking at Smith, Gertrude [and] Brunswick streets, and thinking how a sense of culture had died over Covid,” says Beka. “For us, it was, like, how can we inject some culture and life into this area again?”

Studio Edwards put a callout to designers, both in Australia and abroad, for an exhibition aimed at taking experimental design out of the gallery space and into the world. Community is set up to be viewed from the street, which means it can be experienced either deliberately or serendipitously. The works are a mixture of sculpture and furniture, and are emphasised by the bright green backing.

“When you’re on your morning commute it just shouts out at you,” Beka says, laughing. The idea is people who are on their way to get a coffee or out for a lunch break might pass by a few of the pieces and stop to take them in. For those keen to see the full exhibition, there is a map with the exact locations along with information about the designers. There is also a daily ticketed walking tour, which is often led by Beka herself.

“I feel passionately about it, I'm so close to the work – I want you to experience it the way I know it and the way that I appreciate it,” she says.

The theme of Community is broad and the designers involved have all responded in different ways. Beka points to one work by UK architect Sam Jacob who has taken Community as an opportunity to redesign and re-imagine the concept of the loveseat.

“The idea was you taped together these normal chairs in unconventional ways, so that you start to force people to sit in unconventional ways and [encourage] interaction,” says Beka.

Community also features a wide cross section of designers and works from around Australia and the world. Following the exhibition, all of the pieces will be available for purchase via online auction.

Community is on now as part of NGV Melbourne Design Week from March 26 to April 5. A map of the exhibits can be found here, while tickets for the daily walking tour can be purchased here.

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