With plastic surgery for fighters and designs for bombs, the Gwangju Design Biennale – curated by Ai Weiwei – is challenging the norms of commercially motivated design weeks.

This article titled “Korea’s design biennial: an extreme body of work that pushes no products” was written by Justin McGuirk, for guardian.co.uk on Tuesday 6th September 2011 11.41 UTC

September is “design week” season, when cities from London to Brussels to Beijing flaunt their design talent, if they have it, or fly it in if they don’t. Either way, the idea that design is crucial to a lively urban economy has become so prevalent in the last decade that there are now more than 60 design weeks around the globe – some of them in cities you may never have heard of. This weekend I was in Gwangju, the sixth biggest city in Korea. The Gwangju Design Biennale may sound obscure, but it is rumoured to have a bigger budget than the Venice Art Biennale, which tells you how seriously the Koreans take their design.

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