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demedartsWalker Design


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Walker, Design by Ruth Mateus-Berr & Pia Scharler

Steel, stuffed toys



PANDA represents a rollator (walker) inspired by the "Panda Banquete" Chair of the Brazilian brothers Fernando Campana and Humberto Campana. Friedman Benda presented the Campana Brothers: Conceptsas the first solo gallery show in the United States by the renowned Brazilian in 2013. The exhibition homepage describes their work as: “Arguably the most influential and acclaimed designers from any emerging country in the world, the Campana Brothers’ work is strongly influenced by their home country, Brazil, and thematically touches upon issues ranging from globalization to sustainability. Light-­‐hearted and playful in nature, the Campanas’ designs often employ the use of recycled and humble materials, elevating these materials to a higher level in the creation of works that cross cultural boundaries while incorporating themes of transformation and reinvention” (Benda 2013). According to the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) Chi Chi, “the giant panda not only adorns the WWF logo - it has become an international symbol of nature conservation. The bears with their unique coloration were once widespread, but today there are fewer than 2,000. However, rebuilding the population is a complex undertaking.”

Pandas are known as "ambassadors of friendship" or youhao shizhe (友好使者). Pandas are not only China's national treasure, they are also an instrument of diplomacy (‘panda diplomacy’): they have been used for centuries to polish China's image in the world. Now there is resistance. Tan (2023) observes: " Zoos currently pay China around half a million US dollars a year. When panda bears are born in the zoos and countries that receive them, they legally belong to China according to the loan contracts and are returned to the Chinese panda breeding centers when they are three years old, in particular to the "Wolong Nature and Reserve Breeding Centre" in Sichuan. […] The pandas are meant to polish China's image in the world - a cute bear is a better ambassador than a communist regime that doesn't care about human rights."

This walker represents Critical Design, which is a style of design that criticizes things or conditions, here it draws attention to a deficiency in design and demands the right to self-determined and self-confident aesthetics. The objects are not intended for actual use, they are intended to contribute to a change in design. This approach also draws on experiences from reminiscence therapy, which deals with memories from personal biographies. This is supplemented by visual, haptic, auditory and olfactory design and in relation to body memories, which still require a lot of research in terms of dementia research.


Friedmann Benda (25.4.2024)

World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) (25.4.2024)

Tan, Marcus (2023). Der finstere Plan hinter dem Panda. In: Der Pragmaticus. Dossier Artenschutz(25.4.2024)

DEMEDARTS is an artistic research project of the Center for Didactics for Art and Interdisciplinary Education at the University of Applied Arts Vienna.

Funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), within the PEEK-program (Programm zur Erweiterung und Erschließung der Künste): A-609 ; Project DOI: 10.55776/AR609

The project runs from: February 2020 – January 2023


2024 Arte Laguna Prize for Art & Design. International Prize for Contemporary Art.

AWARD FUNDER: Italian Cultural association MoCA (Modern Contemporary Art)

Ruth Mateus-Berr and Pia Scharler

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