Issue 80 of DAMNº – ORGANIC matters – explores how artists and designers look to the natural environment – pre human interventions – to find new ways of understanding, dealing and interacting with contemporary realities.

We focus on those creatives who are working to develop a counterbalance to the grip that designed structures hold over us all.  It is a celebration of those who know that the main obstacle to change is simply not realising the danger of taking the system for granted and deeming it normal.

Because it is far too easy to lose sight of the fact – especially in the era of algorithms – that our reality is manmade, that the labyrinthine structures that underpin most of our decisions are never arbitrary but carefully designed with a purpose. Most of our choices are dictated, as our way of being is prescribed; we exist in a manmade blueprint with no clear escape route.

But amongst all this are artists and designers who dare to imagine a departure from normal sensibilities, who dare to dream and even build without the capitalistic obsession to be functional, sensible and efficient. And it’s to them that we all need to pay more attention.

Organic typically means relating to living matter; in farming, more specifically, it means production without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. And while this does lie at the centre of issue 80 as we look at food, (blockchain) farming and fishing, we take the term ever further, to shapes, materials and ideas that fight for a sort of freedom from the constraints that create predictability. At DAMNº, organic is about an approach, a yearning to break free from a system and its associated limitations.

We hear from French anthropologist and DAMNº regular, Arnaud Gaillard, with his take on how ‘organic’ can influence thinking and lives. We sit down with Samuel Tomatis, who works with algae as a material, and visit the last windmill in Holland that still produces paper. Also on offer is an insight into the gorgeous work of Diana Scherer, and we learn how public space in the post-Covid era operates in India. We look into how the pebble – the ultimate organic shape – has influenced some of the most influential contemporary architects, from Snøhetta to Aedas and MAD.

There are organic time capsules, and we have a long chat with artist-duo Cooking Sections about the relationship between how we eat and the climate emergency, along with an explanation from the attention grabbing, iconoclastic projects of Danish conceptual artist Jens Haaning. We focus on how roots, plants and fungi can be utilised differently and how our senses can be manipulated via design. We also talk to Turkish artist Emre Hüner, who releases narratives from their more predictable and linear comprehension.

Highlighted in this issue are a lot of the projects we saw at the latest edition of Dutch Design Week – particularly in design research, as the event brilliantly showcased the very best in how this relatively new domain is the key to reinvention.

80 is far-reaching, but what holds it together is the idea that all the manmade, top-down structures imposed, legalised and policed to keep things ’normal’ also work to restrict creativity. They minimise the playful, free and crazy long-term thinking that’s urgently needed to pave the way for our mutual survival.

Because organic is more than just living. Organic matters.