Muuaaa’s installation titled ‘Soft Identity Makers’ is inspired by the island’s historic struggle with the dichotomy of being American. The installation will serve as a checkpoint for all visitors to the Biennale.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico [September 3, 2018] — Super fresh Puerto Rican-based design and innovation studio, Muuaaa, was selected by the London Design Biennale (LDB) to address how design influences emotions. Muuaaa was selected by the jury to represent Puerto Rico among some of the most exciting and ambitious designers in the world. Identity is not a topic limited to Puerto Rico, though historically, a controversial one. The refugee crisis and words such as ‘race’, ‘culture’, and ‘globalism’, all ask: who are we? The visionaries behind Muuaaa look to instill hope in people’s minds and hearts during the LDB.

Muuaaa took on the [emotional] question of contemporary national identity to address the feelings of immigrants, people that feel out of place, people who wish they were born somewhere else, or people that, against their will, moved to another country. What happens to their contemporary identity? Muuaaa’s founders believe that contemporary identities should be soft, malleable and flexible. If people have a say in them and they withstand the personalization or change of time, then national identities should reflect that as well.

Muuaaa’s creation at the London Design Biennale, Soft Identity Makers, is an interactive installation that looks to create unique symbols and graphic compositions with those that feel disconnected from their own national identity. Muuaaa’s goal is to help individuals identify, connect and cultivate a sense of hope — to generate a national identity that is representative of people’s experience, no matter where they are from. Biennale visitors will have the opportunity to physically create a contemporary national identifier such as a flag, a passport or a coat-of-arms upon their arrival. Muuaaa has created a wall made up of 45 images that serve as “identity markers”, which encompass climates, sounds, flavors, attitudes, styles, colors, and textures. Visitors will choose a maximum of 5 “markers” that they feel represent their identity. Their selections will then generate a graphically designed result, created by a Muuaaa team member, with the help of a specially designed algorithm.

“As identity and brand designers we realize that our [Puerto Rican] national identity, so often compared to our colonial background, our political baggage, and our undefined constitutional status, is precisely what a “Puerto Rican identity” is. We came to the conclusion that a “Puerto Rican identity”, contrary to pop culture or popular belief, is actually well defined. It is our social, and almost primal, response to the fear of losing the very essence of what makes us up. It’s the attachment we feel towards our national identity that commits us into denying its existence so that it can never be taken away, either by the Spanish, the Americans, or whoever colonizes us and tries to “assimilate” or water-down our culture,” said Celina Nogueras Cuevas, co-founder and chief creative strategist at Muuaaa.

Now in its second year, the Biennale looks to explore the “Seven Universal Emotions” and unite them under one language: design. Muuaaa is committed to shedding light on what Puerto Rico has to offer, especially post-hurricane Maria, proudly calling their design movement the “Puerto Rican Renaissance”.

“Your national identity or idiosyncrasy travels with you and is modified depending on your conditions. They don’t get left behind, they follow you, they blend into your new environment. But the elements that define your national identity are made out of symbols; symbols that are rigid and that don’t evolve to your new landscape or condition, feeling worn-out and outdated. Identities are malleable and this is what we’re here to prove,” said Miguel Miranda Montes, co-founder and design director at Muuaaa. “Our goal at the Biennale is to shed light on this issue and offer an alternative to those that feel disconnected with their own national identity,” added Miranda Montes.

During the exhibition period, the “Muuaaa Identity Makers Squad” will be active in the ‘Puerto Rico Pavilion’ producing free, made-to-order contemporary passports, coat-of-arms, and flags that have been re-interpreted as shirts, bandanas and cards; each one will reflect a unique identity, product of the interaction between the visitor and the installation. Muuaaa seeks to instill hope in people’s minds and hearts at the pavilion.