We've been proud to partner with the School of Visual Arts' Design Criticism department over the past several years, and 2013 is no exception. The curriculum for the two-year MFA program culminates with an afternoon-long conference in which the graduating class presents their thesis research alongside the likes of faculty members Paola Antonelli and Adam Harrison Levy, as well as guest speakers such as Michael Bierut, Julie Lasky and Rob Walker to name a few.
counter/point: The 2013 D-Crit Conference, moderated by NPR's "The Takeaway" host John Hockenberry, and featuring graduating students of the SVA MFA in Design Criticism, will take place on Saturday, May 11, 2013 at the SVA Theatre in New York City.
Paola Antonelli, senior curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, will deliver the keynote lecture, launching an afternoon of rich, polyphonic exchange between the D-Crit Class of 2013 and a headlining roster of design curators, practitioners, theorists, critics, educators, and planners. D-Crit students will be presenting their thesis research in counterpoint with: Walker Arts Center curator of Architecture and Design Andrew Blauvelt; British interaction design firm Dunne & Raby co-founder Fiona Raby; architect and theorist Mark Foster Gage; director of the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City Toni Griffin; and architect and activist Michael Sorkin.
Topics to be addressed include: the persistence of segregation in today's built environment; the problems inherent in exhibiting graphic design; the spectacular framing of nature in the urban environment; product design's social and participatory dimension; and how some emerging architects are using literal representation in new ways.
As always, the D-Crit Conference features an all-star lineup of speakers, but the students themselves have remarkably diverse backgrounds and each is a sure to make their voice heard within the design criticism community. Thus, Counter/Point is the perfect opportunity to see these rising stars present their latest work as they look forward to their next endeavors.
SVA D-Crit presents Counter/Point
Visual Arts Theatre
333 W 23rd St (between 8th & 9th Ave)
New York, NY 10011
Saturday, May 11, 2013
We were duly impressed with David Soukup's painstakingly detailed stencils when we first saw them back in 2011—I could hardly believe that some of those ultrafine lines were stenciled and not applied by an implement (or at least masked off). He's pleased to announce a solo show at Maxwell Colette gallery in his current hometown of Chicago: "This show is one of my most personal to date, and marks a return to some of the imagery and technical precision that I became known for."
I hadn't realized that he lost his way (the mural project, pictured above, dates to October of last year), but earlier this year, Soukup wrote that "I had been cutting stencils for so long that I really lost what made them most important to me, and why I started doing them in the first place."
In any case, we're glad he's back on track with his first exhibition in 16 months, featuring "over 20 pieces of new work (both stencils and screenprints)." The title, Perennial Escapism, is an obvious play on the subject matter, but the rather literal take on an exit strategy belies the integrity of the subject matter: the imagery is "derived from the artist's own photographs of early 20th century wrought iron fire escapes in Chicago." To hear Soukup tell it:
This work represents a personal 'escape' so to speak. I went back to what first made me passionate. I drew inspiration not just from the city imagery itself, but from the textures, the grit, and the distress that makes up a city. Perennial Escapism marks the beginning of a new direction, one I've never been more excited to pursue.
Where his previous work was more collage-y and surreal, the stark new compositions evoke film stills, superimposed on a baselayer of impasto on the wood panels to achieve the effect of a vaguely patina'd or otherwise weathered surface. Per the press release:
Soukup's paintings combine visual elements of graphic design and collage with the tactile elements of paint and reclaimed materials to create decidedly urban motifs. He hand-cuts the elaborate stencils, some up to four feet in length, that are utilized to create his paintings. The resulting latticework of iron bars and shadows echoes the visual experience of his everyday life, and reflects his obsession with meticulous detail.
We're pleased to present an exclusive preview of Perennial Escapism:
To borrow a sports metaphor, this intimate exhibition of author and motivational speaker Kevin Carroll's personal travel memorabilia, punches above its weight offering a surprising amount of inspiration for both designer and layperson. The Art of Sport + Play focuses on Kevin's collection of hand-crafted balls from across the world. The balls' materials, construction techniques and various states of wear are provocative and beautiful but the resourcefulness of their creators—often children in dire conditions—is the real subject and inspires the viewer to pursue their own can-do path of DIY self-sufficiency. The collection makes tangible our undeniable human need for play and the motivating power of passion. If you are in Portland, catch it while it's still up:
When you think about what you might encounter at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Pac-Man and Tetris are generally not first on the list... if they're on the list at all. Last month, MoMA opened the doors on their new exhibition 'Applied Design,' showcasing a range of designed objects, interfaces and interactions dealing with nearly every facet of society. One of the major highlights of the show is the controversial addition of 14 video games to MoMA's permanent collection. The acquisition seems to toe the line between obvious and ridiculous, but we have to admit, MoMA is right on target for envisioning the modern museum collection of the digital age.
The 14 games, showcasing an array of videogames from traditional arcade, single-player fantasy to MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) were selected not on their graphic quality or aesthetics, but as exemplary pieces of interaction design.
Applied Design is the brainchild of Senior Curator of Architecture and Design, Paola Antonelli, who is no stranger to stretching the boundaries of the contemporary art museum (she was responsible for such shows as Talk to Me and Design and the Elastic Mind; for years she had been pushing to include a Boeing 747 in the permanent collection). The physical museum display of the games feels a little strange, appearing to transform part of the gallery into an arcade. From the collection of 14, about half of the games are playable for museum guests. Games employing longer narratives (Myst and the Sims among others) are displayed with a pre-recording to show the scope, while not letting guests interact directly.
The process by which such unconventional works are selected and acquired for our collection can take surprising turns as well, as can the mode in which they're eventually appreciated by our audiences. While installations have for decades provided museums with interesting challenges involving acquisition, storage, reproducibility, authorship, maintenance, manufacture, context—even questions about the essence of a work of art in itself—MoMA curators have recently ventured further.
It's that time again—with ICFF and its ever-evolving constellation of satellite shows, New York Design Week is nearly upon us. We're certainly grateful that the City Council has seen fit to promote the first ever NYCxDesign 'week'—an 11-day extravaganza that includes Frieze Art Fair on the weekend before ICFF—but it'll always be NYDW to us...
Anyway, they've been doing a great job with their event guide, but we're looking to supplement their comprehensive listings with our own annual guide, which, as always, will serve as both an authoritative guide and a quick reference to the design ongoings around town.
As with last year, we've streamlined the event submission process so all you have to do is fill out the form at http;//Core77.com/NYDW and we'll process your entry shortly.
We're looking to go live with the NYDW guide—which, as some of you may remember, works as a mobile app—in early May, so submit the details of your event ASAP! (No worries if you're a few days late—we'll accept submissions on a rolling basis, so here's the permalink to the submission form, just in case.)
The Museum of Modern Art and open hardware startup littleBits are pleased to unveil a new collaboration, on display in the windows of MoMA Design Store locations in Midtown and Soho as of today, April 9, 2013. Developed in conjunction with brooklyn design studio Labour, the "4’-tall kinetic sculptures [are] made of wood, cardboard and acrylic, [brought to life] with 'Bits' measuring less than 1 inch square."
Although littleBits have been billed as "LEGO for the iPad generation," founder Ayah Bdeir notes in her TED Talk (embedded below) that the transistor has been around since 1947—predating the the iPad by over six decades. Rather, the modular bits comprise a full ecosystem of input/output functionality, such that littleBits cannot be classified strictly as a construction toy or an electronic one. Bdeir elaborates:
The idea behind littleBits is that electronics should be like any other material, paper, cardboard, screws and wood. You should be able to pick up 'light,' 'sound,' 'sensing,' etc., and embed it into your creative process just like you do foam and glue. We sit at the border between electronics, design, craft, art and mechanical engineering, and we are constantly negotiating those boundaries. I believe the most interesting things happen at the intersection of disciplines and the borders need to become more porous for us to see the most incredible uses of electronics in the world. littleBits is a library. We now have three kits and over 35 Bits and are working on the next 30, so this is literally just the beginning.
We had the chance to catch up with Bdeir, an interactive artist and engineer by training, about the past, present and future of littleBits.
Core77: I understand it's been roughly a year and a half since you originally launched littleBits. Have you been surprised by the response? What achievement or milestone are you most proud of thus far?
Ayah Bdeir: The response has been incredible. When I first started the company in September 2011, I knew that we already had fans who were waiting for the product, but I had no idea the response would be what it was. We sold the first products on our site on December 20th of that year and we sold out within 3 weeks of starting. [In 2012, we grew over] a series of events: we won best of toyfair, I gave a talk on TED that got a great response, we had a documentary on CNN and at every juncture, demand shot up. It was really incredible to see people from all over the world, parents, teachers, kids, designers, artists, hackers getting excited about littleBits for different reasons.
I think my most proud milestone is that despite all I heard about the toy industry being competitive, jaded and without mercy, we won 14 toy awards in less than eight months (including Dr Toy 10 Best Educational Products, Academic's Choice Brain Toy, etc)—in some cases, we bested some of the most popular toy companies in the world.
World renowned, Parisian-based trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort sat down with Core77 to share insight into the show she curated for this year's Design Indaba, Totemism: Memphis Meets Africa. Showcasing the works of 53 South African designers, the exhibition drew connections between the pop aesthetic of the Memphis movement and contemporary trends in South African design and craft. Founded by Milan-based architect and designer Ettore Sottsass in the '80s, the work of the Memphis Group was characterized by a democratic philosophy, bold colors, simple geometries and stacked forms produced with industrial materials. As Sottsass proclaimed, Memphis, "is everywhere for everyone."
Vumela Umsebenzi Totem, Rudolph Jordaan and Micah Chisholm
Post-Apartheid South African designers reappropriated African icons in their use of animal prints, spears, wooden masks and African crafts in interior design. As the movement became saturated, the South African design community turned to art, crafts and textiles instead. As Edelkoort writes in the call for entries:
Now these long-lasting trends can gain inspiration from new ideas working with colour, craft and pattern, liberating themselves in pretty much the same way that Memphis did. Working on my trend forecasts for 2014 and beyond, it suddenly became very clear to me that there is a kinship between the Memphis ideas and South
African style, between shantytown colours and Italian kitchen laminates from that period. The use of tactile matter, coloured patterns, wild animal skins, fringes and finishes, lightbulbs and neons are all reason to believe that we can expect an '80s inspired revival of some magnitude.
The Picnic, Keri Muller (simpleintrigue)
In the video below, Edelkoort speaks about a resurgence of interest in the Memphis movement as evidenced in fashion, interiors, color palettes and pattern while highlighting the innate humanity in creating totems.
Check the jump for more images from the exhibition:
With European car sales in decline, it should come as no surprise that many manufacturers are increasingly focused on growth in China and the US. Couple this with the fact that many brands now opt for CES as a showcase for their latest connected car technologies, and this year's Geneva Motor Show was never going to be the showstopper of old.
To save you the trip, we've pulled together our highlights from the show—a selection of some of the finest design executions and some food for thought on an industry going through some massive changes.
The Crass Italian Super-cars
The mass drooling over this year's pin-ups—the Ferrari LaFerrari and Lamborghini's eccentric Venero—is perhaps an indication of what is wrong with the car industry. Testosterone prevails and with price tags of €1.3m for the LaFerrari and €3.12m for the Venero, it's also clear to see that the global recession is having little impact on high-end luxury purchases—if anything it's spurring on ever more ostentatious forms. Lamborghini no longer even seem concerned with aesthetic coherence, a frenzy of hard facets being 'complemented' by confused looking softer forms. Ferrari's counterpart, although slightly more refined, is plain awkward looking, a common result when attempting to flex F1 credentials too literally on consumer cars.
Mixed Fortunes for British Luxury Brands
Over at Aston Martin, the Rapide seems to have lost a little of it's predecessors' understated elegance. The deeper, more aggressive face gives the car a burly presence that you might not usually associate with the brand, but it is a measure that will surely increase its appeal in China, a key market for the brand if it is to survive in the future. At a cool £250k, Rolls-Royce's Wraith Coupe had what was probably the most sophisticated interior on display. With a nod to modern boating materials, the 'Canadel' wood options are named after the South France cove where company founder Sir Henry Royce and team spent time developing their wares in the 1910s—nice story and nice execution.
Last and perhaps least, Bentley looked every bit a manufacturer in transition while new studio boss Luc Donckerwolke begins his task of reinventing the brand. The new Flying Spur looked unconvincing from many angles, though especially the rear—a duller and more slab-sided take on Maserati's distinctive derrière. It was hard to pinpoint exactly, but it just seemed to be lacking character—something Donckerwolke brought to Lamborghini in spades. Let's hope he can do the same with Bentley moving forward.
Over the course of three posts, we take a look at the highlights of the second edition of the Munich Creative Business Week (MCBW), which took place from February 16–24, 2013.
Colorful "Midgets" by Bastian Müller at the downtown Filser & Gräf gallery
Historical wardrobe area transformed into exhibition displays
Lifting the "Blackbraid" bicycle with a single finger
At the Alte Kongresshalle, we found a collection of exhibitions and company presentations. One of the highlights was meeting the lightest bicycle in the world. Manuel Ostner from PG explained how they developed a new procedure to produce braided carbon frames with Munich Composites resulting in the "Blackbraid" bicycle that weighs less than 5 kg, all (hand)made in Germany. [Ed. Note: Designer Jacob Haim also used this manufacturing process, as seen in our exclusive look at the RaceBraid bicycle from last November.]
The recent Ecodesign exhibition received no fewer than 140 entries but only a handful of them made it to the exhibition in Munich. Luckily, poster presentations explained the 14 winning products in detail (which can be seen here). Nevertheless we hope that this year's Ecodesign competition features more tangible entries. More information about the competition is available at the Bundespreis Ecodesign website (in German).
Welcome words by Ralph Wiegmann (iF design's Managing Director) at the reception.
Gianluca Armento (Brand Director of Cassina) explaining the importance of their archive
Over the course of three posts, we take a look at the highlights of the second edition of the Munich Creative Business Week (MCBW), which took place from February 16–24, 2013.
"Die Neue Sammlung," an impressive museum run by the Free State of Bavaria, houses the largest collection of industrial and product designs in the world. We found it difficult to concentrate on curator Corinna Rösner's introductory remarks about the museum as we walked by amazing products that most of us only know from design history classes. During our 20-minute walk, it felt like we are traveling through time, passing by Gerrit Rietveld's chairs, Richard Sapper's TV and AIBO dogs. Suddenly, we found ourselves in front of a huge paternoster system featuring the "secret archive of Cassina" with a dozen items from the Italian manufacturer, which has been archiving products and prototypes since the 1930s. Gianluca Armento (Brand Director of Cassina) elaborated on the importance of an archive and how it can help brand management. As a company, you need to keep track of your history in order to make strategies for the future.
The "Refuge Tonneau" reconstructed by Cassina
Basic kitchen inside the Refuge Tonneau
The exhibition also features the so-called "Refuge Tonneau," designed by Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret in 1938, during the threatening early years of World War II. The space-shuttle like mountain shelter has been reconstructed by Cassina for the exhibition to demonstrate that design is not only about objects but also about vision and ideas.
Over the course of three posts, we will take a look at the highlights of the second edition of the Munich Creative Business Week (MCBW), which happened from February 16–24, 2013.
The R32, BMW's first motorcycle
BMW clay model
Our time in Munich kicked off with a guided tour through the BMW museum, led by designer Antonia Cecchetti, who passionately explained how the brand started making motorcycles and engines in 1917 and expanded throughout the years without loosing its identity. The first motorcycles used to be available in only in black with white stripes, followed by a color alternative of "white with black stripes." Today, the brand (and its colors) have expanded enormously without compromising its signature design elements, such as the iconic round headlights and kidney-shaped air intakes. We were lucky to have Antonia guide us, being a great BMW fan. We enjoyed it when she told us how the new BMW7 tail lights makes her heart beat faster.
One of the highlights at the museum is the kinetic sculpture, which was used in an advertisement for the BMW 5 series:
We're very happy to announce that Lindsay Howard and Igal Nassima of 319 Scholes are hosting the second annual Art Hack Day at the Brooklyn gallery space. Starting next Thursday, February 28, event founders Olof Mathé, Paul Christophe and David Huerta will work alongside 50+ fellow artists, designers and hackers in the converted warehouse to collaborate and produce as many projects to be exhibited two days later, when the one-night-only exhibition will be open to the public. "Visitors are invited to engage and interact with the works as they are uploaded online throughout the hack and join the teams on Saturday March 2nd starting at 7:00PM for an exhibition, live performances and party."
This time around, Art Hack Day has a theme—one that geeks, nerds and technophiles of all stripes are sure to appreciate:
What would you do if you were granted the power of invincibility? It's an age-old question and one that game developers have been playing with since the early 80s by incorporating a feature called "God Mode" which offers players unlimited strength, seconds of invulnerability, a change in camera perspective, or access to previously unreachable areas. Since then, God Mode has reached beyond gaming and become pervasive in digital life. It's the secret backdoor embedded in all our electronics, it's the jailbreak, it's how phone companies know where you are, it's how ISPs know where you surf, and it's how the NSA can eavesdrop on your communications.
Photography by Junya Hirokawa, Text by Kai Mitsushio.
Checkout our highlights from the Tokyo Designers Week and DESIGNTIDE TOKYO exhibitions here. We're always excited to see what's coming out of Japan and this year's work emphasized natural materials, used a playful integration of emerging technologies and traditional forms that delight in new ways.
Billed as "the gear we like and how it works," Wired's month-long pop-up exhibition has been a perennial holiday destination in NYC for as long as we've published our own Ultimate Gift Guide. Entitled "What's Inside," the curated 'experience' is not a direct retail proposition—littleBits starter kits are the only thing that can be purchased on site—but it's tightly integrated with their online store, featuring nearly double the amount of products in their gift guide (including most of their 85 wishlist picks this year).
OtterBox's special 'exploded view' display of an iPhone
It also happens to be just up the block from Core HQ this year, and even though lower Broadway can seem like an outdoor shopping mall at times, it's more manageable than Times Square, where they'd set up shop last year. It's well worth a visit if you happen to be in the neighborhood, visiting another noteworthy Pop-Up Shop.
The prominently-displayed Faraday Porteur wasn't available for a test ride when I stopped by, but it's one of the few items that is visible from the street. Given the openness of the front third of the space, I was surprised to find densely packed shelves and display cases upon walking in; so too is the lower level packed with goodies (I'd overlooked several products my first time around; even Store Manager Noah Norman had trouble keeping track of where each and every item was located).
This will be difficult for Generation Xbox to comprehend, but it used to be that when kids wanted to get their game on, they had to amass a bunch of quarters and take the subway to a videogame arcade. And arcades used to be something like dive bars for kids—they were always shady, filled with cigarette smoke exhaled by miscreants, and there was always the possibility you'd get your ass kicked or have your jacket forcibly taken from you. Even still, arcades were awesome.
Perhaps the strangest thing compared to today's sleek gaming system boxes were the huge cabinets games used to be mounted in. They were phone-booth-sized particle board affairs sometimes laminated with fake woodgrain, as if some artisan had carved Ms. Pac-Man out of mahogany. The fact that they were in cabinets had at least one positive long-term effect: Shigeru Miyamoto, game god and Donkey Kong inventor, started out as an industrial designer tasked with creating cabinets for Nintendo.
The collection provides a rare visual documentation of the thinking behind the design of Atari's coin-operated games at a time when the arcade was the hub of the video game industry and Atari was the leading producer of arcade games.
According to ICHEG Director Jon-Paul Dyson, "These drawings offer a rare look into how designers created Atari's iconic arcade cabinets. Researchers will find new information about the development of these games, and the vivid visuals of these designs give them great potential for public exhibit displays."
Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York
Speaking of which, when will they be displayed? We contacted ICHEG and they're saying possibly this summer, though no hard date has been set. Sadly all we've been given are the paltry teaser images here, which weren't even scanned, but appear to be cell phone pics of drawings laid on a table. Shocking, isn't it, to see how these primitive marker drawings created a generation of dreams?
Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York
Rochester's a good six hours away from NYC, but if ICHEG posts some more compelling teaser images, I'd consider taking the trip up there. I'd like to see the drawings displayed in a gallery populated by civilized adults, where I could walk in wearing whatever jacket I wanted and not have to worry about walking back out in a T-shirt and with a fresh black eye.
Wish I could make it out to Cali for this one: Rapha San Francisco Cycling Club is pleased to present All Chips On the Table: The Bicycle Art and Design of Garrett Chow, an exhibition featuring Chow's work as Lead Graphic Designer at Specialized, as well as his graphics for MASH, the urban cycling brand which he co-founded. Per Rapha:
From the co-creation of MASHSF to bicycle paint schemes for cyclocross star Zdeneck Stybar and Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, Garrett has been a continual inspiration in the bicycle industry with designs, illustrations and paint jobs over the years. The exhibit is your chance to see all of this live and direct.
While the exhibition opened two weeks ago, a couple image sets hit the web earlier this week—shots from Mike Martin of MASH (reproduced here with permission) and Bike Rumor as well—a welcome dose of pure bike porn to supplement the tantalizing teaser photos from Rapha.
We had the chance to talk to Garrett about his inspiration and what drives him in the studio and on the road.
Core77: You're clearly as passionate about cycling as you are about design. Which came first for you, bikes or design?
Garrett Chow: The tired cliché that as a designer, one's job never really "shuts off" sadly holds more truth than a lot of us would prefer to admit. Devoted cyclists seem to hold a similarly unflagging sense of commitment and allegiance to their two-wheeled pursuits—whether it's through constant training, watching one's diet, or wrenching on bikes, it seems like there never enough hours in the day. I'd say that both pursuits intertwine to occupy the larger focus in my life, and seemingly in equal measure.
I've been doing both for as long as I can remember. I grew up riding and drawing and making/publishing a skate 'zine as a kid—these inclinations precipitated in my study of Illustration and Graphic Design in college. I was tangentially involved in the bike industry for many years having worked on corporate-identity and branding for a friend's bike shop, Wrench Science, but it wasn't until MASH and then Specialized that I 'formally' entered the industry.
We're excited to check out our friend Rob Walker's latest endeavor, an exhibition at non-profit NYC gallery Apex Art. As Real As It Gets is an 'exploration of "imaginary brands and fictional products,' it includes works (including new commissions) by Shawn Wolfe, Conrad Bakker, Dana Wyse, Kelli Anderson, Beach Packaging Design, Ryan Watkins-Hughes, Steven M. Johnson, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, among others." The longtime culture/design critic is perhaps best known as a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, and Walker has continued to explore consumer culture with the penetrating insight of a modern anthropologist and sometime design observer since he penned "Buying In." This summer saw the publication of "Significant Objects," an anthology of stories from a project of the same name; As Real As It Gets is also an exercise in creating meaning, except with the opposite approach: starting with a fiction to arrive at a final product.
Tell me about yourself, and you might mention where you're from, the music you prefer, perhaps a favorite writer or filmmaker or artist, possibly even the sports teams you root for. But I doubt you'll mention brands or products. That would seem shallow, right? There's just something illegitimate about openly admitting that brands and products can function as cultural material, relevant to identity and expression. It's as if we would prefer this weren't true...
The underlying discomfort is something I've noted over many years spent writing about brands and products. One reader comment clarifies the dilemma. In a column about products and companies that exist only in the fictional worlds of books and movies, I categorized such things as "imaginary brands." Harrumph to that, this reader replied: All brands are imaginary.
I saw his point, but he'd missed mine. The ambiguity in the relationship between our selves and the brand-soaked world we navigate is exactly what's worth taking seriously, not waving away. When such consideration is filtered through an open and unpredictable mind, anything seems possible (even the wildly implausible). Willfully imaginary brands and products can be considered as a medium, expressive of joy, fear, humor, unease, ambivalence—very real stuff, in other words.
Clockwise from top left: Shawn Wolfe - "Gross National Products Presents" (detail); The Marianas - Installation view of "Montalvo Historical Fabrications & Souvenirs"; Conrad Bakker - "UNTITLED PRODUCT DISTRIBUTION NETWORK"; Ryan Watkins-Hughes - Installation view of Shopdropping Project
The works in the diverse group exhibition—handpicked by Walker—collectively address this issue, from culturejamming projects such as 'product displacement' and 'shopdropping' to what Bruce Sterling deemed 'design fiction.' "Taken together, this collection of imaginary brands and fictional products is not about brands and products at all. In this show, the marketplace is the medium."
The exhibition opens at the Tribeca gallery tomorrow evening, Thursday, November 15, with two performances during the run of the show: a "Speculative Sound Performance" by Disquiet Junto collective on Tuesday, November 27, and a MakerBot demo with artist Shawn Wolfe, who will be reissuing his functionless "RemoverInstaller" for one night only. (For more on Walker, Imprint Culture Lab recently interviewed him on the occasion of the exhibition.)
As Real As It Gets
Organized by Rob Walker
291 Church Street
New York, NY 10013
November 16 – December 22, 2012
Opening Reception: Thursday, November 15, 6–8PM
Spanning the last 30 years, YUNG HO CHANG + FCJZ: MATERIAL-ISM explores FCJZ's experiments in architecture, design, planning and art together with a detailed study into the different aspects of Yung Ho Chang's practice, such as inhabitation, construction methods, urbanism, tradition, perception, and culture. Through these works, the exhibition not only considers the buildings people inhabit and the cities they constitute but also the importance of design in everyday urban life and the specific predicament of people, in the context of the last three decades of unprecedented growth in China.
UCCA Director Philip Tinari praised Chang's "witty, thoughtful and universal design solutions inspired by distinctly Chinese problems and concepts," noting that he is "considered the father of contemporary Chinese architecture." He was among the first to leave the mainland to study in the States (Berkeley '84), where he lived and worked for over a decade before returning to his hometown Beijing in 1992.
Known as both the first architect to set up an independent atelier in China and the first Chinese national to head a major department of architecture in an international university—having served as dean of architecture at MIT 2003–2009—Chang has inspired a wide range of followers and mentored a new generation of talent.
As he recently related in Time Out Beijing, Chang fondly recalled the traditional courtyard houses hutong of his youth... even as he witnessed the radical reinvention of the ancient capital over the course of two decades, as upwards of 88% of the iconic alleyways were bulldozed (according to UNESCO) in favor of the soulless highrises that dominate Beijing's cityscape today.
Perhaps the most interesting exhibition I came across at the Interior Lifestyle China show was tucked in a quiet wing of the Shanghai Exhibition Center, opposite the Talents section. Where all of the dozen designers in the latter section manned their booths for most of the show, "Shine Shanghai" was acutely underdocumented: when I asked a hapless staff member for information about the special exhibition, he dryly noted that "there is no explanation."
Thankfully, the exhibition guide was slightly more helpful, denoting that this was the fourth time around for "Shine Shanghai," featuring well-known Shanghai designers who were invited to persent new work for the theme "built to last." Based on the designers' "independent research," the majority of the projects incorporated stainless steel, "this year's material," reflecting—often quite literally—the theme of enduring quality. Hou Zhengguang Hou and Ding Wei, credited as producers (curators?), are among the 18 designers who participated in the (presumably) annual group show.
Yet the cursory background information only goes so far: I still have no idea why each piece is accompanied by a childhood portrait of the designer—with details about where he/she attended elementary school—alongside the designer bios, which greatly varied in length. Only a few included passable English translations of the Chinese wall text, which was often a bit poetic for my rudimentary language skills (and Google translate as well).
L: Zhang Zhoujie; R: Ding Lu
Even so, the work was strong enough to make an impression sans exegesis, and "Shine Shanghai" was an unexpected highlight from the predominantly commercial tradeshow. All in all, the special exhibit was a remarkably consistent showing from the rising and established stars of the Shanghai design scene.
NB: In the interest of comprehensiveness, I've included images of every piece in the show, though I've only included as much additional information as I can reliably offer.
Hou Zhengguang - "Beautiful Mountains"
Hou Zhengguang completed his Masters in Furniture Design in the UK before returning to Shanghai, where he's currently a designer at Moreless (he's behind the "Three Walkers" stool, which we saw in Milan this spring, among other designs). While the "Beautiful Mountains" turn up in some of his other designs for Moreless, the "Collective of Individuals" is actually an array of 81 IKEA ashtrays.
Today Tumblr and Paddle8 will announce their upcoming exhibition and call for submissions to Moving the Still, which will examine the GIF as an art form. If you've been making GIFs since their emergence 25 years ago, now's your chance to present your best mini animations to a selection council that includes Michael Stipe, the Rodarte sisters, Ryan Trecartin, Vinoodh Matadin & Inez van Lamsweerd, and James Frey, who will review the submissions when the open call ends on November 7, 2012, and decide whose work to include in the group exhibition scheduled to open in Miami in December for Art Basel Miami Beach.
Not sure what a GIF is? Patrick Davison of MemeFactory defines it as "an image that's been encoded using the graphics interchange format, where it has multiple frames encoded into a single image file and a web browser or other piece of software will play those images back in animated sequence automatically." The GIF has gotten a bad rap throughout the years, thanks to unfortunate pop culture icons like AOL's You've Got Mail icon and the infamous Dancing Baby, but it's recently reemerged as a viable art form of its own, thanks to people like Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg, who created the Cinemagraph (above). You can use their smartphone app to make your own GIFs. Get inspired with this PBS mini doc and submit your own to "Moving the Still" via Tumblr or Paddle8.
Within the Passionswege ("pilgrimage ways") craft and design project of Vienna Design Week, Vienna-based designer Valentin Vodev was asked to collaborate with J. L. Lobmeyr, the renowned Viennese glassware manufacturer, now run by the sixth generation.
Vodev developed a series of pictograms to reveal "secret" information about the long-standing Lobmeyr product portfolio—information about the glassware that is never communicated to the buyer, yet passed on verbally from generation to generation to distributors and within the company.
These inside stories are based on technical as well as socio-cultural properties that have been discovered over the past 150 years of the Lobmeyr business. Vodev has brought these attributes to the surface to make them visible. Even though the unobtrusive symbol engravings are not clearly marked at first sight, the delight of discovering them at a second glance is part of the experience when looking through the Lobmeyr glasses.
For one of the Passionswege projects of Vienna Design Week, London-based designer Mathias Hahn was assigned to work with Staud's, a Viennese producer of fine vegetable and fruit preserves.
Hahn created an intriguing installation in which he approached the world of Staud's by poetically addressing color, material and the meaning of preserving for winter time. Each of the various vessels on display seemed to capture all the good stuff that summer has to offer; almost like a time capsule, recallable during a long, cold winter.
Mostlikely, a Viennese design collective, reproduced the Vienna Basilisk during Vienna Design Week. According to a Viennese legend from the 13th century, this mythological creature comes to life "when a rooster lays an egg which is hatched by a toad, and the offspring is reared by a snake". It was eventually forced to explode by being confronted with its own ugliness in a mirror that was held up in front of it by a brave young man.
Mostlikely rebuilt the Basilisk as a five metres tall paper structure—constructed from 360 single pieces, consisting of 3,780 different two-dimensional paper shapes, assembled with 22,680 joints. In order to produce this high number of technically complex forms rapidly themselves, the designers used low polygon modeling. This 3D computer technology, usually implemented for filmic visual effects, was put into manifestation with what they refer to as "low tech prototyping".
The 360 individual components were for sale at the finissage, the exhibition closing, to find a new life as lamp or whatever other function a buyer can imagine for their very own paper monster puzzle piece.
Industrial design graduate Lena Goldsteiner is currently showcasing her graduation project "Theatre of Destruction" during this year's Vienna Design Week. In the "Gschwandtner" location—a disused all-purpose-hall from the 19th century—she installed the complete set up to perform her project, which is all "about repair, destruction and reproduction".
Visitors are invited to bring apparently worthless and broken household devices, so they can be given a new life. Various squeezers and shredders on site encourage and enable people to chop up and fragment discarded plastic parts. These shards could then be re-processed into a plastic wire to feed a 3D printer, with which the new part, necessary to fix the broken household device, could be printed.
I am writing "could," as the machine for transforming various types of plastics into spools of plastic filament for 3D printers is not quite put into existence yet. But thanks to the Kickstarted project Filabot it will be soon.
An unusual liaison of material and function: pan and brush made from horn and pig hair by bespoke craftsmen.
The concept of the Passionswege ("pilgrimage ways") program—an integral part of Vienna Design Week—is to connect designers with local Viennese producers and businesses in order to enforce the exchange of expertise, the preservation and further development of knowledge and the virtuosity in craftsmanship and manufacturing.
The brush manufacturer Norbert Meier is one of the last of his trade (here holding up an untreated buffalo horn from Thomas Petz, the last Viennese producer of horn ware).
This particular Passionswege project deals with the work of two handicrafts that hardly exist anymore: the brush manufacturer Norbert Meier is one of the last of his trade still possessing a master craftsman's diploma. In contrast, Thomas Petz, only 26 years of age, is the last Viennese producer of horn ware.
An intriguing and incredibly soft make-up powder brush was one of the results of this project.
Polish-born designer, curator, scenographer and design blogger Matylda Krzykowski was invited to work with both manufactories to design a series of products to be produced with these two handicrafts that are at the brink of disappearance.
The hair for the brushes is imported from China. It used to be locally sourced—until literally over night China dropped the prices for the material to a fraction of the local price, which put all local businesses out of business.
The outcome are timeless pieces that compel through their formal simplicity. Krzykowski kept the horn as much as possible in its naturally grown shape, only treated the surface to reveal the intrinsic beauty of the material. The fascination lies in experiencing how well these natural shapes work—not only aesthetically, but also ergonomically and functionally.
Ana Berlin, the VDW Lady of Press, enjoying the softness of the horn powder brush.
The 2012 edition of Interieur—the European Design Biennale taking place in Kortrijk, Belgium, October 20–28—is bound to become one of the top global design destinations this year.
Curator and Interieur President Lowie Vermeersch (former head of design at Pininfarina and now CEO of the Turin-based GranStudio), set out to reconnect with Interieur's avant-garde roots through a selection of 300 carefully picked international exhibitors and an extensive cultural program, 'Future Primitives' installations, custom-designed bars and a pop-up 'bistro.'
Crucial this year is the expansion beyond the Xpo fairgrounds, into the city center and particularly the Buda Island.
Together these expanded locations will establish a new DesignCity with a continuum of lanes, diagonals, piazzas and unexpected places where installations, actions and encounters unfold.
Seven specially commissioned Future Primitives project rooms by Nendo (JP), Troika (UK), Makkink & Bey (NL), David Bowen (US), Ross Lovegrove (UK), Greg Lynn (US) and Muller Van Severen (BE), will offer different investigations into our future living environment.
When Lin Lin, co-founder of the Chinese design consultancy Jellymon says something, people usually listen. Her tiny frame conceals a ebullient personality and creative energy that has propelled Jellymon's unique graphic branding vocabulary into an insider's language of what's fun and cool in youth-oriented China.
At this year's Beijing Design Week, Lin Lin took over five rooms in a DashilarHutong to present her latest creative projects to the public—accessories and furniture, a new food endeavor and a sneaker branding concept.
Triple X Ohhh! Sauce from Jellymon's Spoonfull of Sugar Cafe
GFG is a personal project from Lin Lin that is an exercise of her passion for product design. The debut collection includes a range of accessories, furniture and tableware. I love the punchout DIY nipple tassles (after the jump) that are packaged in a beautifully designed paper envelope, perfect for gifting. A small group of linked, overlapping "Top Me" rings are an obvious nod to Vivienne Westwood's Knuckledusters but display a delicacy and femininity in the details.
Model of the Olympic cauldron designed by Thomas Heatherwick
With only 48 hours left to see "Heatherwick Studio" at the V&A in London, the fantastic exhibition about the progressive and experimental work by the studio established by architect and designer Thomas Heatherwick, it's not surprising that crowds are packing in to see the overwhelming array of projects developed and executed by the studio, so be sure to book your free ticket in advance. Given the expansive nature of the studio's work, it's not clear as to why the museum chose to hold the exhibition in a single, smallish room off the central hall. Still, if you can bear shuffling through the thicket of wonderstruck visitors it really is well worth the occasional bump or shove. The projects on view, which range in scope and scale from the recent Seed Cathedral to the Christmas cards his studio has been sending out every year since 1994 give you an idea not only of the full range of Heatherwick's abilities and expertise, but the smaller projects, proposals and materials experiments give a sense of perspective and deeper understanding of the studio's larger architectural structures.
Heatherwick, who studied 3D design at Manchester Polytechnic, began what would become a lifelong obsession with the relationship between architecture and practical craftsmanship when he interviewed architects, builders and contractors for his dissertation. "His research supported his view that there was a disconnection between the design of buildings and the craftsmanship of architectural details." To marry the two, he founded a studio in 1994 that focuses on the creative process and pushes fabrication techniques to the limits of the materials. Ideas for larger scale structures emerge from experiments with crushing or folding paper, or dropping molten metal into a beaker of cold water, for example. "One of their lines of enquiry has been that texture can define the form of a building rather than simply act as a surface detail or facade decoration." The textures the studio experiments with include everything from the spiky exploded form of B of the Bang, a metal sculpture located in Manchester, and the Seed Cathedral built for the Shanghai 2010 World Expo. The exterior, comprised of 60,000 acrylic rods embedded with plant seeds, has since been dismantled, but pieces of it are shown in the exhibition.
Heatherwick studio remains one of the only design and architecture practices that makes the majority of their models in-house in an effort to use model-making as an essential part of the overall design process. They're also the only studio, to our knowledge, that takes their Christmas cards so seriously. Until 2010, the studio used the annual tradition of creating and sending Christmas cards as an opportunity for even more experimentation with materials, and the meticulously crafted cards "were considered to be individual studio projects in their own right... Mini production lines were set up each Christmas. Bespoke tools, jigs and other devices were invented specifically for the fabrication of hundreds of cards." Taking in this huge range of projects in a single lap around the exhibition space at the V&A is the perfect way to wrap up London's season-long celebration, first with the Olympics and then with the city-wide engagement in London Design Festival.