Right here, right now; The Future is Here

This blog is intended as a place for comment on a wide range of activities, but specifically, it is an adjunct to my doctoral research so I’ll be posting interviews, reviews and articles about contemporary design in museums. The following is extracted from a longer interview with a Curator at London’s Design Museum, which will feature in my thesis, but also relates to my on-going interest in visions and versions of the future.

Neon welcome sign/exhibition logo hangs over laser-cut graphic of an industrial/technological timeline and points towards the Future Factory

Neon welcome sign/exhibition logo hangs over laser-cut graphic of an industrial/technological timeline and points towards the Future Factory

The Future is Here
Design Museum
Shad Thames, London SE1
24 July to 29 October 2013
Alex Newson interviewed by Liz Farrelly, 2 December 2013

Installation shot of The Future is Here with exhibition design by dRMM Architects and graphics by LucienneRoberts+

Installation shot of The Future is Here with Exhibition Design by dRMM Architects and Graphic Design by LucienneRoberts+

“The Future is Here” grew out of conversations between the Design Museum’s Director, Deyan Sudjic, and David Bott, Director of Innovation Programmes at the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), the UK’s innovation agency, which invests in new technology for the UK Government. The TSB backs start-ups with the aim of creating new manufacturing jobs. Wanting to do more than simply promote a string of TSB projects, Curator Alex Newson hit on the idea of telling the story of the “Third Industrial Revolution”. He opens the show with an historical “time line” of inventions and scientific breakthroughs, that have fuelled industrial manufacturing from the early 18th-century to today; a “Future Factory” is installed at one end of the gallery; and a wide array of exhibits explore a range of new technologies, and include: customisable dolls delivered by post (Makie dolls); compostable trainers, demonstrating that “unmaking” may be customised too (InCycle by Puma); and a crowd-sourced sofa, designed and voted on my the public and put into production by MADE.com.
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From the Archive; Pop Panel at Pick Me Up (version three)

Pick Me Up: Contemporary Graphic Arts Fair
Somerset House, London WC1
24 April to 5 May 2014
Review of Music x The Graphic Arts panel discussion at Pick Me Up 2012
23 March 2012

Over the years at Pick Me Up, the importance of getting visitors involved in workshops and events has become more and more central to the whole project. By Pick Me Up 2010, Somerset House Curator, Sarah Mann, had responsibility for programming the vast and varied offering, from academic conference to kid’s weekend. She invited me to co-organise and chair a panel discussion examining the role of Illustration and Graphic Design in the music industry, tackling such issues as how the packaging and branding of music and bands has changed as digital delivery rocks the edifice of corporate control and a DIY spirit emerges. The speakers brought a range of expertise to the discussion, drawing on their experience working with music, from the late-1970s to now. The review below first appeared on Eye Blog.

Screen shot 2014-05-02 at 08.18.09

Wednesday 7:48am, 28 March 2012
Pop panel
Originally published on Eye Blog

Music design session at Pick Me Up with Malcolm Garrett & Kate Moross

On Friday night, as part of a “packed programme” of events, talks and workshops at Pick Me Up (the graphic arts fair at London’s Somerset House, now in its third year), I chaired a “Music x The Graphic Arts” panel discussion. Since the digital revolution of the 1980s, the music industry has undergone radical changes in formats, distribution, style and substance.

The panel: designer Malcolm Garrett (Buzzcocks, Duran Duran); critic (and Varoom editor) John O’Reilly; the prolific Kate Moross; and Tom Oldham (label boss at No Pain in Pop and Berserker, an online music/comics magazine).

Malcolm kicked off with his schoolboy Hawkwind obsession, which led him to Barney Bubbles. Highlighting the polarised nature of Britain’s tribal counter-cultures in the 1960s and 70s (naming IT and Oz magazines as “the birth of blogging”), he suggested that with Punk, “it all changed”. Later, in the 1980s, the zeitgeist was celebratory; the music industry sold lifestyles, with video and “merch” paramount, and the first sponsored tour was by Duran Duran, brought to you by Coca-Cola.
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Guest blogger; revisiting Pick Me Up (version one)

Pick Me Up: Contemporary Graphic Arts Fair
Somerset House, London WC1
24 April to 5 May 2014

Five years in and Pick Me Up is now a headline event in London’s creative calendar; undoubtedly it’s evolved and mutated, and much discussion has been generated about how it reflects and influences the graphic arts in London, the UK and beyond. But more of that later, when I visit this year’s PMU. Also, watch this space for an archival re-post of a PMU debate that I chaired in 2012, here.

Meanwhile, here’s guest blogger John O’Reilly, editor of Varoom, the magazine of the Association of Illustrators, with a long-form review of the very first Pick Me Up, back in 2010. I commissioned this for étapes magazine; it was published in “issue zero”, an experimental, white-cover experiment intended to rehearse the redesign/relaunch in the form of a quarterly “bookazine”. John explored the widest implications of PMU, as an expression of zeitgeist and as a reinvention of the exhibition/artfair.

Nobrow’s nook, Pick Me Up, 2010

Nobrow’s nook, Pick Me Up, 2010

Peepshow Collective’s DIY installation, Pick Me Up, 2010

Peepshow Collective’s DIY installation, Pick Me Up, 2010

Photography: © Sylvain Deleu
Courtesy: Somerset House

Review of Pick Me Up 2010 by John O’Reilly
23 April to 3 May 2010

Two exhibitions bookend transition moments in recent British visual culture. Back in the late 1980s a young art student took over an empty building in London’s docklands and put on an exhibition that would shape the Art World over the next two decades. Born in a recession, Damien Hirst’s show, “Freeze”, introduced the general public to a type of brash, spectacular art, and over time these Young British Artists (YBAs) combined the two-fingered, anti-establishment sensibility of their roots with a growing awareness of big-budget, Art World thrills. It evolved into brash, boom-time art, and whereas artist Robert Patterson described the YBA tag as “a kind of licence to show tits and arse more than anything”, with this second exhibition, the invitation implied in the informality of “Pick Me Up”, of a cultural cheap date, is ideologically, temperamentally and aesthetically very different.
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