Lecture; Temporary Contemporary, the Boilerhouse at the V&A

As a tie-in with Bloomsbury Academic, publishers of Design Objects and the Museum (see, here), Joanna Weddell and myself were invited to give a Lunchtime Lecture at the Victoria and Albert Museum. As we shared the time-slot our talks were short and aimed at a general audience, but both are based on doctoral research, and the blurb draws connections between our projects, so I’ve included it in full before posting an edited version of my talk with the slides, which provided an additional strand of information supplementing the visuals.

Contemporary Design Objects in the Museum: Two Perspectives
The Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre
Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, London SW7
26 April 2017

‘This lecture will examine the exhibition of 20th century design. Circulation, or ‘Circ’ was responsible for many of the Museum’s acquisitions of post-war contemporary design. Joanna Weddell will discuss Circ’s role as a ‘museum within a museum’ through shows such as Design Review, 1975. The Boilerhouse Gallery was a temporary intervention at the Museum funded and run by the Conran Foundation, as Liz Farrelly will explain. Betweeen 1981 and 1986 the Gallery increased the visibility of contemporary design through thematic exhibitions that booted visitor figures and grabbed headlines, later morphing into the Design Museum at Shad Thames.’ Lunchtime Lectures Summer 2017, V&A.

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The Happy Film; graphic design on screen

Stefan Sagmeister in ‘The Happy Film’, seeking discomfort on the streets of New York. Photograph: Ben Wolf.

Stefan Sagmeister in ‘The Happy Film’, seeking discomfort on the streets of New York. Photograph: Ben Wolf.

The Happy Film
Duke of York’s Picturehouse
Preston Road, Brighton, East Sussex
14 June 2017 at 6pm

I’m not a fan of solo cinema visits but even with my partner-in-crime currently ‘away’, I had to see this just released, much discussed film at this special screening. Right on the money, the power-couple hosts of Glug Brighton, Carl Rush of creative agency Crush, and Helen, the renowned Illustration agent and founder of Agency Rush, invited graphic-design hero (and I don’t use the term lightly) Stefan Sagmeister to show his seven-years in the making documentary, The Happy Film. Despite the lure of a glorious summer evening, Brighton’s historic Duke of York’s cinema was packed with the city’s creative community including a good number of Graphic Design and Illustration students from University of Brighton, come to see the legend in action, for after a film of thrills and spills Sagmeister stepped up for the Q&A.
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Tomorrow’s Designer; discussion at the Design Museum

Screen Shot from the Design Museum’s website, detailing the evening’s event

Tomorrow’s Designer: What next for Designers in Residence?
Design Museum
Shad Thames, London SE1
23 March 2016

Chair: Justin McGuirk, Chief Curator, the Design Museum.
Speakers: Indy Johar Co-founder of Architecture00; Gem Barton Course Leader in Interior Architecture, University of Brighton; Ineke Hans of Studio|Ineke Hans; and Asif Khan founder of architecture studio Asif Khan Limited.

The opening of the new Design Museum, its latest incarnation, is getting closer, the stand-alone shop on High Street Kensington launched this week, and the main Museum building will be unveiled in late November. Right now, the Design Museum in Shad Thames is closed. So here’s a review of the last event I attended, back in March, which discussed the “designer of the future” with reference to the Museum’s Designers in Residence programme.
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Denmark for design museums; a discussion

Design Museums for the 21st Century; a round table discussion
Trapholt Museum and University of Southern Denmark
Kolding, Denmark
23 January 2014

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When your PhD supervisor tells you to go to Denmark in freezing January, you go; the icing on the cake was that it started snowing as we sat in the Trapholt Museum’s meeting room, with its giant picture window, and everyone went “aaaahhhh”. The Museum is housed in a playfully modern building, boasts an unrivalled collection of Danish chairs and is next door to Arne Jacobsen’s summer house (sadly I didn’t get inside, this time), so that made up for the weather. I also got to see the thought-provoking and unprecedented touring exhibition, Out to Sea? The Plastic Garbage Project, which seemed totally appropriate in a country that loves fish.

My reporting of the round table is from my notes, with additional my comments; where they are short and in the same paragraph, they’re in [square brackets].

My supervisor is University of Brighton’s Professor of Design Culture, Guy Julier, and he is also Visiting Professor at University of Southern Denmark. He’d gathered his grad students from Denmark and Brighton, along with “expert witnesses” from the museum world in Denmark and the UK, to discuss design. Guy opened the proceedings by telling us that design museums were “mushrooming”. He counted 45 European design museums with more projects for new, expanding and relocating institutions still in the pipeline, mentioning that Mexico City’s MUMEDI, tripled its visitor numbers by rebranding as a “design museum”. He talked about the tension in museums between the contemporary and history, design and design history, and that a contextual approach to design in museums was the way forward, mixing the excitement of innovation with the pragmatism of solving problems, and heritage and continuity with new technology and innovative design fields. Finally, he pointed to the Index Awards (a Danish initiative) as evidence of design shifting away from a fascination with “heroes”. […and by extension, a recognised canon?]
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Turning the century; contemporary design at the V&A

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Design Since 1945
Permanent Display, Room 76, Level 3
Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, London SW7
www.vam.ac.uk
Visited, 27 August 2015

The other day I popped into the V&A for a quick refresher. It was a busy weekday near the end of the school holidays, and while there were queues outside the Natural History Museum and the V&A’s ground floor galleries were full of bodies, the upper floors were relatively quiet. I took the opportunity to see how the permanent display of contemporary design might have evolved since I last too a look (not sure when that was). On the V&A’s website the Design Since 1945 gallery in Room 76 (one of three rooms labelled “Modern” on the Museum Map) is described as showing art and design from the end of the Second World War to the present day; it also aims to present contemporary developments. Continue reading

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Anthony Dunne: two meetings

Anthony Dunne on Design Week website

With the news last week that Professor Anthony Dunne, Head of the Design Interactives programme, and his partner Fiona Raby, a founding member of CRD Research Studio and a Senior Research Fellow, are stepping down from their roles at London’s Royal College of Art at the end of the 2015 academic year, I’ve looked back through my archive of design magazines and found a couple of interviews with Tony. Now Fiona and Tony plan to concentrate full-time on their joint practice, Dunne & Raby, which has brought us, among other memorable moments, the “design fiction” United Micro Kingdoms (in exhibition form at London’s Design Museum), reviewed here.

Part One

“Loewy’s Children”
by Liz Farrelly
Blueprint
No. 76, April 1991, p.44-47

Standfirst: As the Design Museum celebrates the father of industrial design, Michael Horsham assesses its history and Liz Farrelly looks to its future (profiling five young(ish) product design practices)…

Tony Dunne’s intrepid move to Japan, after graduating from the RCA, led him to a full-time job at the Sony Corporations’s Design Centre. Being one of only two western members of a design staff over a hundred strong, and being expected to develop ten products a year, Dunne has been exposed to a rate of technological change, and social and cultural differnces, that have profoundly affected his view of product design. Using this as material for a redefintion of perception and information, he has come up with a product aesthetic that attempts a “mapping of the void”.
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Conference; Drawing the Future

4th International Illustration Symposium
Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUMNH)
Parks Road, Oxford
7-8 November 2013

At this symposium, not only did I hear Johnny Hardstaff deliver a keynote address, which prompted me to request an interview (we talked about imagining a graphic language of the future), but I also delivered a paper. Here’s a summary, and some slides.

Drawing the Future: Exhibiting Illustration

In the Spring semester I deliver a series of lectures on the “future” to Graphic Design and Illustration students (Level 5/2nd Year) at University of Brighton, and start with a couple of definitions so as to debunk such notions as, the future isn’t really anything to do with us right now, and, it’s all just science-fiction anyway.

“The ‘Future’ is everything that happens from [beat] now (…as they say in the movies…)” …is my playful opener; then I hit them with Tony Fry’s definition (from Design Futuring: sustainability, ethics and new practice, 2009); “The future is not presented here as an objective reality independent of our existence, but rather, and anthropocentrically, as what divides ‘now’ from our finitude. In other words, we exist in the medium of time as finite beings (individually and as a species) in a finite world; how long we now exist — the event of our being — is determined by either an unexpected cataclysmic event (like our plant being hit by a massive meteorite) or by our finding ways to curb our currently auto-destructive, world-destroying nature and conduct.”
…and that’s how I began this talk too.

I set out to show that perhaps by way of a heightened familiarity with drawn and animated futures peopled with cute and cuddly characters, used to entertain and promote (everything from breakfast cereals to banking services), a more positive, friendly, utopian version of the future is being proliferated. In comparison, the “scary”, sci-fi, dystopia future of apocalyptic blockbuster movies seems worn out; not so much because we can “see the wires”, but because we’ve developed “explosion fatigue”; such gargantuan, special-effects-driven destruction just doesn’t “feel real” anymore.
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From the Archive; Design Criticism in New York

This post was originally published on Eye Blog. I’m reposting it because I recently added a separate post about Fiona Raby’s talk at this conference, which provides background to the Dunne & Raby exhibition, “United Micro Kingdoms: A Design Fiction”, reviewed here.

Counterpoint
The 2013 D-Crit Conference, School of Visual Arts, New York City
Attended 11 May 2013

Brigette Brown argues that segregation is alive. Drawing by Nina Frankel.

Brigette Brown argues that segregation is alive. Drawing by Nina Frankel.

Monday 12:15am, 24 June 2013
“Sharing the stage…sharing ideas”
by Liz Farrelly
Originally published on Eye Blog

Five D-Crit students team up with experts to make presentations at their graduate symposium

It’s that time of year again, when a host of graduating art and design students prepare to launch themselves upon the world. The degree shows have gone up and this year’s crew are buzzing with anticipation. That’s fine if your work looks good on a wall or in a gallery. But what about the new breed of design critics on Masters courses on both sides of the Atlantic? Just how do writers make their mark?
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Fiona Raby tells it like it could be

Fiona Raby speaks at Counterpoint
The 2013 D-Crit Conference, School of Visual Arts, New York City
Attended 11 May 2013

View from the stalls.

View from the stalls.

Before hearing Fiona Raby’s talk at this Design Criticism conference in New York City, I had already visited Dunne & Raby’s new exhibition, “United Micro Kingdoms: A Design Fiction”, staged at London’s Design Museum, but the majority of the audience hadn’t. Fiona, however, gave such an insightful explanation of the show that, thanks to my notes from the day, this account of her talk might supplement my previous post about the exhibition, here. Following this is an Archive post from Eye Blog, reporting on the conference.

Fiona describes her practice (Dunne & Raby, est. 1994 in partnership with Anthony Dunne) as dealing with emerging technologies and imagined behaviours. She defines design as “a tool for collective imagining” and designers as “making it tangible”, the aim being to broaden our worldview.
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Show Don’t Tell, with design fiction

Communo-Nuclearists let the train take the strain. Image by Tommaso Landa. ©All rights reserved by d_&_r

Communo-Nuclearists let the train take the strain.
Image by Tommaso Landa
©All rights reserved by d_&_r

United Micro Kingdoms (UmK): a design fiction
Design Museum, Shad Thames, London
1 May to 26 August 2013
Visited 30 April and 15 August 2013

I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, attending a Designer Breakfast (8am start!) at the Design Museum, and was invited into the Press View for United Micro Kingdoms. There I bumped into Fiona Raby and Anthony Dunne, the instigators of this groundbreaking exhibition, which is billed as “a design fiction”. True to my journalistic roots, I fired a few questions and scribble some answers, before PRs whisked them away.

Tony and Fiona use design to provoke debate; they call it “critical design”. With “UmK” they’ve created a near-future scenario for our little island, populated by four tribes defined by differing attitudes to technology and ecology. These in turn are manifested as imagined transportation and energy choices, which mirror each tribe’s ethical and ideological beliefs.
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