Seminar Paper; Mediating Design, a case study in diversity

Modes of Mediating Applied Art and Design
7th Tallinn Applied Art Triennial
Soprus Cinema
Vanna-Posti 8, Tallinn, Estonia
21 April 2017

This is an edited version of a paper I presented amidst Art Deco splendor in Tallinn. While the city was still waiting for spring the reception was warm, and the audience and fellow speakers contributed to a lively discussion around the role of media in the mediating art and design. I’d like to thank Triin Jerlie and Keiu Krikmann for inviting me to speak, and the organising committee of the Tallinn Applied Art Triennial and the British Embassy Tallinn for funding my trip. Look for another post about Tallinn, the city-wide Triennial and the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design.

This paper is still in the form of a ‘talk’, but also constitutes work-in-progress that will inform the last chapter of my doctoral thesis on the future of design museums. In May, I presented a longer version to University of Brighton MA Art and Design History students as part of the module, Critical Reflection, at the invitation of my colleague, Megha Rajguru, and that version of the talk provided an opportunity to explore changing definitions of ‘interpretation’. The images are from my PowerPoint presentation, and either taken from the Internet or using my Apple iPhone 4S.
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From the Archive (and now); Destroy, punk and DIY

So an email arrived inviting me to the launch of Punk.London at Oxford Street’s 100 Club, and I have to admit it didn’t totally intrigue me. Instead in gushed cloudy memories of a dark, sweaty cellar and an uncomfortable din, which I must have endured (it feels like) a hundred times over a couple of decades. But a closer look at the invite revealed this to be an occasion for nostalgia, a celebration of a 40-year anniversary marking London’s punk moment and the start of a movement, a subculture in fact, the long-tail of which has affected both attire and attitude.

Screen Shot from Punk.London website, designed by Brody Associates, inviting D-I-Y participation in a city-wide cultural event

Screen Shot from Punk.London website, designed by Brody Associates, inviting D-I-Y participation in a city-wide cultural event

“Subversive Culture” is the strapline (pardon the bondage-tinged pun), which it is claimed has fuelled creativity (now the Creative Industries) ever since. Over the coming year a host of venues will stage events big and small, backed by the Greater London Authority (GLA); shouting about London’s past punk credentials must have tourist-attracting potential. With an identity and online hub branded by Neville Brody (still demonstrating punk attitude by being “notoriously abrasive”, according to Digital Arts), for me the most innovative element is an prompt to organise your own event; tagged “D.I.Y.” the page offers links to branding and fundraising advice, via the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Regardless of designated anniversaries punk is perennial, and it doesn’t need much of an excuse to hit the headlines. In 1998 I reviewed an exhibition, Destroy: Punk Graphic Design in Britain, and because it isn’t available on the magazine’s website I’m re-posting it, see below. Yes it was cheeky of me to declare punk to be the only “memorable cultural event in the 1970s”, but that’s a clue to my age. I may have been “witness” to the “heyday of punk” but only just; the article is unapologetically London-centric, too, hardly surprising as I was still at school and London was home. What isn’t mentioned is that I was a lender to the show too, having amassed a substantial collection of vinyl due to a fascination with indie record shops. I sold most of the best bits (the vultures were already circling at the Private View) as I became nomadic, leaving London in April 1998, and had neither the means (no turntable) nor inclination (changing musical tastes) to listen again.
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From the Archive; revisiting The Gladstone, Toronto

Not everyone in the museum world thinks that the key to growing audiences is inclusivity and diversity. In some quarters, exclusivity and elitism are the order of the day, used to attract audiences of a different character; people too busy to queue or who don’t like crowds and prefer a “private view” atmosphere, albeit one they pay for rather than access by invitation. At this point I’m not judging the trend, but hope to look more closely at it with regard to the opening of fashion- and luxury-brand museums and the launch of new concierge and “passport” services.

This re-posting was inspired by a signpost of the trend, “Museum Oscars”, news of which came via a tweet from CNN. Reporter Maureen O’Hare ponders “surprises” on the short-list and asks why certain “giants” of the museum world are absent. Her copy answers that question without spelling it out; these awards “honor the world’s most visionary art institutions and emerging cultural hotspots”, meaning places that change rather than those that stay the same.

The Leading Culture Destinations Awards boast a glamorous list of “Ambassadors”, a coterie of “cultural nomads” who exercise their taste in judgement; such a media-friendly ploy guarantees high profile coverage. It may reek of hype (or is it just a slow-news day) but the LCD website is sleek and impressive, suggesting that a substantial investment underpins the enterprise. Aside from organising the awards, LCD combines a luxury travel agency, publishing company (online) and event management.

The category “The Best Art Experience in a Hotel” got me excited as museums and hotels are two of my favourite things, so put them together…! One nomination, The Gladstone, had just opened when I wrote about it and its near neighbour, The Drake Hotel; I visited during Toronto’s Alternative Art Fair, which happens each November just before winter weater sets in. Being “art hotels” two venues give themselves over to installations and happenings. Back in 2006 I spent a couple of days at The Drake enjoying a balmy autumnal glow, culminating in a hotel-take-over by Peaches (no less). She played an extraordinary set throughout the hotel, her exploits relayed via video link to screens dotted around the public spaces. The queen bee’s room was next to ours and she demonstrated perfect hotel etiquette; after all the excitement Peaches was gracious enough to kick out her groupies, lowering the decibels so that everyone got a good night’s sleep.

The Gladstone room that CNN rates with a mention is by Ghost Design, aka, Barr Gilmore and Michel Arcand. Suite 318, The Blue Line room works on the same principle as movie special effects sets, allowing guests to doctor their selfie shots by adding digital backgrounds. With this year’s Nuit Blanche, the all-night art rave, happening on Saturday, perhaps it’s time to get a room…

Screen Shot of “The Blue Line” room in The Gladstone

Screen Shot of “The Blue Line” room in The Gladstone


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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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