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Treading Lightly

Ontera/There Saturday in Design Installation Read more.

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Treading Lightly

Ontera/There Saturday in Design Installation

As part of the recent Saturday in Design, we teamed up with long standing client Ontera, to create an installation that would help promote their eco initiatives aswell as intrigue the art and design aware audience.

Posted by Simon Hancock in Art, Design and Environmental.
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Ryoji Ikeda @ Carriageworks

Contemporary art in Sydney's larger public institutions can often be a hit and miss affair, but Carriageworks currently has on show a particularly good work with Ryoji Ikeda's Test Pattern #5. Read more.

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Ryoji Ikeda @ Carriageworks

Contemporary art in Sydney's larger public institutions can often be a hit and miss affair, but Carriageworks currently has on show a particularly good work with Ryoji Ikeda's Test Pattern #5.

Consisting of a series of celing mounted projectors pointed directly down upon the viewer, Ikeda's Test Pattern #5 is a sensory overload of sound and light. Monochrome linear visuals morph in reaction to the stochatto rhythm of the electronic music. Drums pound against the high pitched squeal and crackle that only sound from a digital source seems to deliver.

Viewers are invited to walk amongst the field of light, engaging with their whole being with the artists' forceful, seemingly malicious intent. A cursory glance at this work would read dark and foreboding; a cavernous, ominously darkened room, violent music and no colour at all. And yet, watching other members of the audience, from the young to the old, the reaction is delight, joy. Many jump and skip in time to the racing lines of light, as if playing a game of rope,  while others lay flat, relaxied and calm amongst a cacophonous audio visual assault.

 Art is often hung on a wall, or mounted on a plinth - precious, unapproachable, "do not touch!" - the penalty of breaking these rules can be painful for all concerned, often most acutely the artist themselves. I'm reminded of a story of an unfortunate German tourist who sat on James Angus' delicately intricate wooden sculpture 'Seagram Building' at the MCA in Sydney a few years back.

It's interesting to note, and heartening for a designer like myself who likes to bend the rules and ignore obviousness, that such an uncomprimising, apparently brutal work like this could be such a crowd pleaser.

 

Posted by Clinton Duncan in Art, Design, Digital, Environmental and .
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On Identity for Desktop Magazine

So much of what we work with, consider and explore in our work at THERE is concerned with identity - whether creating a brand identity or branding an environment. For the April issue of leading industry publication Desktop, I was invited to contribute a long form essay piece exploring the subject. Read more.

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On Identity for Desktop Magazine

So much of what we work with, consider and explore in our work at THERE is concerned with identity - whether creating a brand identity or branding an environment. Our core consideration is always how we reflect, develop or reflect identity - be it a place, a person, a brand or an organisation.

For the April issue of leading industry publication Desktop, editor Heath Killen constructed an entire issue to explore Identity. I was invited to contribute a long form essay piece, which is reproduced in full below. I looked at identity from an historical perspective, presenting a counterpoint to the normal 'graphic designer' methods of considering identity, with reference to art history, psychology, politics and philosophy.

Sailing - Between the devil and the deep blue sea.

As graphic designers, we like to look, think and talk at, on or about identity quite a lot. Often we create them as well. We buy books filled with thousands of logos, or case studies on large, successful identities for education and inspiration. Thousands of blogs post news, reviews and announcements of the latest, biggest and best identities from every corner of the globe. When we say ‘identity’, ‘brand identity’, corporate identity’, ‘visual identity’, invariably we’re talking about the logo, design systems and visual language, name and other symbols of a product, organisation, service or entity. For all this focus, the way designers consider identity seems to me quite a bit different to how other fields think about it.

Undoubtedly, identity design is where the best and brightest designers of our industry ply their trade. It’s a place where bag loads of ingenuity, creativity, chutzpah and plain old hustle are required to push any piece of work through tricky approval processes and risk averse decision making. It’s easy to understand why many are drawn to identity; the rewards are big. It’s how we get into the boardroom, speak to people with Director or Chairman on their job title. Successfully completing large corporate or brand identity projects is when our work is certain to be seen by the greatest number of people possible – fame and fortune! What’s not to like?

Yet there’s an uncomfortable impotence at the core of how graphic designers create identities, mainly to do with the breadth and depth we’re allowed to explore by our education, skill sets and client briefs — it’s somewhat appealing to label it an ‘identity crisis’. I can’t help thinking this disconnect leaves the entire exercise feeling hollow, and has me wondering if we aren’t just deluding ourselves. Deluded into thinking our work has much greater impact than just a surface level exercise in shuffling deck chairs, puffed up for the benefit of egos and glorified in slick case studies for our commercial needs. At the end of the process and after all the expensive production outputs, that product, organization or service we’ve worked with is still the same thing as when we started, no matter how massive, or incremental, the ‘identity’ change. We may have replaced every piece of wood in this ship, but Theseus is still a total jerk.

Humans have been considering notions of ‘identity’ since we first started considering things – perhaps even earlier. In his series of biographies, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, Plutarch noted the paradox of whether, after every piece of wood in it had been replaced, the ship of Theseus was still the same ship. The paradox has remained popular conundrum for philosophers and thinkers, even after all these centuries — variations of the paradox include ‘Grandfathers Axe’ and ‘Triggers Broom’. Ancient considerations of identity, as captured by Theseus’ ship or Heraclitus’ musing “No man ever steps in the same river twice”, were concerned more with defining how a thing bears a relationship to itself, if the identity of a thing changes over time, and how two identical things can remain logically separate; the distinctions between qualitative and numerical identity.

“we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations…. It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts,but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle”

Some extend the Theseus Ship paradox to our own body, with the oft quoted (yet apocryphal) claim that every cell in the human body is replaced over a seven year period. An appealing piece of trivia that gives rise to the question; what component of an individual’s identity is permanent, as opposed to transient? Around the turn of the 20th century, Sigmund Freud’s development of a structural model of the psyche names the component of our psyche present from birth, and unchanged right up until death, as the id (not eye-dee, just ‘id’, rhymes with lid).

In Freud’s model, the id is the base instincts of a psyche, concerned with ‘needs’ and ‘forces’. It’s where our libido resides, and a bundle of unresolved, contradictory life and death instincts. The ‘life instincts, a creative drive for pleasurable survival, and ‘death instincts’, a destructive drive towards ourselves and other living organisms. Emerging from the id and reaching out into the real world is the ego – which seeks to please the id in ways beneficial over the long term; it can be seen as the reasonable, common sense partner to the unbridled, instinctive self interest of the id. These two are quadrants forming one half of the model, and on the other side is the ‘super ego‘, which acts like a conscience, regulating our behaviour through notions of morality, and is affected by our environment and those that have influence on us as we grow up – teachers, parents, friends. According to Freud, the ego and super ego can develop and change over time, whereas the id stays permanent, unchanged from birth until death, even in old age, a swirling mass of chaos and excitations.

Death, destruction and self inflicted chaos figure prominently in the world and works of Australian artist Ben Quilty. In his earliest and most well known paintings, rendered in a heavy impasto style and depicting cars, skulls and hamburgers, Quilty was exploring symbols of male identity in Australia. From the muscle cars of our ‘Ford vs Holden’ culture, and alluding to back to the destructive nature of colonialism and invasion. His 2007 exhibition, ‘Pride and Patriotism’, featured portraits of James Cook, John Howard, friends of the artist, his own 6 month old son Joe, as well as self portraits of the artist himself. Quilty and friends were all painted from photographs taken on nights ‘wetting their heads’ – drunken and debaucherous, risking life and liver for no good reason other than observing the ritual of ‘a boys night’.

For an artist who made his name painting Toranas and glistening milk bar burgers with big dollops of lickable paint, the turn towards more directly critical depictions of Australian male identity marked a change of course, and it was hard to ignore. Now, the skulls that had graced the fronts of cars in his earlier works took on new, more troubling meanings. No longer just cool-ass expressions of street tough bad-assery, the visages had became portentous warnings of the self destructive risks inherent within expressions of male identity and power. In the case of Australia, a nation founded on the deaths and near destruction of indigenous cultures (the oldest living cultures in the world), Quilty seemed worried that our sense of identity, our pride and patriotism was also the seed of our own destruction at the bottom of a bottle, and the end of a lonely road.

Quilty’s art follows on from the broad trend amongst recent explorations and considerations of identity, which have focused mainly on personal identity; nominal identity, religious identity, sexual identity, gender identity and ethnic identity. One could (boldly) say suffrage, the sexual revolution and the civil rights movements of the previous two centuries were simply hitherto overlooked sections of western society affirming their right to define their own identity (rather than leaving it to the privileged, older, white men who had all the guns). Once defined, the struggle became to compel society to let go of it’s prejudices, accept equality with, and tolerate the empowerment of, these new, different and thus threatening, identities.

“Mugatu is so hot right now he could take a crap, wrap it in tinfoil, put a couple fish hooks on it and sell it to Queen Elizabeth as earrings” Maury Ballstein in Zoolander

Ballstein is a fictional character, but the insight he unearths while remarking on the ‘hotness’ of the similarly fictional fashion designer Mugatu, is uncomfortably true of how identity is considered in our contemporary society. Warhol’s endlessly repeated (and perhaps equally misunderstood) quote “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” was one part rallying cry for the casting aside of traditional notions of importance in artistic representation; a Prince, Duke or a King can have their portraits become acknowledged as masterpieces of art; but why not a can of soup or a Hollywood starlet? But I also see it as a lamentation from someone notoriously obsessed with fame – primarily his own – who was simultaneously crippled by self esteem issues. In Warhol’s day, he had to work hard to achieve what he imagined every person might be entitled to, in the future.

Warhol’s vision might be coming true; social media’s rapid rise in ubiquity, and it’s integration with every aspect of our lives has created an identity fuck–fest; an orgy of liking, following and friending with strangers, colleagues, friends and family alike. Now, everyone’s a celebrity, for little or no good reason, and people can be ‘famous for being famous’. Today we curate, grow our audience and cultivate a ‘personal brand‘ – everyone’s in the identity business. Real estate agents, life coaches, hairdressers, stock brokers, doctors and politicians — there they all are, online, toiling away building their ‘brand’ with the same sense of purpose and professionalism you’d see in a PR agency, marketing department or advertising agency. Perhaps more.

The superficiality of social media uncomfortably parallels with how the average graphic designer is allowed to consider identity, a limited scope neatly encapsulated by the commonplace identity guidelines document. These documents record colour selections, photography styles, typeface choices, graphic devices, design systems and of course the ubiquitous logo, it’s clear space, acceptable usage and other considerations. Perhaps an explanation of a brand strategy, a snappy two or three word brand essence, values, attributes, a tone of voice and maybe even some sort of narrative that describes the brand’s uniqueness and relevance.

But all of these are progressively outlying layers of the onion, with an emphasis on the visual. Which isn’t too hard to make sense of, we’re graphic designers creating visual identities after all, for the time being anyway. We’re allowed no access to influencing the inner core, the heart – perhaps we could call it the id – of our clients. Thus, without changing that inner core, without re-sequencing the DNA, we’re simply replacing the old pieces of wood on the ship with shinier, new ones. A perfectly acceptable way to derive a living, but is it really deserving of the label ‘identity‘, even the diluted label of ‘visual identity’?

It’s perhaps unsurprising that many in our industry are questioning our own identity; a 2012 AGDA event ‘How to tell your parents you’re a graphic designer” asked whether ‘graphic designer’ still works as a label for the work we do. It’s a time where one half of our industry seems to be holding on to a craft based tradition of ‘making’, clinging to printed books and letter-pressed business cards. On the other hand, are designers re- positioning their studios as brand agencies, primarily in the business of selling ‘design thinking’ and seeking to participate with their clients in high level discussions of marketing, product innovation and business strategy.

Unfortunately for us, whether we stay true to our tradition as craftspeople, or become fast talking powerpoint jockeys, we’re still sailing into the wind of thousands of years of thinkers, philosophers, artists and psychologists who’ve been saying all along that identity is anything but visual. We’re between the devil and the deep blue sea; dearly wishing for more scope, more billings, more significance and influence. Yet we’re confronted with the uncomfortable reality that our clients only wish us to deal in the outer layers of identity, manipulating and modifying external markers and symbols of recognition, and allowed little to no influence on the true components of identity. Now, I’m off to get some wood.

This article was first published in Desktop #293 — Who Are You?
Photography: Anna Pogossova
Paper Engineering: Benja Harney

 

Posted by Clinton Duncan in Art, Branding and Identity.
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Wireframes as Placemaking

UK Artist Benedict Radcliffe creates spectacular life size wireframe art Read more.

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Wireframes as Placemaking

Artist creates experiential life-size wireframes as surreal art 

Many moons ago, when I studying… I was lucky enough to be accepted to attend Glasgow School of Arts (GSA), in Scotland. Whilst I made the decision to decline the offer, (a visual communication degree in Nottingham was more inline with my career path) other students did emerge from Glasgow. Contemporary artist, Benedict Radcliffe was one such lad.

After graduating from the Mackintosh School of Architecture Radcliffe staged his first exhibition in the city, featuring his ‘modern Japanese classic’- a full size 3d wireframe Subaru Impreza, subsequently purchased by collector, David Roberts. As a result of the show, he received commissions from Comme des Garcons, Puma and Paul smith.

Radcliffe works across a wide spectrum of disciplines, creating everything from cars and bicycles to furniture and household objects, as well undertaking various architectural commissions and signature sculptural pieces for clients across the globe.

In the 2011 ‘the power of making’ show at the Victoria and Albert Museum his work featured alongside Thomas Heatherwick and Ron Arad.

Full size JS200 wireframe excavator in 10mm rod sits centre stage at a unique and permanent exhibition called ‘the story of JCD’ at jcb’s world hq at rocester charting the company’s links to industry back to the 1820s.

 

Being part of a passionate team creating branded experiences within the built environment I feel this kind experential art a real source of inspriation. Love it.

 

 

Posted by Paul Taboure in Art, Environmental, People, and Insights.
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Bridging the gap between design and placmaking

When does a bridge stop being a bridge and start being a placemaking art installation linking two banks? Over 70 design unveiled for a new bridge across the London River Thames Read more.

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Bridging the gap between design and placmaking

Waterfalls, rainbow-coloured latticework and bright red cycle lanes feature among proposals for a new bridge across London's River Thames.

Many of the concepts show snaking and spiralling ramps to allow accessible ascent and descent from the bridge.

A shortlist of up to four designs will be selected next month by a jury including architect Graham Stirk of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, engineer Henry Bardsley, and council leaders from the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth. The winning scheme will then move towards a planning application.

 "To succeed this bridge must be two things at once. It must be a beautiful piece of architecture and a valuable new transport link.” said Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia.

All 74 anonymous proposals are available to view online on the competition website.

 

Posted by Paul Taboure in Architecture, Art, , , News and Environmental.
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Tomas Saraceno

Tomas Saraceno: an Architect turned installation artist whose mind blowing work combines Architecture, Art and Science. Read more.

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Tomas Saraceno

Architect turned installation artist creates floating sculptures and interactive installations.

When I was visiting New York in 2012, I came across the work of Tomas Saraceno: an Architect turned installation artist whose mind blowing work combines Architecture, Art and Science.

His work explores materiality, natural structures and the potential of future living environments. By encouraging guests to enter and interact with one another other within his spaces, Saraceno’s dreamy installations encourage viewers to emerge themselves in another world.

Drawing inspiration from soap bubbles, spider webs and cloud formations, his conceptual projects are often constructed from inflatable and suspended materials that capture the imagination, and as a result are fun, interactive and breathtaking.

Saraceno has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions globally. Among his many exhibitions since the late 1990s, notable works include “In Orbit”, exhibited at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf (2013), “Cloud City”, a site-specific installation on the rooftop of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2012) and “Cloud Cities” exhibited at Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2011-12).

I was lucky to be a participant, of "Cloud City", walking through a series of large, interconnected modules constructed out of transparent and reflective materials.

The space captured and heightened snippets of the surrounding elements - other viewers, the sky, the New York skyline and Central Park, encouraging participants to travel through and discover other areas of the space.

Check out more of his beautiful work here

Posted by Christina Maricic in Environmental, Architecture, Art and Design.
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Northern Lights in Dutch Skies

Amazing light installation that makes reference to an aurora borealis by IJssel near Westervoort. Read more.

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Northern Lights in Dutch Skies

I’m always on the look out to see what a favourite designer of mine, Daan Roosegarde (founder of Studio Roosegarde) is working on or about to come out of the woodworks. And he doesn’t disappoint with his latest work titled ‘Waterlicht’ (Waterlight) a collaboration with Dutch water board Rhine and IJssel that premiered on the 25th February.

This light installation makes references to an aurora borealis located above a flood channel on Netherland’s River, IJssel near Westervoort. It’s dubbed by the studio as, “the northern lights of the Netherlands”, and once you’ve seen it you can see why - with it’s waving lines that spread across 1.6 hectares. 

However, from a distance in the surrounding dykes the blue LEDs give way to the moving motion of where water would be, if the defences were not in place. “Walking on the dyke the light lines are perceived as high water, once in the flood channel you find yourself in an underwater world,” said Roosegarde. It’s like a virtual flood. 

The light source, from the LEDs are projected through lenses to help focus the light which have been installed around the periphery of the area. They have been positioned so that the beams crisscross in midair as they move giving that illusion of the movement of water. 

What’s great about this work besides it’s beauty, is that it also brings to light that theNetherlands lies below sea level, giving way to what it could be like without its dykes. 

This piece of work, seen as invisible will look to be visible in the coming years at various locations within Netherlands.

Posted by Justine Lesmana in Art, News, Play, People, , Design and Environmental.
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The Language of the Logo

Could you identify a popular logo in a foreign language? Read more.

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The Language of the Logo

Most consumers can easily identify the logos of leading brands on signs, products and even in neon lights. But how much does a logo lose its recognition when displayed another language? In an exhibition named ‘Chinatown’, Turkish artist Mehmet Gozetlik deconstructed a variety of popular Western-based logos and reinterpreted them in Chinese.

Ten of Mehmet Gozetlik’s artworks are displayed below.
How many you can identify? (Answers at the bottom)

1. Starbucks   2. NASA   3. MasterCard   4. Pepsi   5. Shell   6. Levis   7. 7-Eleven   8. Burger King   9. Converse All-Stars   10. Lego

Posted by Scott McNamara in Identity, Design and Art.
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THERE will be Street Art

THERE adds a little dynamic drama to its Sydney HQ workplace Read more.

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THERE will be Street Art

As part of our continued work with Sydney's local street artists, the THERE workplace has undergone a little make-over of its own.  

We partnered with local street artist/skater Brett Chan, intergrating his strong visual linear style with our existing razzle-dazzle inspired interior theme. The outcome is a bold, dramatic and dynamic arrival experience. 

Google to find out more about Brett Chan.

Posted by Paul Taboure in Art, Environmental, Interiors, News, Branding and Design.
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