Tag: technology

Last night I gave a presentation as part of the “Talking Shop” series at Glasgow School of Art. These talks are aimed at expanding the conception of design and its related fields.

“While the physical world remains very much the product designer’s realm, today’s product designers are also operating in the age of information technology, where intellectual capital and continuous innovation are key. In order that the designers of the future are equipped not only to react to, but also to anticipate, propose & give ‘form’ to invisible products – such as systems, services, interactions & organisational behaviours- we need to expand the definition of the term ‘product’; the product designer of the future must be equally at home within the world of emerging technologies.”


Last night I gave a talk at Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. I ran through a range of ways of thinking about the relationship between art and design. I was interested in doing this after I unearthed the Dan Graham paper ‘Art as Design/Design as Art’ at the National Library of Scotland. This was first published by Fruitmarket in 1987 to coincide with Graham’s show there: Interior Design for Space Showing Videotapes. The paper has just been republished in Alex Coles’ new book “Design and Art”, Whitechapel/MIT Press, 2007.

My talk was broken down into the following sections:

Art as Design/Design as Art – Dan Graham

Design≠Art – Barbara Bloemink

Art in the Context of Design/Design in the Context of Art – Troels Degn Johansson

DesignArt – Alex Coles

Design and Art – Alex Coles

Critical Design – Dunne & Raby

Hybrid Art+Design – Me

Transdisciplinary Discourse – Me

An interesting idea that I tried to throw around was the use of the term “avant garde.”

“Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm, or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. The notion of the existence of the avant-garde is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, as distinct from postmodernism. Postmodernism posits that the age of the constant pushing of boundaries is no longer with us. Postmodernism posits that avant-garde has less applicability (or no applicability at all) in the age of Postmodern art.”

Yet, Marcus Fairs has titled his book ‘Twenty-First Century Design: new design icons, from mass market to avant-garde.’ And,

“In 2002 the Crafts Council held an exhibition called Home Made Holland, which suggested that Droog and other contemporary Dutch designers, such as Marcel Wanders and Hella Jongerius, had found a way forward for design by embracing avant-garde craft. Significantly, one of the chief protagonists behind Droog is Gijs Bakker, a radical jeweller who revolutionised the discipline during the late 1960s by combining throwaway materials with conceptual ideas. It was through applying this formula to a wider range of objects 30 years later that the Droog phenomenon exploded, yet in spite of its genesis in art and craft, the design world has been happy to claim Droog as its own.”
Craft Wars icon016 October 2004 by Lesley Jackson

“…admit that so-called avant-garde strategies operating in art and design today should be seen in a context of ‘post-avant-garde’, in which it is no longer relevant to distinguish between the two…”
Troels Degn Johansson

“First and foremost, all the claims that I have inventoried thus far are predicated on certain clichés of what constitutes ‘progressive’, ‘vanguard or ‘advanced’ art and are based on assumptions about current conditions of cultural practice that are out of sync with their realities. One such assumption is that medium categories in art or disciplinary divisions in the humanities are still oppressively strict, so that any art that touts interdisciplinarity or ‘crosses boundaries’ is attributed with automatic and unquestioned critical value. But it seems to me that even while the disciplinary debates/fights continue in certain sectors of academia, the destabilized state of medium specificity and disciplinary categories is already the dominant or given condition of cultural practice. As such, rather than serving an interventionary function within exclusive art institutions, so-called cross disciplinary practices or events that blur categorical distinctions may simply be symptoms of the tendency towards de-differentiation that pervades cultural experience generally.”
Miwon Kwon ‘Jorge Pardo’s Designs on Design’ published in Alex Coles’ new book “Design and Art”, Whitechapel/MIT Press, 2007.

Here are some other articles that I think contribute to this discussion:

What’s the use? Art Journal, Spring 2004 by Ross K. Elfline.

Art’s Little Brother icon023, May 2005 by Rick Poynor.

What is Design? icon018, December 2004 by Marcus Fairs.

Historically the use of technology to level out traditional, disciplinary distinctions was a critical driver of De Stijl in The Netherlands, the Bauhaus in Germany and the Russian Constructivists -whose architects, artists and designers saw industrial modes of production as a means of moving art into life:

“…many artists championed the industrial artefact – generated mechanically and consumed collectively – over the singular work of aesthetic contemplation”
Ellen Lupton

Maybe sensational art and the rarefied space of the gallery are so disconnected from ‘the everyday’ that the last recourse is to turn to craft, design and domestic objects? Or maybe its just a great marketing hook…

The slides from my presentation are here.


Dr Peter Barham and Debra Solomon

Giles Lane and Constance Fleuriot

Everything you wanted to know about molecular gastronomy, roadkill restaurants, feral robots, location-based mixed-media, microinjection erotism, making money-not art …and more.
Poker Club – During the Scottish Enlightment, thinkers gathered in Edinburgh to discuss big ideas over a glass of claret at the original Poker Club (which refers to a fireplace poker for ‘stirring things up’). New Media Scotland is resurrecting the name to hold a series of events, three of which will be held as part of the Six Cities Design Festival: Future Food with Dr Peter Barham and Debra Solomon (21st May), Future City with Giles Lane and Constance Fleuriot (22nd May), and Future Body with Adam Zaretsky and Regine Debatty (29th May).

Poker Club
21 May 2007 to 29 May 2007
6:00pm to 8:30pm
Beehive Inn 18-20 Grassmarket Edinburgh EH1 2JU

During the Scottish Enlightment, thinkers gathered in Edinburgh to discuss big ideas over a glass of claret at the original Poker Club (which refers to a fireplace poker for ‘stirring things up’). New Media Scotland has resurrected the name to hold a series of events, three of which will be held as part of the Six Cities Design Festival: Future Food with Dr Peter Barham and Debra Solomon (21st May), Future City with Giles Lane and Constance Fleuriot (22nd May), and Future Body with Adam Zaretsky and Regine Debatty (29th May).


Six Cities Design Festival 17 May – 3 June 2007
There are three key strands to the Six Cities Design initiative:

  • developing the use of design and creativity in business
  • raising awareness of design through education programmes
  • increasing public engagement with design

A jam-packed programme of things to see and do.


Perimeters, Boundaries and Borders – an f.city exhibition by Fast-uk and folly

This exhibition was held from 29 September – 21 October 2006 at venues across Lancaster city centre in the North West of England. The main exhibition space was the new CityLab development in Dalton Square. The aim of this exhibition was to present the very latest examples of work that blur the conventional boundaries of arts and design practice through the use of computer-mediated technologies.

Coming Soon – The PBB Catalogue.

The ‘Perimeters, Boundaries and Borders’ Symposium at St. Martin’s College, Lancaster on Thursday 28 September, 1 – 5pm went really well. The discussion was self-sustaining (to the point that a summary was irrelevant) and raised many important points. The line up was as follows:

13.00 – 13.30 Arrival
13.30 – 13.45 Welcome, Introductions (John Hyatt of Miriad)
13.45 – 14.15 Keynote (Dr. Paul A. Rodgers of Napier University)
14.15 – 14.35 Tavs Jorgensen http://www.oktavius.co.uk/
14.35 – 14.55 Aoife Ludlow http://aoifestuff.com/
14.55 – 15.10 Break
15.10 – 15.35 Justin Marshall http://www.justinmarshall.co.uk/
15.35 – 15.55 Lionel T. Dean http://www.futurefactories.com/
15.55 – 16.15 Human Beans http://www.humanbeans.net/
16.15 – 16.45 Q+A, Discussion
16.45 – 17.00 Summary (John Marshall/Taylor Nuttal)
18.00 – 20.00 Private View @ Citylab, 4-5 Dalton Square, Lancaster LA1 4PP

I recorded the entire session and hope to get it online as a transcript or podcast in the near future.

‘Perimeters, Boundaries and Borders’ is finally open. It took a lot of effort but I think it looks great. The images shown above are:

(Top) Geoffrey Mann – Flight – Take Off
These sculptural forms, the echoes of a bird taking flight, at first appear ambiguous. By capturing the first five seconds of take off, these solid forms are indeed a frozen moment in time. By materialising movement, Mann illustrates that time and motion are actually transient objects.

Mann trained in 3D Design at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen and studied Ceramics & Glass at the Royal College of Art, London. He works as a product artist, digital consultant and lecturer and his current research focuses on creative ways of ‘humanising’ the processes of digital production. Mann has recently exhibited at Pinakothek der Moderne Germany, New York Central Library USA, and at this year’s International Festival of Glass.

(Middle) Simon Blackmore – LSD Drive
Blackmore’s custom-built LSD Drive is able to read lost data on apparently useless CDs, and process it using a program written in the Open Source software, SuperCollider. Light Sensitive Disk Drive is a fully functioning prototype hardware/software product that explores ideas of technological progress, technological waste and its environmental impact. CDs in various states of degradation can be played on the drive to produce different sounds from the lost areas of data.

Blackmore is based in Manchester. Since 2001, he has been reinventing the function or image of culturally iconic objects and products to make sculptures that are presented in a range of social contexts. Projects include converting a caravan into a gallery, making audio laptops from logs, making a machine to play a guitar according to the weather and turning a pole lathe into a musical instrument.

(Bottom) Justin Marshall – Penrose Strapping 1
Through collaboration with Hayles & Howe, a manufacturer of architectural ornamental plasterwork, Marshall has developed a range of plaster mouldings that integrate digital design technologies with traditional manufacturing skills. Penrose Strapping 1, is a stunning contemporary example of traditional strapwork with scrolls, arabesques, and loops across the wall.

Justin Marshall’s practice spans sculpture, installation and design. Much of his recent work has been ceramic or plaster based, combining traditional skills with new technologies. Marshall is currently Research Fellow in 3D digital production at University College, Falmouth. His most recent exhibition was at Das Keramikmuseum Westerwald, Hoehr-Grenzhausen, Germany, and in 2005 he was awarded an Autonomatic research grant to work with Hayles & Howe decorative plaster company to develop new processes and work.

I will get more images online soon. In the meantime, have a look at Michelle Kasprzak’s Flickr stream.

Venue: CityLab, 4-5 Dalton Square, Lancaster LA1 4PP
Date: 29 September – 21 October, 2006. 12 – 5 pm, Mon – Sat.


The Community Green project began as an ideas competition to explore notions of what a 21st century village green could be, using the inner-city suburb of Pollokshields, Glasgow, as an inspiration and test bed. Interdisciplinary teams of artists, architects, designers, and technologists were invited to submit proposals for public art projects that considered the role that technologies, especially those that have a low environmental impact, can play in the fostering of greater communication and participation within a community. Four teams were selected to develop their proposals into prototypes. The prototypes form the basis of an ideas resource to inform the regeneration of Pollokshields and include experimental street furniture, 3D electronic information-sharing points, modular greenspaces, and mobile platforms for public interaction.

The teams taking part in Community Green are:

be+ (Jude Barber and Uli Einslein)

Cameron Webster Architects + Ettie Spencer

Jaxi (Simon Chadwick, Tilo Einert, Adrian Lear, Neil McGuire)

Kevin Campbell, Douglas Fraser, Robert Sharp, Leo Warner.