Seen above is sign painter Dan Madsen hard at work on a mural for the exhibition Album: Cinematheque Tangier, A Project by Yto Barrada. Check out more photos and read an interview with him at Crosscuts, the Walker’s film/video blog.
Job Wouters Home 2013 As part of Insights 2013, we asked Job Wouters to create a mural inside the museum, which you see above. Here’s a time-lapse video of the mural installation, as well as video of his Insights lecture and some more pictures of Job’s adventures in Minneapolis.
As part of Insights 2013, we invited each designer to address a different surface of the Walker, from the outside to the inside, the social to the virtual. Eike König was asked to create something for our website, so he and his studio Hort decided to take on the Walker masthead. They created five […]
As part of Insights 2013, we invited each designer to address a different surface of the Walker, from the outside to the inside, the social to the virtual. Eike König was asked to create something for our website, so he and his studio Hort decided to take on the Walker masthead. They created five of their signature hand-drawn animations that will randomly load on the Walker homepage during the week of Eike’s lecture.
Here’s a peek at Geoff McFetridge’s fence design for the Walker Art Center. It’s only half installed right now, and as soon as we get the rest of it up (hopefully within a week or so), we will be presenting an in-depth interview with the artist about the project. Also Geoff’s recent Insights talk is […]
Here’s a peek at Geoff McFetridge’s fence design for the Walker Art Center. It’s only half installed right now, and as soon as we get the rest of it up (hopefully within a week or so), we will be presenting an in-depth interview with the artist about the project.
So Matt Olson of ROLU (the Minneapolis-based landscape and furniture design studio) approached me a few weeks ago to talk about a potential project for their big display at this year’s Art Basel Miami/Design Miami. He came to me with the idea of coming up with a cheap zine that would talk about ROLU, include […]
So Matt Olson of ROLU (the Minneapolis-based landscape and furniture design studio) approached me a few weeks ago to talk about a potential project for their big display at this year’s Art Basel Miami/Design Miami. He came to me with the idea of coming up with a cheap zine that would talk about ROLU, include a couple of interviews and a CV. Kind of like a press kit in a way, but less straight-forward. We decided to meet for breakfast to catch up and talk more about what it could be.
Our conversation went all over the place: from talking about sailboats designed by Daniel Buren, Guy de Cointet’s sets for plays, a shared love of En Japanese Brasserie in New York, to our yet-to-be-realized trip to the anechoic chamber at Orfield Labratories (billed as the world’s quietest room right in town in Seward). It quickly became clear that however tangential or fleeting these interests and ideas and people were, they all have affected and informed their work in one way or another. The problem is if this is someone’s first introduction to their practice, would that glut of information presented be able to communicate—on the most basic level—what they do and where they work? We eventually agreed at some point that there was no use coming up with an elevator pitch to encapsulate it all, it’s just too intellectually sprawling. I was also afraid that you’d lose some of the soul and the quirkiness of the studio by trying to pare it down to its essence. I guess one way I tried to think about it is that the there is no essence, or it’s all essence, or as Matt put it, it’s “everywhere”.
So instead of condensing, we decided to go the maximalist route and show as much as possible. In the way that their blog brings together this huge range of information, the publication collages all these different content types (images, texts, hyperlinks, quotes, interview fragments, etc.) onto a page, or a series of pages. We created a simple structure on the page where it was divided into four quadrants, and that different things would be housed into these compartments. Whenever possible, I like to use food analogies, and I kind of liken this to an appetizer sampler where all these distinct little treats allows for multiple ways for the reader to engage with their work and enter the piece. It’s not a full meal, but a series of light bites to pique interest!
The final publication also collaged different materials and printing processes. The section I call “Matt’s Brain” was printed with a Riso (by our former fellow, Brian Walbergh) on this great flecked paper, while the nested essays and image sections were printed on the Walker design studio’s Ricoh laser printer on this slick glossy paper, which was honestly kind of a nightmare to use, but had an unexpected tactile effect when you printed big type. The CV was also laser printed, but on an uncoated, flourescent lime green paper. (I made Matt choose the paper, I just told him to think “Miami”). Key Lime Pie anyone?
The reader was hand-assembled by Mike Brady and Sammie Warren of ROLU and myself. These guys were champs for spending their Sunday in the Art Lab, folding constantly and getting Riso ink all over their hands, and then buying me a patty melt and a stout at Eli’s (notice how I keep mentioning food?). In all, it took about 10 hours to produce 300 special color versions of the publication. A second black and white version was produced at our local FedEx Office in Uptown.
Two weeks after that initial meeting, all of them miraculously made it to sunny Miami, and just in time too. I think they were pretty happy with it.
And a final note for those in the New York area, ROLU is currently part of the group exhibition Under $500 at Mondo Cane which runs from December 13th–January 3rd. The opening reception is literally right now (December 13th 6-9 pm). All works are under $500 and includes artists and designers such as Andy Beach, Eric Timothy Carlson, Matt Connors, Ditte Gantriis, Gemma Holt, Doug Johnson, Clemens Kois, Max Lamb, Mary Manning, Ian McDonald, Jonathan Nesci, Jim Oliveira, Study O Portable, and Omar Sosa & Nathalie du Pasquier.
“Interdisciplinary activity, valued today as an important aspect of research, cannot be accomplished by simple confrontations between various specialized branches of knowledge. Interdisciplinary work is not a peaceful operation: it begins effectively when the solidarity of the old disciplines breaks down—a process made more violent, perhaps, by the jolts of fashion—to the benefit of a new object and […]
“Interdisciplinary activity, valued today as an important aspect of research, cannot be accomplished by simple confrontations between various specialized branches of knowledge. Interdisciplinary work is not a peaceful operation: it begins effectively when the solidarity of the old disciplines breaks down—a process made more violent, perhaps, by the jolts of fashion—to the benefit of a new object and a new language, neither of which is in the domain of those branches of knowledge that one calmly sought to confront.” —Roland Barthes
As part of the Walker’s Interdisciplinary Work Group (IWG)—a think tank exploring the “violent” process of clashing disciplines within our institution (maybe not violent enough, really)—I was asked to invite someone who inspired me and whose practice might embody a mixture of disciplines. It was the perfect excuse to bring out Julian Bleecker—a designer/technologist/futurist who creates “new objects” on a daily basis—though he might call them diagetic prototypes and suggest that their existence was not only plausible, but completely inevitable. When he’s not working in Nokia’s Design Strategic Projects studio, he is one of the founding partners of the Near Future Laboratory, a collective dedicated to “thinking, making, design, development, and research practice speculating on the near future possibilities for digital worlds.”
Over the past few years he has been developing the idea of Design Fiction—a practice exploring the symbiotic relationship between science fiction and science fact. As an attitude it has a lot in common with Critical Design as put forward by Dunne & Raby (in fact Wikipedia redirects a search for Design Fiction straight to the entry on Critical Design). Though where Critical Design offers tangible thought experiments critical of our personal relationships with products—often inhabiting the space of the gallery or academia—Design Fiction appears to be oriented toward the popular imaginary, more comfortable in the realm of Hollywood films, best-selling novels, Skymall catalogs, and Internet memes, more explicitly tackling the relationship between storytelling, media, and technological progress. And it might be more concerned with the fog of the feedback loop and the design process itself, in all its compromised and messy glory—the implications of business models, service design, copyright laws, product obsolescence, hacker spaces, Amazon Mechanical Turk and Alibaba.com, access to tools, etc.—instead of the clarity of the pure artifact on its pedestal (or kitchen counter). Julian even discusses the negative effects of design storytelling—Jurassic Park, for example, is held up as an example of incredible Design Fiction but potentially dubious science fact—a minority theory put forward into the public consciousness, bypassing the typical systems of scientific peer review, and dramatically altering the entire debate.
I’ve come to understand Design Fiction a bit like the inverse of Mundane Science Fiction (the Dogme 95 of sci-fi)—instead of science fiction authors dialing down the fantasy to tell stories of the near future, these are designers amping up the speculation to “tell worlds instead of stories.” Both theories feel a bit scrappy but highly prize a conceptual rigor: the refusal of Mundane Science Fiction to resort to impossible (and easy) ideas, and the dedication of Design Fiction to the process of making something real. “Less yammering and more hammering,” indeed. Both ideas also readily admit to having existed long before they were formally named, which seems appropriate.
I have personally been interested in the overlap of design and speculation for a while, but inviting Julian out in the context of the IWG posed a new set of questions: how can an organization like the Walker embed speculative practices into its workflow, how is interdisciplinary experimentation already inherently speculative, and when should our institution embrace a process that is not necessarily results-oriented—or at least, not in the typical sense? Speaking of mundane . . .
Julian Bleecker doing something techy
For our meeting, Julian spoke on his ideas of Design Fiction and led us through a series of workshop exercises designed to generate ideas for near future products. The IWG invited writer Susannah Schouweiler to sit in and write up her account of the proceedings. Here is her report on Julian’s presentation:
For the second in a series of eight planned discussions between now and December 2012, in early June members of the Walker’s Interdisciplinary Work Group (IWG) gathered for a conversation with Julian Bleecker, co-founder of the Near Future Laboratory and a researcher at the Design Strategic Projects studio at Nokia Design in Los Angeles. Specifically, IWG member and design director Emmet Byrne invited Bleecker to talk with our assembled group of Walker curators, programmers, and educators about his ongoing, hybrid creative work in the field of Design Fiction.
Unlike the more informal, intimate question-and-answer session a month prior with dancer and choreographer Deborah Hay, Bleecker’s multimedia presentation to the IWG was practiced, narrowly targeted, and information-rich—like a sprawling, workshopped TED-talk on his work at the intersection of imaginative play, storytelling, technology, art, and near-future design. Or, as Bleecker puts it more succinctly, “finding new ways of thinking about what’s possible.”
To begin, Bleecker describes Design Fiction for us, as “the fertile muddle where fact and fiction reflect and influence each other.” He says both design and science fiction work to open new lines of conversation, allowing people who are not inclined to think out of the ordinary, to begin to do so. “You can introduce a conversation about something quite speculative; when you’re talking about science fiction, no one says, ‘that’s impossible.’ We all understand the normal rules don’t apply.”
Design Fiction, in particular, he says, “involves thinking of the impossible as not just possible, but imminent, even likely.” But the work of Design Fiction goes much further than thinking and talking about what might be, to building on the ideas that emerge from such speculations: expanding the conversation by making something real, thereby taking it from the gossamer realms of conjecture to the work-a-day spheres of tangible, concrete probability.
He explains: “This work involves a symbiotic relationship between design fact and design fiction—things can happen because these conversations are in the world, percolating.” For example, we can see amazing, fictional technology in Hollywood films [like Minority Report, 2001: A Space Odyssey, etc]—indeed, that imagined tech is itself a big draw for audiences.
(Above: examples of Design Fiction in film)
And in a very concrete sense those technologies arereal:
Someone designed a product, and designed it with an excruciating level of refinement, not just so it looks good on camera, but in such a way that the whole production team can understand how that tech fits in the story, why it’s there…. Using the lexicon established by the film to explain something real, some actual technology, it then becomes legible for a wide audience, because you have a conceptual anchor which introduces that technology (in the case of Minority Report, for example, gesture-based interfaces) into the popular imaginary.
He goes on: “The fact that the device you want to make doesn’t quite work yet doesn’t negate its reality—the conversation, the continuity of relationship between the idea rendered in the film and real technology is real…. A designer working on that film did enough to get things started to where an industrialist was ready to write a check to develop it for actual use. That’s real.”
Bleecker says such work involves “extrapolating from known to unknown… You can introduce a conversation about something quite speculative, but then expand that into an even more fulfilling conversation if you actually make the thing you’re talking about.” He goes on, “It’s usually a linear trajectory—from idea to prototype to materialization in some new future. You accrete more meaning in your explanation for what the future might look like as you build, get funding, and create something. You need to get it out of your head; once it’s made, you can describe it, show it and involve people in a discussion about its specifics.”
(Above: Apple’s iPad makes its first appearance as a diegetic prototype in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1969)
The Design Fiction process of actually creating something—going from conception to execution—facilitates a kind of thoroughness that distinguishes this work from mere speculation. In fact, Bleecker’s current interests are anything but remote: he tells us, right now he’s most interested in questions about the distribution of innovation. He offers a quote from novelist William Gibson by way of explanation: “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed … yet.”
Bleecker then offers this thought experiment. “I try to imagine what the end of the long tail for these innovations will look like; what does it look like at that point where future technology does become evenly distributed? Where it’s affordable, ubiquitous, mass-produced, almost junk? Like the PDA is now, or the record player, for example.”
He describes how thinking on such a question plays out in practice:
I think there’s something Design Fiction-y about that question. [How does our relationship to material stuff change with time and saturation, and what are the causes of those shifting desires?] To imagine these exciting new things, these innovations, as tomorrow’s crap—to put yourself in a time when you can pick up an iPad at the dollar store for $1.99, or two for $3. It’s a very powerful way of describing what these things might look like in the future, how they might work in the culture. Designing these things in reality, describing them in this way, does a sort of Jedi mind trick: This process makes people really believe, because in our daily lives we already understand how that exciting-to-banal process works—we see it all around us.”
He argues that you can disrupt conventional futures with Design Fiction: “If you really want to tweak habits or desires, you can start design conversations with these techniques, take them beyond ‘what are the new colors/price points going to be for 2013?’” Design Fiction, he says, plays in the fringes, outside the borders of the “conventional products’ sweet spot,” where the spheres of what’s “buildable, desirable, and profitable” overlap. Design Fiction adherents are drawn beyond safe “mods and tweaks” of existing products to the fast-shifting terrain where fantasies and speculations reside, to the quicksilver trajectories of the “magical, mythical, miraculous” in our many possible futures.
(Above: Death Star Over San Francisco by Mike Horn)
In Design Fiction, he says, “stories matter more than features, specs, wireframes, and engineering…Special effects dinosaurs are more effective when used in an exciting film like Jurassic Park, than they are in a plain old documentary talking about the science of dinosaurs, because you’re enrolling viewers into a well-drawn world, and the design within that world is all the more compelling for it. … [What’s more] a persuasive big-budget film rendering of [even hotly contested] science can so capture the imagination that it changes the real-world conversation irrevocably — and can therefore change the science itself.”
He says, “It comes down to the way in which we’re able to hold people’s attention, to engage them.” It’s about finding ways—through film, design, novels—to help us all look at the world a little differently. “We’re trying to find people who look at the world a little bit sideways, for that head-slap moment when you know you’ve hit on meaningful innovation—whether that’s a little tweak that makes a huge difference (e.g. wheels on luggage) or some big new idea put in practice.”
Design director Emmet Byrne follows up, asking Bleecker whether “there’s something inherently ethical about showing people how the future might be different than what we accept as the consensus future? That seems to be an element of critical design practice as well,” he says. “Is simply generating a meaningful conversation about what is and might be, in itself, a useful aspect of the work? Or is that not enough?”
Bleecker responds: “It’s fun to look at the world this way, to seek the head-slap moment and play with ideas; but I do think it’s also important to consider these things with a code of ethics. You’re never just doing it to do it, but to make the world a little bit better. Sometimes that’s been a very First-World thing I’ve made better because of a new design—like calling your mother gets a little easier, a little better, more enjoyable. But always embedded in the design work is the idea that we’re in the business of making things a little more playful, happier, and less unnerving for people.”
“And simply bringing an appreciation of the fact that the future isn’t determined,” he says, “that the future, on an individual scale, is still open to one person’s vision of what that can be”—that’s valuable in its own right, too.
The Walker design studio was featured in an exhibition called The Way Beyond Art: Wide White Space at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. You can read an interview about the exhibition here. A catalog/reader based on the exhibition , edited and designed by Jon Sueda, is now published and available here. The exhibition investigates […]
The Walker design studio was featured in an exhibition called The Way Beyond Art: Wide White Space at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. You can read an interview about the exhibition here.
A catalog/reader based on the exhibition , edited and designed by Jon Sueda, is now published and available here. The exhibition investigates graphic design’s evolving relationship with the practice of exhibition making as it intersects with the visual arts and the work of both artists and curators. The exhibition, also curated by Jon Sueda of the San Francisco design practice Stripe SF, was originally on view at CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in 2011. The publication includes texts by Claire Fitzsimmons, Project Projects, Tim Belonax, and myself, and transcriptions of lectures presented in the Wide White Space lecture series by Emily McVarish, Rachel Berger, MacFadden & Thorpe, and Eric Heiman. The book also includes an overview of the course Wider White Space, organized by Jon Sueda and the Wattis Institute, where students at the California College of the Arts (CCA) curated four satellite exhibitions about APFEL, Project Projects, the Walker Art Center, and Experimental Jetset.
Featured Designers in the Exhibition: APFEL, Irma Boom, Laurenz Brunner and Julia Born, Sara De Bondt, Mevis and Van Deursen, Dexter Sinister, Experimental Jetset, Will Holder, Indexhibit, Zak Kyes, James Langdon, LUST, Niessen & de Vries, Practise, Project Projects, Yann Sérandour and Jérôme Saint-Loubert Bié, Stedelijk Museum, Sulki and Min, Mylinh Trieu Nguyen, Hansje van Halem, and the Walker Art Center
The Walker and Printed Matter (NY) are teaming up to create an artist book outreach program of sorts, bringing the best of contemporary artworks-for-the-page to the Midwest. In collaboration with the Walker’s book buyer Paul Schumacher, Printed Matter will curate a selection of contemporary artist books, zines, and publications which will be displayed in […]
The Walker and Printed Matter (NY) are teaming up to create an artist book outreach program of sorts, bringing the best of contemporary artworks-for-the-page to the Midwest. In collaboration with the Walker’s book buyer Paul Schumacher, Printed Matter will curate a selection of contemporary artist books, zines, and publications which will be displayed in an artist-designed bookshelf in the Walker Shop. As part of their mission, Printed Matter is looking for ways to spread what they do outside of NY, and this shelf will be the first in a series of shelves with other partners across the country.
To launch the shelf the Walker is putting on a weekend of book-related events called Over-Booked, two weeks before the New York Art Book Fair, Printed Matter’s gigantic annual event that takes place at MoMA PS1. Highlights of our weekend in Minneapolis include Printed Matter executive director James Jenkin’s talk about tips and trends in artists’ book publishing on Saturday, a local book arts fair, and an open house at the Walker’s library showcasing the lauded Rosemary Furtak Collection. Check it out September 13–15.
In the coming weeks leading up to Over-Booked and the NYABF we will be featuring interviews with our favorite book artists and designers such as Christopher Schultz, Eric Wrenn, Sandra Kassenaar, Paul Chan, Lucky Dragons, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Omar Sosa, Chad Kloepfer, An Art Service, Jõao Doria, Jesse Hlebo, Ofer Wolberger, Josh Trees & Yvan Martinez, Adam Michaels, Roger Willems, David Schoerner, Alfredo Folch, Blair Richardson, Alex Fuller, Kyle Schlie, Yun Yu, Issue Press, Wayne Daly, and Other Means. We will also be publishing an interview with James Jenkins about the genesis of the bookshelf project, and an interview with A.A. Bronson about the future of the NYABF.
ROLU‘s recent Open Field residency involved, as noted in other posts on this blog (1. 2. 3.), a number of fruitful collaborations. Case in point: Brian Janusiak, Elizabeth Beer, and Matthew Chrislip of Various Projects created a garment for visitors to borrow and wear in exchange for free admission to the Walker. The multidisciplinary design […]
ROLU‘s recent Open Field residency involved, as noted in other posts on this blog (1.2.3.), a number of fruitful collaborations. Case in point: Brian Janusiak, Elizabeth Beer, and Matthew Chrislip of Various Projects created a garment for visitors to borrow and wear in exchange for free admission to the Walker. The multidisciplinary design collaborative responsible for Project No. 8 and 8a in New York was inspired by Hélio Oiticica’s parangolés, and their collaboration with ROLU resulted in a bright orange, one-size-fits-all customizable smock, translating audience participation into performance, and contributing to the residency’s “takeover of the whole museum.” ROLU’s Matt Olson specifically “liked the idea that [their] work would, through this piece, travel everywhere in each gallery.”
Joe Gilmore—a multidisciplinary artist and graphic designer working in the fields of computer music, video and algorithmic art—is founder of Qubik, a type-focused design studio in London. As part of their Open Field residency, ROLU asked Joe Gilmore to make a risograph print to commemorate the Attention as Place contributors, available to visitors while supplies […]
Joe Gilmore—a multidisciplinary artist and graphic designer working in the fields of computer music, video and algorithmic art—is founder of Qubik, a type-focused design studio in London. As part of their Open Field residency, ROLU asked Joe Gilmore to make a risograph print to commemorate the Attention as Place contributors, available to visitors while supplies last. Read a little bit about it below:
How did you come to know ROLU?
As far as I remember I first met Matt from ROLU through my image blog Void(). ROLU’s blog is one of the blogs I check every day and I think there is a mutual admiration between us and also there’s a lot of similarity in our interests (performance and conceptual art of the 70s, design, architecture etc.). I am constantly discovering artists and their works through ROLU’s blog, it’s a constant source of inspiration for me.
Matt and I have been exchanging emails for a while (we’ve never met in person), quite a few were about synchronicity between our blogs, things we discovered and posted around the same time. And also about other connections such as people we knew or had worked with, such as Mary Manning and Tauba Auerbach.
My print for Open Field is a typographic response to ROLU’s residency.
How do you understand their relationship between their work, their blog, and their collaborators?
I think each informs the other. I think the relationship between their work, blog and collaborators encapsulates in a really thoughtful way the idea that as creatives we are part of a huge tradition which stretches not only far back in time but across spatial boundaries in the world in present time. We are not only the work we produce but the things we look at and listen to and absorb. I think their work is a celebration of that.
Tell me about the print.
The name ‘ROLU’ is set in Walt, one of the four styles of Lÿno, a new typeface by Radim Peško and Karl Nawrot. I was drawn to the playful geometric topologies suggested by the letterforms. Also, I liked the idea that one could mix-up the activities, so making as thinking; attention as place; and participation as performance could just as well be:
making place attention performance participation thinking
thinking attention place participation performance making
Joseph Beuys once made the point that “thinking is form” and I thinkthis relates to what ROLU are doing in this residency. He also couldhave said “form is thinking” of course.