Form & function

Oh yes, the planet is sublime!

reader

I have a crazy,
crazy love of things.
I like pliers,
and scissors.
I love
cups,
rings,
and bowls –
not to speak, of course,
of hats.
I love
all things,
not just
the grandest,
also
the
infinite-
ly
small–
thimbles,
spurs,
plates,
and flower vases.
Oh yes,
the planet
is sublime!

Odes to Common Things by Pablo Neruda
(photo by Daniel Wert)

 

wonder.land (By Anna Gerber)

Image for Anna

Are you one of those people who hears the words “adapted from”, “inspired by”, “based on” or even “re-imagined” and your critical tentacles tense up? Do you find yourself thinking things like “I wonder how faithful this film is to the original novel?” or “What would the author think if she saw this dance adaptation?”. I know I certainly am, with my hand held high up in admission, head bowed down.

So when I walked into The National Theatre to watch wonder.land, the wild trippy musical “loosely based” on Alice in Wonderland (there it is, you see) I was full of that critical, snooty, cultural judgement. But just as easily, I transcended those misgivings and can tell you that, over two hours later, I left feeling surprised. More than surprised: inspired. I loved it.

Created by the almighty Damon Albarn, Moira Buffini and Rufus Norris, wonder.land highlights include the coolest, most glitchy, ravey, Gorillaz inspired rabbit you’ve ever seen; a broken-home Alice whose avatar is everything she isn’t (complete with sky high Alexander McQueen-esque platforms); the Cheshire Cat blown up so big on screen you just want to climb into that Bowie grin; a headmistress turned Queen of Spades that made me think of a hipsterfied Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull; and a Mad Hatter (Alice’s debt ridden father) who could be a cross between Albarn himself and Johnny Depp. What’s there not to love? There’s even a virtual reality music video-as-app which is like watching a whole sprawling mini-universe squeezed into the teeny screen of your mobile phone. And in all of this, there’s a mash up of familiar, clever cultural counter points. A constellation full of the world around us — it’s loud, it’s claustrophobic, it’s visually saturated. And utterly familiar.

Of course Albarn and team aren’t the first to tackle Alice in Wonderland: before wonder.land came Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland and then there was Tim Burton’s wild ride of a film (cue: Johnny Depp) and there was Penguin’s polka dotted Yayoi Kusama beauty of a book and then there was Alice for the iPad that blew our digital minds open so wide we thought we’d never come out.

So maybe the real testimony here is the story itself: a story so good it calls out to be revisited and made familiar again and again and again. And maybe it’s okay if this Alice is more about gaming and social media than it is the traditional Lewis Carroll narrative. One thing’s for sure, Alice 2.0 makes for a fabulously wild ride.

(Anna is guest blogging for us this month covering delightful new storytelling projects that have caught her eye. Anna is a Special Projects Creative Director who knows a thing or two about making stories, be they digital, on paper or brickwork as Founder of Visual Editions and Creative Director of Editions At Play.)

The Pickle Index By Anna Gerber (Part 2)

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 3.34.49 PM

There’s more.

You also get to play with The Pickle Index as a downloadable, notification-able, serialisable app. They call it an immersive, exploratory experience, an app that takes you inside their pickling world; it’s the story told as a short serialised novel (a novel in ten days) or as a pickling recipe sharing app (no time frame here). Or both. Your choice. Either way, it’s very much a digital book that stays faithful to its form. Here is a world that couldn’t live any other way, it blends film together with a novel that is delivered to you daily:  you get news of each day’s “events” and even the option to collect recipes in your own “cookbook”. Recipes about pickling. Will you actually do this? Or read this? Probably not (I haven’t). But the thing is I do like knowing that if I wanted to, I could. And anyway it’s a nice nod to the ‘every story is told by author just as much as it is by reader’ literary bedrock.

Okay, so here’s something that keeps me up at night: why do we call this kind of project “Bold! Brave! Ambitious!” when the shifting sands of what makes a book is hardly new? Israelites used the scroll before the Romans invented the book as codex. This shift was mega, giving us pages (pages!) and a new reading of narrative. Movable type came a few thousand years later and made distribution possible through printing. And meant we could spread stories beyond the church. In came the paperback. (Thank you Penguin.) And the internet. (Thank you Tim Berners-Lee). And bam here we are in 2016 asking what kind of edge we need to call a book a book. Because every shifting sand needs an edge to work with. 

The Pickle Index has a lot of these edges. We have sentences. We have words. We have a story. Tick. We have an appreciation for craft and design and the book as object. Tick. We have fun and play, we even have a spoof Kinfolk YouTube video. Tick. And we have a digitally native experience, something you couldn’t have in the physical world. Tick. The only thing missing is a great story. But hey, maybe that’s okay. Nobody’s perfect.

See your designs in NODE

ArtistChrisHaughton

If you’ve ever dreamed about seeing your designs realized as a hand woven rug, the NODE project by illustrator Chris Haughton with entrepreneur Akshay Sthapit will be of interest. A non-profit, fair trade business the rugs are produced at the Kumbeshwar Technical School in Nepal which trains disadvantaged adults. While many well known designers such as Donna Wilson and Geoff McFetridge were commissioned by NODE and exhibited in the Design Museum in London in 2012 (with rugs still for sale in the shop), NODE facilitates the production of their beautiful woven pieces for any designer.

Universal Rational Form

Braun

Innovative and renowned for its modern, functional design there are few companies with such a lasting and relevant design legacy as Braun. Curated by das programm, obsessive German sellers of Dieter Rams designs, Paris’s MODA will will be hosting an exhibition of posters by thirty-four leading graphic designers and studios challenged to respond to the iconic company’s systems design (classic 60s Braun designs are also on display).

Aisle one has a selection of images from the original 2013 exhibition in London.

(Moda, January 29th-February 27th)

X-Space

library-berk

108 eighth-grade students at REALM Charter School in Berkeley, CA took charge of their own library and designed X-Space. The activity was part of the school’s Studio H initiative, an in-school curriculum that encourages students to build socially-engaged projects. Yearning for a place to study, relax, and learn, the students conceived X-Space as a warm and welcoming place for  discovering “X.” The library has specially designed X-shaped stackable “STAX” that were made with plywood and CNC technology. To help fund books, construction materials, lighting, fixtures and technology donate to Studio H’s Kickstarter until March 27.

Image via Project H

California Living

eames

Beginning March 29, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts will present California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way. More than 250 mid-century design artifacts, including furniture, textiles, fashion, and vehicles will immerse the viewer in the airy California style that Charles and Ray Eames, Richard Neutra, and RM Schindler made iconic. The progressive designs are contextualized with information that reflects on the period’s social, cultural, and creative consciousness. The goal of these designers, according to the exhibition’s curator Barron Bailly, was “to make everyday life beautiful and comfortable.” The groundbreaking exhibition organized by the LACMA is the first major study of modern California design, and PEM is its only stop on the East Coast. Catch it before it closes July 6.

Image via PEM

Reinterpreting Italian Craft

fabrica

Fabrica, the illustrious Italian communications research center, recently opened Extra-Ordinary gallery, a collection of everyday objects that reinterpret Italian craft traditions. Employing traditional Italian materials like blown glass from Murano and marble from Canova, the minimal but luxurious items are all made by hand domestically. Paying tribute to daily rituals and life’s small pleasures, the collection features paperweights, bowls, vases, and wire baskets that epitomize the beauty of simplicity.

via Fabrica

Sunlight in your Pocket

littlesun

Little Sun, designed by renowned artist Olafur Eliasson in collaboration with Frederick Ottesen, is a sunburst-shaped solar-powered LED light that is already bringing electricity-free illumination to far corners of the globe. Little Sun debuted at the World Economic Forum in Africa in 2012 and was recently awarded MIT’s 2014 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts. The $100,000 cash prize will go towards producing the light, a 6 cm x 6 cm single cell mono-crystalline solar module that produces five hours of reading light for every four hours of sunlight it absorbs. Eliasson explains, “It offers a solution to energy inequality, of course — but it also ties us emotionally and physically to what energy means today.” Available at the MoMa Store.

Image via Little Sun

Creative Play

willow-render

A new company, Free Play, specially designs delightful and thoughtful abstract playgrounds that encourage creative play. After noticing his daughters’ obsession with the hulking metal structures in a Richard Serra exhibition at the MoMA, Dan Schriebman began to brainstorm ideas for a playground that children actually wanted to use. The results are sculptural designs that encourage a different engagement than run of the mill swings and slides, motivating ‘unstructured play’ where kids can explore, discover, and reconfigure. This kind of imaginative play is proven to be critical to a child’s intellectual, physical, and social development. The first set of structures will be unveiled at a new FIFA stadium in Al Ain, UAE.

Image Free Play via Wired

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