The book under review this week is Open Design Now: Why Design Cannot Remain Exclusive, edited by Bas van Abel (Creative Director of Waag Society), Roel Klaassen (Programme Manager at Premsela, Dutch Platform for Design and Fashion), Lucas Evers (Head of Programme Culture at Waag Society and member of Creative Commons Netherlands) and Peter Troxler (independent researcher and concept developer.) You can find it on amazon USA or UK.
BIS publishers writes: In design(ing) there is a revolution ongoing that is triggered by an emerging networked community that is sharing digital information about physical products and the ubiquitous availability of production tools and facilities. It transforms design into an open discipline, in which designs are shared and innovation of a large diversity of products is a collaborative and world spanning process.
Open Design Now covers these issues:
You might remember that I've already said a few words about Open Design Now in early June when it was launched at DMY International Design Festival Berlin. I hadn't read the book at the time. I have now.
The book is divided into three main sections. The first one is made of some 210 pages of essays by practitioners and thinkers such as John Thackara, Dick Rijken from STEIM and professor at The Hague University, Bre Pettis of the MakerBot fame, Renny Ramakers from Droog Design, Tommi Laitio from Demos Helsinki. The section of essays is followed by a stimulating list of case studies that range from the Fifty Dollar Leg Prosthesis to Fritzing and the RepRap digital fabrication system. The last part is the 'visual index' made of examples over examples of inspirational works and ideas: guerrilla gardening, bamboo bikes, hacker strategies, recycling initiatives, manifestos, grassroots inventions, etc.
The authors of the book announce right from the start that they won't try and reduce open design to a definition. What they do instead is provide a clear snapshot of the state of open source design in all its guises. Van Abel, Evers, Klaassen and Troxler did also a great job at editing a book that provides a solid framework for discussion as well as plenty of opportunities to reflect and ponder on the opportunities and challenges offered by open source values on the whole spectrum of creativity, from chair marketing to robot making.
In their essays, the contributors explore with more depth many of the issues that the design community might prefer to ignore right now: shifts in the distribution and production process, 'loss' of control, adjustments of intellectual property rights, reassessment of old hierarchies, access to knowledge, definition of 'design literacy', impact of new technologies and tools, the hybridization of the designer's role, the designer-client relationship is under (re)evalution... And most crucially for some, the business potential of open source creativity.
Joris Laarman's point of view is one of the highlights of the book. The designer (and one of the initiators of Make-Me.com) raises thought-provoking questions about the 'mediocracy of the middle classes' that dominates the current mass production design, about why true modernists wanted open source design 100 years ago, how the power could get out of the grasp of multinationals and back into the hands of craftspeople whose know-how and talent had been rendered irrelevant by industrialization, why creative commons licensing shouldn't prevent you from making profit, etc.
Another great input is Mushon Zer-Aviv's essay "Learning by Doing", a very personal and often humourous account of the strategies he deployed in his efforts to teach open design in art and design schools.
Finally, and mostly because it gives me the opportunity to highlight the breadth of the book, i'd like to single out Open Design for Government, an essay in which Bert Mulder calls for applying some of the tools, frameworks and values of open design to governmental institutions in order to open up policy making to citizens.
Before i close this post, i should mention the very brave and befitting publication model. BIS publishers is making the content of the book gradually available on the Open Design Now website. Right now, 15% of the content can be read online.
Views inside the book:
Image on the homepage: ÖLKE BÖLKE by Remy&Veenhuizen. Photo: Leo Veger.
Black Dog Publishing writes: See Yourself Sensing: Redefining Human Perception is the first book to survey the fascinating relationship between design, the body, science and the senses. Over the last 50 years, artists, architects and designers have been experimenting with the boundaries of our senses, altering the way we experience the world.
Did you know it has been revealed that we can hear our skin, can see through our tongue, and can plug our nervous system directly into a computer? With prosthetics, robotics, cybernetics, virtual reality, transplants, and neuroscience altering the way we perceive and experience space, the body has re-emerged as an important architectural site. See Yourself Sensing reports the experiments of artists and designers on the intimate scale of the body, and explores the influence of such experimentation on architecture, installation and new media.
Exploring this concept through the last 50 years of contemporary art and design, See Yourself Sensing examines the work of key practitioners in this field, from Rebecca Horn's object based installations and Stelarc's robotic body extensions, to Carsten Höllers' physically interactive sculptures. The works and artists illustrated throw into consideration how we see and sense the world around us through artistic interpretation. The book includes projects such as solar-powered contact lenses that augment reality, LED eyelashes and an implanted tooth receiver that transmits the Internet directly into the wearer's inner ear, all created with the purpose of transforming and provoking the wearer's sensory experience.
Madeline Schwartzman brings together this unique collection of images that reflect the sensory design in architecture, art and installation, chartering the breadth of this sensory theme through the work of many renowned artists. Analysing the importance and influence of body-scaled sensory experiments, Schwartzman reveals the fascinating relationship between senses, body, art and perception.
Books on similar topics tend to look either like catalogs listing and illustrating relevant projects or lengthy essays that you might or might not have the strength and desire to read from the first to the last page. See Yourself Sensing manages to keep the balance between the two. There are plenty of works to illustrate each chapter, many of which i had never heard about and was therefore enthusiastic to encounter. But it is also a well-paced, well-researched essay about the impact technologies are having on the architecture of our senses.
Instead of dividing the book into chapters that would each focus on one of our human senses, the author chose to adopt more conceptual approach. The first chapter, Reframers takes a look at the mind-bending in function, utility or outlook. Environments negociates the space between bodies and containers. Tools deals with utility, performance and enhancement. Mediators are the agents that intervene between people, spaces and objects. The final chapter, Speculations is the boldest of all with its set of ideas and projects that spark even more inspiration and conjectures. The introduction to each chapter focuses on a few artists, researchers or designers. They can be as diverse as R&Sie and Kevin Warwick. Then the book adopts a faster rhythm with the presentation of dozens of project that illustrate the theme of the chapter.
The sections are not hermetically closed, they keep referencing each other and there is a sense of narration, a flow that keeps your mind alert and your interest alert. I think this book is going to be one i'll be referencing again and again. And there aren't many books i can see myself getting back to regularly.
Here's a few projects i discovered or re-discovered in the book. I wish i could add more but some of the ones i found most fascinating don't seem to be well documented online:
Sitraka Rakotoniaina and Andrew Friend, Impactor and Neck Clamp from the Shocking series that explores and exposes the boundaries between thrill, fear and science lye. The devices they have designed would allow individuals the chance to test these limits for themselves, capitalising on new, fantastic material qualities promised by the advances of technology and in particular the development of new shock absorbing nano composites.
Creeper is one of Hyungkoo Lee's movable machines that allow humans to alter their sensations and be closer to insects.
Haus- Rucker-Co's experiment brought new perspectives on the fusion/separation between the body and the space.
Blow-Up, by George Yu Architects, is a group of inflatable touch-sensitive surfaces that enable visitors to modulate sound, touch, and light.
Krzysztof Wodiczko's now iconic Dis-Armor is a prosthetic equipment designed to meet the communicative need of the alienated, traumatized, and silenced residents of today's cities, offering them the opportunity offers to communicate indirectly with another person by speaking through their backs.
Marepe's Cabeça Acústica (Acoustic Head) are two aluminum wash basins connected with hinges and a cooking pan to create a meditative isolation chamber for amplifying singing.
Publisher Gestalten writes: Thanks to the omnipresence of computers, cell phones, gaming systems, and the internet, a broad audience has traded its past reservations against technology for an almost insatiable curiosity for all things technical. Against this background, unprecedented new tools and possibilities are opening up for the world of design. In addition to sketchbooks and computers, young designers are increasingly using programming languages, soldering irons, sensors, and microprocessors as well as 3D milling or rapid prototyping machines in their work. The innovative use of powerful hardware and software has become affordable and, most of all, much easier to use. Today, the sky is the limit when it comes to ideas for experimental media, unconventional interfaces, and interactive spatial experiences.
A Touch of Code shows how information becomes experience. The book examines how surprising personal experiences are created where virtual realms meet the real world and where dataflow confronts the human senses. It presents an international spectrum of interdisciplinary projects at the intersection of laboratory, trade show, and urban space that play with the new frontiers of perception, interaction, and staging created by current technology. These include brand and product presentations as well as thematic exhibits, architecture, art, and design.
The comprehensive spectrum of innovative spatial and interactive work in A Touch of Code reveals how technology is fundamentally changing and expanding strategies for the targeted use of architecture, art, communication, and design for the future.
New media art, interaction design, digital art, communication design, interface design, art&tech, etc. Define them as you like, the works in this book celebrate, in an unfussy, feisty way, the emancipation of computer code from the hands of programmers.
A Touch of Code takes a snapshot of the state of interactive art and design right here right now. If you're looking for a book with historical context and a panorama of what is going on all over the world this might not be the book for you. The works covered are very recent, there's no date next to the title of the pieces selected but i'd say that very few -if any- of them were developed more than 10 years ago. Most of the works were created in the USA or in Europe. With a surprisingly high emphasis on works from German-speaking countries. Which is fine by me, i don't tend to follow German magazines and blogs so i'm often in the dark as to what artists and designers are doing over there.
The book doesn't embarrass itself with much text. There's an introduction by Joachim Sauter from ART+COM, another one by the editors of the book. Other than that, all you get is the usual description of the works and a few lines that comment each chapter (Look, Touch, Explore, Engage and Intervene.)
Still, A Touch of Code is a joy to pore over. It's like a fast, efficient and snazzy blog about interactive installations. The images are fantastic, the design is impeccable, I discovered many young artists and designers (i was actually appalled by the extent of my ignorance) and felt the need to reconnect with artists i had not seen in ages.
Take a look at some of the goods you'll find in the book:
Siren Elise Wilhelmsen 365 Knitting Clock that knits 48 meshes per day, and produces one two meter long scarf per year. Knitting 24 hours a day, and a year at a time as a physical manifestation of time, they knit one mesh every half hour all day long, and in a year they each produce a two metre long scarf.
By the end of the year the yarn can be changed and a new year - and a new scarf - can begin.
Cycloïd-E is a sound sculpture composed of five horizontally-articulated tubes which swing in unpredictable patterns and produce musical tones. Each section of the armature is a different instrument that emits a sound dictated by its position and speed of movement. The video of the work in action is impressive.
Mischer'Traxler's cake decoration machine is made of a rotating platform, icing gun, a motor-run arm and a silver dragées spout. The machine perpetually repeats one production step, first the icing lines then the sugar beads, as the cake rotates. It goes on until the customer stops the process.
txtBOMBER by Felix Voerreiter generates on the fly and prints out political statements using an Arduino processor and seven markers.
Fühlometer, by Richard Wilhelmer, Julius von Bismarck and Benjamin Maus, draws a luminous emoticon over the Berlin sky. A software reads emotions out of the faces of random Berliners, the system processes the resulting mood data and turns it in real time into this gigantic smiley.
The Self-Made Carbon-Copy Paper Printer is the result of two constraints: no original and no traditional printing method. The printer was hand-made using carbon copy paper. The software was developed for the printer using processing to read the bitmat image and control an Arduino driver. Wherever there is a black dot on the bitmap image, the printer-head hits the paper, leaving a mark. The printer's hardware and software solutions reference the work of do-it-yourself and maverick open-source communities.
Three Pieces, which was housed during several weeks in Victorian Palm House of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, is a robot that plays the traditional Chinese dulcimer with its many bamboo fingers while the surrounding foliage hides an ensemble of robotic chimes. The robot performers, which are connected together, are conducted by the living and ever changing elements in the Palm House: moisture content of the soil, plants, temperature, animals, visitors.
Joseph . L Griffiths 's Drawing Machine #1 (To Your Heart's Content) is a stationary bike with a spinning front wheel that powers an apparatus that draws circles on the surface using coloured markers. Meanwhile, another drawing element makes other doodles based on the side to side motion of the handle bars.
Views inside the book:
Publisher Princeton Architectural Press writes: From Andy Warhol to the sassy designers of today, screen-printing is a medium with undeniable panache. Prized for its accessibility and bold, saturated colors, screen-printing is cheap, versatile, and a little dirty. Not to mention fast. Author Mike Perry (Hand Job, Over and Over) screened his first shirt in college and wore it later that night. So listen up, burgeoning artistes: it can't always be bad to wear your heart on your sleeve.
Pulled stretches screen-printing in all directions, leaving no element untouched. This book is a survey and a how-to, a collection of prints and an idea bank. It brings together more than forty talented screen printers, including Aesthetic Apparatus, Deanne Cheuk, Steven Harrington, Maya Hayuk, Cody Hudson, Jeremyville, Andy Mueller, Rinzen, and Andy Smith, among many others. Pulled is for the creative person who wants to leave his mark on cotton, or anything else.
Another book review because sometimes you've spent such a nice time with a book that you need to share it with your readers. Right here, right now.
Pulled contains mostly images. 2 pages of introduction. 2 pages of how to screen print yourself and then bits and pieces of portfolio with a short presentation of each designer/artist/studio. Pretty straightforward, charming and efficient. The author of the book, Mike Perry is one of these screen printing artists which gives the whole book a kind of homely, small community feeling. I'll shut uo here and let you see some of the goods for yourself:
Art & Agenda - Political Art and Activism, edited by Robert Klanten, Matthias Hübner, Alain Bieber, Pedro Alonzo, Gregor Jansen. With essays by Pedro Alonzo, Alain Bieber, Silke Krohn (available on amazon USAand UK.)
Publisher Gestalten writes: Life has become significantly more political in the new millennium, especially in the aftermath of worldwide financial crisis. Art is both driving and documenting this upheaval. Increasingly, new visual concepts and commentaries are being used to represent and communicate emotionally charged topics, thereby bringing them onto local political and social agendas in a way far more powerful than words alone.
This book explores the current interrelationship between art, activism, and politics. It presents new visual concepts and commentaries that are being used to represent and communicate emotionally charged topics, thereby bringing them onto local political and social agendas in a way far more powerful than words alone. It looks at how art is not only reflecting and setting agendas, but also how it is influencing political reaction. Consequently, Art & Agenda is not only a perceptive documentation of current urban interventions, installations, performances, sculptures, and paintings by more than 100 young and established artists, but also points to future forms of political discourse.
Art & Agenda - Political Art and Activism is just one in a long list of books that demonstrate that, among all the publishers focusing on visual culture, Gestalten is probably the fastest at identifying and catching trends.
The artists represented in the book all have some kind of social commentary about the world that surrounds them. Their work conveys a message, a critique, an opinion. Sometimes also a provocation. Their work is socially-engaged art but i would not always define it as activism.
As much as i admire the work Maurizio Cattelan, Elmgreen & Dragset, Tom Sachs, or Kara Walker, i had never associated it with activism. What they do is ballsy, it's socially-engaged and adequately thought-provoking but i'm not sure i find it as efficient as the work of Packard Jennings, Lisa Anne Auerbach, Conflict Kitchen, The Yes Men, Superflex, or Ai Weiwei who seem to engage more closely with the public. They operate outside institutions when needed, take risks and are actively involved in trying to bring social change. I see them as the real agitators, the activists with a capital A.
All i can advise is to get your hands on the book and see for yourself. I wouldn't mind being contradicted on this topic.
One of the main strengths of the book is the incredibly broad array of political art it showcases, from the poetical and subtle urban interventions of Roland Ross to The Yes Men's media hacks, from Tom Sachs' stunning works for white cube galleries to JR's street interventions.
The other force of the book is a series of long essays by curators and art critics such as Alain Bieber (author of one of my favourite blogs, rebel:art and project manager of ARTE creative) and Boston-based curator Pedro Alonzo.
A few examples of the works you'll meet in the book:
Julien Berthier's Love Love sinking boat. The artist actually cut a sailboat in half, sealed it with fiberglass, fitted it with two motors and a new keel which make it fully functional. I'm not sure i understand what's political in this work but i'm glad i discovered it in the book.
Russia's culture minister didn't appreciate the "political provocation" of Blue Noses Group's Kissing Policemen (An Epoch of Clemency). The Banksi-inspired photo was banned from traveling to Paris for an exhibition of contemporary Russian art.
During two years, Roland Roos repaired broken, displaced or damaged things he encountered in public space. He took before and after photos of the unsolicited repairs and sold them for 320CHF each which is the average amount of money that is spent for one repair (materials and labor).
GUARANA POWER is a soft drink developed by a farming cooperative in Maues, Brazil in collaboration with the Superflex collective. The drink contains guarana, a plant native to the Amazon whose fruit has long been harvested by indigenous communities for its medicinal and invigorating properties. The farmers have had to organize themselves against a cartel of corporation whose monopoly on purchase of the raw material has driven the price paid for guaraná seeds down by 80% while the cost of their products to the consumer has risen. Besides, the beverage these companies sells is only a sugary, diluted energy drink. GUARANÁ POWER attempts to use the strategies of global brands as raw material for a counter-economic position, to preserve local economy and the livelihoods of the farmers and to reclaim the original use of the Maués guaraná plant as a powerful natural tonic.
Gregor Schneider's cells on Sydney's famous Bondi Beach questions "the ideal of a casual, egalitarian leisure-loving society", while evoking strongly another famous location by the ocean: Guantanamo Bay.
For one of their most recent radical performances, Palace Revolution, members of the Voina collective overturned seven police cars, some of them with officers inside, at St Petersburg's Palace Square. They called it an 'art installation.' Russian authorities were not impressed and arrested two of them. They were released on bail after but the charges still stand.
Parking For White Cars Only! The title of Helmut Smits' piece says it all. A guard made sure that the best parking-spots were accessible to white cars only.
The artist pushed the provocation even further with Photo Tip , an installation which allows people to be portrayed as a hostage flanked by threatening terrorists.
Czech guerrilla artist collective Ztohoven gained fame in June 2007 when they hacked into a weather forecast on national tv and inserted a digital image of a nuclear explosion on a live panoramic shot of the Krkonoše Mountains. Their intention was to point to the distorted view of reality in the media. Several members of the collective were prosecuted for scaremongering and spreading false information but the judge dismissed the scaremongering charges against the artists, citing public amusement rather than public unrest.
More recently, the artists altered photos of themselves using morphing and applied for new ID cards using these fake pictures. Over the course of six months they used the IDs to travel abroad and vote, and one of them even got married. The whole project was presented at a gallery in Prague under the name Občan K. ("Citizen K.") The performance was a critique of the misuse of personal data and of constant surveillance that sometimes leads to a loss of identity that reduces individuals to numbers. This time again, the action led members of Ztohoven to deep troubles with the police. They were accused of breaching paragraph 181 of the criminal code that states that anybody who damages another person's rights by deliberately misleading them faces up to two years in prison or a ban on their work activity.
kennardphillipps was created in 2002 to produce art in response to the invasion of Iraq. It has evolved to confront power and war across the globe. The photomontage above points to proposals for a third runway and a sixth terminal at Heathrow, a plan pushed forward by Gordon Brown and opposed by Greenpeace.
The Three Gorges Dam project in China is the world's largest capacity hydroelectric power station with a total generating capacity of 18,200 MW. However, its construction flooded archaeological and cultural sites and displaced some 1.3 million people, and is causing significant ecological changes.
Artist Yang Yi went to his hometown just before it was completely submerged and documented the remaining scenery before it disappeared. Using both photography and digital techniques, Yang Yi's Uprooted series depict a ghost town engulfed by water, whose inhabitants go about their daily lives wearing snorkels.
Views inside the book:
Publisher Actar writes: Bracket is a new book series structured around an open call for entries that highlights emerging critical issues at the juncture of architecture, environment, and digital culture. It is a collaboration between InfraNet Lab and Archinect. Conceived as an almanac, the series looks at emerging thematics in our global age that are shaping the built environment in radically significant, yet often unexpected ways. [on farming] looks at the capacity for architecture to address ideas and issues of productive landscapes and urbanisms. Once merely understood in terms of agriculture, today information, energy, labour, and landscape, among others, can be farmed. Farming harnesses the efficiency of collectivity and community and represents the local gesture, the productive landscape, and the alternative economy. The processes of farming are mutable, parametric, and efficient. Farming is the modification of infrastructure, urbanisms, architectures, and landscapes toward a privileging of production.
[bracket] is a collection of essays selected following an open call for entries. The editors could have made a magazine out of the material gathered, like Monu or Volume do, but they chose to publish a thick and beautifully designed (bravo Thumb!) book instead. Except that they call it an 'almanac' because the fundamental role of an almanac is to forecast, to provide useful insights about the near future. And that's what Bracket 1 is attempting to do with texts that range from thoughtful observations about everyday issues to presentations of speculative architecture or art projects. The term "almanac" is also perfectly adequate to the focus of this first issue of Bracket: farming. But farming here takes a much broader sense than the cultivation of animals, plants, and other life forms. Farming nowadays goes beyond agriculture. Think of fish farms, server farms, or even the body farm.
But no matter the name you give to this publication, it remains a wonderful source of discoveries. Flipping through the book, i learnt about Farm-to-Table (FTT), a postal service launched in 1914 to ship farm produce directly from rural producers to urban consumers; i found out that the first bodies that arrived at the body farm back in 1981 are still being studied today; read why vertical farms in Las Vegas might make sense after all and how the Hukou system in China classified citizens as either rural or urban and implemented strict measures to deter rural citizens from acquiring urban status.
Some of the essays particularly stand out. Stephen Becker and Rob Holmes wrote a fascinating text about how a technique called Fog Farming could solve the water supply issue in Luanda, Angola, the fastest growing city in the world.
Another essay, by Edward Dodington, explains that the meat produced through tissue engineering is economically, ethically and ecologically desirable but also that 'meat on demand' is, paradoxically, Ford's dream applied to farming. He goes on to propose plans for the PolySpecies Park, an animal-responsive park that is part farm, part tissue engineering factory, part eco-resort, and part research facility.
Bracket 1 [on farming] has plenty of illustrations, renderings, and even the odd photo series. Your Town Tomorrow, Detroit 2001-2011 is one of them. In this work, Corine Vermeulen postulates that Detroit is a city of the future, a fertile ground for new topographies and ways of urban life.
Bracket 1 [on farming] makes for a very satisfying read. The quality and variety of perspectives on the subject of farming is exceptional. I'm looking forward to seeing what Bracket explores in its upcoming publications.
Views inside the book: