I first came across the work of the collective The T-shirt Issue a few months ago at the International Design Biennial in Saint Étienne. They were showing The T-shirt Issue, a series of t-shirts that portrayed the bodies and personal memories of 3 individuals in a garment. It was by far the most moving work i had discovered at the French design biennale.
Hande Akcayli, Murat Koçyigit and Linda Kostowski back with another series of spectacular t-shirts. Their Muybridge installation is a study set out to capture temporal change in 3D.
A three-step sequence of a bird spreading its wings is reconstructed and sculpted into T-Shirts. As the change in the wings' position is a function of time, each wing's plumage is reduced to polygonal form, modeled and rigged into successive arrangements to portray the spreading motion.
As its name suggests, the study leans on Eadweard Muybdridge's photography work in the late 1800s, with which he pioneered in the field of capturing animal and human locomotion.
In the version designed by The T-Shirt Issue, shape and fractional motion are interpreted through jersey garments. The t-shirts capture a movement that happens in the bat of an eye and perpetuate it by material augmentation.
I asked Linda Kostowski to give us a few more details about the group's latest project:
The description of Muybridge states that this is an installation. Why did you chose to sculpt the project into a t-shirt? Why not a paper model? Or a ceramic object for example?
The technique we use to create the pieces is particularly revolutionary in the field of textile, as it turns common construction methods upside down. The realization that pattern construction hasn't changed much since industrialization and automated production created a very exciting challenge for us. We have always felt a diffuse discomfort about the way clothing is constructed and simutaneously wondered how to change this. Our approach was to take an incredibly common and everyday object like the T-shirt and turn it into something that has a story to tell.
Can you describe the fabrication process of one of those wings?
After intensive observational research, the wings were sculpted with 3D software. In doing so, each wing was inserted with a skeleton, a framework that allows the wings to be animated. The movement resulting from this defined the key frames of the motion. These 3D objects were unfolded with software that turns them into the two dimensional patterns we use as draft for building the paper and fabric pieces.
Every object has reams of paper model twins, which are used as prototypes to see what happens to the object when it moves from the screen to the "real world".
Have you ever envisioned that one of your creations (existing or upcoming) could be worn by a person? Or is this an option that doesn't interest you at all? I'm insisting on this 't-shirt issue' because that's the name of your collective and it suggests some kind of 'wearability'.
Next to continuing with experimenting and creating conceptual art pieces in the future, we have a very strong vision of making the end product wearable as well, and are working on it right now.
Making something tangible, yet soft and close to the body like a garment is a meaningful use of the technology we work with. This summer we will release the first wearable T-shirts made with our in-house pattern construction software. We plan to share the software with the public at a later stage, so everyone can play with the patterns of our future collections.
For now, elements of all our previous pieces will be made available for download on our website from May 20th on.
Prédiction was the biggest exhibition of the International Design Biennial in Saint Étienne. Its ambition was to reposition the boundaries of contemporary design, exploring in over 150 artefacts and 2000 m2 the new types, methods, and practices of the discipline.
SMS Printer, brainwave sofa, amorph objects for lonely people or unpredicted needs. It was so fast, so bright, so 'finger on the pulse', i sometimes had the feeling of walking physically inside one of the design blogs dedicated to the chase of the 'ultimate coolness.' Not that it prevents the objects exhibited (or the design blogs just mentioned) to have depth and intelligence of course.
The exhibition space was shaped at the image of a Gallic Village (i kid you not!) half guarded behind high fences.
Curator Benjamin Loyauté had selected both established names and young, still unknown talents from the hundreds of submissions his call for design had gathered. Here is a walk through some of the discoveries i made at the show:
One of the most interesting design projects for me is The T-shirt Issue, by Linda Kostowski, Hande Akcayli and Murat Kocyigit from Marshallah Design. 3 people got their portrait in t-shirt -not 'on' a t-shirt. Their bodies were scanned, then turned into a 3D file. Linked with their biographical memories a digital twin of the body was thus created, which expanded and personified the garment. The 3D data then became sewing patterns by the use of the same unfolding function that is used in industrial design to make paper models. The single fabric pieces and the inner interface which defines the edges were cut out by the help of a lasercutter.
By hacking a very mundane SNILLE office chair, Sander van Bussel, converted a hyper-impersonal IKEA piece of furniture into the place where the most intimate and personal activities take place.
I never thought that one of the most memorable designs of the exhibition for me would be a chair. So you get a second image of it.
Part of Richard Hutten's Playing with Tradition series of oriental rugs, this wool carpet design evokes the time of the good old dial-up modem when images failed to load properly.
China is both the country where many European companies have their products manufactured and one of the largest producers of copied and pirated goods.
Designer Laura Strasser decided to take the copying of her work in her own hands. She found a "business to business platform" and emailed 40 Chinese manufacturers, asking them to copy her physionomy. 31 producers replied immediately. When I described my project in greater detail and gave the quantity and the time-frame, eleven turned down my request because the quantity was too small, four because they only produced tableware, but six agreed emphatically.
In the exhibition space, the little porcelain reproductions evoke the soldiers of the Terracotta Army.
Union Political Table Radio by Nanar Kradjian symbolizes the political tensions in Lebanon. Up to six people can sit together at the same table, plug headphones in the cube and listen to the political message of their choice since Kradjian's radio integrates 6 radios, one for each of the main political parties in the country.
Wieki Somers's Consume or Conserve? series uses human ashes to create sculptures as different as dung beetles and toasters.
Jo Meesters' Ornamental Inheritance is a series of sand blasted used ceramics that combine the immediately recognizable delfware ornaments with contemporary symbols, such as airplanes, wind turbine and architecture.
I promised myself i would make a pass at the RCA people projects just once but sometimes temptation cannot be resisted:
The device defines also a sensory territory constructed by the rhytm of the breath, which is diffused from the headphones with a 1.5 sec. delay.
The work plays with the Deleuzian notion of ritornell, and about the quality of sound to define a territory. The space defined by the sound of breathing is in a state of costant imbalance between the physical act and its sensory perception and traces an unstable relationship with the intimate environment the garment reproduces.
I usually do not accept submissions -no matter how fantastic they are- on my blog. There are several reasons for that. The main one is that i prefer to see and experience the work before i write about it. Another reason is that long overdue stories are already preventing me from sleeping at night (yes, it's that bad!) But once in a while there's a submission that makes me want to go further. Hence the following conversation with Mattia Casalegno:
How long are participants advised to wear the mask to make sure that they really get the experience? Are they willing to wear the mask longer or do they report feelings of discomfort (physical or not)?
They can wear it as long as they want. There have been people who wear it for few seconds or several minutes, some who were allergic and some who just refused to wear it. Others came back to experience it several times. In the room there's also a chair similar to the ones you could find in a psychanalyst office, and overall the setting is meant to be inviting.
Despite the chair, after a certain amount of time, the experience can become slightly unsettling due to tightness of the mask. I liked the idea of constructing an experience that is comfortable but at the same time disturbing, enveloping but claustrophobic. Inside it's warm, and you can hear your own breath, which usually induces relaxation and security, but after a while you feel the tightness and realize that the sound of your breath is actually delayed, resulting in a distorted experience.
More generally, what were the reactions of the people who tried the mask on?
Actually, they were very disparate. Some people instantly freaked out, thinking of all the other people's faces that worn the mask. Other just liked the idea to lay down and relax for a while. Some had memories of their childhood, others speculated about death.
The Open, as you write, "plays with the Deleuzian notion of ritornell, and about the quality of sound to define a territory." Can you expand on this? Why for example did you associate breathing with turf?
I liked the idea of sound defining a territory and I tried to apply this notion to the project. Deleuze and Guattari in "Thousand Plateaux" talk about the capacity of structured sounds, notably rhythm, to define a space: an example the birds who negotiate their interaction spaces with their refrains - which is the english world for "ritornell", or the child who softly sings a song in the dark. The refrain is the first hint of a stable and quiet center, the primordial will to organize chaos. The idea of rhythm emerging from chaos belongs to any cosmogony, but what happens if, instead of externalizing such a process, we trace it from the inside, and thus define a kind of "inner cosmogony"? We could then define territories between our sensory system and our unconscious, libido, fears, etc. As we enter the mask, the refrain is our own breathing, but the territories thus delineated somehow don't overlap, are slightly conflicting because of the delay, there's an inconsistency between the act and the perception of it.
Did you try to convey other kinds of experience(s)? Maybe a reconnection of the urban dweller with nature (if a piece of turf can be called nature of course)? Or an attempt to make them engage with senses that are less solicited by our dominantly visual culture?
Yes, the sod can be a reference to nature, although a very rationalized and domesticated one. This kind of grass reminds us of the idealized landscapes and the organized fields of the English garden, a symbol of dominion of man over nature, if we want. The fact that the experience gets slightly anxious underlines somehow this kind of schizo-relationship with Nature, where we we are captivated by our natural environment but also afraid of it.
Why did you name your piece The Open when people's face is so dramatically enclosed inside a mask?
I wanted to play with this duality of proximity and distance, this exaggerated physical proximity and the space left between the perception of an outside and an inside, the environment and the self. The title is also borrowed from the name of a book by the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, written in 2002: "The Open: Man and Animal," in which he investigates the opening of such a space and the differences between being human and animal. Maybe this goes a bit too far from the original idea for this piece, but I like this quote:
"What is man, if he is always the place―and, at the same time, the result―of ceaseless divisions and caesurae? It is more urgent to work on these divisions, to ask in what way―within man―has man been separated from non-man, and the animal from the human, than it is to take positions on the great issues, on so-called human rights and values."
Now for a more personal question. You have been working actively as a multidsciplinary artist for a decade. Yet, last year, you decided to move to the U.S. and attend the Design | Media Arts graduate program at University of California Los Angeles. This is imho the best school for media art and interactive design you could have chosen but what made you think you needed to go back to school? Did you feel that your practice was not enough and that you needed to acquire new skills?
I don't know, maybe was less about acquiring skills and more a need to put in prospective my work, to step back and see where I was going with all that. I was also working a lot with video and live-media performances and I wanted more time to experiment with different media and follow some obsessions I had in mind, so I felt that to fly to an other continent where I knew nobody was a good opportunity to
The D|MA program has a great faculty covering almost any field of media art, the approach is very much oriented to any kind of media. It's a small and very intense program, you end spending all your time there, and get to see people so often that after a while it's like having a big family, I'm already sad this is my last year here.
Next week we'll be in August. I'll stay home, hunt mosquitoes, own a ghost city called Turin (all the Torinesi will be at the sea or the mountain, yeah!), count the days until Autumn finally comes and saves me from the sun and take advantage of the quiet month to review bits and pieces of the mountain of magazines that has been getting higher and higher over the past few weeks. Let's start nice, easy but somehow unconventional with a t-shirt magazine called T-post.
For each issue, the publishers of T-post select news topic that will make people want to engage in a conversation. They print the story on the inside of the shirt then they ask a young and talented designer to illustrate the news story.
What starts with a banal "Nice t-shirt! Where did you get it?" will hopefully end up in a lively exchange of views about topics as diverse as the Phoenix's rise of the cassette tape, the Swedish town where all the residents are lesbians, the expensive business of capital punishment, apocalyptic scenarios, the toilet paper crisis in Cuba, microchip-embedded butterflies, the decline of the human race due to dependence on technology, etc.
Each t-shirt is illustrated by a different designer. Their bio is printed inside the t-shirt next to the news story. The subscribers even get to model the t-shirts if they feel like it.
T-post uses organic cotton, an environmentally certified printer and eco-friendly ink.
Last detail, they only produce as many t-shirts as there are subscribers.
T-post is a bit like everybody's favourite blogs: big, pretty images, not too much texts but enough spark and wit to make you want to react and comment. Once you sign up for a subscription the t-shirts start coming. The first t-shirt is the "Members issue" that you'll receive within about three weeks. After that you'll have a new t-shirt in your mailbox every five weeks.
She's not only a graduate of Design Interactions (RCA, London), she's also Sputniko!, a Japanese pop star whose music, videos, performances and electronic devices explore themes of technology, gender and pop culture.
Hiromi is the author of devices such as the Pénis Cybernétique (i'm sure your french is fluent enough to make sense of the words) and Crowbot Jenny, a dark-haired girl who goes around urban park carrying on her shoulder a crow-shaped robot that can communicate with crows and turn them into a bird army. Her first dvd album Parakonpe 3000 is a collection of videos which comment on our relationship with technology. There's the "Child Producing Machine" but also the Google Song, "Sputniko! TV: A Children's Program for Newly Born A.I.s" and the Wakki Song (an interactive armpit performance).
More than just a gadget, a video, a song, Sputniko! creates a whole character with its own manga-inspired aesthetics, attributes, super-powers and dynamics. Each of her projects has been produced in collaboration with scientists experts in Zoology, Medicine and Reproductive Science.
She was presenting two new works at the Summer exhibition of the Royal College of Art.
First, a much blogged-about device which, i hope, will soon be added to the collection of the Museum of Menstruation.
The question at the heart of the Menstruation Machine, Takashi's Take is 'It's 2010, so why are humans still menstruating?'
Abdominal pain, headaches, depression, emotional sensitivity, feeling bloated, changes in sex drive and nausea, premenstrual water retention, etc. Not to mention mood swings. Why do women still have to go through that?
Women are in good company though. just like them, chimpanzees and fruit bats need to bleed monthly for their reproductive cycle.
What does Menstruation mean, biologically, culturally and historically, to humans? Who might choose to have it, and how might they have it?
Fitted with a blood dispensing mechanism and lower-abdomen-stimulating electrodes (the same used by your uncle to muscle his abs while watching tv on the sofa, only that Hiromi maxed out the power of the contractions), the Menstruation Machine simulates the pain and bleeding of an average 5 day menstruation.
The machine could be worn by men who desire to feel closer to women and experience what they have to go through, but also by women when menstruation becomes obsolete in the future and the process becomes a mere ritual of gender and identity.
The artist made a music video to illustrate how and by whom the machine could be used.
The video 'Menstruation Machine - Takashi's Take' stars Takashi, a boy who builds the machine in an attempt to understand better what the girls he hang around with experience every month.
Her second project had the same level of fantasy, the same vision of a technocratic future. Sushiborg Yukari is a cyborg designed to serve Sushi on her rotating belt. Her function is to entertain over-worked Japanese businessmen in their after-hours. She is tomorrow's equivalent of Nyotai Mori, the tradition of serving Sushi on naked women.
Given scientists' fondness for young, slick, pretty girl-robots, one would not be surprised to see a sushi cyborg hit the gadget blogs in the future. Sushiborg Yukari, however, is a dissatisfied cyborg.
When Yukari's artificial intelligence develops enough to understand she's little more that a sex object, she starts to slowly and secretly hack herself into a lethal weapon by attaching knives to her own body. And one day, she manages to escape the sushi restaurant....
More works from the RCA show, over here, ladies and gents!
I'm going to spend the whole week in blogger inferno (meaning no wifi at all, just apathetic connection using a phone network somewhere in Wallonia where people don't appear to be keen on getting decent mobile phone coverage), i might therefore be a bit slow with the updates and reviews.
A few days ago i was in London to visit the Royal College of Art Summer show. I'll kick off with the Design Interactions department but expect stories from Architecture and Design Product as well in the coming days.
Back in September when i came to see the work in progress show, i was very intrigued by Andrew Friend's exploration of the fantastic. He was showing a long mast designed to attract lightening strike and brand/burn the skin of your upper arm with a lightening logo, as a souvenir of this one-in-a-lifetime experience.
Friend's project has evolved over the past few months. It is now made of a series of three prototypes that act as a compelling antidote to a society that would have us live an increasingly safe, bland and surprise-free existence. This is specially true in England i guess where the infamous Health and Safety Authority seems to dictate how one can use an escalator, roll a cheese or walk in order not to be defeated by the treacherously slippery leaves that paves your way in Autumn.
The designers project, simply titled Fantastics, fully embraces the unexpected, the confusing and the extraordinary. The fantastic has the power to engage the imagination, initiate dreams and trigger desires, excite, manipulate and confuse. The projects explore how one can, through the production of objects and services located in specific contexts, enable these fantasies.
The first prototype is the Device for Experiencing Lightning strike, a long, light and foldable mast which increases the user's likelihood of getting struck by lightning. Energy from the strike is transferred to heat, used to brand the user (yes, like cattle) and scar him or her as a memory of the event. The device questions the dissemination of this experience, from the life threatening, to simple story, the transition from the fantastic to the banal.
Friend tested the device in the Peak District a few weeks ago. He was not lucky enough to be hit by lightening. The fact that the fantastic might or might not happen is actually part of the whole experience.
The prototype i found most interesting (in spite of my fierce claustrophobia) is the Device for Disappearing (at sea) which offers the individual opportunity for a safe, temporary disappearance, experiencing an isolation seldom found on land. The candidate for this isolating experience goes down a rope to the bottom of a floating well located in the middle of a lake or quiet sea, disappearing from view beneath the water's surface. The device examines the relationship between the known above, and the unknown/ imagined world below sea level.
The device for disappearing at sea is made of fiberglass. It stays afloat thanks to inflatable buoyancy bags, and it is ballasted to pull it down to the desired level. As Andrew explained me, "In order to achieve the correct balance the volume of air in the buoyancy bags is adjusted to float the device just below the water's surface, with only the rim of the hole above."
Finally, there is the Device for Experiencing the Invisible, a parabolic dish that places its wearer at the center of any invisible energy passing around. For optimum and most extraordinary results, the wearer must go to sites of increased radio, paranormal, or electrical activity. Could the device lead to mutation, possible harm, or uncover new, previously unseen landscapes and instances? How much risk / danger will individuals put themselves under in order to experience this invisible fantastic?