Experience the fantastic

Photographer: Hitomi Kai Yoda

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.

34show space.jpgInstallation of Andrew Friend’s works in the exhibition space

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.

atthetop.jpgPhotographer: Hitomi Kai Yoda

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.”

3dishforweba.jpgExperiencing the invisible, RAF Flyingdales Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station, N.Yorks. Photo by Hitomi Kai Yoda

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?

dish007.jpgDrawing of the device

open front BW.jpgClose up image of the Device for Experiencing the Invisible during testing

Photos and drawing courtesy of Andrew Friend. Credit photo for the Lightning strike & Invisible devices: Hitomi Kai Yoda.