Modular Component Clothing and Bringing Parametric Design to the Masses?

Eunsuk Hur

An article from Make magazine speaks of these fairly amazing clothing creations as being modular and composed of smaller fabric components that are connected into spectacular articles. (I’d like to post more of each of these designer’s works but the world of hip flash sites precludes me from linking to them so I’ll just steal the images from Make to frame my ramblings…). Being someone who kind of geeks out on generative works, I can certainly see a parallel in these creations, and that makes me pretty excited. Just like a lot of parametric works, these seem to talk of a very interesting future that’s tantalizingly just around the corner. Aside from a handful of strong examples, most seem to be still at the proof of concept stage. I often wonder when programmatic design will grow up and leave the experimental designer’s eye and land in the laps of the commoners like myself.

I’ve seen my share of installations that point to proficiency in constructing form and the usage of space. There certainly are pavilions and other simple, essentially utility-free structures shaped with such procedures, but still the honed wisdom of machine thinking hasn’t really found its home in everyday production of items. It’s as if there is a missing bridge between theory and practice that’s just too shaky to cross. I am not sure if it’s from the simple lack of patronage or if it’s an issue of maturity in the process.

Galya Rosenfeld

Bringing this back to the modular clothing, I think these examples (and further on each of the designers pages) are some of the best that have crossed that shaky bridge of thinking and into utility. The shawl at the top of this post  is perhaps the closest example to everyday usage and makes me excited to see where Eunsuk Hur takes her concept next, while Galya Rosenfeld‘s dress above holds its own in a high-fashion sense.

The idea of using small components of materials like this to create larger works would go a long way to using the overage from standard textile production processes. It would interesting to see if one could hone the methods that these designers use specifically to the tailings of large textile manufacture’s patterns, creating a sort of symbiotic relationship of efficiency. The shapes of the non-used portions could even be made available for modular colthiers to build off of as most patterns are now machine cut, creating perhaps a secondary market for the dross.

Maybe the way to bring the parametric world to the rest of us is through manufacturing efficiency? Using the capabilities of machine thinking and clever programming to use all the left-overs from primary processes. Could this be done with other industries? could one make sun shades perhaps from the cut-offs from the making of automotive body panels?

Until this is realized, make me a scarf, Eunsuk, it gets cold here in the midwest and I’d like to look cool when it is!

Breaking Through All the Little Boxes of Fine Art

This dazzle-painted installation by Tobias Rehberger  for Artek has picqued my imagination. Obviously, the dazzle painting derived from WWI ship camouflage – although in my mind it’s not as closely related to the original work – is nifty and certainly a fresh decorative aesthetic. The thing that interests me much more is that this installation breaks through all of the little boxes of decoration that we furnish our homes in.

I have snatched the image above from the totally great home decorating site, Apartment Therapy and is a nice example of a well-appointed and nicely styled contemporary room. Using this as an example of how we compartmentalize things in our homes – where everything is corralled in its spot and for its purpose: The floor is the bottom of the room. The walls touch the floor at a specific point and the art hangs on the wall. The couch touches the floor and maybe the wall but is distinct from both and so on.

The Artek installation breaks that trend. In the installation, the artwork is continuous across all planes and items. The wall artwork extends across the floors as well. The furniture blends to both the walls and the floor, not merely matching it. The entire effect creates a cohesive space, perhaps even a modern space?

I think it’s interesting to postulate on the effects this open thinking has on home furnishings, where your art is not  just put in compartments on a wall, instead it’s able to flow everywhere. Or how your furniture could become much more integrated with the space – even if it’s just aesthetically. The idea of calling into question the division of art and style in a room is kind of exciting. It’s like a fine art and interior design “mash-up” concept.

The idea of not finding the edges where art or the definition of a space ends and the utility begins is a concept that should certainly be explored more. I think it creates a lot of exciting opportunities for the artist and how one lives in such a realm. With the seeming movement of fine art toward decoration, perhaps this is some thinking that could push back the tide a bit. It would have to be through artists who are willing to look beyond the canvas as well as into new materials, not to mention new thought processes. The kind of thinking that is not compartmentalized in small rectangles.

New Fine Art Finds – Works of Photography and Drawing

Having come across two really exciting artists, I’m going to share them here. The interesting thing (to me) is that while they both come at their subjects from differing directions, as well as dissimilar methods, to produce works that really seem to belong together. Should I have the means, my ideal house would have both works sharing a room.

This is a work by Meghan Gerety. I find her work to be quite striking in regards to the the high contrast aspects. They remind me of the sort of power you feel from Franz Kline works. The focus of the work, branches against a grey and formless sky, is far from Kline’s work but the result is the same – a contemplative work that makes a powerful statement with merely black and white shape.

It is also worth noting that Meghan’s works are all done in pencil, so they are, in fact, drawings. Certainly the strain of art that is drawing has been playing second fiddle to painting for quite some time. It’s nice to see that the art form is still viable.

Above is a work from Andreas Gefeller‘s Japan Cords series. These photographic works focus in on the cacophony which is the aerial cabling in the prefecture Tottori. The high-contrast images become exceptional in their stark forms against white or black backgrounds. To me, they weave a sort of organic patterning perhaps similar to the sprawling of cities or even the schematics of the very lines they represent. It is as if they are commentaries on the web of complexity that technology tangles us in.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little curated exhibition! These sorts of finds get me excited for the continuance of Fine Art, especially after the long, dry spell art has faced in the last few decades.

Stepping Away from Clean Modernism in Design

For the longest time, it seems that styling has favored the clean, smooth, shiny looks. The patron saint of such a design ethos could be Apple for all their work simplifying products and generally aligning themselves with the design principles of Dieter Rams.

Everything in the Art – and by extension – the Design world works on a pendulum. The pendulum swings from extreme to extreme. I think the last few years has seen it swing to the minimalist, modernist extreme, now it’s on its way back. What’s on the other side? Something that’s the antithesis of minimalism – ornamentation.

The first place one sees the sprouts of a change is in the work of people unassociated with large corporations or movements. Large companies require huge efforts to point themselves in different directions – even a company like Apple. Just look at the sort of effort needed to change the path of a company like GM to just make even slightly more fuel-efficient vehicles.

I try to keep my fingers on the pulse of things and do my best to squint out changes in trends for the future. My thought is that ornamentation, perhaps on the back of mass customization, is its in. I have a few examples here from Floris Wubben here:

It’s interesting to see Floris use natural elements in his No. 3 Bench that have a built-in sort of ornamentation to offset the clean modernist portions of the bench – and to good effect. Nature is an excellent jumping-off point for a stylistic tour of embellishment beyond small chrome bits. The strengths of such features lies in the patterning and tinting that makes us comfortable through our continued exposure to the organic world.

Taking a step further down the path of ornamentation, leads me to work by Kiki Van Eijk:

These “Floating Frames” point to the opposite of the clean white pill-shapes of conventional offerings right now – hand-made and intricate works that reflect a certain organic craftsmanship that alludes to one-off customization.

I think in the coming future that people (but not all people) will endeavor to search out items like these, mainly to have something that is special and original. It flies in the face of the items that are stamped out in factories and will provide the groundwork to the consumer’s need to feel unique.

Eventually, large producers will begin to adopt the trend, offering things that are nearly ‘one-off’ like to gather in this business – but by then, I am sure the pendulum will be swinging for minimalism once again.

The Artist’s Hand in Computer Art

When I was going to school for design, computers were still pretty new when it came to making art with them. To give an example, while at school, I worked at a print shop that had a Mac SE running Photoshop 2.5 – the version before they added layers! At school, though, things were a bit more advanced, we had 5.5 to begin with. While I was in school, there was a lot of hopeful talk about coming storm of ‘Computer Art’ that was going to wash over us all. Lots of kind of cool stuff was made and explorations were done (For my part, I made some pretty interesting stuff, including a dot-matrix printer that would move over paper rather than pulling paper through the printer.) There were even a few magazines on the nascent subject.

A little after I graduated, the boil of Computer Art had diminished to perhaps a simmer. Magazines that talked about it either went away or turned into graphic design help magazines, spouting infinite Photoshop tutorials. There were a few reasons for this. A main point was that people were really unsure how to price them. The work was really just printed out of a printer, not unlike a spreadsheet or those photos of your kids. That’s really not the case, as it takes really specialized printers, etc, etc, but the damage was done, giving buyers a hard time squaring the cost with a seemingly empty prospect of exclusivity. In their mind, these pieces could be duplicated like your taxes at Kinkos, 30 copies a minute for as long as the store is open. Art valuation is about exclusivity and even invoking the paradigm of print work signing couldn’t help.

The other issue was that it was beginning to be very difficult to separate what exactly was artistic meaning and the practiced hand from those which did not have these things. In the Computer Art world, art was nearly completely democratized.  Just as an artist could conceivably print out a piece for anyone, anyone could create a piece.

And in the way of the world, lots of terrible, terrible junk was made in the name of Art.

The possible heir to Computer Art came in the last decade with the advent of computational or generative art. A practice where the artist creates form through the use of formulas and programming to realize vision. After a number exciting years, generative art has picked up a bit of tarnish, sliding into ruling the more-or-less technical field of Infographics.

What happened this time? Generative art stole back the mastery of process from the hands of the everyman, to be sure. While the art was certainly exciting and new, perhaps at this moment, it was too challenging for people to easily grasp. Perhaps another issue was exclusivity, again. How to transmit, and thus monetize, the work was the real question. Just printing it landed you in the same area as Computer Art. To make it even more intangible, some works were thought to be 3-D or even temporal in nature with no real medium that could work to realize them outside of the machine.

Finally there was the nagging question of how do you detect the artist’s hand? Can you see it in there or is the artist actually the computer. This brings up some pretty interesting questions. Since those questions are a bit difficult to answer, things slowed down for Generative Art.

Today, I came across these two works by artists seemingly asking that question in reverse. Take, for instance, John Power’s God’s Comic :

“The resulting structure gives the appearance of being a computer-aided design but is in reality the outcome of a human-executed algorithm, dictated by the artist’s intuition expressed through the repetitive action of connecting blocks.”

There is also Louise Naunton Morgan’s The Human Printer:

“Morgan’s indifference toward the motifs that are ordered bespeaks a democratic image regime in her work, which is otherwise encountered only in the production lines of industrial photographic laboratories.”

With works like these, we have crossed over the hurdle of ‘is it too machine-like?” to “is it machine-like enough?” A very interesting prospect, to be sure! The artist’s hand has returned from being lost in the machine to being the machine’s mirror. I am not sure how I feel about this, while the projects are really amazing and I’d certainly like to own my own Morgan piece, I can’t help but feel that these pursuits make us subject to the machine rather than driving the future, as artists should.

The art world certainly needs a new direction and people to take it that way. I am excited that Art’s future could be in technology, once again, but I’d like to see the artist’s hand driving the movement rather than recording the movements of machines, but things are not up to me. Maybe this stage needs to happen? Perhaps without this step the real future of Art cannot happen?

New Allegorical Iconography in Rug Design.

When people think of Persian rugs, I don’t think it really comes to mind that the shapes included within the weaving is sort of telling a story. The iconography is pretty distinct as well as the choices of color in the design of the rugs – this is an aside from the signature design dialects which vary from region to region in the Middle East and adjoining producer areas.

It’s kind of like the allegory one can find in Renaissance/Romantic painting. What saddens me a bit is that I know that this carefully woven-in information is, by and large, lost on most of the viewers of such things. Perhaps it’s that we’ve moved past this sort of story telling?

Then I happened upon these new rugs from Florian Pucher & Sophia Liu Bo which are woven depictions of aerial-view geographic land features.

The color blocks are described by land usage of farmers or bisected by street patterns. My thought about these visually interesting rugs is that perhaps we’re actually seeing a change in our iconographies, in our visual story telling. It would be nice to think that there were certain weavers who live in the country who’d produce works that would reflect their locality and still others that would make rugs reflective of their cities, but obviously, these come from one source.

I think they’re still rather invigorating iconographically – perhaps these rugs then describe the owners’ interest rather than the maker’s? I suppose back in the days before mass-market carpet manufacture, a Persian rug was created for a specific person. I think I recall that they were created for special events and given to the lucky recipients (don’t quote me on that!), thus commemorating an important time their lives and the significance compounded by a visual representation of the event woven in, like an engraving.

Maybe these rugs could be read something greater than “they look pretty” and more about something about the owner, perhaps the owner is from a rural location where the farming fields are reminiscent or what would be even better is if the process could be automated where someone could send in the local that they would like and it could be made. It would be  mass customization with a bit of meaning rather than just styling. The world needs less styling (or ‘design’ as most say) and much more meaning.

Interactive Design: Where Does 2D Art Go From Here?

I have a degree in Fine Art as well as in Graphic Design. I think quite a bit about both. Lately, I have been thinking more about the former. I really think about what the future of fine art is. For the most part, I think that fine art, and when I say that, I mean the 2D art of painting and the like, met its last high point during the abstract expressionist period. I justify that as that was the point when the theory of art brought us to a pinnacle of thinking and interacting with art in a new way. Past that point, the art world has been fumbling around with what to do next.

There has been plenty of interesting works from that time until now, to be sure, but really, the next step has failed to materialize. I think the community in general kind of feels that way, but keeps it to themselves. The paths taken now are either refinement of techniques or retooling previous ideas. Nothing evolutionarily new has really shown up. I guess the question is what is there left to paint? Perhaps the better question is what if the action of artistic painting has been surpassed by society?

Maybe painting has been made irrelevant? In the times when painting was big, it was basically the television of the day – the works were packed with allegory. People could read them like a drama. This reading modern people have lost, for the most part and paintings have fallen to whether or not they are pretty. Making the work’s reason for existence more about decoration than meaning.

Perhaps some other form will replace 2D art? I am not sure what that is. I think it actually might be a form of graphic design. That’s a pretty funny statement as graphic design has always seemed to be the redheaded stepchild of the art community and certainly looked down upon by the fine art community. The reason I think this is that while fine art has lost its story telling capability, graphic design was specifically designed to do just that. In fact, a lot of the ‘fine art’ of antiquity was actually conceived as a sort of advertising, so it seems only fitting that the art world coast back to it.

To be honest, I think that graphic design, at least in terms of print work doesn’t go far enough as the standard-bearer for the next fine art movement. I think really that ‘media design’ is what will really take us there. Technology will drive us to new perceptions of what fine art will be. It will probably be interactive and time-sensitive and it will be nothing like looking at frescos or going to a specific place to view them. Art will just happen, if we want it to and sometimes even if we don’t. I am not sure how you would ‘own’ the art or how to monetize it but there will be structures in place.

Perhaps we can look to music to understand what sort of changes are in store. Initially, one had to go and seek out music at venues. Travelling had to occur and if you wanted a particular sound. Great geography had to be forded to find something specific or wait in hopes that it might come to you. Then music found the capability of distribution through specific tangible media, like piano rolls and records. Even greater means of dissemination, but still people spent concentration listening to music. Next came portable reproducers where people could have music anywhere at any time. People could hear music as they did other things. Music became an environmental item that was no longer an event of focus and finally with the electronic distribution capabilities it is merely a commodity, like a print on the wall, that brings the scene together. To make music matter, again people go to live performances.

How does this relate to fine art? I think that fine art is at that stage where it is a commodity rather than an item of focus and it is waiting for the performance aspect to make it relevant again. I guess it must become an interactive event.