Lee Ufan’s Relatum – Stage opens at Serpentine Galleries

Once-upon-a-time ‘Rock on Top of Another Rock’ lived in Kensington Gardens Hyde Park outside the Serpentine Galleries. The public sculpture by Swiss artist Fischli & Weiss stayed here until a few years ago, its public life prolonged for its popularity, and it made me smile every time I walked, jogged, or ran past it. It was so simple and so perfect for this magical little corner of London. As seasons changed so did these seemingly hovering Rocks – their mood, their light, their character. One day as I ran past, the two rocks has gone leaving a sad empty space. I changed my running route.

Today I was so excited to see South Korean artist Lee Ufan’s ‘Relatum – Stage’ which went live this morning and will be here until July. It recalls Fischli & Weiss’s work and is a nod to the neolithic monuments in the British countryside – Stonehenge etc. Ufan’s minimalist work uses only two materials – steel and stone – as is characteristic of the Japanese avant-garde Mono-ha group of which he was one of the main proponents in the 1960s. Meaning ‘object school’, the group rejected Western notions of representation, instead focusing on the relationships between materials and perceptions.

Here in Hyde Park the two cold, angled, mirrored, steel sheets and tactile Welsh stones together reflect and blend in with the surroundings. In focusing on the precise conceptual and spatial juxtaposition of the natural and industrial materials, Ufan seeks to find a balance that heightens the moment of encounter, allowing us to see ‘the world as it is,’ he says. ‘The highest level of expression is not to create something from nothing, but rather to nudge something that already exists so that the world shows up more vividly.’

Relatum – Stage will be at the Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens until 29 July.
Photographs © Lee Ufan, Photograph © Ian Gavan/Getty Images.

Nargess Banks

Read my interview with the Serpentine Galleries chief executive Yana Peel here.

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London Design Festival 2010

London came alive in September with the London Design Festival – the annual event seeing new and established designers showcase their work around the capital city. The exhibits ranged from discarded picture frames draped elegantly over the V&A steps, to a plaster cast bench inspired by the museum’s impressive Cast Court collection, and robots tracing messages in beams light over Trafalgar Square.

Stuart Haygarth’s installation, featuring discarded off cuts of colourful picture frames (from framing company John Jones) that adorn one of the grand internal marble staircases inside the V&A is an inspired piece of work that is not only visually splendid, but the rhythm created by the pattern somewhat theraputic.

Stuart Haygarth Framed ©Susan Smart

British designer Max Lamb created a plaster cast bench based on the facade of the 1840 Sydney Smirke-designed HSBC private bank headquarters at 78 St James Street in London. Inspired by the museum’s Cast Courts, Lamb used traditional casting techniques to create this seemingly plain structure which sits in complete contrast to its elaborate surroundings.

Max Lamb's bench for London Design Festival ©Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Michael Anastassiades’ Kinetic Light is a pendulum light designed for the museum’s Norfolk House Music room – the perpetual rhythm of the hanging arm holding a glass light ball is meant to evoke a distant age when music sought to create the harmony of the spheres.

Michael Anastassiades Kinetic Light ©Susan Smart Photography

Polish designer Oskar Zieta created a visually exciting installation for the V&A courtyard. Zieta took a starting point from the curves of the pool in the V&A’s John Madjeski Garden to create a moving structure with his FiDU technique – created by his company Prozessdesign – that uses compressed air to inflates steel structures. Using steel polished to a high gloss, this large-scale installation reflects the shape of the stairs leading to the garden’s pool.

Blow & Roll by Oskar Zieta ©Susan Smart

The Trafalgar Square installation came from German duo Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram – best known for their experimental work at Prada and Moroso – who created OUTRACE, a kind of pop-up factory in London’s big tourist spot. Working with eight large-scale industrial robots, loaned by Audi, each equipped with a cluster of 24 LED lights, Outrace web audience could interact with the installation live, the robots then tracing their text messages in beams of light over the square. It was quite a spectacular site contrasting against the backdrop that includes Nelson’s Column and the surrounding museums.

Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram’s Outrace at London Design Festival ©David Levene

Other notable highlights included the colourful display by Danish textile design firm Kvadrat. Designer Cristian Zuzunaga has taken some of the most famous skylines in the world and turned them into overlapping shapes and colours as part of his ‘Squaring of the Circle’ collection for Kvadrat.

Kvadrat textile collection in collaboration with Cristian Zuzunaga Install ©Tom Fallon

In this series of work Zuzunaga is exploring the ideal image of a city through large architectural shapes in muted colours. From a distance the material reveals either a block of colour, a skyline, crops of it – all depending on how the curtain is draped or folded. Complementing the larger swathes of flat weave material is a series of cushion, each unique, with close-up geometric pixels of colour depicting very small sections of the buildings featured in the curtains.

As part of LDF, carmaker Mini unveiled the Scooter E Concept. The electric zero-emission two wheeler has been conceptualised in two forms – with two seats and in sporty single seat format. Showcasing BMW’s overall eco-ambitions, reported earlier on DT (New Urban Mobility), the vehicle is powered by an electric motor integrated in the rear wheel.  The motor’s lithium-ion battery can be recharged at any conventional power socket using an on-board charging cable. We will report more on this as part of the Paris Motor Show in October.

Mini Scooter E Concept

This year’s LDF medal was awarded to Thomas Heatherwick for his contribution to design. Ben Evans, festival director, said of the designer of this year’s British Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo: ‘He defies definition whether he is working in in the fields of architecture, product design, sculpture, and urban planning.

‘He has developed a considerable reputation for his practice, creating a range of extraordinary objects and buildings; from rolling bridges to seaside cafes to spinning chairs.’

For our report on the student corner visit Emerging Designers from the London Design Festival.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks & Andrea Klettner
The London Design Festival ran from 18 to 26 September at venues around London.

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