From Isaac Julien’s political, poetic and utterly gorgeous show at Tate Britain to the equally powerful Carrie Mae Weems survey at the Barbican, Tomás Saraceno spiders and other species awakening us to our connection to nature at the Serpentine Galleries in conversation with Lina Ghotmeh’s delicate timber Serpentine Pavilion, and Leonardo Drew’s explosive installation at Yorkshire Sculpture Park Chapel, there’s been no shortage of excellent art and design in London and beyond this summer season.
Voices is a new publication dedicated to the world of wine, and I’ve been involved in helping form its editorial direction on behalf of Spinach Branding. Our client is Maze Row, a new brand in the fine wine scene. They represent a select group of artisan producers who craft wines that are made with passion, respect the environment and speak of a time and place.
As a print publication and digital platform, Voices fosters their work and shares their stories. We see it as a place, a space, for storytelling that involves the wider world of wine, one that includes arts and ideas, culture, design, travel.
And it’s been an extremely exciting adventure, rewarding in both subject matter and the people – winemakers, chefs, creatives, writers, photographers, artists, adventurers – encountered along this colourful journey.
What I’ve come to realise is that wine is a symbol of so much more than just a drink. Away from the supermarket sold soul-less produce, fine wine is a celebration of life, of this beautiful planet. It is a distillation of what it means to be human.
And at the core of our concept is to actively encourage diverse storytelling, multiple viewpoints. After all, inviting different voices is to be not only inclusive but also expansive and enriching. Maybe even change the direction of our gaze.
The Maze Row guiding philosophy is: In wine, we find life. It’s a lovely term coined in collaboration with Spinach Branding which defines everything we do with Voices. Ultimately, we’re looking at the world through the lens of wine.
Should design as a practice undergo a complete rethink in the age of machine intelligence? The question is at the heart of a speech co-written by the designer Chris Bangle and his son Derek for a speech he gave at the end of last year on re-inventing luxury at the Whitney Museum in New York. Such discussions are the reason I write and so, needing to know more, I got in contact. (read the full interview here)
The Bangles are calling for a complete re-invention of design for the new age of transport. The argument is that it is irrational to partake in current discussions on sustainable design or the meaning of luxury when a real shift requires a fundamental rethink of design and its human creatives. ‘Design, as it is now,’ Chris says, rejects humanity, preferring in every way, shape and form the cold idea of the machine-made. We must jettison even the look of the machine age.’
As a discipline, design continues to live in the world of the machine; it’s trapped in its prime at the peak of the machine age. Then the human designer was awarded for creating in perfection like a machine. But in the age of machine intelligence, the thinking human need no longer mimic the machine. Only through liberation from this outdated concept, the argument goes, can design help shape a more interesting future.
Chris uses a dramatic example in a humble teapot, one that foreshadowed the machine age look that is still with us but was in fact designed three decades before the birth of modernism. When you listen deeply to such an object and let that guide your actions, you are no longer outside the narrative looking in, but rather part of the storytelling. He explains, ‘you begin to design diegetically, inside the narrative, then suddenly design processes become wonderful design adventures.’
I’m reminded of the work of Isamu Noguchi, one of the most lyrical artists and designers of the last century, whose life was dedicated to sculpting the world he wished to inhabit. He too advocated listening to the stone, the object, the space – seeing sculpture as a means of creating harmony between humans, industry and nature and thus improving how we live. He wrote: ‘Art for me is something which teaches human beings how to become more human.’
Chris says re-inventing design need not be a negative thing. In conclusion to his Whitney speech he says: ‘It will be the greatest creative challenge design has ever responded to. I am convinced design will succeed at redeeming itself; it will be thrilling and it happens when we stop fussing over the whats we can create and move on the why of what we should create.’
And I’m happy to enter 2022 on this positive note. Happy New Year.
See the full interview here
Mok Wei Wei has shaped a unique identity for his Singapore boutique practice W Architects. During a career spanning over three decades, the award-winning designer and one of Asia’s leading architects has built domestic and commercial projects that offer a unique hybrid of contemporary design needs and urban sensibilities, infused with Chinese traditions and grounded within a local context. Be it designing private homes, apartment complexes, museums or community centres, Mok’s buildings are spatially daring, they are ecologically aware and, best of all, are full of fascinating creative solutions for constructing in a tropical ever-evolving dense Asian metropolis.
Mok Wei Wei: Works by W Architects charts this exceptional career. Published by Thames & Hudson, this visually-engaging and insightful book documents Mok’s designs from the 1980s to the present day to include W Architects’ most significant work – the austere rock that is Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, and the redesign for the National Museum of Singapore. Mok was raised as a Chinese cosmopolitan and schooled in architecture at the height of Postmodernism, and while Singapore forms the backdrop to most of the works featured here, his influence extends far beyond the city-state to the entire region. Written especially for the book, Mok calls for architecture to remain radical and to keep responding to the needs of our ever-evolving societies – words that feel urgent in an increasingly urbanised world.
Mok Wei Wei: Works by W Architects is published by Thames & Hudson.
Images: ‘The Oliv’ is an organic, textured, off-form planters juxtaposed with the sleek aluminium screens; ‘The Party House’ is a muted concrete structure cloaked by a stainless-steel curtain © Edwards Hendricks; at ‘ERC’ gentle ramps surround the central courtyard where mature conserved trees reside; ‘The National Museum of Singapore’ has a light-filled annex with views of Fort Canning Hill © Albert Lim K.S.; ‘Lee Kong Chiang Natural History Museum’ is a landmark within the National University of Singapore campus © Fabian Ong
The images are captivating. They show smiling children playing on pink seesaws installed across the crude brown steel slats that divides the US/Mexican border – the Trump wall. The interactive installation went up on 28 July 2019 and lasted just 40 minutes before border guards ordered its removal. Then the pictures went viral online. Now ‘Teeter-Totter Wall’ has been awarded the prestigious Beazley Designs of the Year 2020 in the London Design Museum’s annual competition.
The project is a collaboration between the Californian based architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello developed from a binational seesaw idea they conceived a decade ago. The duo chose to implement their concept on one of the most politicised border walls of recent times and in the summer of 2019 – at a moment of extreme tension when the world looked on in horror at the outgoing US president’s horrific war on immigration with innocent children at its centre.
With ‘Teeter-Totter Wall’, Rael and San Fratello want to demonstrate that actions taking place on one side of the border have direct consequences on the other – viewing the boundary as a site of severance. Not surprisingly it took a great deal of planning and preparation given the logistics of the projects. Working with Colectivo Chopeke from the other side of the border at Sunland Park, within 20 minutes the three seesaws were slotted into gaps in the steel boundary wall and screwed safely in place. Children on both sides soon jumped on the bicycle seats before the guards removed the installation.
Images strictly © Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello for the Beazley Designs of the Year