On Friday, as music at Barcelona’s Sónar Advanced Music Festival stages kept sounding non-stop, we had the chance of attending some cutting-edge presentations on the frontier between art and technology at Sónar +D.
The first stimulating proposal of the day came from Japanese artist/designer Sputniko!. Now working as Assistant Professor at MIT Media Lab for the Design Fictions Group, she is also a highly renowned pop-culture personality in Japan, with a wide expertise as developer of hybrid projects addressed to question boundaries between technology and everyday life.
Coining the term “New Pop”, she talked about the importance of creating controversial works and challenging proposals using the power of new media, specially the social ones. In her experience, you can develop an influential position as a popular figure and take it to make a difference through insightful projects with an actual meaning.
She usually makes known her innovative projects through music video-clips full of imagination and humor. Sputniko! exposed some of her more celebrated works, as the Menstruation Machine, a device which simulates the symptoms of menstruation for those who wear it. Also, she talked about her Lunar Girl project with space agency NASA, a project meant to approach young girls to space sciences.
A real designer for debate, Sputniko! gently shared with PostDigital Node some other thoughts in an interview that we will publish in the following days.
Besides the internationally renowned Sónar Advanced Music Festival, simultaneously this week Barcelona celebrates Sónar +D, a Creativity & Technology event, where some of the most cutting-edge artists and researchers get together in a wondrous kaleidoscope of highly talented people. Eager to know new stunning proposals, we were there from its Day One.
Our first discovering was the successful Belfast-born project Patchblocks , programmable mini-synth modules that caused a backing storm at Kickstarter. It has everything to delight inquiring musical minds: it is modular, it is funny and it is open. These modular synth units can be joined as puzzle pieces, and even they can be plugged to other musical instruments and gadgets, creating a wide range of sounds. Just “playing” with them, you realize the incredible variety of possibilities that these low-fi artifacts provide you, in a nearly-infinite constellation of combinations. There is a strong emphasis on the community side of the project, to share experiences and sounds. The perfect instrument to turn a musician into a maker!
After this, Andy Goodman and John Alexiou discussed about new trends on wearable devices, with witty statements like “In wearables importance is not on the device, but on the experience”. Andy Goodman, from the design agency Fjord, placed wearables on their very initial stage, remarking the issues their development still implies: recharge difficulties, tricky use of too small screens, and ugly appearance. He pointed out the great importance of the evolution of materials as the real way to improve actual wearables: to insert an electronic artifact on a textile piece, he said, doesn’t seem to him as interesting as making the materials of the textile piece fulfill a given function. “There’s no a killer app in wearables yet”, he stated. Would it ever appear?
The impressive curriculum of Oscar Tomico makes clear that he has exceeded by far the “young promise” state. Developing several simultaneous projects as researcher and professor from Eindhoven to Tsukuba and many other renowned universities, this Barcelona- born Designer has transformed interaction design from a weird way of imagining things to a reality surrounding us in our daily live in the more natural manner. Focusing now on Smart Textiles, he gave an enthralling talk at Replic_age 2014 Madrid about how our clothes will change and improve our lives in years to come.
Replic_age Day 2 was arriving to its end, and everyone was taking their place in front of a supersized screen where they will broadcast the Champions League final match between two historical rivals: Real Madrid vs. Atlético Madrid. While people took their beers and get ready for an intense soccer time, I asked Oscar Tomico if he would be so kind to grant me some minutes for an interview. And despite all the excitement, noise and loud laughter around us, he strung together a long thread of really deep-minded thoughts about Smart Textiles, Wearables and the future of fashion industry.
P.N. Which lines are you mainly developing by now?
O.T. Nowadays I’m focusing mainly in two lines: by one hand, designing services based on Smart Textiles; by the other, taking Wearables to fashion. On the first line we are trying to help textile industries to change with the help of creative industries, revolving the basis of their business thinking. For instance, transforming the vertical production structure to a flatter, collaborative structure. We help them to go from a very general idea about the future to specific projects to be carried out locally with available infrastructures.
P.N. There is a growing interest by locally made products. Do you think this is a real way to revert globalization?
O.T. Actually, I think that the idea of creating something separated from one’s own context and history is a dead idea. Now people is realizing that if everybody makes furniture as Ikea, Ikea will make it cheaper… so it won’t be a really good idea. Everybody making Scandinavian design, it has not sense at all. Hence people is realizing that the only way of distinguishing your product is that it reveals the place where it came, the materials and culture that come from the place of one’s own. We shall design locally for a global market.
Open Source is a rather controversial issue, a central one in the debate about the new relations of production, and those who fight against it or stand up for it spend big doses of intellectual energy to prove their point. In such a crucial struggle, Peter Troxler is a renowned and respected leader of the Open Source thinking. As an independent researcher of Open Source business models, he has opened to many of us the doors to a new way of set out intellectual property relationships, and consequently to raise again the subject of how to develop a world with new intersections between producers and consumers.
During the last Replic_age Fest he made a brilliant speech about the meaning and consequences of the developing Third Industrial Revolution, that we summarized in a separate post. After his talk, he was so kind to give us some minutes to ask him some questions to discuss further some of his ideas. He was unaffected and clear, exuding authenticity and frankness.
P.N. You have made a deep insight on what it starts to be known as the Third Industrial Revolution, and you are a well-known promoter of Open Design… How do you consider that designers should interact with other field specialists in this new context?
P.T. Personally, I collaborate with designers and many different professionals from other areas (engineers, etc.) generating new movements and consciousness. Fab Labs are an excellent places for this kind of cooperation. But individual initiatives are also very important.
Last day started with Cardboard Furniture and Projects, an eco-friendly and innovative furniture design company based in Madrid. They explained how new technologies enable new products. In such sense, the base material of their products is a more rigid, lightweighted and strong kind of cardboard called Re-board that they cut using tools like a Zünd digital cutter. They produce on-demand and in small scale highly resistant and adaptative furniture for home, office, fairs and exhibitions.
Directly inspired by the noted Italian designer and Open-Source furniture pioneer Enzo Mari, the Madrid/Roma based company mmodulUS invited us to hack furniture and enjoy the co-creation experience. Advocates of new sharing economy, they make modular and reconfigurable furniture for people willing to participate in the creation of their own day-to-day spaces.
On Saturday, the Design & Digital Manufacturing event Replic_age started with Martín Sáez from the Belgian company Materialise. Counting with more than 20 years of experience in business, they gave us a solid and realistic vision about professional 3D printing, emphasizing the idea of that 3D printers are being used from a long time in industry.
Next on stage was the Dutch independent researcher Peter Troxler. He is an ideologist, a theoretician of Open Source, mainly applied to Design. He delivered a magnificent Lecture brimming with persuasion and deep considerations. Troxler stressed the importance of a sense of responsibility within the Maker Movement, as we shall go beyond the simple consumerism and banality. Open Source was outlined not only as a good faith answer, but also as a reliable business option. Also, he brilliantly explained the basis of the 3rd Industrial Revolution, condensing the main ideas from a wide intellectual corpus written around this concept. In short, Troxler exhibited in front us us the multiple elements which act in the creation of this new context: from the tight relationship between renewable energies and communicating technologies as Internet, to the new cooperation relationships and useful development. He was so gentle to grant an interview after his speech, that we will publish in a later post.
After a short break, the artist potter Jonathan Keep came on stage. He explained detailedly how he achieved to make porcelain pots using 3D-printing techniques. Since such printers for clay didn’t exist by then, he even had to make his own, using pieces of several sources. He designs by coding trying to emulate the way Nature works.
Fair is the area open to the general public, where people of all ages can interact with the latest advances in digital fabrication as well as knowing what fab labs and universities are working on this matter.
On the other hand, Fest is the festival featuring presentations and lectures of renowned professionals, along with workshops and networking opportunities for attendees.
On Fest stage, Daniel Pietrosemolli introduced Medialab-Prado to the audience, a city-funded organization that promotes digital culture. The “citizen laboratory” is placed in an old wood sawmill reconverted into a modern fab lab. They offer helpful services to anyone with a digital fabrication project in mind.
After that, Sara Alvarellos presented Makespace Madrid, a new space dedicated to digital fabrication that is sustained by its own members. Their complete digital fabrication equipment is available to all the members of the community. Here, more information about membership.
At OFFF Barcelona 2014, we also found some interesting stuff beyond the stages, take for instance The Folio Club, the Barcelona-based platform aimed at promoting and producing independent editorial projects. They also provide offset-digital printing services. We talked with Ana about the print-related projects they promote, she also told us that The Folio Club helped to produce The Poool, the delightful OFFF printed magazine.
At “El Mercadillo”, a place full of exhibition stands with interesting products and services, we talked with Eddie from Camaloon, they make custom stickers and pin badges for personal or promotional use. They featured the Camaloon Be Noticed Corner where attendants to the Festival could draw and write anything they wanted.
Kate Moross is a young Londoner designer and illustrator. She’s also head of Studio Moross. With an encouraging DYI attitude and focusing on the business side of her work, she told us her story. From her first clients achieved shamelessly promoting herself on the early social network MySpace, to her current works for the likes of Adidas or Vogue. In the process, she has not lost any of her freshness, independency and visual impact. Moross has also been behind some of the most important artwork in British music in recent years. For instance, the ones for the British singer Jessie Ware.
After Kate Moross, the lunch break came. People started to look tired after several nights of “juerga” and little sleep. But enjoying of the sun warmth and the beautiful views was revitalizing enough.
Noted german type designer Erik Spiekermann made one of the most memorable speeches of the Festival, full of caustic and clever remarks about Design, Typography and other related stuff. He has designed many typefaces of extended use and been part of the team that made the Helvetica Neue typeface. Spiekermann also appeared on documentary Helvetica.
Through the years, he got involved on Web Design. Talking about the never-ending task of making websites, one of his more retweeted phrases last Saturday was “Websites are always in Beta”. After a long and successful trajectory and near to retirement, he has started a new project, the gallery and letterpress workshop P98A , mixing tools and techniques from wood types to laser cut plates. Having spent a good amount of his career in front of screens, this is his way of going from bits to atoms.
An hyper crowded Open Room Stage opened with the finish creative agency Kokoro & Moi. They showed us their imaginative approach to give their clients ad-hoc design solutions, regardless of being digital or print. They also proposed some challenging equations like “Openness + Randomness =3” or “People + People =3”, meaning the importance of working collaboratively and with no preconceptions.
The Bangkok-based designer and illustrator Pomme Chan presented her work, inspired by everyday life and obsessed with details. A good sample of that are her hand lettering illustrations made light for the Absolut Artelier.
After that, it was time for a break, while eating our “bocata” under the sun, the relaxed surroundings of Disseny Hub looked like this …