anna paluch

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Fashion 2050: Biolace

Carole Collet is a professor in Design for Sustainable Futures and Director of Design & Living Systems Lab, focusing her research on biodesign, biofacturing, high-tech sustainability. Collet is also a pioneer of the Textile Futures discipline at Central Saint Martins.

What is unique about Collet’s work is that most of her projects are fictional, in the sense that they represent possible products or situations in the year 2050 and beyond.

One such fictional project, is “Biolace” (2010-2012), a series of four plants, Strawberry Noir, Basil n 5, Tomato Factor 60, and GoldNano Spinach, which are presented in a hyper-engineered state. The works are provocative, in the sense that they bring up discussions of the pros and cons of living technologies and genetic engineering. How far is ‘too far’ when it comes to controlling living organisms to our benefit? What happens when these plants become a reality? The main goal is to eliminate chemical-based textile manufacturing while also harvesting food to eat. 

But would you, as the artist states, “eat a vitamin-rich black strawberry from a plant that has also produced your little black dress?”

In the future, plants may become multi-purpose factories, producing both food and fabric. Instead of polluting the air with gas or the water with runoff like in a traditional factory, water and sunlight are the only fuels these ‘factories’ would need. Sustainability has never looked (and tasted!) so good.

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Playing With Our Food

Edible arrangements and fancy chefs turn food into art, but what about food packaging?

Designers are combining culinary arts with food packaging, creating vessels that are safe for the environment and even edible! No need for fancy garnishes, the packaging itself is a work of art. 

Combining biological engineering and design creates new ways of not only using food, but talking about food consumption.

Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine has many creative packaging solutions, but one of the most exciting designs comes from the series “This Too Shall Pass”. The series includes packaging for oil-based products, smoothies and short lifespan liquids, and dry foods, such as rice. The oil package is “made of caramelized sugar, coated with wax”, and to open it you crack it like an egg. The package melts in water after use. The smoothie package is made of “gel of the agar-agar seaweed and water”. As the contents become closer to expiration, the package begins to wither. The rice package uses biodegradable beeswax and to access its contents you peel the package like a fruit!

Another innovative food packaging design is called “Edible Growth”, an ongoing project created by food designer Chloé Rutzerveld. The project combines 3D printing with food management and presentation, as everything, even the dirt, is edible.

These designers are part of a new wave of waste management design, where not only are we thinking about how to cut down waste, but how to make waste management LOOK good. It’s not only an innovation in design, but in biological engineering and sustainability too.

-Anna Paluch

Playing with Perspective

Like the fantastical drawings of early physicists, artist John Chervinsky composes photographs which seem to defy explanation, but also inspire curiosity. The artists’ series, An Experiment in Perspective (2003-2010) re-imagines the space of the still life as one where optics “challenge sensory perception”, similar to the works of graphic artist M.C. Escher

The artists’ background in engineering and applied physics brings another dimension to the series. Our perception of mathematics and the laws of physics become distorted, some elements seeming to float in space. One may begin to wonder if some of the found objects within the photographs have any relation to each other, or is this another layer of perspective play?

Another observable layer is the perspective of medium; are these photographs of still life, or photographs of sculptures, which are themselves works of art. There are more questions than answers in Chervinsky’s work, but that is what seems to be the point. If no one ever asked questions on how things work, we’d have no experiments, scientists, engineers, even artists.

-Anna Paluch

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Nature

There’s a cool record out on the market by Swedish group Shout Out Louds. Why is it so cool? It’s made of ice.

Bad puns aside, the band’s record, “Blue Ice” (2012) defies expectations of audio playing, creating a record that you have to maintain over time, either keeping it in the freezer after one play, or making yourself a whole new one again. When you purchase the record, it comes with a silicon mold and a bottle of distilled water, which apparently is better than regular water as it minimizes the “formation of air bubbles in the ice that made the needle jump”.

If records melting over time aren’t your thing, perhaps a laser-cut wooden record is? Artist Amanda Ghassaei, who previously used a 3-D printer to make her own record, has moved on to laser cutting slices of wood. For “Laser Cut Record” (2013) Ghassaei created a program that is “modified for any song, material, cutting machine, record size, and turntable speed”. The artist even provides instructions on how to make your own laser-cut wooden record.

Artist Bartholomäus Traubeck managed a similar feat, except instead of embedding music onto wood or ice, he uses the already present markings on his material to create music. In “Years” (2011) the artist takes a slice of a tree and through a specially designed machine is able to ‘play’ the tree rings that have naturally formed over time (you can literally say that these records took decades to produce). Instead of using a conventional needle, sensors are used to “gather information about the wood’s color and texture and use an algorithm that translates variations into piano notes”, creating a hauntingly beautiful symphony.

-Anna Paluch

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Nanotechnology on the Runway

The clothes we wear allow us to express ourselves, influenced by our moods and tastes. Fashion brand CuteCircuit goes one step further, allowing technology to help make a statement in our next fashion choice.

Most of the clothes designed at CuteCircuit have thousands of micro LEDs sewn into the fabric, which allow one garment to have different colours and patterns on it. As co-founder of CuteCircuit Francesca Rosella states:

“We are living in a digital future, so we do not need to sell 10,000 skirts. We could sell 500 skirts, but then could sell thousands of patterns that you download to your skirt.”

These ‘smart textiles’ have the potential to evolve into even more drastic creations, especially with constant advancements in nanotechnology. One already impressive piece made by CuteCircuit is the “Kinetic Dress” (2010). This Victorian-style evening dress has sensors in the fabric which communicate to the electroluminescent embroidery when the wearer is moving. The faster the movement, the brighter the embroidery; it is translating movement into art and fashion.

If you would like to learn more about the different projects at CuteCircuit, check out this video: http://vimeo.com/104636495

-Anna Paluch

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Personal Planets

When exploring the known universe, some might wonder what new planets we may discover, occupied or uninhabited. Two artists however, Wouter van Buuren and Zainab Hussain have created landscape photographs that turn our own cities into planets, with a Little Prince-esque aesthetic.

The planet-like compositions of van Buuren look like Super Mario Galaxy levels come to life, combining all visible forms into a perfect spherical shape. What was once the downtown core of one city (such as Weert or Shanghai) now becomes its own planet. This composition connotes ideas of our homes being the centre of the universe, where, like the Little Prince, these constructed worlds become our little asteroid or planet on which we live and experience.

Zainab Hussain however, creates more specific planets, such as “West Chapters Planet” (2012), which, according to the artist’s statement, explores “the strip mall environment in suburban areas and our relationship with it”. The artist also plays with the idea of these little worlds, being “first worlds”, existing only to provide convenience. Moving from van Buuren’s urban planets, into Hussain’s suburban planets, the mapping of cities and outlying areas plays on the ideas of comfort and convenience, engulfing us. Apart from planets, the artist has also created holes, inverse images of her planets, acting like voids which suck in all that surrounds them, such as “South Cineplex Hole” (2012). Now, what used to be 360 degrees of familiar comfort becomes 360 degrees of overwhelming commodity.

-Anna Paluch

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SpotLIGHT on Super Nature Design

Shanghai-based design company Super Nature Design has a unique approach to engaging audiences, by focusing on creating works that are interactive in design, communicate visually with those engaging with it, and most importantly, doing all of the above through the use of media technology.

It is not unheard of for design companies to create art, and Super Nature has a strong portfolio of interactive works, particularly those that use light and geometry to engage audiences, creating a dialogue between them, the space they are in, and the materiality and function of the work before them.

Some works, like “New Angles” (2010), include pyramid-like structures with lights that react to the movements of the viewer. Super Nature describes this work as one that reflects “the juxtaposition of subversive thinking and visual perception”, combining imagination, reality and technology. Further diving into the world of imagination is “Dreamscape” (2013) which utilizes the idea of a hypercube and the fourth dimension. Interacting with the work and its space allows audiences to experience different depths of field, as the lights travel through the many layers of the sculpture. This piece takes advantage of the architecture of the cube and characteristics of light, to create illusions that challenge our perceptions of visual dimensions.

Moving onto more literal homages to science, are works “PRISMA1666” (2011) and “Lost in Pascal’s Triangle” (2012). In “PRISMA1666”, Super Nature (collaborating with Wonwei) reference the year 1666, when Sir Isaac Newton conducted an experiment which today, is considered "as a landmark discovery in the study of optics and color theory". The piece consists of fifteen triangular blocks on a white surface, with colourful projections shining upon them, refracting and creating a performance of light. In “Lost in Pascal’s Triangle”, the mathematician’s triangle theory is magnified in the form of one-hundred LED triangles that are within their own fluorescent triangular holds. Audiences are encouraged to interact with the piece through a xylophone, which “generate[s] a series of music and lighting sequences”.

For more examples of their works, you can visit Super Nature Design’s website here.

-Anna Paluch

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Fashion and Nature: Louise Richardson

Art and fashion can often go hand in hand, but what about art, fashion and nature? Artist Louise Richardson creates pieces that take viewers on a whimsical journey of fantasy, mixing natural found objects and transforming them into garments, which in turn resemble ethereal artworks.

The artist is versatile in many mediums, making shoes, clothes, butterflies, books, fiber art, and paper works to create a dream-like world with her art. The delicate pieces have the ability to transform the viewer back to a child-like imagination, the artist herself acting as a storyteller. The use of natural elements such as dandelions, hair, and shed snake skin can be seen as reminders of the aesthetic qualities of the natural world.

-Anna Paluch

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Encased

A frame is not the only way to encase an artwork for display. More artists are experimenting with plastic resins or glass to create their pieces. The resin preserves the work, more so than a wooden frame would do. The results are often similar to prehistoric sap with various objects from leaves to bugs, found within them.

If it wasn’t for plastic resin, some of artist Peter Alexander’s works would not even exist, as his piece “Cloud Box” (1966) consisted of “introducing water vapor to the liquid resin during the casting process” which created the cloud within. The artist was actually able to ‘catch’ a cloud, or technically, create a cloud and trap it forever, thanks to the resin.

Another artist who tampers with their resin to create unique pieces is Michal Macku, who in 1989 began working with ‘gellage’, his own invention of combining collage elements and gelatin. Working with gelatin prints, the artist is able to reshape his photographs, “changing their relationships and endowing them with new meanings during the transfer”. He then combines this process with state-of-the-art technology to great his large scale glass gellages, which trap his images in a 3D setting, rather than flat like a photograph.

Roni Horn’s “Well and Truly” (2009-2010) plays with illusion, where the work at first seems like a container holding water, but inspecting the piece reveals the work’s true medium; a solid cylinder of glass. The artist emanates the characteristic of water, its changeability, by allowing air to come into contact with the top of the glass as it sets in its mold, creating a smooth gloss. The artist undermines “all certainty about [the piece’s] solid or liquid nature” changing the physical experience of the viewer.

Changing physical materiality is also present in Kirsten Baskett’s pieces, such as “Autonoma”. Baskett etches delicate images onto fine Japanese kozo paper, later encasing them in clear resin, and the once “fragile paper becomes indestructible and untouchable”. The artist sees her pieces as frozen in time, permanently available to view, but never to experience the true materiality of the object captured within.

-Anna Paluch