I went to a talk at Goldsmiths by artists JODI. The piece of work that struck me most was the mobile game they developed called .ZYX. The game makes use of the sensors in the users phone, the accelerometer, the gyroscope etc. as interaction devices. In order to get to the next level, the player must for example spin around clockwise 10 times, or hold the phone still on top of their head for 2 minutes.
At the March Museums Showoff the stand out speakers for me were Sharon Robinson, Collection Care and Textile Conservation Manager at the Museum of London, and Hannah Bishop, Development Coordinator at the Horniman Museum.
Sharon was talking about toxic collections and what to watch out for. The stand out thing for me was the rating of radioactive objects – in the past if you wanted something to fluoresce the coating was radioactive, so lots of war time things which needed to be read or looked at in the dark are now hazardous items. The standard for measuring these small radiations is to look up the equivalent ‘effective’ dose in bananas. The Banana Equivalent Dose (BED) takes the fact that the fruit contains a quantity of naturally occurring potassium which is radioactive. Thus one can work out that an antique compact is the equivalent of eating 4 bananas and so probably OK to handle. More details here and here.
Hannah spoke about her project to crowd fund an art exhibition at the Horniman of paintings of taxidermy in-situ in the museum’s stores. This seems a really progressive and novel way to engage with an audience and create exhibitions which people want to see. In this time of public cuts, new ways of generating money like this are going to be necessary and prominent. What other existing funding models or cash making systems could be applied to the arts and heritage sector? Exhibition shares? eBay? Google ads?
I watched this talk from Mike Bracken about the Government Digital Service. He talks about how the processes and practices the GDS encourages can help reshape how government is delivered in the increasingly digital future.
On the purely practical level I think the GDS can make the business of government (i.e. living and working) more up-to-date and more politically progressive. On a current affairs note it could also be a way to facilitate budget cuts that not only keep ‘front-line’ services the same but actually improve them.
But more than that, I’m interested in the way the GDS does this. Mike Bracken contrasts the iterative, responsive, adaptable and ‘fail fast, fail cheap’ approach of the GDS to a ‘big bang’ style favoured by policy makers. I’m becoming more aware that successful projects seem to have this modular structure built into them. It means they can be added to later (as needs or budgets develop), moved in a different directions and also contribute to a coherent whole.
It’s not just government or design projects this can apply to – in analysing the things I like about my garden it’s this ‘ahem’ organic way of allowing things to happen and within certain boundaries not being too fussy. Later on you can check on what’s happened in the system or framework and make decisions from there. If it’s good - encourage it, if it’s bad, stop it and try something else. This sort of plan also allows for serendipity and responds to actual conditions rather than sticking rigidly to the plan you set out at the beginning..
I think I’ve fairly comprehensively mixed my metaphors here but I’m sticking with it. Gardening is good, setting up systems is good, and working iteratively, with cycles of critique and reflection is good.
"Objects are better than text at conveying narrative" - Neil Macgregor
Last month I was lucky enough to attend the annual Angermion lecture at Queen Mary's College. The lectures are set up by the Anglo-german Centre there and this year saw Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum) give a fantastic talk about the upcoming show about Germany at the British Museum. The show will try to show the fragmentary nature of historical Germany, the tradition of technical and theoretical innovation and the effects of war all told through a series of objects.
It was like having a guided tour around the exhibition itself, my favourite objects where the Geld Not, paper money used in the inter-war years when inflation meant that low value coins where more valuable as a material than their token denomination. The really fascinating thing about this ephemera is not only how it describes a period in history but that the design and distribution of it was up to the discretion of individual territories. Germany has a lot more territories and dukedoms than Britain so there ended up being hundreds of different designs for the Geld Not reflecting different regions personalities and political, social and artistic preoccupations - some showing local historical figures, some showing craft, some showing modernism and some showing anti-semitic designs.
Another of the key exhibits in the show will be "Der Schwebende Engel" meaning 'The Floating Angel' by Ernst Barlach. A very special object and loan with so much history and and narrative imbued into it.
The exhibition will be run at the British Musuem from 16 October 2014 - 25 January 2015.
I'm not into this sort of stuff (twitter, facebook and raving on the whole web 8.2 or whatever we're on now), but this talk distills down the way it can be used for good (as opposed to facebook type evil).
I think maybe the best you could ever hope to be able to say about any kind of design is 'yeah- something there is right'. Project H in this video has got something right. It's what design strives to be I think.
Came across a brilliant set of videos from Offset which is a 3 day creative conference. These videos are from 2009- expect the 2010 one shortly. But the line up is brilliant and it's a great resource- all are good but I am a massive fan of the Oliver Jeffers, David Shrigley, Chip Kidd, Harry Pearce and Anthony Burrill talks. All excellent. Offset link: here.
I only 'This Happened' found this one the other day- not sure how I missed it for so long to be honest- Created/curated by Chris O'Shea, Joel Gethin Lewis and Andreas Müller, it's basically videos where a designer (normally interaction) talks through one of their projects for a bit and then takes questions. There's a couple of gems in there- I'm a big fan of Matt Cottam of Tellart's talk about wooden logic.