I most definitely define myself as a designer rather than an artist. I’ll be the first to admit that I do not quite understand the majority of contemporary art – what can I say, a Rossetti will always trump an Emin for me – but this does not stop me from finding and appreciating some really impressive artworks. I try to visit my local exhibition spaces as much as possible, and there is always some inspiration to be found being immersed in others’ creativity. I really enjoy looking at installations in particular, as they tend to be temporary pieces, and ones that have a connection with their direct environment. After a recent visit to Designer Maker User at the Design Museum – the first time since its move to Kensington – I’ve been looking at some of my favourite art installations that mix typography, found objects, and a whole heap of intrigue.
The Friday Five #4 –
Creative art installations
Comedy Carpet by Gordon Young & Why Not Associates
This is an installation that I still haven’t seen. Shame on me. Comedy Carpet is a collaboration between designer Andrew Altmann (from Why Not Associates) and artist Gordon Young, that serves as a huge celebration of comedic acts and writers – in particular, their language of humour. In its home in front of the Blackpool Tower, more than 1,000 people are honoured from a variety of eras with a collection of jokes, songs and catchphrases in a concrete anthology. This stunning display of typography is made up of over 160,000 granite letters set in concrete spanning 2,200m². Winner of the Tokyo Type Directors Club Grand Prix & Design Week Grand Prix, the design is not only a homage to laughter, but a nostalgic reminder of some of the fun we’ve had over the years.
Stock in Transit by José Luis Torres
This bold public installation is part of an ongoing series by José Luis Torres that sees collections of ‘junk’ exploding from the sides of buildings. The creations explore the idea that we are both excessive consumers and hoarders of a range of objects, especially in the summer seasons – how often do you use the kayak you bought that one year? By taking these familiar objects and placing them in a different environment, it really makes you question your own buying (and keeping) habits. On the surface these works have a playful aesthetic, but the expanding crystalline form reflects the growing issue of our throwaway culture.
Obsessions Make my Life Worse But My Work Better by Stefan Sagmeister
Possibly a statement that many artists and designers can relate to, this is a personal piece installed in Waagdragerhof Square in Amsterdam. Sagmeister noticed that a similarity between himself and many top contemporary artists was that their obsessions with their muse was a key part of their success. How many of us would say that we stay up all night because we just HAVE to finish work, or spend hours down a rabbit hole of inspiring research, forgetting to leave the house or sleep? Here, 250,000 Eurocents were sorted into shades and arranged – over four days by the hands of over 100 volunteers – into a beautiful typographic design. Not only is the design itself stunning, but the intricate process reflects the sentiment on show. The coins were left unguarded for the public to interact with, but within 20 hours a local noticed someone bagging up some of the coins and the police were called to ‘protect’ the art by removing it. Ha.
Abyss by Zim & Zou
The French Duo (Lucie Thomas and Thibault Zimmermann) have been in my creative inspiration bank for many years, with their highly detailed and colourful paper sculptures. It was their focus on craftsmanship and creating by hand that caught my attention, and since the first Paper Gameboy they have refined their signature bold style to work with clients including Hermés, IBM and TIME. As part of a personal installation at Odyssud in Blagnac, Abyss takes their work to new depths with the use of phosphorescent (glow in the dark) paint. Inspired by the mystery of the unexplored deep sea and the fascination of bioluminescent creatures, the installation comes to life when the lights are turned off, letting you in on some of the secrets of the deep.
Cog for Honda by Wieden+Kennedy
Arguably one of the most well known concepts inspired by Rube Goldberg and his “zany invention cartoons”, Cog for Honda is one of my favourite installations. Some designs really resonate with you, and 15 years later I can still remember where I was the first time I saw this. I was at the cinema and felt the whole room fall into a sudden silence as soon as the first cog started rolling. The use of simple equipment (cogs and wheels) mixed with the complexity of perfect timing, and its surprise elements (‘walking’ windscreen wipers!) forces you to not only stop and watch, but to pay attention. A deserving winner of the Grand Clio for TV award, this two minute advert – that took 606 takes – had everyone thoroughly engaged with a breathtaking display of marketing, creativity and science.