Rooms 17

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Who decides what you see? Greg Barth Michael Nyman, Assa Ashuach, Olaf Breuning, realities:united, Lukas Wassmann The Ones to Wear, A Female Perspective in Film

Hello Play By Greg Barth Cover: Greg Barth photographed by Alexandra Uhart



Caves of wonders, visual delights, factories of dreams, predators of emotions, merciless provocateurs.

Enter Art.


Creative Director Ana Afonso Editor Eva Peláez

Managing Editor Mia Johansson

Fashion Editor Tania Farouki

Editorial Assistants Alyss Bowen Ralph Barker Miranda Hill Abigail Yue Wang

Photography Director Alexandra Uhart

Writers Jesc Bunyard Heike Dempster Madelaine Hanson Kristina Jensen Nate Jixin Zhang Benjamin Murphy Josephine Platt Kelly Richman Phoebe Shannon-Fagan Jeremiah Tayler Becca Thomas Tatyana Wolfman Suzanne Zhang

Graphics & Web Design Ana Afonso Anna Ferry

Published in London by RAU Studio London National and international distribution by Central Books General enquiries Subscriptions Advertising Thanks to our beautiful team and great artists of ROOMS 17 Special thanks to: Our lovely regulars for your amazing support: Jesc, Suzanne, Abigail, Jamie, Kristina, Kelly, Ralph, Alexandra, David, Moha, Heike, Tatyana and Mr Gosling. James LT for your believe and patience. Los Pelaez, Robert Dempster, Patricia F-N, Sabs, Amyra,Lía & Emma, Quico, Pauli, Lucia, Andrés, Isa, Ernesto & Isabel.



Photography & Video Ivan Cordoba Abigail Yue Wang

Media & Communications Paula Afonso Andrés Afonso Tom Gosling Mohamed Mahayni David Rawlins Jamie Steep

©RAU Ltd. London All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the publisher. The information and images, contained in this magazine, are materials supplied to the publisher by the artists and contributors. Opinions and images expressed in this magazine’s contents are those of the author. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, Rooms Art Uncovered Ltd. does not under any circumstances accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. ISSN: 2046-5505 Issue 17 – 2015

Who decides what you see? Unravelling perspective As we might have learnt to get cosy with the drowning sound bites in the post-digital, a point of view is a pervasive currency whose face value is becoming more and more indefinite. Voices are being democratized, voices are being produced; it is easy to slip into the pressure of having to say something rather than indeed having something to say. Art being most subjected to subjectivity, opinions within are, to say the least, the requisite, if not the driving engine of every creation. From there, a point of view seems merely inevitable, but it is also something we need to be reminded of because of our perpetual defeat by the real world. Living in the flux of change, the voices we choose to embody sometimes have their own shelf life. This elusive dance of losing and finding a standpoint is a keen struggle for every artist at heart. Tunnel visions are appealing and endangering. We want to maintain a sense of place but also be subsumed by the sheer craze to create. Some commonly equate art to the power of magic, but by not trying to be omniscient, it is constantly on a mission to reduce, to reassemble and in the most welcomed cases, to scintillate what might have passed unnoticed in our days. It is in some sense, us vs. the world. We practice gaining and regaining perspectives because the world is on the move, and because times are always relative. But what is unequivocal is that a point of view can become an act of resistance. It is one thing to see one’s place in the world, another to execute that knowledge in the aesthetics. Perspectives set us off on the right starting point so when the world is disorienting one is still able to tell directions, or try the best at correcting it. There is a plethora of opinions being voiced every moment but perhaps not enough fruitful ones. Thus a valid point of view of an artist’s is hard-earned mettle not only for one’s repellence to being consumed, but the enduring impact on the rest of our trying lives. Remember Stan Brakhage’s reflection, “Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception.” Art breathes the air of opinions; and if one may be fortunate enough, perspectives shall become a virtuous companion for life, always keeping the self in check.

By Abigail Yue Wang 22


The Cover Artist Uncovered 26 Greg Barth Icons of the Unpredictable

The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship 46 Artist Benjamin Murphy interviews: Carne Griffiths A Drawing Ritual 52 KK Outlet presents: PUTPUT What If Objects Had Feelings? 58 Curator Paul Robertson interviews: Michael Nyman The Poetry of the Prosaic 64 Ada Zanditon + Nik Thakkar Contemporary Armour 70 An Eye For Music Addictive TV Armour

Handpicked 74 Phil Ashcroft Bianca Pilet Thereza Rowe Ping Wang Leonardo Betti Yuko Oda 24


No Borders No Boundaries 120 Assa Ashuach The Joy of Perceptive Design 126 Painting Spaceships A Conversation with Kevin Jenkins of Industrial Light & Magic 132 The Ones to Wear Angel Chen Monique Daniels Magdalena Brozda Ka Kui Cheng Shimell and Madden 154 Luis Vasquez The Man Who Walked on The Soft Moon 158 Olaf Breuning Humour Resources 170 PLAYMOBIL’s Art of Play 174 Lukas Wassmann Authorship Photography

Why Do You Do What You Do? 102 Christopher Nying and Jockum Hallin Founders of Our Legacy 104 George Vasey Writer & Curator at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art 108 Drew Seskunas Co-Director at The Principals 112 Tessa Metcalfe Jewellery Designer & Founder of Tessa Metcalfe Jewellery 116 Tom Hancocks Interior Architect & Visual Artist

184 realities:united Boundless Architecture 192 Rebecca Ross Why Is London Changing?

198 A Female Perspective in Film Francesca Gregorini Daisy Jacobs Ruth Paxton

Photo by Alexandra Uhart



Icons of the Unpredictable

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Fortunes, an experimental comedy

Words by

Jesc Bunyard 28


D e s i g n e r turned director, Greg Barth works on projects ranging from music videos, virals and television advertisements to video art and installations. Born in Geneva and now based in London, Barth brings a design ethos to his audiovisual work. Barth’s aesthetic is distinct, due in part to design background. His bright, bold works have a Pop-infused Surrealism. In whatever project he works on Barth brings his unique and quirky style, from commissions by Microsoft and Sony Music to ESPN, as Barth describes: On one project I work more with choreographed dancing actors, then for another with

essays on reality chapter II – Camcorder Girls



animating 3D prints based on particle and physics simulations, then light mapping for another, firing gold from a catapult at an actor French kissing a triangular canvas in the next [laughs], the list goes on. As Barth suggests he approaches each project with energy and tries to bring something new to each project he works on. I asked Barth about the inspirations in his practice and whether he saw Surrealism as a major style within his own practice: Definitely, I’m hugely influenced by Surrealism, although also by Dada-ism, Pop art, Swiss graphic design from the 50’s, experimental film making and contemporary art. If you were unaware of Barth’s work, prior to reading this, Pop and Surrealism are major aesthetics that exist within his practice, but there are strong links to Minimalism, often with a bold, single colour background providing a minimal backdrop to the surreal episodes. This may seem like a contradiction, but Barth is able to merge these styles to create his own visual language. When I interviewed Barth, I was curious to find out how he achieved such a blend of styles and how his background in design has aided




him: I think it has helped me create a unique visual universe that surrounds each of my films‌ Coming from a graphic design background certainly helps. It has taught me to try to make each image look iconic, graphic yet comprehensive, as you usually work with one frame only for print. I studied graphic design in Switzerland, the country that developed minimal design so I think that has greatly influenced my style and compositions. Greg Barth describes himself as quite obsessive with his work. Barth works at every stage of a project: concept, storyline, art direction, directing and postproduction: I usually have enough freedom to either develop a concept from scratch, or modify an existing one quite a bit, which is cool. I tend to overthink every idea, pushing it in several different directions and possible execution styles, before stripping back to its essence and finding the (hopefully) right approach. I get quite obsessive with my work. This method of working is admirable, it means that Barth is involved at every stage, bringing his style to every stage in the creative process. The results are works that

Fortunes, an experimental comedy – Get Yourself Together



have brought Barth commercial and public recognition, including several awards and nominations: Video Of The Year for Passion Pit’s I’ll Be Alright at the Genero Annual Awards in 2012, the EA scholarship Montreal, Best 3D short, for Cycle in 2008 and the finalist of Core 77 Awards in 2012 for 7TV. In 2014, Barth also won the Young Director Award ‘Video Art Europe’ at Cannes, for Fortunes, described as an ‘experimental comedy’. The Young Director Award is billed as the ‘most important fringe event at Cannes’ and brings an enormous amount of attention and recognition to the winners – it was originally created by the Commercial Film Producers of Europe. When interviewing Barth, he described the creative process behind the film and how the stresses he experienced at the time influenced his work: I won it for my short film Fortunes, which was by far my most personal film (and lowest budget one I have made). Although looking crazy and random, the film is actually about my arrival in London with my pregnant girlfriend, and how during the first months here we were both cooped up inside our

Still from Passion Pit - I’ll Be Alright



tiny flat all the time, waiting for our daughter to be born. It was a crazy time, I had to make money yet had no job, I was finishing projects at home so I could not really go out to meet people, and I was about to become a father. It was a very stressful and challenging time, and my uncertainties in life and lack of confidence I was feeling at the time are quite perceptible in this film. On top of all that, staying inside all the time made me go a bit crazy: daily objects and routines quickly transformed into deformed and surreal scenarios that degenerate towards a stressful peak, while self-motivating fortune cookie messages are telling me to get myself together. Looking at Greg Barth’s portfolio of work, I can imagine that his aesthetic would transfer successfully to the stage, within theatre design or concert production. His works within music videos could be seen as the perfect stepping stone towards this. I put this thought to Barth: It’s funny you should say this, I’ve always wanted to do more stage design and theater oriented works. I’m trying to experiment by combining

Hello Play



performance, installation and video more. I just finished a 30 second ad for Grolsch where I was invited to show the iconic bottle my way. I made a physical installation that reacts to light and sound. We filmed that with a live soundtrack from a drummer who interprets the visuals. It was a fantastic experience. When researching the work of Greg Barth, I rediscovered the Child of the 90s advert, which Barth created for Microsoft. The video features objects most children of the 90s remember and may have possessed.


a child of the 90s myself, the video particularly resonates with me and, clearly with many others, as the video became the 13th most viral video of 2013 and achieved its 48th million play, an astronomical figure to comprehend. I therefore couldn’t resist asking Barth about the video, and how he gets his head around the view count of the advert: I think everyone was surprised to see how much it blew up, we all learnt that nostalgia is quite a powerful tool. It was a really fun project to work on, although I guess I wish some more artistic and conceptual projects I have made would get as much attention.

Hello Play



As anyone who works with a creative process knows, accidents and incidents can happen. Luck can often prevail and these accidents can turn into happy ones. As Greg Barth discussed with me, sometimes when working on projects you just need luck on your side: Happy accidents are the nature of most of my work, as most ideas that need to be physically made are very experimental. For example, I made a 5 kilo white chocolate replica of a Greek statue for my Hello Play project. The statue’s face had to melt while it was listening to loud electro music through headphones. We had no time or budget to do tests with this, and one mould of the statue took 9 days to produce, so we only had one go at melting it. It’s exciting yet scary, as you never know if the effect is actually going to work and how physics will alter the final render. The face finally ended up melting in one quick moment after 20 minutes of filming it with 2 heat guns (I had thought it would melt more gradually). The camera card was out of storage space at 22 minutes so we just barely managed to capture it. Generally I love the thrill of not knowing how some techniques will work out, we

Hello Play



mostly only have one take with our effects and happy accidents are inevitable, but add spontaneity and realness to my work I think. Greg Barth’s work is a visual and surreal joy to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing what work he produces next, and where he takes his style. Barth has worked on adverts, virals and music videos, where’s next? I’m excited about my Grolsch project that is coming out by the time you read this. I’m also exposing another installation piece in Paris in April. I really want to work more on blending art and film together, focusing more on contemporary dance, emerging technologies and conceptual storytelling.

London | UK


Benjamin Murphy interviews:

Carne Griffiths A Drawing Ritual Carne is a contemporary artist who creates multi-layered, visually stunning artworks to which he adds a plethora of different alcohols and teas to dilute his inks. Coming from a background in embroidery design, Carne has a love of natural forms, such as leaves and flowers. Drawn with just two colours of inks on paper, he intersperses his artworks with a mixture of perfectly proportioned figures, leaves, drips, and automatic scribbles. 46


C arne came to my studio recently so I decided to brew some tea and ask him a few questions… Tea is very ritualistic in its brewing and drinking, how does this correlate with how you make art? Is art for you ritualistic? The brewing up of the tea is an integral part of the painting. If I know exactly what hues and colours I’m going for, I’ll brew a particular type of tea. (For example a Typhoo will produce quite a nice brown.) Other times I’ll get five plastic cups with different types of tea in each one, from Jasmine tea which is a pale honey colour, through to the really dark brown steeped tea. If you use really light colours first you get really delicate pinks and blues and then you can build up on top of that with the earthier colours like greens and browns. I do this until I get to a certain stage in the work where everything is balanced, it’s quite a manic, messy process.



You balance automatic drawing and careful draftsmanship perfectly within your artworks. The drips seem to be organic and yet are always perfectly placed, how much control do you exert over things like this? It depends on the piece really, there’s a certain amount of control. I’m constantly looking to create a balance within the piece. Doing the figurative side first gives me the leeway to then be more expressive and work in a more abstract way with the rest. Once I’ve got that nailed down everything else can hang off that. And it’s almost a question of seeing how far away you can get from that portrait, how much you can destroy it. I don’t tip it carefully to get little drips in the right place, it doesn’t work like that. The piece is dictated by the accidents. I think you’ve got to let go enough for those things to happen. The worst thing that can happen is that you do something that you really like early on. If I like it too much from the start, then it’s precious, and I’ll try protect that area so that nothing else happens to it.

Alcohol changes the work once it’s added, have you ever tried to see how the alcohol affects the work once it’s ingested? Have you ever drawn whilst intoxicated? Yeah, sometimes it’s successful and sometimes it’s not. I like to walk that line between losing control and being in a lucid area where unexpected things can happen. Alcohol doesn’t always give that state of mind, it gives a clumsier version of that. You still need all of your critical faculties. Lots of artists are big into tea, (George Orwell wrote a list of 11 steps to make the perfect cup of tea). Why do you think tea is so important to creatives? Process probably. The tea ritual is a revered thing, everything stops for it, it’s like a religious ceremony. I approach it from a different angle though, the gentle rise it gives you puts you into a place where you can access the creative area of your mind.

You use a combination of two different liquids: tea, which contains caffeine and speeds up the heart rate, and alcohol,



which slows it down. How does this dichotomy fit in with your work? It’s not intentional actually. I started using alcohols before I used tea, and I introduced tea purely because the amount of control I need later on in the work. They are both just mediums I use.

Like myself, you rarely draw males, why is this? It’s just purely an attraction thing, I haven’t married many men either. There’s got to be a relationship between me and the subject, there has to be an emotional connection and if that’s not there then the painting doesn’t work. If I find a photograph of a man that I like and that creates an emotive response, then yeah I’ll paint it, and it does happen, but it just happens less. Why do you mainly paint faces and rarely bodies? It just traces back from an interest in portraiture from when I was a kid. The real challenge is in the proportions of a face, they are more critical because we know and recognize the human face so well, that we can instantly see when something’s wrong or

What has been the single piece of work that has influenced you in the most profound way? The first time I saw [the short animation] Street Of Crocodiles by The Brothers Quay when I was at Art College.

One of my friends from back home once told me that you were one of his favourite artists, before he knew we were friends. What is it within your work that people identify with? I don’t know. Primarily I create the work because I have a passion for it and I enjoy it, but I’m as surprised as anyone. I connect to it, so maybe that’s why others do. It’s a very romantic view but I hope people can create the same connection with it as I do.

The one that affected me the most was 20:50 (Used Sump Oil) by Richard Wilson, and on the whole I tend to be most moved by sculpture, instillation, and performance. Why do you think we have both chosen works that have little in common with the works we ourselves create? That exists in the physical realm, which makes it easy to immerse yourself in. That’s what I did with animation, the illusion was so strong that I placed myself in that space. This made me realize that I could create my own realm within my artwork that people could immerse themselves in.

London | UK

out of balance. The challenge now for me is more of an emotional one, it’s trying to put something into a drawing that’s not just about the way someone looks, it’s more of a spiritual quality.

Last summer I visited your studio and was surprised to see how tidy it was. From seeing your work I expected more chaos. How can you work in such a tidy space but create such disordered work? I’m not really a tidy person, I work in chaos. Eventually I’ll get to a stage where I need to bring it back to be able to work, when it’s too visually noisy. I can have stuff everywhere but it has to be ordered. You may be the only person to have ever called it tidy.

Can you see that that has influenced your work? You could at the time. But what that did for me was that it derailed what I thought about art, for example it made me start looking at different types of art, like outsider art. It made me question what’s important in a drawing and what’s not important, and it completely changed my opinions on why we make art. They created this perfect illusion, where everything was different. I imagine my pieces to be in flux all the time, so if there’s a repeating line that’s because that line has come from somewhere and it’s going somewhere, and this came about through my love of animation.

KK Outlet




PUTPUT are entrancing visual charmers. Through their choice of everyday, low cost and readily available objects, plus their stripped back aesthetic and canny attention to detail, PUTPUT playfully allude the viewer to second glance, refocus assumed assumptions and, as is usual, induce smiles and guffaws. Processed meat, balloons, adhesive tape and fruit never looked so good. Praise be to PUTPUT for stirring us to recognise beauty and humour in the otherwise mundane.

What if Objects had Feelings?

PUTPUT 1,2,3 Objective Ambition

Words by

Miranda Hill

B ased in Copenhagen, Swiss/Danish duo PUTPUT work within the realms of photography and sculpture to create fun and imaginative works that merge nature and the man-made, and challenge the metaphysical relationships connected to everyday objects. By combining these aesthetics and placing these objects within unfamiliar settings, the duo creates a synthesis of playful recontextualisations that ask us to reconsider the limitations of our own perceptions and highlight the often-underrated power of context over content. And in their reinvented context, PUTPUT’s objects acquire a body of new wonders and ask, what if these objects had feelings? Can objects have dreams and ambitions? PUTPUT are bringing the still life back with a playful, contemporary twist and we’re very excited. I caught up with Ulrik and Stefan at Hoxton’s KK Outlet gallery to find out more about their artistic practice and the ideas and motivations behind the works. Tell me about the initial stages of PUTPUT – had your styles always been similar? The style of PUTPUT has developed as a consequence of the collaboration and our similar interests. Stefan has quite a reduced, minimal and strict sort of aesthetic and I’m probably a bit messier, which comes across in the colour selection of subjects and objects that we work with. The composition and the way the things are documented are always very reduced.




What sparked your interest in the ready-made and the still life set ups that your works seem to portray? The ready-made is taken on very well in our choice of objects. We wanted to pay an interest to the things that we don’t pay any attention to, by putting them into a new context… trying to see them in a different light. If you’re doing the dishes, for example and you have a sponge or a


brush, say. These are objects that you’re in contact with everyday and that are around all of the time. Someone at some point sat down and actually paid a lot of attention to the creation of that object and decided okay, it had to have this material and this colour or this shape. It’s interesting juxtaposing these objects or placing them within a different context to change the view of that thing.

Your works have strong references to Pop art and Surrealism but you don’t want to label yourselves as a specific genre, I understand? We are interested in so many different things and we also operate in a lot of different fields like photography –the fine art category is another aspect of it. We also do a lot of commercial work and commissions. We work in publishing and also try a bit of sculpture every now and again. So I think putting this label on ourselves that we’re this and only this is not really necessary for us. It’s a question we get quite a lot. This need for having an explanation of our works… It’s an interesting position to be in. You use photography and sculpture mainly. Why so? Photography is chosen because it’s the best way to document certain objects. It is a very good tool for deciding what we want people to see. If you have a three-dimensional object you’re able to move around it and to see it from different perspectives. If you have a photograph, which is still, like the flat depiction of a three-dimensional object, we can decide what you see. If we are working with natural materials that will decompose over time, such as flowers, it is also a question of capturing them in their prime state.

Speaking of flowers, Inflorescence (2012) was one of your earlier projects, what was happening in your lives at the time of its completion? Stefan had found a job in Copenhagen and I had also moved back to the city. So we were sharing an apartment. Everything started to emerge from those conversations, “wouldn’t it be great to do this or to work with this…” We had been talking about these ideas for long and decided to just do them. And the objects themselves, do they have any personal memories attached to them? No. This notion of narrative photography or baring your soul through photography… I think so many other people

New Necessity



do that brilliantly and we’re not really interested in the narrative in that sense. We’re interested in the metaphysical relationships to objects. So the meaning and value of objects is interesting to us. And then of course you can always project or have a lot of your own stories and experiences attached to those things, but initially we don’t do that. We do it because we find that it is an interesting shape or colour or combination that will turn the object into something else. Your project Objective Ambition seems to have a lot more serious undertones…. It’s maybe a slightly different aspect but of the same story and the relationship we have with certain objects. Why is the coffee cup that you inherited from your grandma more valuable than a coffee cup that you buy from IKEA? for example. They are both a coffee cup. It’s because you associate certain things with the one cup compared to the other.

Taking that thought of an object/a dead thing being able to contain feelings. What if that object did actually have feelings? What dreams or aspirations would a dead object have? A small porcelain figure, for instance, that maybe wants to be a soldier. Or a very treated cut piece of wood that longs for its natural state.

Lighting is obviously a very important aspect. How do you begin to shoot your photographs? It is quite often a very long process! One of our ambitions is to also keep the retouching and manipulation of the images to an absolute minimum. So we spend a lot of time doing a test shoot to find the right light, composition… Then we might do a second test shoot where we try out different colours and light settings. And then we do the actual shoot. Who’s in charge of what? Stefan is the technical genius. He is very good with the lighting. I prepare the things that we are photographing. I guess it is all very much a joint process. How do you create and manipulate the object’s shadow? The cactus, for example (a personal favourite!) That’s our cartoon cactus! What you see on the website is the documentation of it. Let me show you the real thing… So here we have the

printed shadow and then we have the object. The shadow is printed onto paper and the chosen object sits on top. The shadows are made first with an object, then we photograph the shadow. Of course a lot of digitalizing is done to the shadow, to scale it to fit the object, and to make it fit perfectly. It becomes a study of shadows, how they look lying close to the object, how they fade. Also the angle of all the different objects. What have you been focusing on this year? In the last year we have done a lot of commercial work and a lot of preparation for things that we are working on. It’s different but a continuation and development of the works so we’re not changing tracks completely.

And your subject matter, any obvious changes to look out for? I think up until now we’ve done a lot with the interaction between objects and another object. We haven’t had any human presence before (except from a hand, for example) so the interaction between objects and the human being.

You said you’ve done a lot of commercial work in the last year, do you see yourselves ever turning into a brand? Are you interested in advertising? Yes, very interested and influenced by it in the way we do the images. But I don’t think we will ever go into advertising as such. The idea of branding though is certainly interesting to us. I like this question about branding and advertising.

And your new exhibition here at KK, what’s in store for us? We have made a few new bits and pieces, smaller things to supplement our previous works. We’ve also reproduced or reconfigured some of the works to fit them to this exhibition. The images from the Salami book, for example, we’ve turned them into posters. Instead of seeing them in a book they become more independent. I look at your works and can definitely imagine them being on posters. Has the inclusion of text ever been a consideration?Yes, I think so… I think there could be something coming up!

Copenhagen | Denmark


Paul Robertson


Michael NYMAN The Poetry of the Prosaic

NYMan With A Movie Camera 58


I n a white oval space in Mexico City’s Centro de Cultura Digital, within a space that was originally built as a faux-mausoleum for the country’s Presidents to lie in state but never used for that purpose, there is a ten screen video installation by Michael Nyman. The work is called MANÉJESE SIN DEMORAS. DEBEN EXHIBIRSE EN FECHA EXACTA – a rough translation from the Spanish is USE WITHOUT DELAY. DISPLAY ON THE EXACT DATE. The title came from a film canister found by the artist and relays the freshness and urgency of a work which is wholly contemporary in its showing. The ten films overlap, varying in length and subject matter, the sound track moves around the space as one increases in volume for a short while and another declines –

sometimes one film and its sounds are dominant, at other times another. All the images are distorted, deliberately shown as oblique parallelograms rather than traditional 4:3 rectangles. More dominant are two ‘end’ films which co-ordinate the other eight by defining the overall subject matter – they conduct the symphony of moving images. All of the films that make up the hourlong whole are Mexican in origin– a place where Michael Nyman has made his home these last three years. They are ostensibly documentary in content but the whole is far larger than the parts. It is a portrait of Mexico. This is life in the raw: street performances for tourists, a vagrant looking at a statue erected for a famous politician, glamour girls pose for a camera club event in a public square, cleaners clean museum spaces and, importantly, the mothers of the missing 43 students (the

‘disappeared’ students from Ayotzinapa who went missing in Iguala, Mexico in September 2014 provoking national demonstrations and international condemnation) hold a public meeting and bemoan the lack of political will to find their children. This is life as it is lived, even if an unusual life; documentary as art. Nyman, of course, is well known for his music and soundtracks for important art films (The Piano, The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover, Gattaca to name but three) but less known for his own prolific output of video art. His Cine Opera Series consists of over 70 films and his recent installations include the spectacular NYman With A Movie Camera – an eleven moving image installation re-staging of the original 1929 avant garde film Man With A Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov. Nyman’s most recent work utilises appropriated archive material from the Great War to create an hour long film called War Work – a moving, bleak reminder of the waste of human life that spawned Dada and other artistic movements, and when played live by the Michael Nyman Band is a genuinely moving experience. Sitting in Nyman’s living room where his computer constantly outputs the sounds of London in the background – streaming the dramatic conversations of Eastenders, the commentary from his beloved QPR’s latest match, an audio documentary. It is an island full of sounds but despite those distractions, in a considered and calm voice, Nyman explained the origin of his filmic works and his approach to photography and image-making. We began by discussing NYman With A Movie Camera – hereafter NWAMC – currently on show in Tufts University, Boston and soon to return to Europe with installations in Poland and Greece (it has previously been shown in Edinburgh, Miami and Mexico). It is an important work for Nyman and has an interesting evolution that reflects in his other videos.

Why did you take on NWAMC? Let’s consider the multiscreen version of NWAMC, I think its origin is best approached from an autobiographical basis. It was a clear sequence of events. Firstly the British Film Institute commissioned me to write the soundtrack for the original in 2002. Now it is important to know that even though I had read about Man With A Movie Camera all my life, and I had seen stills from it, I had not seen it as a film until 2002 / 2003. I knew about Vertov’s Kino Cinema and who he was but no more specifically about the film. Having seen it I then created a piece of music that was based on music from elsewhere, so in that sense the soundtrack was a ‘fake documentary’ in the same way that Vertov’s film is a ‘fake documentary’. So then, why make the single screen version of NWAMC? I was creating some of my other films with my editor Max Pugh, who is a very sophisticated cineaste, and Max was working on editing the footage that soon after became my ‘Cine Opera’ series of films. He was back in a hotel room in France at some point and despite his huge knowledge and being that sophisticated a cineaste, he had never seen the original film either. So I gave him a copy of the film to watch.

And then he came to visit me soon after and he said to me “Shit Michael, Dziga Vertov shoots his films in the same way you do!” And when we look it’s true – and it’s not because I am a disciple of Vertov but because it is just the way I look at things. I never look through the viewfinder – I look at the scene as if it is on the screen but not through the camera. Exactly as Vertov posits: “Life as it is lived”. And Max also pointed out to me that while Vertov did have schedules and plans about what he would film, I don’t, and I simply film what I find in front of me.

NYMan With A Movie Camera



So in some ways a more pure form of the Vertov ideal? Well I have no pressure on me. I am not primarily seen as a professional filmmaker, I don’t have to satisfy a Soviet film commission in the way that Vertov did, nor do I need to find someone to finance a big budget film. But the parallels are even more striking – not only do I film in a similar manner to Vertov but my subjects turn out to be the same things as he was drawn to. And I had done this and shot much of the material before I had even seen the Vertov. I was in Russia for instance and I had filmed a lot of trams and transport – there they are in the Vertov film also.

So after a discussion Max and I decided that because there was this correspondence between my films and this original masterpiece then we should go through a process of re-creation – which we soon found out consisted of about 1,700 cuts of film. We broke the original down into a series of shot sequences then Max and I sat down and matched up my preexisting material with the Vertov. I insisted that we limited what

we put into the NWAMC and each cut was a parallel reflection of the original. And then ONLY from what already existed in my personal material - I didn’t go out and shoot one single thing especially for this work. And we found that there were some brilliant parallels – for example, there was a concert of mine in Moscow and it was advertised with a large banner across the street which I filmed, and lo and behold when I looked at the Vertov in detail there was a boulevard, perhaps even the same one from 1929, where they stretched a huge banner between the houses to advertise a Maxim Gorky play. That was not the only correspondence. So the purity of the vision to only use already archived material furnishes the first film.

And it then became a multiscreen installation (first shown in Edinburgh in 2013). Which for me solves a problem – when the work is a single film then it becomes an homage to Vertov but with a multi-screen ‘jungle’ of flickering yet synchronised films then the work takes on a greater purpose. When the work is shown then we are reliant on two audiences: one which knows the original film and another that has not and this multi-screen version is the first they perhaps know about it. And both will consider it in a different way.

In Miami during Art Basel it was shown at night in a space in Wynwood and hundreds of young adults walked in carrying beers as they walked from exhibition to exhibition and stayed to watch it. Now most people watch art videos for only a short while then leave, but they were entranced – many of them stayed for the full 66 minutes. That showed me the power of the film, the impact of this re-staging because it spoke to their lives in a way that the original probably no longer does. A perfect example of what you are saying about two audiences. But can we discuss your other works? You recently said to me that you felt they were like event scores. Most of the films I have watched are uncut, single POV shorts but it seems to me that you catch the poetry of the prosaic. Again relating to Vertov’s theory of the Kino Eye that film should be a synthesis of three principles equated as ‘Seeing’, ‘Writing’ and ‘Organising’, respectively, of seeing with the camera, of recording with the camera and (sometimes) editing the resultant film.

One film, Tieman, is a surreptitiously recorded sequence of a drunken man obsessively putting on and then removing his tie. Tieman (where a drunk man on a train in Poland tried initially to sell me his tie then proceeded to put it on and off as a means to show off its value and why it should be purchased by me) seems to me to fall into an area of Fluxus event scores. I could say this is a performance of an unwritten score by, say, George Brecht. But most people haven’t heard of him or Fluxus but it is accurate a categorisation of the work. Others of my films are of people who do not know I am filming – after all I don’t look through the viewfinder often. For example, Tateman is of a male lying in the grass outside of the Tate Gallery rolling around seemingly observant of all that is happening around him – apart from me filming him that is. Often, it’s all done secretly. NWAMC is after all very artificial, it is often critically discussed in terms of surveillance – in a world where we have CCTV everywhere. The films I make can usually stand on their

own then sometimes become part of a larger work. Is it like the music I make? [Pause] No, I don’t think it is. I think I am a much more radical film-maker than I am a composer because what I am doing as a filmmaker is more like a cut up – after all I would never place 20 seconds of the Draughtman’s Contract music up against a minute of The Piano.

One film of yours is called Guns ‘n’ Dolls and it seems to me to be like a fugue - the original sequence (of a child’s toy which is on sale alongside a real gun in an American store, the camera lingers first on one then moves to the other then returns) is repeated as a delay nine times with each having its own section of the screen. It seemed very musical to me. I don’t think it is musical at all. It serves a different function. In the Film Moscow 11:19:31 during an interview in a Moscow Radio Station I filmed the person asking me the questions – perhaps I was bored. An elaborate selfie if you wish! But when I came to make the film I asked Max to insert 62


music in place of my answers. Initially that was my own music but then we re-made it several times, one time each of the ‘answers’ was a piece of music from Don Giovanni. The timing of the music was therefore out of my control. It then became a sort of Cage-ian process – the answer duration defined the soundtrack. That piece then became a multiple, one time with electronic music, another with a military march and others. A more artistic format rather than music despite the content.

So it became absurdist, Dadaist? It becomes absurdist. In a Delaware exhibition we showed all five versions at once. And I came to realise that the Don Giovanni version worked but the others seemed artificial. I learnt from that what works and what doesn’t work.

In the film Have you ever seen someone on an escalator… you have a constant camera again just watching people come up from an underground – they pass in, and then soon, out of the shot. It is thirteen minutes long and watching it you get a chance to do something you normally would not do which is look very hard at people without any shame. And you start to allocate motives and personalities to them despite the very brief moments they are in your world. Malcolm Gladwell has written about this in Blink, the ability to make split-second judgements about people. Well as I see these as Fluxus events and maybe if they were George Brecht events every film would reference “watching”. But these films are often about the differences in repetition which is the title of one of those books of French philosophy (actually Différence et Répétition by Gilles Deleuze, 1968). And everyone is concentrating on getting from the bottom of Tottenham Court Road station up to the exit but they are all doing it in different ways. And one guy has a piece of paper and he puts it down on the centre aisle of the escalator and it is there for the rest of the film, centre frame. Knowing how it happens, it gives you a sense of causality. But in real life I don’t really watch these things, only in

film. It is the lens that causes me to watch these things, not as it is happening, only later. All the films tend to be wide-angled shots and I very rarely zoom in on anything. So the lens is a ‘lens of acceptance’. When I am looking at it during editing I have gathered all this information and I become fascinated with total differentiation and total uniformity. Well I have said this to you before; I regard you as a voyeur in the original sense of the word before it meant an obsessive visual sexuality, but rather someone who sees, someone who is fascinated with daily life. Often your work is a study of what might be called ordinary people doing their jobs, allocating them a quiet dignity. The parallels in photography might be with Hans-Peter Feldmann who coincidentally publishes a journal called Voyeur. Do you object to my calling you a ‘voyeur’ but in that more honest and true definition of the term? No, no, I am – it seems reasonable.


Tie Man

London | UK

Ada Zanditon + Nik Thakkar Having confidence like Tyler Durden and Peter Gibbons’ is a challenging feat, but it’s needed to do things like meet new people, get through work’s tasks and have a good time. Ada Zanditon and Nik Thakkar’s mission is to help men find their chutzpah. Unlike the protagonists of Fight Club and Office Space, most earthbound humans don’t have a second personality or a botched hypnosis session to free them of their inhibitions. We, non-fiction types, must find less ostentatious ways to find faith in ourselves. Self-image plays a key role in confidence; when we wear clothes that make us look good, we, more often than not, feel good. In lieu of hypnosis and dissociative identity disorder, Ada Zanditon and Nik Thakkar are helping men feel fearless with their luxury menswear line, Ada + Nik. Ada Zanditon and Nik Thakkar are co-designers of the brand, Ada + Nik. Both designers have significant credentials: Ada is a couturier with a brand under her own name and Nik is a creative strategist and influencer with luxury brand clients including LVMH and Jean Paul Gaultier. They came together four years back during Paris

Fashion Week and Ada + Nik was launched 18 months ago. The duo’s brand brings together British dark matter menswear, Greco Roman sensibility, and a rebellious Punk attitude. Nik + Ada is not simply a clothing line: it’s a lifestyle brand and cultural statement loaded with creative content, film, imagery, and style. The powerhouse brand aims to break down societal and cultural boundaries with forward-thinking fashion, wearable tech, sustainability, and innovative fabrics. Zanditon and Thakkar are equipping men for tomorrow with progressive and futuristic garments. Photo credit: Fiona Garden Clothing: Ada + Nik Grooming and Make Up: AnnMarie Lawson



Contemporary Armour

Words by

Tatyana Wolfman

Who is the Nik + Ada man? He’s a 22nd Century Gladiator – progressive in body and mindset.

How do the contrasting styles of the Greco Romans and Punks come together in your work? The aesthetics and mindsets of the two eras are different and yet extremely similar. There was no judgment on androgyny or genderlessness, no creative boundaries and the energy that both eras put out into the world – a sense of rebellion, independence and power to humanity is what we stand for.

70s punk is often thought of as nihilistic and selfalienated, for example, the Sex Pistol’s echoing refrain, “No Future”, in God Save the Queen. Do you think it’s possible your clothes are read this way? It is the sense of rebellion and social change from punk that we celebrate.



We understand that sustainability is important to your process. Can you talk to us about how you achieve your conscious goals in the fashion world? Protection and longevity of humanity is at the top of our priority list. Sustainable intelligence is key to material selection and to date bi-product leather, natural fabrics and waste reducing, energy conscious solutions have been integrated into the design process.

Is it difficult to achieve sustainability in a field that is constantly demanding something new? It’s always a challenge, but carving a new path, creating something that is creatively engaging on multiple levels and achieving selflessness combined with pure drive and innovation to improve culture and push societal boundaries is what we are pioneering.

Can you tell us about your collaboration with tech brand Narrative? We’re both tech nerds in different ways and we found Narrative to be the perfect partner to achieve our vision of the world’s first leather jacket with in built camera. They had the tech capability to integrate into our product.

We think and design with the future in mind. The Ada + Nik Narrative jacket allows you to experience and document something without losing the experience first hand.

What social and creative boundaries do you wish to breakdown with your clothing? In Greco Roman times, a man could wear armour as a dress or a dress as armour – the kilt or skirt was never emasculating, but the industrial revolution changed that and made the suit aligned to masculinity. We’re a brand that seeks adventure and complexity in character through creativity.



In your SS14 video, you use models from varying generations; it’s not something usually seen in fashion. Is agelessness an important quality to Nik + Ada? Absolutely. You are as old as you feel. Age shouldn’t be a barrier to style or confidence. There is always a female role in your fashion films. Do you see yourselves moving into unisex or women’s wear in the future? About 25% of our client base is womenswear. We’ve actually had a female role in each of our films and in the last two they were dressed in Ada + Nik. Genderless clothing is something we are already creating and want to do more of. What’s next for the brand? We’re working on the SS16 collection which will be unveiled in June and developing a collection for online. We’re also working on the new film and more wearable technology.

London | UK

An Eye for Music

Addictive TV

Graham and Mark filming

Words by

Kelly Richman





GRAHAM: Visual music has been around for a long time, and not just in recent decades: installation

artists like Nam June Paik were creating work in

the 1970s that could be described as such, and way

back to the 1930s animators and experimental filmmakers like Jordan Belson or Oskar Fischinger

ith a multisensory focus and an innate interest in the eclectic, Addictive TV is not your average DJ duo. Based in London and comprised of Graham Daniels and Mark Vidler, the electronic pair is known for their extensive use of sampling. While this technique traditionally entails extracting and adopting auditory excerpts solely from songs, Addictive TV takes it a step further; in addition to audio samples, they also work with visual platforms – including movies, television, trailers, and advertisements – to create “music you can see”. For their latest project, Addictive TV has taken this approach to an international level. Featuring over 150 musicians, Orchestra of Samples seamlessly merges the musical performances of unacquainted artists across the globe into mixed-and-matched audiovisual montages. To find out more about this exciting endeavor, we chatted with Graham and Mark of Addictive TV, as well as several of the musicians – Humberto Alvarez, Wang Chung, Laetitia Sadier, Francesco Russo, Henry Dagg, and Motörhead’s Lucas Fox – featured in Orchestra of Samples.

were way ahead of their time creating beautiful visual music.

For us and our work, there’s no one single

inspiration I can pin-point. It was something that

developed slowly over time in my days as a VJ, from

messing around with old public domain footage and

NASA archives to trying out audiovisual remix ideas with sampling movies. And that’s what led to some

studios in Hollywood contacting us to remix films – and that was all well over a decade ago now!


MARK: For me, my biggest personal artistic

influences stem from the Psychedelic period from ‘66 up to the present day, and that incorporates

music mainly from the UK and USA garage band: Krautrock from Germany and South American Tropicalia. Film-wise, again the same period

from trippy exploitation and biker flicks to late

seventies science-fiction stuff and Italian Giallo

cinema. Broadly speaking, I’ve always been drawn towards ‘experimentation’ and any medium that likes to think ‘outside the box’.

GRAHAM: There are plenty of musicians and

filmmakers who inspire us, but directly relating to our work there’s very few because hardly anyone

else does this. German audio/visual act Bauhouse were definitely an early influence though, as was

Canadian audio artist Akufen (with his style of ultra chop-up micro edits) and, of course, the early 90s American godfathers of AV sampling, Emergency

Broadcast Network, who we’ve ended up knowing over the years and working with.


GRAHAM: To some degree, all works of creativity

are art – but then why is an arthouse film considered ‘art’ and a Hollywood blockbuster isn’t? There are plenty of incredibly artistic directors who make

small independent art movies, but then also direct a blockbuster when offered – Ang Lee, Richard

Linklater and Jean-Pierre Jeunet to name a few. So, even when we’ve made commercials, it’s still our

work, just the message is different – less of an artistic expression and more of a commercial one.


Filming and recording with Wang Chung

GRAHAM: Apart from a handful of artists like

Laetitia Sadier or the Wang Chung guys who we approached specifically, every musician was a

discovery! And being introduced to artists, say, like Humberto Alvarez in Mexico, an expert on ancient music, was a complete eye-opener.

The whole project has been a huge undertaking,

which is why very few artists have ever attempted

to create something like this. It’s incredible to think how many recording sessions we’ve filmed over

the five years and where we’ve been – Kazakhstan, Senegal, Brazil, China, Egypt and Tunisia just after the revolutions, all over Europe – even up in the

Himalayas – and I guess we won’t stop; we’ll just keep

Filming and recording with Laetitia Sadier

on recording as we have no single fixed schedule.

MARK: Orchestra of Samples is an exploration in

musical probability – the idea of bringing together diverse musicians who wouldn’t normally play

together, and, more to the point, their instruments

that wouldn’t normally be heard together! Spending time filming musicians everywhere we travelled

has been an utter joy and when you see the show,

you’ll see we’ve recontextualised these musicians as if they’re playing together, when in reality none of them ever met.

Filming and recording with Henry Dagg




a challenge to build tracks from such

varying musical and

tonal extremes, putting melodies and riffs

together that are not

commonplace or easy

‘bed-fellows’ in terms of scale or structure.

But, it has turned out how we expected. I

remember our very

first recording session was with a French

rock band – drums,

bass, electric guitar

and vocals… but it was definitely not in our mind to simply re-

create a ‘rock track’ from this starting

point. The fun came

from recording further sessions with more

exotic instruments and sounds, then blending those with elements of the rock band as a spine.

GRAHAM: In broader terms, the whole

project has turned out

exactly as we expected – but I’d add that we

didn’t really ‘expect’ anything as such;

we didn’t have a pre-

conceived fixed notion of what it should look

and sound like. It was always about letting

the project evolve and the samples lead us to

where they want to go

and not about us forcing them into pre-existing ideas for tracks. So

in that sense, yes, it’s evolved beautifully,

amazingly, and in many different directions

that we couldn’t have dreamed of.

HUMBERTO ALVAREZ’S MEXICAN FLAVOUR I’m a composer, so I have always been fascinated by ancient instruments played long ago by my ancestors. I was given a grant to study the subject, travelling around my country, and now I specialise in indigenous Mexican instruments. I’m an artist and I live for today! I of course mix ancient sounds with modern visions – that’s part of my work and something I’m very interested in. And, as a composer, I create modern sounds with ancient textures, modern ideas with ancient instruments. It can all be very eclectic.

LAETITIA SADIER’S BRITPOP SEDUCTION I had a good curious look at the Orchestra of Samples project and was really seduced by the way they work, in collecting bits here and there throughout the world and finding their matches also from here and there, all over the world! What a fun and synchronistic way to work! It’s quite daring and one must have an incredible amount of trust in them – i.e. relinquishing the desire for absolute control to build tracks in this fashion. WANG CHUNG’S CINEMATIC TOUCH Our main contribution to the movie industry is the soundtrack we wrote to William ‘The Exorcist’ Friedkin’s To Live and Die in LA which was a fascinating project and we still see Bill whenever we spend time in LA. Over the years, we’ve been lucky enough to have songs in all kinds of movies – our track Space Junk as end credit music for the very 1st episode of The Walking Dead being a more recent highlight. There is a strand in our music that makes it very effective with film. Atmosphere, attention to detail – a kind of intensity that directors like. FRANCESCO RUSSO AND THE BASCHET LEGACY I’ve known the Baschet Brothers since the early 90s and started working with the Baschet instruments because they are a good way to produce complex acoustic sounds. I was also teaching in schools with the instruments, which happens a lot in France. There’s a real pleasure in using them as teaching tools because they make it easy to work with a group of children.

well in the spirit and ethos of it. Music is for sharing and Orchestra of Sample sprovides a ‘quantum’ opportunity to musicians with different sounds, making them play together from different parts of the planet. LUCAS FOX’S METAL MENTALITY The playing in our session was completely different compared to the normal approach in recording with a band like Motörhead. It’s almost more about creating atmospheres, which is always what I love to do, and that really came to the fore – it was almost like playing free jazz, which was really different! I really adhere to the whole concept of Orchestra of Samples and love the way the project has turned out, creating their own songs from the micro recording. HENRY DAGG AND THE ART OF SOUND SCULPTING I come from a musical family and from an early age I had been trained as a musician, and was experimenting with sound, building electronic and mechanical devices to create and manipulate sounds. So when I began composing for radio & TV in 1982, the development of new instruments and sound-sculptures was just the continuation of a kind of vocation, and an extra resource for my own music.

Orchestra of Samples is a great human adventure in music. I think the Baschet instruments bring a little ‘strange and unusual’ flavour to the project, and fit

London | UK

Photos by Joe Plommer Ramsey Sound, acrylic on canvas, 122 x 92cm, 2014 Cave Painting (Ramsey 1), acrylic on canvas, 122 x 92cm, 2014 Turbines (Wear Point), acrylic on canvas, 122 x 92cm, 2014 Untitled (Atlantic Grey Version), acrylic on canvas, 102 x 76cm, 2014



Phil Ashcroft






Bianca Pilet Taking photos is an excuse to see what the world looks like: the extraordinary in the ordinary.

The Netherlands





Thereza Rowe A nice sense of wonder, that subtle and unexpected smile in the mind‌ Mischief comes to mind straight away. I suppose it represents the child in me who thankfully has refused to ever grow up. The story behind my work is solely based on the need to keep my (overactive) imagination healthy and happy. So I feed it, encourage it and daydream a lot. I believe whatever can be imagined, can be realised/achieved. Life is an ongoing adventure and discovery is at the heart of it. Each day is full of possibilities and inspiration is anywhere/everywhere. One just has to observe, notice‌






Ping Wang My photographs focus on the subtle interaction of human beings and the environment—carried out by solo figures, couples or groups, the photograph expresses the emotions including solitude, loneliness, regret, boredom and resignation in various environments. My subjects examine their alienation from disenchantment with daily life. I invest light in spaceless dimension. People who are framed by light share the same look of expectation and meditation. Using modern and minimal elements in my photographs, my works evoke a stillness of mind while developing depth and clarity at the same time. I create stills for a movie or tableau in a play, to position these characters as if they were captured just before or right after the climax of a scene.






Leonardo Betti My artworks are related to visions I have. These visions come from my dreams, my connection to nature (like Submerse and Solar Flares series) or experiences I have in real life. I think that there’s a strong relationship between math and human perception, even if we can’t see it, we feel it. This relationship is recursive, like fractals, and geometry for me is the key to give it a shape. I have the necessity to spread my visions and try to give sense to strong feelings I perceive from everyday life. When I see things, faces, bodies, trees, I’m always inspired and my perception changes in relation to light conditions. I think that light can show you different points of view and give you different emotive states on how you relate to life.

Denmark | US | Italy





Yuko Oda Photos by Fred Hatt Organisms like flowers and birds have forms and functions familiar yet foreign to us. At a glance, they may seem simple and go unnoticed, but a little curiosity and observation reveals a universe of complex, intelligent systems. All of my work captures energetic occurrences inspired by nature, incorporating elements of beauty and surprise. These instances may take the form of bursts, explosions and vortices. However, there are also pieces that depict moments of calm, serenity, and the aftermath of what has taken place. I would like my work to evoke beauty and joy, energetically transforming the spirit of those who encounter it. I capture the life force of a living form by abstracting and transforming its elements. A delicate flower may explode like a bomb, or become a planet in a galaxy. A swarm of gold butterflies departs from dark landscapes, and colourful hummingbirds escape from apocalyptic explosions. At times ephemeral and celestial, at others haunting, I explore energetic contrasts and mystical symbolisms in my work.




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Christopher Nying & Jockum Hallin Founders of

Our Legacy

Sweden 102 ROOMS —Why Do You Do What You Do?

WDYDWYD? To think how each of us have individually brought to this collaboration founded by two minds, it could be simply put as Christopher is the wild creator and I (Jockum) serve as the boring guy that packages the ideas. Together it shaped Our Legacy as people know it today. It was an early decision for us to not showcase on runways. We feel that photography and photo books are a better means to communicate Our Legacy’s visions. The art of photography has of course been one of our biggest sources of inspiration. For us to communicate via that forum has been very natural. To put our looks, mood and feeling through the lens of some of our favourite photographers like Takashi Homma, Viviane Sassen and Ola Rindal shows a much richer Our Legacy world than 3 minutes on the runway. That ties in very well with the notion of ‘timelessness’ in our design. It comes with reducing details in the design rather than adding. Another notion – ‘comfort’ combined with ‘confidence’, is a way of how we see our garments worn, easy, relaxed and unpretentious. There is no preconceived narrative built around every season in a sense, all garments are equally important and there is no hierarchy either. But youth is always inspiring for us. We try to create our own imaginary subculture for each collection. The movies and music we grew up with in the 90s inspire us too, whether we like it or not. When

we opened our shop in Soho London last year, first outside Sweden, we noticed that people in London are more curious and tend to want to try more different things, whereas a wow-piece in Stockholm is a staple in London. Since the shop opening, we have had positive responses. So happy about what level people expect from us here. They want news, definitely, and the boring stuff we might as well leave in Sweden. For SS15 collection, we incorporated evocative elements from nature. We have focused on the natural colours and blends the earth provides us in the ocean and on dry land, the complex patterns nature creates like honeycombs, twining lianas or undulated ocean sand bottoms. We also tried to replicate onto fabrics the ‘treatment’ nature gives surfaces, like cracks in rocks, dried flood beds, salt stained or mossy rocks. When formulating what Our Legacy should be about back in 20062007, we wanted to do timeless clothing with quality great enough that we could pass it on to our children, like our legacy. As more progressive as our collections have become over the years, contrary to the restless appetite in fast fashion and production, we still focus on items that do not feel ‘now’ but ‘always’.

Interview by Abigail Yue Wang

George Vasey Writer & Curator at

Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art

Breakin’ Up is Hard to Do (KARST) 2015, co-curated with Ned McConnell. Work pictured Nicolas Deshayes and Philomene Pirecki

104 ROOMS —Why Do You Do What You Do?

WDYDWYD? I’m a curator at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art [NGCA] in Sunderland. I develop the exhibition programme and events. I spend a lot of time researching, meeting artists, going to exhibitions all over the place and fundraising. Alongside this I do a bit of teaching and writing. I want to help artists and do good projects. A show is successful for me when I’ve learned something from it, the project has had a lasting impact on myself and the participating artists.

I was lucky enough to receive funding for my MFA in Curating and I took a few years out between my BA and MFA so I could treat the course more like a residency. I went to Goldsmiths and it was a very intense experience, I learned a huge amount. The course professionalised a lot of what I was doing really, it introduced me to curators and writers and a huge amount of theory.

The more I curate the more I realise that writing is the most important aspect of what I do. Writing is where you

develop your voice, from writing reviews, articles and press releases but also funding applications. Writing is just another way of helping the artist, it provides another form of visibility for their work. I love writers as diverse as Martin Herbert, Brian Dillon, Hito Steyerl and Jan Verwoert – good art deserves great writing.

The best part of my job is working with artists. It’s a privilege to be granted access to people’s studios and their ideas. I really believe that art can impact on the world in a positive way; artists are often the most intelligent people I know. I also think curating is a creative practice; I see exhibitions as an artwork so I’m excited when I’m working on ideas for new projects. The hardest is juggling the needs of different projects, lack of time and fundraising. At the moment I’m working on about six different projects at the same time so that’s a lot of juggling! My advice to others starting out in curating is to put shows and events on wherever you can. Read lots. Meet people and be as nice as possible to everyone. See as many shows as possible, good and bad; learn as much from the bad ones as the great ones. I curated my first shows in the front room of a tiny flat in East London with no money – each artist chipped in so we could have beer at the opening. Make mistakes, and don’t repeat them! It’s important that a curator has a position. It’s not enough

to just give an artist a space, you have to create a dialogue with the artist and impact on their practice in some way. I think

it’s important that you see a curator’s vision over a programme or group show. For me, curating has to be subjective and creative, it’s not about doing your research in Frieze Art Fair or Contemporary Art Daily, you have to look in unexpected places – research takes time. The role that a curator has is that each artwork or exhibition is different for each show. A group show will often be a mixture of existing works direct from the artist or collections alongside newly commissioned works. If I ask someone to be in a show I normally couch that invitation in a particular way. For instance I’ll give the artist a space or a particular part of my research to engage in – this normally comes out of a conversation.

I often say that a curator is like a football manager, it’s my job to pick the team but ultimately, it’s up to the players.

My advice to any curator wishing to start their own gallery or project space is to keep your overheads as low as possible as that will give you more freedom. Approach people who have already done it and ask them for advice. Look at other models internationally and steal the best bits. Don’t get into debt. At the NGCA we try and balance the programme by working with emerging artists such as Joanna

106 ROOMS —Why Do You Do What You Do?

2 A Small Hiccup (Grand Union) 2013. Work pictured Erica Scourti and Jeremy Hutchison. Images courtesy of Stuart Whipps 3 S.W.A.L.K (NGCA project space) solo show by Joanna Piotrowska 2014. Photo by Kathryn Brame 4 The Decorator & the Thief (…) (NGCA). Work pictured CommonRoom and Paul Becker. Photo by Kathryn Brame

Piotrowska and Simon Senn and older underrepresented artists such as Nicholas Pope and Jeffrey Dennis. I try and work with artists internationally and then bring in artists from the North-East alongside that. The NGCA has a good reputation for putting on group shows that explore big political and social issues. The director Alistair Robinson has been here for 12 years and I’ve tried to continue with that legacy really. I’m working on a major new commission with Nicholas Pope; a fantastic, if recently underrepresented artist. Nick represented Britain at the Venice Biennial in 1980 but his work has fallen out of favour in recent years and I think his practice is very pertinent in relation to younger artists such as Emma Hart and Jesse Wine. We’re working on a mid-career retrospective of Graham Dolphin, and the second iteration of a group show Breakin’ Up is Hard to Do which I recently co-curated with Ned McConell at KARST in Plymouth amongst many other things!


Interview by Jesc Bunyard

1 MoMA PS1 Skrillex © Erez Avissar 2 Shell Pavilion © Kristy Liebowitz 3 Botox Lamp © Matthias Weingaertner

Drew Seskunas Co-Director at

The Principals 108 ROOMS —Why Do You Do What You Do?

WDYDWYD? I am Drew co-direct with Chas and Chris

Seskunas. I The Principals Constantine Williams.

Chas and I grew up together in Baltimore, and we’ve been friends since we were about four years old. After going to different undergraduate programs, we both ended up at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for graduate school – Architecture for me, Industrial Design for Chas. After school, I left to work in Europe for 4 years, and Chas and Chris ended up working together at a metal shop in Brooklyn.

We each came to the studio with certain specialties, and as we continue to produce new work these specialties evolve. At the moment, I work more on the development of concepts and Chris works more on the realization of them. Chas tends to be the liaison between these two phases. With that being said, we find it really important that we all participate in some way at every phase in the realization of our work. The first project we all collaborated on was the Botox Lamp, a faceted aluminum cloud embedded with sensor driven LEDs that read presence and reacted through changes

in light and shadow. At the time, I was running a studio in Berlin designing buildings, just starting to explore kinetic architecture and preparing a new concept for the DMY at Tempelhof, but I couldn’t find anyone to help me develop it. I had a trip for another project planned back to New York and Chas suggested I come by their studio to see if they could help. We ended up producing the whole piece in the off hours over a single night, and I flew back with it the next day to Berlin in the biggest box you could check on Delta Airlines.

where groups of people can interact with them. It’s also why

The response was really positive and we all recognized how valuable it was to work collectively from conception to production. The production of a piece, its detailing and materiality are very important parts of the work we produce. It seemed logical that if you united all these aspects into one studio, the work you produce could go much further conceptually. That’s the derivation of the name. It’s sort of tongue in cheek, but also very accurate. What would happen if you took the principal aspects and players in the production of an artwork and placed them all in the same studio? How would the work be affected? Could you explore more remote territories than if you were alone? Some artists produce their own work, some don’t. One might safely assume, though, that

the relationship between the artist and the production of their work is important in either case (meaning their decision to participate or not in the production of their work is intentional). Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case; a lot of creative work is merely conceived at one end and then handed off to assistants or a fabrication studio for production and then delivered to a gallery. That strikes us an extremely isolated way to produce work that is ultimately supposed to engage people. Within that framework, we saw an undiscovered territory: the tectonics and symbolism resulting from the production of a piece of artwork and its interaction with the technologies – ancient or novel – that went into creating it. That’s why a lot of our

work is either installations in public spaces or products disseminated to

110 ROOMS —Why Do You Do What You Do?

we feel the need to participate directly in the creation of each work, to interact directly from another access point. There are centuries of embedded knowledge in the production of everyday objects and just as much symbolic value in the forms this knowledge generates. The structure of our studio chooses to explore rather than deny this fact. Our projects tend to cover a lot of territory, but one thread seems to always be present: the idea of ‘Systematic Distortion’ taken from Marcel Duchamp. The educational structures of Art, Design and Architecture can be very difficult to break free of; they become prisons of dogma that constrain our understanding of the world and predetermine what is possible. All of our projects attempt to operate outside these constraints by applying technology in uneducated ways, using pseudoscience to create pseudo-architecture, pseudo-design or pseudoart, and systematically distorting or perverting these structures to explore what can occur outside these boundaries. A lot of our most recent projects explore immateriality

1 Zoeva Pavilion © Sergiy Barchuk 2 Ancient Chaos © Bryan Derballa 3 Anagraham Pavilion © The Principals

how does the reading of our senses influence our surroundings? Is it possible to demystify the elements of space through interaction? What role does technology play in this? and space:

The studio is approaching its third year of existence, and it seems like we are just starting to cement some of the ideas that we’d like to explore over the long term. With that being said, like many of our projects, ideas can be ephemeral things that tend to disappear just as soon as they start to take form, so who knows exactly what we’ll find as we follow these threads, or if they’ll lead somewhere entirely different than we anticipated.


Interview by Kelly Richman

Tessa Metcalfe Jewellery Designer & Founder of

Tessa Metcalfe Jewellery 112 ROOMS —Why Do You Do What You Do?

WDYDWYD? I am the owner and creative director of Tessa Metcalfe Jewellery. I am a self-taught jewellery designer and selfprofessed pigeon obsessive, on a one woman quest to elevate London’s feral birds to glory.

I studied illustration at Brighton University, but I was much more interested in spending my student loan on unusual rings from the antique jewellery shops in the South Laines. I was steadily building a rather lovely collection, when I realised that jewellery was really where my passion lies. The pigeon obsession started when I was a child. Growing up in London there’s not much wildlife, but the fairy-tales I read were full of animals living out human-like

stories. I imagined that the city’s feral birds had personalities, hopes and dreams. Later,

when I realised that people didn’t really like pigeons very much, it only made me love them more. I got into taxidermy and a few other self-taught hobbies. Having always loved making things to wear I combined my newfound skills to make myself a stuffed pigeon hat (which I still love, by the way)! It took absolute ages and I had to learn as I went along, but I couldn’t think about anything else. I even had friends calling me to tell me where they’d seen a nice road-

kill pigeon about town. And off I’d go to check it out. It sounds crazy, but once I get an idea in my head I tend to be very stubborn about seeing it through. After I made the pigeon hat the feet were left over. I never liked to let anything go to waste, so I started thinking about ways to make something with them. That’s when I did a short jewellery course, which was the beginning of it all, really. One day I turned

up with the feet in a little box and my teacher agreed to show me some basic casting techniques (quite lovely of her, considering). I was sold instantly, it was like an epiphany. My favourite idea that spawned a whole new level of the collection was when my brother

suggested I put mini rings on the pigeons feet. This was a stroke of genius! I was already

gold plating their nails, so the birds had their own manicures. Giving the pigeons their own jewellery too was a massive step towards

what I had fantasised about as a child. It created personalities for the birds. Being a creative professional, starting your own company, is a lot of work! In the beginning I had a job to pay the rent and when I finished work I would make jewellery at home late into the night. I gave it everything. It’s stressful in ways I never would have imagined, making me work harder than I ever thought I could work. There are challenges every day, things I never thought I’d have to deal with. Making jewellery is what I love, but you

114 ROOMS —Why Do You Do What You Do?

have to deal with all the boring bits that go along with it too. Stuff like VAT returns, website building and accounting is a huge part of any business and since I had no financial backing I had to learn to do everything myself. It was very time consuming in the beginning, but so rewarding at the same time. And honestly I don’t think I could do anything else, I’m addicted to being my own boss!

Next stop for me is to start work on my second collection. I don’t work seasonally, as keeping everything handmade and developing bespoke pieces means I’m constantly in the workshop. I’ve been stewing these new ideas for a while and I feel like they’re ready to come out. I’m dreading it a bit to be honest, it’s a big step. I’m known for my pigeons now and doing something different will really be a challenge. It will be a shock. On the other hand, I love that challenge and for me that’s what it’s all about. The best thing about being the ‘crazy pigeon lady’ is that

people expect me to do something shocking and that affords me the ultimate creative freedom to do whatever I want – to push the


boundaries and to try the untried, that’s what I love most about doing what I do.

Interview by Kristina Jensen

Tom Hancocks Interior Architect & Visual Artist

116 ROOMS —Why Do You Do What You Do?

WDYDWYD? I am a visual artist with a focus on digital imagery, 3D spaces and an exploration of sculptural forms and curated environments. I work during the day as an interior architect, a job that I really enjoy and kind of fell in to through indirect channels. The spare time I have is devoted to making images and starting projects that I almost never finish. My focus is interpreting a branch of minimalism, using simplicity as a major tool, a red-thread as it were, in my work. A lot of times it's easy to over-think design, but sometimes you

find something new and provocative in simple geometry or effects. This is

beautiful because it is so unexpected and that's one of the things I think really connects with people, because it's striking. My artistic evolution has been unexpected to say the least. I always kind of worked digitally, I would draw a lot and then take those drawings in to an illustrator and make huge collages or imagined comic book covers. Because I kind of learnt everything on my own a lot of the stuff I created in the beginning was very exploratory and a bit rough around the edges, but also very 'fun'. Then things gradually became exclusively digital, until I finally took the leap into the world of 3D modelling. At the time I was working on a project with a friend of mine and

wanted him to do some animation work for our website. He introduced me to the possibilities and potential of 3D modelling, and I really got hooked after that. The ‘defining moment’, so to speak, in deciding to pursue 3D design was when I stumbled across the work of Chris Timms on tumblr. Some of the works I've done that have been most rewarding were Idle Sel, a GIF exhibition I did for ANI-GIF and the Spheries project. These were both projects I did when I really wasn't considering my work in any larger scale. I just had the mind-set of making some fun things and exploring some areas that were new to me. For that reason the works had a lot of freedom and positivity about them and, although I think if I re-did them now they would be a lot more polished, they reflect a process I value greatly. They also kind

of directed me on the course that I'm on now and pushed me to where I am today. A big part of my artistic is influenced by the world of art and design around me, and artists I really look up to and admire such as Carl Andre, Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt. Doing what I do is great for the very simple reason that I get to do what I love. I am always surrounded by other designs, from great designers, incredible design books, or amazing art objects. There's inspiration everywhere – especially if you have a good Internet connection! However, I

do think the art world has become too controlled by collectors, advisers, and critics; people who

118 ROOMS —Why Do You Do What You Do?

understand art through price lists and auctions rather than practice and experience. It's a real shame, when artists are forced to alter their practice to prioritise commercial success, rather than realise their full potential. To me, the most important thing is that artwork should either be saying something important and/or interesting, or it should be immersive and give the audience a rewarding experience. I feel like my work

usually aims to do the latter. And thinking like that, the great thing is the opportunity for versatility and new experiences. I'm hoping 2015 will be about more physical manifestations. The will is there, but so are the obstacles of time and budget. I would love to be able to create more things that people can interact with – either objects or spaces, or both. Something immersive. I would be very surprised, however, if I don't have something tangible to my name in 2015 and that's a really exciting thought!


Interview by Kristina Jensen

A ssa A s h uac h

The Joy of Perceptive Design

One of my big values in the design process is leading the viewer to travel with their eyes. For me, it is all about perception.

Words by

Becca Thomas 120 ROOMS

escribed as a studio redefining the form and function of everyday products and furniture, London’s Assa Ashuach Studio is at the forefront of cutting edge technical design and manufacturing, credited with developing a surreal new design aesthetic since its founding in 2003. With a portfolio of works ranging from light fixtures to pens, tables, chairs, and footwear concepts, the studio is made up of a network of highly skilled specialists, bringing together a variety of disciplines to reimagine and rework commonplace items. We sat down with the eponymous Assa Ashuach to discuss the joys and complexities of creation in the digital age, from the conception of an idea to reaching actuality and everything in between.


Please talk us through the process of designing a new object. In our practice, we generally do things in two ways. The first involves consultancy: A company will come to us with a brief or an idea they are interested in exploring, and we then go on a journey with them, researching and innovating new products. We have worked with companies such as Nike, Samsung, and Panasonic, utilising digital design manufacturing and user input to bring new forms to the market. What we do is very client-specific and interactive. We use technology similar to that used in 3D printing techniques, but a little more robust; our unique position allows personalisation and user input which I call co-designing. We offer some freedom to the user. We also have our own projects; we are a semiresearch/semi-practise led studio and we play around with inventing all sorts of techniques and tools, coming up with funny new projects that we produce with our sponsors to demonstrate new ways of doing things. An example of this is our Femur Stool – it is a skeleton-like object that some people might say is a bit weird and funny looking, but it proposes big benefits for the industry. Projects like this normally go into museums and exhibitions; the Femur Stool was at the Design Museum, and it was bought for some collections. It is a discussion piece.

Femur Stool

We see a strong focus on utilitarian items in your work – chairs, tables, etc… Do you have any favourite objects? I like chairs and tables very much. A table is an object that connects and bonds people – friends, family. I think that is why I enjoy making them so much, especially round ones. You cannot hide if you sit at a round table. I also like working with lighting as well – without light, there can be no perception; there can be no life. What inspires you to create? My big inspiration is spending time with my kids, waking up late, and staying in pyjamas as long as I can. This is one of my sources of happiness. This weekend, my wife told me that she doesn’t want me to wear pyjamas after one o’clock in the afternoon! But for me, that is a sign of freedom – inspiration is a very personal thing. I also like people, we are all united in a funny way. I look at the street and the people on it, all the colour and diversity; the fact that we are all different is exciting and inspiring. Artists, and indeed anyone involved in the act of creation will portray ideas to suit a desired angle, positioning works in a way that will achieve or influence a message; please comment on the theme of perspective and angle in relation to your work. One of my big values in the design process is leading the viewer to travel with their eyes. For me, it is all about perception. It took me a while to develop the phrase ‘aesthetics is the joy of perception’; if you are walking around and see something beautiful, you might say “Oh! That’s nice!” – I wonder, why do you say that? It is like looking at a straight line, which has two points of perception. It starts at one point and ends at another. If you bend that line, you create curvature; you must follow the curve with your eyes to understand it – you must follow the surface. This brings some intellectual joy because it is an action, and you have to make an effort. It’s a bit like having breakfast cereal in the morning versus having foie gras, or something like that with a much more intense area of taste; if you drink a good wine or a good whisky, there is a lot more to explore compared to, let’s say, a salted potato crisp, which is consumed quickly and without thought – it doesn’t linger. It is about creating an object that can stand on its own, and that can inspire a sense of joy just from looking at it! 122 ROOMS

I look at the

street and the

people on it, all the colour and diversity; the

fact that we are all different

is exciting and inspiring

Floor Long Chair Osteon Chair Chair Aram

OMI Light


Your projects merge elements from engineering, technology, and art – how do these three concepts come together in your work? I would say that our practice is exactly in between these three concepts. Art is a kind of a statement, a component for the user, a form of commentary on life. Take Damien Hirst for example – his big success comes from creating objects that open up a discussion. In my work, I aim to create interdependency between the visual and physical aspects of an object. One of our new projects is a floor lounger, a red, simple surface that demonstrates a minimalistic dialogue between an object and what is usually expected of it. The Floor Long Chair is optimised; it has no redundant decorative materials or object details – it is naked. It touches the floor on only three points, which is the minimum you can ask from an object of its kind to interface with the floor. It is made up of two curves, the first running from the outside and the other from the inside – this is just enough to make if functional, allowing it to support someone sitting. We are all about combining perception and aesthetics with function. Your practise involves the use of advanced software and electronics as an integrated part of your design methodology and philosophy; can you identify some of the challenges posed by this? In virtual design, we have the concept of giving birth to an object. When working with a virtual environment, you have to use your mind as a tool – It can be difficult analysing a virtual object. It is your responsibility to create something that functions well and won’t break. We have technology that simulates physical behaviour in 3D – this is one exciting element of our work that we use to explore the ‘DNA’ of an object. We do our best to ensure that an item will come to life successfully with no faults. We want to create things that people want to live with, so we have to find a balance between incorporating ergonomics, physicality and love into our designs! What can we hope to see from you in 2015? I always have a huge amount of things on my to-do list! There are quite a few things we are working on this year; some exciting projects include a titanium pen collection that we hope will go live soon. The project involves using a process called direct metal

Loop Light

laser sintering to create an exciting collection of pens; we have different prototypes that we are working on at the moment. We are also going to design some new interactive lights. We also hope to introduce a new chair that will change the way we sit, later in the year. It is based on the 501 Chair, which puts the user in a position where they are half sitting half standing. I think the chair as we know it is an evolutionary mistake, dating back to ancient Egypt where the chair was invented a long time ago; it still looks the same all these years later! Sitting the way we do is quite unhealthy. When you stand, you do not need a backrest; you use your muscles and bones to support you. This is what we are trying to achieve – we are working on a chair that will keep you half standing, half sitting, which is a much healthier posture.

London | UK

Painting Spaceships

A Conversation with

K e vin J e nkins

Iron Man All images courtesy of ILM

of I ndustrial L i g ht & M a g ic 126 ROOMS

Pirates of the Caribbean 2

Words by

Kelly Richman


enowned for its pioneering role as a leading silver screen luminary, visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) has recently landed in London. Launched in 1975 by movie master George Lucas in San Francisco, California, ILM’s first major feat was the groundbreaking special effects featured in Star Wars. Since this galactic genesis, ILM has provided top-notch special effects for nearly 300 feature films – ranging from E.T. to Iron Man – resulting in 23 Sci-Tech awards, fifteen Oscars, and an out-of-thisworld reputation. To find out more about this legendary enterprise, we talked to Kevin Jenkins, Supervising Art Director of ILM London, about his creative background, recent projects, and changing perspectives.

Can you describe your background with art and film? Well, I’m currently Supervising Art Director at ILM here in London, and previously, I was the overall Art Director of VFX at Framestore for about five or six years. Before that, I was what you’d call an ‘environment artist’ – a matte painter, shot supervisor – doing shots on films rather that what I do now which is designing shots on films. And before that, I was a commercial illustrator doing book jackets, games, advertising work. But, the last six or seven years of my career have been focused purely on designing for movies. So, even though my background is in visual effects, I do work on set. I’m working on Star Wars currently; I worked on War Horse, and many Warner Brothers Films, Superman Returns – all sorts of things going back many years. And when you were growing up were you particularly familiar with the work of ILM? Yes, it’s the reason I started drawing for a living. I, like a lot of other eight-year-old kids, saw Star Wars and bought The Art of Star Wars and thought, “wow, Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston get paid to design Star Wars. I’d love to do that one day – get paid to paint spaceships”. But, being so far away living in London, it was, maybe, a naïve pipe dream. But it did inspire me to start doing book jackets, which was essentially the only outlet because there were no concept designers apart from Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston all through the 80s and even the 90s. It all kicked off in the last fifteen years. So, in a roundabout way, yes I did. I aimed for a very long time to get there and I now have that very job. Did joining the team change this perspective on the company at all? Or on visual effects as a whole? It didn’t necessarily change my perspective on the effects, as I had worked for a company that did very top-end Oscar-winning effects for a number of years. ILM got in contact with me, and I’d worked with Kathleen Kennedy and Rick Carter – who worked on Star Wars before – earlier. So, it was kind of a circle that became complete. As ILM’s London plans firmed up, I reconnected with some people who I had worked with. But, for me it was a chance to


wow, Ralph

McQuarrie and

Joe Johnston get paid to design Star Wars. I’d

love to do that one day – get paid to paint spaceships

work with supervisors – John Knoll and other people I hugely admired for many, many, many years – on the ILM side. As Supervising Art Director, what responsibilities do you have on both a day-today basis and on major projects? Well, we’re obviously running multiple films through ILM, so my job is sort of split up into three or four chunks. One of them is that I supervise the other Art Directors and Concept Artists under me to see if their work is what it needs to be. Another part of my job is to help with the pitching process, including early conceptual work on movies that we may be after. Another part involves me personally

Star Wars Episode 2


and literally as sort of a ‘concept artist for hire’. My desk job is designing Star Wars movies, but we also get hired out as teams to work directly for productions. We can be there on almost day one helping out with the design and the visualisation of a movie in its very early stages. Can you walk me through your creative process? Specifically, maybe using a recent film or a particular project you have worked on? It kind of depends on what the job is. For example, if I’m working on a movie in its very early conceptual phases, it literally is a blank piece of paper in the morning, a script on one side of the table, and talking to the director, the production designer, the visual effects supervisor, or whoever. You try to draw the vision of the script by getting everyone’s opinions on what they want to do. It literally is a blank piece of paper, a pencil, a pen, a magic marker, photos… and you design a movie. So, that’s one aspect to it.


Visual effects is the newest kid on the block.

The thing that I would like

to see more of is definitely happening

The other aspect to it is on the visual effects side. For example, on Guardians of the Galaxy, a film I worked on, I designed a whole sequence in the middle for the production itself – the ‘Knowhere’ sequence in the middle of the film where they’re inside this giant robotic head with spaceship races. All of the assets – the building and the city itself – went through my art department, as I directed the team on the shapes, the models, the textures, the lighting… which then gets fed back into the pipeline for people to actually execute the final reality of it. So, we’re like a guide. It’s quicker for an art director to develop the look of something than it is for a whole team of 2, 3, 400 people to model it, texture it, light it, render it, put it together. That would be a very long process. Whereas, as an Art Director, I’ll just knock a few things out in a day or so and go “it could be this, it could be this” and then we choose one of them to develop. Why do you think that the company chose Soho London? I think ILM is here in London for a couple of reasons. They’ve been looking at London for many years because of films like The Harry Potter series. There’s a massive community here in London of three or four very large companies that are all very close to each other in Soho and have been doing Harry Potter and other major films over the last few years. A number of the Oscars – including this year – that have been won have been from London.

Terminator 2

So, I think that was a kind of impetus to go for. There is a huge amount of clever people in a very small area here, and so I think the combination of that and the timing with Lucasfilm leading a new series of Star Wars films, it was just the perfect combination to kind of build one on the back of the other, or vise versa. This is clearly a very open-ended concluding question, but, as Supervising Art Director, what are your objectives for the future of the company and your department? How do you answer this question?! Visual effects is the newest kid on the block. The thing that I would like to see more of is definitely happening. Twelve years ago, I worked in an office in visual effects where you think you’re part of the film business, but really you’re kind of on the backend of it. So now, as each year goes on, I want to make sure we keep moving forward and become more involved in the filmmaking process from the very beginning to the very end – to build it up from there, really.

London | UK

Inspiration can come from anything, anywhere or anyone; it is how we choose to use these ideas that is so essential in the design world. Shapes and perspective are at the heart of design; the way the narrative of a collection unfolds is what makes it so aesthetically pleasing. ROOMS spoke to five designers, whose work has a hidden meaning, unique inspiration or precise style technique. All are at different points of their career path, but all are equally expanding into the new generation of designers.

Words by

Alyss Bowen


The Ones to Wear

Image credit: Cuboid Collection by Shimell and Madden

A n g e l





fter launching her first collection in 2014, designer Angel Chen has gone on to showcase her first Ready to wear collection SS2015, The Rite of Spring, at Shanghai Fashion Week, and is currently sponsored by Sony. Her clothes reflect her romantic spirit, and are full of energetic narrative.





I have such a young heart, this is where I draw my inspiration. My last collection, The Rite of Spring, is about a newborn baby. I’m so curious about growing up and experimenting with colour and prints, like a baby exploring the world. When I draw designs I follow my heart, that’s why the details aren’t always perfect. I imagine I’m like a baby, drawing for the first time. I never create professional drawings for my collections. I told my interns to imagine they have never drawn before, and to just go for it on this one small piece of A4 paper. Everyone’s style was so different but it created this heavily graphic piece of fluid drawings. Les Noches is about two girls who met in Africa and fell in love. They decided to get married, and my collection is the narrative of that story. It’s a beautiful, colourful wedding, because in Europe weddings are always in black and white. The characters I portrayed are four friends who came from all over the world to celebrate. Those four friends are all elements of the wedding, and they all help to celebrate a celebration of gay love and marriage.

white. East London inspires me. I lived there for five years and am so influenced by it, but I also travel a lot. China didn’t used to inspire me, but now I have time to go back and appreciate the culture it’s really motivating the way I work. I’m growing up with my customer. My designs are theatrical and playful and full of heart, like me. I want to design for young people who feel this way too. Every collection I create has a full story. My ideas come from stories, music pieces, a movie or the theatre. I’m really crazy about colour too, I want to explore detail and colour as much as I can.

I have to bring young quirky elements into my collections. My way of working with textiles is always something I have to play around with and explore. I’m more into textiles than I am into cutting; I use a loom and a knitting machine. I experiment with different textile techniques each season. For one collection I dried out flowers, and soaked them in oil to keep the vibrant colour, then lemon and organza before incorporating this into my work. The more colour I use, the happier I am. My designs reflect my character, in my first and second year of University I only worked in black and white. My tutor asked me why; as I always wore such bold colours. That comment always stuck in my mind, I know I would never want to go back and work in black and

London & Shanghai


Bunny Collection

Bunny Collection

Portrait of Monique Daniels

M oniq u e

D A N I E L s 138 ROOMS

raduating in 2013, jewellery designer Monique Daniels has gone on to produce three collections. Her style is precise with a dynamic edge, and since releasing her first collection Astro, she has been making quite a name for herself in the jewellery world.



Mathematical Jeweller

My designs are strong, precise, mathematical and bold. They are statement pieces ranging from everyday to occasion pieces. All my collections are still evolving and expanding, I still add to my first collection and draw inspiration from old ideas. There are lots of designers using geometric modern shapes, so it’s hard to stand out. I feel like I do it because of my mix of techniques and as all my collections flow they have a clear, recognizable bold style. There are designers that I love that have one geometric collection, and then the next is all about floral pieces, but that’s not what I’m about. All my designs feature repetitions of lines within octagons and triangles. The larger pieces in my collections all have eight points to them; I then take elements of these to create smaller pieces. Good design is design that you don’t notice. This may sound contradictory to everything that I do, but I feel like good design is pieces that are easy to use, and are designed for a purpose. However, in my field, form is everything and function comes secondary to that. The pieces I make have to be wearable, but aesthetic is key. Living in Mersea, Essex, by the seaside didn’t influence my style at all. It pushed me in the complete opposite direction. I get my influences from architecture and industrial structures, things that people might think are ugly. When I studied photography I took my camera to London and photographed a lot of buildings that gave me so much material that I still avert back to now for inspiration. Being based in the Goldsmith Centre in London inspires me. Even being in the building itself, surrounded by the top craftsmen of the trade motivates me to work harder. It’s definitely pushed me being here within such a creative environment. Being a part of the stepping out programme at the Goldsmith Centre opened so many doors, it was

so self-directed and a massive wake up call, but it gave me confidence. Hazael is inspired by a Hebrew name I found on my family tree. When I explored the name I stumbled across research about the King of Damascus, the Israeli king. They buried him with triangular weapons, which really sparked something in my mind. I elaborated on my original collection Astro and used the negative space of the shapes to create Hazael. It’s all very precise and structural, that negative space reflects my original research into my family tree. All three collections are linked together with the exploration of layers. I worked with more techniques when I started but haven’t dropped those ideas. When creating Astro I used laser cutting, which I don’t tend to focus on anymore. For Polyhedra I used a water check cutter, which is a different form of precision cutting, and for Hazael I used 3D printing. It’s been so interesting developing my skills and evolving as my collections expands. London | UK

Model wears Astro Ring - Image by Hanna Kristina


Model wears Polyhedra Brooch - Image by Hanna Kristina

B r oz d a


If I die today, please call me tomorrow/2014 Photo by Dmitry Bukreev

M A G D A L e na



Multidiscipline Worker

ince graduating from the Geneva University of Art and Design in 2014, Polish born Magdalena Brozda has been exploring her collaborative artistic nature. Her collection If I die today, please call me tomorrow, was voted the winner of the People’s Prize at the 2015 H&M design awards. Every time I create it becomes a personal thing. My inspirations come from everyday life, my past experiences and meeting interesting people. Death is kind of my obsession. When I was small my parents were very open-minded and if something bad happened they told me a nicer version of it. For my collection, If I die today, please call me tomorrow. I wanted to portray death in a positive way. Everything has significance in this collection; it has a real narrative, personal structure. My method of working is to explore and create videos, photos and performances. I make mood boards and dictionaries of words that are connected to my collections. It’s a very

intuitive way of working for me. I have to work in a very visual way, so I can picture what it is I am designing. It’s essential to push the limits between the art mediums, this multidiscipline way of working is very important to me. Every time I create I have to use music, films and images to explore all mediums. Living in Geneva motivates me. All my friends are musicians, artists or designers, they enthuse me every day. I even use friends as models, or people I see randomly in the street that inspire me. They have a character that professional models sometimes lack. I’m a very manual worker, one coat from If I die today, please call me tomorrow, is made entirely out of hand sewn confetti. Before this collection I had never worked with leather, it’s so stiff and heavy so I made holes in it. I wanted it to have a feeling of fragility, like lace. I had one dress, which I cut fringing in entirely by hand. It was really interesting to work, amend and explore with all the different fabrics. People tell me my work is disturbing, and that’s why it stands out. The structure and narrative of my collections means they can ask questions and visualize it. I think my artisan way of making also makes my work stand out from other designers. Ever since I was little people told me I was small and strange, and I’ve always been attracted to death in all elements of my life. I realised very young what dying meant, and that idea stayed in my head. I wanted to speak about those things in a poetic way for my latest collection. Everything in the collection has an ambience of these disturbing and ambiguous elements. Working for A.F Vandevorst and Hussein Chalayan influenced my style. They are both independent fashion houses, and Chalayan is a huge artist and designer at the same time. It wasn’t just about the clothes; it was about the whole process of designing. I was really happy working there, as he is a huge mentor to me.

Geneva| Switzerland


Photo by Dmitry Bukreev

Photo by Dmitry Bukreev




K U i



Photos by Roger Dean




Sceptical Tourist

aving just graduated in 2015 from London College of Fashion, Ka Kui Cheng is at the start of his fashion journey. His collection expands on the stereotypical obliviousness we all possess when travelling abroad, but choose to ignore.


Tourist unawareness influenced my final collection. Reading about tourists and their behaviour was a starting point for my work. I wanted to challenge how much we know about the destinations we visit. We all buy stereotypical souvenirs when we visit countries, but this doesn’t mean we know about the history and culture of the holiday destination. I bought six ‘I love New York’ t-shirts when I first went to New York. It was so cliché, but if you asked me back then all I knew was that it was a metropolitan city. As I grew up I started to read more about the destinations I went to, it made me realise what I should and shouldn’t do when I visited countries.

Tourist ignorance really disturbs me, and I felt it needed to be explored. I went to Zen garden in Japan, which is a really peaceful, beautiful space and there was a man talking really loudly on the phone. This personal observation was so troubling, I felt like I could send a message about this through my collection. Each outfit represents a cliché element of a city. There are nine outfits, and each colour of the outfit is based on the flag of that country. I used vibrant colours, as I didn’t want it to look like a uniform. I wanted the collection to look fun, youthful and be accessible. It’s interesting to me how fashion can be both an art, and a business. It is an art, but in general it’s not so much about art to me. As a fashion designer you have to work out what the customer wants and plan a strategy for your work. Fashion is definitely a very fascinating thing to me. The graphics on my designs are based on a survey. I conducted a survey with a list of countries and asked what first came to people’s minds when they saw that country. The graphics on my designs are those stereotypical elements that people thought of, all are hand drawn by me. My collection shapes aren’t complex; I wanted them to be wearable pieces. They aren’t tight fitted pieces; all of my designs could be worn everyday. I wanted the designs to be trend orientated and accessible to the public. There are two sides to me, one is black and white and the other is very colourful. When I first started my MA course I was quite minimal and didn’t explore prints and colour, but then I started experimenting with these elements. The collection is inspired by London and how vibrant the fashion world is here. I would like to work for a high fashion label first. I need to gain more experience in London; I don’t feel like starting my own label straight away, as there are lots of aspects I need to learn about.

London | UK


S him e ll & M a d d e n

Key – Photo by Emma Dalzell



technically advanced, which is useful when we are deciding how to physicaly make the collections.

We explore themes of science, nature and time in our work. Science comes into the making and design, the processes and techniques we use involve chemicals and their reactions, plus we work with elements, minerals and metals. Mathematics as the ‘writing of science’, is used practically as part of the design process, but also as we love geometric shapes. Lastly, the science of nature influences us; things like sacred geometry and the incredible way things grow. Time comes from our interest in horology, Victorian machinery, which adds a particular aesthetic to our work.

All our collections link to each other as a body of work. They are all created using geometric structures that are inferred in many different ways through our collections. Our fashion ranges, like Cuboid, are quite young and fresh, whereas our fine collections, like Symmetry has an ancient feel to it.


Dynamic Duo

himell and Madden are a design team, made up of Emma Madden and Luke Shimell. Creating jewellery together since 2010, they have exhibited their pieces at the Saatchi Gallery, the prestigious Goldsmith’s Fair and have a mutual love for science.

We have a joint love of science, which inspired the collection Cuboid. We discovered that the cuboid shape was really strong when represented. The collection is created as symbols, looking at perspective and how we describe space two dimensionally. We are currently caught up in circles. They are the main shape in our latest collections, Symmetry and Orb. The way they are structured is what makes them so interesting to work with. The six-circle ring is our signature piece. It captures the intricacy of our work, the structure, and shape and, although it’s a statement piece, it could also be worn every day. Our work occupies craft, art and fashion. We hand make our jewellery like sculpture, exhibit it at galleries and they can be worn as fashion pieces. These disciplines should never be separate in design.

We love what we do. Jewellery design is most importantly to us about doing what we love, creating and making. We had both been working in the jewellery industry for some time before we started our business but had a lot of knowledge about gemstones and metals, which always appear in our work. We always wanted to make interesting, contemporary fine jewellery.

The buzz of London stimulates us. It makes us work faster and really increases our productivity. Being around other creative people pushes us to seek out new innovative ideas. We both come from different creative backgrounds, but we work together to design and make the work. I come from a creative background, which helps when formulating designs. Luke is more

London | UK


Centric Collection Fine Collection Six Circle Ring ORB Collection

The Man Who Walked on The Soft Moon

L uis Vas q u e z

Photo by Dennis Shoenberg

Words by

Josephine Platt 154 ROOMS

reative mastermind Luis Vasquez, front man of the Californian, Neo-Post Punk band The Soft Moon, opens up to discuss fighting inner demons, battling depression and moving into the next phase of adulthood with his new album Deeper.


Fusing the genres of Krautrock, Synthpunk and Psychedelia, Vasquez explains how his “medicinal music” is the only means to survival, answering questions about existence and providing a journey of self-discovery. Comparing writing songs to working with a psychiatrist, Vasquez reflects on the influence of his surroundings, the moments of solitude and relying solely on himself for inspiration for Deeper released on March 30th via Captured Tracks.

Tell us a bit about your background. We know you grew up in the Mojave Desert; how does your heritage contribute to the soundscapes you produce? In the beginning I was unaware of how much my surroundings influenced my music. It was made present in my mind when I took a road trip back to the desert after living in Oakland for a while. As soon as I arrived to the desert with still about an hour more to go to reach my destination I purposely listened to my first album to see what it felt like. I started realizing how subconsciously I mimicked my past surroundings through sound. Within my music I always tend to create a layer of atmospheric white noise which represents the constant heavy wind I experienced living in the Mojave. Much of the terrain was flat and ever-going which influenced my rhythm patterns, so as to create a sense of infinity. Ragged ominous mountains would surround the distant terrain creating a sense of claustrophobia which added to the anxiety within all my music. As far as my heritage goes and how it contributes, my family is from Cuba and I believe that alone is why I was driven to write music as a way of selfexpression originally – Cuba being one of the origins of music as a primal expression. Cubans are born with a strong connection to music. It’s in the blood.

I'm not scared

to be completely human within

The Soft Moon

The initial meaning of The Soft Moon was to go back to your past to learn more about your childhood. What did you need to explore? I needed to find out why I felt the way I felt as an adult. Why do I consider myself such an outsider, why I see the world differently, why I was always fighting inner demons, and battling depression. The only way was to use music as a tool for self-discovery and to answer questions I had about my existence. I needed to go back in time and start from the beginning. My songs have a way of revealing information about myself. I guess in a way it’s like working with a psychiatrist. When I write music I’m asking questions and the final result helps me learn. We hear a lot of aggression in your music, is this an attribute of personal experiences? I’m frustrated at times with life itself. For me living is exhausting and wears me down. I’ve always struggled with accepting who I am all my life and when

a feeling of only us existing in

the world at that moment

I try to better myself I make things worse. Sometimes I wish it would all just stop, but as long as I’m alive I will fight. In order to release anger I need to express it sometimes. I give everything of who I am with my music and I’m not scared to be completely human within The Soft Moon. It’s part of the journey. Just when I think I’m getting closer to reaching inner peace I realize I still have quite a way to go. Perhaps I will answer a question like this differently in the future. As your sounds change with your environment and experiences. How did your relocation to Venice in 2013 alter your perspective towards life and subsequently the approach towards the new album? 156 ROOMS

I could be inspired by anything art-wise as long as I feel it has a connection to my music. I go with whatever feels right. In regards to the cover artwork for Deeper I wanted to create something that was literal yet metaphorical at the same time. The layers of ripped paper are intended to create a sense of the pain I feel when going further and further inward in order to find out who I am. The remanence of paper expresses that there are still problems left behind that I have yet to conquer. If I were to reach ultimate closure all the layers would have been peeled away revealing clarity and peace. In terms of visuals accompanying live shows I feel it’s more impactful for the audience when completely enveloped by the stimulation of all senses. I like to create a feeling of only us existing in the world at that moment.

Venice | Italy

Photo by Dennis Shoenberg

I like to create

All I knew before starting the writing process of Deeper is that I wanted to be in an unfamiliar environment, this way I could rely solely on myself for all the inspiration. I wanted to use everything I had learned and experienced as a human being up until this point. I needed complete solitude to do what I want, be as honest as possible, and feel uninhibited throughout the process. I constantly get trapped in feeling numb about everything, so living abroad gave me a sense of feeling alive. The only means of survival was through my music. I could’ve closed my eyes and pointed anywhere on a map choosing a place to live and write Deeper but somehow it ended up being Venice, Italy. I’m just going where life takes me. What is the biggest difference in the sounds of Zeros and Deeper? How did the circumstances of the writing processes affect the sounds? Deeper is a result of entering true adulthood for me. I’ve understood more about myself as I’ve evolved throughout the years. There’s more confidence within Deeper than that of Zeros. In the past I struggled with not knowing why I felt certain ways so I was dealing with more frustration back then than I do now. I guess I’ve matured? I have less fear expressing who I truly am and accepting myself more. That’s where I was during the creation of Deeper. I’ve come to realize that I shouldn’t worry so much what people expect from me and that I need to be driven by my own personal expectations in order to fulfill my life. How would you describe the genre of music you produce? The words euphoric, atmospheric, gothic and eerie have been used in the past to describe the sounds you create. Rather than a genre I would say that my music is a sonic autobiography, a journal, or documentary of my feelings, life and thoughts. It’s an exploration of oneself in order to achieve answers of existence. For me it’s medicinal music. With your background in graphic design, visuals are important elements that accompany The Soft Moon. What are the ideas behind the art on your album covers and the light shows on stage? What has inspired you?

Humour Resources


Suzanne Zhang

All images courtesy of the artist

O laf B r e unin g

Words by



wiss-born, New York based artist Olaf Breuning has a knack for creating stories out of nothing. Photographer, sculptor, designer, filmmaker and artist, he embraces every medium in a way that is simple and meaningful. Under the pretence of light-heartedness, he plays with everyday objects and gives them a new life – more importantly, he makes them stare back at you, right in between the eyes. Breuning’s work, from fake lemonpigs to cloud installations and collages, is playful, at times absurd, but always inviting, and always manages to shift our perspectives on what it means to be an artist in this industry. Almost compulsive in his attention to detail and very tongue-in-cheek in its content, Breuning’s work is a colourful exploration of his own visual language, which he has spent decades crafting and working around. Colourful and rich in playfulness, his work possesses nonetheless a chilling aspect that reminds you of your imaginary childhood creatures and monsters – only this time, they’re inviting you for a cup of tea and you really want to go. At ROOMS, we certainly did.

Hi Olaf! How did everything start for you? It started a long time ago when I was 17 years old. My father gave me a camera, and I just started taking photographs obsessively. It developed and I studied photography in art schools in Switzerland, after which I was sure I wanted to be an artist. A few years later I moved to New York, and 15 years later, I’m still here. Did you go there with the idea that it was the place to be for an artist? Not at all. I won a few scholarships, so I came here and had a studio and some funds. I remember asking myself if I really wanted to go to New York, but I came, I loved it and I stayed. At the time, I more or less already had international connections with galleries, so in a way I never had to be one of New York’s struggling artists trying to make it. Were your parents from the creative world too? Not artists but creative. My father makes music and was a graphic designer; my mother used to do a lot of

the world is a colourful place and I

want to react to it in many

different ways


handcrafted stuff, so who I am definitely came out of my environment. I never had to hear the sadness of ‘you have to be a doctor, or banker’. I love what you do in your sculptures, especially the piece with the fake lemonpigs, all lined up, climbing up the ladder and killing themselves. It looks like they’re really moving! Ah, yes. I created the lemonpigs out of styrofoam for Parkett Magazine. They’re very light, and it’s very cute. At the time, I simply glued them together, and gave about a hundred pigs to them. They would call me to complain, saying: “Olaf, these lemonpigs are just falling apart”! I was so pissed off about those lemonpigs… So I said fuck it, I’ll just do an installation with them. The pigs running and killing themselves was kind of a normal reaction to this then. In the end, the pigs of the installation went back to the magazine, and they are probably still falling apart. When I saw the pictures I thought it was made from lemons and was very confused at the scale of it… It’s a big lemon yes, but it’s fake. I did really like this installation, especially since it’s a simple message. I try to keep it simple. It’s weird. That piece is also very funny. Is humour an important aspect of your work? Do you think it can be an effective artistic tactic? Yes, for myself, humour is an essential thing. Without it, I don’t feel comfortable. Humour is also about playing on a very thin line, it depends how you use it. I try to find this line in my work. As for an effective artistic tactic, yes! Look at Woody Allen for example. He’s a master in the way he speaks of the tragedy of life. I believe that humour is a very intellectual language too. It’s mostly humans who smile… Do cats smile? I’ve seen pictures of cats smiling! Well they just look like they are smiling! To understand a smile, to understand humour, there has to be an intellectual process going on. It’s often underrated, some people think humour is stupid but I believe that there’s very smart humour around. Do you consider yourself a funny person? Yeah, sometimes. But I’m also serious. I mean life is a fucking tragedy, and I think humour is a way of going against it. What’s a good piece of art? When I can feel the intensity of the artist’s voice. When I see the artist behind. I look at an art piece

and I want to see the artist, the person behind it, I want to ask myself why someone in 2015 is doing this and that and this… what is relevant for this person? What is this person thinking about? That’s important. To a certain degree, your work has childlike aesthetics, which brings me to think that it must be extremely hard for an adult to revert back to that kind of stage and produce such art, no? At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what you do as an artist – I think the most important thing in my case is that I try to stay true to my language, and maybe you’re right, it has an aspect of ‘playfulness’ in it. I would also say that there are different spectrums within my work, very childish but also more adult. Not everything I do is funny. I don’t want to be a child, most of the things I do in my practice come out automatically from my gut, and as an artist it’s what guides me.


It’s effective in some way because you use this playfulness, which makes people connect immediately, and at the same time you also ask and explore issues that are not so simple. Like the one where birds spell out Why can you not be nice with nature? It’s questions I want to ask myself. For example, this photograph is about how we treat nature, and the birds are aligned in this strange configuration… it’s a good example of the humour we talked about earlier – not that serious but still asking a serious question. Does your art seek answers or does it ask questions? I like to produce art that changes and develops depending on whoever is looking at it. I never want to produce an art piece that remains finished, I want something that opens doors to endless questions. You use so many different mediums, does it come easily for you? Yes, very easy. There is only one medium I cannot conquer: painting! I cannot do it. I’ve been trying to paint on this canvas in my studio for two years, and I cannot do it. I do a lot of paint-related work with photos, and I did a huge painting last year for a museum, a 30 meter big canvas where people could come and paint… I do things like that, but I guess it’s not in my nature to paint. How does the medium inform the content of your work? The reason why I use so many mediums is simply because the world is a colourful place and I want to react to it in many different ways. I love the piece you did called Complaining forest, but why is the forest complaining? Nature is very quiet, violent, but also efficient – trees grow and die. Humans seem to complain a lot, nature never does. I went to this forest in Denmark, and thought, “what would nature say if it had a voice?” In my head the forest started complaining. Last year I created a similar photo, but completely different, in Israel. There was a wall, built by human beings, it was celebrated through religion and there were bushes. So I aligned the bushes to say “Oh my god”. The discussion between humans and nature is an ongoing one. What inspires you? Honestly? Life and people around me. For instance, at the moment I think we are oversaturated with creativity, language, communication, daily business and emails… whatever it is. We all share that

It’s part of our culture to be creative

feeling. So I want to talk about that in my work for example. That motivates me to think about what these issues mean, and I try to transform them into my own language. Was the emoji piece born out of this? That was just something funny. I just thought I had to do something with emojis. A lot of artists I know direct their art specifically to an academic crowd of people, and that was never my intention. I was always creating art for everyone and I want to keep it that way. I want to be more an average man than an art freak. I like what you just said about the art crowds, as most contemporary art is created by an élite for an élite. By doing that you obviously create different audiences, which leads to the absurd distinction between high art and low art. I believe this border will disappear, simply because creativity has no more borders. Instagram is the


best example, you don’t need to spend five years at photography school to be smart about images anymore. Everyone realises they can teach themselves how to be smart with images, and this is the best example that creativity is everywhere. It’s part of our culture to be creative. Some of your work is located outside, like in parks. Does the fact that it’s not in a gallery change anything for you? Like the clouds for example? These works gain new meanings – is that important? I don’t care if my work is in a gallery or not, I could put it on the moon, I wouldn’t give a shit, as long as I see myself in my work. I like the idea that the landscape today is so different, that as an artist I can have stuff in a gallery, on the street, in magazines; I love this versatility. After you’ve had a few shows and exhibitions, what is one more extra White Cube? Sometimes it’s easier to react to other places. I still like showing my work in galleries and museums, it’s still an honour to have shows there. You draw a lot right? Do you do it when the inspiration comes or do you take time to do it? Every morning, I go to the same restaurant in New York, Balthazar, where I make small drawings. After a while, I sit down and look at them again. If there’s a good one, I recreate it on a bigger scale. I have two drawing catalogues out already, Queen Mary 1 and Queen Mary 2, both contain drawings I created while I was on the Queen Mary boat from New York to England. I’m compiling some drawings now for the new catalogue. Is creativity something we can train and get better at? Yes, definitely, like everything we do. We work a lot, and then we get better. What you can never learn though, is the language of creativity.




' s

Abigail Yue Wang

P L A Y M O B I L Art of Play

Words by

Woman 1976 and 2013

LAYMOBIL’s miniature empire is one of colours and scale. With meticulously thought out details and diverse model sets, it takes more than a high spirit to engineer durable 7.5cm tall figures that have been taking over Europe’s playrooms for four decades. Uwe Reuter, the company’s head of Research and Development Department, gives us insights on the creative engineering behind the art of play.


PLAYMOBIL has made a big leap over the last 41 years from just three characters to the hundreds available today. Apart from the expanding variations, including more than 3,600 different versions of the figures, what do you think has changed the most in PLAYMOBIL’s design? Everything! From the hairstyles to the clothing of the figures, they are more and more detailed. Plastics engineering has improved over the last four decades as well, of course. Today we have many more options to design our PLAYMOBIL toys in detail. For example, we can now use a sophisticated printing method to produce our designs. The themes and models are being constantly updated. How does this maintained cultural relevance interact with the changing world and more importantly our changing values? We always try to reflect real life and children’s environments with our themes, models and designs. PLAYMOBIL is all about role-playing, therefore it is essential that children are able to re-enact their everyday life with our toys. As the world is constantly changing, the PLAYMOBIL world is changing too. There is a direct link between our environment, which is getting more and more complex, and the differentiation of our PLAYMOBIL figures and toys. Comparing the oil crisis in 1973, which propelled the company’s start up, with today’s oil deficiency, what advantage do you think PLAYMOBIL has in terms of its use of plastic? Plastic is a very flexible material, which offers us a lot of possibilities to bring our specific design ideas into being. This refers to the functionality of our PLAYMOBIL toys as well as to the unique look and style of our brand.

PLAYMOBIL’s sustainability is also indicated, in that, its models and figures do not use electronic features, such as batteries, to animate children’s imagination. How do you think this has helped the longevity of the toys? This is a crucial point for our brand, of course. We think one reason for the continuing success of PLAYMOBIL is that role-playing is a timeless concept, which will work as long as children are able to use their imagination in play. Two PLAYMOBIL figures are enough for creating never-ending stories. That’s why PLAYMOBIL toys are often handed down from one generation to the next. Out of the colourful design and meticulous details, how are playability and creative learning combined for children? The PLAYMOBIL figure, with its size of 7.5 cm, is designed to fit perfectly in children’s hands. Playing with PLAYMOBIL is not

one reason for

the continuing success of PLAYMOBIL is that

role-playing is a timeless concept

only fun, but also helps to improve children’s cognitive, social, emotional and motor skills. We think that’s a good mix. Do you come across adults who also enjoy and invest in PLAYMOBIL as collectibles? Yes, indeed adult PLAYMOBIL fans are a growing community. Adults, who played with PLAYMOBIL during their childhood in the 70s, 80s and 90s, are often still fond of our toys. We even run a special online community platform for them: The International PLAYMOBIL Collectors Club.

How many pieces are there to assemble the most complex figures? We have produced more than 2.8 billion PLAYMOBIL figures since 1974. I really can’t tell you, which one was the most complex one. Our basic figure – without any accessories – is composed of seven individual parts. A knight, a Native American and a construction worker in 1974, since then more characters have been introduced such as babies, females, pirates, pregnant women and much more. How does the variety of characters help children to self-identify and find their own voices? In the world of PLAYMOBIL children can become who and whatever they like. It’s one of the big advantages of imaginative play, that children are free to choose and change roles unimpeded. That’s how they learn to empathise with different characters and of course also to find their own voice in play.

You have initiated 3D animations, online games and theme parks within the PLAYMOBIL world. What would be the next step to further push the envelope? That’s a big secret, of course!

Birthday Photo 600 characters


Zirndorf | Germany

Authorship Photography Words by


arpenter, artist, dog lover and professor; these are just a few of the many facets of Swiss artist Lukas Wassmann, whose crisp and clear photographs take us on a revisited tour of the power of simplicity. Wassmann, who started his career as a carpenter, is now a renowned photographer who also teaches within the photography department of ECAL, the University of Art and Design in Lausanne, Switzerland. What becomes immediately apparent in Wassmann’s work is the playfulness of the subjects and his ability to attract us to his photographs: it’s clear in their style and content that Wassmann is really having fun. The artist’s character is just like his visual style: honest and humorous. Wassmann talks about issues such as art school and his students with a crushing honesty that is refreshing – just like his photographs, it’s a breath of clean air. ROOMS sat down to talk to him about dog show awards, giant wooden penises, and of course, camera work. Lukas, the first photo on your website is of a man driving a truck with a giant wooden penis on it. What’s all that about? My friend saw a big piece of wood in the forest and asked me if I wanted it, so I said yes. He cut it down for me, and I made this out of it. I took photographs of it in my studio, then Fredi Fischli, a curator, came around; we had fun with it and this picture came


together. Then I burnt the sculpture, so it’s gone now. I think it’s a funny thing to photograph a sculpture that is in movement – we were transporting it in this picture, and I also like the idea that this photo is the only existing evidence of it existence. Didn’t anyone want to keep the sculpture? Use it as a coat hanger? [Laughs] I didn’t put it on the market. Also, where do you store a giant wooden penis? I destroyed it because I’m also very fond of the idea that some things only exist in photographs, and that I get to decide how to look at them.

All images courtesy of the artist

Suzanne Zhang

L ukas W assmann


You used to work as a carpenter, before suddenly going into photography. What was this shift about? I worked as a carpenter in Switzerland for three and a half years and at the time I was mostly building roofs. I was always interested in good architecture, but during my carpentry apprenticeship I was building a lot of ugly houses – I wanted to build something which I actually liked. I’ve always taken pictures, of my friends, of myself, and I always had a little darkroom. My brother put me in touch with a photographer from Milan, and I started working for him as an assistant. He taught me a lot of technical things about photography. After three years of assisting for various photographers, I realised I didn’t want to spend my life as an assistant, so I went to study photography in Berlin. My final project there was a walk from Zurich to Berlin, in a straight line. That was my first artistic work; I walked 830km in a straight line. I took a map and traced a line between the cities.


How did your experience as a carpenter influence your practice? Both are about craft… I’m very handy. [Laughs] I think that helps. You went from having photography jobs to studying it, when usually it’s the latter first. How was that? During my studies, they were always saying, “Do you want to be an artist or someone else?” And I always said I wanted to come to the point where I could do everything – jobs to earn money and art for fun. My goal was always to create an atmosphere in which I could experience everything. You grew up in Switzerland, which is known for its clean design. Is this environment something that shaped your style? Is there an inherent Swiss identity when it comes to art? I don’t think so. Of course, there are many great Swiss artists

whom I admire, but when you walk around here you see nice things just like you see ugly things. As for the environment, the things around you definitely form you. I grew up with parents who enjoyed furniture, we were not rich or anything but they were always interested in design and architecture. I think you have a style that’s very crisp and pure, but contains a lot. What does being a good photographer mean to you? I think I also have a pretty straightforward style, a lot of my images are centred or have to do with the object itself and not the feeling about it. I’m trying not to have too much of a style. I’m always trying to open the universe I’m in. What you do as a photographer is running around, putting frames around things… You get to decide what is important or not for a picture. Other times, being a photographer is all about being pragmatic, if it’s too dark you need the flash, or if it’s bright sunlight you need to work with that, or sometimes you

have a kind of sunlight that creates a little shadow corner and you could put a teacup there and it would just look fantastic. Being a good photographer is a mixture of these feels, of what you do with your little frame, what the object and light are. Photography is all about framing a specific perception; it’s always a certain representation of reality – do you think about this a lot? Yes, and I absolutely like playing with this. There is a certain performance behind the photograph that will also influence what the photo will look like. I can’t say I’ve figured out what makes a good image work. Also, with analogue photography, you are always surprised by the selection. What’s important in a photo? The first look and what gives you the first look when you see a photograph. Sometimes it can be that you search for it, or that you immediately understand it, laugh at it, or you get an erection or whatever… but the first look is important. What’s your creative process? A lot of instinct. Usually I go into a shoot and I know what shot I want, or I walk onto it accidentally. Or I create something, and then something completely different emerges. Most of the time you know it’s right, but obviously, you know much more when it’s wrong. Not long ago, you said, “I have too much creative freedom everyday”, and that you liked having clear tasks and instructions… Yes, it’s so nice sometimes. It’s probably also part of why I’m not an artist in the original sense of the word, I wouldn’t know what to do everyday. I love the picture you took of the dog and the glass table on him; can you tell me more about? It’s my dog, and you can do anything with him! I trained him for three years – he’s a hunter dog and we go hunting together so he needs to be well trained. Recently, we went to Slovenia and I took a picture of him holding an axe. It was so heavy and I was a little bit scared he was going to drop it, but I took the axe back after a minute and he was fine. I also use my dog in professional shoots. I’m working on an assignment for luxury products, and I will be using him. My clients specifically asked me to use the dog! I always joke that he has to make his own money. Last year he won ‘prettiest dog’ of his breed!


What about the picture of Fabian Marti? The one in the snow? He’s a very good friend of mine, we studied together. We had a house in Appenzell where we used to go and chop wood, do the usual boy stuff… a bromance really. I just took photos in between. You love burning things! [Laughs] I do! These were the small branches, the leftovers… You couldn’t do anything else with them. I love a nice big fire. You have a list of very impressive clients, ranging from I-D to L’Officiel, Dior and Adidas. Do you still retain a lot of creative freedom when working with such names? It depends… but the things you see on my website are the things I like or am okay with. Do you still get nervous before a job? Of course! What do you think? I’m dying the night before – no sleep and sweating! I go to meetings sweating my ass off. I just say I’ll do my best and hope that everything comes out

fine. I’m lucky I haven’t fucked up anything yet. But I also like the high from it. The adrenaline. You also teach on the MA in Art Direction at ECAL, the prestigious art school in Switzerland. If you could boil down your teaching into three things, what would these be? Tiring, sometimes frustrating, sometimes inspiring. I do enjoy teaching, but sometimes it’s a challenge for me because I’m not very theoretical, but I have a lot to say when it comes to discussing students’ work, and I have an opinion on almost everything. It’s frustrating when you tell the students to look at something and come back with new work in a month, and nothing comes out…. But I guess it’s always like that. At times, I just miss people who really want it, like I have a feeling that sometimes students don’t put that much into it, they don’t really want it. They’re just there because they happen to be. It’s a general comment on young artists and art schools.

Do you think it’s easier now for young artists to pierce through the art world? How much good art do you see from young artists? Quite a lot. But mostly it stays there and that’s it. I think a lot of young art is presented in a certain context, which only allows it to be good art in that very same context… But you agree that in certain things, you’re missing something. Out of 50 artworks I see, there will be 30 pieces in which there is no real craftsmanship that comes from trying, learning and practicing. I try not to look at it too much next to the studying and teaching; I have my books, the Internet… I go to shows sometimes but I’m not the kind of guy who goes to every opening and has to see everything – that disturbs me. I don’t think you can stay objective when you are constantly bombarded by what other people do. Is overexposure to Art clouding our judgement? Absolutely. That’s another thing I see in the students. They think that everything has been done, that there’s so much out there that is well done. Do you think the art world/photography can still remain innovative? Of course it can be. It probably has to do with authorship. You create your own world and this is the one you show, and some people are interested. That’s the innovative part of it I think. You also work a lot with landscapes and nature right? Do you prefer this to shooting people? I need urban life and I need country life. I couldn’t say I prefer photographing landscapes, I would get bored. What are you working on at the moment? I just installed a new working space where I have all my machines so I will be working there. I have some new projects with new clients. I’m also designing skateboards and bed sheets! Oh, and I’m going to Marseille with my students soon for a class trip.

Lausanne | Switzerland


Boundless Architecture

Flussbad project All Images Courtesy of realities:UNited


r e a l i t i e s : u n i t e d

Words by

Nate Jixin Zhang

ur propensity to associate beauty with art is precisely what obstructs the understanding of Jan Edler’s works. The stunning façade on the exterior of Kunsthaus Graz Art Museum in Austria, although developed in an advanced stage in the building of Kunsthaus, seamlessly tattoos itself onto Peter Cook’s Blobitecture or what he calls the Friendly Alien. The self-mutating tattoo on the Kunsthaus Graz a.k.a BIX facade set off a stream of similar projects across the globe by brothers Tim and Jan Edler’s studio realities:united (realU). I spoke to Jan in hopes of being presented with an easy way to understand what I could be looking for in their extensive works of art and architecture. There is no best way or easy way. The difficulty lies in the glitch between authorship and readership as well as the enigmatic signature they implant onto existing forms. What Jan and Tim have given to their works, be it installations, facades or conceptual designs, is not to be consumed in isolated realms or a unified coherent genre, it is rather the regenerating DNA that they formulate into their designs which excites, worries, purges and confuses. Like the definition on the muscular torso of an athlete, it shares the soul of its host in the circumscribed and parasitic relationship, but it can often take on unexpected forms to effortlessly convey meanings.


Take the Big Vortex for example. It sits like a parked spaceship on the outskirts of Copenhagen and blows up smoke-rings periodically. If you are wired in the way that allows you to think scientifically, this is the most efficient waste-to-energy plant that earned realU the top prize at international competition, and video tutorials on how this works are accessible for the average mind. realU however, are not made up of average minds. The Flussbad project which propels conversion of part of Berlin’s Spree river into a natural swimming pool was definitely not dreamed up out of average minds – at least not the minds that easily give up, considering it was first proposed in the mid 90s. With four years on their clock before it swings into full motion, realU have plenty of established projects for their admirers to dwell on. Their primary works in architecture and design breathe life into the foundations, not only extending the architectural selves but also the imaginations they conjure up. Here we present the highlights of our interview with Jan Edler, Co-founder of realities:united. Could you tell us about your motivations at the beginning and how they have evolved? We were both fascinated by the same field of technology for expanding the notion of what architecture could be. realities:united was trying to be the special hub to connect different realities in the field of generating space. At the time it was very nerdy as it was driven by the interest in technology. The projects are using different media, they are working in different environments and they were born with very different motivations and backgrounds of different scales, all trying to stretch what architecture is and how architecture is produced. What do you think about the idea that sees your works as communicators? The facades and the Big Vortex projects are different in nature, both communicating with the city but the façades are more or less extensions of architecture, so architecture in a way is always about communicating with the exterior or the context. The



architecture in a way is

always about

communicating with the

exterior or

the context

1 Sender 2 Photo by Bearb Jan 3 C4 – Credit Nieto Sobejano CORDOBA – Photo by Roland Halbe


idea to include digital dynamic façades does not mean this is getting any better, but offer one possibility to look into architecture having the possibility to change. How do you identify your works and who you are? We have been fighting with that reality for long enough now, and nowadays I get more and more relaxed because I have the feeling that I am happy with the kind of work we can do and we are allowed to do, and we have given up on trying to label it in a clear way – because labelling creates a lot of problems. First of all in the world of architecture, big architects are very old fashioned in their understanding of how offices should work. They still have the understanding that there’s the architect, and number of consultants. On the other hand the art world is very enclosed; you are only really becoming a member of the art industry when you have an art space or gallery and you do everything that artists

we try to work in

reality to

move things

are supposed to do. I would say that we try to work in reality to move things. Of course the Big Vortex project is a reaction to reality but we see potential to make things better. What can the UK learn from Germany about getting people excited about architecture? Now I’m a bit surprised because you are saying Germany has so many great architects. I think you are right that there are many German architects who are very successful and have built and so on. It’s not a big difference to Great Britain. I have studied in London at the Bartlett School. My reaction was obviously the other way around. The British they are really cool, they have all these young people who do stuff and they are allowed to do stuff. I always found it much more liberal than Germany. So I am not sure that there’s such difference. How do you like Berlin? I have been living in Berlin since 1996, so I moved to Berlin after the wall came down, which was clearly a point in history where there were a lot of open gaps, potential buildings under development. If you look at the potential that Berlin had, there was so much room and space to develop buildings which were needed; if you look at the result, it does not precisely give you the image that there’s a lot of innovation going around. A lot of the projects are very investor driven, very normal architecture. I’m not talking about the belief that every building has to be superspecial, but there are so few really exciting projects happening in Berlin and that’s surprising for me regarding the space we had in the last 25 years.


Times Square, Leicester Square and Tokyo are known for inserting big screens onto their buildings. What are your thoughts on that? And how do your works differ? The screens on Leicester Square they are very transparent and easy to understand. You know the motivation behind it. That motivation is basically to generate money or to transpose modernity. That’s something by the way we have noticed a lot in Asia, people think about including stuff like that in their buildings, only in order to have the sense that the building or the project that they are developing are up to date – and they are modern but some don’t even generate income with it. The exclusive possibility of Graz for the first time to actually create a dynamic façade would not be under the pressure of generating money for the purpose of refinancing it. It’s only there to experiment with the possibility of what an institution like the Graz has to

communicate to the city as an organization dealing with art. We don’t know how dynamic architectures behave. In that sense all of the projects that we do in that sphere are very much intrigued in dealing with this idea of communication in the city context. What are you excited about now? Flussbad. The river project was presented to the public for the first time in 1998. It was like a hobby. The city was not ready for it. Two years ago we started to implement non-profit association, trying to make it a project not only for Berlin but by Berliners to encourage the groups that are fighting for the project. We received public funding last year which enables us to fully develop the project for the next four years. This is also a project on the limit of architecture.

Berlin | Germany

BIX / Kunsthaus Graz, 2003 – Photo by Paul Ott

Words by

Abigail Yue Wang



ebecca Ross observes, examines, and writes on images/media/data, within and about cities and how they play an active role in our urban lives. Besides teaching and designing, her research is concerned with relationships between mass culture and expert interventions in the built environment. One of her recent survey projects London Is Changing on the capital’s housing crisis derives from such interest in cultivating public dialogues about urban planning policies. What is in pressing need is a more nuanced discussion on shaping cities by those who reside in and cherish them. Since the urban survey project London Is Changing started, what has been the most prevalent response so far? I didn’t want it to be a project where I told people what to think. I knew I was likely to get responses from working or middle class who are having trouble affording to stay in town. But demographically, if you look at the statistics, the population in London is actually increasing. More people who are leaving responded to the project than those newly arrived in London. There is a bias in the project, people who have been here for a while are more plugged in to local networks here. The project went out through London-based university networks as well as arts and community groups. The project did not reach the newly arrived as easily because they might not yet be as plugged into London area networks. Le Corbusier once argued that, metropolitan cities are built for profit, not for the pleasure of living. This is becoming increasingly palpable in London, but do you think it’s also a global struggle for other major cities? It’s hard to make generalizations, but during the project London Is Changing where we had 3,300 people submitting their own stories on the topic, there’s a wide range of testimonies, in which a lot of people have foregrounded that they feel London is becoming economically optimized for people of more means and those of less means are becoming excluded from cultural opportunities. I’m originally from New York and informally I hear similar things from family, friends and email responses. That is something happening all over the world. Every city has its own policy environment and cultural particulars – it’s happening in different ways in different environments. However the messages on the London Is Changing billboards do seem to be

Why is London Changing?

R e b e cca Ross

I’d be interested in new forms of public engagement with city-wide planning policies. I think that’s a key issue. We need a better, more honest and public conversation about the future of cities.

Rebecca Ross – Photo by Dave Hendley

resonating with people around the world. You’re also involved in an extensive research project on “how images influence urban change and perceptions of place”. Yes, Picturing Place is a project I work in collaboration with Ben Campkin at University College London and Mariana Mogilevich at Princeton University. We’ve developed instruments for looking at how different kinds of images play an active role in cities. These range from professional plans to street art to maps to signs. We are interested in how these images can form a discourse and have an impact on the built environment. One image that is a touch point for us is a famous photograph of the Pruitt-Igoe tower blocks in St Louis being demolished. It’s an image often included in architectural history for training new architects. It is often presented as a symbol of the end of modernism, but there’s a lot more behind the story of why the Pruitt-Igoe blocks were demolished than simple environmental determinism. So we are interested in 194 ROOMS

I don’t think the average person is in

touch with

the way the city-wide

policies are

impacting the economic and built future of London

encouraging built environmental professionals to make use of images in a more nuanced and complicated way – not simply to advocate for their agendas – and also whether and how images facilitate better dialogues between professionals and communities. To link this interest to London Is Changing, what is the thinking behind the look and locations for the billboards? The two billboards are electronic; one was in Holborn, one in Aldgate East. They cycled through advertisement and for 15 seconds each minute we would display one of among a few hundred selections of contributed text. The two digital billboards I chose are in central London and visible both on foot and from automobiles. Holborn is a very central, wide cross section where many people would encounter it. Aldgate East has another dimension to it since historically it has been the threshold for change in London, where the square mile City of London meets the East End; the relationship between the two has evolved considerably right at that meeting point.

By studying the patterns in urban structures, would it be possible to predict a London of the near future, in terms of housing conditions, class integration and quality of life? I’d find it difficult to make predictions, but I guess the larger pattern I see is the need to make sure there is a better conversation about what is changing and how it’s changing, than has been currently had. I think the local government in London could do a better job of engaging with the public, I don’t think the average person is in touch with the way the city-wide policies are impacting the economic and built future of London and I worry about that. The goal of London Is Changing for me is to open up space for better conversations than are being facilitated by the local government, especially at the GLA level. Although some local authorities are paying attention and trying their best to make sure they maintain diversity in their boroughs, I think it’s a struggle in

many cases especially in Central London boroughs. Could we use these conversations about urban planning to counteract the social polarization? I think if a wider range of values was considered by the GLA when they were setting up large London-wide policies, they could benefit the people of London more evenly. You wrote about aerial images and their impact. By comparison, how do we understand the differences in class and cultural distribution between New York City and London by looking from above? It’s quite tough to answer. London is divided up into more boroughs than New York. The Greater London government is currently becoming more powerful but this has not always been the case. In New York the local government is city-wide and covers all five boroughs and the borough governments are perhaps less


The view

of the city

from above is a visual

category that I think has a

prominence in mass culture

prominent. Another major difference is that London is much older. New York grew up as city and regional planning were becoming professions. Its geography has a lot to do with postenlightenment thinking. But with London’s long history, there was less top-down planning. I think that’s part of why they are different. There are also different cultures and values between America and Europe. My interest in aerial view is very much about the relationship between a type of images used by experts to make decisions, but also about mass cultural enthusiasm. So our research Picturing Place is concerned with how built environment professionals are in

dialogue with the public. The view of the city from above is a visual category that I think has a prominence in mass culture. I’m interested in the situation of professional planning, how a profession concerned with the city as a whole, the working methods of this profession, the limits and how aware it is or isn’t of those limits. I’m interested in how images, media, and data circulate between the public and professional experts on the city. Do you think the discussion on urban planning is becoming more and more democratic? That’s something I’d like to be involved with more, because I don’t think that contemporary processes for public engagement changes to city-wide policy concerning planning are good enough. I’d be interested in new forms of public engagement with those policies. I think that’s a key issue. We need a better, more honest and public conversation about the future of cities.

Do you think there are theoretical models or existing cities today that could be promoted as examples for better living? That’s a very complex question. I think there are interesting things in different cities worth tracking and being aware of. There were some subtle, worthwhile points raised in London Is Changing billboards. For example, one of the responses was “Let’s make the rest of the UK interesting and prosperous”. And some replied, “Don’t presume it’s not already”. There is a lot of complexity. People are asking, “Wouldn’t it be good if there are more places as intellectually stimulating and culturally diverse as London”? “Why do we have to have these global centres where resources and culture are concentrated”? “What if certain opportunities were spread around the world in a different way”? I’m interested in bringing these nuances more into the conversation because they deserve more attention. What are your current projects? I am the Co-Editor of Urban Pamphleteer with Ben Campkin. It’s a free digital and print-based pamphlet and each issue asks key urban questions related to London or other cities broadly. Contributors include artists, academics and community groups. Our goal is to consider important urban questions in an accessible way without being reductive. We are also working on a book based on the Picturing Place research. Soon we will be running a workshop at Central Saint Martins called Open Source Housing Crisis about how software development and software engineering could inform thinking about housing in London. Issue #5 of Urban Pamphleteer will be a special issue based on this workshop. I also recently took over as Course Leader of MA Communication Design at Central Saint Martins. We’re currently making some changes to the curriculum, looking for interesting students. It’s exciting to be trying new things on the course.

London is Changing – Photos by Duarte Carrilho da Graça

London | UK

There’s a constant battle for gender equality in our society. The issues are reflected enormously through Hollywood and the film industry in general. I spoke to three young female filmmakers on their own work and also their views on how women are presented in the film industry. Their own exciting work reflects the new generation of filmmakers where more doors are beginning to open.

Words by

Phoebe Shannon-Fagan 198 ROOMS

A Female Perspective in Film

PULSE by Ruth Paxton – Photo by Euan Anderson

F ranc e sca G r e go r ini 200 ROOMS

I’ve found coming of age good, fertile ground to explore what it means to be finding our humanity and figuring out who we are.


hen Francesca Gregorini took her feature film The Truth About Emanuel to Sundance, it was the first time in its history that there was an equal number of male and female directors in the US dramatic competition section. Her interesting background from Rome to England to LA has shaped her work to create a unique outlook of her experiences growing up, which reflects through her coming of age style films. Beginning as a singer/songwriter, Gregorini is not your typical filmmaker, but definitely a woman to watch, with her next project based on the novel Olivia by Dorothy Strachey.

What led to you becoming a filmmaker? I didn’t necessarily know I wanted to become a filmmaker, I think by nature I’m a storyteller and used that medium. As an artist I have a need to tell stories, mostly just to keep my sanity, or what I have left of it, intact. I was in a band for quite a stretch. But I have always been a very visual person, it’s kind of my heightened sense. The way I most enjoy the world is through my eyes. The honest truth is I had a hard time making a living as a singer/songwriter in a band so I had to figure out a way to keep telling stories and, hopefully to God, earn a living. So really filmmaking, as bizarre as it sounds, was my backup plan. Many filmmakers seem to have arrived there from a different art form, film often seems to progress from another medium… I think so, I think it makes more interesting filmmakers. I don’t even understand the concept of someone training to be a director. It’s such an ephemeral kind of gig. It’s really about being a sensitive person and someone with enough vision to see something that does not exist and create a world out of nothing and at the same time, having the flexibility and let-go to have things become what they want to become. Do you think you work from a particular perspective? I definitely gravitate towards coming of age stories. I joke because I’ve yet to come of age. I feel if I keep portraying it, that at some point it’ll actually snap into me. But I think life is a coming of age. I think the first coming of age is the most tender and also the most exciting in some ways because everything is new. I think I’ve found coming of age good, fertile ground to explore what it means to be finding our humanity and figuring out who we are. As a female filmmaker, obviously my perspective is that of a woman and I feel very honoured to be one of very few women out there when you think of the percentages of filmmakers. I take it on as a responsibility because there’s not that many voices out there and I think if telling women’s stories, if this is the only thing I ever do in my entire career, then I’ll be completely happy and satisfied. For all the young girls, and all the older girls, that go to the cinema, it’s important to see yourself reflected up there. Your stories being told, and not you just as ‘the girlfriend of…’ or ‘the mother of…’, It’s about your journey.

1 The Truth About Emanuel on set 2,3,4 Stills from The Truth About Emanuel

Do you think the current wave of feminism in popular culture is opening more doors? I would like to think so. You don’t just turn the wheel and suddenly we’re on track. It’s gonna take a lot of consistent effort. And it’s not just down to more women going into the field and becoming writer/ directors, because that’s just one small part of the equation. We need more female financiers and female executives and all of those people being mindful of trying to help a sister out. With my crew, of my six heads of department in my film, five of them were women. I’m sure as hell I’m not gonna hire someone who’s not right for the job, just because they’re a woman. But I am gonna be mindful to make sure that I see all the women possible for those posts. Just because, I know they’re not really going to get a leg up or much of a shot at a leg up unless we’re doing it for each other. Can you tell us about your next feature Olivia? It was, just in 120/140 pages, so dense and so thick, I just fell in love with it. I felt like I was the right person to bring it to the screen, for a myriad of reasons. 202 ROOMS

Growing up, I attended a school in Rome where the headmistress took a particular liking to me. It was not a sexual liking, but I understood what that feeling is to be the chosen child of the group. It’s so complex what that means, the power difference and you feeling special. That’s just one example of so many things in that book that I completely related to. When I’m not writing my own material, I look for work that I can connect to in a very real, deep way. That’s the only way I feel I can really do the work justice and I feel like I really connected to this book. I felt strongly that there was pretty much nobody else alive, at this moment, that could do this book justice. So that’s when I took the leap and optioned it. What would you say to aspiring filmmakers? As a filmmaker, the best advice that I have to give out is to either really work on your writing skills or befriend writers immediately. Especially as a female director, it’s an uphill battle. At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about: What the story is.

Rome | Italy

D aisy J acobs I hope The Bigger Picture helps to open up the debate about caring for elderly people in our society.

The Bigger Picture

sing seven-foot tall characters in life-size sets, The Bigger Picture tells the stark and darkly humorous tale of caring for an elderly parent. The innovative, animated short has recently won a BAFTA for young filmmaker Daisy Jacobs. The Bigger Picture is loosely based on her own family experiences when her grandmother suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and the conflicts this caused for her family. Daisy learnt her animation skills at Central Saint Martins then progressing to the National Film and Television School where she decided to create her animations on a large scale, using paint, which has given her a truly unique and impressive style.


How would you describe the format in which you work? The format is a hybrid of 2D painted animation and 3D stop-motion, and everything is life-size. I decided to work in this format because no-one else had done it before! And also, it combined my painting skills


and my co-animator’s cardboard-engineering skills in an optimum way. Chris Wilder can make anything – anything at all – out of an old cereal box and some tape. I brought in the 3D element chiefly as a means of showing that my 2D painted animation was lifesize – people could see the animation was different, but didn’t always realise why.

How does it feel to have your work appreciated? (BAFTA, Academy Awards, etc) It feels great. The Bigger Picture was completed at the end of February 2014 and has been steadily gaining momentum. I did have a few anxious months at the beginning, waiting for the film to premiere at Cannes but, after that, I was reassured other people liked it. The film has had a fantastic reception at festivals around the world and people have spoken to me about it with such enthusiasm – I never expected such a response and I’m very grateful. How important do you feel it is to get your point of view across through your work? I am delighted with all the critical success, but recognition of the issues the film addresses is very important to me as well. The story and the message are key, and I’m very pleased that so many people relate to the film on an individual, personal level. It’s based on decline and death in my own family, so it’s very moving for me when people say: “That’s my story... My Dad had Parkinson’s, my sister and I looked after him for years”. I hope The Bigger Picture helps to open up the debate about caring for elderly people in our society. At what point in the creative process of The Bigger Picture could you feel it was going to be a success? Quite early on, I would say. When I was painting in the portacabin, people kept coming in to have a look, so I knew there was a lot of interest in the technique. Later, in the big studio, it became even more difficult to keep people out. It was actually a dangerous environment – we put up hazard tape and ‘Danger of Death’ signs, and still someone brought in a whole class of schoolchildren! What is your view on women in the film and art industry? Gender isn’t really an issue for me – on set, in my jumpsuit, I am barely recognisable as human, let alone female. I have a core crew of men and women who really listen and respect my decisions, and I’ll be working with them again on my next project. With the current feminist wave in popular culture, do you feel more doors are opening for women than before? I hope so, if their success is based on merit. That’s the most important criterion for me.

What is the best advice you have ever received and have you got any advice for aspiring film-makers/artists? Be shamelessly individual. What future projects are you currently working on? The next project is another short, set in the 70s and the divorce boom of the80s. We’ll be using the same life-size, 3D technique, but we’re going to push it much further – there were lots of things we realised we could do when we were making The Bigger Picture, but it was too late to incorporate them.

London | UK

R uth P a x ton

My ambition is to make memorable films, which inspire love.



examines dark terrain, I’ve received word from individuals expressing gratitude for the film, and for being vocal about mental health. A lot of your work is quite experimental. Do you feel you approach your filmmaking in a particular way? When did you know you wanted to become My experimental a filmmaker? approach to filmmaking I began telling tales when I learned to speak. Born embellisher. I’ve made films and produced ‘backyard’ began with my postplays since childhood. It feels like it’s my calling. My grad film, SHE WANTED TO BE BURNT (2007). brother Louis and I were raised cinephiles. This is an example of a I watch films seeking an emotional experience. I work exploring themes make films to express emotion and say something and ideas about subject valuable about what it means to be human. And, matter I couldn’t be more often than not I’m working something explicit about. At the personally problematic out at the same time, even time I was about to if I’m not fully aware of it. Reviewing your work can get married, and was tell you a lot about who you are. Did you find it harder as a female to get your apprehensive about what it meant, in films noticed? I think at my level – as a maker of short form work on terms of my identity. I was also drinking the border of longer format independent films – I’m arguably less likely to face the kind of discrimination way too much, but I didn’t feel confident that would curtail my career path than a female about dissecting these filmmaker higher up the ladder. preoccupations directly I don’t think of myself as a female filmmaker, and – in a linear narrative personally, I’ve never felt that I couldn’t achieve or aspire to do anything my brother could. My attitude with characters and dialogue – so I explored has always been that, of course I can do that! Who/what has influenced you in your work? the themes in symbols and mood. It made for My Granny Paxton, who taught me never to let the some raw and honest truth get in the way of a good story. viewing, and I’ve since What has been the proudest moment of continued honing your career so far? In 2014 I made PULSE, a film and music collaboration that method. with composer Dobrinka Tabakova, commissioned by The Royal Philharmonic Society. My contribution to the work focuses on the issue and experience of anxiety and depression. It’s a very personal work and I dedicated it to a young man called Ross Ramsay who killed himself, because he could no longer cope with his own burden. In writing about my process, and delivering a film that uth Paxton, based in Glasgow, is foremost a writer/ director with a further background in visual art. She’s driven by a desire to tell stories, and a belief that she can write drama that affects people. Her work varies in themes and feelings, all moving and strong, varying in their style. Often exploring strong subject matter, passionate relationships and modern female identity. Her next project currently in development is called A HYMN FOR MARS, set between Scotland and The States; a love story about a woman adrift, finding the point.

What is your view on women in the film industry? It’s a vast topic, but essentially there is a huge bias towards men in cinema. The industry caters in every way to men, and women do not have equality. Men predominate the successful end of the industry. The big budget demographic is largely, young men (18 – 35), an audience who goes to the cinema because there are films geared for them. It’s an oversimplification of course, but it’s more likely that males will want to watch a Michael Bay action movie, than females will. Which is in part to do with the heavily gendered marketing differentiating between ‘chick flicks’ (yuk) and ‘lad’ fodder. With the current feminist wave in popular culture, do you feel more doors are opening for women than before? Ahh, I live in hope. But I also watched The Oscars last night, and the fact that the (albeit deserving) five filmmakers nominated in the Best Director category were all white men, reflects


1 PULSE – Photo by Kirsten Kerr 2 NEVADA – Photo by Olivia Rutherford 3 PULSE on set – Photo by Euan Anderson

the reigning racism and sexism in Hollywood, which sets the blueprint really. Plus, Patricia Arquette’s comments about equality in pay, reinforces the reality that it’s Hollywood that needs to start taking risks. London Short Film Festival exclusively nominated women in their Best Woman Director award this year, supported by Women in Film and Television, which I am just thrilled to have won, but I do look forward to the day when this kind of award won’t come prefixed by my gender. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? A transformative experience came with reading Brenda Ueland’s book, IF YOU WANT TO WRITE, in which she conveys the ideas that; everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express. And everybody is original if they tell the truth, and speak from their true selves, and not from the self they think they should be.

Advice for aspiring filmmakers? Keep a journal. When things strike you as remarkable, write them down. Write in it daily, even if it’s shite. Read loads of fiction. Read loads of screenplays. Take very long walks without purpose. Take in art. Take time for yourself. Stretch your mind. And be nice to everyone you meet; you’ll be remembered for it.

Glasgow | Scotland

Hello Play By Greg Barth

ISSN 2046-5505

£ 7.00

17 9 772046 550009

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