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ACT IV IT Y

Shape Pat Bradbury is a UK-based illustrator and image maker. He has just returned from living in Vietnam and is currently trying to feed his experiences into his work.

Cut a basic shape (circle, square, rectangle, triangle) out of an A4 piece of paper a number of times and arrange a repeat pattern. When creating a pattern, you are very aware of the spaces that are absent of shapes as much as you are aware of the shape itself. Cutting these shapes out of paper is a great way to have physical offcuts that you have to consider.

CONSTRAINTS: 1. You can only cut out one selected shape, but as many times as you wish. 2. You can use one colour and the white of the A4 sheet only. 3. All of the shapes and offcuts must be used, you cannot discard any paper. 4. You have 20 minutes from start to finish. CONSIDERATIONS: 1. The size of the shapes can alter, as long as they are the same shape. 2. The finished piece is not restricted in size or dimension. Artwork by Pat Bradbury

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54

PROJECT

The brief Flag flying, like nationalism, has progressive and regressive faces. Events such as the Cronulla riots in 2005 challenge the claims of any flag to represent a kind of unity. This project offers alternative opportunities for flag-waving, rejoicing in the ambiguous and contested poetics of symbolic community representation, the politics of place and cultural identity, communication and belonging. Flags on top of buildings are traditional, unchanging, seen but rarely looked at. As such, artists’ flags can be seen as non-flags, flags that signal change, flags that demand we stop and consider. If traditions are the beliefs by which a community understands its place in the world, then Melbourne’s evolving

demography demands we consider that tradition is also evolving. This project will transform the Melbourne summer skyline, extending the curatorial range of Melbourne Now beyond the gallery, into part of the day-to-day city experience. It is a unique opportunity for artists and designers to engage with the city through the conversion of 16 significant flagpole sites into temporary gallery spaces. Site historian John Mathews has researched individual flagpole sites and assists artists, where possible, with the research of specific lines of enquiry. The chosen site coordinates exist outside colonisation, boundaries and the emergence of a ‘built environment’.

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18

D E M O N ST RATION

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12

LO N GFO RM

The Memphis Blues Again

While perusing the Arc ’74 showroom on 18 September 1981, British furniture designer Jasper Morrison recalls “feelings of shock and panic”. During the Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano, an annual furniture fair known for featuring cutting edge designs, Morrison had come across the debuted collection of the Memphis Group. This handful of young designers and architects, disenchanted with the high-minded moralistic strictures of modernism, united under the moniker in the early 1980s, and from the beginning shook the design community. A fervent minimalist, Morrison recalls breaking into “a kind of cold sweat”1 when he was confronted with the highlighter colour laminates, clunky shapes and eclectic appropriations of exotic prints and formal motifs that came to characterise the group. “It was the weirdest feeling,” Morrison says. “You were in one sense repulsed by the objects, but also freed by this sort of total rule-breaking.” Responses to the Memphis Group were mixed, but, positive or negative, the feelings were unanimously impassioned. “You were either for it or against it,” recalls Bill Moggridge, co-founder of the IDEO industrial design group. “All the boring old designers hated it. The rest of us loved it.”2 Such reactions are understandable. The Memphis Group posited themselves as a force of opposition that rallied against the tenants of modernism, which had dominated design culture for most of the 20th century. Seen many times before, avant-garde movements attempt to spur controversy and in doing so inspire some and offend others. Modernism was in its time the leading force of opposition. It broke the rules of 19th century classical regurgitation and proposed a new technically advanced utopia, in which old world ideas were made irrelevant. By the 1970s, the rules modernism had established that outlawed ornament, disregarded history and prescribed a set of narrow agendas presumptuously named the ‘International Style’, had been so ubiquitously embraced that it entered into banality. Young designers, who were culturally diverse and conscious of the marginalised and overlooked elements in society, brought modernism’s exclusive hegemony into question. The underlying contrarian attitude that values forces of opposition such as the avant-garde, which once fuelled the early modernist, suddenly turned against modernism. US architects Robert Venturi and Charles Jencks along with Italian collectives such as Archizoom, Superstudio and, later, the Memphis Group began to challenge all of these rules and called for a more inclusive model that incorporated the everyday, the kitsch, the unabashedly cheesy and the taboo into the realm of art. The House of Memphis stole the show in 1981. Many attendees reacted similarly to Jasper Morrison. They were

Words — Patrick Templeton

simultaneously shocked yet enthralled with the gaudy, pastiche and cheekily kitsch appearance of the work. The Beverly Desk by renowned Italian architect Ettore Sottsass featured a yellow and green snakeskin door with tortoiseshell book shelves and a glowing red light bulb jutting off the corner of a bent metal pipe. Masanori Umeda contributed a playfully miniaturised boxing ring turned bed with black and white vertical stripes wrapping all four sides and a light post in each corner. These whimsical pieces were an effrontery laden smirk at the pretentious black-box design dogma that had become so prevalent. By 1980, Sottsass had already established a career working with Olivetti, and been awarded the prestigious 1959 Compasso d’Oro prize for his work on the Elea 9003 computer. Ever eager to challenge the status quo, Sottsass, who was in his 60s, invited six young architects and designers in their 20s to dinner at his Milan apartment to discuss his plans for a new collection. That December evening Sottsass and his guests – designers Martine Bedin, Aldo Cibic, Michele De Lucchi, Matteo Thun and Marco Zanini, accompanied by writer Barbara Radice – banded together to form what was initially dubbed ‘The New Design’. The group discussed Sottsass’ plan to produce a line of furniture with Renzo Brugola, a cabinetmaker with whom Sottsass had previously

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collaborated. As the group mingled in Sottsass’ apartment sharing their collective frustration with the oppressive and outmoded demands of modernist doctrine, Bob Dylan’s ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again’ played on the turntable. Fortuitously, the record player caught and looped repeatedly on the lyric “Memphis blues again”, at which point Sottsass proclaimed, “OK, let’s call it Memphis.” Everyone agreed, explained Radice, writing that Memphis seemed like the perfect name because it brought with it the multilayered connotations of the blues and rock ‘n’ roll, the American South, and also ancient Egypt and the mysteries of the pharaohs. Antithetical to the modernist ideology that absolved history and replaced it with a sleek futurist Utopia, the name Memphis connotes ‘the King’ and ‘Graceland meets Queen Cleopatra and the Seven Ancient Wonders’. In this way, Milan and Memphis are surprisingly similar. Like its quasi-Gothic buttress-less cathedral Milan contends with a palimpsest of new and old world cultures, where the weight of history somehow merges with a high modern sensibility. It was precisely this ‘both, in-between and all at once’ philosophy free of any stringent or restrictive doctrines that the Memphis Group tried to achieve. Sottsass expressed his aspirations for the group, saying, “Memphis exists in a gelatinous, rarefied area whose very nature precludes any set models and definitions.”3 They wanted to break all the rules and leave them broken. Over the next few months following Sottsass’ dinner party, the group expanded, adding to its ranks designers George Sowden and Nathalie du Pasquier. In just a short time, its portfolio grew to include hundreds of drawings of furniture, lamps and ceramics. The working process was liberating for these young designers who had become disenthralled from the demands for minimalist ‘good taste’. Breaking every rule, all styles, colours, decorations and forms fell under their purview. Unburdened by the need for their work to be intelligent, practical or even well-designed, the group

flourished and experimented with unconventional materials such as printed glass, celluloid and glitter. By September 1981, when Jasper Morrison, Sir Terence Conran and the design world were introduced to Memphis at the Arc ’74 showroom, the group had developed a cohesive language of boldly coloured laminates, gaudy patterns and formal appropriations that became the movement’s signature. With the fervent support of Radice, who drafted up press releases for the group, news of the Memphis collection spread quickly, causing a commotion through the international media. Some attendees of the Arc ’74 showcase praised it as a welcome reprieve from the dull, pragmatic and Bauhaus minimalism that had dominated furniture design for much of the 20th century. Memphis found immediate success and, over the next seven years, the group produced a slew of bold and distinctly colourful furniture pieces that have become all but synonymous with 1980s postmodernism. Designers set firmly in the tenants of modernism, however, dismissed the work as absurd. Memphis was, “funny, peculiar and rather like the emperor’s new clothes,” said Conran. “It was not to be taken seriously.”4 Many criticised the movement for its lack of taste, over the top excessiveness and what was often read as a sense of insincerity and visual irony. Memphis quickly became a household name, however, spreading out beyond the design community. The work aligned well with the general post-punk image of the early 1980s. It was the perfect blend of pop art, humour and postmodern theory to captivate a wide audience. Many trendsetters, like fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld and architect Philip Johnson, had their homes and offices furnished in the Memphis style. American architect Michael Graves, Javier Mariscal from Spain, and Arata Isozaki and Shiro Kuramata from Japan joined their ranks adding an international appeal. There were shows and

Shapes are not anything new! We just try to apply them across different mediums and use them for their natural characteristics. Often there is no need to make anything more complicated than a basic shape.

Illustration Peter Borg

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