Tricking the tricked tricksters

I am talking tomorrow (today, actually, Oct 31st) in Van Abbe Museum, at a mini-conference Tricksters Tricked, the final event of a week-long exhibition arranged in the museum around the Dutch Design Week. The conference is not very clearly described on their site, but it will start at 2.30pm, with a few speeches and then a panel till 5pm-ish.

Design Minded: Caviar Rouge Forum

This image is from the exhibition called Liberation of Light, currently held in the Design House of Eindhoven (and also a part of the Dutch Design Week); but I came to the place not so much to see the exhibition, but mainly to participate in the Caviar Rouge Forum, titled Design Minded. The forum, one of the pivotal moments of the week-long Caviar Rouge Project, was aimed at exploring the issues of cultural dependencies of design (and in turn, its its impact on cultures of societies).

The forum was greeted by the current head of the Design House who pointed to the rapidly changing technologies behind many of the lighting solutions, moving from the incandescent light bulbs to LEDs, OLEDs, and many more novel exciting technologies, that force design (and societies at large) to rethink the way we create and use light in our lives.

Gus Rodriguez, former vice-president of Philips Design, presented a wide historical panorama of design evolution, and its links with societal and cultural developments, and suggested to think about new role of design, capable to both address and solve deep and urgent issues of the present moment.

The second speaker, Alexander Leenetsky from Russia, vice-president of the Design Union and the chief editor of the portal, talked about various cases of the use (and abuse) of design in Russia when dealing with specific cultural issues (ranging from more traditional product design to communication and up to conceptual design thinking).

Two speeches had been followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Joris van Gelder (Dutch designers and a head of Ministerie of Nieuwe Dingen agency) and Ivan Paschenko from the Storytelling Company. Among the panelists were Aigul Baigozhaeva, head designer of Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, Wouter van Nieuwland, from the newly established Eindhoven Design agency, and Artemy Lebedev from Art.Lebedev studio in Russia.

Opening of Caviar Rouge

A short, but a very interesting performance by Olimdjon Beknazarov opened the Caviar Rouge Project, part of the Dutch Design Week. The artist has combined seemingly uncombinable cultural traditions, blending the Japanese costumes, Christian music and Arabic body language in one impressive dance performance. And, as if it was not diverse enough a cultural cocktail, the performance was happening around a beautiful lighting installation by Chinese (!) artist Li Hui in the Dutch (!!) Museum of Artificial Light in Art (Centrum voor Kunstlicht in de Kunst) in Eindhoven. It surely symbolizes.

The atmosphere of the event was very creative, and very rouge too, because of the mesmerizing beams of red light of the Li Hui’s masterpiece installation called Reincarnation:

(it also made it very difficult to make any decent pictures, I failed to produce anything remotely publishable at the end 😦 But I feel I need to post at least two pictures, of Yelena Kharitonova, the founder, organizer, and key driver of the project, and of Peter Nagelkerke, a newly appointed Ambassador of Caviar Rouge in the Netherlands. Kudos to Yelena, and best luck for the coming week!

Opening of the Dutch Design Week

Hans Robertus, head of the Dutch Design Week, welcomes and greets the participants of the opening ceremony in the Klokgebouw (also on behalf of his femme team, symbolized by the Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!” poster mosaic. The week was officially opened by Rob van Gijzel, mayer of Eindhoven (who was presented with the first copy of the new DDW Trend Book’2010.

The interesting twist is that the book is a co-production of the Dutch and Helskinki Design weeks. Last year these two cities competed for the title “Design Capital of the World” (I wrote about an interesting ad campaign in Eindhoven last year, aimed at managing the ‘memories of the future‘ ). Eindhoven has lost the title this time, but during the competition the cities found a way to collaborate too. Quite symbolically, the DDW opening was also greeted, via the videolink, by the Kari Korman, head of the Helsinki Design Week, and mayer of Helsinki.

The future of design is designless

Genrich Altshuller, the author of the TRIZ approach to innovation, once gave a definition of ‘ideal solution’ of any problem. He wrote that “the ideal solution should solve the initial problem, but has to ceased to exist itself [thus avoiding creation of the subsequent problems”]. He also gave an example of such ‘ideal solution’: the door that opens when someone approaches it, let him go through, but then becomes a wall again, ‘ceasing to exist’ as a door. The picture above, of the hanging threads, may be a good approximation of such an ‘ideal door’ (although not a precise model of it, of course).

Psychotherapists are often seen as a ‘solution providers’ by their clients; wrongly, I think, because a psychotherapist should not provide a ‘solution’ to the patient’s problem (he doesn’t ‘have’ it in a first place); instead, what he can hope to do is to create conditions, a space and enablers, that would help people to find the solutions for themselves. Whether the therapist is seen as a direct agent of change or a facilitator only, the memory about the act of therapy is an interesting topic to consider. If a patient remembers a ‘helping hand’ of the therapist, was it a successful therapy?

My mentor was often saying the first accidental after-therapy encounter with the client is a good indicator of the success: “If we meet on a street some time after we finished our sessions, and my former client runs to me with the words of gratitude and applications, I always feel it’s my failure. I would much prefer they wouldn’t notice me, wouldn’t even recognize me, as if we didn’t have our sessions at all”.

The therapy would work in this case, but the therapeutic agent ceased to exist, at least is erased from the memory. (By the way, I often compare the work we do at Summ()n with psychotherapy, a futuretherapy of some sort; we don’t bring the ‘future solutions” to our clients, instead we help them to change their way of thinking about the future so that they could produce their own new ideas and ‘possible futures’).

I’ve recently encountered a very interesting book, Effortless Action: Wu-wei As Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China. The author, Edward Slingerland, argues that the usual understanding the famous Daoist concept of wu-wei as ‘non-action’ is not very accurate, and that we instead have to read it as ‘effortless action’. The action happens, the result is achieved, and yet somehow no special energy/effort/device was needed.

He writes how important, and omnipresent was this concept in the early Chinese thought (and how difficult it is to grasp this ideas for the Western way of thinking, focussed on the tool/technique, and the author/hero (and now designer).

Where do all these three above snippets point to? In the spirit of this posting, and also following my own pi-approach to the story-telling, I won’t tell you, but rather invite you to explore the void of this conceptual donut yourself 🙂

ps; I can only add that I am writing this posting in the very day of the Dutch Design Week‘s opening in Eindhoven, with the largest program ever, that also includes the first wdf, “World Design Forum“. I somehow can’t imagine they are promoting ‘designless design‘ there.

Fractal Death

I became familiar with fractals relatively early in my life (I used to study math, and was able to understand something beyond the very basics); or, to be more precise, those early years of my life happened to occur around the time when Mandelbrot and his beautiful concept became known more known to the general public. I was lucky to have a friend (then MA and later PhD in Chemistry) who introduced me to this idea before it was even published (in the Soviet Union, that is). I do remember a meeting when he was presenting his findings to the peers (docs and post-docs) who didn’t yet know the very F. word.

Then the fractal very rapidly became a mass-culture phenomenon, mostly because of the sheer beauty of the visualizations (I am not sure that the general public understands the concepts beneath the pictures). Mandelbrot became as canonical as someone like Plato or Aristotle, and of the same age; I was pleasantly surprised to see him alive and talking at TED; I enjoy his speech very much and event drafted a small posting on the impact of fractal theory on the future studies (never published it, though).

I was very sadden when learned today about the death of the Fractal Man. RIP.

Strategic Futures or Tactical Espionage?

In 2008/9 Dutch architectural agency KCAP has developed, together with a few parties, a strategic master plan for Russian city Perm. Once a nighty industrial (and military) center of Russian, then Soviet empire, the city start decaying and loosing its economic and political power, and attractiveness for its dwellers. Outmigration has reached a dangerous level, threatening to depopulate the city and the region. In an effort to revert these negative economic and social developments, the city administration initiated a large-scale program of revitalization and cultural rehabilitation of Perm, aimed to transform it in more livable and culturally rich a place.

The KCAP’s Masterplan that “describes opportunities and development directions over an extensive period of thirty, forty or even fifty years and adopts the Compact City approach” was hailed by both the professionals (it a won a number of awards) and the general public alike. It informed and inspired numerous related initiates, including new design of urban spaces, special ‘city font’, still a unique case for Russia, and extensive cultural program.

Now this story takes a new twist. As reported by the Russian media, the FSB (=Federal Security Service, Russian blend of CIA and FBI) accused several city officials in a misconduct when arranging the contracts with foreign firms and – more importantly – in passing them a “secret cartographic data that contain information about the mobilization capacity and resources of the city”. There are few reports about the lawsuit in the Russian media, including in the influential Kommersant business daily, and I already found a short story in the Dutch-language online media.


Spider Silk, or Reality of Playfulness

Lol, /. discusses a paper today about genetical modified silkworms that will be able to produce hybrid spider silk, ‘the new material [that] could shake up the textile industry, [and be] used in everything from bulletproof clothing to artificial tendons“.

To produce armored clothes from spider silk is nothing new in the World of Warcraft; I wonder if we can talk about accurate anticipation or a direct impact of games on technological developments.

Rietveld & His Playful Chairs

I guess, many people would recognize this famous Red & Blue Chair that became an icon of not only Dutch design, but of the early XX century modernism in general (along with the paintings by Mondrian or the buildings of the Bauhaus school). Yet very few people would name the author of this char, a Dutch furniture designer and, later, architect Gerrit Reitveld; I guess, even fewer would recognize him on this picture, where he is still young and hardly known (although the chair had been done by that time, the first unpainted models appeared already by 1917).

The Netherlands celebrates the Year of Rietveld this year (Rietveld Jaar), with a lot of events and activities dedicated to this famous man. There is a dedicated website, very informative, and beautifully designed too; I found there this life trajectory of Rietveld designed in a very recognizable Rietveldian style:

They even created a special iPhone app, Rietveld Architecture, to help you in searching the nearest building designed by the maitre.

Next week the Utrecht’s Centraalmuseum launches a large exhibition Rietvelds Universum: Rietveld, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Theo van Doesburg, a unique panorama of modernist architecture and definitely worth visiting a place.

Perhaps a very different in stijl, but yet another event related to this anniversary will also be held next week, in the music club Effenaar in Eindhoven; a rap&rock band C-Mon & Kynski will be performing their Play Musical Chairs: An Ode to Gerrit Rietveld program; I am not sure I will manage to this particular performance, though, because it coincides with the opening of the Dutch Design Week.

PS: I am very proud that I start to celebrate this Year of Rietveld before it even started. Earlier this year we went to De Ploeg, an old factory designed by him near the Dutch town Bergijk, and I took a lot of pictures there. Some of them went to my blog of abstract photography aman_geld, serving as my homage to the master.