Features

The Other Hemisphere

April 5, 2011

Curated by Sarah King, ‘The Other Hemisphere’ exhibition at this year’’s Ventura Lambrate in Milan showcases the best of contemporary Australian design.

As I write this, a designer in Milan is having lunch with his manufacturer, making plans for the next production cycle of something marvellous and surprisingly useful. Another designer in New York is barely getting out of bed. On a tight deadline to get a prototype polished and hopefully into production soon enough, she has been up all night thinking of possible amendments that would better the experience of its use.

Both of these designers are physically where they need to be. They live and create in the northern hemisphere, and, indeed, it’s a good place to be – but not the only place.

On the other side of the planet, however, and perhaps for far too long, Australian designers have come to question their proximity –– or lack thereof –– to what we may consider a central point of activity within the global design industry. In search of real experience, almost every talented Australian designer has travelled the world in order to get closer, and have a more intimate look at the other hemisphere of this design world. Whether it’’s Milan, London, New York or Copenhagen, designers go to learn, to absorb and take in everything they can in order to become better – to master their craft, and therefore enter the design trade with solidified merit and fundamental experiences.

For those who have returned to Australia and continue to work hard, I express my respect and immense gratitude, for not forgetting your roots. You are cultivating the design language in this country, and showing a new facet in Australia’’s design character –– finally leaving behind the bad habits of yesteryear when all you could do was look to Europe for a sense of timely aesthetic value and style. Today, you effectively redefine what it is to be an Australian designer and, most of all, embrace the eclectic nature of what seems to be one of the more interesting multicultural societies on the planet. There is much to still unravel within Australia’’s design culture and you make that happen.

For the designers that may have stayed abroad, working for the big European, Asian or US patrons, I can’’t do much but encourage you to keep on. There’’s more than enough room for another Marc Newson out there, and a new horizon is in the distance. Today’’s global design culture is also one of problem solving, solutions and purpose-driven work. The gloss has been stripped, and what we care for now are the good ideas that can move us forward –– enlightening concepts that are even challenging the norm of design culture’s old glitz.

Which brings me to my original point. A great diversity of Australian designers are currently at work all over the world, doing very interesting and exciting things, and a curious and talented woman –– by the name of Sara King (aka Sarah K) –– has long been after them, working with them and encouraging more of their ideas to keep this new wave of momentum going within Australian design. For this year’’s design fair in Milan, she presents a collective design exhibit in collaboration with Ventura Lambrate Milano 2011.

The Other Hemisphere showcases eight Australian designers, each of which has designed something special that embodies all the qualities of contemporary design thinking that Ventura Lambrate aims to highlight, mainly those of high artistic and cultural value. The Australian point of difference in this particular show is, apparently, an experimental portal into a design world they know little about, but are nonetheless very interested to learn more of.

““Sarah K explained her concept to us in such a way that she wanted to give The Other Hemisphere as a departure point to designers, and that the exhibition would deal with the notion of a different sensibility from the other side of the world,”” says Margo Konings, founding partner of Ventura Lambrate Milano. “”Besides that, Sarah K’’s curriculum as a designer, a curator and director of the Australian Design Museum exhibit is convincing enough to have us engaged.””

In conclusion, she says, it was the combination of all factors –– the internationality, high quality, cultural relevance and even elements of surprise – that was so in tune with Ventura Lambrate’’s curatorial philosophy.

In collaboration with all eight designers, King’’s objectives remain humble: to show a pure and contemporary Australian design vernacular, somewhat pushing the artistic realm, and embracing all its various forms.

“”I’’m really open minded about the outcome of this exhibition,”” she says. “”I don’’t think it’’s limited to one, but many. Producing the exhibition has already been a very positive experience and I think the work in the show is world class. The designers have addressed the brief in a sophisticated way, doing justice to the context of Ventura Lambrate –– whose conceptual benchmark was set pretty high last year. It’s not the sort work that will go unnoticed…

““I also think the show is just as relevant to an international audience as it will be to a local one when it returns to Australia (in June) as This Hemisphere. I expect that products of The Other Hemisphere will find their way into the marketplace of all possible hemispheres in the near future.””

Considering her history in exhibiting and curating Australian design, thus far, the following eight profiles are not only her creative counterparts in showing this new facet of Australian design, but indeed companions in a design journey that truly aims to discover the potential of this hemisphere, ultimately– – and with good purpose –– to be appreciated by the other.

Sarah King introduces ‘The Other Hemisphere’ designers

Ben McCarthy is an enigmatic industrial designer/pop star. Based in Hong Kong, with one foot still planted in his hometown of Sydney, McCarthy is able to create a surprising range products and music that reflect an interesting sub-cultural aesthetic. Ben first caught my attention with his Poincare Lamp during Ventura Lambrate last year. Its remarkable diffused treatment of light within a glass dome on a honeycombed metal base set it apart from everything else I saw in Milan. His response to The Other Hemisphere is conceptual; three parts, each of varying materials, created in various cities of the world, converge at the exhibition for the fist time to form another elegant lamp –– ‘Lateralis’.

You will know Daniel To and Emma Aiston, or Daniel.Emma, as the kids who took everyday desktop objects and reinvented them into playful geometric forms, making them as desirable again as they once were to us in our first days of school. Based in Adelaide, but a recent fixture on London’’s 100% Design scene, their aims are quite international and well worth the attention. I particularly liked the idea of seeing what Daniel.Emma would come up with in response to the brief. They’’ve already won us over with their Shapes + Solids. Let’s see what they’’ve got to show us with Hemispheres.

Flynn Talbot is already a bit of a superstar. He looks the part, and he’’s the 2010 Philips Young International Lighting Designer of the Year. Flynn is firmly grounded in the realm of conceptual interactive lighting. He has lit the walls of London’’s White Cube Gallery and his wall of light ‘Horizon’ has toured the world. Hailing from Perth, he is currently living in Berlin where he has been hard at work developing new experiments with light. It was actually Flynn and I that first hatched the plan to take our work to Ventura Lambrate in 2011. He wanted to turn his hand to a lighting product for domestic application that embodied his wide-scale conceptual approach. Previous work has relied on interaction between user and lighting, with distance between the two. ‘X+Y’ is about coming very close to the light source to control it, to the point of actually touching the light itself.

Emma Elizabeth has leapt into the design consciousness with her globetrotting reports via thedesignvlog.com Having studied interior design in Milan, and at the ripe age of 26, she is already a seasoned exhibitor at the Fuorisalone. I met Elizabeth when she turned up on the doorstep of the Australian Design Museum exhibition, which I curated at Shapiro Gallery last year. Making her first ‘vlog’ there, she caught my attention. Not long after that we were showing work together at an exhibition of international designers at Zona Tortona in Milan. Then with new work, we had a collaborative show during Sydney Design Week. Her circular floor rugs, produced by Designer Rugs, are tailored perfectly to fit The Other Hemisphere and I predict they are going to be a smash hit.

A life-long design project between Ben Blakebrough and myself, b+k is a matter of design and discovery. We live and work in Moss Vale, just outside Sydney, where we design and produce our own range of products – the latest of which is the Detour Range of candelabras, available through Space Furniture and Chee Soon & Fitzgerald. I can’’t throw a party without wanting to be part of it, and I genuinely think that Ben is a genius. How many people do you know who have single-handedly designed and built a vertical flying machine/hovercraft –– that seriously flies –– just to see what they’’re capable of designing and creating?! He can make a reality out of any surreal idea that either of us dreams up.

I don’’t know a lot about Ellliat Rich, except that she is an industrial designer based in Alice Springs, which seems pretty exotic to us southerners. I had seen a youtube movie of Elliat’’s work ‘Two-way’ and felt that she managed to incorporate an interesting concept into a product using new material technology in a sophisticated way, avoiding tokenism. She has applied this similar combination to create ‘Amber,’ a new way of monitoring energy consumption in the home. It also shares a quality that a few of the works in the exhibition have –– that of peering into something as if passing into another world; essentially, another hemisphere.

With casual effort, Mark Vaarwerk picks up a cigarette butt on his way to work, distills the pigment out of it when he gets there, and uses it to tint his latest un-expanded polystyrene artefact. Genius. He uses a jeweller’’s precision and an alchemist’’s determination –– not to mention the calibre of experimentation –– to alter the molecular structure of refuse and creates something so new that it’s unrecognisably great. He also does this with just enough humour to keep it from taking itself too seriously. He’s a Supercycler –– designers and thinkers who take things that are no longer being used, reclaim them, and instead of throwing them into the great pacific garbage patch, they make something beautiful, clever and useful once again. It’s about active and immediate re-use, without sending the stuff to the processing plant. See this website, devoted to unearthing the best supercyclers on the planet: supercyclersarego.blogspot.com

Plastic Fantastic is essentially Liane Rossler and myself making sparks with our thoughts and ideas. Liane has become an ambassador in the design world for green living and making. As the next logical step after Knitty, Gritty and Loopy, Plastic Fantastic is a semi-permanent, experimental, hands-on, repurposing refuse workshop experience… For me, it’’s a very cool collaborative project, and I look forward to many more good things with Rossler. Creating sophisticated and desirable objects from waste is a challenging objective, but it’s also something Plastic Fantastic has set out to address cleverly. We will exhibit some of the results of our experiments in melting plastic, taking the processes of recycling into our own hands. Our intention is to highlight this aspect of DIY, hoping others will be inspired to join – as well as raising awareness of the great plastic garbage mess we have made in our oceans.

(inside) magazine is proud to support the efforts of Ventura Lambrate this year in Milan – in collaboration with all designers involved with The Other Hemisphere exhibit. Please join us on on 13 April 2011 from 7pm for the launch at Ventura Lambrate.

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