All photos by Kathryn McElroy
It's been quite a year for the MFA candidates in the School of Visual Arts' Products of Design program, not least because the first-year students are also the first ever students in the fledgling program. This past weekend, the first half of their graduate studies culminated with ALSO!, a winsome design intervention at WantedDesign, which the tight-knit cohort of 16 students realized in the three weeks leading up to NY Design Week. They'd originally developed the concept for Sinclair Smith's five-week Design Performance studio intensive, and the NYCxDesign festival (which wrapped up just two days ago) was a felicitous opportunity for them to put their studies into practice.Through a roving set of mobile interventions, visitors to the show participate in an unfolding narrative around celebration, sustainability, digital mediation, storytelling and scale, each expanding the conversation around design beyond form, function and materiality.
Broadly speaking, each of the six stations (two wearable, three carts and a single immobile station) offered a different perspective on not only the work on view at WantedDesign but also one's fellow attendees and the venue itself. From the uniforms—white short-sleeve button-down (with the logo emblazoned across the back), dark denim, white plimsols and orange socks—to the seamlessly constructed equipment, which remain as the tangible artifacts of the experience, the students crafted a thoughtfully executed body of work.
ALSO! invited us to take a step back and reflect on the conventional object-based mode of exhibition, transcending the constant deluge of visual stimuli by sublimating otherwise undifferentiated spectacle into interaction-centered experiences. It is precisely by mediating a visitor's experience of the show that these interventions elicit a more immediate, at times childlike sense of wonder about the world around us.
Although brief descriptions of each station are listed below, additional information is available here and here; insofar as the performative aspect is paramount, the actual interactions and much of the process are duly documented in a Tumblog.
"BOOM" explores the lens of NARRATIVE, and uses a "mock" boom mic and a set of backpack-mounted headphones. Here, visitors "listen in" on design objects, asking what the untold stories of artifacts might be. In other words, if a chair or a lamp could talk, what might it be saying?
The boom mic is fake; I could see a future iteration in which the audio clip is correlates to sensory data such as color or texture. I felt that the audio clip—one of seven—could have been a little shorterI felt that the audio clip—one of seven—could have been a little shorter The handheld microscope offers 170× magnification
"TINY" explores the lens of UNSEEN DETAILS, and employs a hand-held digital microscope and display screen. Here, visitors are empowered to delve into the details that designers love and put so much heart and energy into, but in a massive exhibition like WantedDesign, often get overlooked.
"LIFT" explores the lens of DIGITAL MEDIATION, and uses a custom-design phone caddy, climbing rope, and pulley. Since people so often experience things through their phones, the students asked themselves the following question: "If we experience so many things through our digital devices, could we actually create an experience that only our device could have?"
L: "Lift"; R: "Here" "Here" was also an interesting exercise in exhibition design
"HERE" explores the lens of CONTEXT, employing the beloved ViewMaster as the looking device. In a design exhibition, so much design comes through the door—lots of it from across the globe—that it's easy to forget that there is wonderful design all around us, all the time. [In the weeks prior to the exhibition], students photographed beautiful and precious design details that would normally go un-noticed—materials, textures, old hardware, etc.—[that were inserted into] each of the ViewMasters, a unique set of images, along with some short snippets of historical info click by.
"Warp" was originally intended to view objects and signage, but users quickly took to looking at one another through the kaleidoscope
"WARP" explores the lens of ABSTRACTION, using a revolving kaleidoscope apparatus. Acknowledging that there is so much design to experience in a show like Wanted—that it's just such an overwhelming visual experience—the students wanted to create a lens to literally combine and abstract the show into something both beautiful and memorable.
"MASK" explores the lens of REPURPOSE and CELEBRATION, and uses a custom die-cutting apparatus. We know that lots of the materials that people collect at a design show often find their way into the waste bin, so students attempted to add value to these items by turning them into masks that people could celebrate with. Why masks? Well, the mask is another kind of lens, and though visitors come to a show to look at design, they also come to look at each other and collectively share an experience.
Many visitors flaunted the printed tape—which served as guerilla branding and collateral—at WantedDesign and beyond during design week.