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We first encountered the work of SWINE at the RCA graduate show Paradise for a Better Future in 2012 where their first work, the Sea Chair, was on show in Milan. A peculiar looking stool crafted from salvaged marine plastics, the project looked towards a future where fishermen would trawl for plastics instead of fish and fishing ships would transform into floating factories to produce Sea Chairs. The project, interesting in both the final artifact and the research behind it, was completed with a beautifully crafted film with director Juriaan Booij the following year.
Since then, SWINE (Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers), a collaboration between Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves, has continued their deep exploration of regional identity and the future of resources through unique storytelling and a practice of producing artifacts that has brought them to China, Brazil, and most recently outer space. We wrote extensively about their aluminum Meteorite shoes inspired by European Space Agency (ESA) last year and always have a keen eye for new work from the London-based studio.
With a theme of design-led co-creation and an emphasis on storytelling at this Thursday's Core77 Designing Here/Now Conference, we thought the work of SWINE would be a great source of inspiration. With Hollywood looming in the distance and the archives of the Eames Office just a few miles away, we will be screening three of SWINE's short films at the Core77 conference. The design films of SWINE highlight new ways that designers are exploring the storytelling potential of film to create new worlds, unbounded by time and space.
Core77: Your work is grounded in deep materials research in the context of globalization and competition for increasingly scarce resources. How do you embark on this research and hone in on a specific material or process to explore?
SWINE: We are really interested in the connection between a place and materials, sometimes we focus on a material and track down it's source. For example, when we traced back Human Hair to where it was grown and processed in Shandong Province China. Other times we focus on a place and find abundant, overlooked material such as aluminum cans in our Can City project based in Sao Paulo.
Film has become a more integral part of your practice — you recently championed the idea of "designers of mass communication" rather than "designers of mass production." Why has film become your vehicle of choice for communicating your design ideas?
We love designing a whole world and then making a part of that world real, such as making a piece of furniture. Film is a great way to show that world, create a mood and tell the narrative behind a work. We usually don't have any voice over so it can go completely international. Online, it reaches an audience beyond the design world.
Film is a great way to show that world, create a mood and tell the narrative behind a work.
What are some other design films that have been on your radar for communicating ideas in engaging and interesting ways?
Obviously Ray and Charles Eames are both pioneers of design film and their incredible film work remains unsurpassed. There were some amazing experimental design films created for the MoMA show New Domestic Landscapes by the likes of Gaetano Pesce, Superstudio and Ettore Sottsass which are so scifi and eclectic. Combining '70s electronic and rock soundtracks with sci-fi futurism, the suite of films document a mesmerizing set of experiments and a time capsule of '70s design thinking.
We love the Apple watch ads that look at a material like gold, aluminum and steel. From contemporary designers we particularly like Marcus Kayser's 'Solar Sinter' and Marguerite Humeux 'Europa'.
You started your studio practice in 2011 after graduating from RCA and have worked across a number of fields and with numerous collaborators from both creative and scientific fields. What are some of the most interesting products that have come out of these deeply collaborative projects? Can you share a story about a particular "a-ha" moment that may have changed the direction of a project?
Most recently we were working on a project in St. James's London, exploring the world's oldest tobacconist. We were looking at smoking pipes and the mouthpiece looked quite like plastic but had a wonderful tactility and quality. It turned out to be made from ebonite, a form of vulcanized natural rubber. This led us to our latest project called 'Fordlandia' which is a collection made entirely from materials sustainably harvested from the rainforest, including ebonite made from natural rubber.