Curious Trends


Burn out, melt down and fire in design

With so much going on, many of us are feeling close to breaking point. Thanks to digital communications we’ve virtual friends all over the world, can choose from a myriad of satellite TV channels and organize our work and social lives online. However, the unnatural constraints we impose upon ourselves can cause some to experience ‘burn out’, which is why the Slow Movement is gradually winning support in so many areas – slow food, slow fashion, slow design, slow travel etc. Meantime, some designers are expressing their concern over our increasing social isolation, despite the fact we’re functioning in hyperactive overdrive. Their desire to represent nature versus culture: our fast paced, high pressure existence, set against the need to reacquaint ourselves with more basic, intuitive sensory experiences, has resulted in some fascinating art installations and interiors pieces - often employing fire, reds, oranges, flames and embers in a symbolic way:

In RCA student, Gabrielle Le Bayon’s slide show, Image of a City, she observes the solitude with which we live in a multi-cultural society (in London). She finds the way we live next to each other without interacting very strange. On the one hand, there’s a virtual world, and on the other, there’s mixing within niche groups - like the inner-city gangs who are left to fight amongst themselves. She also considers the influence of natural forces, the cycle of birth and death upon our man-made superstructure, but seems to imply that our will to live is a lesser force than the desire to go with the flow, to keep up with the pace of change amidst the competitive, cosmopolitan smorgasbord of whatever is fashionable at the time.

She says,“It’s terrible because today we don’t have time to get bored or lonely. Solitude is the opportunity to reflect and find things within us. It’s important to read, to learn, but it is equally important to have time to digest it all. Most of us don’t take the time for it. We are on our mobile phones and laptops. We integrate with one group or another depending on our common cultural preferences. But there aren’t many bridges between these groups or people…

Today people don’t attempt to find the moral anymore - in the Christian bible, the Hebrew bible and the Koran, for example. They go to the cinema. It’s a vehicle for lots of messages about the general rules of life, drawn from religious texts, which have influenced lots of civilizations. What is the relevance of culture in relation to solitude?”

Elizabeth Leriche’s Haute Tension installation at Maison et Objet in Paris is all about intense sensation. “The world is dematerializing before our eyes at top speed; values are scrambling in scale; forms are hesitant about their content. The market itself is wavering between muted propositions and consensual entertainment. As a salutary reaction we are now reconquering a new materiality and tension, the ‘force of extension’ of senses and sensations, visual signs and information.”

This tension is in effect an excess of reality, a kind of exacerbation. New forms borrow the latest avatar from the language of the virtual and give it heightened reality. High Tension thus questions our perception and rehabilitates a sensory, sensitive and intuitive approach to things.

The Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec designed Quilt chair and sofa consist of an upholstered honeycombe-like skin of hi-tch stretch fabric with individual foam inserts, which is filled over a fiberglass shell. The patchwork components are mathematical in design as well as decorative and give a comforting and reassuring feel to this functional chair. Quilt is the antithesis of the formal, structured sofa and seating designs we have become familiar with.

Naziha Mestaoui and Yacine Ait Kaci of Electronic Shadow created Focus a visual, interactive poem that “brings to life the twofold cycle of fire – natural and cultural.” The installation implicates the visitor in changing from one cycle to another. Encompanssing wildfire, sacred fire and domesticated fire – fire is the element of energy and transformation in an endless cycle, from its birth to death and rebirth. Between the two extremes of fire, flames, embers and smoke echo in the sun. “The cycle is only interrupted by the visitor, whose presence in the space between the mirrors transforms the cycle of nature into one of domesticated fire, industrial fires, city lights, energy, construction, destruction and patterns of overlap, with the visitor taking part in the domestication of fire - the spark of civilization, light, energy, creation…Light, synchronized like music, creates an immersive experience for a poetic form whose images are words and space, sentences.”

Photographer Nadege Meriau’s Planet Organic – Solanum Tuberosum (Irish potato) gives the impression of a glowing sun in meltdown.

Lamps made from upcycled oil bottles cast a warm, red glow in a pizza restaurant.

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