Tuesday, September 30, 2008

the transcendent nodes of SP08

before i leave well enough alone and stop talking about the semi permanent 08 design conference, i want to mention four moments i found particularly profound - nodes that occurred during the two days of the event and seemed (to me) to transcend the normal talk about design.

it seemed to me that abstract notions, altruism, emotion, passion, love (...) were much more present at sp this year than other years. perhaps as a reaction against the superficial, mechanical, commercial aspects of design, the speakers were expressing 'deeper' desires, flirting around the edges of art, and aiming to express something with more meaning. here are four examples that struck me particularly...

joel gethin lewis talks about hiraeth. joel gethin lewis: an interactivity designer (for want of a better phrase) who combines artistic and technical smarts to create incredible and mind-blowing interactive spaces. to date most of his work has been with uva (see to believe).

as part of his talk, he spoke about returning home to wales, to his roots, exploring the countryside, seeing a rare red kite soaring through the air, and experiencing firsthand 'hiraeth'. hiraeth is a welsh word that means something like 'a sense of place' - connectedness to land and the place you come from. it seems that this experience propelled lewis into a more art-based working method. he is now working exclusively with open-source solutions and sharing his research with the world.

karsten schmidt quotes from judges 5:5. karsten schmidt: a designer (perhaps mad scientist genius) who designs by writing computer code and allowing his code to formulate visual output based on the parameters he programs.

his talk was very philosophical. we said that everything is moving if you look at it long enough - nothing is static. even mountains are moving if you look at them long enough. at which point he quoted judges 5:5, "the mountains melted from before the LORD". actually he quoted "the mountains flowed before the Lord" (maybe his own english translation from german). young's literal translation has it, "hills flowed from the face of Jehovah". his point being that the mountains are moving, you just need to be God to observe it (ie around long enough).

personally i found it very nice that he was using a biblical passage to illustrate his point. he later went on to give us the disclaimer that he actually doesn't believe in God. he said that the randomisation in his work is one reason. my personal take is that his work definitely doesn't imply a lack of God. the randomisation that is inherent in the work steams from source code that he himself programmed (the code itself is not 'chance'). showing, i think, that the 'randomisation' we see in nature could steam from a generating source code programmed by a master programmer.

kate bezar quotes 1 corinthians 13. kate bezar: was a business consultant who chucked it in to follow her passion and create an interview magazine about ordinary people achieving great creative things (called 'dumbo feather, pass it on').

as if one creative quoting from the bible wasn't shocking enough, kate bezar did the same by quoting from 1 corinthinans 13, commenting "i bet this is the first time you've heard the bible quoted at a design conference" or something like that. she quoted, "when i was a child, i talked like a child, i thought like a child, i reasoned like a child. when i became a man, i put childish ways behind me." it was a scripture that she recited en masse as a school girl during school assemblies.

kate's angle was that by starting 'dumbo feather', following this scripture is exactly what she was NOT doing. she equated the business world she was once in to "putting childish ways behind" her, and that starting 'dumbo feather' was rediscovering and embracing a childlike approach.

i can't resist critiquing this. i think it is totally brilliant that she ditched the commercial world for an enterprise like 'dumbo feather'. in fact this is totally compatible with christianity, which (in part) calls for people to favour deeper, more beautiful things over materialism. as it happens, kate has taken the scripture out of context, because the verses immediately proceeding her quotation basically state that there's no point doing anything unless you do it with love. which is an idea she's embraced by starting 'dumbo feather' - she is now using love as a driving force, where love was absent from the grind of her former business consultant life. st paul's meaning in 1 corinthians 13 is that the more advanced way to do things is through love. the bible in no way denigrates a childlike approach to life. jesus himself said, "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (matthew 18). i think she took a step closer to the true meaning of 1 corinthians 13 when she started 'dumbo feather' rather than a step away.

danny yount's sea anemone. danny yount: a title sequence designer responsible for such things as the opening titles of 'six feet under' and the end titles of 'iron man'.

the finale of sp08 for me was when yount put a picture of a sea anemone up on the screen, and said something to the effect of (and i wish i could remember his exact words), "this sea anemone sits on my desk. when i need inspiration i look at it closely. look at it - it's perfectly designed. God has surrounded us with an amazing creation. so when you need inspiration, look around you."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is up there with the best conference correspondence- telling the nice little moments we'd never know of otherwise ...