Spring 2002

Horror, fish and sunrise platforms

Profile Intermedia 4: motion e)motion emotion

Messe Centrum, Bremen, Germany
30 November–2 December 2001

‘They are all with us,’ smiled Peter Rea, referring to the audience of more than 1000 young designers. Rea is the mastermind of this ‘international conference on the crossover in design, art, film, architecture, photography, video, performance and music’ for the Hochschule für Künste Bremen, now in its fourth year.

Not only is Peter Rea a dedicated and ‘fatherly’ educator, he is also a natural, unaffected, performer. His versatile design background and his nomadic way of life and networking is the source for many crossovers in design, art, architecture, film, photography and music. ‘Profile Intermedia’ is an outstanding example of his approach: friendly, personal, experimental and imaginative. According to the motto ‘learning by doing’, the conference is run by students of the Kunsthochschule with some professional support. By keeping basically to a one-track programme, along with workshops and exhibitions, an atmosphere of concentrated intensity is created: big, but humane.

Chris Steele-Perkins, the Magnum photographer, showed film and documentary photos from Afghanistan that anticipate the tragedy happening right now. ‘Do we have to repeat all these horrors again and again?’ Rea asked him, to which the answer was a sad ‘yes’. Having seen too many horrors over the years he is withdrawing from this kind of documentation.

In contrast to the realities of Afghanistan and other seemingly remote places, the West appeared to be preoccupied with illusions. Gabriel White’s explanation of the Mill Film company’s brilliant special effects for Tomb Raider and Gladiator only brought me back to Rea’s question to Steele-Perkins. Why is Ridley Scott repeating historic violence, in the form of an action film, again and again? Such overkill has no positive social effect, particularly when relying on mythologising music and images, much like the soldier phalanxes Leni Riefenstahl used in Triumph des Willens, her documentary about the 1934 Nuremberg rally.

Once a ‘runner’ on Rea’s London ‘Window’ conference, Fernando Gutiérrez is now a Pentagram partner. Although a Londoner by birth, he is regarded as Spain’s most innovative designer for his work on magazines such as Matador or Cinema (see Eye no. 36 vol. 9). Gutiérrez is all for the real world and how to make it worth living in, for example as art director for Benetton’s magazine Colors.

By contrast Martí Guixé, the Catalan designer-artist and ‘gastrosopher’, says: ‘The problem with design is that people want to sell.’ Guixé is a bizarre and genial thinker who has created a plastic cigarette for passive smokers, a vending machine for underwear packed in pills (that inflate when sucked or licked), and tapas for extreme situations such as eating under water. Funniest of all was his interior-designed aquarium, with an outlook platform, a gym and a chill-out zone. What fun to be a fish! When asked about his futuristic designs, he said laconically: ’I don’t make things for the future, I make contemporary things.’

Another innovator is German media artist Michael Saup and his group, Supreme Particles. His computer installations connect interactively the movements of the viewer with images and sound. He is known for his choreographic engine for William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt. In this interactive installation, the dancers react to light lines and music lines, to words and letters: a digital ballet. Other projects include ’Infossil Energy’, born out of his concern about the waste of fossil material in PC production; and a plan to win back energy from the Internet. As there cannot be a future without the past, Saup has turned his attention to Oskar Fischinger, the film pioneer, and enlarged upon his work of 1927: a feast of colour, sound and light energy.

Artificial Environments, a small London-based team, exemplify the ‘e)motion and emotion’ theme of the conference. AE develop design concepts and Internet technology (including the new Eye website), aiming playfully at a balance of give and take, extolling the philosophy of the ‘happy user’. They presented their proposal for sunrise/sunset platforms in London, designed to be visited in the very early morning and in the evening – free of charge, naturally.

Uwe Brückner and his interdisciplinary team link real and virtual spaces to create interactive architectural environments for museums and theatres – or for Panasonic. For Expo 2000 he worked on the stunning projects: ‘Theme Park Environment’ and ‘Limits of Experience’. He visualised the myth of the Titanic for an exhibition in Hamburg.

The Hochschule für Künste Bremen showed some interesting videos, some made with an artist’s eye; others with a designer’s. Despite efforts towards genuine ‘intermedia’, it appears that the old conceptual, mental borders between art and design persist.

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