As part of NYCxDesign, the students of the MFA in Products of Design at the School of Visual Arts present ALSO!, a series of interactions that explore how we experience new design. The work comes out of a 5-week class called Design Performance taught by Sinclair Smith, which explores design exhibition beyond the pedestal, focusing in on interaction, participation, and staging new behaviors.
Through a roving set of mobile interventions—both cart-based and human-worn—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.
The work took flight at WantedDesign, and visitors can learn more at www.alsoproject.com, with full process documentation at alsodocumentation.tumblr.com. [Graphic Direction: Benjamin Critton; Photos: Kathryn McElroy]
There are 6 mobile “stations” to the ALSO! Project. Each “hacks” the exhibition, prompting visitors to see design through a variety of new lenses.
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The station titled “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? There are seven tracks in all—many confessional—along the lines of “I see you standing there, under the lights, looking at me, wanting me to be new and fresh every year, but next year you’ll be back and I won’t be, because you’ll want the ‘new’ chair, the new model...” Some are funny, some are poetic—all give new texture to he practice of design storytelling.
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The station titled “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. Students worked with booth owners ahead of time, helping them use the technology to provide information at a detailed level. (Several booth owners didn’t want the TINY teams to leave; it turned out that the devices were extremely successful in rendering the designers’ intentions in a way that made them salient and persuasive.)
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The station titled “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 (you ever notice how when a big crowd is watching something in the street, everyone is watching it on their phone?) 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? Here, visitors set their phone to movie mode and hit record; the students load the phone into the caddy and raise it up slowly to the top of the WantedDesign space (the ceilings are soaring), turn a pirouette, and come back down. Visitors enjoy a movie of the experience that their digital device had!
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The station titled “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’s 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. And since people are taking so many photos of the show anyway, “WARP” provides a spot where they could take a shot “of the whole show” and share it with hashtag AlsoProject.
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The station titled “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. Here, students traveled to exhibition space weeks ahead of time and photographed beautiful and precious design details that would normally go un-noticed—materials, textures, old harware, etc.—a kind of “UN-wanted Design” at Wanted Design! In each of the ViewMasters, a unique set of images, along with some short snippets of historical info click by. Contemplative and quiet, “Here” provided a respite from the cacophony of the show.
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The station titled “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. Visitors pick a brochure that they think would work well, and die cut eye holes into it—posing, photographing, and sharing.
Finally, students created printed materials in the form of custom-printed paper tape, laying it over existing brochures or on the sides of tote bags, reducing materials, creating an experiential moment, and again, “hacking” the exhibition in a way that was celebratory, fun, and enriching.
And finally, finally, since the work is "performed" during the exhibition, the students created a "we are not here" sign in the booth where the carts lived during off-hours. Above is the "before" and "after". See you soon!