Designer Margrethe Odgaard about process and color

Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard’s exhibition was on view at the Design Museum in Helsinki during this summer. An introduction to her work put the creative aspect of design in focus. Odgaard’s study of color and the cultural signification of it is very relevant and timely for innovative design conversation, in which we are looking for perspectives that see beyond the pure form.

It feels timely to give design process a platform, which naturally builds discussion about contemporary creative culture. In the world of high tech platforms, we may say that the DNA of design can be found in those practices, which designers organically share with the world in which they live. Without the personal and playful approach, perhaps the future of design would find itself in trouble.

The Helsinki exhibition featured Margrethe Odgaard’s collaborations and use of materials bringing forth an idea of process. What it highlights is that design should not abandon creativity and art. Margrethe Odgaard was assisting late Louise Bourgeois in the artist’s large scale work, which she created for MoMA in 2005-2006. The young designer learned from this experience with the famous artist. Bourgeois shared an approach that artist has to believe 100 percent in the work, even if the outside world is not able to see the same thing. According to her, ideas and vision come with a careful attention to detail, and from a non-compromising attitude.

In the future, Odgaard hopes to work more from her own studio base, and focus on the quality of the materials and colors. There is still huge call for colors in our contemporary cultural environment. Tactility of design does not come to mind as a top priority, and the colors still belong to a neglected area in the design world and architecture. Odgaard’s dream is to bring colors back to the black and grey field of architecture, which she frequently collaborates with.

Odgaard’s design can appear as minimal, yet playful, featuring bold ideas and patterns. It is important for her that the work has emotive response from various audiences. She hopes that the designs bring comfort and energy to our everyday life. Colors have so much potential to give birth to moods and create different atmospheres. Odgaard has focused on the cultural context of colors. She traveled to Japan in 2015, and to Morocco in 2016 investigating culturally specific domains for colors. The designer aimed to find out if there are specific ways to code the local colors from architecture and objects that are attached to particular places.

Odgaard trusts that as a younger generation Scandinavian designer, she is aware of the craft that carries a long cultural history. This means that she is able to add on the existing knowledge, and offer solutions to design questions and problems, which can be both beautiful and functional. At the heart of her color thinking is The Popsicle Index, which she created as a tool. It comes out in rich color hues that appeal to the senses and relate to the body.

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Margrethe Odgaard wanted to create a color system as an alternative to Pantone color system.

Copenhagen based Odgaard studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and the Rhode Island School of Design in the United States. After graduating in 2005, she worked as a textile designer in Philadelphia. Before opening her own studio in Copenhagen in 2013, she also designed in Paris. In 2016, the designer received a prestigious Torsten and Wanja Söderberg Prize, which is the largest design prize in the world.

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Margrethe Odgaard sates that colors and textiles can make together strong combinations, leaving an impact that is speaking to feelings as much as to eyes.

The textile designer looks for the purpose behind the design, and confirms that it should be always clearly attached to the process. The product is the end result of what the process entails. Margrethe Odgaard keeps diary of the colors which are inspirational for the designs. Details of colors have become a crucial part of her process. Nuances are extremely important, and the diary is a great tool as part of the investigation. Results are far away from being shy. It is truly a matter of sharing as well.

“Share your knowledge, ideas and skills without hesitation. Be specific to order to become general. Use good tools and create new if necessary. Think through your hands. Free yourself from the limits of coolness. Allow things to evolve in their own pace. Listen. Laugh. Dance.” – Margrethe Odgaard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Margrethe Odgaard’s exhibition was on view until August 28, at the Design Museum in Helsinki, more info:

www.designmuseum.fi.

Intervention Raphael Red: A fine stilt dance in Boston

Brooklyn based Mexican-born artist Laura Anderson Barbata got interested in stilt dancing in 2001, while being a resident artist at the Caribbean Contemporary Arts CCA7 in Trinidad and Tobago. She studied local carnival traditions embedded in the surrounding places, and started fusing her visual arts practice with elements of local performance. While working on a project which included paper making, the performance element stepped naturally into the costumes she was making from paper. The resulting works had a connection to local carnivals. In this context, she ran into workshops that were targeted for young people, in which local youth was learning stilt dancing as an alternative hangout to the streets. Eventually, Anderson Barbata brought her experience back to her home in New York, finding new collaborators who were based in the city. The  artist has ever since worked on various projects with the Brooklyn Jumbies, a NYC group specialized in the African Diaspora performances, including stilt dancing of the West Indies and West Africa.

On August 10, 2017, Laura Anderson Barbata’s new work Intervention Raphael Red was performed as part of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Neighborhood Night Block Party in Boston. For the event, the Brooklyn Jumbies were joined with local Spontaneous Celebrations in Jamaica Plain performers, all dressed in strong and dramatic red and white costumes that have their source of inspiration in the art museum’s interior. Anderson Barbata created the costumes and headgear for the performers from the luxurious silk velvets that were recently added on the walls of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s renovated Raphael Room. She found inspiration on the brocades and patterns, and developed the ideas and materials into new styles of costumes. Even as the artist does not consider herself to be a costume designer intrinsically, she has found a prominent voice with projects that involve textiles. Her work presents meticulous details, and is her artistic tool for innovation. Anderson Barbata found the current project Intervention Raphael Red, while the conservators at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum were transforming the historic Raphael Room. She has been an Artist-In-Residence at the museum.

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The Queen and stilt dancers, Brooklyn Jumbies, at the Block Party hosted by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, August 10, 2017. Photos: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Over the past year, the art museum in Boston has added new ways to connect audiences to its historic galleries. The programming at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has involved contemporary performances from sound art to pop-up dance performances. This Block Party introduced museum’s Raphael Room to the outside world, namely bringing its aesthetics and content in a contemporary form to the streets. Anderson Barbata’s project brought the costumed dancers and musicians as a procession down the Boston’s streets. Together with the Brooklyn Jumbies, who are the masters on stilts, there was a queen as part of the procession. It introduced also a herd of zebras as puppets that were animated by volunteers and the museum’s Teens Behind The Scenes, who are there to learn about the life and work in the museum. Guests were also invited to take part in the gallery activities and art-making in the studio. The evening filled with art and party had more performances in the gardens, Palace, and Calderwood Hall of the museum.

Audience of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Welcomes dancers on stilts.
Audiences and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum welcome stilt dancers.

Anderson Barbata’s collaboration with the Brooklyn Jumbies started in 2007. The group performs stilt dancing, which is considered one of the numerous cultural forms that come with the African and Caribbean diaspora.

Jumby means “ghost” in Afro-Caribbean, and also serves as a substitute for “stilt-walkers” who function like above ground roots connecting the undead with the rituals of the ancestral African world. Barbata and the Brooklyn Jumbies blend tradition with elements of social contemporary culture, group participation, and protest.

 

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Performers at the Procession introducing Anderson Barbata’s work as “Intervention Raphael Red”.

What is remarkable in Anderson Barbata’s focus and approach is that she has anthropological sensitivity to the subject matter. The artist has studied the ancestral components behind the performance tradition. She has brought contemporary messages into its form constantly adding new aspects to its current performing context.

Stilt dancing for me combines many things. To start, we are working with scale– larger-than-life characters that have the possibility to capture our attention. The movement vocabulary of a dancer towering over us expands in space. They are accentuated and can extend themselves through their use of textiles and different materials. This is where costuming is essential to the performance visuals and the message. But also very important to me is the symbolism and tradition that is embedded into this practice. -Laura Anderson Barbata