Olena Jennings, New York City based poet and designer, escapes to the trainin her latest work. During COVID-19, social distancing has been in place. For Jennings, new kind of creative process has evolved during this time, when thinking of poetry and design together.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Would you like to name some inspirational poets?
Olena Jennings: Inspirational poets include Alice Notley, Don Mee Choi, Galina Rymbu, Queens poet Micah Zevin, Cladia Rankine, Simone Kearney, and Gala Mukulomova.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Your artistry has evolved from poetry to textile art, and dress making. Hows is this combination working? OJ: My thoughts become free as I sew and this process helps me to release words that I catch for the page. It can be meditative. I like the idea of connecting textile works with poetry. It’s fun to force the words into a visual shape. It’s become an important part of my process even if I never share the textile work. It helps me think of the words in a different way. It helps me to give them shape.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you feel that your cultural identity is in a process or evolving in the making of your new textile art?
OJ: My cultural identity is linked with memory. When I go into the past I explore my culture. It makes my culture more personal and different than it might be for other people.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Did COVID-19 change your practice and plans a lot, how have you coped during this time?
OJ: COVID gave me the solitude that is necessary to be creative on almost a full time basis. Even when I’m working, I am thinking about projects.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: When looking at this dress and the design of it, is there anything special about making the ‘rails’ of the dress?
OJ: The fabric of this railroad dress, which I made, is polyfil and wood. It was inspired by the poem “Social Distancing” by Christine Turczyn published in Lightwood 4.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle:The dress is essentially echoing the poem, and the theme of it. There is a special rhythm in Christina Turczyn‘s poem that stimulates this design?
OJ: The specific line from Christina Turczyn‘s poem is “Anna painted a railroad tie that stretched across her hand.” The fabric that looks like wood came from scraps of the previous dress I made, so everything is connected.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: This is fascinating. So eventually, you wrote your own poem “Escape to the Train”. Did the poem by Christina, and making the dress inspired by the poem, end up in your own poem?
OJ: First came Christina’s poem, then the dress, then my poem came (without thinking of Christina’s at that point.)
ESCAPE TO THE TRAIN
By Olena Jennings
They took the photo with the fire escape in the background. They would sit outside among the plants in terra cotta pots and smoke cigarettes. Sometimes it was the highlight of their night until they started to plan the train rides. They couldn’t speak French well and bought a ticket to the wrong city that they decided to go with because it was much closer: their Strasbourg.
She was the third, sat on her own next to a stranger who kept pulling his cardigan around him as if he had something to hide. Her friends’ voices sounded like whispers the row behind her. Everyone was keeping secrets.
The journey was captured in her arteries. The movement tugged at her from within. She followed the rhythm, getting off a stop early, leaving the giggling of her friends behind.
Anne Raudaskoski is a Finnish enterpreneur who wishes to create new connection to nature. Her approach can change the game of sustainability. With a background in dance, she has faith on the power of the arts:
“Arts provide a holistic approach to existence, and this is what we need to change the current linear system. Human beings are part of the nature; nature isn’t something that is “out there” to be exploited, but rather, we need to re-establish our connection with the nature to realise that we can create sustainable growth and well-being with far better rules than what we presently have”. (Anne Raudaskoski)
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: When and how did you start Ethica consulting company?
Anne Raudaskoski: I started Ethica in 2013 with my business partner Paula Fontell. We actually didn’t know each other at the time, but we both had been talking to our mutual friend of having a dream to set up a company focused on sustainability and the circular economy. This friend of ours suggested we should meet and share our ideas. We had our first meeting over lunch and we realised we shared the same vision. Three months later Ethica was formally established.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you get interested in the circular economy?
AR: My approach to CSR (corporate social responsibility) and sustainability has always been very business oriented. It means that there has to be a solid business case for sustainability and it should be embedded in strategy and R&D in such a way that sustainability works as a spring-board for the strategy instead of being an add-on or philanthropy. I wrote about the circular economy (CE) in early 2012 on my blog site after reading some articles on the Ellen McArthur Foundation (the global driver for the CE) site. I felt that some of the questions and pain points that CSR could not resolve – especially the intersection around environmental, strategic and economic issues – were inherently part of the circular economy. So when we started Ethica, it was very clear to us that the circular economy would be part of our service portfolio.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is it possible to define, what circular economy actually changes?
AR: Circular economy is an economic model, so it affects all sectors and organisations in some way. I always say that the biggest hurdle in transition from a linear to a circular economy is our current mindset. All our processes, decision-making, governance and actions are based on linear thinking. In a nutshell, this means that we keep overusing natural resources, we accept the concept of waste as de facto, design processes are not based on biological and technical cycles and we haven’t figured out yet how to do business within the planetary boundaries. All this is changing as part of the transition towards the circular economy.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What are the basic principles that define the circular economy?
AR: The below list of six principles offers a good starting point to explore CE more in detail.
1 Circular economy is a resource wise economic model that is restorative and regenerative by nature. It operates within the planetary boundaries.
2. Materials cycle endlessly in technical and biological loops in society. Materials are safe & non-toxic.
3. The value of products, components and materials is maintained and increased through refinement.
4. All energy is renewable and is used efficiently.
5. Solutions are systemic and based on designing life cycles, ecosystems and multiple purposes.
6. Equal distribution of resources and well-being is in the heart of the circular economy.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How would you describe the ‘ethical’ core of Ethica?
AR: We want to create a circular future. To us this definition also entails equality, social well-being and in fact, a more just and transparent economic model than what we currently have as the result of the linear economy.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Finland seems to be a forerunner for ethical solutions when it comes to consumption, and the country is also involved in introducing new clean practices. What aspects in Finnish culture support these kind of thinking?
Indeed, there are quite a few aspects supporting this and I’d say it’s the unique combination of culture, history and welfare state: high number of clean tech innovations; excellent education system that educates children and young people about sustainability topics; frugal manners that our grandparents and parents had to adopt during the war, which then were passed on to younger generations; good recycling infrastructure with incentives…and of course ambitious policies and action plans in place. For example, circular and bio economy are one of the five flagship programmes of the current government. Finland was also the first country in the world to publish a national circular economy roadmap in 2016.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What in your mind defines good consumption?
AR: Understanding your own impact and power as a consumer. Exploring your own values; what kind of world I want to be building, do I want to be part of the solution or part of the problem? Questioning your own consumption habits: is there something that I could do and choose differently? Being your own leader when it comes to adopting new, sustainable solutions.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Tell more about your Relooping Fashion project?
AR:Relooping Fashion was about creating circular fashion. We piloted a circular ecosystem consisting of seven business partners ranging from waste management company to fashion retailer and packaging service. So the goal was to build, test and learn how a closed loop fashion ecosystem could work. Another important goal was to test VTT’s (Technical Research Centre of Finland) new technology for cotton dissolution that replaces the use of virgin cotton. Ethica’s role in the project was to model the business ecosystem as well as research the consumer interface. i.e. how to create demand for circular clothing.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Where do you find your daily inspiration from?
AR: No matter how cliché it may sound, I simply and truly enjoy my work, so the work itself coupled with the opportunity learn new things is my source of inspiration. Every project is different, we have great clients and collaboration partners to work with and of course our own team is brilliant.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What can the world learn from Finnish innovation in clean practices?
AR: Great education and innovation support system are essential enablers. I also think that the Finnish way of living and thinking inherently has a fairly good level of social and environmental responsibility, and when these aspects are combined with innovation, you get the solutions that the world needs.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How do you like to influence and motivate people in their everyday life to incorporate more sustainable solutions and choices?
AR: There are a number of different players who all have a role to play. Of course we need businesses to develop solutions that are not only sustainable, but they’re also the best solutions available. Legislation can speed up the development and help mainstreaming new solutions. Education and the media also play a hugely important role in making sustainable choices the “new normal”.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you think that your background as a dancer helped you in your career path?
AR: It did in many ways. Working as a freelance dancer requires endless curiosity, self-discipline, perseverance and ambitious attitude. You’re always seeking new opportunities and you need to welcome constant change. You need to be a good team player, but at the same time you’re 100% in charge of your own development. There are hardly any permanent vacancies available, so you have to build your own career and make sure you are sufficiently networked just to be even considered to be one of the many candidates. Basically, you work as an entrepreneur without the formal status of entrepreneur.
Also my dance teacher background has been an asset when running workshops and giving presentations.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: In what ways can arts support circular economy?
Arts can create connections and mental horizons that escape the typical business environment. It can bridge rational and emotional in a way that enables eureka moment, which is a prerequisite for willingness to change the status quo.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How many countries have you visited to lecture and share about your business?
AR: A few so far: China, the Netherlands, Estonia and Reunion Island (France). We also exhibited in Austin (US) at the EcoExhibition a couple of years ago. Next month I’m going to Sweden.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is it easy to name clients that are best for your brand?
AR: The ones who want to work ambitiously, are truly interested in raising the bar and finding new opportunities through the circular economy thinking, no matter the size or sector of the organisation. From the circular economy perspective, we are still at the dawn of the new era and endless opportunities that this new approach can provide us with.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is the questions of climate change significant and embedded in your models?
AR: Absolutely. To start with, all energy should be renewable, this is one of the basic tenets of the circular economy. Decoupling growth from the use of virgin raw materials and resources is another key principle. In short, it means doing more with less and designing our products, systems and societies in a circular way so that emissions can be decreased significantly.
Featured image credit: textile hackathon, Sara Malve-Ahlroth.
Danish designer MargretheOdgaard’s exhibition was on view at the DesignMuseum 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 MargretheOdgaard’s collaborations and use of materials bringing forth an idea of process. What it highlights is that design should not abandon creativity and art. MargretheOdgaard was assisting late LouiseBourgeois 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 ThePopsicleIndex, which she created as a tool. It comes out in rich color hues that appeal to the senses and relate to the body.
Copenhagen based Odgaard studied at the RoyalDanishAcademyofFine Arts and the RhodeIslandSchoolofDesign 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 TorstenandWanjaSöderbergPrize, which is the largest design prize in the world.
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. MargretheOdgaard 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.
The designer investigates colors.
For Odgaard wood can offer pattern and color combination to textile ply.
MargretheOdgaard’s exhibition was on view until August 28, at the DesignMuseum in Helsinki, more info:
The opening of a new expansion of the SFMOMA art museum was celebrated just a couple of weeks ago. The intention of the new Snøhettadesigned museum, is to increase public access to the museum by creating more room for education for the arts and related fields, to bridge the gap between the exhibiting gallery spaces and unticketed areas, as well as connect the outdoor spaces around the museum. More room to hang out, to meet, to educate, to inspire and to be inspired. SFMOMA opened at its current location in 1995, when the construction was designed by Mario Botta. For the reconstruction, Snøhetta design team had a challenge to double the gallery spaces, and help create a museum, which is a hub for new things to emerge. The refurbished museum aims to bring together American and International arts, while the collections span through gestural modernism and conceptual art, to the emerging contemporary art from the Bay Area. SFMOMA has also promised to reach out to global art communities at large.
Sol LeWitt ‘s Wall Drawing 895: Loopy Doopy (white and blue)
Green wall at SFMOMA.
Oculus Bridge at new SFMOMA.
Descending natural light creates deep space.
The new SFMOMA proves that it is possible to reinvent an art museum. First, the museum architecture plays a huge role in creating the potential for the artworks that are being installed, as innovative architecture contests the boundaries of the space. This time, museum interior communicates with the exterior. Snøhetta has created a construction, which is seamlessly woven into the existing building, adding into the city’s urban dreams. As a result, the museum goes beyond its construction site, and communicates with surrounding parks and alleys. This proves that the ‘institutional’ side of the museum’s bureaucracy is set in the background, and the numerous stages of the public dwellings offered to the visitors is more apparent. A visitor attains the key role through the alteration of the spatial elements. Having so many choices to play with, the architecture transmits the perception, and creates together with the artworks a unique encounter for each visitor. The architectural line, it’s material continuation inside and outside sparks into multiple directions. Second, art plays with architecture in a new and unexpected ways, and changes the constructions too. With Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt, and Alexander Calder, among others, it’s hard to make the space appear as null. But there is so much art in the world to add into the master classics. New works show as much potential to communicate with the space.
Snohetta designed SFMOMA.
A new contemporary art installation inaugurates the museum’s New Work -space. Leonor Antunes, has created work with a title ‘a spiral staircase leads down to the garden’ (2016). This piece communicates with the architecture, showing diverse angles to enter the gallery space. The artist has stated that she carries ghosts with her into her works, in bringing artists, designers, and architects whom she admires to her installations. ‘a spiral staircase leads down to the garden’ is no different, appearing as a continuation of the space as an interior. The handcrafted materials cover the floor, hang from the ceiling, light the space, and block a direct path. The installation shows the artist’s interest in the Modernism, highlighting especially the woman practitioners in the history of craft and design.
The Doris and Donald FisherCollection creates much of the museum’s art collection. In particular, noteworthy is the display around the historic gestural abstraction, which started molding the American Art after the end of the World War II. The movement started to erase questions about the art’s capability to evoke thoughts and feelings. Perhaps it originated in the idea of believing in the healing mechanisms of the art. One work is particularly interesting. Joan Mitchell’s large size triptych ‘Bracket’ (1989), is a great example of the instantaneous moment in art. For her, painting could represent similar forces as the sculpture, forging out the movement and physicality.
The show around gestural modernism is well thought out as part of the SFMOMA’s new opening. It reaches up to redefining the concept of a gesture via selection of works. This becomes a red thread to other artistic displays as well. The museum exhibits plenty of work coming from the plural identities of the Bay Area, yet, some combining elements construct a more cohesive palette. The best part is that the transitional space of the West Coast and its cultural crossroads confuses the pattern of the gesture as something fixed, measured, white and universal. The inside of the culture is turned outside, as much as the architectural environment overlaps both domains.
The contemporary artworks do not create separation, but quite wisely culminate in supporting each other. Series of contemporary works follow black and white patterns, with a hip touch of pop art, and borrowing from chic minimalism of American interiors. These could of course be easily absorbed into the world of design and culture lending to Modernist and Postmodernist architectural patterns. Over all, the sometimes too heavy collective experiences are not so much emphasized, and there is more room for subdued artistic politics. Fragmented selves and posthumous experiences, ghosts of the artist’s personal influences as part of the installation define the process in the contemporary art.
ETH Zurich pavilion was constructed of waste materials and opened to visitors during the IDEAS CITY Festival in May 28-30, 2015. The 3-day biennial festival takes place in New York City in May mapping the future of cities with culture as a driving force. It is a collaborative event, including a conference and street festival, inviting to civic action, as well as giving a platform for creative ideas to be exchanged. This year’s theme was inspired by Italo Calvino’s literary work Invisible Cities (1972). Participants explored questions such as transparency and surveillance, citizenship and representation, expression and suppression, in their daily lives.
Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else. (Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities)
TheETH Zurichpavilion hosted events through the festival. What does a truly smart city mean to us was a highlighted theme around the site. The pavilion was entirely made of waste, so while our answers to what smart cities are can be many, an important question is the future scaling of consumption in the cities. ETH Zurich poses a sustainable approach where we need to reconsider what we can do with all the waste that now ends up in landfills. Some solutions include tackling the pre- and post-consumer waste, while transforming it into construction materials like bricks and panels, which then can be used in making future buildings, homes and new products.
The pavilion is designed with a vault-like roof, showcasing bricks made of waste. It displays engineering technique that minimizes the use of material through the structure of the design. It lets in a good amount of daylight and feels airy. The structure brings into mind Guastavino tile vaulting as source of inspiration. Some of the Guastavino vaulting can be seen for example in New York subway’s abandoned City Hall station. In that context, the vaulting benefits from a technique that uses self-supporting arches with standardized size tiles. What this Pavilion truly showcases is that in the future, cities will hopefully optimize the designs so the structures will occupy less space. Big cities like New York struggle with lack of space, so fitting the pavilion in-between the buildings in downtown 1st avenue looked and felt smart and savvy.
The expressive Pavilion was designed to ‘visually float in the narrow slot between the buildings of First Street Garden.’ It is designed by the ETH Assistant Professorship for Architecture and Construction, Dirk E. Hebel and the Block Research Group. What the structure also implies aesthetically and visually is the potential of design to utilize so unstandardized and ‘weak’ materials in construction. The Pavilion’s shape follows the flow of forces, resulting in a compression-only vaulted structure. It has a double curvature and triangular beam-section, giving the structure a higher depth for the same thickness and weight.
Man Yau is a Helsinki based artist currently living in New York City. Her art and design philosophy comes from craftsmanship, which means exploration with different materials. She collaborates genuinely with other designers and artists. Most recently, she exhibited @TheHoleNYC together with two other Finns, Jesse Auersalo and Nina Merikallio in their show called “Dislocation”. Man says that having so many idols and mentors in her life makes it impossible to start with a particular list..
But I do love a mark that Ettore Sottsass has left to the design history, I recently experienced a wonderful show by Daniel Leyva, Toshio Matsumoto’s “Shift” is better than weed, and streaming with my brother is always encouraging. -Man Yau
FIRSTINDIGO&LIFESTYLE: How would you describe your medium, intersection between art and design, using traditional materials to convey popular topics or trends?
MAN YAU: Firstly, the intersection between art and design, what does it mean nowadays anyways? I feel that the borderline between art and design has been crossed, and more and more experimental design objects or functional art pieces are being produced. Secondly, I do use lots of mediums such as marble, porcelain, glass, wood and metals because I love working with my hands. Craftsmanship, it’s part of my philosophy of making. And it conveys to “popular” topics (I would rather say current topics) because I want to handle modern society’s movements in my work. The themes of my artworks reflect current trends that I see as a characteristic for our generation.
Porcelain Decks by Man Yau. Snap shot from behind the scene. Photo: Tuukka Kaila.
Bag collaboration for Sophie Sälekari’s collection 2014. Photo: Juha Mustonen
Aeon lines – table Exhibited in Milan Design Week, Photo: Anna Niskanen
Where did you exhibit recently, before showcasing in New York? How was the New York exhibit?
MAN YAU: My latest project was a collaborative project with Finnish fashion designer Sophie Sälekari. I made a very experimental, haute-couture-ish bag collection for her line up. It was shown for the first time at Näytös14 (Organized by Aalto University, ARTS) and then the whole collection has been in different showrooms and in Paris Fashion Week. At the same time I exhibited in Milan Design week 2014, at the show room Spazio Milano C’est Chic together with Beacon Helsinki, this collective creative network group. Oh yah, I have now ongoing a group exhibition in Helsinki. It’s called Arts and Design of Tomorrow at Bukowskis Auction House in Helsinki.
You have made beautiful skateboards out of porcelain, which is a statement of cultural trend, do you skate yourself?
MAN YAU: No I don’t, not my sport but skateboarding and all stuff related to it has been a big influence to me always. (Porcelain decks on vimeo: http://vimeo.com/48134455)
What is the current art climate in Helsinki versus Europe?
MAN YAU: Well It’s getting sunnier I guess tho it is still cloudy. By that I mean that Finnish design and fashion industry are rising with good speed but art comes behind. I think it’s because of the lack of financial support and branding. There are a lot of really amazing art projects going on all the time but the projects usually stays where it started from, in Finland. Not too many of us have change to go big, in global-wise.
What do you consider as your future goals?
MAN YAU: To become a self-employed artist with a good taste and who does not have to beg money from the foundations to support the project all the friggin’ time.
What do you think of the global art market, do you have an opinion about it?
MAN YAU: Interesting, crucial, if you get into the spin the cloudy days are over.
Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya’s environmental installations and fog sculptures have become widely known around the world. According to her, fog represents an interactive medium which makes the audiences feel and participate in its pure natural wonder. Fog comes closer than clouds; although these are scientifically the same, fog calls for a different kind of dialogue with nature. The above fog sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya is at Toyota Municiple Museum of art in Toyota, Aichi.
Born in Japan, Nakaya is a daughter of the physicist and science essayist Ukichiro Nakaya, who is credited for making first artificial snowflakes in the world. Inspired by natural weather phenomena, she created her first fog sculpture for Expo ’70 (Osaka Japan) to be presented at the Pepsi Pavilion. Ever since, Fujiko Nakaya’sworks have been on display on international venues, including Guggenheim Bilbao and Australian National Gallery. In 2013, her Fog Bridge became a waterfront wonder for local and international audiences in San Francisco’s Exploratorium. The work was part of the year’s waterfront celebrations, highlighting the bay area and its special weather conditions (famous for its dense fogs).
What makes ‘fog’ so dimensionally touching is that it as a natural phenomena varies in the circumstances. The fog sculptures live with the wind, temperature and humidity.
Nakaya’s fog has also entered theatrical stages. She created stage sets for Trisha Brown, David Tudor, and Bill Viola.
On September 8, 2013, avant-garde fashion collective threeASFOURdebuted their spring/summer 2014 line at The Jewish Museumas part of threeASFOUR: MER KA BA – exhibition. The collective’s fashion and art is inspired by the geometric patterns found in synagogues, churches and mosques throughout the world. For the nine sculptural dresses featured in MER KA BA, they use laser-cut lace, origami pleats, and 3D-printed textiles to unite symbolic patterns from diverse religions.
(Video by Brian Gonzalez)
The collectives 3 designers were born in different cultures:
Gabriel Asfour is from Lebanon, Adi Gilfrom Israel, and Angela Donhauser from Tajikistan. Their approach to fashion is poetic and socially conscious. For threeASFOUR, couture is about more than just beautiful clothes; ‘it is both wearable art and a platform for their free-spirited philosophy.’
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threeASFOUR’s MER KA BA installation exhibition is on view until February 2, 2014, at the Jewish Museum in New York. Check the exhibition site.
(Fashion Interactions-exhibition, Timo Wright-‘un fit’ video still)
FASHION CURATING NOW is a daylong symposium at ParsonsThe New School for Design on Saturday November 16 9:30 am-5 pm. The symposium reflects the subjects around the Fashion Interactions exhibition focusing on the possibilities and challenges of contemporary fashion curating on a global scale. Critical points of view are stressed, as is contemplation of fashion’s kinship with art, design, industry, performance, and self-presentation. I asked a few questions from Leena-Maija Rossi, who is the Executive Director of Finnish Cultural Institute in New York,about the seminar and other related topics.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Can you explain the background of the seminar?
L-M Rossi: The background of the Fashion Curating Now is in the exhibition project Fashion Interactions. It has its origins in the show Boutique, curated by Annamari Vänskä, which was part of Helsinki’s World Design Capital year in 2012. Finnish Cultural Institute wanted to bring a new edition of the show to New York and partnered with Parsons New School for Design in order to do that. The process of “re-curating” an already existing exhibition made us think of curating fashion at large: how to present fashion in an interesting way “outside the market”? How to make engaging exhibitions on fashion, how to show its entwinement with fine art, how to find new fora for curating, e. g., in the new media? How to make visible the political aspects of fashion?
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Finnish fashion and design have gained more international visibility, creating their own trends as well, how do you see current research field is following trends from the industry?
L-M Rossi: I see fashion research as a developing and dynamic field, especially when it connects with studies on class and consumerism, and, of course, studies of gender and sexuality. I do not know if the task for the research is to follow the trends, I rather see research as a field for critical interventions.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: In Finland, it seems that industries have also been able to point to cultural questions, what do you see as current research themes coming from the field/industries themselves?
L-M Rossi:Sustainability is of course a timely research theme, and the way it intersects with the issue of class. I am also really interested in the potentiality of queer fashion research, and I would really like to see more analysis on gender nonconformity, not so much of equaling queer with identity categories.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Yourself, you have written about advertising, media, gender representations/performance-related, in the contemporary visual culture. What do you see this global exchange is giving to these themes?
L-M Rossi: I think fashion is a crucial part of visual culture at large, especially because of its border-crossing nature. Gender is being profoundly done by people’s choices of dressing up and wearing their clothes, and these choices are, again, influenced by advertising. So one could say that the fields of fashion and advertising are constantly participating in the global processes of doing and undoing gender.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How well or how do Finnish fashion industries communicate globally? How do you see the branding, would it be more individual voices than a canon etc.?
L-M Rossi: It seems that many Finnish designers communicate quite naturally in the international field of fashion. Like visual artists, I think they first and foremost present their individual voices; it is very difficult to build a uniform “brand.” But then again, many seem to be thinking of such issues as high quality materials and sustainability.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle:Art, fashion, design: How would you speed-describe these together?
L-M Rossi:Fashion and design are artforms, fashion is an interesting field within design. All of them make difference in everyday life.
Last weekend I had my first photography show in Chelsea (New York City), as part of the High Line Open Studios. Since my day job is in statistical research, this was my first experience putting together an art show – and it was fabulous! The show was a great way for me to combine three completely separate facets of my life: the artistic side (I am a photographer and graphic artist); the volunteer side (I teach ESL 3 days a week); and my personal and professional networks, which were instrumental in ensuring the success of the show.
I first started to photograph when I was living in Spain in 1995, and much of my photography focuses on the different perceptions that a newcomer has of ordinary surroundings. Since beauty can only exist in the eye of the beholder, I have tried to convey the essence of what I find beautiful in a place, rather than what is commonly considered beautiful, which, in many cases, is simply familiar. There are a few images below – you can view more of my work on my photo blog. Selected images are available for purchaseas prints on Society6and facebook.
In addition to photography, I also create whimsical, stylized elephant designs. “Elephant Love” is the brand name for these designs, which are also sold on Society6and facebook. They are inspired by artists and design companies such as Marimekko, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Walasse Ting, as well as by traditional folk arts such as Russian matryoshka (nesting) dolls and the molas that are embroidered by the Kuna Indians in Panama. A variety of home decor and novelty items are available with these designs, such as posters/prints, blank stationery cards, throw pillows, iPhone covers, tote bags and clothing (t-shirts, tank tops, hoodies, etc.). The bright colors are great for decorating your apartment or nursery/kid’s room.
Because my work is primarily digital, I appealed to my friends and family for donations to cover the cost of producing physical items for my show. This was my first attempt at crowdsourcing and I was very impressed by how supportive everyone was.
In order to encourage people to support my show, I promised to donate the profits from the sale of artwork and merchandise to a good cause: the Institute for Immigrant Concerns, where I am a board member. The Institute is a New York City non-profit that provides free English classes and basic social services to low income immigrants, refugees and asylees. The amazing stories of our alumni have been featured in the New York Times and other newspapers. I was a volunteer English teacher with them for two years before becoming a board member, and
I continue to volunteer with them about 12 hours a week. The combination of the artistic cause and the social cause was a great way to reach a wider audience.
We are planning one more open studio day in a few weeks (possibly Thursday, November 7), so stop by if you happen to be in the area! Details about the event to follow soon… In the meantime, check out my website, blog andfacebook page! Thank you for your support!
Photographer, Block-by-Block Photography
Graphic Artist, Elephant Love
(Read Patricia’s Firstindigo&Lifestyle interview from April 2013 here)