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future factor—stretching object realities
What motivates craft artists and designers to innovate? The answers to this question formed the underlying theme of 'Future Factor- Stretching object realities'. Curated by Susan Ostling, the exhibition investigated the links between science and art or, in this case, craft. This 'hot topic' has been tackled with various degrees of success in recent years, most notably in the recent Adelaide Biennial exhibition 'ConVerge'. Such exhibitions often hint at the unequal relationship that has historica lly existed between these two-art as handmaiden to science or vice versa- with the result that often both art and science come off worse for the engagement. Future Factor took a slightly different angle by suggesting that 'innovation is at the point where art and science intersect', neatly sidestepping a direct confrontation and moving into the abstract area of ideas.1 Future Factor was a smartly designed and engaging exhibition. A little reminiscent of trade shows, where the latest gizmos are displayed cheek by jowl under their individual banners, works in Future Factor were likewise displayed in front of fabulous, floor-to-ceiling didactic screens. These served simultaneously to separate the spaces, anchor each work and provide a soft wall in marked contrast to the often geometric, high-tech designs of the objects themselves.
This reversal of position (craft is often seen as 'soft', architecture as 'hard') immediately shifted viewers' perceptions of the works on display. A certain 'toughness' or solidity became apparent, even with the most diaphanous materials, such as Pea Rasmussen's nylon and wire filament garments, or Gilbert Riedelbauch's extremely delicate, mathematically formulated objects made of composite nylon and glass. Several of the artists' works were well known, or had been exhibited in different contexts where their 'abject-ness' was paramount. In Future Factor, the engagement with conceptual development, problem solving and an integrated display of ideas seemed more pressing. Furniture designers Kylie Bickle, Luis Nheu and Marc Harrison, known for their work with de ma, the Arts Queensland manufacturing initiative, share a deft handling of shape and form, somewhat organic in origin, but with sharp curves and angles reminiscent of the sixties' space-age look. This, in conjunction with the utilisation of new-tech resin, polyurethane and fibreglass, suggests the possibility that unlimited (but as yet unrealised) editions could evolve from these prototypes at some time in the future.
Tom Annear's mesmeric simulations were, likewise, filled with possibility: the possible failure of the doughnut shape bracelet-cum-splash in Bounce to return to its normal shape, and a family of similar forms wistfully appearing and disappearing, endlessly spinning, never completing the transition to a stable form. From the ephemeral, eternally out-of-reach virtual object, Elizabeth Kelly's series of glass forms emphasised the weight and solidity of glass, its fiery, jewel-like colour comparable to the industry of production, which is equally physically demanding, incandescent and beautiful. Light also featured in Bernini lights up, Rina Bernabei and Ruth McDermott's elaborate 'paper' chandelier. Assembled with the aid of a 'how to' video, the fabulously decadent swathe of new tech part-recycled fabric 'Tyvek', looked dangerously like paper but was, fortunately, inflammable. The moving image was used to effect in Sheridan Kennedy's 'ultimate ornament', a large quartz crystal suspended in front of a series of transparent anatomical screens, over the place of the heart.
Animated spectral auras or electrical impulses which were projected onto the clear crystal focussed attention and, by implication, energy onto the crystal-heart. Kennedy created a particularly moving talisman for the future: an integration of heart, mind and body simply and elegantly achieved. In contrast, Peter Prasil 's Cyberwank, a 'connected couch for the disconnected mind/body' took an ambivalent swipe at the current compulsion for computer work and play stations. This finely honed, accessorised leather and chrome recliner, with easily accessible flat screen, speakers and keyboard, epitomised high-tech laid-back and connected luxury, the not-so-subtle implication being that, once seated, it would be difficult to leave. One boy visiting the exhibition found this concept particularly irresistible. Undoubtedly innovation occurs in many ways, but the intersection of art and science is perhaps the most relevant to the craft and design disciplines, especially considering the implications of new materials technology, software applications and display. The strong and inevitable link to process-of making-provides a unique platform to undertake a meaningful dialogue with 'science'. How an object is created, if it indeed becomes an object at all, involves problem solving alongside conceptual development, and this generates a real application of innovation. Responses to Ostling 's initial enquiry included a desire to 'solve problems; make things that were previously close to impossible ; stimulate new ideas and opportunities; produce better solutions to ever changing social and physical environments; create a new experience for viewers and users; create something that captures the known and the unknown'. Future Factor not only provided a showcase for some of these innovative and inventive practices, but offered possibilities for future directions.
I . Susan Ostling, quoted in 'Future Factor', Gallery Guide, CQ Gallery, 2002.