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Thoughts and Innovations for the Future, and for the Many Futures

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BE OPEN FORUM/DESIGN MIAMI

On December 8, 2012, BE OPEN launched at Design Miami a series of profile talks to act as a flashpoint and a gateway to the future of design, and specifically intuitive and sensory design.

The program at the December 2012 BE OPEN Forum at Design Miami, resonated with the overriding themes of the Design Talks: “Satisfy Your Curiosity”. The design world’s most compelling topics were examined by prominent collectors, critics and creatives in a public discourse format, culminating in the BE OPEN presentation of six sensory-led world designers operating at the forward edge of their fields.

Each of the featured designers — Carter Cleveland, Dawn Goldworm, Tuur van Balen, Marije Vogelzang and Jamie Zigelbaum and Marcelo Coehlo — were selected for their practice of testing the boundaries of traditional product design, utilizing such things as food, scent, biochemistry and haptic technology to re-imagine the possibilities of design applications through an obtuse exploration of the human senses.

The first speaker, Carter Cleveland, the founder and CEO of Art.sy, arrived with a string of editorials to recommend him…in Forbes magazine, in an ARTINFO piece entitled, The 30 and Under Crowd: The Art World’s Most Influential Young Figures of 2012. And in Business Insider’s 25 and Under: Meet the Rising Stars in New York Tech.

He created Art.sy as a new platform where users can discover, research and collect art…with the mission to make all of the world’s art accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Through the Art Genome Project which he developed with his team around 1,211 characteristics called “genes”, Art.sy establishes connections between art historical movements, subject matter and formal qualities, creating infinite serendipitous opportunities for users to discover and respond to art sensorially—and doing so through technology!

Carter Cleveland graduated from Princeton with a BSE in Computer Science and worked briefly at NASA, City College of New York and Citigroup as a research technician and software developer. Before that he grew up under the guidance of his writer/art critic father, following him around the galleries in New York, nourishing and grooming the proclivities which resulted in his sophisticated art and technology hybrid that became the Art.sy experience.

Art.sy invites the users to forget that they are online and enter into a virtual exhibition space or even an artist’s studio. Carter Cleveland recalls the frequent and collective user experience when “clicking the button, a whoosh of feeling, perception and recognition transmits from the art image, transcending from a mere digital encounter, and creating a seamless integration of technological delivery…and designed response.”

Since its launch, Art.sy has served over 60 million impressions to people in over 180 countries who are seeking exposure to great, new and obscure work that otherwise would not be available to them at their locations. The transportive effect of Art.sy has resulted in profound emotional experiences, has seeded vibrant relationships in the art world and initiated international art buys for its many users.

BE OPEN’s next guest, Dawn Goldworm–who with her twin sister Samantha runs an olfactive branding agency called 12.29–spoke about how she designs sensorial and emotional experience through scent, and not just within perfume bottles. But within art spaces, cars, hotels, for runway collections and luxury products. She even designed the filament of fragrance that was lingering about the Design Miami tent!

After years working as a “nose” for what she calls the “straight” beauty industry—even creating a fragrance for Lady Gaga—Dawn designed her own New York University graduate degree in Olfactive Branding. And since then has pushed the edges of olfactive design to include original smell for paper and silk, and even for an art installation of carnivorous plants! Go to 12.29scent.com for more project descriptions.

“Olfactive design stimulates the emotional cortex of the brain, linking scent with emotions and human comfort”, she explained. “Any unfamiliar scent is automatically rejected or at least stored until an olfactive response is developed.” Therefore olfactive branding strives to design and compose a bouquet of comfortable, safe and enveloping touchpoints to deliver the positive association or recognizable signature that is optimal.

She continued, “We are born with only smell and touch [and intuition] as our vital senses, which is how we are taught to translate our experience until our other senses catch up.” Dawn Goldworm builds upon these seminal transitions in her work to construct fragrances that deliver emotional appeal and visceral excitement for a wide range of products. As a “synasthete” she sees color and texture when she smells something. Or, as she remarked, “ I use one sense to find others”. And as a scent designer, she references a vast and cataloged olfactive library to create customized experiences and results.

The smells of dirt, rain and grass to reference a pre-1940’s layering, or more synthetic and manufactured—though still pleasant– scents like crayons and Play-Do track memories from the late 20th century and inform her many projects. Today she is asked by luxury clients to create what she calls “scent emotocons” for things like leather and velvet, and the colors black and aubergine, even for the texture of a mirrored surface. For the Design Miami tents her brief was to capture the excitement, the openness, vastness and brightness of Miami, and the electrifying effects of neon signs or an afternoon storm…resulting in an intoxicating fragrance with rare lily notes and the dark, mysterious anisic notes of black licorice root.

Another guest, Tuur van Balen, who with his partner, Revital Cohen, operates their London studio as an “experimental practice” that exists on the borderline of art, biochemistry and design. Their practice creates, produces and exhibits “fictional and speculative” objects, photographs and videos exploring the juxtaposition of the natural with the artificial.

Always fascinated by cyborgs—half technological and half biological beings—Tuur van Balen is presently inspired by concepts like designer species, composed wilderness and mechanical organs, posthuman bodies, bespoke metabolisms, unnatural animals and poetic machines.

This designer, or “practicioner” specifically does not create products to be displayed and sold in a shop. Rather he embraces a study of the rise of technological products—artificial lighting, wrist watches and birth control pills for instance—as it impacts and distorts our perception of time, and not just daytime, but biological time.

His Artificial Biological Clock, which resembles an aesthetic object that might sit upon a mantelpiece (and has been collected by the Museum of Modern Art in New York), has as its premise the complex relationship between our bodies, illness, interventionist aids and technological cure-alls. He states that regardless of medical advances, we still have no control over, nor fully understand, biological healing. This beautiful object that was produced and exhibited as the Artificial Biological Clock, engages a separate populace of design aesthetes in the possibilities of natural and synthetic interactions. As do his other projects involving lambs for sleep and dialytic therapies, retired greyhounds on treadmills as mechanical ventilators, flocks of pigeons which defecate soap…and a recipe for melancholy.

Could all of this be considered a glimpse of the future? Tuur van Balen doesn’t believe in The Future per se, because he believes there are many versions of possible futures on the horizon. He is more strictly interested in considerations of the present moment. And inviting us into his created, curated world of objectified synthesis, to encounter–on the web site (cohenvanbalen.com), or studio, or at an exhibition—his unexpected creations that beg the question, “What would it mean if…?”

The eating designer, Marije Vogelzang, was quick to point out in Miami that she is not a food designer, nor a chef. “Food is already designed perfectly by nature”, she reminds us, “you don’t only look at my designs but put them inside your body.”

“And since”, she also pointed out, “ everybody eats food, everybody wants and has daily relation to food, and food connects us to culture, to society, to nature…”, then it would follow that as an eating designer, Marije Vogelzang also is a designer of human interaction, memory, feeling and emotion.

And that her designs create an amalgam effect and a cathartic experience of all the senses including smell, touch, sight and sound, in addition to taste.

Wondrously creative, Marije Vogelzang, since her schooling at Eindhoven, has completed many projects around eating, including a Christmas dinner enjoyed with only heads and hands visible through an upended, slotted tablecloth, as well as a storytelling meal, hand-fed by Hungarian Gypsies. All of this is described and recorded in her book EAT LOVE and also on her web site  marijevogelzang.com.nl.

As are her “faked meat” inventions, which are vegetarian foods not presented as unimaginative alternatives to steaks and sausages. But as fanciful creations from the hedgerow, the seaweed garden and the volcano, which have built-in flavors of herbs, ocean and smoke. Marije Vogelzang has also imagined for us a maple-sucking dessert bird, marshmallow clouds made with real rainwater, iceberg floats for hot chocolate, and spoons made of sugar which dissolve into tea.

Deceptively innocent and whimsical, her creations and events also make reference to the many serious issues confronting our global food supply, including waste, transportation, toxicity and shortages. One perfect example of this is her lollipop gun, which is inserted into the mouth barrel first. A reference, she says, “to what too much sugar can do inside your body.”

The Zigelbaum/Coehlo design partnership is an outgrowth of time spent at the MIT Media Lab, where Jamie Zigelbaum and Marcelo Coehlo first explored and surfed the contours of science, fine arts, technology and design disciplines. As previous recipients of Designer of the Future Award at Design Miami, they re-stated at the 2012 BE OPEN Forum their shared mission of getting computers out of the , out from behind the screens and into the 3-D world. “When we think of the amassed amount of information we push as thought forms through these electronic devices”, said Zigelbaum. “when you think of how all this is framed and transported, it is an enormously exciting interface to explore.”

“Normally”, adds Coehlo, “people get judgemental or scared about technology if it exists outside or apart from normal design practice, let alone if it is embraced as a creative subject. We feel the opposite. What do these screens mean in our future and how will they interact with us in the 3-D world? Computers and materials are going to combine one day in a strange new configuration that is at the heart of our work.”

For one project Zigelbaum/Coehlo also worked with food as a medium on plates surrounded by electrodes. As the food is added, it becomes part of the circuitry creating LED patterns resulting in spontaneous connectivity recipes. Also for their digital gastronomy series, they have created robotic chefs, geometric food processors and food printers viewable on zigelbaum/coehlo.com

In another project they break a liquid crystal screen apart to produce an art piece that asks what is behind the iconic computational surface? Can you “touch” a pixel, that multiplied entitiy of all virtual representation? Is it possible to capture the pixelic invisible force?

Zigelbaum/Coehlo’s “entrainment” theories were also discussed in terms of the invisible forces of oscillating systems that connect everything, organic and non-organic, and which we don’t always see. One current project shows three light towers which “breathe” light, and respond to the proximity of people. Touch one of the towers and after sensing your heat rate, it will “entrain” automatically with your body cycle, then spread into the room interacting with other heart beats, bringing everyone into a “phase-lock” or harmonization, over time. Could this result in biological assimilation, dynamic human synergies and even world peace they was asked.

The response from Jamie Zigelbaum and Marcelo Coehlo was emblematic of the consistent attitudes and inspiring goals of each of the designers convened by Design Miami for the December 2012 BE OPEN Forum. They are not solely interested in productizing nor in only pursuing patentable inventions or theories. They are more interested in creating the idea of a new way of thinking, for people to experience change as a result of altered, sensory perception. By presenting new approaches for others to delight in and study, rather than only offer things for practical application, it frees these visionary minds to communicate new ideas as intuitive design, and as conceptual.

Befitting the stated mission of the BE OPEN Forum, these six extraordinary design minds were able to share and roam, to illustrate and to offer their daring ideas, their fresh insights and their sensory creations from the Talk Stage at Design Miami, untethered by the parameters of commercial outcomes. They presented not only thoughts and innovations for The Future, but for the many futures approaching in 2013 and beyond.

BE OPEN will continue this exploration of the design world’s most compelling current topics at scheduled events during design weeks in Mumbai (March 2013), in Milan (April 2013), in London (September 2013) and Tokyo (November 2013). The Milan events will be focused around a temporary installation in an historic courtyard at the Universita Statale, where additional designers will be presenting their own views on interfaction of technology and the senses. A talks program is also scheduled for Milan Design Week.