Alpha-Ville Exchange Conference
By Bob Wilson
So last Friday, Chris and I attended the launch of Alpha-ville EXCHANGE, a one day conference bringing together and encouraging collaboration between the London art, tech and creative communities. The event was brimming with talent, ideas and inspiration, with talks coming thick and (relatively) fast from a wide range of artists working in and around the digital landscape. For a designer with level noob coding ability, far more at home in illustrator than sublime text, it was a real eye-opener to the power and seemingly endless possibilities of generative design.
(Graphic design is dead! Long live graphic design!)
There were a total of 9 speakers:
- Eno Henze (DE)
- Sougwen Chung (US/CA)
- Onformative (DE)
- Shantell Martin (US)
- Field (UK, DE)
- Stefanie Posavec (UK, US)
- Kokoro & Moi (FI)
- Hellicar & Lewis (UK)
- Davide Quayola (UK, IT)
Each of the artists were equally inspiring, presenting work and process ranging from motion graphics, graphic design, illustration, interaction design, generative design, digital and software art, mixed media art, data visualisation and just about everything in between. The one thing they all had in common was enthusiasm and passion for their work, pushing the boundaries of a young and ever changing industry. It was a world-class lineup, and I certainly left in the evening buzzing from all the amazing work and ideas. I would urge anyone not familiar with the links above to spend an hour or two getting up to speed, you certainly won’t regret it.
Rather than repeat the obligatory biogs/roundup (there was far too much incredible work for me to do justice anyway) here are a few themes that resonated with me personally.
Thanks to all of the speakers and Alpha-ville for a thoroughly stimulating day, despite the tokenly broken aircon.
Visual artist and scenographer, Eno Henze spoke about his work examining the evolution of the relationship between man and machine. I found it really interesting how he saw himself as the tool in which the computer would ultimately realise it’s artistic potential. Collaborating with choreographer David Dawson and the Dutch National Ballet, Eno’s huge generative stage designsare a beautiful and uncanny contrast to traditional ballet. One thing I really admired was how he resisted the natural temptation to drive the visualisations with information from the movements of the dancers. The decision to keep the two narratives separate prevented one overpowering the other, and highlights just how important restraint is when working in such an intrinsically technology driven environment. I think it would have been very easy to get carried away with possibilities and link the two simply because it was an option.
Sougwen Chung can only be described as a true polymath. Guiding us through her intricate practice, she seemed to be incredibly talented at just about everything you could point a cursor/pen/violin bow at. Combining organic, hand drawn illustrations with projected motion graphics and ambient lighting to create magnificent installations, Sougwen is a true multi-media artist. I loved her obsessive approach to drawing, a response to what she called digital fatigue. Having grown up “on-screen”, she also raised an interesting question regarding the role of CMND+Z and it’s potentially negative effect on the creative process. If anything she made me realise how rarely I draw in my sketchbook these days, and also reminded me of how much fun it is. It’s so easy to get chained to the mac, I’m going to make a conscious effort (a bit late for new year’s resolutions) to do more doodling.
Chance and collaboration
After expanding upon the esoteric name of their Helsinki / NY agency Kokoro & Moi, partners Antti and Teemu detailed their playful creative process. Once I stopped staring at their fantastic custom typeface (which funnily enough wasn’t mentioned once) they took us through a handful of projects all utilising chance as the guiding principle. When designing the visual identity of theWorld Design Capital Helsinki, they crowd-sourced the creative, literally giving ownership of the identity back to the city and it’s inhabitants. Through a series of workshops, they tasked the citizens of Helsinki with the creation of graphic elements, briefing them with the same themes they had been given; Open Helsinki – Embedding Design in Life, Global Responsibility, and Roots for New Growth. The result was hundreds of interpretations which they curated, forming the backbone of the identity. Another branch of the project invited hundreds of creatives, type designers and artists (and anyone else that was interested) to submit glyphs for a collaborative typeface named Yo Freckles . The result was used for the Finnish Design Yearbook and thenpublicly released under a creative commons license. I love the free-spirited idea of giving design to the masses, and the resulting aesthetic has such individual charm and warmth. It also made me think of the crossover with generative design, crossover being the wrong word, the process is generative design, just with humans instead taking the place of programs (cue Keanu Reeves etc). Kokoro & Moi make it look effortlessly simple, though I’m sure curating such unharmonious output into a cohesive message requires a huge amount of skill. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe everything just falls into place, guided by the confidence afforded by a rock solid, brilliantly simple concept. Either way, the work is progressive, social and most of all jolly good fun. Definitely a studio I’ll be keeping an eye on.