Post Presentation Essay

Memphis art, an anti-design movement founded by Ettore Sottsass in 1981 with a group of other Italian Designers, which acted against the concept of what is “aesthetic”.

Art Deco, Kitsch, Pop Art, and Futurism alongside other art movements were inspired Memphis art, which can be seen as opposition against the dull designs of the 1970s. Memphis artists felt that buildings, cameras, cars, furniture, typewriters, and many other items in this era was lacking individuality and was giving the impressions of mass production. Feeling that these designs were outdated, Memphis artists sought to breathe life into such items; sometimes as crudely as possible, all the more to oppose the concept of what tasteful design was seen as then. Memphis art supports the concept that “anything goes”, that there should not be a standard for how design should or should not be. In fact the name origin supports such an idea: Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again by Bob Dylan was played throughout the evening during the first meeting with Ettore and fellow designers, and thus they went along with it.

Despite being wild and unpredictable in nature, Memphis art does have some prevailing features that appear more often than others. Laminate and Terrazzo materials which are normally more found on floors, are incorporated due to the unevenness of the pattern in comparison to checkered or stripes. However as expected of Memphis art, these designs are not found where they normally would, as you can see them on tables and lamps and such.

Memphis art appears to place emphasis on uneven and unexpected design qualities, as suggested by the anti-design properties. Squiggles, sometimes known as the bacterial print, was designed by Sottsass in 1978 is a pattern of uneven curvy lines that give the impressions or squiggling, was also a common pattern used in Memphis to show the unevenness even in solid objects. Bright, multi-colours were also used in items, especially in mismatching shapes to further push away the concept of design. Chair legs may not be rectangular or cylindrical; they could be triangular and be in a bright red while the rest of the chair may be a cool blue. Memphis goes out of their way to tell you that things should not be what you expect them to be.

A contrast to Memphis art is Modernism, which places value in the notion of functionalism over aesthetics. Derived from modern architecture with inner structure dictates outer form; modernism is about scientific objectivity and values mathematical and functional exactitude. In the concept of functionalism, the notion is that objects made to be used should be simple, honest, and direct. Designs should be well adapted to their purpose, bare of ornament, standardized, machine made and reasonably priced. In the process they should be expressive of their structure and materials. Memphis art conflicts this by turning it around, making the pieces loud and irregular, with bright colours and shapes that would be less than practical for the purpose. As Scotsass views the design movements that emphasises such functionality, he feels that the creative aspect and personality is being sacrificed, this led to the birth of anti-design movements such as Memphis art.

The original group of Memphis designers created a wide range of bizarre creations that won celebrity fans from David Bowie to Karl Lagerfeld and arguably the most iconic of all is Ettore Sottsass’ Carlton. Exploring how its bright coloured laminates and playful form typified Memphis’ challenge to Modernism’s impersonal aesthetic[1], the Carlton could be seen as a bookcase, a room divider or a dresser – or all three; similar to other pieces by the Memphis group, it fits well as modern art installation. Designed in 1981, it can be found in design museums around the world, and in fact it’s still available for purchase from the Memphis Group website – at a grand sum of €13,200.40[2]. Sottsass’ Carlton bookcase – designed for the group’s first collection – epitomises his use of brightly coloured laminates, graphic forms and non-functional elements that became the defining style of the decade, and that with Memphis, Sottsass wanted to define a new approach to design that broke free of the restrictions of functionalism. To challenge the concepts of minimalism in modernist art, Memphis art was quickly associated with postmodernism.

The Carlton is constructed of medium density fibreboard (MDF) sections, which are laminated in different colours. Featuring horizontal, perpendicular and angled surfaces, the bookshelf and has two red drawers just above the base; but the seemingly haphazard arrangement of partitions and voids is actually based on a logical system of equilateral triangles, which support both the slanted and flat shelves. So while it is a disaster in the concept of form and function, there was engineering put forth in creating a piece that balances itself, despite seemingly outrageous. But if you could afford one, you’d need a substantial living room to house it, as the Carlton is enormous – almost two metres square. What are the rewards of getting the Carlton then? A bold colour palette, strong, stark lines, and a geometric structure: its various partitions, voids and shelves are based around a system of equilateral triangles – the perfect example of Memphis art.


[1] Howarth, D. (2018). Postmodernism in design: Carlton bookcase by Ettore Sottsass. [online] Dezeen. Available at: [Accessed 21 Nov. 2018].

[2] Memphis Milano. (2018). Carlton. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018].

Creative Responses

My name in Rebus

A Bauhau Poster illustrating the humidity of Singapore, where evaporation is more commonplace than rainful

Illustration of contrast in emotion – Beauty and Disgust

Cubist portrait of a classmate


My name in block typography

Hyperessay – LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner

LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner

Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö, and Luke Turner form an artist trio known for their performance art that explores emotion, connection, and collaboration across various media.

In 2011,  The Metamodernist Manifesto was written by Luke Turner, defining metamodernism as “the mercurial condition between and beyond irony and sincerity, naivety and knowingness, relativism and truth, optimism and doubt, in pursuit of a plurality of disparate and elusive horizons,”, where he concludes with “go forth and oscillate!”. This Manifesto united the trio to collaborate and to create series of metamodern performance projects across digital and physical platforms.

Their first known appearance was #IAMSORRY, which begin on February 9, 2014, the trio attracted attention at the Berlin Film Festival, as LaBeouf arrived at the red carpet wearing a brown paper bag over his head with the words “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” written on it as he walked out of a press conference.

Video from BBC link above

LaBeouf at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival,  photograph retrieved from

Following the incident, the trio staged a six-day performance in a Los Angeles gallery titled as #IAMSORRY, where LaBeouf with the paper bag, silently cries in front of visitors, who were allowed to enter the exhibition room he sits at, one at a time, after being invited to choose an item from a table of objects to take in with them. Various journalists experienced the performance and felt emotions of disturbance, his presence, and that contemporary art has more than it meets the eye.

The trio are modern artists who incorporates technology and interaction with the public to create  platforms that help to strengthen their messages, which I find relevant to our topics “Interactivity” and “Hypermedia”.

Artwork project chosen – #TAKEMEANYWHERE, 2016

Every day for a month, the trio would post their current coordinates online with the hashtag #TAKEMEANYWHERE and wait to hitchhike. Whoever appears are allowed to take them to any location of their choosing. Their journey could be tracked in real time at during the duration of the project, while their route and destination entirely placed in the hands of the public. As Turner describes the project, “we’re all putting our trust in the collective, in the networks—they’re deciding, they’re determining what unfolds,” this project’s success falls completely in the control of the public. As an “interactive piece”, the public would be the ones that determine how the piece is formed and what the end result would be like, as the artists only follow the flow.

Journey of the trio, image retrieved from

While this project is not directly related to “hypermedia”, the nonlinear concept could be felt in the process of creation. Hypermedia focuses on the experience being unique as the user may access the same information in various different orders, such as through a different flow of hyperlinks. In #TAKEMEANYWHERE, the trio crosses the country and encounters many people along their journey and learns more about those they came across. However, unlike a traditional experience such as watching a documentary, the experience of meeting people has the element of “entropy”, where they do not know who to expect to meet, or in what order they garner new information or content for this project. In a sense the public, while controlling how the project flows, also has the control over how linear their journey might be, or how expanse it could be. This brings us back to the consideration of “interactivity”, as this project would be incomplete without the connection with the public. Besides the control over their route, the trio also extends their experience by learning more about the people who offer them the hitchhike. As such, rather than piloting the experience, the public becomes part of the experience.

Onto the mechanic aspects, the project involves the global positioning system, which allows the trio to post their coordinates daily and keep the public aware on what is going on, how to project is working out, as viewable from the link shared above. This project uses technology to extend out reach to a large audience in an instant which allows awareness and the ability for the public to react in response. As Roy Ascott mentions, interactive art should free itself from the modernist ideal of the “perfect object”, and artwork should be responsive to the viewer rather than fixed and static. To allow such spatial difference in movement across the country (the trio resulted in Alaska), the project shows that entropy can be helpful to the project, as the lack of direction and randomness leads to unexpected encounters from the artist’s point of view, while keeping the excitement level for the public’s point of view, as they too would be interested where the trio ends up the next day.

In conclusion the trio creates less-than-conventional artworks that could result and differing outcomes and engage different emotions by how it is perceived. Depending on how art is directed, there are more methods to present it than just display in a gallery; interactive pieces can bring the public into the piece, letting them not just have unique experiences, but even alter how the piece turns out. This makes the art connected to the public in a more emotionally deep level. And being able to direct art in such a way, I would have to say Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö, and Luke Turner does their job well.

More information on the trio’s projects can be found here.