In the 1930s to 1960s, during the period of World War II till its end, the design of products amidst the warring states in Europe had created a great change on their respective treatment towards product and design. For countries that were affected by the war, their design had, in essence, been affected by their political influences or economic status. A prime example would be the Germans. During the rule of Hitler, the Bauhaus school had to be closed in 1933 due to the disagreements of the Bauhaus’ internationalist approach and decision to remain apolitical to the Nazis. Post-World War II, the Ulm School was started to research on new methods of production and social responsibility in design. It was also successful thanks to the implementation of the Marshall plan by the United States of America. While this is a prime example of the political intervention to design, I will be examining the Europe that had little to even no involvement in the war – the Scandinavians.
Referring to specifically, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. While Norway and Denmark had been invaded by Germany, Sweden had managed to remove herself from most of the action through strict diplomacy. Although it is noted that the Scandinavians had little action during the war and were mainly co-operative during this period, the main crux of their design ethos laid with their surroundings. With 3 months of summer and 9 months of cold winter, limited resources, and their strive for democratic design, the Scandinavians had produced a unique characteristic of designed products to reflect their characteristics and environment.
The cold climate in the Nordic countries proved that they required another source of warmth. The Danish concept of ‘hygge’ which refers to the feelings of ‘coziness’ and ‘warmth’ was heavily implied throughout the designs of the region. In order to achieve this feeling, a lot of natural materials like wood and stone were used. Products were designed to look like natural objects. In Figure 1., the glass vase was constructed to reflect the image of an apple. The underlyingnaturalism ofthese products create a pseudo-natural effect on interiors when used, augmenting the concept of ‘hygge’. Other examples would be the use of wood.
The chair in Figure 2. is a prime example of the application of ‘hygge’ despite having a modernist minimalist design. The wood is bent in a curvilinear manner as opposed to angular bends. The chair provides a warm ‘feeling’ through the use of material and form, reinforcing theconcept of ‘hygge’ in a non-naturalistic manner (as opposed to the Apple Vase inFigure 1.). Another example of the warmth in the design is the curves emulating the human physique, providing the imprint of human in the design
Due to their geographic isolation, the Scandinavianshad to learn how to marry their skills in craftsmanship and with their surrounding resources. As a result of this lack of resources, a serious need for functionalism was adopted. However, in the previous paragraphs, it is also noted that the use of ‘hygge’ was also adopted through the functionalism.An example of this was the lamp. Yki Nummi’s Kuplat Lamp was anelegant lamp that emulated a bubble. This design was showed that the beauty of something so simple did not detract from its inherent function – the lamp as asource of light and illumination. Another good example of this skilled craftsmanship would be the chair in Figure 5. The chair is essentially made with one piece of wood, demonstrating the skilled craftsmanship and smart use of limited resources, yet the smart use of woodreinforced the idea of ‘hygge’, or the feeling of warmth and coziness.
The Scandinavians post-war, had a steady rise in economy and industry. There was the rise of the working class, creating a starker inequality level within the region. In 1943, Ingvar Kamprad started the ball rolling by creating his mail-order sales company, IKEA which would soon grow into the furniture chain. In 1959, IKEA started its first flat package design. The democratic design of IKEA furniture was fuelled by the belief that the not as well-off should be given the same opportunities. Through this, we can understand that the Scandinavians believed in opportunities for all and even in their interior and product design, they ensured that everyone could experience the same feelings ‘hygge’ in their lives.
Consequently, the Scandinavians were well-aware that they were unique in their design methodology. Being situated in a unique continent, they managed to work with their cold environment to create an intrinsic, psychological experience of warmth in their design. Through naturalism and the thoughts and concepts of ‘hygge’ the Scandinavians managed to push through by experimenting on forms and materials. Their leave-no-one-behind mentality was also emphasised with modular designs and flat packaging design through IKEA. In the end, despite their lack of resources except for their environment, they managed to pull through and create objects that were both functional and possessing the spirit of ‘hygge’ unlike the Bauhaus school of thought which aimed for functionalism, and believed in utilitarian design.
[Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from https://static3.businessinsider.com/image/5b59f31be361c03c008b45ea-1200/in-the-1960s-ikea-discovered-that-it-could-make-tables-more-affordable-by-producing-them-from-particle-board-a-materialmade-from-wood-chips.jpg
Eyþórsdóttir, K. S. (2011, June 13). The Story Of Scandinavian Design: Combining Function and Aesthetics. Retrieved November 11, 2018, from https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/06/the-story-of-scandinavian-design-combining-function-and-aesthetics/
Mjøset, L. (2000, February 15). The Nordic Economies 1945-1980 – ARENA Centre for European Studies. Retrieved from https://www.sv.uio.no/arena/english/research/publications/arena-working-papers/1994-2000/2000/wp00_6.htm#topp**
Zul Mahmod is noted as one of Singapore’s leading sound artist. As a sound artist, Zul has been interested in sound-media with a mix of interdisciplinary and experimental approaches. He is known for integrating 3D forms such as his copper pipe installations that are massive and are visually arresting when looked at.
The work that I am examining is a work that is particularly different from the rest of Zul’s repertoire. While many of his soundscapes are made pre-recorded or programmed to sound the same, Dialog is a work that is influenced by the people that are present in the vicinity. The work changes with the audience, with every audience transmitting sound that moves through the Esplanade tunnel. It is essentially like a live version of the telephone game where the sound begins to be displaced post-transmission. As such, Dialog is a work that showcases interactive media due to its interactive nature because the work requires audience response and the results are not predetermined by the artist
When discussing the work of Nam June Paik to illustrate the ideas of interactivity, his work Magnet TV requires the viewer to move the magnet around the TV. Nam June Paik’s body of work, although backs his claim as the “father of video art” with his work – Magnet TV, the breakthrough of it is also due to the incorporation of requiring audience participation. Similarly, Dialog displaces the audiences’ senses by providing and aural and visual intervention at the Esplanade Tunnel. Using the echoey environment of the tunnel, Zul programmes the work to take in sound made by the surroundings to create sound through solenoids and copper pipes. At a default setting, the sound created by the echo already interacts with the artwork. With the added sound by viewers – through their involuntary steps (across the tunnel), or voluntary sounds, the sound changes, disrupting the default state of the work. Conclusively, Dialog by Zul Mahmod fulfils this criterion in which it is a form of interactive art due to its requirement of audience interaction.
Apart from the requirement for audience interaction, another important point to determine if an artwork is a form of interactive media is that it should be unpredictable. As a form of cybernetics, Zul programmed the work to create sound on its own while interacting with the surroundings. It is similar to how Wiener (1954) describes Cybernetics as a term “…the study of messages as a means of controlling machinery and society, the development of computing machines and other such automata, certain reflections upon psychology and the nervous system”. However, apart from it being self-regulatory, Dialog is also a form of Behaviorist Art. As Ascott (1966) defines behaviorist art as “a retroactive process of human involvement, in which the artefact[sic] functions as both matrix and catalyst.” Dialog provides feedback to the human involvement it receives. It develops the sound as a matrix but is also a catalyst as its site specific nature orders the viewer to walk through the work, creating involuntary walking sounds that react with the work itself. It also reacts with itself.
To build up on the previous point. While Dialog is in its default state, predetermined, the experience evoked per audience provides an independent output. This creates a experience which Ascott (1966) derives as “more variety into the system and leads to more variety in the output.”
If we compared to work to the sound art of John Cage, it is essentially very similar. While John Cage decided on the types of sounds, textures for Variations V, and essentially the work was an interaction of sound and movement with programmed staged lightings to trigger the dancers to move to create the sound, Zul had programmed the solenoids, microcontrollers and copper pipes to produce sound. The reactivity is also similar to Robert Rashchenberg’s Soundings which produces light from pitch of voice. In essence, the similarity in nature of the artworks highlights the discipline of which Zul Mahmod’s Dialog is indeed, an interactive work since it is reactive to an individuals experience and the input given to the work by the audience produces variable output.
Conclusively, we can determine the Zul Mahmod’s Dialog is a form of Interactive Media through the use of interactivity. By producing sound and being on the genre of sound art, Zul expands his repertoire by adding an interactive element to his work.
Following Dialog in 2016, Zul had also made another interactive work, SONICconversation. Similar to Dialog, the work interacts with the acoustics of the environment, allowing the audience to play a part in the work. In nature, Zul’s work at the default state already produces sound that becomes echoed for the work itself to generate a response. While arguable that Dialog is not an interactive work as it is already predetermined by its default state, it however is still interactive as the different audience interaction then becomes another layer of sound for the cybernetic work to react to. Due to the fact that Dialog requires and audience feedback and that the work itself is not predetermined, thus it is a form of interactive media.
Smith, R. (2006, January 31). Nam June Paik, 73, Dies; Pioneer of Video Art Whose Work Broke Cultural Barriers. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/31/arts/design/nam-june-paik-73-dies-pioneer-of-video-art-whose-work-broke.html
Media Art Net. (n.d.). Media Art Net | Cage, John: Variations V. Retrieved from http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/variations-v/
I think that this artwork is an immersive art work as it is affected by the sound made during the echos of the passageway by different viewers. It is subjective to each audience experience as a different sound produced by the audience would affect the sound produced by the work.
For the Hyperessay, I decided to go with some local flavour.
In order to know the history of interaction design / interactive media, why not first know about those in your own little dot.
Zul Mahmod is a sound artist that focuses on making objects that produces sound as art.
He is at the forefront of this sub-genre in art making and is considered one of Singapore’s best in Sound art due to his research and collaborations in site-specific sound installations and sound with 3-D forms.
Zul Mahmod was also the commissioned artist of the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007 for the Singapore Pavilion.
Zul Mahmod’s work falls within the work of Immersion and it is very evident if you view his work at Mapletree Business Park linkway. It’s is an immersive walk way filled with Zul’s sounds made from programming of the pipes and through the speakers.