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Bubble and Speak Breakfast Seminar Series 2010 – Studio Sam, DIA & MONA

October 22, 2010

A big welcome back to, Katie O’Brien (Interior Designer, BVN Architecture and design writer), who brought us news from the previous Bubble and Speak Breakfast as guest blogger. As you all know, these monthly breakfasts at Brisbane’s Emporium Hotel are part of the Design Institute of Australia‘s (DIA) annual program and are worth every bit of the effort to get up, showered and on the blocks at 6.45am for a spot of inspiration from creative industry professionals. Katie reminisces about the last in the 2010 series in a big way, so grab a cuppa (you’ll need it) and take the time to read on…

Okay, for those of you that said “Ummm, I’ve already been to one or two Bubble and Speak seminars this year, I’ll just miss the last one” … Fools. That’s all I have to say. And a little bit more, so please read on (’till the end). Seminar 04 of the DIA’s Bubble and Speak Breakfast series kicked off at a rapid pace with three presenters jamming their creative awesomeness into the last epic finale for 2010. Sam Parsons of Studio Sam is not so much a Karma Chameleon, much to Boy George’s disappointment, but the epitome of a Design Chameleon. Growing up in regional Victoria she was exposed to very little design thinking but developed a fondness of graphics at secondary school. However this fleeting romance was swept aside as Jamie Drury beckoned her to university to study landscape architecture (Chameleon Change No. 1). However after the novelty wore off Sam wanted something more. So she went corporate, suits and all – project management style (Chameleon Change No. 2). But soon, off came the cuff links and on went the mature age student hat. It was time… to go back to university and study Interior Design (Chameleon Change No. 3).

Good move just quietly, because her studies produced a killer final year project.

Floorscape is an interactive rug whose form is derived from folded paper lines. This was Sam’s break through, award-winning design (Chameleon Change No. 4). The simplicity of this is just so damn simple, hence being so damn effective. The folds create a semi-permanent landscape that is reconfigurable to the users’ desires. Super popular with the kiddies, I enquired how much one of these bad boys would set me back. Sam reluctantly advised the crowd that due to escalating production costs, Floorspace has never gone past prototype stage. Those refined Italians told her that it would cost 1600 Euros to produce. Ouchies. That hurts.

So where do all good designers turn to restore their shattered hopes, dreams and wallets after their prototype turns out too expensive to produce in Europe? Everybody together now – CHINA! Yay, but wait… “I could have gone off shore to China for the production – but I wasn’t happy with the outcome”. Wow. That was Sam’s response on why China wasn’t the way to go. Although a fraction of the cost, the Chinese product was not true to the original design intent. A pretty gutsy step for an emerging designer to say when people are knocking on your door with buckets of cash ready to produce the piece.

Head to the Studio Sam website to see more of Sam’s interior work (Chameleon Change No. 5 – stop it you’re making me feel inadequate!) and her Family of Sam kitschy-cool product ranges utilising found reused objects.

Second to the stage was an exhausted Natalie Wright. And she SHOULD be exhausted after her massive year doing it for design in QLD. I was tired just listening to her but equally as energised with anecdotal tales of her life as a Design nomad.  And just like Sam, Natalie is also one of those irritating over achievers, focusing on one thing is never enough.

A familiar face in DIA circles, Natalie recently handed over the co-presidency of the DIA QLD chapter after a huge three year ‘sentence’. She’s an accomplished Interior Designer who lectures at QUT, is heavily involved with the DIA action group Living In initiative, is currently studying for a Masters of Design Futures and this is where I say yadda yadda yadda because the list of accomplishments will take me over my self imposed word limit that I break every review anyway.

2010 saw Natalie embark on a nine month DIA/QUT travelling road show program to regional QLD promoting the value of design thinking. Think Priscilla Queen of the Desert riding on a bus, but in black, not combustible silver fabric – we are designers after all and black is the new black. Natalie and her trusty team got out there amongst the primary and secondary schools telling the local kids, “hey, design can earn you a way of life”, it’s not just for us city folk!

Mt Isa, Quilpie, Chinchilla and Emerald were just a few of the exotic locations that Natalie and a group of brilliant design professionals visited and volunteered their time to run three-day design workshops with the local schools. Aimed at unleashing their ‘inner designer’, students investigated hypothetical design projects for their towns, ranging from product design to marketing and branding amongst a few of the tasks. All this culminated with their work being exhibited in local galleries alongside accomplished Brisbane designers, products and creations as part of the Unleashed tour road show.

“We had two super-hot QUT chicks come out and a guy.” That was one of the comments a local student put on the feedback form, proving that design chicks are hot. But, seriously, “…sometimes you have preconceptions about the town, but I really enjoyed working with the kids”. Glen Bevan of Infinity Design Development, a guest designer at one of regional workshops spoke of how there aren’t a lot of incentives for locals to visit galleries in regional parts of Queensland. The CWA knitted tea cosies circa 1981 (although experiencing a crafty revival) and Arthur Boyd-esque attempted landscapes in regional galleries aren’t really cutting it for the local kids. The Unleashed Tour and Go Design Workshop, however, are certainly bringing in the masses each opening night.

Jump on the DIA website to see how you as a designer, all-round creative peep, passionate do-gooder or designer ‘hot chick’ can become involved in future DIA programs.

Last to the Bubble podium for 2010 was Leigh Carmichael. Some guy, wearing black clothes with designer black-framed glasses and I thought to myself, ‘Way to end the series with a cliché, Bubble’. So, I folded my arms over my black attire, got ready to write in my moleskin notepad, adjusted my black rimmed spectacles and challenged him in my head… ‘Impress me’. And lordy, lordy lordy, he surely did.

Leigh is the Brand and Marketing Director of the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania. The what? I hear you say.  MONA. That’s right, not GOMA or the Craig McLachlan song, but in Leigh’s words, the Museum about sex and death. *giggle gasp*

A brief history of MONA in a nutshell…

Owner has private museum. Small Antiquities museum. No one visits. So owner puts micro brewery on site. People start visiting. Not enough though.

Owner decides to re-brand existing winery on site via shocking re-launch soiree. Also adds amazing restaurants and cafes. More people come. But not enough.

Owner’s art collection keeps growing. Must make more people come.

Owner launches accommodation suites that are architecturally-designed and themed around prominent Australian architects and artists. Good. More people coming, for longer periods of time, but still want more.

Owner makes museum big. 6000 square meters of big. He gets it designed by Melbourne architects Fender Katsalidis and builds it under, YES UNDER, the heritage listed original museum.

Now let’s call it all MONA.

BUT, IT’S STILL NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE!!! Owner proposes to combine the opening of the museum in January 2011 with a music and arts festival called MONA FOMA (also known as MOFO) and what do we have? The biggest and most highly anticipated private gallery opening in Australia, ever. Source: Me.

The owner of the Museum, David, sounds like the type of client designers dream of. He knows what he wants, has loads of money and is a whole lot of odd. Leigh is the type of designer/branding guru we want to be. Aaaaawesome.

He presents well, exudes a calmed confidence and has that perfect garnish of cheekiness. We view his eye-watering PowerPoint that only designers can salivate over and that combined with what follows makes the crowd perk up and pay attention. Whether they like it or not.

Leigh shows us a video of the re-launch of the Moorilla Estate winery they held. Guests, the who’s who of Hobart, thought they were simply attending a wine launch. Fool you pretentious wino’s. Instead they were bombarded with professional dancers, a killer score and a finely tuned choreographed modern dance interpretation of a semi-pornographic, violent merging of bodies and wine. A little tipple from this dead/exhausted dancers navel anyone? Leigh Told us, “Complaints were made, but no one left the room”. Dirty bastards. I would have stayed too.

Better yet, this fascinating link between beauty and violence, a common theme throughout the MONA brand, was captured and put on the labels of the bottle. Clearly the MONA folk aren’t into traditional advertising. Yes the video of the performance and the labels contain nudity, but not in your face nipples and bits and pieces, nor do they try the ‘its art so nudity is acceptable’ type of reasoning. At a pure basic level, it’s art and wine. Two things that have gone hand in hand for thousands of years (think the last supper people) but somehow this has been forgotten and Leigh just simply put them back together. Genius.

So, after that video, everyone was pretty much taken aback or put out, or put their necks and backs out cranking to see the screens. The left side of my body was covered in goose bumps as the Blair Witch-esqe scenes flashed (pun not intended, although nicely done) against the wall and people feigned nervous smiles and pursed lips to one another. They weren’t too sure about this me thinks.

Meanwhile, I was wetting my pants with excitement.

Leigh continued to tell us about MONA, the branding behind the concept. How the owner tore his original ideas to shreds and admitted that he rushed to an aesthetic solution without actually understanding exactly what they were trying to do. So he threw away the design books and opened up the art books, which is where the religious branding found them.

Leigh covered many facets of the MONA brand, it was delicious. Tid bits included the ‘Not suitable for Bogans’ Boutique beer slogan (that the Bogan’s ironically love and buy in cartons – as Bogan’s do), the MOFO music festival in its second year and the X and + branding behind the eerie MONA logos. Owner David doesn’t do marketing but he apparently likes to have a good time. This is evident through the sticker art and street parade marketing techniques employed to brand the Mother Fu.. ahem, festival.

All were tasty yum yums that left me wanting more. Then along came the main.

A cute playful sesame street score presented itself over the speakers and smiles swept through the crowd as the gothic intensity had now stopped and playfulness had returned to the room.

Not for long though.

Cue dimmed lights. Cue Gregorian cathedral-style chant. Cue bowel-threatening bass, and roll out a film promoting MONA’s 2011 launch. We see Old and New art fading in and out of the screen. Some sculptures, paintings,  the usual art we are familiar with. But the pieces begin to become progressively darker, subversive and erotic as the pace of the score builds and builds. My heart is having epileptic convulsions of excitement as untraditional art forms take centre stage and in-between showing us shots of different pieces the screen tempts us with glimpses and flashes of an appealing, naked abdomen. Slowly panning down, each shot closer and closer to the ribs, then gradually over the stomach, past the navel, below the hip (hurry up I want to see rude bits at 8am in the morning!!!) and finally culminating in a symphonic rise revealing the tortured and disfigured mid-section of the male nether regions. Oh. Ew. I’m assuming that’s what it was. I couldn’t really see anything through the torn flesh and stomach innards. This is no doubt one of the collection’s most controversial pieces – that of Jake and Dino’s Chapman fibreglass mannequin titled Great Deeds against the Dead.

At this stage I stopped watching the screen and looked at the faces of the people in the room. Excuse me, but I think they just threw up in their mouths.

MONA may not be everyone’s taste, but it is surely something we haven’t tasted before. How can you say you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it? … I want my dessert now please Leigh.

So, I’m on my way to Hobart in January for the MONA opening. Stay tuned for a review of my travels in 2011 and in the meantime, peruse the MONA and MOFO’s site. Just do it. Or you really are a MOFO fool.

You really crack me up Katie… Just from reading your review, I feel like I was there! Well, actually I was, but what can I say. Looking forward to reading your MONA review next year… Now, I’m off to get me a ticket too!

Thanks again to the DIA for arranging these inspirational seminars, to all the speakers and people behind the scenes who make these events possible.

Images: L to R, top to bottom:

Studio Sam: Floorscape and Family of Sam bookscreens

DIA: Unleashed exhibition at QUT Art Museum, Brisbane before the regional Qld tour

MONA and Moorilla Estate wine rebranded

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