A compendium of craft masquerading as art, art masquerading as craft, and craft extending its middle finger.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Digital Decoration


Over the next two months, Salon.com will be reviving it's Big Idea series. The series, which will run every other Wednesday, examines exciting ideas and trends that pertain to our everyday lives: the houses we live in, roads that we drive in, and products that we use. The current essay is an overview of big ideas in architecture and design, which I have excerpted below. Karrie Jacobs, founding editor of Dwell magazine gives eloquent voice to something that I have been noticing more with each passing year.

4. Data art: Information = Decoration
Digitized information has been used as a form of ornamentation for years. A sleek new restaurant will now sport a row of video monitors at ceiling height more easily than it would crown molding. Mounted screens take the place of gargoyles on the outside of a building. Now we're getting more sophisticated at making information into decoration. At this year's International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, designs that were almost rococo -- lamps made of intricately interwoven slices of wood veneer, for instance -- were made possible by computer-driven cutting devices. In perhaps the grandest use of data as art at the moment, the new Seattle Public Library features murals by artist George LeGrady that translate the flow of books in and out of the library into undulating patterns of light.
You don't have to look far in graphic design to realize that we are in the midst of a rococo revival...albeit a handmade, punk rock rococo revival. Visual artists are taking their cues from ornamental flourishes in furniture and architecture, meanwhile the architects and interior designers are using graphic design--particularly on video screens--as an architectural element. Similarly, boundaries pertaining to craft are being broken down. Handmade craft used to be a reaction against industrialization, now computers have become inseparable from craft in many ways, even spawning their own crafty computer sub-genres. Needless to say, I look forward to the next installment of Salon's thought-provoking series.

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