A Prototype for Your Thoughts
By JOYCE WADLER
The guests who appeared to be most productively working the room at the opening of the “Bits ‘n Pieces” design and digital technology show at Material ConneXion last week were four crickets in a glass-top box. They clambered up a thin wall, about four inches high, while their movements were captured by two cameras that converted them into graphic patterns.
Remco van de Craats, the creative director of the Dutch firm Edhv, explained that the show’s logo was designed using this technique — although the talent, in that case, were wood lice. “The nice thing about it is, every insect has its own characteristic in the way they move,” Mr. van de Craats said. “The speed of the insect determines the thickness of the line. The direction they walk in determines the color.”
What’s the life span of these crickets?
“I don’t know,” he said, but “they live on and on in the posters.”
A few pixels from the “Bits ‘n Pieces” show, which runs through the first week of December (organize them as you will, we can be as creatively loose-limbed as any cricket). Venue: the Madison Avenue office of Material ConneXion, a consulting firm that deals with new materials. The subtitle of the show (which, frankly, we would have tweaked): “A Dialogue Between the Analog World and Digital Technologies Within Design in a Post-Digital Era.”
Median age of the show’s five Dutch, Belgian and American curators: 31.5. Concepts with which you might wish to familiarize yourself before interacting with said curators: “rapid prototype design,” “Utah teapot.” Curator profile: artistic/techno-fluent/fearless, except when faced with a reporter from a major metropolitan newspaper who frets aloud about whether her digital tape recorder is working and asks them to look at it.
One of the more intriguing displays: the Brainwave sofa, created by Dries Verbruggen of Unfold, in the Netherlands, with Lucas Maassen. One should probably give top billing to Mr. Maassen, because it was his brainwaves, printed out on an EEG machine, that gave the sofa its long, undulating line.
“What I saw looked very nice, like a mountain landscape,” Mr. Maassen said, patting the top of his couch fondly. “It was my theory that if I thought about something, I could influence it, but it doesn’t come out that way.”
The couch is covered in gray felt with felt-covered buttons. Little growths on the brain?
“We did this to make it into a sofa,” Mr. Verbruggen said. “Like a Chesterfield, you know.”
To the bar, where the American designers Harry Allen and Joe Doucet were hanging out. Mr. Allen allowed that computer-generated rapid prototype design was a road already well traveled, and both men whipped out their iPhones to show photos of their projects: Mr. Doucet’s was a human heart pendant in silver, scanned from a 3D model used by medical students.
“Other than the beading, it’s an anatomically correct heart pendant,” he said.
Mr. Allen flashed photos of plastic resin firefly lights.
Of course, Mr. Allen is also known for his gold piggy banks, which employed a predigital method, having been molded from an actual deceased pig.
“I’m a meat eater, so I was all right with it, but my vegetarian friends were mad at me,” Mr. Allen said. “I called up the taxidermist. They were all these big hulking guys. They said they’d gotten a little piglet, but it was so cute they couldn’t kill it, so they gave it away. The next day they’d gotten a call from the farm that they had another piglet. The mother suffocated it when she rolled over, so we used that piglet. People ask how it died. I say, ‘Its mother killed it.’ ”
The crickets suffered no such fate. A few days after the opening, Mr. van de Craats sent a note saying they had been released in Central Park, “where they lost all their artistic privileges and are common bait again.”