Wednesday 09th March 2016Brick by Brick
Lego is one of the most enjoyable kid's toys of all time, but it's also an excellent tool for the modular visualization and construction. It's a great equalizer in its simplicity. To that end, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is running an interesting experiment: they provided ten of the world's leading architecture firms with the same set of plain white Lego bricks and asked them to "imagine the buildings to deal with challenges that face our future cities." The project is part of their Brick by Brick exhibit, designed to showcase architectural engineering and design to visitors of all ages.
Each firm received three Lego Architecture Kits comprising 1200 white pieces, and assembled them into a variety of applied design solutions. It creates an interesting crossroads where art, design and engineering meet. Some of the firms involved included SOM of Chicago, Adjaye Associates of London, Kengo Kuma and Associates of Tokyo, but perhaps the most interesting (and artistic) entry was created by the UIC School of Architecture.
Rather than sticking with the assigned project, they ditched the white pieces of the architecture kids in favour of chunky coloured Duplo pieces which they assembled together into a giant disorganized pile titled Lego 601.
According to their statement, "solutions to future conditions only can be discovered through unconventional and disobedient methods. The key is to identify and challenge preconceptions to escape contemporary anxieties about the future."
Typically architects aren't so inclined towards such impractical artistic statements, but it highlights the creative nature of the work that is done in disciplines that aren't traditionally considered part of the art world.
The most practical of the designs was that put forwards by Adjaye Associates, who envisioned a modular structure that would help respond to growing population density around the world. "The design easily allows expansion up and out, empowering communities to be resilient in the face of natural disasters and population growth," the firm writes. "It features solar panels for heat and energy, and breezeways for free cooling."
So is it art? Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but it requires no less creativity - some might even argue it requires more. Nevertheless, the era of clearly delineated spheres of influence is well and truly over, and the artistic world would do better to approach the rest of the world in a more holistic, integrated fashion - brick by brick.
Posted on March 09th 2016 on 04:43am
Monday 26th October 2015Ai Weiwei vs ... Lego?
It seems like Ai Weiwei cannot catch a break lately. First Chinese authorities essentially kidnapped him for 81 days of gruelling interrogation and revoked his passport, and then when they finally returned it to him, he was denied the proper visa by British authorities that would have allowed him to attend his first exhibition of his own work since his passport was revoked years ago.
Eventually the whole mess got straightened out, and he was able to attend the event, but things haven't stayed rosy. Currently in Melbourne, Australia working on a group show about political dissidents, Ai was hoping to construct his portraits of a wide range of jailed and exiled dissidents out of the popular construction toy, Lego. Ai previously held a similar exhibition in Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco just the year before, and was hoping to recreate something similar for the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, but apparently the company shut the project down by informing the museum that its product could not be used for artworks that contained "any political, religious, racist, obscene or defaming statements".
Naturally, Ai was less than pleased about this development. "As a commercial entity, Lego produces and sells toys, movies and amusement parks attracting children across the globe. As a powerful corporation, Lego is an influential cultural and political actor in the globalized economy with questionable values. Lego's refusal to sell its product to the artist is an act of censorship and discrimination." he said, taking to Instagram to vent his frustrations and call out the corporation.
A Lego spokesman with the unlikely name of Roar Rude Trangbaek was naturally quick to distance the company from the specific issues raised by Mr. Ai, but did comment to the effect that it has always been Lego company policy to refuse bulk sales of Lego to customers who are expected to use the toy in any political works.
"Lego is giving us the definition of what is 'political', and all the big corporations are telling us what to love or hate", Ai tweeted. It does sound a difficult situation from a public relations perspective, but Ai has explained his suspicions about Lego's true motives by mentioning the fact that the company is hoping to build one of their popular Legoland amusement parks in Shanghai, China, and probably don't want to ruffle the feathers of Chinese officials as a result.
Posted on October 26th 2015 on 02:00am