In 2006 Fast-uk and folly partnered to present the exhibition, 'Perimeters, Boundaries and Borders' which explored the possibilities afforded to artists, architects, designers, and others for the creation of new types of objects, buildings, and products stemming from the increasing use of and integration between digital technologies for design and fabrication.
Fast-uk has been developing exhibitions since 1999. Reflecting on these previous exhibitions we wanted to take Fast-uk in a new direction - one that explored computer-based technologies and hybrid art and design practices. Through the resulting ‘Perimeters, Boundaries and Borders’ exhibition we can identify a new type of creative practitioner that is exploring uses for digital technologies across social, conceptual and aesthetic contexts. The title serves to indicate that this exhibition should be viewed as the sum of a set of ‘in-betweens’ - a negative space that grants permission to rethink the nature of creative practice driven by computer-based technologies. The exhibition does not try to define what should be inside or outside these edges - it attempts to present examples that can be viewed to cross-over or even ignore these kinds of distinctions.
Since the mid 1990s the growth in ownership of relatively powerful, cheap, personal computers has transformed the means by which we communicate, carry out work and entertain ourselves. Until now, the discourse surrounding these developments has primarily focused on the benefits this has brought for productivity and has only very recently touched upon the possibilities for the way practitioners work. Architects, artists, craft-makers, designers, engineers, and others are now using a common digital toolset. Digital information can be used for multiple purposes and this can ultimately lead to the breakdown of boundaries between disciplines. Digital design and fabrication technologies are fundamentally interdisciplinary and are radically changing how objects are conceived, produced and consumed. From this perspective the definitions that have traditionally separated artistic practice and design practice are in some cases becoming increasingly difficult to define. The binary point of view of either ‘art’ or ‘design’ seems over-simplified. It is contingent upon constructing in our minds a switch with ‘art’ at one pole and ‘design’ at the other. The works in this exhibition do not fit into this conception of the world. Rather, they are drawn from the plurality of composite forms to be found towards the middle of a sliding scale with purely aesthetic purposes at one end and purely utilitarian purposes at the other.
This is nothing new. From the time of the Renaissance onwards creative practitioners have worked across the areas that have come to be thought of as the fine and applied arts. This was brought to the forefront in the technological levelling-out of traditional, disciplinary distinctions that was a critical driver of De Stijl in The Netherlands, the Bauhaus in Germany and Russian Constructivism in the early 20th Century. The architects, artists and designers working in these historical movements saw industrial modes of production as supporting mass availability of products; and a unified, machine-derived aesthetic as a means of moving art into everyday life.
The practitioners featured in this exhibition do not form a unified community of practice. They do not share a singular goal or purpose. Rather they represent a community of interest - the clustering of a multitude of practices emerging at the current time. They have made objects that exploit the unique capabilities of computer-based design and fabrication tools (e.g. Brit Bunkley; Tavs Jørgensen; Geoffrey Mann; and Simon Husslein).
They are investigating the processes involved in the conception, production and also the consumption of the objects and experiences they produce (e.g. Simon Blackmore; Masaru Tabei & Yasuno Miyauchi; and Aoife Ludlow).
They are engaging with new sets of technologically-driven, creative, cultural and economic conditions (e.g. FutureFactories; Justin Marshall; NIO Architecten; and .MGX).
And they are looking beyond standard means of production to explore the deeper metaphysical dimensions of objects and experiences (e.g. Ben Woodeson; Adam Somlai-Fischer, Bengt Sjölén & Usman Haque; Gavin Baily & Tom Corby and Human Beans).
We hoped that through this exhibition and the complementary symposium that practitioners and audiences alike would be able to make new connections between works that on the surface are apparently unrelated. CityLab - the building used for the exhibition is a recently renovated business centre for the creative industries in Lancaster. Our approach to this venue was to present these works as in an everyday place rendered hyper-real through our intervention. The ground floor offices and circulation spaces were used as part of the exhibition - making a link between cultural products and the spaces earmarked for future cultural production. The works were installed in the office spaces flowing off the building’s central spine. We hoped that the exhibition would be read as a series of possibilities, a means of exploring designed objects in-between the white cube of the traditional gallery space and the fluorescent glare of a strictly commercial context.
This exhibition attempted to gather diverse works and practitioners together in order to expose some of the tensions and commonalities that exist at the intersection of technology and creative practice at this time. At the end of the Wachowski brothers’ 1999 film ‘The Matrix’ Keanu Reeves’ character ‘Neo’ calls up the machine world that controls an enslaved humanity and declares:
"…I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you, a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries, a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there, is a choice I leave to you."
The aim of the ‘Perimeters, Boundaries and Borders’ exhibition was to point at a hybrid cultural discourse that can be seen to emerge in the space between conventional art and design disciplines through the use of common technologies. The exhibition doesn’t represent a world without ‘rules and controls’ per se, but one that is perhaps less rigid in its adherence to the conventional borders and boundaries of art and design practice as they have previously been known. Where we go from there, is a choice I leave to you...
John Marshall, Fast-uk.