The last day of Chicago’s Symposium C6 conference (“The Art World is Flat: Globalism- Crisis and Opportunity”) went out with a bang- the morning’s star-studded panel focused on the theme of “Creating A Sustainable Future.” Panel members and speakers included Natalie Jeremijenko (artist and engineer), Bruce Mau (the man behind the Massive Change exhibition), Jennifer Siegal (one of our favorite prefab pioneers), and Lucy Orta (socially-conscious artist and designer). The caliber of the line-up alone was mind-boggling, and the discussion was even better…

The panel’s title was “New Green World- Art for a Sustainable Ecological Consciousness,” and asked questions like “What role do we believe that culture can play on the brink of ecological catastrophe?” and “How is the work of sustainable artists and designers redirecting our world?” Here’s what each of the speakers had to say…

Natalie Jeremijenko, Symposium C6

Natalie Jeremijenko
We’ve talked about Natalie before as the genius behind the pollution-sniffing robot dogs, but as it turns out, that project is just the tip of the iceberg. She was the moderator of the panel, and spoke about the marriage of technology, art, design, and science. In her Bureau of Inverse Technology research, she uses technological initiatives like robotics and interactive models to critique human interaction and “structures of participation,” monitor and report on ecological destruction, and bring human ecological influence to light. One project we loved, which we’ll be sure to report more on very soon, is ‘Stump,’ a printer queue virus that counts every page consumed by the printer. When the printer has used one tree worth of paper, the printer prints out a slice of a tree. She has also created a wiki visual encyclopedia called “How Stuff is Made” that documents the manufacturing and material processes of every product from an American flag to a fortune cookie. In her words, “Technology is a site of social change, and therefore a strategic site.”

Bruce Mau, Massive Change, OMA, Symposium C6

Bruce Mau
Graphic designer, cultural trailblazer, and so much more, Mr. Mau is always a crowd-pleaser. The man behind the hefty tome S, M, L, XL and the call-to-action Massive Change exhibition, reminded the audience that “green is the new black” and “design is a force of a good.” His talk was an onslaught of inspirational design ideas – from a critique on crisis-focused global media to questioning why optimism is controversial, the importance of failure,”bringing sexy back” to green design, and the potential of the “massive change” mentality. We love Mr. Mau’s optimism and belief in design as a tool to shape the world in not just visual ways. Keeping with the uplifting tone, he ended his talk with a slide that asserted: “Our future will be more beautiful than our past.”

Jennifer Siegal, Office of mobile design, symposium C6

Jennifer Siegal
One of our all-time favorite prefab darlings, Jennifer spoke about some of the underlying theories and themes behind her work. She touched on issues of mobility (social, automotive, etc) and immobility, and her firm’s research and design of non-permanent structures that rest lightly upon the land. She spoke romantically about mobility, transience, fluidity of circumstance, and a contemporary culture of movement and nomadism, noting that while the purpose of architecture remains the same (to provide structure), mobile architecture is both contextual and universal, reacting to a specific social and environmental site while being easily transplanted to accommodate changing circumstances. Especially in an age of increasing mobile technologies, her Office of Mobile Design’s architecture and production methods are responsive to not only environmental contexts, but social and cultural as well. As usual, Jennifer has a slew of projects in the works- we’ll be sure to keep you updated on her work in the coming months.

Lucy Orta, Symposium c6

Lucy Orta
Ms. Orta, artist and designer best known for her awesome refugee suits and deployable tent garments, spoke about her “architectures with soul.” Her fashion and product art/design work touches on humanity-focused themes, suggesting alternative lifestyles and speaking to community, social exclusion, mobility, shelter, development, and recycling. She is also the founder of the Man and Humanity program at the famed Design Academy in Eindhoven. Her starting point is “the body,” lowering the boundaries between fashion, architecture, and art. She summed up her career, saying she simply “makes stuff.” But her work is thoughtful and critical, and she strongly believes that art and design cannot just represent a reality, but needs to actively engage and create realities.

+ Symposium C6