The future is here at Design Museum

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Main and bottom left: The future is here exhibition designed by by Lucienne Roberts+ and drMM; Bottom right: KUKA Robotics’ AGILUS robots 


Work has kept me quite busy lately, but I finally managed to visit “The future is here: a new industrial revolution” exhibition at the Design Museum on its last day at the last hours!

We have all witnessed the industrial revolution ( I mean at the 2012 Olympics Opening ceremony directed by Danny Boyle), and this exhibition focused on the possibility of a new one based on the past, current industry trends and technology.


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Top left: Orangebox’s Do task chair; Top middle: Endless Flow dining chair by Dirk Vander Kooij; Top right: CNC (computer numerical controlled) technology; Bottom right: Puma’s biodegradable trainers


The exhibition examined areas like mass manufacturing and production; mass customisations; sustainability and the recyclable products; crowd sourcing and 3-D printing. There were many interesting products at the exhibition like Puma‘s InCycle biodegradable trainers, the ecological Do task chair by Orangebox, KUKA Robotics‘ two AGILUS robots and Ron Arad’s 3-D printed eyewear. You can watch his interview here:



As much as I want to believe that we are at the beginning of a new industrial revolution, I am skeptical about the time it will take to filter down from the top ( don’t forget that the companies and products featured at the exhibition are all pioneers and a minority in the industry). Although technology is rapidly improving and spreading ( i.e. 3-D printing), consumers are still the vital link in all this. If we look at the fashion and consumer electronic industries, we can see that sustainability is still in its infancy. Do the average Primark shoppers really care about where or how their ‘on trend’ fashion items are made? Do the gadget lovers who would spend days queuing for the latest gadget or smartphones care about where their old electronic goods end up?


The future is here

Grimm City – an architectural fairytale by FleaFollyArchitects at The Design Museum tank


A revolution cannot happen without collective effort, so influential and leading organisations/ companies and consumers all have responsibilities to make it happen. Consumers may not realise how powerful they can be, their purchasing decisions can certainly create ripples in the industry. At the end of the day, changes can only take place through better education on the origins of our consumer goods, awareness and our will to protect and make this world a better place for the future generation.


A week of art in London

What does the word “art” mean today? What I learned about art when I was a student seemed like a world apart from what I am seeing now in the art world. Yes, art is constantly evolving, but the function and meaning of art has also changed significantly especially in the past two decades. I am not going to define art here, but as we have seen in recent years that art has become almost like a money-spinning tool, there are more artists than ever ( qualified or not) as well as collectors or investors. When I did A-level art at school, my art mates and I were called “dossers” by those who studied more academic subjects. No one took us seriously, and I remember adults used to say that becoming artists would mean staying poor all our lives! How things have changed in such a short time ( though I am aware that not all artists are as rich as Damien Hirst), but I am sure these adults did not expect even graffiti ( or street) artists like Banksy can become millionaires!


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Top left: Love by Gimhongsok; Top right: Geometric mirrors by Jeppe Hein; Main: The landscape is moving by Marilá Dardot; Bottom left: Three indeterminate lines by Bernar Venet; Bottom right: Listening bench #4 by Amar Kanwar


I have never been a huge fan of contemporary art ( esp. from 1990 onwards), and I am often more inspired by design, craft, architecture, photography, film or even street art. Personally, I find art fairs too commercial and I don’t enjoy viewing art in that environment or in that manner, and I certainly don’t want to pay such high price for it either! When I looked at the long list of art fairs taking place all over London within the same week, it made me wonder how many artists there are working today, there must be a lot! I decided to skip the talk of the town art fair Frieze and opted for the alternative ones out of curiosity…


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Top left: Rearrangeable rainbow blocks by Judy Chicago; top right: Grass painted green by Richard Woods; Bottom left: Piss flowers by Helen Chadwick; Bottom middle: Chloe by Jaume Plensa; Bottom right: A tree that looks like a sculpture ( is this art?)


On one afternoon, a friend and I went to the Frieze sculpture park ( curated by Clare Lilley, who is also the head curator of Yorkshire sculpture park) in Regents park and we both liked the mirrors placed in the middle of the park including “Geometric mirrors” by Jeppe Hein andThe landscape is moving” by Marilá Dardot, and the fascinating Listening bench #4 by Amar Kanwar. It is a shame that the sculpture park only exists for a few days each year, I am beginning to think that London needs to have a permanent sculpture park!


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Main: Sunday art fair; Bottom left: “Dancers Around an Effigy to Modernism” by Avery Singer; Tangram by Alek O.


At the nearby “conceptual” and free Sunday art fair, we were less inspired by the work we saw. There were some interesting pieces, but overall, the standard varied and we felt rather disappointed by the show. Hence, this prepared me mentally for The Other art fair & Monika art fair ( joint at Truman Brewery) that I was going to attend with an artist friend two days later!

Yet unexpectedly, both my friend and I were quite pleasantly surprised by the overall standard and variety of work on display. The show felt less commercial than other art fairs, and it was certainly more interesting to talk to the artists themselves than gallery representatives.


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Top left: Clearing gallery; Top middle: George Henry Longly; Top right: Souled Out Studio setting at Monika art fair; Bottom left: Ego Leonard


Here are some of my favourites from the show:

Gina Soden‘s photography really stood out. The photographer travels to undisclosed sites throughout Europe and explores beauty, decay, nostalgia and neglect through her architectural images. The detailed and muted coloured photos look almost like paintings, and it was especially intriguing to learn more about her photographic techniques and adventures at these sites.

Ego Leonard is is a Dutch guerrilla artist, who is known for his use of Lego figures in his work. The subject matter in his paintings is dark and thought-provoking, a huge contrast to the vibrant, playful and ‘happy’ style of the paintings. The artist is also known for placing giant Lego man with the slogan “No real than you are” across its torso on beaches around the world. Very clever and cool.

Alberto Fusco‘s detailed paper craft artwork is quite stunning and certainly very time-consuming. I like the geometric shaped arrangements and saw a link between his work and the thread work by Julio Campos nearby. The artist’s Concave & Convex series explores the concepts of time, movement and space through his delicate and beautifully handmade thread work. And I find the work quite mesmerising.

After spending almost three hours at the show, I felt that my brain could probably no longer absorb anymore, but I was glad that I went to the fairs for a change and would even consider paying another visit next year.


Garrison & the moreTrees project



A long overdue post on our ‘last’ product launch before the theme changes this week. Garrison was a brand I was introduced to at the Tokyo Gift Fair back in February.

After being introduced to different company directors who were all very formal and polite, it was quite refreshing to meet the passionate and rather eccentric Takahisa Funai-san, the designer and owner of Garrison. Garrison was established as an environmental innovation initiative by the designer in 2006 as a response to global warming and illegal domestic deforestation in Kochi Prefecture, Japan.

The company has since been using the thinned wood, hinoki ( light weight and germ-free Japanese cypress wood) cut out from the local forest ( in Nakatosa) and developed into a wide range of products under the principle of “Environment, Lifestyle and Corporate Social Responsibility”. A portion of the proceeds from each Garrison’s product is contributed towards the MoreTrees project, which was founded in 2007 by five founders including the internationally-renowed Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Being a fan of Sakamoto when I was a student, I was interested to find out more about the project. With the same goal as Garrison, the organisation also aims to prevent mass destruction of forests and improve carbon offset through various programmes, education and businesses in Japan and tropical regions abroad, and it is supported by over 100 people from various companies and industries.


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Left: Samples being used by myself! Right: Some samples given to me at the gift fair by Takahisa-san


After my meeting with Takahisa-san, I was very moved by his passion and ethical values, so I decided to place an order with him and since he has no overseas vendour, it was a perfect opportunity for us too. After receiving a box of samples of various products from Japan, I ordered the bean coffee tray ( inspired by the shape of a coffee bean), the humourous Eiffel tower glasses stand and the fun 2 in 1 trivet and coaster set ( inspired by fairy tales).

If you want to learn more about Garrison’s products and the production journey, you can watch the video below:




BFI London film festival 2013

October is a month full of cultural activities in London, not only there is a dozen or so art fairs for art lovers, but there is also the London film festival for film lovers. With so many films to choose from, it was almost impossible to choose just a handful… after spending hours/ days going back and forth, I finally picked several feature films and documentaries that brought me to India, Poland, Russia, Germany and Laos ( all in a week’s time).

Interestingly, out of the five films I picked, two of them won the best film ( Ida) and documentary ( My fathers, my mother and me) awards at the festival, so I guess the hours spent on studying the brochure paid off!

Here are the five films I saw at the festival:



Siddharth is film inspired by a true event in India directed by Canadian director, Richie Mehta. It tells a moving tale of a man searching for his 12-year old son who went missing after he was sent to work ( by the father) as a child labour in another city. The film reveals many social issues in India today: poverty, child labour, abducting and trafficking of children etc, and the saddest part is that we all know that this man’s tale is not the first and will not be the last. A very well acted, well paced and genuine film.



My personal favourite at the festival was The Rocket, directed by Australian director ( also a documentary maker), Kim Mordaunt. Set in Laos, the film is about a ‘cursed’ boy’s adventures after him and his family were evicted because of a new dam project. It is a very heart-warming story that I find quite inspiring, and the setting of Laos makes the film even more special. It was also intriguing to hear the director spoke about his casting choices and experience filming in Laos at the Q & A afterwards.



“Ida” is one of the most beautifully shot film that I have seen for years! Set in Poland during the 60s, the film was shot entirely in black and white, which worked amazingly well with two sensitive subject matters: religion and the Holocaust. Directed by U.K.-based Polish director, Pawel Pawlikowski, the film is sublime, well-acted, subtle and yet powerful, a well-deserved best film winner.



“My fathers, my mother and me” examines the controversial sex commune in Friedrichshof founded by Austrian artist Otto Muehl in 1972. The documentary’s director, Paul-Julien Robert spent 12 years of his childhood there and in the documentary, he revisits his former “home”, interviews his childhood friends, potential and biological fathers and confronts his own mother. Some of the footage from commune’s archive is quite shocking. It is a courageous, horrific and devastating documentary, and the Q & A with the director after the screening brought more insight to the whole saga and its effect had on the victims.



“Pipeline” is a documentary directed by Vitaly Mansky, focusing on Russia’s Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhhorod pipeline, which transports gas from Western Siberia to Western Europe. The film has no real narrative, it simply follows and examines different people/ communities on route. Although the subject is interesting and the cinematography is impressive, it was difficult to engage fully and sit through it for over two hours ( some even walked out of the cinema). A slightly disappointing one out of all the films I saw at the festival, despite its well intention.



I really wanted to see “Like father like son” at the festival, a film directed by Hirokazu Koreeda who is regarded as one of the best Japanese directors working today. But knowing that it is going to be shown right after the festival, I waited and watched it afterwards, and I was completely blown away by it. Aside from sobbing away at various moments during the film, I also felt quite emotional after the viewing. The only flaw of the film is that it is slightly too long, otherwise, it would be almost flawless ( though I am aware that this film is not everyone’s cup of tea). It is subtle, insightful, sensitive, heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time, and the acting is natural ( the kid Keita is just too adorable) and convincing.

I would include this in my top four favourite films of the year, along with The Rocket, Before Midnight, The act of killing and Go Grandriders. If you have not seen it, go and see it, but be sure to bring some tissue with you.


Autumn hike in Kent

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Since my calligraphy classes resumed in September, I have not been able to get out of London for day hikes. Last weekend, my class was cancelled and so I was able to spend the day hiking along the Darent Valley Path in Kent.

Two days before the hike, the forecast looked very grim: windy and rainy, which was quite off-putting. But for those who have lived in the U.K. long enough would know that the forecast here is rarely reliable, as the weather could change by the hour… And as it turned out, the day was sunny with blue sky and mild temperature, so the forecast was wrong again!


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Top left: The Gatehouse of Lullingstone Castle ( we were told by the staff there that it is haunted); Main: The Manor house; Bottom left & right: Shoreham village


As always, the 9-mile hike was very enjoyable, with some hills to climb ( my legs were quite achy on the next day) and friendly company. We walked through some picturesque small villages ( Ortford, Shoreham and Eynsford) and passed by the historical Lullingstone Castle ( built in 1497), which unfortunately was closed on the day.

Due to the unusually long, hot and dry summer, autumn foliage is yet to happen except for the fallen leaves ( and cracked chestnuts) in the shady woods. There are still wild blackberries everywhere, so we all took the opportunity to stuff ourselves, especially knowing that they will wither very soon.


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I hope I will be able to go on another hike to see the fall foliage, but with such unpredictable weather, who knows when winter will suddenly arrive? All we can do is to go with the flow, though sometimes, there may be nice surprises in store for us, like the fine day as seen above.


Art licks weekend

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Art on the tube: Stop, look, listen! performance at Bermondsey tube station; Bottom right: Ladyrinth by Mark Wallinger


As the art world gets ready for Frieze and many other alternative art fairs next week, a newly launched Art Licks weekend took place 2 weeks before the art craze week.

Art Licks is an artist-led organisation aiming to promote the London art scene and its emerging artists. Interestingly, most of the new galleries are located either in the east around Hackney or south of the river in Bermondsey and Peckham. During the weekend, many free events and performances took place at galleries across the city.

I was curious to find out more about the new art scene esp. in unlikely areas such as Peckham, but due to engineering works ( I wonder if there is an end to this?), I decided to join an art tour in Bermondsey instead.

When I arrived at the tube station, we watched a live performance called “Stop, Look, Listen!” performed by two artists. It was an interesting concept and definitely attracted the attention of many commuters. But when it ended, I realised that my group had left the station without me (!), so I had to call the tour leader and catch up with them!


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Top left: a person as a live outdoor installation; top middle: a straw man greeted us at the park; Middle right: Alex Duncan’s Cove at Vulpes Vulpes; Bottom left and right: Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson’s Sacrifice, Fetish, Goddess, Priest; Bottom middle: Vanessa Maurice-Williams’s Portal.


While chatting to another person in the group, we both found the walk rather random and disorganised. There were some outdoor installations and street performances ( I still couldn’t figure out what the guy/ woman covered in straw was all about), but there was also a problem in regards to the long distance between the galleries/ studios ( and we were even lost at one stage). Luckily, there was some interesting work to be found … I especially like the setting of Vulpes Vulpes, and indoor landscape installed by Alex Duncan made up of polystyrene collected from the coast and riverbanks. These man-made materials are eroded and reshaped by the environment and appear to look more and more like natural stones! It’s an intelligent delusion.


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Subjecting objects at Acava studios


The last stop was the Acava studio ( the Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Art, is an educational charity providing a range of visual arts services across London and abroad), featuring an exhibition, “Subjecting Objects”. We were able to walk around the studio to see where the artists work, and enjoyed yet another incomprehensible performance by an artist.

Apart from the disorganisation, random and odd performances, I thought that some of the art works are still rather ‘amateurish’ and need to be developed further. I wish I had more time to visit other areas, but it was an interesting experience to find out more about this new emerging art scene. Now I wonder how this would compare to the art fairs next week? We shall see.


Andy Warhol’s Time capsules

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Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal exhibition in Hong Kong ( Dec 2012 – March 2013)


I can’t say that I am a fan of Andy Warhol, but after watching a documentary on the artist a few years ago, I started to change my opinion on the artist and his work. Earlier this year when I was in Hong Kong, I went to see the touring exhibition, Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal organised by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, I was quite pleasantly surprised by his fashion illustrations from his early career and his photographic work.

Though what really struck me at the exhibition was seeing contents from his “Time capsules” projects. It is not an exaggeration to call Warhol a ‘compulsive hoarder’, he started the project in 1974 and managed to fill 612 cardboard boxes full of stuff that he collected from his daily life since 1950s. Each box was sealed, dated and stored away after they were filled, so nobody knew the contents until they were rediscovered and opened after his death in 1987.



A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now at the Old Selfridges Hotel


When I found out that there would be a live stream event, “Out of the box”, where two Time capsules boxes ( the last batch of unopened ones) would be opened in Pittsburgh and streamed live at ICA’s new offsite project venue, The Old Selfridges Hotel, I was intrigued.

My friend and I got there early and wandered around the cool and very raw space before the live event. This offsite project, A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now ( until 20th October) explores London’s creative past and the present through installations, videos, images and fashion, seems like a perfect setting for this event.




However, my friend and I decided to leave after about 45 minutes because the picture and sound quality of the live stream was not that great. I was glad to have seen part of the event, though it was a shame about the technical issue.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Time Capsule boxes, you can go visit Time Capsules 21, a website that examines the contents of box 21. Or you can watch director, John Waters ( hilariously) exploring Warhol‘s photo collection.



Essentially, the project is about memories ( wanted or unwanted) and we all have our own personal “Time capsules” ( which exist in both mental and physical forms), the only difference between us and Warhol is that we are unlikely to have over 600 boxes of them nor will curators and hundreds of strangers gathering to see the contents! Warhol was right about everyone being famous for 15 minutes in the future ( which is already happening in our culture today), but his own fame has lasted way longer than everyone else’s. And I bet he probably predicted it too.


TEDx Albertopolis

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TEDx at the Royal Albert Hall, the first TEDx event in London


A few years ago, I was rather hooked on TED and watched many videos on various topics by inspirational figures who wanted to share and spread their ideas to the world. Hence, when I found out about the franchise event, TEDx Albertopolis ( created in the spirit of TED’s mission and experience at the local level), the first in London, I was very excited and booked myself a ticket for the 5-hour event.

The event took place at the Royal Albert Hall and we were told that it was a sold-out event ( many were school students). The day was divided into three sessions: “Seeing things differently”, “Making things happen”, and “Shaking things up”. The speakers include Julia Lohmann, ( an artist in residence at the V & A whom I mentioned in my previous entry), Nicolas McCarthy ( the one-handed pianist), Sally Davies ( Chief Medical Officer for England), Roland Lamb ( the creator of Seaboard GRAND) and many more.

As expected, some talks were more inspiring than others, and personally ( and I believe for many others), it was the co-founder of Touretteshero, Jessica Thom‘s talk on Tourette’s Syndrome that was truly unforgettable.

The problem with these huge events is that there are bound to be long queues for everything, and this was the case here from toilets, cafes to even the top gallery… And after sitting for so many hours, my back also started to complain, so as much as I enjoyed the event ( where I also befriended the Irish lady next to me), I would probably watch the videos in a more comfortable setting next time… which is my home sweet home.



Open House weekend 2013

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The magnificent ceiling painted by Sir Peter Paul Rubens in the hall in 1636 at the Banqueting House


As an architecture lover ( I wanted to be an architect when I was a kid, because Lego was my obsession at the time), the Open House weekend has always been one of my favourite events in London. Unfortunately, this year, I was too busy to pre-book and too sick to plan, and so I did not manage to take full advantage of the weekend. And unlike my friend, I was not willing to queue for hours either.

On Saturday, a friend and I met up in Westminster to try and get into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but was put off by the extremely long queue outside. Hence, we walked across the street and opted for the shorter queue outside of the Banqueting House instead. We noticed that there were a lot more tourists than the previous years, perhaps it was due to the publicity, but the event that once was enjoyed by mainly Londoners has become a very ‘touristy’ event. ( I probably sound like a bitter and grumpy old fart, but I can’t help feeling that London is far too ‘touristy’ these days!)

We waited for only 10 mins and were eventually allowed into the only surviving building of the old Palace of Whitehall. This Palladian-style building was designed by Inigo Jones for James I in 1619 and in 1936, Flemish artists, Sir Peter Paul Rubens’s ceiling paintings were installed. Lying on the beanbags provided in the hall, my friend and I were rather gobsmacked by how three-dimensional the paintings looked from below! The painting techniques of these old masters made me understand why their work would stretch millions today because they are truly outstanding.


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The Elizabethan ( 1562) Middle Temple Hall in Temple


Although I didn’t visit Middle Temple Hall during the weekend ( which was part of the Open House), I went to the hall 2 weeks before with friends visiting from abroad. I made an appointment for lunch and we were able to enjoy our meal in one of the best preserved Elizabethan architecture ( built between 1562 and 1573 ) in London. And here the hall is equally stunning…


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A grade II listed Art deco building: London school of of Hygiene & tropical medicine on Keppel Street in Bloomsbury’s exterior and interior


On Sunday afternoon, I decided to skip the ‘touristy’ area and went to one of my favourite areas in London: the historical Bloomsbury. My tactic paid off because there were not as many tourists and queues were relatively short. I opted for a guided tour at the art deco building, London School of Hygiene and tropical medicine. The Grade II listed building was officially opened in 1929, but part of the building was destroyed by a bomb during World War II and had to be restored. The exterior of the building features gilded bronze insects and animals that transmit diseases on the balconies, and displays the names of 23 pioneers of public health and tropical medicine on the frieze. Inside the building, it was a mix of old and new, but I especially love the art deco style library, except for the hideous fluorescent lighting!


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British Medical Association, a grade II listed building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1911


Without any planning, I walked into the British Medical Association House just in time for the hourly guided tour, and it turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise. The grade II listed building was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1911, and has been the home to the British Medical Association since 1925. Personally, I found the exterior of the building esp. the courtyard more spectacular than the interior, but it was the tranquil garden at the back that took all of us by surprise. And it turned out that the garden area had been occupied by Tavistock House, which was the home of novelist Charles Dickens in the late 1850s.


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Birkbeck school of arts’s new and award-winning film and media centre and its historical past 


My last stop of the day was Birkbeck school of arts on Gordon Square. The guide was rather shocked by the overwhelming number of people who were interested in joining the tour, as they had not expected so many visitors. As part of the Bedford Estate developed between the early 1820s and 1860 designed by Thomas Cubitt, the school actually looks rather bland from the outside. The highlight of the building is the 2008 RIBA award-winning centre for film and media designed by Surface Architects in 2007. The architects were inspired by the cinematic movement and Virginia Woolf‘s ( a former resident) stream of consciousness narratives. They created a very colourful, bold and striking centre which seems very ‘post modern’ to me. I can’t decide whether I like it or not, but it is certainly one of a kind.

In this maze-like building, we were eventually led to the older part ( no.46), where Virginia Woolf moved to with her family after her father died in 1904. It was here where she met other fellow writers and artists and formed the Bloomsbury Group. Interestingly, not THAT much seems to have changed from view out of the 1st floor window… and this is the reason why I love Bloomsbury, it is one of last few areas in London where it is still relatively intact and has not been redeveloped. I sincerely hope it will continue to stay this way.