Treespotting - Monique Redmond & Tanya Eccleston

TREESPOTTING is both a document of our suburban Auckland springtime, and a testimony to our shared love of growing things out front.

OK, Which way Mon?

Let's start off by going down here, up and around and then turning right onto Martin? (Where's that big pink rhododendron? Is it off Asquith or is it Martin?)


The following pages chronicle an event of sorts: a drive-by shooting and an expedition - a treespotting outing, undertaken over many weeks, that documents an ongoing conversation between two artists seeking out the flowering of trees in and around our local suburban streets.

Monique Redmond is an artist and teacher living in Mt Albert, New Zealand. This particular suburban context, its sites, architecture, planting and gardens are a source for works that both draw upon together and document the lived spaces of her everyday.

Tanya Eccleston is an artist, writer and teacher now living in Avondale, New Zealand. Her own interests as an artist are in working with social contexts, and with making installations both within and outside the gallery. She has recently immigrated to Auckland from Glasgow, Scotland, where rhododendrons grow wild in the hills and no one would dream of planting one in their front garden.

The trees we pass on our daily circuits maintain a year-round appearance; they are on permanent display. Once a year they bloom, and the suburban garden becomes a stage, the site where blooming events occur… Flowers signify an event of sorts. A bouquet of cut flowers is itself an occasion, whether the flowers are picked, bought, given or received; they are small exchanges, celebratory markers of other happenings. The simplicity of an arranged bouquet is in a single utterance, a spectacularly exquisite act… The experiential nature of a bunch of flowers, a flowering tree, a blossoming garden captures a gesture of time, of time spent and time short-lived. Monique Redmond, Flower Theory, Apartment Gallery, Melbourne, 2008

I think front gardens are like installations - changing, growing installations of plants, lawn, low fences and trees arranged in relation to the built structures of the house, fence and pathways - but it's an exhibition space too. It's an exhibition space that doesn't always accommodate the passage of people, but always allows the prospect of a gaze in or across it - from either vantage point; behind the lace curtain peeking out, or from the sidewalk, passing by. It's the pathway that guides you through to the front door, but it's the planting and the front fence that frames our gaze from the street.

There's a mix of classes and ethnicities in these streets we are cruising, but mostly we are looking for these beauties in the gardens of the middle class, aren't we?

While caught in a state of distraction not caused by 'habit' of familiarity but by the ever-present process of panoptic visuality, our suburban passers-bys can only glance fleetingly at their front garden 'works of art'. Walter Benjamin

Streaming together as they do when you're driving past - home fronts and their trees undulating up and down (like your hand surfing the air out the backseat window on long journeys with your parents) - it's like a perpetual horizon line of a long, low landscape.

Seen in a series, a sequence of shots like you put together Mon - the speed of the passing is paced by the frame of the photograph, but also the frame of the house and its borders and edges. Suddenly a flash of rapid-fire shots (click-click-click, click-click) captures a moment's seasonal glory true to its passing - its passing by in time and in motion. Later, seen side by side by side, or marshalled together in the edifice of the closed grid as you do, your images of these flowering streets are given ground and pause.

The front yard in Mt Albert (and around her mountain and plains) is a front garden. Not so many boats and cars and fridges lying about in these soft green spaces. In these 'leafy' streets, the front of the house is not only a buffer zone between the public thoroughfare of the street and the private and domestic realm of the home, it's a space where people express themselves, isn't it?

Some of these trees we spot are old. Really old. This says to me that beauty has always been important to these home dwellers - pre-war, post-war and into the fifties and sixties. It also says lots about the social status of these folk - they grew things for the soul as well as for the belly, but they grew these front gardens to SHOW others their refinement, their good taste (or lack of it!).

Subsistence wasn't just about fruit trees and a vegetable patch out the back, it was about creating a visual, sensual beauty not only for yourself, but to show others that you valued the 'higher' things - culture, taste, beauty, grace and the finer things in life. The newcomer pakeha brought sensibilities shaped in Europe, but this soil and climate, this light gave form and species new ground.

Didn't your grandfather have an orchard Mon?

New Zealand is so blue and green, so verdant bright that it can do hibiscus and lolly-pink azaleas, rhododendrons and magnolias in such a way as not to be embarrassing or out of place. That much colour in so much abundance would seem outrageous in an English suburb where the skies are powdery blue or pearly grey. Here in the wide blue-screen backdrop of

an early spring sky, each vivid bloom and branch is rendered unreal - flattened by the frame of the lens, the swiftness of the glance and sharp bright light of day, blurred by the velocity of the moving car, the shifting, swinging perspective of the street-to-street seeking of another tree.


A camellia or magnolia has a sweet and serene beauty in the soft light of the northern hemisphere - here they are unselfconscious - almost BRAZEN in their very brilliance and profusion. So many flowers on a single front yard specimen tree definitely make a SHOW.

Colour is important to you Mon, would you say?

Maybe people paint their houses in shades of blue and grey and white like they were carefully creating a sky-like backdrop, or set, with which to plant against, lean and grow against. From the car, it looks like everyone has thought carefully about what trees to plant in their front gardens 'cause they take up their space so EMPHATICALLY. These homeowners, one after another, after another, use their plants and planting to express, to EXHIBIT, something of themselves and their taste to themselves and to us, don't they?Aesthetically her art revels in the tension between the straggly, shaggy nature of organic growth and the order we place on it. Say it with Flowers, Dominion Post, 21-10-2005, Mark Amery.


Whizzing by as we do, taking shots, stealing glances, the pleasure of discovering a blossom-heavy tree is real. Thing is, every time we see something lovely in another's front garden in these streets 'round here, I can see someone's unabashed love of colour clear as day. Everyone seems to be involved in creating a kind of down-home garden of Eden - a space beyond function, reason and common sense - an imaginary space made palpable and bright.

Interesting isn't it that the various diverse forms and shapes in which trees grow are called their habits. Pohutukawas have a spreading, base-branching habit while many camellias have a tight, bunching and balling 'habit': a habit of growing in a similar way to each other as if the species 'got used to' growing a certain way. Rhododendrons (the big, conical, heart-shaped, hot-pink-blossomed variety) seem to have a habit of accommodating power lines and street lamps, and competing with others such as conifers, by changing their shape to suit. Magnolias spread wide their blossoms upturned and sun loving. Rhododendrons are so very upright and dense, lollipop bright and balloon wide: almost comical.

Seen one after another in these photographs of yours, Mon, their diverse 'habits' are made collective and shared not only across species, but in plantings along streets. A sweep of observable landscape, made whole through your sequential capture, is one without people. A deserted street or an unoccupied garden creates an open visual passage across and through the vista of not-so-fenced-in planting: trees reach, spill, stretch and swing their lovely arms up-wide into view, animating these empty streets with movement.

Can you tell me, Mon, why you choose to photograph this place in the way that you do?I'm interested in the notion of documentary as a record of place. For me it's about the experience of transit: across space, through time, recording changes of form, both social and physical in an everyday suburban context. The photographing of these local streets provides me with an ongoing document of the space between image and experience. The images form a deadpan citation of sites that have located themselves in the peripheral of my everyday. They are random snapshots taken from one of many repeated rides through the same roads at different times on different days, but seen in relation, they form a representation of my life and a portrait of this place.

Uh oh, where now? Left or right? WHOOPS! Wrong way, but look at the colour of that magnolia there! Got it Mon? (click-click-click, click-click) Counsel, Lloyd, Thomas, Seaview, right down Martin (click-click-click, click-click), Verona, Chatham, Parkdale 'cross Fontenoy, Monaghan, Grant (click-click-click, click-click) … back again, one more time, and another, see it? YES!


Gardening expressed an individual's creative vision and created a personal space. It broadened the roles of women in household and community, and ultimately facilitated their roles as cultural colonisers along with men. A garden both incorporated and symbolised the complex process of becoming a New Zealander and even in part defined what that could mean. Katherine Raine, Domesticating the Land: Colonial Women's Gardening, edited by Bronwyn Dalley and Bronwyn Labrum, Auckland, 2000

Do you see these flowering trees as gendered, Mon?

Are we looking at big blousy girls or are they, as you have said before when talking about the trees on Allendale, un-gendered personages? What makes these trees so anthropomorphic? Is it their scale, form and singularity - their aloneness on the stage of the domestic house front?

Low-waisted, broad-beamed, big-skirted, fat-as-a-house camellia really is almost as fat as the house - from the road, in the car, whizzing by that is. Mount Royal Avenue's princess in red and green stands there in the middle of the lawn looking for love.

It occurs to me later after our drive-by, walking along Sarsfield Street then up Sentinel - these newly renovated front gardens are remarkably homogenous. Consistently austere, white and green only; manly neat and maintenance light. There is no leaf litter from a box hedge back-planted with gardenias and standard Icebergs. Mass, horizontal, low, staged planting tells no tales from passing. These front gardens are formal, presentational spaces for the architecture that lies behind. A kind of textured visual foreground that gives ground and threshold to the fortress of home. Secure, stable spaces where no one can hide - or dream.

Here on Sentinel, magnolias are still in :), but rhododendrons (TOO PINK) are out :(. Blousy, gushing, messy (emotional?) trees are OUT. Cool, white restraint is the (strict) order of the day. Sigh. Those gardenias are so far back from the street, I'll never get a whiff of that heavenly scent.

Over New North, down Woodward, round and down Jerram back up Jersey home?

Let's do Allendale again? The cranberry pink's gone, but the rhodys will be budding up along that stretch between Douglas and Mt Albert Road. Ok, which way? Where's that big white rhody again? Duart or La Veta?

Treespotting - Monique Redmond & Tanya Eccleston


Home front layout - Draft FCB


Email dialogue which constructed DRAFT FCB's article in this edition.

From: James Mok
To: Creative
Subject: Threaded Magazine

On Mon, 14 Sep 2009, James Mok wrote:

> Threaded Magazine has asked us to do a spread about the agency for their next issue. We have to include some work,
> and also something about what makes us, how would you say, us. I'm off on a new business meeting until the end of the
> day. Billy's running the show. Run everything past him.


From: Billy McQueen
To: Creative
Subject: Re: Threaded Magazine

On Mon, 14 Sep 2009, Billy McQueen wrote

> Hey fullas. I'd like every team to send me the best piece of work they've done recently, with a bit of a blurb, by the
> end of the day. Also, any layout ideas you have would be great. Chur.


From: Kelly Lovelock
To: Creative
Subject: Re: Threaded Magazine
Att: Robert Harris

On Mon, 14 Sep 2009, Kelly Lovelock wrote:

> Here's the multi-channel, genre-breaking Robert Harris 'Outdoor Art Gallery' project we did a while back. Is there a
> job number for this?

To show how Robert Harris coffee makes every moment inspirational, we got some of New Zealand's best artists to create art out of napkins. Then we turned Britomart into an art gallery to inspire others.


From: Antony Wilson

To: Creative

Subject: Re: Threaded Magazine

Att: Stab Poster, Alan Ball

On Tues, 15 Sep 2009, Antony Wilson wrote:

True Blood's a show on Prime about vampires living amongst humans. And since it was coming here, we needed to warn the public before the vampires arrived. These posters worked a treat and ended up being seen by series creator Alan Ball, who requested a copy for himself.

> Did The Mr Robby Harris request your artwork, Kelly? No, no he didn't.


From: Billy McQueen
To: Creative
Subject: Re: Threaded Magazine

On Tues, 15 Sep 2009, Billy McQueen wrote:

> Please tell me there's more. Need layout ideas too. Job number: THR0001.


From: Jason Jones
To: Creative
Subject: Re: Threaded Magazine
Att: Tea Towels

On Thurs, 17 Sep 2009, Jason Jones wrote:

> As Creative Coordinator, I need to be kept up to date about of all jobs coming through. Please let me know how much creative
> time is required on the Threaded job, so I can book around our paying clients. Here's Jane and Leisa's tea towels that you requested.

Genesis Energy stands for neighbourliness. And what says neighbourly more than a tea towel hanging on a line? We put Genesis Energy's 'Declaration of Neighbourliness' on the tea towel itself, and ran the ad in newspapers around the country.


From: Billy McQueen
To: Creative
Subject: Time

On Thurs, 17 Sep 2009, Billy McQueen wrote:

> Ignore Jason, Threaded comes first. I need this finished by end of play.

From: Amy Williams
To: Creative 

On Thurs, 17 Sep 2009, Amy Williams wrote:

> Whoever opened up THR0001, only Accounts are allowed to officially open job numbers.
> We can't delete it until all time has been taken off it. Please remove the accrued 20hrs by midday.


From: Matt Simpkins
To: Billy McQueen
Subject: Re: Threaded Magazine
Att: TurdOn Thurs, 17 Sep 2009, Matt Simpkins wrote:

> Here's the piece of shit me and K Dog did.Oktobor, NZ's #1 post-production house, can make even the worst ideas look amazing. So we sent all of the ECDs (well the important ones at least), something to remind them of Oktobor's genius - a polished turd.


From: Billy McQueen
To: Creative
BCC: Amy Willlams
Subject: Re: Threaded Magazine

On Thurs, 17 Sep 2009, Billy McQueen wrote:

> Thanks for taking care of your time sheets. That job number should never have gotten to you guys. There hasn't been a solid idea for
Threaded yet, so if you can guys can keep at it (off the clock) that'd be great. Ta.


From: John Maxwell
To: Creative
Subject: Re: Business Cards
Att: Cards

On Fri, 18 Sep 2009,

> Here are the business cards I designed for Mint. Could a writer please write a blurb for me?


From: Helen North
To: All Users
Subject: Jane Wardlaw just had her baby!
Att: Ava

On Fri, 18 Sep 2009, Helen North wrote:

> It's a girl, six pounds 14, and her name's Ava! I'm coming around to collect money now!!!


From: Chris Schofield
To: Billy McQueen
Subject: Re: Threaded Magazine
Att: Idents

On Fri, 18 Sep 2009, Chris Schofield wrote:

> Speaking of cute, check out the detective from our Prime idents. Woof woof.


From: Tony Clewett
To: Creative
Subject: Re: Anyone got any ideas for Threaded?

On Fri, 18 Sep 2009, Tony Clewett wrote:

> Why not use the whole email exchange as the idea for the spread?


From: Chris Schofield
To: Creative
Subject: Re: Anyone got any ideas for Threaded?

On Mon, 21 Sep 2009, Chris Schofield wrote:

> You mean like the novel 'e'?


From: Billy McQueen 
To: Creative
Subject: Re: Anyone got any ideas for Threaded?

On Mon, 21 Sep 2009, Billy McQueen wrote:

> Okay, I've just asked James if he's heard of the book 'e' and he says he hasn't. So let's run with it. Think of it as a tribute instead of > a rip-off. Iain, can you please art direct this so it looks emaily? Threaded templates, fonts, etc in transfer.
> Cheers.


From: Threaded Magazine
To: Billy McQueen
Subject: Re: Threaded Ed. 8 The Home Front

On Mon, 21 Sep 2009, Threaded Magazine wrote:

Sorry it's so last minute but could you please steer clear of any email-type layouts as this will be the focus of our next issue.


No place like home - Cut Collective

We are are collective and a company of artists and designers with shared backgrounds, one of which is street-art. We work on commercial and personal projects across a range of mediums. We take the business of design and art-making seriously. Ourselves, hopefully not so much..


COLLECTIVE. Suggests a certain degree of organisation, earnestness even.
We are serious, no doubt. This ain't no macramé and coffee group. It seems the notion of the collective is on the comeback; we like the way it lends itself to alliteration.

COLLABORATION. We work with people. We work with people and invite their contribution. Whether working on their home or ours, sometimes it's best to build a carport we can both use though.

CULTIVATION. We grow a good vege patch out the back of ours. Thing is it's always more than we need and the true satisfaction is in sharing the harvest. See we could give the neighbour a hand with their patch, maybe take the surplus to market and get ourselves a cottage industry happening.

COMMUNITY. Our community is important; our involvement in community is important. Community though is a word similar to culture - loaded with associated imagery and ideas. Our culture and our community are built into our practice.
It moves where we do, rhizomatically.


CONTRIBUTION. Requires some acknowledgement, and is always best when forthcoming unprompted.

CULTURE. Inescapable. Is what we are engaged in, is what we contribute to. Is what you make it. Is best avoided when weighed down by anchors of tradition and procedure.

CURATION. We organise, produce and present. We like to shape the way things are encountered. We don't work within traditional gallery formats that easily.
We retain the right not to pay 40% commission. Control over context.

COMMERCE. Keeps us going. Pays our bills. Is the difference between full- time and part-time art-making.

CREDIBILITY. Best not to worry 'bout this one. As long as you still retain core values that is.

CREATIVITY. Sure, why not.

CLUTTER. Is a balancing act.

CRIME. Ain't no crime to shine.


How about a bit? - Auckland Print Studio

The primary objective of Auckland Print Studio is to initiate and facilitate projects with professional artists, architects and other design-based practitioners – to create an active laboratory environment within which these practitioners, students and the public will interact.

In 1997, as I began my undergraduate degree at Syracuse University, I saw a rich, dark and complex image in the university's art collection. It haunted me. The image was a lithograph by Federico Castellon and I was sold. I wanted to see more and attempt to make images with a similar quality. This was the first lithograph I had seen and I have been drawing on stone and printing ever since.

Working at various printmaking studios in the United States spoiled me; they were well equipped and frequented by many accomplished artists. Some of these studios also published editions and collaborative print projects, with which I naturally became involved with as the primary printer. Artists Image Resource, a large printmaking studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is where I gained the most experience, managing and printing the collaborative projects of Faith Ringgold, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Patricia Bellan-Gillen, Rick Gribenas and many others.

Auckland Print Studio (APS) is a fine print studio specialising in hand-printed lithography, and it is the realisation of a goal I have had ever since my arrival in New Zealand. There simply are no open-studios with lithographic stones or presses in Auckland. So, foremost, this is a space where I can continue my research and make lithographs. My lithographic work has won awards, notably the 2006 Team McMillan BMW Art Award and, more recently, the 2010 International Lithography Artist-in-Residence Award in the Black Church Print Studio, Dublin, Ireland. My lithographs have been exhibited in the United States, South America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Italy, and I have had regular solo exhibitions with Seed Gallery in Auckland since 2006.

After a year's work preparing the space and building equipment, I was thrilled to officially open Auckland Print Studio with the first annual Open-Stone event this past November, 2008. The small space was full of people, all collaboratively drawing (often simultaneously) on a freshly prepared lithographic stone. When enough drawing had been made with the greasy-based lithographic pencils and crayons, I processed, inked, and printed the stone making a small, variable edition and gave each guest a print to take home.

The Open-Stone event is a great opportunity to visit the studio, see lithography in action, and walk away with a print. Groups and individuals are also most welcome to visit the studio by appointment. Earlier this year I gave demonstrations to visiting groups such as Friends of the Auckland Art Gallery. APS operates on many levels and applications are accepted from artists and creative practitioners interested in making collaborative lithographs to complement their practices. I will soon be hosting an open-studio night for those who have prior lithographic experience or for those taking a workshop at APS.

The main activity of APS is initiating collaborative projects with artists, architects, and designers, which result in unique small-edition lithographic prints. To date, I have worked with architect Danelle Briscoe, landscape architect Pete Griffiths, artist Julian Hooper and artist/student Kirsten Walsh. Having a variety of practitioners in the studio making work is without a doubt the best aspect of running the studio. The studio seems to change on a daily basis: especially so when a new person is there. Most artists work relatively out of sight labouring away in personal spaces, but the nature of lithography often requires people to work in the print studio environment, making the creative process open and viewable.

Julian Hooper was the first invited artist at Auckland Print Studio and he spent many long and concentrated hours working on (and towering over) his stone, with each printed layer pinned up for critique and contemplation. Pete Griffiths, with seemingly little effort outside of idiosyncratic pencil movements and a few personal rituals, created the first layer of his evolving print on a sunny afternoon. Danelle Briscoe, seated on the stool she donated to the studio, went through numerous sharpened points to create her delicate line drawing on the stone. Kirsten Walsh, a student learning the intricacy of making and printing her own lithographs, has livened up the space with beautiful and delicate images and occasional notes, such as the one letting me know she used the counter-etch-only brush to gum her stone. Master carver and sculptor Lyonel Grant is the next invited guest at APS and I'm greatly anticipating what the world-class carver might lay onto the surface of a precision-flat stone.

A mainstay of APS is its connection with Unitec New Zealand. The studio is situated at Unitec's Mt Albert campus, where I am a lecturer in the Department of Architecture. As part of the programme at APS, I invite practitioners from the wider architectural field to collaborate in the studio and create limited edition lithographs. Practitioners, upon completing their prints, are asked to contribute to a broad dialogue on drawing and image making, and its place within creative and design-based disciplines, by engaging students, staff and the public in a presentation and discussion. Exhibitions of the work will also lend to this critical dialogue.

APS is equipped with a 30" x 50" Charles Brand lithography press and a variety of stones. The stones are the matrix upon which the image is made and from which the ink is transferred to paper or like surfaces. I find a latent beauty in these stones: whether inky with remnant drawings having just been printed, or freshly ground to a smooth 220-grit surface. The backsides of the stones echo their respective business letterheads histories: their prior uses printing beer labels, or pension fund forms, all lettered by hand. The majority of these labels were from Pittsburgh or Chicago, the cities from where I collected, crated and shipped the stones. On a technical note, these stones are of the lithographic limestone group originating in the Solnhofen quarry in the German state of Bavaria. They began forming around 150 million years ago!

At APS, I also use positive-working photolithographic plates that are made by exposing drawings and washes developed on drafting film. Once these plates are made, I ink them up and print them in a similar manner to the stones. A major benefit of using these photo-plates is the ability to work away from the studio and a number of long-distance APS projects are dependent on this capability. One extraordinary fund-raising project in progress involves a group of children from an International Humanity Foundation orphanage in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Regan Potangaroa, a colleague of mine who is involved in many humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, engaged the children to make a series of drawings. He collated these and transported them back to APS where I exposed them on to the photo-litho plates and printed them as editions. An additional yet-to-be-realised component of this project is the pairing up of a New Zealand artist with each child's drawing. The artist can add to the image by creating an additional printed layer or by making a separate piece in response, to be utilised as a diptych.

APS's fundamental interest is in how print and imaging processes connect with broader contemporary practice and how better to enable this. APS champions drawing, experimentation and, ultimately, open and creative collaboration.Work and studio info can be accessed on the website.

Describing my lithograph: Figure from Ground By Danelle Briscoe

Architectural drawings tend to depict the compression of built space - through representation of the relations between objects and space. To common perception, the figure is what you notice and the ground is everything else. The landscape (or universal space) of New Zealand calls upon the aesthetics of ambiguity where the relationship between figure and ground is reversed. The focus is the ground/landscape and remains dominant to any built object upon it.

The overlay of the digital body stands apart from the figure/ground almost like an apparition. It almost serves as a reminder of the strong traditional relationship of the figure to ground by its role as figure from ground.

I found the APS studio to be a meditative space of calm and reflection. It has been some time since I have experienced my first love of architecture: the act of drawing by hand. Armed with computers, architects today do not always have the luxury and time of translating their thoughts and ideas through this medium. How lucky I feel to be asked to contribute to the work being done in the studio. The atmosphere and detail that has gone into the APS has without a doubt made it a memorable experience I will cherish now that I have moved from New Zealand.

Marianne Uptown By Julian Hooper

Marianne Uptown is an image of some things that together make up a figure of a girl in a city. I have stayed in many big cities, and wanted to capture the excitement of stepping out on a bright sunny morning. This was my first experience of lithography, and I was surprised by the flexibility and versatility of the medium. Making this print involved many decisions in progress. John suggested many processes for working on the stone, including ways of editing and revising, which made for a really interesting and involving collaboration.

Lithographic prints by Pete Griffiths

Phase transition: the point at which creative the and critical analysis phases of design coalesce. Stone lithography: the ability to capture the freshly drawn stroke of a pencil with its characteristic qualities intact. It seems to me the serenity, the poetics, the jubilation, the contentment, the freedom, the accidents, the precision… are words and characteristics so often missing in circumspect sets of standard-sized banners or sheets depicting landscape schemes and landscape architecture…the words of Billy the Kid spring to mind, "I'll make you famous"… he said, as he raised a six-shooter clasped in his outstretched hand… a bold and confident phrase that mirrors what I believe lithographic technique can offer to landscape architecture. Where is the danger, the risk, the instinct, in landscape representations? So often it is the mundane, the safe, that wins tenders or is associated with public works. Where are the schemes that open up issues about the landscape? Critical point: landscape and lithography share traits similar to systems containing liquid and gaseous phases. In these systems there exists a special combination of pressure and temperature, known as the critical point. Near the critical point, the fluid is sufficiently hot and compressed that the distinction between the liquid and gaseous phases is almost non-existent which = landscape architecture and its transient qualities… landscape is not a thing to be designed, to be arranged, or to be figured out or solved, a thing to be put away as finished. Landscape exists: continually moving nearer to or farther from a critical point. In the same way, the chemical processes associated with lithography capture an almost sensuous, yet definite, physical life force… pooling, sediments and capillaries… veins, skin and flesh… grinding, washing and pressing… inconsistency, surprise, and the unexpected.


Design in Crisis - We Love Inc

A gallery exhibition of work generated by Livia Lima, Joanna Alpe, Kylie Phillips, Renée Lam, Vincent Thornhill and Ralph Matthews specifically for a concept show - visually responding to the question 'What happens to design in a time of crisis?'

On 18 September 2009, 6.05pm, on the fifth floor of the beautifully renovated Achilles House (building for lease now) in downtown Auckland, the doors opened and people began arriving, guided by a sandwich board and street-level way-finding signage (necessary due to a google-maps-crisis that resulted in the wrong address being advertised). Those dedicated tackled the stairs (due to a last-minute lift crisis) and were rewarded with an acknowledgment of their efforts by a sign stating "sometimes design in crisis means doing things the hard way, thanks for taking the stairs", a glass of Fiasco Gewurztraminer (there in the nick of time after a courier crisis) and an awful lot of food for thought.

We realised we had thrown people a curve ball; exhibitions of Graphic Design in New Zealand are seldom seen, especially work generated specifically for a concept show and not shown as a graduation show, in retrospect or as part of a portfolio show. The brief was our own, the work our response - a visual manifestation of research and ideas around the core question: what happens to design in a time of crisis? This was a presentation of our thoughts on something that was directly affecting us, our clients and the people around us.

On 15 September 2008, the global financial services firm Lehman Brothers collapsed. This event, the largest bankruptcy in US history, among many other links in the chain, seemed to sound the charge for worldwide recession. We founded We Love Inc, the company that initiated the Design In Crisisproject, within a fortnight of that announcement. Others represented in the show had found themselves in similar situations of transition, moving from jobs into careers, moving from education to industry.

So the issue was something of which we all had a very real world experience and we were therefore keen to discuss it with the wider design community around us. The work was wide ranging, generated after a period of personal research. Pieces like Kylie Phillips' Sell Out had tongue implanted firmly in cheek with statements like "BUY ONE - TAKE MY SOUL FOR FREE". A candid social commentary was offered using the conventions of the current retail market. Kylie invokes questions like:

Ralph Matthews cast a future vision of the design industry. Design By Numbers taps into and reflects the growing 'DIY design accessibility'. Layout programmes like PowerPoint, Word and Publisher that give non-designers design capability will most likely evolve into products like the ones he proposes.

"Are designers expected to offer the same slashed prices and cheap deals? By churning out mass-produced bargain basement material, will we ultimately be selling out?"

"One such response to the current crisis is the prediction that the designers of the future will devise 'design machines'. These machines will be an advanced form of interactive software, employing artificial intelligence in a manner that goes way beyond the scope of current software packages such as Adobe or Quark... a comparison of roles which echoes the step-up from tools to machines and from artisans to engineers that took place during the Industrial Revolution."

Livia Lima's work None of Our Business highlights the order and chaos of the newspaper medium by crafting an exploded view of a randomly selected newspaper from April 2009, which is then compounded to create a new form.

"When the given information is reshuffled and recollated using new criteria, order is transformed into chaos and, likewise, some of the ordinarily chaotic elements of a newspaper gain a new sense of order."

She questions whether all the essential facts are being given to us and, most importantly, whether proper attention given to the facts that matter the most. Renée Lam took a more up-close-and-personal tack - she looked at the dynamic of Fight or Flight. When the going gets tough, do you stand and fight, or flee the scene.

"The work acts as a commentary on both the entangled thought process that occurs in the mind of the young designer and the multiple routes/ occurrences they may undertake if they choose to fight."

Joanna Alpe's work Hello Future uses the key supposition - that in a time of crisis we look critically forward. She interviews Robin Gunston, a Futurist with experience in government, business, oil and the movie industry (advising to the movie Minority Report).

"Designers are inherently and historically forerunners of visual trends and purveyors of the zeitgeist visual style. Trend spotting and forecasting are easy inclusions into design practice, but what if there were something more in-depth that could super-charge our insight into business and brand."

While Future Theory is already an inclusion into inter-national creative practice, this is one of the first times it has been raised in the context of New Zealand design. It covers the Futurists' thoughts on economic recession, an introduction to what Future Theory is about and how this could relate to the design paradigm.

Vincent Thornhill takes a questioning look at the news - the reporting of what is going on around us and how the information relating to the crisis has been presented to us. We are spoken to as consumers, rather than concerned citizens.

"All of these media carry with them an agenda, the objective of which is to deliver advertising to the audience. Therefore, the 'news' or information about a global crisis is packaged within a consumer context."

Storm of Inquiry  is a collaborative interactive design project by Luke Malcolm, Ralph Matthews and Joanna Alpe. Innovation is something that has to come from a time of crisis and interactive design is one of the current technological innovations in the area of graphic design. This project focuses on engaging the audience through the interaction - providing a point of contact and a vehicle for response, rather than just a play piece.

  "This work centres around the question how does design change in a time of crisis?' and the answers provided by the viewer help craft and shape the work into being."

Joanna Alpe and Livia Lima collaborated on Opening Night Poll. This work surveyed the exhibition crowd - asking them for their thoughts on crisis. The responses were extremely varied. Think focus group meets high school toilet door. To some, the recession was a fuss about nothing, a conspiracy, while to others, a harsh personal reality. It seemed clear that, unless you had personal experience with the crisis, it is merely an abstraction. The handwritten notes people contributed worked on the same user-generated level as did the interactive piece: acknowledging and involving the audience.

So why did we exhibit this work... why not just blog thoughts, write an article, post a series of posters, run an ad campaign or some other form of idea-broadcast?

Because Context Is Everything.

The gallery space, even a constructed one as ours was, provides presence. There is a three-dimensional aspect to the work that requires a different type of attention than it would if the ideas were written about only here, within these pages. The viewer has time and space to reflect, absorb, accept, reject and expand on the thoughts. Showcasing contemporary design issues in a gallery context is something we would love to see happen more, as it can only strengthen the New Zealand design community and further encourage design dialogue. Our intention is to continue to support and help facilitate this.

Another reason our response to Design In Crisis became an exhibition - we think in images, not just in words. It is vital to our practice that we are able to manifest our thoughts as visually designed pieces. We have become increasingly interested in the 'thinkers as makers, makers as thinkers' discussion established by Amsterdam-based based designers Experimental Jetset.1 We are keen to embrace this duality in our approach to design.

Our ethos is that as designers we have a trifold responsibility - to the environment, to the people around us and to the progression of culture. But, likely the most important of these is people. Without them, we are talking to ourselves: redundant, self-focused, irrelevant.

"What you will find works is the age-old wisdom - he tangata, he tangata, he tangata - it is the people, the people, the people. People not only generate and store information, they process it to make it more relevant to the era they find themselves in." 2

We need to think in ecosystem terms, realising that we are not hierarchically co-dependent, existing as titled boxes in a governance flow chart, but rather we are interdependents who need each other to survive, respecting that fact.

The exhibition came and went, as most do. People conquered the '16 flights of stairs' and descended them again but we would hope the conversation keeps going. As designers, we should be determined to keep thinking, challenging, creating and acting. The New Zealand design landscape will only be better for it.

1The designers as thinkers and designers as makers discussion comes from Experimental Jetset; you can read more about this at

2Robin Gunston: Abstract for the Design In Crisis catalogue September 2009