‘I find inspiration everywhere,” says European woodcutter Fred Penelle.
And this week, that inspiration is going on display in Jerusalem as part of Design Week, starting Thursday.
Penelle is part of the visual design label Antivj, and co-creator of Mecaniques Discursives, one of the many art installations being featured during the week as part of a series of exhibitions and events of unusual design installations throughout Jerusalem – an initiative of the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Hansen House Design Center.
The HHDC, on the site of Jerusalem’s former infamous leper colony, is an institution for design, media and technology, expanding now during its sixth year of existence.
Exhibitions, workshops, pop-up shops and performances will be held during the week throughout Jerusalem, including at the Sherover Villa, the Jerusalem Theater, the Islamic Art Museum and the First Station, with an exhibit and workshops on the design of function that emerges from differing religions, cultures and communities.
The downtown area will also get into the act, with craft offerings being held on upper Bezalel Street and a rooftop project being displayed at the Clal Building.
The theme of this year’s event, which brings together a wide range of contemporary designers from Israel and abroad, is combination, a response to an era in which technology eliminates the long-established ways of expression, and allows the public to reconsider the sources for creativity, content and information.
In addition to Antivj, another internationally acclaimed designer collective taking part in the week is Domestic Data Streamers (DDS) – which describes itself in its mission statement as “A team of developers from Barcelona that have taken on the challenge of transforming raw data into interactive systems and experiences.
With a background in new media and interaction design, we play in the boundaries of arts, science and sociology to explore and create new data languages.”
The team was created in October 2013 and since then has been doing installations for several national and international museums and cultural institutions including the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Smart City Expo, Qatar Foundation and the California Academy of Sciences. Their installations measure data by interacting with the public in a creative way.
“We are anthropologists, graphic designers, industrial designers, civil engineers and psychologists. Our tied relationship with the design world started because all of the founding partners actually studied a career that somehow involved design thinking. We transform raw data into art and experience,” says Pau Garcia, founding partner of DDS.
When asked by The Jerusalem Post what the motivation behind the installation was, Garcia says, “We don’t understand it as an installation but as an experiment.
We aim to look at the perception of Jerusalem from a different point of view and this is just a tool to make that happen.
There is always a problem or a message that needs to be explained, and that’s the beginning of everything. It can come from a commercial client, from an NGO or from us. The inspiration comes to us from anything we relate to, and the cultural background and poetics of the topic we want to communicate.”
Antivj, a visual label initiated by a group of European artists, is behind the art installation Mecaniques Discursives. Mecaniques Discursives is described on their website as “a parenthesis between two epochs: Gutenberg’s and Big Data’s. By contrasting the oldest form of image reproduction (woodcutting) with the most recent digital technologies, the installation straddles centuries and contracts time.”
Antivj was originally created by Yannick Jacquet, Joanie Lemercier, Olivier Ratsi and Romain Tardy around 2006. Thomas Vaquié has been composing music for most of their works since 2008, with visual artist/creative coder Simon Geilfus joining in 2009.
Jacquet and Penelle’s Mecaniques Discursives plays perfectly into design week’s theme, the concept of combination, because of the way they skillfully marry woodcuts and printing presses with computer technology, sound and light.
Jacquet and Penelle did not know each other prior to creating this project, but after seeing many of Penelle’s exhibitions in Brussels, Jacquet felt drawn to Penelle’s abstract and simultaneously figurative narrative. Jacquet contacted Penelle and they met up a few times. After a few tests in the studio, they began to understand each other and recognize the artistic potential of their collaboration.
“The project is really the combination of two practices: printmaking and video mapping. It has one foot in the past and one in the future,” says Penelle. “We chose to work together because we felt that there was something interesting in the combination of our practices. Our artistic duo is not something evident, but we learn a lot from each other.”
Penelle, the woodcutter of the duo, gathers his inspiration and information from the world around him. He collects photographs, from newspapers and scientific papers, and takes some himself. He then redesigns the pictures and works them into the main subject of each of his woodcuttings, precisely capturing the essence of each subject.
When asked by the Post how the twosome chose the name “Mecaniques Discursives” to represent this installation, Penelle explains, “It’s a reference to the poetic and the mechanic parts of the project. It also speaks about the non-linear narration of the project. We try not to stay in a routine, and so we continually work on finding new directions. Mecaniques Discursives is an installation that is based on improvisation.”
“I share my job with the most amazing people I know, and it seems to be able to grow as long as we want. Don’t be shy, copy the professionals you love, and learn how you can actually do better work than they do. Travel all that you can, read a lot and stay always curious about life,” says Garcia.