List: An oblique survey of London arts

Visiting London for a few days in late July, a series of meetings and encounters gave me an oblique and highly productive view on what’s happening in art, design and creative entrepreneurship.

Writer and installation artist Lauren Brown is undergoing a period of rigorous reflection on her practice and on what constitutes art more broadly. She’s extending on the sociological aspects of her practice, which involves listening in public spaces, and considering further research. Our long-overdue catch-up spanned so many themes and ideas, and I’m still thinking about the place of public anonymity in cities.

Designer Nick Rawcliffe of Raw Studio is going through yet another prolific phase. Inventor of the Snowbone and a series of high craft objects such as the big round hanging Hive chair, Nick has been experimenting with steel-cut puzzles and connectors to create: bike frames; a chess set of interconnecting pieces which creates a visual language for these logic-manoeuvring pieces; the Luna, a stunningly brilliant yet stunningly simple wall light which creates the illusion of an instantly intruded hemisphere of depth into your wall; and a whole other world of resolved and yet-to-be-resolved objects of form and function.

Farewelling its Thameside location, the Design Museum (pictured above) is about to move to a permanent home in a park setting like the Serpentine’s.

That powerhouse of energy, greyworld‘s Andrew Shoben, has just visited Russia to develop another Clockwork Forest for Manifesta.  And he’s got a brilliant idea for a public installation of significant scale which will build on both play and collaboration as principles core to his practice. More on Andrew here.

Architect and curator Rory Hyde has bold new ideas for the curation of architecture in a museum context. As curator of architecture for the V&A, his institutional context is a weighty one, with considerable public and heritage considerations. The nature of collections is also a key focus for his thinking. Rory is collaborating on the V&A’s innovative Rapid Response collection, where hyper-contemporary, hyper-significant objects can enter the museum’s collection for exhibition within a minimum time. Cody Wilson’s 3D-printed gun; Christian Louboutin’s ladies shoes in five different shades of ‘nude’; a pair of jeans produced in the ill-fated final run at The Bangladeshi factory… each object’s collection and presentation in a museum context allows audiences to engage with critical questions tangibly, in a way that can be stimulated only by the presence of the object itself.

The Tate Modern is undergoing major change with its new Herzog & de Meuron building rapidly taking shape. I spent good time transfixed by the Energy and Process and Structure and Clarity galleries, which offered me a productive set of propositions for experiencing and re-experiencing art, animating my mind. I also enjoyed the opportunity to playlist my own series of documentaries in one of the public screening rooms, selecting a range of women artists from the previous century and from around the world.

Shoreditch House was a new experience: a creative industries club with a hip membership – and a rooftop pool. Plenty of negotiations take place in private members’ clubs in London, where under the guise of privacy, networking and deal-sealing becomes a performance with other prospective partners or indeed competitors as its audience. In Australia this happens in public hospitality establishments, except for the chosen few of the older generation who frequent our very small number of gender-segregated members’ clubs in capital cities.

Designer and entrepreneur Helen Kemp has recently launched Just Got Made, an online resource connecting small-run makers with the suppliers and small-scale manufacturers who they need in order to maintain a practice that stays at the craft level. Within weeks of launching there’s over a hundred registered for new connections – a phenomenal uptake that bodes well for a sustainable success.  The balance between exhibition practice and production practice, between hand-made production and limited run or mass production, was a common question during my time at Craft Victoria, and I know there’ll be plenty of Australian makers looking to this UK model.

Sheena Macrae is an inspiring woman. Her practice asks a range of questions about the narrative form, privileging key turning points and the way they affect us. Her studio is at Chisenhale Gallery, the Gertrude Contemporary of the north: a space that welcomes experimentation and sustained engagement with practice, while accommodating numerous residents in studios upstairs. Adjacent is the Chisenhale Dance Space, and both work on a model of direct engagement with local communities in culturally diverse Bethnal Green.