There was an air of anticlimax In Trafalgar Square on Thursday evening when Culture Minister Ed Vaizey switched on Outrace, the much anticipated centrepiece of the London Design Festival.
The Audi robots assembled by German-Swedish design duo Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram clunked into action, but rather than writing the words Vaizey tapped into the console in the sky – as most in the crowd had expected – it transpired you have to log into the websitewww.outrace.org to read the message.
There were mutterings about lasers not being allowed in central London, but disappointment reigned nonetheless. What the installation does show though is that industrial technology, in this case relating to the Audi R15 TDI race car, can be beautiful and that even the most specific engineering designs can be adapted to meet new needs – something Sony is seeking to do through its Open Planet environmental initiative.
Technology is a theme across town in Shoreditch, where the Anti Design Festival kicked off on Friday night. Only here there is more of an emphasis on low-tech and hand-making, with projects such as Dominic Wilcox’s ambitious Speed Creating venture at the ADF’s main venue – The Londonewcastle Project at 28 Redchurch Street, London E2 – which promises an idea coined and realised every day of the festival, Fabrats low-tech rapid prototyping in response to briefs from ADF visitors, and reconstituted and improvised seating by David Amar acting as a foil to the seductive Salon wall of subversive print images by the great and the good.
But the ADF too embraces newer technologies. A highlight is the five-seat Microplex cinema in which an abundance of imagery courtesy of Getty Images has been set to audio encounters with movies such as Woody Allen’s brilliantly scripted Annie Hall.
And, like Outrace, it is using the Internet and social media to give its activities a different dimension and alert folk to forthcoming events and programme changes. How tough it must have been for event organisers before such technologies existed.
Elsewhere, the ADF reinforces the links between graphic design and art, be it the well-tempered gallery art of the bijou Payne Shurvell gallery in edgy industrial premises off Curtain Road or the quasi street art of Nychos at the wonderfully titled Pure Evil Gallery in Leonard Street.
Graffiti is integral to the streetscape in Shoreditch. But another form of political expression exists at the Idea Generation Gallery in Chance Street, with the Uber Collision: Epic Fall compilation by Harry Malt and Stuart Semple, and particularly at Aubin Gallery in Redchurch Street, where seminal French illustration group Bazooka makes its London debut – providing one of the LDF’s ‘don’t miss’ moments.
Many of the main LDF events kick off this week, so watch the Design Week blog for our personal selections. We also welcome yours. But do drop into the ADF – inspiration will be your reward.