What are alternate modes of practice?

What are alternate modes of practice?

One day we are going to grow old and die and there is a chance no one will take too much notice. So, what to do with this life and this finite time we have together? We worry about what you may think. We have fears that our work and our thoughts will not be taken seriously. We use a language that is most comfortable around our kitchen table. But we don’t make apologies for this because it belongs. Our working-living life together, because these are the projects we do together.

Well ok so, come in and sit down, let’s have a cup of tea and talk it over. There are ways of working this out we are pretty sure... might take some time... have you got time to spend thinking about this with us?  

If you need to go some place or are late for a meeting or just killing time on a train then maybe come back when you are at home and have the room to yourself and can put your feet up, maybe even draw the blinds and put your phone on silent. You could have music on, but something you don’t need to actively listen to. Some of those old field recordings by Alan Lomax might work, they can share a room with you like a cat, present but not intrusive.

The approach is important don’t you think? We are trying to establish a domestic atmosphere you see. Our life and our work are one – and this is our mode of practice. Explaining our practice is kind of like asking to read our diary or watch us while we eat breakfast or kiss at a tram stop. When we write these words we are opening a door, laying out a table and inviting you to sit with us and talk about our deepest cares. It’s intimate and a little scary for us because we are quite private people and a little disconnected from formal contemporary design discourse. The conversations we have are with our projects and they come from within our rooms, in our van, with tea, walking the dog. They start as a ‘what if’, or a, ‘look at that’ or a ‘why isn’t this done better’ and then we think of ways to bring our ideas to life, to give them a place in the world.  

We understand that good ideas are everywhere, they are all over the place, and you can pick them up off the sand or on the side of the road. It’s turning them into a real thing in the real world that is the discipline and the reason for even getting up in the morning. 

We believe there is value is slowness, to resist grabbing at the first thing, to wait until its right, to slow burn and make sure it’s all in place before we let it out into the world. You know that feeling you get when hiding in a cupboard as a kid, waiting to jump out and surprise your best friend. That electric giggling, almost explosive excitement that comes from the resistance and the waiting. Sometimes we experience our practice in the same way – there is joy in waiting for the right time and excitement in the anticipation. There is value in creating something new. Experimentation is essential. Anticipation is part of the process… It’s in the project, it is just as real as the object.

Our beliefs in relation to politics and society inform us as well. We believe that civic space is a right and its maintenance is a duty. We believe in free public education, equally available to everyone. Bloody oath, tax the mining companies and use that money to build better hospitals and schools and public transport. 

We have a curiosity about everything, we want to know how everything works, where it comes from, who makes it and why is it that colour, do they break easy, is there a sticky side or is it heavy, why is it that shape, can I get a smaller one or is it cast in plastic, when is it cooked, why do I need to have a one, can I make it myself, when did they invent string, why is radio so good, and can I make my own, what if I put this next to that, will it still look good and work okay or do we need to keep them apart, and again why is it that colour, how long will it take to dry. 

So anyway... We live a life together. Making things, working, creating projects that have value to ourselves and hopefully others. We have in the last few years been able to start conversations with a number of organisations that have led to a range of projects. These have been great opportunities and experiences. We understand that each organisation has different needs and different processes that govern their behavior. The process is inherent in the structure, so we don’t try and change its structure or fight its methodology. We work with it and for it and adapt our approach accordingly. We cross disciplines and find ourselves doing unexpected things because we are not just one thing. When it’s time to paint we are painters, when it’s time to build we are builders, when it’s time to write poetry, we are poets, when it’s time to draw we are drawers, when it’s time listen we are all ears. There is danger in calcification, of fixing your approach and dismissing those with a different approach. No one is always right, we make mistakes and have failures but we have an expectation of ourselves that our work will be thoughtful and generous, rigorous and detailed. The time we spend with these projects will be time well spent.  

Adapting to changing circumstances is inherent in what we are doing all the time because our projects and our practice is our life. We sustain it. It sustains us. We never sat down and fixed things into place. There was never a business plan that defined 5 year goals or 10 year exist strategies. We are not moving forward. We are just moving all of the time. It began as a conversation the moment we met and hasn’t stopped. It keeps getting bigger and more complex and more interesting. It is just as much about cooking and sleeping and sex and walking the dog and putting the baby to sleep as it is about buildings and websites and shipping containers and programs and exhibitionsand meetings and architecture and Japanese ceramic tiles and yellow Laminex and watering plants. We have only just begun.

So, did that make sense, are you still there, we are not sure if that answered anything, we didn’t even tell you what we are working on at the moment. I guess there are other places for that and for now we hope this will do. 

Material Stacks

Caretaking / Curating: Hans Ulrich Obrist