Radical Speculation: Design as Film


Bringing an eclectic selection of documentaries, features, and vignettes to Black Cinema House, the series Image, Building, Object: Exploring Architecture and Design on Film demystifies the process of how our objects, furniture, and buildings come into existence and simultaneously reveals how designers and architects have used film as a medium for expression and experimentation. The series is co-presented by the William H. Bronson and Grayce Slovet Mitchell Lecture Series at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Black Cinema House, in conjunction with Balloon Contemporary, presents a screening of speculative design videos, featuring works by Dunne and Raby, Noam Toran and Onkar Kular, and Ilona Gaynor, as part of the ongoing series, Image/Building/Object, Exploring Architecture and Design on Film. The screening will take place on Saturday, June 29 starting at 8 pm at Black Cinema House, 6901 S. Dorchester. The three-screen video installation, Proposal for an Impossible Library, by Noam Toran and Onkar Kular, will be on view directly after the main screening in the garden of the Archive House, 6916 S. Dorchester across the street.

The screening includes Dunne and Raby’s All the Robots, part of their now classic project Technological Dream Series: No 1, Robots (2007); Noam Toran’s Desire Management (2005) and Object for Lonely Men (2001); Toran and Onkar Kular’s Postponing the Inevitable (2007) and their three-screen, supercut opus, Proposal for an Impossible Library (2007); and Ilona Gaynor’s Everything Ends In Chaos.

Recently, speculative design, and its closely related tendencies, critical design and design fiction, have emerged as socially and politically engaged responses to the growing complexity of the 21st century. Largely non-commercial, these tendencies question the simplistic emotional and psychological assumptions that underlay normative, mainstream 20th-century design culture. Increasingly, speculative designers use cinematic space as a tool to explore alternate proposals that provoke and engage complexity; at the same time, cinematic conventions are aggregated and examined in order to unveil the contradictory and neurotic cultural logics driving social behaviors. The result is often uncanny and slightly dangerous: an unstable mix of the real, the unreal, and the not yet real. The screening presents themes that range from the future of conceptual object-making, to Black Swan scenarios and an attempted catalog of every Hollywood death scene.

The Films of Noam Toran and Onkar Kular are Courtesy of Balloon (www.ballooncontemporary.com)

Some Film Descriptions

Object for Lonely Men (Noam Toran, 2001, 11 min.)
Object for Lonely Men tells the story of a man so obsessed with Godard’s Breathless that he designs and builds a tray which reflects the physical language of the film. The tray is made from a single sheet of vacuum formed plastic and has recesses which house the objects that the man interacts with. The objects include a mannequin head which resembles Jean Seberg (the female lead), a gun, hat, telephone, Herald Tribune newspaper, sunglasses, ashtray, steering wheel, rear view mirror and a pack of Gitanes non-filtered cigarettes. The tray serves as an outlet for the man’s desires; it allows him to directly channel the influence that the movie exerts on his fantasies into physical action. Part of the New York MoMA and Israel Museum collections.

Postponing the Inevitable (Noam Toran, 2007, 16 min.)
Postponing the Inevitable is a film based on true stories in which quests for immortality are undertaken. The film’s three chapters Falling, Faking and Freezing conceptually sit between traditional cinematic storytelling and an ambiguous space of visual representation, asking the viewer to interpret the clues provided: A garbage collector is photographed by a woman for an unknown purpose, a man walks backwards and forwards at the beach, a hospital contains a lone patient. In collaboration with Onkar Kular. Commissioned by the Wellcome Trust. Sponsored by Arriflex Media and the Royal College of Art. Part of the Israel Museum collection.

Desire Management (Noam Toran, 2006, 15 min.)
Desire Management is a film comprising five sequences in which objects are used as vehicles for dissident behaviour. In the film, the domestic space is defined as the last private frontier, a place where bespoke appliances provide unorthodox experiences for alienated people: An airline hostess with a unique relationship to turbulence, the owner of a mysterious box which men ritually visit to look inside, an elderly man who enjoys being vacuumed, a couple who engage in baseball driven fantasies, a man who is forced by his partner to cry into a strange device.

Based on real testimonials and news reports, the objects specifically created for the film attempt to reveal the inherent need for expression and identity formation in the face of conformity. The project was originally shown at the Venice Architecture Biennale in Summer 2004 as an installation of three objects, Baseball Bed, Vacuum Scanner, and Turbulent Air Trolley. The film premiered at the 2005 Raindance Film Festival. Commissioned by the CNAC Pompidou. Sponsored by Arriflex Ltd, The Royal College of Art, The National Film and Television School, and Fuji Film. Part of the New York MoMA and FRAC Ile-de-France collections.

Proposal for an Impossible Library (Noam Toran, 2007, 30 min.)
Triptych video installation
Presented on three screens, Proposal for an Impossible Library is the first installment of a compilation of every dying moment in the history of cinema. The video is divided into 10 categories and sourced from over 150 films, collectively taking the same length as a feature film. In collaboration with Onkar Kular. Commissioned by the Wellcome Trust and first exhibited at the Shoreditch Town Hall in London.