Covent Garden’s Seven Dials has recently teamed up with the design magazine Dezeen to celebrate this year’s London Design Festival.
Seven of the brightest art designers on the scene were asked to contribute their artworks to the village. As a result, the fashionable shopping streets surrounding the Seven Dials monument acquired a new dimension with a rich and diverse series of aerial installations, which were on display until October 5th.
Faye Toogood, Vic Lee, Paul Cocksedge, Philippe Malouin, Aberrant Architecture, Gitta Gschwendtner and Dominic Wilcox each elaborated on the rich, and sometimes shady past of the area in their own unique style.
We have spoken with Paul Cocksedge, the internationally acclaimed British designer who has created “Dial” – what appeared to be a large telephone number floating between the buildings in Mercer Street. We asked him what design means to him and what emotions his new work for the London Design Festival was meant to inspire in the public.
Hi Paul. Your light installations have attracted much interest in the last years and you have received commissions by clients such as Hermes and the Victoria and Albert Museum. What has drawn you to light as your major means of expression? What’s your approach to it?
The reason why I am fascinated by light is its very mysterious nature. It’s easy to have an emotional connection with it – quite simply, people like light.
I don’t really have a set rule, or a set way of doing something when I create a new piece. I don’t have a specific mission or statement, I rather just follow my interests in what I consider to be a very personal journey, where I try to use new technologies in a very experimental way.
When you create one of your pieces of design, is it something you create for yourself, or do you keep the final users in mind from the very beginning?
I usually start with something I’m very interested in… something very personal and unique. I would say that at the beginning it’s a very personal process. But eventually, the piece I create is something people will use and enjoy. I think this is the moment when a real shift takes place: when I start to think about how people will use it, and what practical issues about the materials should be solved, etc, that’s when a lot of design comes in.
Were you given any specific requirement for the project at Seven Dials?
I was given complete freedom! The only restriction was time – it was a very short project, since I only had one month to complete the whole thing. But conceptually speaking, each designer was free to follow their own direction for their project.
This is not the first time you collaborate with the London Design Festival. How do you feel about the design scene in London?
I’ve been collaborating with the London Design Festival over the last two years, and I think it’s a very exciting event for design in London. London itself has recently become quite an exciting place to show design. Building and places and streets are very open to people doing projects now. Milan with its Design Week has always been one of the most exciting places in the world, everyone is going there and the audience is very mature. You couldn’t substitute it. But the entire world is now opening up in terms of challenging the idea: what is design? And places like London, or Beijing, are very open to experiments, and therefore very exciting venues.
“Dial” was a very intriguing and interactive artwork, where a floating phone number was shown to the public. For those who tried dialing it, the voice of the celebrity Joanna Lumley would encourage a £1 offer to the children’s charity Barnardo’s and offer a smile in return. Could you comment on the project?
One of the ambitions of “Dial” was not to explain anything, but to rather just create a situation where people would either go on without any special reaction, or the curious members of the public would try to call the number. Everything was very open, so it has been really interesting to see the reaction of the audience. The project proceeds through two very different moods: at the beginning, everything is very mysterious and people are confused by what they are looking at, they might even feel disconnected. But when they call the number and they are greeted by Joanna Lumley’s voice, a voice they can recognize and that speaks in a very friendly way about charity and smiling … then there’s a complete twist in the mood. It’s a simple project, but interaction, fun, technology all come into it… it has a lot of different layers, and I’m really proud of it.
How do design and supporting charities work together?
I have already worked with Barnardo’s in the past, when we worked on another project, “Drop”. They are actually really excited by these projects, which are not an obvious way to donate money. It’s not about making you feel guilty or responsible, it’s more like saying: “look, enjoy this work, experience the smile, and in the process of you enjoying something, you can give one pound” – which is really not a lot of money, is it?
See more about Paul Cocksedge’s works on his studio’s website: www.paulcocksedgestudio.com
WORDS AND PHOTOS: GIULIA TOMBA