In preparation for the Random String Symposium which launches THIS FRIDAY at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Artemis and Gabriella of Entropika Lab talk to us about what brought them together, playfulness and some very musical chairs.
Artemis and Gabriella, when did you both start working with each other in this way and what do you feel it was that brought you together with a shared passion for designing experiences through technology?
We met in 2010 in London, while working at Cinimod Studio, an architectural practice focused on interaction and lighting design. After London we moved to our countries, Italy and Greece, and we start collaborating in 2014, we were both looking at each other’s work (Artemis experimenting with interaction design and street games, Gabriella testing digital fabrication and researching crafts techniques) and thinking, “we should try something together” and then Artemis came up with the proposal of submitting an idea to the V&A open call for the commission for the E&C Mini Maker Faire. We gave it a try and at first we were shortlisted and then selected! It was a thrill, and this gave us the push to try other open calls and commissions.
The project that came out of this commission, Paper Playscapes, also set the basis of our work philosphy that is playful, relational, educational and modular.
Playfulness is the final purpose of the design, relational and educational is how this happens and how we involve the final user, and finally modular is both an aesthetical and building choice.
Our common ground is architecture and our designs reflect our inclination towards spatial experiences and urban context and technology brings life to them, enabling people to interact with both space and object.
In your work, what most excites you about creatively exploring and playing with the possibilities/practicalities of technology?
I think we both have a “humanistic view” of technology that is not a celebration of the technology per se – for instance pursuing higher performances or hi-tech aesthetics, what interests us is using tech to convey a message and to give shape to an imaginary scenario. Also it give us the possibilities to explore how to “augment” every day domestic objects, recently we have been exploring the realm of the IoT applied to furniture, creating a set of stools, that talk to each other wirelessly through wi-fi and become a seat, a luminaire and also a game, thus expanding their primary function of being essentially a seat.
As well as constructing the technology used in your work Entropika also design the catalysts for their technology too. So… the age-old question… What comes first, the ‘design’ or the ‘tech’?
The experience comes first, design and tech are complementary to the message we want to convey and the goal we want to achieve. I.e. in Lumichairs and Playstools, we used two different technologies to achieve the same final result: creating a game based on the mechanics of Musical Chairs but with patterns of light and music. On the one hand we used DMX par lights and Arduino to run the game, on the other hand, since our main goal was having wireless components, we used LED strips and Raspberry Pi and Wifi Receivers.
Design has to fit the purpose of the whole installation too, it’s not an arbitrary choice: in PPS the idea was to create this landscape of modules that people could freely assemble in space. We came up with the final shape of Lumichairs as to blend them in the landscape, acting as pillars from which people could start building the landscape, and to get them in that shape we explored a new fabrication technique.
Beside the technological components “inside” the object, there is also a research on digital fabrication technologies that allow us to build and make most of the components in our studios, as we design and build the installations by ourselves, we seldom rely on external contractor or suppliers.
As a company who present their work all over the world do you find that people engage and interact with the same technologies differently in dissimilar countries, or does the work really have a ‘universal language’?
In my opinion wonder is a universal language, regardless of the background or age or ethnicity of the audience. That is to say that technology has a wonder-side and the feedback we have received so far was more or less homogenous across the countries.
What is next for Entropika? Do you have any projects you are currently working on?
Yes, we are working on an architectural installation in an urban context, coming very soon, this time we are dealing with a very low-tech approach and a participatory installation. We are always open to collaborating, do follow our social media if you wish to find out more.