by Jincy IypeJun 04, 2022
Since we have all been somewhat starved of live performances and physical exhibitions over the last two, pandemic-infested years, the 60th edition of the Salone del Mobile.Milano, set to open doors this week, might be the answer to our prayers. World renown German automobile manufacturer Porsche prepares to explore the interplay of nature, art, design, and technology with their debut appearance at Milan Design Week 2022 with The Art of Dreams, a dream-like immersive installation. On display at Palazzo Clerici in the heart of Brera, among Milan's most charming historical palaces, the work is conceived by acclaimed floral artist Ruby Barber, founder of Studio Mary Lennox, who creates a visually enriched, sculptural and floral artwork amalgamating "the fragility of flowers with the promise of 21st-century technology,” shares the sports car giant.
Resounding with an objective to inspire people and contribute to enlivening communities, The Art of Dreams forms part of Porsche’s global art and cultural engagement initiative, sponsoring projects such as these as part of its sustainable strategy, underscored by a philanthropic aim of making these creatively laced endeavours accessible to as many people as possible. Barber's piece at Brera Design Week, for the Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 becomes the second commissioned work for The Art of Dreams, dealing with the motif of dreams through interactive art installations carried out across major cities around the world.
"Porsche is driven by dreams and with the initiative, The Art of Dreams, we want to remind people about the importance of dreaming and inspire them. At the same time, we are keen on supporting the creative community and on bringing exceptional artwork to the public. The Milan Design Week is a great opportunity to get in contact with creative people from all around the world...” says Robert Ader, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Porsche AG. The initiative was launched in Paris last October and has since made a stop in Singapore in January this year.
The flora-filled installation takes the form of a fantastically arranged, surreal space, accompanied by choreographed performances and drone work, exclusive events such as a secluded garden café in the Palazzo's second courtyard, as well as yoga and meditation sessions hosted in cooperation with Ciaomondo as a mindful start into the bustling days of the Salone design fair from June 7-12, 2022.
No stranger to collaborating with brands and corporates ranging from Hermes to Chanel and Cartier, the Berlin-based flower artist with Australian roots speaks with STIR, throwing light on this floral wonderland that is at once, modern and emotional, finding the sweet spot between nature and architecture, reality and dream.
Jincy Iype: What are some undiscovered, unknown nuances of being a flower artist? What have been some learnings gathered since you began working as one?
Ruby Barber: The studio had an incredibly humble beginning in Australia. It was just me and my best friend making arrangements for friends and family in our late teens. After exploring different avenues such as event floristry and flower shops in Soho House in Berlin, basically every corner of the floristry industry you could imagine, I began to refine the practice and expand the reach of what we, as Studio Mary Lennox, could offer. It has worked out great for us - I got the chance to implement a lot of my knowledge earned from experiences in spatial and interior design while working with collaborators and staff from different creative disciplines and fields - architects, artists, product designers, and more. The studio is quite unique for its diverse repertoire and everyone's distinct backgrounds come together to create a modern vision of what rich botanical design can be.
Flower artistry and ensuing scenographies are not just about arranging a bunch of flowers into bouquets and placing pots in a sequence - different clients, settings, places and briefs direct various methods of creating - a runway show will be miles different from a boutique opening - sometimes it becomes hard to comprehend them as just flowers, as abstract natural beings of beauty.
Jincy: Where does inspiration for Porsche’s The Art of Dreams come from? What was the brief shared with you?
Ruby: We were quite lucky to pursue our creative vision without limitations and literally "dream" this piece to existence. Our studio had already created some work combining flowers and drones, which had sparked the curiosity of the team at Porsche Art of Dreams. The theme encompassing flowers and drones as central actors formed the initial brief, and we set to embark on a creative and technical research journey, resulting in something termed "Everywhereness".
Jincy: So, what is “everywhereness” in the context of this work?Ruby: “Everywhereness” is quite abstract, I think it is best to describe it as a feeling – it is being present and grounded while also drifting and levitating. It is somewhere rather than rooted in someplace. "Everywhereness" is a moment between space and time, which was explored via this installation.
Jincy: How does the fragility of flowers relate to the sensibilities of a sports car manufacturer?
Ruby: There is something about the combination (and contrast) of flowers and cars which I have always liked personally. We often find ourselves shooting a bundle of fresh flowers over a vintage sports car and there is something quite visually stimulating in this visceral combination of the two. Flowers and cars also speak a similar language of luxury and beauty, and the juxtaposition between the organic and man-made, the natural and artificial, is an inspiring, intriguing aesthetic pairing.
In an intense creative development process, we collaborated with flight engineers and a dozen dedicated drone pilots to create a new-to-the-world art experience. Ideas first envisioned in the virtual realm of renders and animations are transported into reality, creating surreal vistas and sensations for the viewer. The installation connects with the sports car manufacturer’s pioneering spirit while at the same time posing subtle questions about the role of technology, its contribution, as well as its relation to nature.
I am curious to explore the connections between nature and the modern human environment; the possible interactions between botanics and technology are particularly intriguing to me. In this work, I dreamt of a meeting place between the two worlds, fusing them both together to create a space for a new experience.
Jincy: Please tell us about your creative process of designing this scenography for Salone 2022, merging architecture, design, art, and flora.
Ruby: We wanted to create an immersive experience so that viewers can connect with the installation spatially and emotionally. We were inspired by man-made botanical environments and their architecture, specifically Italian gardens and mazes.
Jincy: How does the sculptural installation create a space between nature and architecture, between reality and dream? How does it aim to "explore the relationships, tensions, and synergies between nature and technology"?
Ruby: As mentioned, the scenography’s design is inspired by gardens and mazes, especially meticulously manicured and sculptured ones. In our work, we really enjoy paraphrasing organic "natural architecture" which is a wilder and more spontaneous sculptural form - something you can really lose yourself in. This installation navigates between spaces, ideas and forms via architectural surfaces and arranged flora. The intersection of warm and cold materials, and natural and technological elements, culminating in a fresh space which blooms with surreal and beautiful features that engage viewers upon greeting.
Jincy: What is the employed material and colour palette, as well as the types of flowers used?
Ruby: We chose roses as they have something really magical about them, and they remain familiar in the context of the human environment; roses often inhabit spaces in close proximity to us. Our team hand-selected the roses, working with some incredible local nurseries, farmers and growers, resulting in a graceful tapestry of Lombardi's most beautiful roses. The colour palette was dictated by the season - we wanted the installation to carry an uplifting message, and we feel it was very well achieved by the soft, multi-hues we ended up getting.
Jincy: What role do drones play in the immersive experience?
Ruby: The role of the drones is to carry the viewer into another dimension in this floral and architectural dreamscape, creating a dispersion of the landscape into flight. Drones are a fascinating element of technology that embody a lot of our human understanding for the purpose of technology - imitating nature in a way of extending functions that we cannot fulfil by ourselves, as humans.
Jincy: How does Porsche The Art of Dreams relate to the theme of Brera Design District, "Between Space and Time"?
Ruby: The aim is to invite the viewer to wander curiously through the palazzo courtyard, and get somewhat lost in the maze and subsequently, the immersive art experience. We collaborated with KMRU, a wonderful sound artist based in Berlin and Nairobi, to tailor a unique ambient soundscape to accompany the installation. Joseph from KMRU combined field recordings and sound elements taken in nature, with those of drones and machinery. These additional dimensions will contribute to an overall ambience of liminal space, in between worlds, suspended in time, and defying gravity, relating superbly to the theme, "Between Space and Time".
Jincy: Please give us a visual walkthrough of the scenography. How do you anticipate visitors reacting to it?
Ruby: There is something so impressive about seeing the drones in flight. The drone "pulling" the flowers from and above the installation creates a beautiful, mesmerising scene. When I think about dreams, I think of floating, flying effortlessly. It is a fascinating concept many of us interact with in a primal and subconscious way. Wandering through between the arches and into the palazzo, the viewer is greeted with an overwhelming mass of flowers; the materials we had integrated for the surroundings, reflect the sky as well as the architecture of the beloved and historic Palazzo Clerici.
STIR takes you on a Milanese sojourn! Experience Salone del Mobile and all the design districts - 5vie, Brera, Fuorisalone, Isola, Zona Tortona, and Durini - with us. STIR’s coverage of Milan Design Week 2022, Meanwhile in Milan showcases the best exhibits, moods, studios, events, and folks to look out for. We are also excited to announce our very own STIR press booth at Salone del Mobile - Hall 5/7 S.14, Fiera Milano RHO.