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London and beyond

On Wednesday MR picked up 50 rolls of processed film from as far back as March 2018. Nightly, we have made our way through a chunk of the contact sheets – each grabbing one and following the frames from top left to bottom right, rotating the sheet as necessary. The studious silence is broken occasionally with ‘oh yeh, this’, ‘this one is great’, ‘where is this??!’. On reaching sheets end we swap. Read becomes unread becomes read. The stack is in no given order, transporting us from London to The Lakes to New York to Uluru, back to London, to Sydney, to Paris. After exhausting our memory store, we start packing.

In a kind of temporal tumble turn we’re projected into the past and then launched into an unknown future.

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Paimio Sanatorium

Thinking about the restorative quality of sunshine reminded me of the Paimio Sanatorium, completed in 1933, designed by Alvar Aalto and featuring sun terraces for tuberculosis patients. It was included in Living with Buildings, a particularly sensitive exhibition that explored the impact of architecture on wellbeing, at the Wellcome Collection last year.

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Reverie in l’Orangerie

Monet’s Water Lilies are one of very few works of art that have physically overwhelmed me on viewing. The life-sized canvases are entirely mesmerising, ‘no sky, no horizon, hardly any perspective or stable points of reference enabling the viewer to orient himself…’.

The first room in 1930 © Albert Harlingue / Roger-Viollet, via the Museum

The intimacy is heightened further by their 360 degree installation in the two sequential oval rooms of Musée de l’Orangerie. On entering the second room, we found ourselves entirely alone – due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. The deserted room was an unexpected gift and truer to the artist’s original intent for the viewer:

Those with nerves exhausted by work would relax there, following the restful example of those still waters, and, to whoever entered it, the room would provide a refuge of peaceful meditation in the middle of a flowering aquarium.

Claude Monet, 1909

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All change

No single word can accurately capture the strangeness of 2020. MR and I have been extremely fortunate that we have, in the scheme of things, been relatively unaffected by the Coronavirus Pandemic. Our jobs – and income – have remained unchanged, and we have a dedicated workspace at home each with a comfortable desk and chair. We have no children that require entertaining or educating, nor any elderly family living locally in need of care. We have had the privilege of access to food, physical space, face masks, hand sanitiser and soap, unlike a large proportion of the developing world.

Despite our privilege, I am weary. In January, scaffolding went up around the Victorian terrace next to ours, ahead of a major reconstruction which gutted the property and added a floor. Aside from two weeks in early April, due to government restrictions on non-essential work, the renovation has charged forward. Hammering, drilling, sanding, sawing, has been the soundtrack of the last six months meaning that almost all of my work video calls have required me muting and briefly unmuting my microphone to contribute to the conversation.

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The afterlife of packaging in the Wild, Wild West

I am currently designing a series of food labels using materials from our sustainable portfolio. The process has been a significant learning curve. I’ve gained in-depth knowledge of specific Avery Dennison products, but also a broader understanding of how to design for sustainability.

Early on I critically assessed every grocery delivery and hoarded the gems of waste packaging like a magpie. An oddity I’d never previously registered is that communicating the afterlife of packaging seems to be something of a Wild, Wild, West. Investigation proves that there are actually considerable regulations governing the information on a food label, though these mostly pertain to human safety and cover usage, storage and consumption.

Environmental health ultimately impacts human health, so it is bewildering that there are no legal standards in place. An example of best practice that does exist, on quite a few of the groceries in my kitchen actually, belongs to Recycle Now – a national campaign supported and funded by the UK Government. This system is clear, consistent and specific, indicating the packaging element (tray, bottle, lid, sleeve, film etc.), substrate (card, plastic, glass, etc.), required action (rinse, remove, separate, etc.) and availability (widely recycled, check local recycling, not yet recycled, etc.).

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Cummings’ cross-country travels

I didn’t anticipate feeling so upset by Dominic Cummings’ recent cross-country travels.

Do I think his actions were unreasonable? No.
Do I think he exhausted all efforts to comply with government policy or remain accountable to the public he serves? No.
Do I think his actions flouted government policy? Yes.
Do I think any member of the general public would be shown the same grace the incumbent government is showing Cummings? No.

Whether the prevailing logic is rationalism or legalism, the same logic must be applied to every citizen. No exceptions. But this is England, a nation where every citizen is not equal.