Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Daniel Eatock

Tonight I went to AIGA's Small Talk with Daniel Eatock. The designer/artist is very slippery to categorize. Though he studied design at Ravensbourne, he isn't exactly a designer. One could argue that he is an artist that often utilizes the language of design. Perhaps this is why the audience was, for the most part, designers. Designers relate to his conceptual thinking and his sensitivity.
But he has done contracted work. He has created logos. He has designed things for an end. But often, even these things, have a conceptual twist that expands beyond the design-solution.

Take his "logo" design for Big Brother, a television series in England. Not only did the logo appear in more places than you'd expect; Eatock went as far as making enormous rock sculptures and crop circles from it, the logo also appeared in a variety of different graphic iterations. Some of these iterations got the attention of an organization that represents epileptics in England. Apparently, some of the print and outdoor advertisements were categorized by experts as "epileptogenic", i.e. a catalyst for seizures in people with epilepsy.

Here, he did work for a Discovery Channel program called Virtual History. In this program, from what I understand, footage from history that was never filmed, is recreated using computer-generated imagery. The first program focused on World War II and a secret plot to kill Hitler. The advertisements teasing the show presented Churchill and Hitler in the style of the "classic designer clothes ad" a la Calvin Klein and Armani. Of course, the images are very provocative and started a media debate surrounding the ethics of the digital manipulation of history.

Another piece of Eatock's involved a full set of Pantone design markers arranged in the order of their color-numbers in a sculpture. They were let to sit on a ream of A1 sheets of uncoated stock for a month. They bled through 73 sheets with, obviously, varying effects.

They were numbered from 1 to 73 – 1 being the least marker-bleed and 73 was the immediate surface sheet that the markers sat on. Then they were priced from 1 pound to 73 pounds – you paid more for more ink.

Finally, I want to mention his collection of stones that weigh 1 stone in the English measure of weight.
Tonight, Eatock presented a new project of his. One Mile Scroll is exactly what it sounds like. You can visit the website, and scroll for a full mile (measured in pixels). At the bottom of the site is a reward. Obviously you can cheat. Otherwise, it looks like you can forget about going out anytime soon.

There is something in the fiber of Eatock's work that is truly magical – something that makes it all so intellectually compelling. He kept referring to an idea he heard in a comedy routine by Stephen Wright. It is the idea of asking for a shirt in Extra Medium. This is, in a sense, the essence of Eatock's work. Self-negation, contradiction, the perfect balance between logic and poetry. This is embodied in his collection of scissor-packaging that you need scissors to open. Or the necklasp, a necklace created from a full cycle of only necklace clasps.
To go a step further, it struck me how Eastern his approach to work is – something like mental yoga – a constant exercise in pure process. Where decision-making is brought to a sublime place of stillness. In fact, for the first 10 minutes of his talk, Eatock balanced perfectly on the two rear legs of his chair – from pictures, I can see he practices often. But it furthered the point about that curious balance he has found between art and design, nothing and everything, potential and kinetic energy.
Take a look at all the projects on his website, or, if you should feel driven to support and further his work, buy his book Imprint (from Princeton Architectural Press). Each of the books in this first edition have an original thumbprint that Eatock placed on the spine.