“My mum is a hyper-talented beast whose work I’ve admired since I first saw her on set as a baby,” says Olivia Wünsche of Swiss creative studio Bluedot Collective. The four-person practice is formed from an unconventional quartet of designer Olivia, her mother Magda Wünsche, Magda’s partner Aga Samsel (who formed a photographic duo some years ago) and her friend and filmmaker Gabriel Woloszyn. Together this supergroup tackles a huge variety of projects from fashion films, editorials for Vogue, publications for the Fela Kuti Foundation and briefs from the likes of Samsung, Ikea, the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and Coca-Cola.
“Working with [my mum] is, 95% of the time, pure pleasure of total aesthetic agreement, mutual understanding and stimulating dialogue which I’m profoundly grateful to be a part of,” says Olivia. “However if truth be told, I’d say that the other 5% is quite a pain in the ass.” As with all parental relationships, sometimes Olivia and Magda have different ideas, from diverging views on a shooting location or the way of putting a layout together, to agreeing on the theme of the work.
“Usually this is solved through some kind of a tipping point, climaxed with the set of broken dishes,” laughs Olivia. “When the cyclone settles down, a peaceful and constructive consensus is established almost immediately. I think that this sincere way of communicating allows us to move the work forward without losing the time or energy for unnecessary diplomacy.”
Looking at the studio’s rich portfolio it’s clear that the dynamic works. Bringing together different skillsets and approaches, Bluedot can cover huge ground. Olivia graduated from Ecal’s graphic design department last year, while Gabriel is a self-taught filmmaker and screenwriter. “I always knew that sooner or later our work paths would meet one way or the other. Giving it a kind of formalised label seemed natural and logical since the four of us have a lot in common – both privately and professionally.”
The studio’s name derives from the famous 1990s photograph of Earth called Pale Blue Dot, taken at the suggestion of one of Olivia’s heroes, Carl Sagan. American cosmologist Sagan introduced natural sciences to the masses, frequently pointing out humanity’s anthropocentric sense of self-importance and encouraging people to become more responsible and compassionate towards the earth. It’s an approach that is fundamental to the studio – alongside commercial collaborations, Bluedot Collective works on an ongoing series of self-initiated, not-for-profit projects focused on environmental sustainability, cultural identity and alternative solutions enhancing social awareness.
“The way our studio works reminds me of the principles governing any natural ecosystem,” explains Olivia. “If you look at how nature operates, you’ll see that its integral balance and prosperity is mostly maintained through the existence of diversity. Each species contributes a unique, equally important role to the interrelated unity. There’s no pyramidal hierarchy with some chief controller at the apex but rather a circle of egalitarian relationships where the existence of one species is dependent on the existence of others.” This model, Olivia explains, is very unfamiliar to the functioning of conventional corporations structured around centralised power and top-down authority. “That’s the framework I want to avoid with all my will,” she adds.
Issues revolving around ecology, philosophy, spirituality and cultural identity often recur in the studio’s projects, from Anima Mundi (a trans-media project which aims to bridge the gap between western mentality and indigenous world views), The Psychedelic Experience (an illustrated manual based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead, written by counterculture icon Timothy Leary) and many others. As you might have twigged from the last reference, Olivia notes that psychedelic experiences have been fundamental to her and Gabriel’s worldview and thus the quartet’s output. “Without falling into the template for pretentious new-age clichés, I can definitely say that it has equipped us with a broadened sense of existential awareness.”
She continues, “I started to direct my attention towards subjects revolving around the environmental crisis, simultaneously wanting to find the reason which has led to our rupture with the world of nature. I understood quite rapidly that sociopolitical problem-solving is undoubtedly urgent and indispensable, however it remains shallow and incomplete by treating symptoms without curing the cause.”
In a practical sense, this means that Bluedot Collective’s self-initiated projects often encourage us to respect the earth and its peoples. Poster project Urban Environmental Manifestos discussed species extinction, air pollution, water resources management or mass deforestation in everyday environments, while Oxfam paper outlines the detrimental influences that these multinational companies have on world agriculture, small communities and climate change, and calls on businesses to help create a just food system. Seeking wisdom from Eastern philosophies, indigenous cultures and alternatives to capitalist, technocratic and hyper-rational approaches has been integral to the practice’s development. Olivia adds, “I guess the idea is to see how we can make use of these visual tools to respectfully distribute different sets of cultural references as an alternative to the broadly-understood, Western narrative.”
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