Meet Me in the Metaverse: We invite future-facing creatives to reimagine design classics
In partnership with The Conran Shop, It’s Nice That presents Meet Me in the Metaverse – a digital exploration of contemporary and classic design.
It’s Nice That is partnering with The Conran Shop to present Meet Me in the Metaverse, an immersive installation taking over the design store’s Chelsea location. Inviting a global set of artists to reimagine design classics from The Conran Shop’s AW22 collection, Meet Me in the Metaverse will see the digital and physical collide in a playful exploration of design’s role in an intriguing new virtual world.
On the surface, the practice of product design might appear to be just creative problem solving. People need somewhere to rest, and so an item is created, be it a chair, a bed, an L-shaped sofa, or whatever. Yet artists, and artistic movements, throughout history, have investigated this idea of a product purely offering functionality. Whether it’s the way the Bauhaus style rounded the corners of furniture and fonts, yet avoided decoration, or the way the Memphis Group of the 1980s clashed colour palettes and designed with unsystematic structural forms. So, product design – particularly furniture design – has always been an active playground for designers to push their means of exploration.
However, this view of design is relatively traditional. Pieces of furniture are deemed “classic” due to their cultural heritage, passed down from their original creators via foundations or collections. Today the act of crafting a product is less workshopped IRL and rather built using digital programmes, and in some cases only designing for digital environments. This shift led It’s Nice That and design destination The Conran Shop to consider how digital-only product designs might take shape when inspired by classic design items. As a result, for London Design Festival 2022, we’ll be hosting Meet Me in the Metaverse. An immersive installation at The Conran Shop’s Chelsea location, the exhibition will see iconic furniture pieces reimagined by digital artists into never-before-seen virtual objects.
We’ve invited a range of future-facing, digitally focused artists to recreate a specific item from The Conran Shop’s AW22 collection. Each of these creators has, in turn, dug into the narrative behind their original piece and taken inspiration from materials, time period and the original purpose of their assigned object. In a playful exploration of the physical and the digital, visitors to the store will be greeted by a series of screens displaying these six virtual product designs within a Metaverse inspired blacked-out environment; they will also be able to see the original pieces of furniture that inspired these creations. Our hope is that combining the familiar with a new realm will encourage thought-provoking discussions on the future of design in an increasingly digital world.
It goes without saying that developing artworks within digital environments is a prominent method of creation today, especially among those who identify as 3D digital artists. And even though the majority of these artists’ work lives on-screen, “the real world” remains a key source of inspiration.
For one of our contributors, visual artists Christie Christie and Chris Golden, visualising the interconnectivity of digital and physical ecosystems stems from the in-between period in which they grew up. “I think I’ve personally been somewhat invested in the exploration of both digital and physical realms my entire youth and now adult life – having grown up during the birth of the mainstream web,” Christie tells It’s Nice That. “Seeing our world shift from mostly analogue to inherently digital has had an enormous effect on the way I generally live my life and my creative outputs.”
Chris and Christie’s artwork for Meet Me in the Metaverse is an exploration of this sentiment, an extension of Christie’s belief “that these worlds or ecosystems are no longer separate or binary, that they are in fact interconnected and we should work with this methodology to encourage new possibilities.” Assigned the PK0 Lounge Chair, created by Danish designer Poul Kjærholm in 1952, their recreation lifts elements such as Kjærholm’s use of unconventional materials, “the pure, initial form of the chair”, as well as its sleek structure – and applies them to a digital sculpture.
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Photography by Benjamin Swanson
The result is a marriage of Kjærholm’s ethos and the duo’s digital practice. The PK0 chair sits balanced on an environment crafted by Chris and Christie, as floral forms and floating textures attach to its sides. “I think you have to ask yourself, when working within a purely digital space, ‘How can I replace this sense of tactility through the materiality of the work?’” says Christie. The pair were drawn to Kjærholm’s use of materiality “and almost the benign idea that certain materials belong to a certain form”. The result is an “almost ‘alien-like’ feeling to some of the surfaces that maybe feels a little unsettling but also beautiful,” Christie explains. “I think in a way we are very much doing what Kjærholm did, but in a digitally native format.”
Their use of flora and fauna leans more into what fans of the duo may be familiar with from their practice – up until this year, Chris and Christie operated jointly as Pitch Studios but now concentrate on their individual practices while still collaborating on projects such as this one. “Flora has always been a big part of our visual language and in a way it’s something that almost anyone can recognise, no matter where you are from or what environment you have been influenced by,” says Chris, with Christie adding: “Kjærholm wanted to encourage a sense of harmony and equilibrium and I think the way we’ve created a composition with a variety of objects, all hanging in this sort of ‘delicate balance’ is a way to pay homage to this concept.”
This sense of balance and equilibrium felt like an apt way to work with the PK0 Chair, given its physical shape and construction. “One thing we noticed was that the chair is made of two solid pieces, which are (we assume) fabricated separately but then joined together as its final form,” says Christie. This modular effect then “fits together like a puzzle piece,” Chris notes. “In a way, that concept runs very closely to the idea of interdependence of ecosystems that our video commission focuses on.”
As well as creating an animated artwork to be shown within our Meet Me in the Metaverse installation, Chris and Christie have designed an AR filter inspired by their piece and our exhibition’s sentiment. When used, abstract objects designed by the duo will either begin to fill your own environment (if using your back camera) or rotate around your profile (if using the front). Aiming to provide “an overall sense of joy and playfulness” when exploring design’s role within digital spaces, “we almost imagine the metaverse to be this inviting and delightful playground,” adds Christie. “So we wanted to create a digital sculpture garden, where the user could interact with different objects, and imagine a new reality.”
Utilising AR in this way in particular references Chris’ own fondness for the medium’s “functional capabilities that can help enhance creative outputs,” he says. “For example, I love the idea of using AR to measure the set up of a mural in the physical space.” The pair hope that their AR filter – inspired by digital-only artworks, which were in turn inspired by classic and contemporary design objects – will “encourage a softer, more intentful approach to creative technologies and creativity as a whole.” They also argue that it’s never been easier to experiment: “Using these tools is super accessible compared to emergent technologies of the past, the barrier to entry is a lot lower. If we can share a bit of insight into this, we can encourage more people to start using them and incorporate them into their practices.”
We hope that Meet Me in the Metaverse as an installation evokes in our visitors this sentiment of experimentation within digital practices. While there is much discussion around Web 3.0 and its possible effects on our industry, by merging the physical with the digital across this exhibition, we aim to showcase how any designer can use these developments and create unconventionally inspiring spaces for design in the future.
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Christie Christie: The Conran Shop Future Gaze AR
Meet Me in the Metaverse
Meet Me in the Metaverse opens at The Conran Shop from 22 August through to 10 October 2022. The installation features work by maximalist VR sculpting duo Yonk, visual artist and designer Khyati Trehan, art director Laurent Allard, CGI and AR design duo Morbo, visual artists Chris Golden and Christie Christie and graphic designer and art director Pedro Veneziano. For further information, click the button below.
Join us at The Conran Shop
We’ll be celebrating the launch of this collaboration at The Conran Shop on 22 September. We’d love for you to join us as part of the London Design Festival festivities and invite all to meet in the Metaverse. Sign up via the link below.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.