LUX Helsinki 2018

When the sun sets at 3.30 and rises at 9, and sometimes never, leaving us with dull, dreary days, LUX Helsinki is a welcome escape. Light installations flicker, shine and thrust through the city drawing in the crowds, brightening up our nights until 10 pm. Here are some visuals:

LUX Helsinki 2018 is held annually at the beginning of January. This year it’s from 6 – 10 January 2018.

See the link for a map and more details about events.

California – the Exhibition

The shiny signs show the way to the various sections that this exhibition has been divided into at the Design Museum in Helsinki. Every part points to design in some form or another, not the type of design that one might imagine in the shape of a beautiful object, or a clever tool, but rather ideas and innovations that have influenced our lives in a way that sets us free, that makes our lives easier. While this utopian ideal is admirable, it did and does not always turn out the way the designer intended it to and can enslave as much as liberate the user. Whichever way you look at it, it arouses our curiosity and spurs us on to usage and experimentation.

Go Where You Want dominates the thinking of every over-50 year old male on the brink of fearful decline, with a high-barred Harley Davidson, the speedy, outdoor, La-Z-Boy object of potency. The chopper expresses so much more than a form of transport encompassing the freedom of the surfing culture, in spite of the difficulty of carrying a surfboard while driving one. Going where you want is about motorcycles, but it’s also about lying on the sofa and cruising the world with Google Maps, or finding roads with GPS systems leading you to hideaways to far-flung spots that would have remain hidden or at least, been hard to find in days gone by.

Captain America chopper – Easy Rider

See What You Want plunges us into a world of psychedelics and fantasy. Make-believe is the essence of some of the ordinary objects on display including LSD blotting paper, tiny tabs with decorative pictures, used to administer small quantities of potent trips to Strawberry Fields and other pop-song destinations. It transports you to alternative realities, California’s favourite place, and guides the brush strokes of Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin in sweeps of colour that brighten up the brightest of days. Disney World and Hollywood had their origins in Los Angeles, sparking our imagination in movies as well as video games, the earliest forms of which can be seen and sniggered at compared with today’s sleeker versions, no doubt to be smirked at by later generations.

LSD blotting paper – designer unknown
Victor Moscoso’s psychedelic art

Say What You Want rebels against the hackneyed memes of the establishment that triggers thoughts, shocks a little and often amuses a lot. The poster of Boston & Boston: Equal Opportunity Designers has a black man dressed up in Ku Klux Klan garb defying the onlooker in a threatening stance. Free speech exceeds all boundaries in the work of Sheila de Bretteville’s centrefold in the feminist Everywoman newspaper with the single word ‘cunt’ spread across it. Wired magazine first published in 1993, stares you in the face with a cacophony of typefaces set on the background of wild, acid-trip-like scenes while giving us the opportunity to make sense of the crazy speed at which technology is overtaking our lives.

Archie Boston Graphic Design Studio, Los Angeles

Make What You Want brings to life the start-up culture of Silicon Valley where a DIY project, conceived in a garage, can whip through the globe and turn into a multi-billion dollar industry within a terrifyingly short period of time. Presenting the Apple 1 computer, a boxy, grey object with no aesthetic appeal. With a keyboard and a television set, we suddenly became masters of communication, writing and publishing, marketing gurus of our own personal brands, super-efficient robots accomplishing tasks that would have seemed impossible only a few years back.

The dumpy box-like early Mac
Wooden skateboards dating back to 1951 – designer unknown

Join Who You Want started with communes, a cess pools of sexual freedom and drug-taking, or so my mother used to think. Motorcycle gangs, the Gay-In held at Griffith Park in San Franciso, the Merry Pranksters spreading the gospel of LSD with author Ken Kesey and research pioneer Timothy Leary across America, offered a smorgasbord of choices for people on the fringes and wanna-bes alike.

Join who you want

Togetherness and community are words bandied about in acceptable current narratives and social media is the way we do it while real experiences of engaging with your buddies and others happen at festivals as in Burning Man or massive events like the Olympic Games. Symbols, posters and objects of design display these trending ideologies.

California is an exhibition that takes you through a journey of fairly ordinary objects that you look at and think so what? Some are even ugly and distasteful. But there is a ‘but’ coming up – you can’t help but marvel at the innovation of it all, the meander down memory lane for those of us who remember, the ultimate pleasure in knowing that daily living has become a whole lot easier if not simpler and that we can relish the unstoppability of what’s to come.

California: Designing Freedom is on until 4 March 2018 at the Design Museum in Helsinki.