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Chips with Everything

Baked Beans, Circus Family and Minivegas: a new exhibition in London features three innovative Dutch design studios working across digital design, animation and multimedia.

By Editor / 21-01-2010

Chips with Everything

The exhibition is curated by Ken Pratt, the independent curator of London's new Dutch Cultural Pop-Up Space - a centrally located white-walled gallery. The Space has plans for a broad programme of exhibition/display activities showcasing the best examples of Dutch contemporary art, craft, architecture, media, performed arts and design culture.

Ken Pratt is keen to show how the work of the three studios concerned, Baked Beans, Circus Family and Minivegas, can span both commercial and more 'art'-based projects, blurring the boundaries between the two. The curator explains. 'Drawing inspiration from the media-saturated world around them and making use of its techniques, the presented studios underscore a certain Dutch contemporary digital design tendency to make little distinction between the worlds of street culture and the aspirations of serious contemporary art, design or cinema. Skateboarding or the worlds of Japanese anime may mingle with multimedia design seriously informed by mid-twentieth century Dutch Modernism.'

Circus Family is an audiovisual design studio based in Amsterdam who specialize in motion design, animation, visual effects, and live action production. Launched in 2004, the studio has produced numerous short films, in-store presentations, music videos, documentaries, commercials and animations.

What started off as a platform of freelancers all working in the photography, film and graphic design world and with a mutual interest in the snow, skate and surf business eventually evolved into a full-blown design studio with clients such as Nike, Sony, Onitsuka Tiger and MTV Networks.

Minivegas works on commercial projects, such as a viral ad campaigns for Police sunglasses, Nissan cars and for the new Star Wars: The Clone Wars for Lucas Arts that’s just been released across all the gaming platforms. Luc Schurgers co-founder of the Dutch-British collective Minivegas explains, “The Star Wars project was a dream come true, as since we were kids Star Wars has been one of our favourite things. We'd never imagined we'd actually get to work on a project that would require us to rebuild the droids and AT-RTs! After an intense one-day shoot the real work began...We had to create, animate and render these robots true to the Star Wars nature.” There was a lot of consultation needed on what would be possible and what wouldn't during the animation process and Minivegas often had to call on the one person at Lucas Arts who knew all the answers – known to the team as Yoda, after the wise old Jedi Master who appears in so many of the films. Baked Beans, a new visual effects and animation studio launched only six months ago in Amsterdam, handled the post-production. Another big project for Minivegas was an AIDS awareness campaign for French television.

On the art side, Minivegas have been working on interactive, more art-based projects. At first glance, ‘Johnny Rotten’ is black-framed vintage mirror, of the kind seen in many a stately home. However, this one is interactive - on the puce-pink screen a writhing worm with a robotic head whose eyes seem to follow you round the room. Dan Lewis from Minivegas explains how hidden in the mirror is camera and face-recognition software that has been trained to search out faces. As you draw closer to the mirror (and it recognizes a face more clearly), the robot becomes more aggressive - the head enlarges, the eyes flash red and flames of fire leap up from the mirror's depths. Dan says that the robotic head was inspired by Luc's memories of the graphic identity of Rotterdam Terror Corps, the city's well-known gabber group whose hardcore live music rose to fame in the mid 90s.

‘Johnny Rotter’ first appeared at Art Rotterdam in 2009 and is currently being further developed. Dan would like to see it in a hotel lobby - its eyes following passing visitors and perhaps greeting them (or should that be spooking them) with a wry comment.

The exhibition is open Thursday to Saturday 12.00 to 18.00

The Dutch Cultural Pop-Up Space
40-42 Riding House Street
London, W1W 7ET

Main image, image 2 & 3: Minivegas
Image 4 & 5: Circus Family

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