Italian kinetic sculptor and designer Bruno Munari theorised as early as 1936 in his ‘Manifesto of Machine Art’ that artists were the only ones capable of understanding a machine’s personality and its possibilities. As he wrote: “Artists are the only people who can take an interest in machines. They must get to know the anatomy and the language of machines, they must learn to understand machines and distract them by making them function irregularly, thereby creating works of art with those same machines and with the means they offer.”
The creative minds behind Laikingland, UK-based artist Martin Smith and Netherlands-based engineer Nick Regan, certainly agree with Munari’s principles.
Laikingland‘s Milan showcase “FUNction” moves from three main themes, narrative, humour and craftsmanship, and features Tord Boontje’s doorbell performing a cacophony of sound and movement, a clock by AtelierNL inviting the viewer to tell their story in 50 different languages and Atelier Ted Noten’s jewellery box integrating a robot arm that protects and presents a magical ring
Function is the expected activity of a person or thing. A doorbell sounds to announce the arrival of a visitor, a clock is made to tell the time and a jewellery box houses your prized possessions. Laikingland investigates FUNction as the unexpected activity for which their beautifully crafted kinetic objects are employed.
Follow the jump to see the Laikingland FUN machines in video action
Laikingland is a creative collaboration, based in both the UK and The Netherlands, who design and manufacture beautifully crafted kinetic objects that engage, and evoke a sense of play and nostalgia. The company was founded in 2008 and is built upon a life long friendship between artist, Martin Smith and engineer, Nick Regan.
Since it’s inception Laikingland has specialised in producing highly crafted limited editions, working closely with invited artists and designers to realise their kinetic ideas. Alongside their products, Laikingland also regularly carry out projects to create one-off, special edition and exclusive kinetic objects and displays.
Cacophony Bell by Tord Boontje with Laikingland
“Through the gap in the shutters, I can see him coming up the path, he is past the gate already. Quick, can I hide? Why, would I? Should I not be glad that he is coming? What if… Too late, I can see his hand reaching out for the buzzer, I know I have only a few seconds left.
The finger presses the button, the wireless connection is made, I look up at the ceiling. The hammer on wheels is released, with hesitation it starts to move along the fine metal wire track. It picks up speed and rushes down the first steep slope of the track, it crashes into a steel watering can, BANG. Without slowing down the hammer keeps moving towards a glass bottle, the sound of impact is a glassy PING. Onwards through the steep corners towards the dried leaves, the doll, the tin can, CRUSH THUMP TING and finally heading towards the bell, where it ends with a loud CLANG.
Although, it does not quite end there, the weight of the hammer now tips the balance of the precariously hung track and the whole thing starts to tilt over. Slowly the hammer on wheels starts to move again, exploring new forces of gravity. Giving in to a new sliding motion as the track changes shape again and the hammer reaches it’s starting point again where it comes to rest.
The noise, the cacophony is still echoing through the house, while I wait for him to press the buzzer again.”
Products in production
2011 – The Heart Machine by Martin Smith
2011 – “Kinetic Object” by Tord Boontje
2011 – Story Time by AtelierNL
2011 – The New Jewellery Box by Atelier Ted Noten
2010 – Storm in a Tea Cup by John Lumbus
2010 – Miniature Lazy Chair by Fresh West
2010 – The Party Popper Machine by Martin Smith
2009 – Magnet Mobiles by Ivan Black
2009 – Fingers by Nik Ramage
2008 – Applause Machines by Martin Smith
The Party Popper Machine by Martin Smith continues his theme of devices of celebration for Laikingland. In homage to the humble plastic party toy and to follow his interest in loud bangs, Smith has developed a nonsense machine that elaborately assists you in the firing of party poppers
The Storm in a Tea Cup by John Lumbus pays homage, in a very literal sense, to the famous idiom meaning a small event that has been exaggerated out of all proportion. Turn the handle and the golden boat rides the mechanical waves, above the stormy clouds periodically reveal a shining bolt of lightning.
Fingers by Nik Ramage is an eternally tapping copy of the artist’s own hand. At the flick of a switch the resin cast fingers drum rhythmically until switched off.
Heart Machine by Martin Smith is an alarming little machine to demand the attention of the one you love.
Applause machine by Martin Smith – for anyone deserving a “Bravo!”
Liquorice Loops by Ivan Black has near frictionless mechanism, meaning that the Mobiles can be activated by an observer with a simple light blow.
The Miniature Lazy Chair by Fresh West is a 1:6 scale version of their classic exhibition crowd pleaser, the collapsible Lazy Chair. A push of the lever and the chair collapses, after a few moments delay it then rights itself in a random, human like manner.
Interview with DazedDigital / 15th Apr 2011 / by Anna Battista
How would you describe the objects you create?
Nick Regan: We call them “beautifully crafted kinetic objects”, but some pieces are really art works, others like the “FUNction” exhibits are a mix of art and functional product. Usually our works bring a smile to the faces of the observers and, if that’s the reaction, then we are happy since we have reached our aims.
Is this the first time you go to a design event in Milan?
Nick Regan: It’s actually the second time we’re showing during Ventura Lambrate. At last year’s edition we got such great feedback from many designers, including several famous ones who walked into our exhibition space and were completely surprised by our work. We’re really looking forward to this year’s edition as there seems to be a lot of exciting designers and organisations showing in this area and we’re expecting a busy week. Our main reason for exhibiting is to expand our retail network, but we’re also looking forward to meeting new designers we may end up collaborating with in future. At the moment we’re developing the projects side of our Laikingland business, so we’re hoping to meet organisations and companies who may be interested in asking us to develop one-off or special edition kinetic objects.
There seems to be an emphasis in the “FUNction” event on storytelling, is the power of narration one of the themes of this event?
Nick Regan: Narrative is really interesting and is definitely a theme inside our Laikingland brand. For the “Cacophony Bell”, Tord Boontje’s idea was to really create an object that gave such a wonderful performance and that implied the presence of a house owner hoping and waiting for visitors so that he could watch the bell performing. The performance of a kinetic object is something Tord really picked upon and created the product story around it. For “Story Time”, our product with Atelier NL, we actually took the narrative theme a step further. We’ve printed the text “What’s Your Story?” in 50 languages on the ribbon that moves from one reel of the timepiece to the other. This same text can be read through the course of a day in different languages. Our intention with this piece is that we’re actually inviting future customers, collectors and visitors from all over the world to tell us their stories. In future we will create customised one off versions of this object and each customer or collector will have the possibility of suggesting their own story.
How did you get in touch with the artists who collaborated with you on these pieces?
Nick Regan: We met them at the end of 2009 when Martin and I decided it would have been good for us to work with some Dutch artists and designers. Laikingland’s studio and assembly team are based in England, but I live and work in Utrecht where we carry out most of the engineering development for our products. We started researching into the world of Dutch design and were introduced to Margriet Vollenberg and Margo Konings from Organisation in Design and through them we met Atelier NL and Atelier Ted Noten.
We fell in love with a piece called “Sleeping Beauty” created by Atelier NL’s Nadine Sterk and Lonny Van Ryswyck. When we met them they told us about some products they had designed as concepts, then it was just a matter of choosing which of their dream products could best fit to our Laikingland brand. The guys at Atelier Ted Noten loved our works, especially the “Applause Machine”: at our first meeting Ted said he wanted to create a tiny diamond ring for one of the fingers! At our second meeting, they had already prepared sketches for 30 – 40 ideas, they’re incredibly creative and it’s really fabulous working with them.
Is there a dream kinetic object you have been working on, but still haven’t managed to finish?
Martin Smith: Nick and I are constantly discussing how many objects we should develop as Laikingland grows. We are planning some more fabulous objects in the next couple of years and we’re always thinking about which artist or designer it would be interesting to work with. In my own studio there are always ideas in development in drawing books and in the darkest corners of the workshop. At the moment I’m working on pieces centred around the idea of celebration, occasion and time. An example? One object is designed to open and perform only once a year on the owner’s birthday!