Throwing caution to the wind

(Image: ICC Sapporo, 2004 “Left screen, minus 8 hours; Right screen, minus 14 hours”)

I remember being told a story about a couple of exhausted architects who flew straight from work (in the US?) to Tokyo to join the very first Tomato workshop. There, they were submerged in two-weeks of chasing shadows down streets, grabbing at cameras, blindly copying and stretching material through Xerox machines; the process and encounter, querying and responding to the pleasure of making — and no doubt unmaking — only for them to finally depart two weeks later, more exhausted than when they arrived. The fact they came in the first place surprised everyone. Their sudden decision to join from afar, unconnected in any way whatsoever, made everyone realise the true value of what they’d started. “Who needs sleep” said Steve. “Anyway, you’re more creative when you’re knackered. Taking a break simply gets in the way.”

Launched last Friday (Dec 5, 2014), Project ESIN is the next step in a plan that began back in 2000 with that initial workshop.

Its aim; to give space and time to the future and promotion of ‘creativity’, giving each person the room to figure out what that now means, beyond the confines of college and the working world, in the presence of leading figures from the creative industry and business that will be there to lend support.

Between 2000 and 2004, the Tomato workshops began with the intention of spawning something universities or colleges are unable to provide, a vestibule of tried and tested knowledge that cant be fabricated or simulated no matter how hard it tries. in fact. the nature of the workshops called in to question, if only by accident, design education full stop not by taking an axe to it — discounting it, rejecting it — but highlighting the power of experience and knowledge combined. Those involved had all gone through University and were deep in work of their own but aware that something was absent. The workshops exploited that absence by choosing experience — un-learning, de-learning, re-learning and discovery — over preexisting knowledge.

The last workshop in 2004 was the International Workshop, an experiment in itself that took place in three different locations around the world — Rhode Island School of Design in the US, Kassel University in Germany and ICC Sapporo, Japan — all connected despite their respective time-zones and time difference, where briefs and tasks were shared back and forth over the course of two weeks. One group would be woken to the sight of another’s presentation or after-party, and the weary-eyes of each crossed time zone broadened as everyone juggled their own deadlines to make way for challenges set on the other side of the world. And then, as fast as the workshops happened, they suddenly disappeared. Deemed neither a failure or success, their role for the time being had come to an end. For those whose experience was first-hand, the workshops would pave the way for years to come. They were always intended to be revived at some point, in the not-too-distant future.

Cue the Present.

Its interesting to remember first time round, education in the UK was either grant-supported or in some cases free. That luxury is now non-existent and an emphasis now placed on working where the money exists and the chance of finding a job more likely. Art funding and design industries throughout the world have felt the brunt of this mind-set and continue to do so. But if focusing on the likely hood of success and security of income are of major concern, how can the vague territories of talent and creativity be nurtured and encouraged to break away from this and strike out alone? How do you ‘inspire’, let alone promote ‘talent’?

Many of the creative team now involved with Project ESIN are teaching or have taught and are acutely aware that creativity is fundamentally about communication. Reasons to get involved are mixed and varied, some deeply personal and some understood and appreciated by everyone. New challenges, inspired distraction or the need to be stretched by something unknown and thoroughly terrifying all qualify.

It should be said, everyone involved has been there before. Sympathetic not apathetic. They understand how tenuous working and making can be, especially when under your own steam. To want to work from job to job and assignment to assignment you’ve got to want it badly enough to be able to “throw caution to the wind” and dig in, despite the consequences. Project Esin is giving support and encouragement, working outside of traditional practices but without shunning them.

In 2015, the plan restarts, coming full circle. The first full two-week workshop in Tokyo will take place at Makers’ Base, supplemented with evenings of ‘Creative Conversation’ and wider discussion so that anyone unable to attend during the day will be able to join later.

Alongside the ESIN team of Steve S. Baker, (co-founder Tomato) Steve Martin and Alison Jambert (both Eat Creative) a core of creative directors, designers, thinkers and makers will be leading participants throughout.

Ian Anderson (The Designers Republic) Joel Baumann (Kunsthochschule Kassel / co-founder Tomato Interactive) Simon Browning (Hester Fell) Dirk Van Dooren (FCB/Inferno / co-founder Tomato) Flo Heiss (DARE), Laura Jordan Bambach (Mr. President / D&AD), Benjamin Palmer (The Barbican Group) James Victoire (James Victoire Inc), John Warwicker (Monash University – MADA, co-founder Tomato), Graham Wood (The Gild, co-founder Tomato) Toru Yoshikawa (Creative Director / Ribbonesia) and many others will be on hand to advise, cajole, steer, lend support and talk and listen with those that choose to sign up for two weeks of “making, thinking and sharing.”

The first workshop is scheduled for 16th – 27th February 2015.

Sign up on the website. Details, fees, timetables and more will be added over the coming weeks and month.

December, 2014