Design Indaba 2018: Studio Swine

WORDS Amelia Brown

Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers – Studio Swine – is a dynamic collaboration between Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves.

The duo, who will be speaking at this year’s Design Indaba Conference, create thought-provoking work that spans disciplines and explores themes of regional identity and future resources in the context of globalisation.

Their project entitled “Gyrecraft” saw them transform plastic pollution found at sea into a collection of luxury objects. The title derives from a combination of the word “gyre” (circular currents in an ocean basin where plastic pollution concentrates) and two distinct meanings of the word “craft”: skill, dexterity and art, and also a sailing vessel.

From “Gyrecraft”, 2015.

Alexander and Azusa embarked on a journey of 1 000 nautical miles across the North Atlantic Ocean, collecting plastic through the North Atlantic Gyre. In order to transform this plastic flotsam and jetsam into new works they invented and built their own solar extruder, which melts and extrudes sea plastic using the sun. They then used this sea plastic as a valuable and desirable material to evoke a turtle’s shell or coral.

From “Can City”, 2013.

“Can City”, one of the studio’s earliest projects, is a collection of aluminium objects made from waste on the streets of São Paulo that looks at waste in big cities. A mobile foundry was created from salvaged materials to melt aluminium cans using waste vegetable oil collected from local cafés as a fuel. Studio Swine made stools for the food vendor that provided the waste cans and oil. Manufactured on the spot, each piece is unique and expressive. Waste is transformed into metal objects that provide a portrait of the street.

From “Metallic Geology”, 2014.

In a project for Pearl Lam Galleries, Azusa and Alexander created foamed aluminium by injecting a gassing agent when molten, resulting in a lightweight material that has the appearance of pumice (which undergoes a similar process within volcanoes). “Metallic Geology” was inspired by the tradition of Chinese rock gardens and draws striking contrasts between the power of nature and the still sanctuary. The pieces appear to defy gravity.

Studio Swine’s films have been awarded at Cannes and other film festivals around the world and their work have been widely exhibited at institutions such as the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Pompidou Centre in Paris, and the Venice Art Biennale.

Read more about what’s in store at this year’s Design Indaba, which runs from 21 to 23 February 2018 at the Artscape in Cape Town, here.