The gentle wind, the power of the sun, the rotation of our own earth in the universe often go unnoticed. The world around us is brimming over with mysterious forces and beauty from which we take little heed. Tokyo-based design duo Living World. Starting as a one-time project in 2000, they draw our attention to the fascinating things surrounding us – be it with conceptual products or workshops. Today PingMag talks to Living World’s Yoshiaki Nishimura and Tariho Nishimura for deeper insights.
Written by Ryoko
Translated by Kevin Mcgue
To begin, what is Living World?
Yoshiaki: We are a small design office founded in 2003. So far, it is just the two of us. We are commissioned to do work for institutes and museums, also create our own works and run design workshops.
What kind of works?
Yoshiaki: Recently, we made a 3D model of the Milky Way called Beyond our solar system. I had always only seen two-dimensional representations of the Milky Way and wondered what a 3D model would look like. We got together data from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, and then used a laser to create roughly 80,000 spots inside a glass cube.
I wouldn’t say that we create new things, but rather look at things that already exist and try to draw out what is interesting about them by recreating them in a new form.
The Beyond our solar system glass cube to see…
… the around 80,000 stars in three dimensions, etched with a laser.
What do you mean exactly by things that already exist?
Yoshiaki: Take our Wind-lit: Solar for example. It is a new way of expressing wind, which has always existed, by creating objects that sway and light up when the wind blows.
Its second version, “Wind-lit: Solar” has a circuit board storing solar power during the day and releasing it at night.
Beautiful! “Wind-lits” hovering like luminous jellyfish in the celestial sky.
Tariho: Wind is always blowing, and we can perceive changes in its speed. We wanted to draw people’s attention to that point.
Yoshiaki: Another commissioned work we did two years ago was a large clock for the departure lobby of Kobe Airport, for which we produced the Earth Clock. The clock shows the surface of the earth, with earth’s rotation and the illumination cast by the sun matching the actual earth – completely updated in real time! The night and day cycles of the earth would be another example of things that already exist.
Yoshiaki: This project didn’t start with us being asked to make a big clock. Rather, we submitted all sorts of ideas and that is what we ended up with. I think one of the special things about Living World is that we don’t just get requests from clients and simply make what they want. We build the project together with them, using their basic framework as starting point.
… that show the company’s products: this is “Magic Ink.” Now…
… if you place any cube on the “projection table,” the information stored in the cube’s built-in RFID chip instantly appears on the digital table top. Techy magic!
I see, but why using theirs as starting point?
Yoshiaki: Once I was standing on a train station platform enjoying the sunset and I looked around me. The other people on the platform were absorbed with using their mobile phones. It occurred to me that people live within their surroundings, but they do not see the beauty of things in front of their face and don’t have time to notice it. That is just boring, isn’t it?
Tariho: Enjoying a beautiful sunset is something that transcends national borders and languages, and is planted deeply inside many people. I want to make works that draw out those feelings.
Another from the “In This Time” series for wistful memories: when the In this time: 100 stars cease to shine hourglass is run out, hundred stars in the universe burnt out.
A happier one: by the time this In this time: 100 babies are born hourglass rests, hundred children will be born.
Yoshiaki: We are also serious about the things we want to create from our own initiative…
Yes, please go on…
Yoshiaki: I think with design work now, there is too much separation of labour. In the past, one person could really do everything. However, the move to agrarian society and then the industrial revolution really changed the course of history, creating farmers, worker, consumers, and so on, as distinct roles. For example, in the past, craftsmen would make houses from start to finish. Then the number of architects increased, and “making” was divided into separate, clearly defined fields. Something similar has happened in the field of design. Our area of expertise has become smaller, and there are many things that we ourselves don’t know about the things we are making. That is unhealthy in a way.
You mean that you can’t get into your work for that reason?
Yoshiaki: If there is not a sense of completeness in my work, I feel that I lose energy for the project.
Tariho: But if you look at things from outside of your usual viewpoint, the judgments and decisions you can make become both broader and deeper.
Artful greenery – Days of Soil, a workshop in which parents and their kids can enjoy growing plants…
… using soil from the neighbourhood. All has yielded little plants!
Finally, what are your future plans?
Yoshiaki: We would like to work more with people who want to share the things we find fun.
Yoshiaki and Tariho.
Yoshiaki and Tariho, thank you for your time! Now, see Living World’s fabulous work at their exhibition in Midtown!
Living World‘s current “i am time” exhibition at Idee shop, Tokyo.
Venue: Idee Shop Tokyo Midtown, Floor Galleria/3F/16.
Running until March 14th.
Open: 11am – 9pm.