Over 20-28 October, COS – the London-based fashion brand – unveiled its third iteration of a global touring installation, titled New Spring. Created in partnership with London-based Studio Swine, an art collective known for blending interdisciplinary works with research and immersive experiences, the piece sees a blossoming sculpture – first conceived during Milan’s Salone del Mobile 2017, and later travelled to Design Miami – located at the Changning Bell Tower in Shanghai.
The installation coincides with COS’s online launch in China, which includes an online storefront on Alibaba’s Tmall platform, plus a standalone site, cosstores.cn. By commissioning Studio Swine – an artistic collaboration between Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves – and by using art and design as a tool, cleverly blended with technology and immersive experiences, the fashion retailer was able to fully engage with the local community through physical and visual interaction.
Resultantly, New Spring takes form of an interactive willow tree in a Chinese garden, with dripping bubbles reminiscent of flowers and pearls – a minimalist yet mechanical development designed to intrigue.
The resident setting of Shanghai is flourishing, with the likes of Design Shanghai taking place on 6-9 March 2019. We spoke to the duo behind Studio Swine to find out more about the installation and how location plays a pivotal role in their practice.
How was New Spring created and how does it all work?
There was about five months of research and development to create the technology, and since then we have evolved it for each iteration.
It’s been a really interesting task of engineering, in order to mechanise something as delicate as blowing a bubble – there’s lots of variables between the bubble formula and the technology.
As the third iteration, how does New Spring relate to its predecessors and in what ways has the project grown?
The sculpture is essentially the same; its design is modular so it can be made to fit a venue. The difference was the environment created, where we used green for the space and lighting that created shadows.
We also created a large reflective pool in the space for filming, and wanted to create the feeling of a Chinese Garden at night. We don’t have plans for the future yet but New Spring as an on-going series.
How important was it to take references from the local city of Shanghai and nature?
We really love travelling and walking around different cities. We love the strong sense of place that you get from an urban environment, through the materials of the streets, the fonts, the sounds and smells. We are really interested in what makes a place feel special and, as artists working in the public realm, we want to contribute to that.
We think the regional identity is really precious in a globalised world where tastes can become homogenised. We see New Spring as a very universal work that can find relevance anywhere, so it’s really interesting for us to respond with small details to the place it’s shown in.
What are your thoughts on the current design scene in Shanghai – is it flourishing?
Yes there’s definitely something really interesting happening in Shanghai in the French Concession. We used to live there in 2014 when we made our Hair Highway project, and it’s changed a lot.
There’s a really interesting style developing that’s very chic and understated. There’s a feeling of coffee shops in the international hipster-style of Australia and Brooklyn – but also something more starkly minimal that feels like Japan’s retail and cafe interiors, and then this added fusion of traditional Chinese, tea ware and stones.
Since launching Studio Swine in 2011, is there anything you wish you could tell yourself back then?
Probably to trust our instincts and to be more forthright in the pursuit of that vision. We have always done what we wanted but could have gone further.
London-based Studio Swine are an art collective known for blending interdisciplinary works with research and immersive experiences