Thursday, 22 March 2012

OFFSET2012, Part 1

(Image courtesy of OFFSET)

It's been a full ten days since OFFSET2012 ended. And it took most of this time for me to process what I saw and heard over the course of what really has become Ireland's premier creative festival. My first task was to try to condense 24 or so presentations, discussions and interviews over 3 days in 2 rooms in Bord Gáis Energy Theatre into a relatively coherent 800-word review for Architecture Ireland. That, which will be posted mid-April and entitled 'OFFSET2012, Part 2', was a difficult task, and while I think I just about managed coherent, keeping to 800-words was Not Easy. So much so that here's some further outpouring of thoughts and questions and excited reactions to the whole thing:

(Image of work Jessica Hische courtesy of OFFSET)

US-based letterer, illustrator and all-round creative dynamo Jessica Hische introduced audience members to the word 'procrastiworking', but the practice is something present in a number of presentations. Procrastiworking is the work Hische does when not working for clients, and for her, procrastiworking takes the form of a whole host of websites and projects such as Daily Drop Cap, Should I Work For Free? and the charitable venture These projects seem to keep Hische's creative juices flowing, just as interesting side projects have done/are doing for a number of other presenters such as Pentagram's Paula Scher. But perhaps the most noteworthy side project of all is OFFSET itself: the massively impressive festival is organised by three Dublin creatives - Bren, David and Richard - entirely in their spare time, squeezed in around full-time jobs. For procrastiworking, OFFSET is remarkable, and something the creative community in Dublin and beyond could not do without.

(Image of Erik Kessels courtesy of OFFSET)

The future of advertising and sponsorship
The field of advertising – one I hadn’t given much thought to before OFFSET – was well represented at the event, from the polished work of inventive NYC agency Droga5 to the downright wacky work of Kesselskramer (if you visit the site I recommend hitting refresh a few times) and many in between. It was fitting to discuss the present and future of advertising in a venue that had been renamed after a corporate sponsor just one week before the event, so a panel discussing featuring Erik Kessels, Andrew Essex of Droga5, Hugh Linehan of the Irish Times and others thrashed out what direction advertising could be moving in the event’s second room. On the subject of corporate sponsorship, such as the kind that saw Grand Canal Theatre change its name, Andrew Essex made the point that if a corporation uses its money to support a cultural venture rather than invest a significant amount of money into a massive advertising campaign that shouts at people from every angle through every medium then perhaps a newly named theatre/venue/football pitch is preferable?

Certainly there were a number of artists in the OFFSET line-up who have benefitted greatly from significant corporate sponsorship and support of their work. United Visual Artists have utilised sponsorship from Sony and others to make massively impactful interactive sound and light installations around the world, and Miami-based FriendsWithYou have been able to create major installations and performances thanks to corporate support. In their words, ‘corporations are the new kings’, patronising the arts in the absence of the De Medici’s. With large sponsorship can come excessive influence however, and though UVA and FriendsWithYou have been able to work largely independently of their sponsors, others may not...

The rise of illustration in Ireland
When UK-born illustrator Steve Simpson first came to Ireland, he was one of a very small pool of people working in illustration here. He and the other few set up Illustrator’s Ireland in 2000 and the organisation now has over 50 members, each producing immensely varied work. Presentations from both Steve and Irish-born, US-based Kevin Waldron showed a glimpse of the illustration talent we have in Ireland, while their international contemporaries Evan Hecox, Von and Seymour Chwast showed it’s alive and well elsewhere too. It seems that in Ireland right now, illustrators are making a particular mark in the world of children’s books. In the US Waldron flies the flag that is being flown here at home by Chris Judge and Chris Haughton, showing how imaginative and engaging illustrated children’s books can be. Like all the other presenters at OFFSET, Waldron is really passionate about what he does, but illustrating children’s books isn’t always the dream job it sounds like – much as he wishes otherwise, there is a limit to how many characters Waldron can draw smoking a pipe...

(Image via Kevin Waldron)

There's heaps more you could say about this year's OFFSET - you can read some more of my thoughts on it next month, and some of the other reactions still rattling round in my head may still make it out yet. If you were there too, I have no doubt you're still filled with energy and excitement after it, and if you weren't, make sure you get a ticket for OFFSET2013!

Read OFFSET2012, Part 2 here