Meet one of RMIT PlaceLab’s academic collaborators, Dr Jordan Lacey. Jordan is a sonic thinker, creative practitioner and transdisciplinary researcher from RMIT’s School of Design specialising in sonic theory, soundscape design and the creation of public sound art installations.
As part of our Voice, Vibe & Vision Research Project we’re excited to be collaborating with Jordan and his students from Industrial Design through a 12-week studio that explores Brunswick’s atmospheres. We got to know more about Jordan’s research interests and connection to Brunswick.
“It’s such an interesting place, because it’s so diverse. Its density of different activities — factory work next to a cafe next to a mechanic shop next to a residential house. It’s pretty unique in that way. You don’t get many places like that.
Or at least not these days.”
Can you tell us a bit about your own research and how it intersects with the PlaceLab Voice, Vibe & Vision project?
I came to be part of the project when PlaceLab researcher Louise Goodwin approached me because of my work with atmospheres. And I see atmosphere as a more ‘academic’ term for vibe. How does a place feel? How can we explain those feelings? How do specific environments make us feel? These sorts of ephemeral questions are very difficult to answer, and also the way that design can create those sorts of experiences through working with light and with sound and so forth. So, I’ve been doing that for a long time, creating installations that focus on sound and light to try and change atmosphere.
Do you have a particular connection to Brunswick?
When I was at university in the early 90s, I used to go to the Sarah Sands Hotel and various places along there to catch music and so forth. It was a very different place then, a bit rougher, shall we say? And my dad moved here, into the Brunswick Brickworks in the early 2000s. So, I’ve visited there for a while.
Have these experiences in the area influenced your practice?
It has. I mean in the sense that Brunswick has always had a high concentration of creative practitioners and events, so you just find yourself there all the time anyway. You know, going into things, experiencing things and that way I think it inevitably shapes anyone who’s involved, the creative process or the creative industry in some way. So, I’d say yes, but also, it’s just such an interesting place, because it’s so diverse. Its density of different activities – factory work next to a cafe, next to a mechanic shop, next to a residential house. It’s pretty unique in that way. You don’t get many places like that, or at least not these days. Where zoning is isolating all those sorts of activities, I think there is something so very attractive about Brunswick in that way.
What would you say would be the key observations that have come up from the Industrial Design Student Studio with PlaceLab Brunswick?
I think in terms of working with the students, what’s been really interesting for us all is that hidden part of Brunswick’s atmosphere. It’s sort of been staring us in the face but we’ve not really noticed it. Through our connection with Brunswick local Tim Denshire-Key, who has been co-teaching this studio with me, we’ve visited a lot of art and design practitioners throughout the suburb, and what you notice invariably when you go there, is that you’re confronted with this plain factory wall with no advertising, covered in weeds and graffiti, and it looks all sort of run down and a bit mysterious. And then you walk in and there’s this incredibly rich interior of people and artistic practices going on. And I think for us, at the end of the first part of this studio, we realised that’s a really big part of Brunswick’s unique atmosphere is that there’s all of these nondescript spaces everywhere, but not many know what’s going on behind. And what’s going on behind, are these rich cultural industries and activities. So that’s been a key finding for me, in terms of what generates the atmosphere.
There’s also something particularly Melbourne about that, because I think Melbourne, unlike other cities, is not a particularly showy city. In some ways it is, but a lot of what makes our cultural life so rich is that it’s quite interior, in a way that’s hard to explain.Â I think the Brunswick example captures this well.
What do you think the RMIT students, as emerging industrial design practitioners, are gaining from their involvement in the project?
When a lot of people think about industrial design, they think about objects, and they think about products.Â That they’re making a thing for a specific, commercial purpose, or a user-centered purpose. I therefore purposely try to get my students to think outside of that by getting them to concentrate on environments and reminding them that every time they create an object it’s going to end up in an environment. We’re in this studio assisting them to think about how an environment can give birth to an object.Â An object being very unique or specific to an environment that they’re investigating, and then that should in some way transform the perception of that environment or how we look at it. So, they’re creating, but from the perspective of an environment.Â It’s very much about changing our perception of things physically by changing our sight lines or how we hear. So it’s bit of a twist on the traditional idea of industrial design.
Importantly, what are they contributing to the project?
For the first assignment they created zines detailing the relationships with the artists and creatives that they had visited. In the second stage, they created a series of interventions into environments aimed at considering changes to the atmosphere, and from there they then created some basic prototypes for augmenting sound and vision. For the third stage, they’ll be making a more refined high-quality version of the prototype, to align their relationship to a specific environment they have selected in Brunswick. Finally, they’ll be creating an output detailing their design process and to go alongside their objects to then be exhibited in a space within Brunswick.
An Exhibition of the students’ Industrial Design Studio final works will be held at PlaceLab Brunswick in October. More details to follow.