LeAmon provides an insight into her work and, in particular, the thinking behind her contribution to the recent Anytime Soon Australia exhibition, curated by Via Farini for the Salone del Mobile in Milan.

LeAmon’s work for the exhibition, featured here, is titled Supersystem Concept for 5 Products: Post Object Confessions.

A Supersystem Concept for 5 Products is a design proposal which explores the notion of lifestyle products in the company of general human affections such as desire, comfort, disappointment and love.

Working in collaboration with digital artist Daryl Munton and photographer Liz Looker, I have used digital technology, performance, photography and text to construct a suite of narratives titled post object confessions, in which motorbikes and kissing, headlights and bikinis, freeways and kangaroos come together to inform designs for a light, daybed, timepiece, purse and kettle.

It was the context of the Milan Furniture Fair that impressed upon me the role of ‘desire’ in shaping commodity.

While performing my first project at the Milan Fair in 2001 titled Conceptual Models, I met the senior industrial designer at BMW California.

We discussed the concept of ‘branding’ and life-style products where the intention is to share from a common ‘pool’ or ‘space’ representative of feel/look/manufactured spirit of the primary concerns of the corporation.

Here the desirability of the BMW brand is leveraged across products to bring appeal to seemingly dissociated products.

So, I decided to embrace my own desires and inform the next generation of models with a parent object that embodied a space of meaning for me and which provided the potential to negotiate the conceptual terrain of transgression.

Indulging in my attraction to speed and the design and packaging of the accumulated risks associated with riding very fast motorbikes, I selected the quintessential Ducati 916 motorcycle.

I had become aware that the intellectual distance between the work of art and the object delivered via the assembly line is perhaps more often contested in the world outside of the modern art gallery than within it.

The motorbike like many objects is often re-conceptualised through the inherent desires of the individual. It easily transgresses the realm of the mass-produced object and is re-conceptualised and, in the case of the motorbike, it can be spoken of to encapsulate the associative concepts of freedom, independence, fearlessness, power and sex. 

This desire forms a complex associative relationship with objects and can also transform their designed intent, or will of the object.

Desire becomes the ‘thing’ which is serviced, and the object a mere facilitator or translator of human affections – an endemic condition in a materialistic society in which consumption is used to placate deeper anxieties.

I see art objects and functional objects as linked in their ambition to seduce and incite desire.

Art framed by the culture of the gallery desires to be looked at, critiqued, studied, and preserved in anticipation of becoming the futures past. Desire makes art visible in the frame to the institution and the collector.

The functional object desires to be desirable. The Ducati motorcycle is a technologically enhanced two-wheel vehicle. Any ‘need’ of such an item beyond the racetrack is embedded within its appeal. It exists largely due to its desirability.

I devised a scaling system based on the volume of the 916 Ducati motorcycle to inform the 2003 models and this system was also applied to inform the volume of the Supersystem.

This Supersystem invites ‘play’ at body scale. Play is carried out to see what and how one can interact with the system as a whole and a collection of parts.

The ‘play’ encouraged speculation on the role of ‘comfort’ in society and how it also contributes to the way we evaluate ‘use’.

Through the efforts of modernism comfort has become a social phenomenon. Comfort is often treated as a primary element in the design and construction of useable things.

The Supersystem in theory can be used and played with in a multitude of ways, however the encounters perceived confirmed a pre-occupation with comfort.

From Melbourne to Milan

There are very few Australian designers with their own offices in Italy. Simone LeAmon is one of them.

Notable for manufacturing numerous design icons of the 20th century, Oluce, founded in 1945, is one of the historic names of Italian lighting design. Synonymous with design legends Joe Colombo and Vico Magistretti, Oluce currently plays host to design by the Campana brothers and Francesco Rota. 

Simone LeAmon is the first Australian and first female designer to be signed by Oluce.

LeAmon is a visual artist and design practitioner. She holds a Master of Design (Industrial) from RMIT University, Melbourne and a Bachelor of Fine Art from Victorian College of Arts, Melbourne University.

How did you come to the attention of Oluce?

I met the president of Oluce, Antonio Verderi when he came to Melbourne in 2004. The Euroluce Company introduced me to Mr Verderi.

I mentioned to him that I was having a show at Salon de Mobile in April and during my stay in Milan I went to see him. I organised a complete history and portfolio of my work and during the meeting I was able to show him a range of art and design projects.

He was genuinely attracted to the works from the Moto Showroom exhibition. I had designed a complete body racing leather for a female motorcyclist. It was a work that I had shown to Ducati and Dainese in 2003.

I think Mr Verderi was curious about an Australian designer who had approached and shown her work to both Dainese and Ducati. These two companies are not known for greeting and working with freelance designers.

He liked the suit very much. It raised lots of questions about concept development, gender and design, and decoration as opposed to information.

We were able to have an interesting conversation and I believe this is important if you wish to establish a meaningful connection with a company.

If you can have a stimulating conversation and reveal the way you think as a designer, any discussion of product design becomes more compelling.

The dialogue and connection must be established if you wish to speak of concepts and cultures you believe to be significant to their enterprise, otherwise you are one of numerous designers peddling shapes and notions of utility and technology.

What are some of your career highlights so far?

Prior to signing with Oluce, I presented design concepts to Ducati Motor Holdings, Bologna and Dainese, Vicenza following the success of Moto Showroom at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne and Association Viafarini, Milan.

In 2003 and 2004 I was Ducati artist in residence at the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

I have been fortunate to have my art and design work featured in numerous exhibitions in Australia and internationally since 1993. In 2001 I was the recipient of the Australia Council for the Arts studio residency in Milan, which led to the invitation to participate in the acclaimed Anytime Soon program.

Anytime Soon presented a select group of rising international designers who work in close conversation with the visual arts, locating their design practices in view of cultural, social and artistic concerns.

So you have plans to move to Milan?

Yes. I’m moving because I have witnessed the frustrations of several Australian designers and artists who have tried to sustain relationships with European companies, galleries and dealers following their own success.

Through my experience with the motorcycle companies, I realised that if I were based in Italy, the continuity would have allowed the projects to develop and have a commercial future.

It takes an enormous amount of work for a freelancer to maintain a design dialogue with a European company and to develop new opportunities.

I realise I need to move to Milan and leverage the contract with Oluce. There is no shortage of advice from people here and in Italy telling me to go for it.

The reality is that there are very few Australian designers with their own offices in Italy. You see many designers from Brazil, the Netherlands and Spain, but not from this region. It simply presents a sizable challenge for an Australian.

I have found it to be an interesting exercise to explore sources for financial support to start what I am calling the Milan Office Initiative.

My vision is to direct an interdisciplinary office that also assists the promotion of Australian talent and enterprise in Milan.

The language in Australia is sophisticated in terms of talking about Australian design, its capacity and export potential. But talk is talk and you need to find financial partners who believe in your work, abilities and potential as much as you do.

I find there is a distinct difference in the ways Australian business and enterprise view creative capital, devaluing it by not using it, while there remains a tendency to adore the art and design cultures from abroad.  
 

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