Dundee’s Keiller Centre has been a site of constant intrigue for me since I discovered it on a wander around the corners of the city during my first year at DJCAD, empowered with an Agfa rangefinder loaded with 35mm film, ready to try my hand at street photography. Though the shopping centre, built in the late 1970s, lies partly empty now, its unchanged decor and splashes of bold typography act as both a time-machine and as a place of inspiration, so when it was revealed that the Keiller Centre would house the Dundee Design Festival and that I was working on a piece for it, I was very very excited.
Sam Gonçalves (a wonderful artist, and Digital Producer at Creative Dundee) and I were commissioned to bring a view of Dundee’s future to life, through an interactive exhibition based on a piece of fiction written in four glorious narratives by Valerie Mullen, curated by Agency of None. Having been living away from Dundee for almost a year, and greatly missing the city, it was a joy to focus my creative efforts on something that not only revolved around it, but would be shown in the city and to the people there.
We Live In The Future was on display at Dundee Design Festival for a week, tucked in an unused unit near City Flowers and Shop ‘n’ Style in the Keiller Centre (you guessed it, both of these shops boast interesting typography upon their signs) and invited users to see and hear the vision of what Dundee could be in 30 years time, and more importantly, to question how a city being ‘Liveable’ or ‘Loveable’ is relative to each person within the city, and their individual experiences and stories there.
Constructed by the tireless festival Build Team, our interactive exhibition became an immersive one in reality. In a dark room stood a towering monolith, with lit shelves which displayed eight photo boxes.
The photo boxes were the heart of our project, and were based upon the genius of Sam being inspired by Latin American viewfinder photo boxes from his childhood. The original boxes were pocket-size, and were sentimental as well as playful in their purpose; looking through the viewfinder revealed a film negative, lit from behind to show a clear photograph, often of family or a special moment. The social and sentimental value of these objects made them perfect as inspiration for our project based on experiences and people in cities, and so we adapted our own collection of viewfinder photo boxes.
After upscaling the design of the original boxes, we constructed them from 3D Printed PLA filament, kindly (and expertly) printed by DJCAD MakeSpace, who it was a real pleasure to work alongside again. To fill our boxes – which were monochrome in design – with colour, we commissioned three artists to visualise excerpts from Valerie’s written piece in their individual style, which would then be printed on sleek G.F Smith Transclear stock, and inserted in the photo boxes, in the same way as film negatives in the original inspiration boxes.
Bimpe Alliu, Sanna Dyker and Norrie Millar all created pieces of illustration that showed the writer’s vision in unique and beautiful ways, from comic-style details, to delicately drawn landscapes to futuristic characters. We were very lucky to work with illustrators who produced work which surpassed even what we had imagined for the project, in flair and finish.
Sam and Valerie worked with four local voice actors who told the stories of Dundee in 2049 and brought characters to life, with this captured audio being accompanied by a soft, almost meditative score produced by Kinbrae. Within the completed We Live In The Future exhibition, a series of lights reacted to key points and accents whilst the audio was played in the space, enticing users not only visually but also through sound.
It truly was a treat to see We Live In The Future come to life, and most importantly, be enjoyed, on the Opening Night of #DDF19 on 21st May. More than that, it was a treat to work alongside everyone who was involved with the project – we really did make it a big collaborative piece! – on something that, as part of the festival as a whole, will hopefully bring positive change to Dundee and to spaces that are unused and forgotten, yet so rich in charm and promise.
A big big ‘thank you’ to; Sam Gonçalves whom it was an absolute delight to work with; to Valerie Mullen for writing such a brilliant piece for us to work from; to Agency of None for their constant guidance and support through the project; to Bimpe Alliu, Sanna Dyker and Norrie Millar for blowing us away with their illustrations; to Andy Truscott of Kinbrae for composing so beautifully; to all of the voice actors; to Aymeric Renoud of Draff for building our impressive looming monolith; and to the whole Dundee Design Festival Team for every tiny detail, which the project would be impossible without.
If you missed We Live In The Future at Dundee Design Festival, you can see images here. Thank you to everyone who went along to experience the piece for themselves, having support and interest from valued peers is an important – yet often underrated – part of any project.