Nike's vice president of global design, John Hoke, recently gave ten progressive designers – including Sebastian Wrong, Max Lamb, Martino Gamper, Greg Lynn and Lindsey Adelman – a simple brief: 'To help explore and abstract, question and challenge the notion of mobility, motion and movement.'
After working closely with a creative, collaborative team of people 'who could challenge us and vice-versa', Nike is now exhibiting the results of its 'The Nature of Motion' project in Milan as part of Salone del Mobile 2016. 'Each piece is a unique exploration, a piece of poetry expressed either by form and surface, scale, equilibrium, the nature of gravity or rhythm, how the body reacts to heat and cool,' says Hoke. Any materials were allowed – and any medium of expression permitted.
British furniture designer Max Lamb has contributed the brutal surreality of an installation made up of super heavy aluminium, granite and polystyrene blocks levitating above an invisible skirt of compressed air. The air enables each apparently immovable object to glide across a white rink at the lightest touch, challenging our perceptions of weight, effort and movement.
Best known for his lighting, British designer and creative director Sebastian Wrong conceived an ergonomic chair formation, intended as communal seating for team sport. A longstanding champion of the futurist art movement, Wrong was inspired by Umberto Boccioni’s 1913 painting Dynamism of a Soccer Player, abstracting the colours, movement and dynamics of the canvas on to Nike's Flyknit textile which he wrapped around a hollow, hexagonal steel frame. 'When we went to Nike’s HQ in Oregon to talk about the projects, they referred to us as "artists", not designers, and this made me think, I don’t have to deliver a practical solution here... I can be indulgent!' explains Wrong. 'Ironically, I went on to produce one of the more functional exhibits. It’s a "sling thing" made of weather-proof fabric, designed for sports teams to rest on before or after a game. The construction is very simple so it can packed down to nothing and easily adapted to a single chair design.'
Viewed from above, Wrong’s energetic interpretation of Boccioni’s soccer artwork provides a goal mouth scramble of swirling colour. 'The futurist manifesto was all about noise, action, agitation, intervention. I tried to get a bit of that energy in this piece also.'
Inspiration for Martino Gamper’s contribution to 'The Nature of Motion' came from the unlikely source of veteran rock drummer Ginger Baker. Gamper watched a documentary about the legendary Cream drummer (2012's Beware of Mr Baker) and also saw the 76 year old percussive genius play live. 'He can’t walk any more but he can still drum!' says Gamper.
When asked to contribute to Nike’s project, Gamper decided on a collection of drums and drum kits that creates a commentary on the rhythm of 'natural motion' by combining technical Flyknit textiles and Nike laces with laminated plywood forms. 'I was thinking of the Rio Olympics, the drums of the carnival,' says Gamper, striking a nearby snare with a blue stick. 'We made special weaves of Nike Flyknit material with areas of different densities and colour, like you see on steel drums. We stretched the fabric over the drums as skins.' A professional drummer will be behind Gamper’s kit when the exhibition opens officially today.
Dutch designer Bertjan Pot’s work is propelled by an impulsive curiosity concerning materials, techniques, structures, patterns and colours that leads him to push conventional manufacturing boundaries and experiment with textile and weaving techniques. Rotterdam-based Pot’s series of resting pods takes the notion of the wheel – a symbol of momentum and movement – as a structural starting point.
By upholstering the inner tubes of a car, wheelbarrow, truck and tractor with ropes, Nike laces and belts, he has initiated an unexpected but effective meeting of artisanal hand-weaving techniques and high-performance materials. “The first idea was: Nike makes you tired. Nike wants you to participate in sport,' says Pot. 'Nike wants you to come to Milan, walk around all day and look at their exhibition. So how about I create something that encourages rest and relaxation instead of activity.'
Pot did the labour on the Polynesian/Indonesian-influenced, basket-woven pieces himself, sometimes with the help of a single assistant. 'Thirty-two days of weaving! Most pieces are made of just three or four lengths of continuous fibre wrapped around each tyre or tube. For the bigger pieces I would stand inside the tyre passing the roll of material up and over, back and forth, inside and out to my intern.' There's art in action at 'The Nature of Motion'.