Collecting, Threading and Parading
Eleven creatives from all corners of the world simultaneously converge in on Nürnberg. At the foci is the fiercely enthusiastic Verena Hennig. She momentarily pauses to talk inspiration and future of her Idea Parade.
The various creatives take to the stage: the striking Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge of June14 to discuss the details of an inflatable fish bridge; from London is fellow architect Pernilla Ohrstedt, a recent notoriety for her designs of The (Coca-Cola) Beatbox for 2012 Olympic Park; though suffering the absence of their translator, Japanese duo Daisy Balloon demonstrate the tensile strengths and creative possibilities of balloons. Everyone holds their breathe when the mysterious Sigurdur Gudmundsson gives a performance. He later shares his bottle of red with me and connives: “I say Yes to everything in life unless I have an overwhelming reason to say No. But the Yes needs to withstand all the the No’s, otherwise suffer death.”
What made him concur to leaving his current place of residency in China and fly 5500km not to a cultural hotspot (London, Tokyo, or Copenhagen as you or I might have guessed) but to the medieval city of Nürnberg? What connects him to the ten other creatives from around the world assembled here?
The common denominator is Verena Hennig, a charismatic twenty-five year old brunette who created “Idea Parade” as a festival presentation to her thesis in Graphic Design at the esteemed Akademie der Bildenden Künste Nürnberg. In participation, these men and women have come together to inspire and to be inspired. After two days of presentations, I sit with this ambitious young woman to get her perspective.
Verena peels off her satin-lapeled dinner jacket and pulls up her heather-grey sleeves. A sigh of relief escapes her lips. In an empty hall that was buzzing with Idea Parade conversation a mere half hour ago, our voices echo perversely through the vast space of the hosting AEG Factories. The cleaning crew makes quick work of the setup and metal chair legs scrape violently against the concrete floor, resisting to be taken away. We sit across from each other on remaining chairs to chat about Verena’s thought process and how she proposes to structure her work in the future.
Gabriel : I find Idea Parade an extremely personal reflection of you. How did you choose the artists involved?
To answer, Verena insists on backtracking three years : I started my own graphic design studio two years right after I had an internship at Sagmeister&Walsh. It changed my life, work-wise. Not so much because of Sagmeister’s work but because of his personality and how he organized his studio. After one and a half months, I decided “OK, when I go back to Germany, I need something that challenges me.” So I started my own business. I was 22.
Gabriel : It’s amazing to have that realization so young.
Verena : Well I get bored really fast! Sagmeister was at the top of my list, and I had already accomplished that so, I asked myself “What’s next?” I started to do some personal and client work and won some awards so I realized people were interested in my concepts. But I was really young and focusing too much on the market. I wanted to explore my own path and my interest in materials. When I come across something new – artists testing the limits – I asked myself “how can I combine it with my work?”
Gabriel : And Idea Parade was born.
Verena : I opened it this year to the fields of architecture, art, graphic, and product design. Next year, there’ll be a fashion section in the festival. Today I think it’s so essential to look beyond your own field. I’m from the Graphic Design fields; I don’t know how an Architect works or how a Product Designer works. So I thought with the festival, I could look behind the surface by meeting all these people and collaborate. I think I will do this two or three more times. I don’t see myself as an Event Designer, but what is behind Idea Parade is that I get the stories and advice from these people.
Gabriel : You want the hidden details…
Verena : Especially with people like Pernilla! She’s working mainly in architecture but she has such a diversity of work. That’s what I want to do! Be openminded and not focus only on graphic design.
"I had already accomplished that. So I asked myself:
Gabriel : Her work is tactile. Structural and aesthetically pleasing but simultaneously interactive. Not many architects succeed in that endeavour.
Verena : I was stunned by her work and I thought “OK, I HAVE to meet the person behind THAT.” There’s people here at Idea Parade that I stumbled across by accident, and there’s others that I’ve had in mind for a while. Like Sigurdur. I saw his work last year, and I bought his book right away!
Gabriel : What about your own personal work? Earlier you showed me designs for a chair made of pencils.
Verena : For the future, I’m currently developing a system of presenting my work. I started with the idea of creating a collection per year. Like a fashion collection, let’s say. Of course that doesn’t mean there are clothes in it. This year, the chair will be a part of it. I’m working on a book made out of porcelain, also a poster made of glass folded like paper.
Gabriel : How do you see yourself presenting this collection? In Fashion you’ve a runway, meaning you need a method with which you present.
Verena : That’s a tricky question! I’m currently researching how to draw a red line line through them all – putting numbers on objects isn’t enough. I think I need to create an intense experience like at a fashion show. You know, I stumbled across one of Henrik Vibskov’s runways where the models were walking on drum pedals! This was so cool and I was also researching Jennifer Rubell, who’s a food artist. She creates wonderful moments with food where the people come and eat the food being presented. I find it’s important to create a Feeling.
Gabriel : Not only necessitates the person being physically present, but engaging them with your work.
Verena's response is resounding : Absolutely!
While I look forward to seeing how she’ll create this connective system, I leave Verena with a final question on how she feels regarding the conclusion of Idea Parade. Her eyes sparkle up and her laugh rings bright. Though expecting things to turn sour, she’s pleased with everything running smoothly as planned which sheds light on her earlier signs of relief. She’s clearly a woman not in search of a direction, but with a hungry curiosity for narratives.
Walking out of the AEG exhibition space, Verena’s worn-in wooden platform heels clack against the floor. I make note of their uniqueness and she admits to their time on the cobblestones: “new shoes have no souls, I prefer pairs with stories to tell!”