80 Collins Tin&Ed
Culture, Design | Mar 01, 2018

Tin and Ed

The visual design duo taking Melbourne's 80 Collins as their canvas

QICGRE approached the New York-based visual design duo to create imaginative hoardings for Melbourne's 80 Collins. They came up with an algorithmic animation that mixed different artists' artwork into new visual interpretations. The inspiration, fittingly enough, came from Melbourne itself. Every February, from dusk until dawn on a single summer’s night, the White Night festival transforms Melbourne’s city centre into an enormous son et lumière.

Hoarding installation at 80 Collins. Photograph by Sean Fennessy

Half a million pedestrians squeeze along thoroughfares and through parks that have been converted into a technicolour urban landscape of computerised video projections. Victorian-era facades come alive with the colour of giant cartoons, psychedelic patterns rotate over ornate period porches and towering public buildings provide a canvas for fantastical animated movies, taking viewers from outer space to the sea bed and back again. “We created a projection that ran unaided for 12 hours, generating an explosion of different permutations,” explains Nguyen. “But once we got it going, some really interesting things started happening,” he says. “We started to see compositions that we would never have thought of. It took on a life of its own.”


The pair was thrilled with their animation experiment, so a few months later, when they were approached by QICGRE to create an artwork to accompany the re-development of the city’s iconic 80 Collins Street site, the experiment was fresh in their minds. The principles that it deployed — a dynamic, iterative process; visual transformation; a creative whole transcending its component parts — seemed fitting for the new project, too. 


Reviving an iconic address that has featured at the heart of Melbourne’s history in the way that 80 Collins has, is, like it or not, a process of active place-making. And at the heart of meaningful place-making is the imagination, or re-imagination, of the places where we live, work and play; shaping them around the ever-changing community in which they sit. 


Tin&Ed’s static creation, now mounted on the hoardings that separate the 80 Collins construction site from the surrounding public space, saw the pair evolve the ground rules used for their previous animation piece. Like Tin&Ed, the contributing artists chosen for the project are all members of Alliance Graphique Internationale, the distinguished Paris-based club that brings together the world’s leading graphic artists and designers.

"A lot of our work is about connectivity, exploring and visualising the invisible forces that connect us all."
Sean Fennessy Tin&Ed
Portrait of Tin&Ed by Sean Fennessy

Nguyen explains that each panel of the hoarding was designed to comprise one image; with each image itself a compound of two original designs created by one of a group of 20 artists selected by Tin&Ed for the project. An individual image would be assigned to the background of each new image, while another would figure in the foreground. The constraints that governed the scale of the mother image included the orientation of its component parts, and how and where the shapes could be reflected. A carefully monitored spreadsheet enabled Nguyen and Cutting to create an equitable balance of all contributions for the final work. 


“A lot of our work is about connectivity,” explains Cutting, “exploring and visualising the invisible forces that connect us all.” Both the process and the collaborators themselves echoed this principle; a core underpinning of the duo’s wider artistic vision. On the one hand, the collaborators — a mix of local and international names — connected with each other through the creative act, which itself connects the location to its surroundings. On the other, Tin&Ed’s overall curatorial process was an even bolder act of connectivity: connecting originally authored images in a new, bigger, more far-reaching work, itself stretching beyond geographic, spatial and artistic boundaries. 


“We could have produced it all ourselves,” says Nguyen, “but we wanted to create a single artwork that emphasised community, the combination of ideas and the process of bringing the diverse and disparate members of a community together.” 


The direct inspiration for the work was the festival that has influenced the creative landscape of the pair’s home city over the last five years, but the broader context was Tin&Ed’s preoccupation with where technology is taking working life — including their own. 


Machine learning is changing what the jobs of the future may be; creating new jobs while threatening to make others obsolete. “We wanted to think about how our roles as graphic designers will change in the future,” says Cutting. Contemporary architecture, he believes, has embraced this potential more than conventional visual art has done thus far. 


Driven by projects such as this, Tin&Ed seem keen to make up the deficit. In the future, it’s possible that the artistic process might have less in common with traditional methods and more with the work that currently adorns the external hoardings of 80 Collins. “In a few years, visual artists might find themselves more like curators,” says Nguyen, “selecting and developing work generated by algorithms like this one."

Hoarding installation at 80 Collins. Photograph by Sean Fennessy
Artist's impression of the revitalised South Bay Galleria Female coworking users Street art at Robina Town Centre and Chinese calligraphy at Eastland Eastland Town Square Sneaker laces Robina Town Centre The Marketplace exterior thumbnail Virtual and augmented realities at Virgin Holidays and Zara Castle Towers town square (artist's impression) Closing night of the Salone del Mobile Milano photographed by Alessandro Russotti