New Making

Celebrating New Acts

The problem that I wanted to address was the difficulty that new acts have getting acknowledged and to get recognized coming to the Fringe. With increasing costs for venues, for travel and accommodation, it seems less and less appealing for the up-and-coming star to take the risk. Yet I was inspired, as I assume we all are, by the ideal that the festival represents, as written on the festival’s website: “every year up-and-coming artists flock to Edinburgh to try out new material, hoping to follow in the footsteps of household names who got their big break here (Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, John Cleese and Rowan Atkinson, to name just a few)”. How do we celebrate this ideal through design and data visualization?

These were the first few sketches. The similarity and contrast between the sizes of the orbs create a sense of movement and therefore time, and as they merge they begin to represent not only their individuality but also their collective expression. We gather not only the multitude of the information but a unification; this event visualized here, this festival, is multi-facetted but as the language of form also articulates, it is one.

I was reminded of this statue made for an award ceremony by the Swedish graphic designer Henrik Nygren. This design has nothing to do with neither time nor location. I was instead drawn to the formal aspect of this piece. For one thing, it is beautifully simple, but also it shows how individual elements can come together in an almost architectural way to create a sense of rigidity. Notice how well one can sense its weight and grandiosity. Because of it being an award, I was reminded of how central design is to ceremony and to celebration. I came up with the idea of an “Award for Newcomers”.

By accident I discovered this negative space that you see to the left. What of all those acts you never did go to see? Inspired by that idea, by contrast and by negative space as per the language of form, I embedded the new acts, represented by the group of cylinders here in the middle, within a larger cylinder where its height is the total number of people that show up to the festival. The height of the group of new acts in the centre are then levelled at a relative height depending on how many came to their shows in relation to the total amount. As you can see, there are slight variations from to year to year. 

Again, the value and the data is very relative. As the pieces are organized next to each other one can discern how the festival changes and how the engagement of new acts might get better or worse. But as the pieces are singled out, say once a piece is given to a newcomer, they are only dependent on their own immediate space. The space to consider becomes that in-between the larger cylinder and the group of new acts in the midst of “reaching for the sky”. Once made in a transparent and elegant material like glass, they can point to their own contribution and say: “That’s me; look at what we accomplished and how central we really are to culture!”

I wanted to evoke a sort of narrative like David and Goliath, which I think nicely captures what we’re trying to achieve. Although importantly, it is not “we” versus “them” but rather an acknowledgement of what remains an enduring value of the festival and something that risks being forgotten in the face of economic challenges. Because this is a souvenir for the shows that everybody didn’t necessarily go to see, or for the actors who weren’t properly noticed, but who ultimately make up the very foundation of the festival. This is the ideal that I believe we need to celebrate.