Transforming Aesthetics

Transforming Aesthetics

Redefining the concept of beauty within the realm of design, Sagmeister & Walsh’s multimedia, highly sensory installations – on view at MAK, Vienna – combine product design, city planning, architecture and graphics draw on psychological aesthetics to push beyond superficiality and enhance human perception.

Divided into six strands: What Is Beauty?, The History of Beauty, In the Eye of the Beholder, Experience Beauty, Transforming Beauty, and The Beauty Archive, the show brings together 70 works that offer a discourse around visual culture and high-quality craftsmanship. Highlights include The Colour Room, featured above, which is coated in intense pink and blue tones. Illuminated at regular intervals by a specialist light that makes these hues appear grey, the piece explores the psychological impact of bold colours.

Other concepts explored include the importance of symmetry, as audiences can generate products featuring balanced structures via an  interactive app, or control the density and speed of a flock of birds projected onto a large screen. These experiments question our preference for visual order, exploring why we find certain arrangements pleasing.

Other featured spaces include The Sensory Room, created in collaboration with Swarovski. The sleek white cube invites visitors into a calming arena – shrouded in fog – which emulates the changing hues of a sunset. Accompanied by enticing citrus scents and sounds from nature, it offers an experience of escapism and relaxation.

Looking to  scientific and philosophical questions surrounding notions of beauty, Sagmeister & Walsh explore how pleasing objects and experiences have a direct, measurable effect on human beings. The show highlights the impact of aesthetics on dopamine receptors, proving design’s influence in changing emotions and altering moods. Building on this through responsive projects such as  French designer Thierry Jeannot’s From Garbage to Functional Beauty, the exhibition foregrounds design’s transformative potential to improve the world. Jeannot works with Mexican garbage collectors to make visually striking chandeliers out of waste plastic, addressing a global ecological issue.

The exhibition is open until 31 March. Find out more here. 

1. MAK Exhibition View, 2018. SAGMEISTER & WALSH: Beauty. Sagmeister & Walsh, Color Room, 2018. In cooperation with Backhausen. MAK DESIGN LAB © Aslan Kudrnofsky/MAK.
2. MAK Exhibition View, 2018. SAGMEISTER & WALSH: Beauty. Sagmeister & Walsh, Sound Room, 2018. MAK DESIGN LAB © Aslan Kudrnofsky/MAK