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Chris O'Shea
Artist and designer
Designers In Residence
12 September 2007 – 14 October 2007

Chris O'Shea creates interactive work for both public institutions and private companies. In 2005 he was awarded First Class Honours in BSc MediaLab Arts at the University of Plymouth. Since then he has created work at AllofUs for Tate Britain, Onedotzero (at V&A Museum) and THEpUBLIC, at Moving Brands for the Muon launch in Milan and Ico Design for the Wellcome Collection. In 2006 he was the guest curator of the Cybersonica exhibition. He regularly writes on Pixelsumo and is one of the founding member of the event series, This happened.

O'Shea’s work often incorporates alternative uses of technology to encourage people to relinquish the learnt behaviour of adulthood and reconnect with the wonderment of youth. Through his reprogramming and reassignment he hopes togive audiences fresh new perspectives, allowing them to re-evaluate their everyday surroundings. Just as a torch shines light into a darkened space to bring things into focus, this work uses the torch as a way of looking into the workings of a modern museum.

There is a childlike quality about wanting the ability to see through walls with x-ray vision like a superhero character. This memory is something Chris O’Shea wants to capture in the interactive installation Out of Bounds. The work encourages visitors to bore through the walls of the museum and engage in a ‘behind the scenes’ experience with an x-ray torch. This playful interaction encourages childlike curiosity in young and old alike, and opens up a portal into the Museum's forbidden spaces.

Shine the torch at the wall to reveal the secrets hidden beneath. Pay an anonymous visit to the staff office, collection’s store, workshop, roof hatch or plant room. “As adults, we spend less and less of our time engaging in playful activities. Our daily life and careers often get in the way. I'm interested in how play can enrich our lives. I aim to take concepts of interaction design, toys, video games and playgrounds, and bring them into our everyday objects and spaces”.

Design Museum

Q. When did you first become aware of – and interested in – design?
A. I don't recall any clear moment of awareness of design. I've always been making things for as long as I can remember. As a child I was always drawing and painting, following ambitions to be a cartoonist or an animator. Later on creating pixel stop frame animations on Amiga computers & aspirations of being a game designer. When I made my first website I was hooked on the immediacy of self publishing your designs and at 18 started a web design company which ran for a couple of years.

Q. Where did you study? And why did you decide to study design?
A. I studied at the University of Plymouth, on a course called Media Lab Arts, now called Digital Art & Technology. Technically not a design degree as it was a bachelor of science. We were taught a mixture of computer science and art history, with the intention to make interesting interactive works.

Q. What were your objectives as a student?
A. Having created websites for a number of years, I was tired of the medium. I wanted to create work using technology that existed outside of the screen & mouse. My objectives at university were to learn the technology and approaches to creating installation based project, such as camera tracking software and electronic sensors.

Q. How has your design education influenced your subsequent work as a designer?
A. Work hard and always push yourself further. Always have a solid concept that could be explained in one sentence.

Q. What other factors have influenced your approach to your work?
A. Two other activities that take up my days are my blog Pixelsumo and an event about interaction design called This happened. Pixelsumo is a snapshot of projects that exist today that I find interesting or exciting. This happened is co-curated to create a broad perspective on interaction design with a cross discipline approach. Both of these activities help me form an opinion on what I like and dislike, which in turn influences my own work.

Q. Which of your earlier projects was most important in defining your work?
A. Sonicforms, an early university project about creating interactive music composition tables. It gave me the experience of doing solid research, a conceptual approach to using open source technologies, the sharing of ideas and building communities.

Q. What impact does living in London have on your work?
A. London has become a very key place for interaction design. There are many good practitioners working here. Sharing studio space or time with them pushes you to make new work that improves on your last project.

Q. How have your objectives evolved since graduating?
A. Studying gives you precious time to experiment and just play with your ideas. Most of my time now is spent creating interactive projects for clients. A little of my time is for personal projects. My objectives are to get back to those times where all of my days are spent creating things for myself.

Q. Who or what inspires your work?
A. Seeing people being bored everyday, and the desire to change that.

Q. Where do you see your work going in the future?
A. I am very interested in play. What does it mean for something to be playful? How can play enrich our lives? Is the right to play just for children, or adults too? Can play be used in other approaches to teaching or working? I aim to make projects that explore some of these questions. Ideally without computers.

Q. How did your design for the Designers in Residence develop?
A. My original idea was to have a projection on the outside of the building, with an interface that would enable people to look into the museum when it was closed to see what was happening after hours. In the end this didn’t work out.

I wanted to create an interface that people would be familiar with every day, not some futuristic xray machine. A torch was an obvious choice as people can understand it straight away, but are very surprised when they use it to see through a wall.

Further reading

See Chris O'Shea's work at chrisoshea.org
and find out more about Chris at designmuseum.org/exhibitions/2007/designers-in-residence



Chris O'Shea, portrait Luke Hayes


Muon launch, Moving Brands Chris O'Shea


Wellcome Collection for Ico Design Chris O'Shea


Out of Bounds Chris O'Shea


Constable at Tate Britain for AllofUs Chris O'Shea

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