Remarkable And What Lies Beyond

When you look at a photograph, read a novel or eat at a good restaurant what do you expect?

A good capture of a single moment in time, a nice story and a decent meal. Right?

What if these expectations are messed up and you need to discover for yourself a whole new experience in consuming these products/services? Let’s start with Stephen Wilkes.

The Photograph

Each photographer tends to have an area of interest. i.e., a fascination of architecture or people or nature etc. But what if as a photographer, you are fascinated by architecture and people and cities and also nurture a love of ‘shooting history’? Stephen Wilkes is one such guy and has a way of going about it.

  • He starts at a vantage point that can afford a panoramic view of the location of an iconic land mark
  • Then he shoots what he calls the ‘naked plate’ – a shot of the land mark with absolutely no one in it – in other words  a completely deserted landscape of the location
  • Then over a span of over 12 to 15 hours from dawn to dusk in a day, he takes nearly 1,500 pictures of the same location from the same angle, while also taking mental notes of the shifting landscape and the random events unfolding below him
  • After this action at the location, he then selects about 50 final shots from which to over lay the final composite picture that seamlessly merges the action that had unfolded between dawn and dusk at that single place in a single shot!

Result – pictures of a place that are panoramas in ‘Day to Night’ that can throw your brain off the hook. Each picture in this series can look like a magical landscape suspended along a tapestry of time. Don’t believe me? Then let his pictures from his newest body of work titled ‘Day to Night‘ do the talking.

Shanghai

(Stephen Wilkes, Source, Shanghai, Bund)

Times Square

(Stephen Wilkes, Source, Times Square)

The November 25 Edition of TIME features a photo essay based on Stephen’s work. As the article puts it,

A lot can happen between sunrise and sunset especially when Stephen Wilkes is photographing it. 

The Novel

OK, so this is going to be difficult. For how do I write about a book that redefines the very experience of a book?

S. – a novel by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst, released on Oct 29th 2013 is a first of its kind experiment in book design, layout, narratives and structure. It is a book that stands out because of its unprecedented ambition, creativity and inventiveness.

For the first time you might actually feel a need for a ‘guide’ on how to read a novel! There are three enmeshing story lines in S. :

  • First you have the story in this book by name “Ship Of Theseus”
  • Second you have the mystery about the fictional author of this book by name V.M. Straka
  • And third you have the dialogue between the two readers of this book by name Jennifer and Eric, who communicate to each other via hand written notes along the margins and inserts

Designed by the New York-based design firm Melcher Media, this is a book that can easily be an inspiration for a generation of designers, writers, novelists, publishers and marketers to come for years! Read this FastCompany article for more details.

As the article says..

It’s difficult to decide exactly how to start reading S.–a sort of 3D Infinite Jest with a pop sensibility–and nearly impossible to imagine how it ever got written.

See this video to get a feel of what is inside the book

Trying to explain this book is like trying to explain the plot of ‘Inception‘ and raving about the genius of its concept. The only way to appreciate the ingenuity of this art form is to get a book and start reading. I – for one – cannot wait to begin my magical adventure with S. and discover a whole new experience of consuming a novel!

The Restaurant

Earlier this month, DiverXo has become just the eighth Spanish restaurant to win an unbeatable third Michelin star. With an unassuming kitchen that measures just 30 square meters, it is the only establishment in the Spanish capital to hold the honour. But that’s not the big deal.

The big deal is how DiverXo – led by the Spanish chef David Munoz – turns every single convention on its head as a restaurant.

  • For starters, upon entering, every diner is given a one page manifesto on how to best enjoy the food in the restaurant. All they need is to surrender every preconceived notion and suspend judgement and just do as they are told
  • Once seated, DiverXo offers a choice between a ‘short menu’ (7 dishes,  €95, lasting 2.5 hrs) and a ‘long menu’ (11 dishes,  €140, lasting 4 hrs).  Both menus are exquisitely choreographed as unprecedented gastronomic experiences by the chefs
  • For e.g., as per TripAdvisor,when a dish arrives on the table prepare to be instructed to eat with even a spatula!
  • And as per this AFP article, no sooner do you dig into say – a raw cod fillet drizzled with boiling olive oil and accompanied by potato skins and pickled chilies, don’t be shocked if a cook bursts in to you and lays on hot mayonnaise
  • Later, as you chew more another chef could arrive with a cream of cod and sea urchin

And the shocks and surprises continue.

rp-diverxo-1

(DiverXo, Artful dishes that push the limits of fusion cuisine, Source)

Besides, as per this AFP article ..

  • Even the design of the food can tend to defy expectation. For e.g., a fiendish ketchup of chili and tabasco makes the dish of duck dumplings and fried ducks’ tongues resemble a blood-splattered murder scene
  • The menu lists not ingredients but rather sensations: sweet, sour and, in the case of one star dish, the “Hannibal Lecter”, sharp

As the article says..

The self-proclaimed “brutal” approach of this tiny eatery, where the cooks rush to add ingredients to diners’ plates mid-bite, has made it one of the most unusual restaurants ever to join the world’s gastronomic elite.

In summary DiverXo is a first of its kind restaurant where the rules are simple: Come with an open mind, trust the chefs, expect to be shocked and prepare to be surprised as you embark on a culinary adventure like never before.

May be food is almost besides the point here. Or may be it’s all about the magically shocking experience of what a restaurant has never been yet!   

All about experiences that redefine the product, category and consumer expectations

So the next time when we think of ‘elevating consumer experience’, it could be worthwhile to remind ourselves of these extra ordinary examples that go beyond this ‘elevating the experience’ mould. Three brave, ingenious and creative examples where the very experience of the product has been redefined, our expectations as consumers defied and all norms of the category disbanded.

So now you know. What lies beyond remarkable?

Magic –  after all –  could indeed be serious business!

Soundscapes And Sonic Tapestries: Part 1/2

See: Visualize :: Hear: (?)

Can you believe that there is officially no word in the English language that can encapsulate this? Doesn’t exactly do justice to our ability to invoke our mind’s ear to identify, create, re-create and remix sounds and thereby trigger emotions, memories and associations within us. No wonder, the aural realm remains an under exploited, and in some cases, under appreciated dimension to inform and enrich our perceptual experience. Take two of our most common habitats:

(1) Our Constructed Spaces (Architecture)  

So far the practice and purpose of architecture was anchored by the ‘eye’ and for the ‘eye’. Ears – apparently – were compelled to take a back seat and thereby had limited influence over design decisions (unless we speak about amphitheaters). Result –  offices, schools, homes, malls, restaurants and the list goes on, that are so poorly designed so much so that they actually do us more harm than any possible good! Not entirely convinced? See this TED video by Julian Treasure:

(2) Nature  

There was a time when wild soundscapes were considered just some exotic/charming artifacts of nature. But as it turns out,every habitat is believed to have its own unique sound signature – a sonic tapestry that can potentially convey an incredible amount of information about the present state and the future fate of any given place/habitat.

First a quick dose of general knowledge. A soundscape is made up of three basic sources:

  1. Geophony: these are non-biological sounds that occur in any given habitat, e.g., wind, water, waves etc.
  2. Biophony: these are sounds  generated by organisms in a given habitat at a given time and place.
  3. Anthrophony: these are sounds that we humans generate. e.g., our music, noise from machinery, automobiles etc.

So at any given point in time and place, anything that we hear is composed of these three kinds of sounds, and can be graphically represented in a Spectrogram – a graphic illustration of sound with time represented from left to right and sound frequencies represented from the bottom to the top, lowest to highest.

In an incredibly ‘earopening’ TED talk that is insightful, shocking, profound, inspiring and immensely thought provoking, Bernie Krause – a natural sounds expert –  proves that while a picture may be worth 1,000 words, a soundscape is worth 1,000 pictures. If there is one TED video that you need to see this week, let this one be the one – a must see:

In many ways these two talks could be said to be a call to action for us to resist our ‘natural’ instinct of zoning out most of the sound that reaches our ears and to start appreciating our faculty of hearing for how it can enrich our perceptual experience.

On a related note, let me submit my following hypothesis:

I started off by saying that in the English language we don’t seem to be having a word that can effortlessly fit in the following context

See: Visualize :: Hear: (?)

My guess would be that there might be some language out there (Chinese? Japanese? Korean? etc) that might have just the apt word for it. If so, my hypothesis would be that, such a country/culture must be having sonically richer traditions, must be producing relatively higher number of music prodigies and must be having general public with greater appreciation of sound and our faculty of hearing. And as an extension, I would also risk a bet that people from such a culture would also be adept at living in the now and here and appreciating everything about it.

Does your language have a word for this?

To Be Continued…

(Featured Image, Source)