Here’s what happened when history met mystery during one of our recent design projects.
National Trust Tasmania selected at+m to conceive and produce a 28-page events program, posters and postcards for the 2011 Tasmanian Heritage Festival. With the title of this year’s month-long festival being, “LAMINGTONS TO LASERS: Our Agricultural Heritage”.
Needless to say, a theme like that was always going to be challenging and inspiring at the same time.
The client wanted something bold, unconventional… provocative, even.
A concept that makes you think. Something beyond the historical clichés of lace doilies, lamingtons and leisurely cups of tea on the verandas of stately sandstone homesteads.
It was time to switch to lateral mode.
The design process – as with most art – often involves mixing things up a bit. People throw around expressions like juxtaposition and visual collision; and yes, they’re techniques but, however you arrive there,
the main thing is to achieve ‘a meaningful surprise’ – a moment of connection between the viewer and the viewed.
Our client had mentioned that the ‘LASERS’ reference in the title was an acknowledgement of how far farming had come in recent decades. Apparently, nowadays, they employ laser-guided land levelling to maximise the use of irrigated water across a field before the crops are planted.
Hmm, lasers… now there’s a useful device. Especially for creating a little drama.
How about space age spaghetti western meets Alice in Wonderland trippyness?
And so, in the hero concept, we see our laser-toting farmer protecting his priceless poppy crop from an unseen Thylacine. You can just feel the sense of menace and intrigue.
As for our elusive Tassie Tiger, of course, there’s a part of all of us that hopes somehow one (or better still, a breeding pair) ‘made it’, so to speak. That, somewhere, deep in the Tarkine, or the northeastern forests, or the impenetrable wilderness of the southwest, the now mythical creature lives on.
It seems almost revered these days but, a century ago, the Thylacine was considered by some to be public enemy no.1. Unfortunately, over several decades, farmers and bounty hunters systematically wiped them out because, allegedly, the Tiger had developed a particular taste for sheep’s blood. This is what sealed its fate. The rest is always history.
And as for those opium poppies in the picture…
Well, they’re actually a very important part of the State’s agricultural success story. Many don’t know it, but just over half of the planet’s legal opium supply comes from here. It’s big business – with Tasmania being the world’s single largest producer of concentrated poppy straw (extracted alkaloids) destined to produce morphine and codeine for the pharmaceutical industry.
Speaking of cash crops, just as a little aside, here’s another instance of wildlife getting in on the act. Though, this time with far less tragic, albeit unusual, results:
A couple of years ago, BBC NEWS ran a story under the bewildering headline: ‘Stoned wallabies make crop circles’
In short, the equation is this:
hungry animal + Papaver somniferum = crop circles.
So, from mellow marsupials to Merino sheep. This brings us to the ‘LAMINGTONS’ concept. We created an almost Wonka-esque scene depicting a pilgrimage to a magical valley where a giant chocolate sponge becomes a sweet place for lambs to graze. Now, you might think we’re suspending reality here but sheep HAVE been known to behave strangely at times.
Clearly, this project was a lot of fun. The festival program also includes, as you would expect, a recipe for ‘the iconic cake’ plus quotes from well known people with a connection to Tasmania.
For example, Sydney superchef Tetsuya Wakuda touches on the history of the lamington plus his preference for Tasmania’s agricultural produce:
the ocean trout, the blue-vein cheese, the wine,
the wasabi, the leatherwood honey and so on.
In producing this piece, it was refreshing to work with a passionate and creatively adventurous client. Every brief and every category demands its own tone but, here, a little irreverence worked a treat. And the team really enjoyed putting it together.