We had a chance to meet an artist at the Continent exhibition in Brussels featured in this month’s Shift. Tuomo Tamenpaa is a Finnish designer artist who set up a huge advertisment in a corner of the room for a virtual product : Need. Just behind a window displaying some packaging bearing the effigy of the make, a computer connected to www.needweb.org takes in the new participants’ registrations. The experience continues in town where the visitor is invited to look for collector cards broken up in different places by the artist and allowing him to go beyond higher levels on the web site.

Please, introduce yourself.

My name is Tuomo Tammenpaa. I’m a 31 year old Creative Director and media artist from Finland.

Can you explain in a few words what is Need?

Need is an artificial, simulated brand. It is a laboratory project for exploring brand building and product culture in western consumer society. It is a playground for me to manufacture wants by imitating, copying and remixing marketing models from the culture surrounding us. The Project is divided into three parts. There is a marketing campaign, a website and an exhibition.

How did you get the idea for this project?

The project started from exploration of artificial needs emerging in consumer culture. I was fascinated about the trend of the image marketing taking over the product it was promoting. I played with the idea of discarding the product away completely. The brand Need was created to explore this idea.

Until what point the interactivity can Need involve the “Customer”?

Need operates on seduction and curiosity. The customer is questioning if there is something more behind this camouflaged visual surface of plenitude. There are also different status levels in Need members club, so everything is not given at once. This need to visit the website again and again in order to gain more status is one driving force there. The actual interactivity is very limited on purpose. I need this limitation for keeping the power and control clear between me and the customers. Due to my lack of resources to produce constantly new material, the customer involvement does not go very far, but still far enough to trigger some new thoughts in their heads.

Can Need become a real good of consummation?

The objective is to try if these marketing mechanisms work without the product. So there is actually nothing to consume. On the other hand, the collected information is a price for membership for instance, so some consuming has happened already. I have been so focused on redesigning this phase lately that the future is a bit unclear. Still, testing the Need by making a _real_ campaign with billboards and TV -spots would be the ultimate fulfillment of Need. But this is possible only if I sell the whole brand for the biggest Japanese consumer goods enterprise for instance 🙂

Tell us about your partners in Need and about Mindworks.

Need has been my personal project for three years. In this year the whole thing has been redesigned. For practical reasons our company Mindworks has been the production company for Need starting this year. I have had significant help from our programmer Tom Niemi in database design and the physical Installations are made together with my father Seppo Tammenpaa. Conceptually I have had indispensable support from my college media artist Heidi Tikka. Apart from that I have produced it all by myself from initiative concept to debugging the last flash script and assembling the installation.

Mindworks is a digital design production company based in Helsinki, Finland. We have an office in Barcelona and we are currently in process of starting operations in Central Europe. We make new media production with the next focus on streaming media. Recently we have started work on 3G mobile interfaces as well. We employ just over dozen multi-talented people together with a vast network of media professionals.

What is for you the specificity of Finnish savoir-faire concerning multimedia and graphism?

In fact Finland has a long history in technological innovation which reflects to multimedia development as well. This has led to a technologically driven society which is unfortunate. However, in defense reaction to this there are interesting things happening at the moment when the most creative people has need to produce meaningful content, more from point of view of telling a story or creating an experience than masturbating with the newest technological dongles.
The visual communication in Finland is, in my opinion, average European level. Perhaps dissolving a bit too much to the general trends there. We should be more confident in using our Finnish roots in design as well. Culturally Finland is quite a unique case in Europe.

What are your influences concerning the aesthetic part of your works?

In the Need project I have played with strong simple graphics influenced by American TV-shops and Japanese information graphics to mention some. Generally I see trends and styles as tools for communication and the debate on originality and imitation is quite naive for me. We sample, we copy, we filter and recycle everything we see. Some do it well by concentrating on the message and some do it quite self-referentially which is usually not interesting.

What is your current activity and your next projects?

“I’m concentrating on my mission to defend quality and meaningfulness in new media business.” I should print that on a T-shirt 🙂 Seriously, I’ll try to have time to still work on Need but I have to concentrate on our company’s assignments and exporting our expertise on international market for a while. Also I need to catch up what is happening outside my pink Needworld, so I’ll do bit of research (read: spying on you) and I’ll have also an opportunity to visit Japan in late November which is one dream coming true. You can check our stuff from: Mindworks.fi, I’ve been involved with most of the projects there.

What is the aim and the interest of an exhibition like the Continent?

It is extremely important that in the middle of a rapidly expanding information society that creative people can show how to use this new technology as a tool. This kind of exhibition and the workshop that took place before it are quite rare forums to experiment without the usual restrictions of “commercial work”, but still aiming at a concrete setup with deadlines and quality controls.

Text: Julien Villaret
Transletion: Mayumi Kaneko

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