Future Farmers is based in San Francisco. They’ve been working for various new media and you can see some of their works on Shift. Most of you reading this may already know about them.
They’re now producing their works while staying in Japan and made this month’s cover for Shift.
Please introduce yourselves
Amy : Amy Franceschini from San Francisco, USA.
Sascha : Sascha Merg from Hamburg, Germany.
How did you guys meet?
Amy : How did we meet?
Sascha : I think Amy wrote me e-mail. I worked with a guy that worked with Amy and he gave her my e-mail address, and then she dropped me a mail and ask me to come to San Francisco.
Amy : I wrote him e-mail and said that “I want you to come see how we work on Star Wars project”, but you have to promise that we make a fun project.
Sascha : But at the beginning it was just like interactive previews. And I thought she wanted to make some movies with me. I hoped she knows I don’t have any idea of movies but I’m gonna go, anyway.
Amy : When he came to San Francisco, he came to my studio and I gave him a place to stay. When we were like working for a week, my roommate said “You know, Sascha thinks that you still gonna go to the farm. He thinks like he needs clothes like a farmer.
Sascha : This place with horses that kind of stuff. It’s not businessy at all in this agancy. I like it a lot.
Did you work together for Nutrishnia and Star Wars then?
Amy : We did tons of works for Star Wars. For that, like 3 months of work.
Sascha : We did lots of games but they really didn’t want cool stuff.
Amy : Because the film makers are used to a passive audience, and we’re doing very interactive things, and they said “Oh! take out the interactivity”. They shouldn’t have to click, you know.
Sascha : We wanted them to explore things. We’re totally different things I guess.
Sascha: People were very conservative, I think.
Amy : They were scared of the medium.
Sascha : They are not open minded. I mean, not as much as we are. We’re crazy, I guess.
How do you choose which projects you work for?
Amy : Every day we get e-mail and telephone calls. Work for e-commerce site like boo.com is really boring but makes lots of money. If we wanna make tons of money doing stupid design. But people like Swatch or Adobe, we’ve just finished these web galleries for Adobe, they called. Like we just tried to take the most interesting projects, if it sounds kind of like interesting for me, we’re super honest, really. You know like this is what we do, we want you to use shockwave, I wanna use database integration, and tell them like if we could do a project on our own, this is what we wanna do. And if they go for it, we do it.
Sascha : We’re pretty lucky too.
Amy : Yeah, usually we’re really excited. And Swatch came to San Francisco and visited all these design agencies and they came to us and like, immediately they said “We want you to do the job!” and we’re like “wow!” because that was the first time we met, you know. Usually they go away. This was super fun to work.
Sascha : I think so.
Amy : Like a best client, they like “go! go! more! more!”
Sascha : They believe us whatever we do.
Amy : Other clients kind of like “well, well…..” but Swatch was like “Yeah! We think you should do it even crazier, if you want.”
Sascha : And they say like “What do you think?”
Amy : We showed them like three versions and they go for the weirdest one. Which was like most of the time, clients like, when we show some clients, we sometimes take a bet like “Which one do you think they’re gonna choose?” and like they’re gonna take that one for sure.” You know. But Swatch was like “That one!” That’s so nice. They’re like a dream client.
How did you come to Japan?
Amy : I think, last time Shift interviewed Futurefarmers, they asked “What do you wanna do if you could do anything you wanna do,” and I said “I wanna design clothes.” And then we did this Holding Pattern(s) exhibition in San Francisco and I sent Mayumi some pictures, and they said “Can we have this for a wedding?” And I said “Sure, but it’s gonna cost a lot of money. Because it’s a very complicated thing. It’s hard to shape. Like realistically it’s just a crazy project. And she said “OK! Tell us” and I wrote down and she was like “Oh……. we’ll try, we’ll try, we’ll try” and it’s just like kind of evolved e-mails like coming, making an installation and clothes and it’s kind of like a dream like “Come! Do Futurefarmers world!” It’s pretty amazing. And so I was like “OK, with my favorite people to work with. I can’t do it alone. So Michael and Sascha. and I called Sascha.
Sascha : I was just….. I’m always waiting for a phone call. I know always which is gonna be fun.
Amy : We had this great job for Swatch too, right before we came here. So “Sascha is coming!” The work on Swatch made some money to go to Japan!”.
So you’ve just finished the work for Swatch?
Amy : We’re still……
Sascha : We finished the first face. It’s kind of like…
Amy : They came to us for lots of creative direction. Not like solid design so we did like shockwave demos of ideas that we …… I can’t really talk about it. But they were really happy.
Do you always work together like this?
Sascha : Sometimes we work over the net, but it’s not much fun. It’s more fun when you are actually two bodies in one place. It works over the net but it’s a different thing.
Amy : Because last night, we sat together.
What do you think about Japan? and/or Sapporo?
Sascha : I love it!
Amy : I love it too!
Sascha : I love the mentality like that people are careful of each other and very polite.
Amy : There is not fear like, in San Francisco, you have to always protect yourself, not only physically, but mentally. Like there are so many crazy people in my neighborhood Futurefarmer’s across the street….
Sascha : There’s a lot of aggression. I think people are crazy here too, but in a different way.
Tell me more about the wedding thing.
Amy : Basically we wanna create experience. There’s an environment but also people that come to the party are involved in it somehow. And they add to the environment and take away from it. So Sascha and I are doing a CD-ROM, that’s gonna be a gift. And it’s packaged in this little transparent bag. There’s gonna be 250 bags and gonna be like a big sculpture and people take it away as they leave. And Aya expressed that she likes cherries. So she said that one of her favorite child memories was with cherry trees somewhere in Osaka. So making kind of a conceptual cherry tree, it’s does not look like a tree but with using this transparent fabric and sawing it on to these arched tubes so a kind of tears and cherries hanging from them. And the cherries are little glass balls that have chocolate fish inside of it. And some gold dust. And 250 of these hanging, I think it would be beautiful. And then we’re designing a projection screen. That’s going to be in the middle of the room, there will be projection of secret things that we can’t talk about it, but natural beautiful 3D renderings of nature. And there would be suspended between two posts and below that there will be a big huge carpet that we’re making, it’s kind of like a place we want people to sit down and hopefully most people sit, eat and drink. And then there is a band, they’re gonna play Airking sound. Airking designed two tracks of sound and Kuniyuki Takahashi‘s gonna play. We’ve designed the costumes for all the band members. And then there’s a see-saw that we built. It’s gonna be in an entry way and so people can play on a see-saw. And the see-saw will pull different sculptual things up and down. That’s kind of the general direction. But as we’re making things, we will think something new.
How about the CD-ROM?
Amy : Secret….no, that’s a sumo game.
Sascha : It’s gonna be a game. Some other more or less interactive pieces.
Amy : Just fun sound pieces.
Amy : Because I love sumo.
Sascha : Sumo is a pretty Japanese thing.
Amy : There’s no play like traditional sumo probably. It’s got some other weird things planned to happen.
Have you seen sumo before you came here?
Sascha : Just very briefly….
Amy : Just pictures.
So you enjoyed sumo here in Japan?
Sascha : Yes, I think so.
Amy : Yeah… every time I go to the restaurant, they play it and I’m like, yeah!
Sascha : But it feels so normal here. Like I watch it in Germany, it’s so far away and I can’t really feel it. Here, I can understand it better.
When you start working together, you discuss first?
Amy : I think it’s probably a little bit frustrating at the begining. Because I have no real direction and it is just kind of like “make something” and Sascha’s like “Do you have anything?” and I’m like “not yet” and “Do you have any ideas?” and Sascha’s like “not yet” and then all explains like some weird ideas like, for the CD-ROM, I was like “I wanna have some weird sling shot” and “do someting, do some program” and then he’s like go away and program for a while. And Michael and he, for three days we had math problems to this like sling shot and to hit these pieces a little connected and they do use just square and circles and I looked at it and “Oh! I wanna make this, these graphics to go with ???” and what is it a girl spinning round and get on it or his programming sparks some idea on me and then I push his programming and he pushes my graphics.
Sascha : When I see her graphics, I know how I wanna move the graphics and the other way round, I guess.
Amy : Yeh, when he sees my graphic, he say “Oh! I can do this” and sometimes I see his programing things, “Oh! I can do this!”
So there isn’t a strong concept at the beginning?
Amy : There’s a seed.
Sascha : We both know what we wanna do but it’s not clear, it’s more of a blurry thing.
Amy : It’s like, whenever you have a clear concept in the beginning, it has to seem to be the same.
Sascha : It is a pain to go through until the end.
Amy : Yeah.
Sascha : And if you leave yourself the freedom to change whatever you feel like to change it, it’s much more fun, I think.
Amy : Yeah… like the Holding Pattern(s) piece, we had to decide, we had to propose to the gallery, so everything had to be like this big, this much, this top, everything had to be done. So I made it 3D and when we had built it, it looks exactly like that and one step before it was done, there was an studio that was beautiful “Oh! I like it like this” but we couldn’t. We had to go to the next step to finish it. Like we worked, there was no surprise because we comped everything to have been worked out. It was 3 months of work to make it. So it’s like “I like it but I’ve seen it” it’s not so exciting to me. As we work together, at the end of the work “Oh! I’ve never thought it would be like this.”
So working together is much fun for you.
Sascha : Definitely.
Amy : Totally, we can fight……. we don’t fight actually but….. we discuss things. But usually it’s not about a project. It’s about like some spiritual thing….
Sascha : I think… work is just on the top of our connection. Work is what we express but we work on completely different things actually. (That’s the reason we do nothing only with media. It’s just a channel.)
Futurefarmers’ stuff, they are almost alway soft. You don’t like bright colors?
Amy : I’m getting more into bright colors. Now I like blue. I never like blue before. I guess, like when I did the Holding Pattern(s) project, there are bright birds inside of the ball and outside there was screen, so the bird looking pale, and I kept thinking “Why do I always cover everything up and make it pale? Why is it?” and for me it just like it’s more dreamy, it’s soft….
Sascha : It’s not so defined. You can always imagine something.
Amy : Yes, I think so…. bright colors, yeah, they scare me sometimes. But see, I’m getting more bright colours.
What’s the Internet for you?
Sascha : For me, the Internet is just a picture that there’s always between us. Like we are all connected through the Internet. And the Internet just tries to project, to show that.
Amy : It’s like a collective consiousness to me. One interesting thing is, if you look at the amount of information that’s on the internet, and what kind is mostly like porn, you know porn is huge, you think about like “wow! that’s what is in our heads! you know?”
Sascha : Yeah! that’s we’re always thinking about the most. If you want to see the pictures, our consiousness is in the Internet.
Amy : It’s also great for me to access original information, especially recently. I tried to reserch some robotic material. Anytime I had questions there’s searching and I find a lecture online or even schools.
Sascha : And everyone has their own channel to say what they want to say. It’s not the controlled medium, it’s the only one I guess. It’s pretty good. You can get in contact with people that think the same even it’s a small group on earth, you still can be connected.
Why you do such a variety of stuff?
Amy : I don’t really ever think that I’m a desiger, like I just like to make things and the Internet is really the fastest way for me to make something. Like you make it, post it and it’s done. But the physical part is lacking. Like there’s no boundaries of full ideas, like if you wanna make a card, you should make a card. And if you wanna build a house, you should build your house. And meeting people like Michael, for instance, he is so inspirational like my father who builds everything. Michael, if you have a candle but no candle holder, he cramps it together. He also pushes what you’re thinking about. When we start thinking about materials and then how light looks like with the material ….. makes you think of more senses than just your sight.
Sascha : I think it’s balances. Like to do something on the material, you can lose all spirit in the world of computers.
Amy : Like Sascha’s sawing now too.
Sascha : Yeah, I love it! It’s nice. It so relaxing somehow to have this piece in your hand and you stop thinking. That’s so nice. With computers you’re in infinity. You never stop thinking.
Tell me about the concept of the cover of Shift this month.
Sascha : For me, it’s to be thrown into the new environment. To be outside of your youth environment and just take it try and see what’s happening. Things evolve naturally.
Amy : Michael, Sascha and I, living in this cabin together and we have this triangle. And everyday we have some spiritual conversation like about the idea of life. And we always kind of somehow agree, we are all connected and there’s this fiber of people and fiber of consiousness. And this cover is like being thrown into some place new and things that you bump into something else and effect. Just like whatever you’re doing effect other people and I just think like this girl is trying to fly and on her way she hits things and then those things get off and falling. So it’s more like, it’s just a play thing but it’s like, when you pull this little gummy, it’s like a little sling shot. Other things are affected by it. And Sascha and Mikel worked on this math problem for like three days to make this happen. It was kind of exciting.
What inspires you?
Amy : Sascha.
Sascha : Amy…… I think, everything that surrounds you.
Amy : Right now I’m super inspired by Japanese awnings. Like behind Take’s house, there’s a park, and then for golden week, they had these like food stands by the temple. Foods and games stuff and there was like orange awnings….. all these things hanging….. I love that, I don’t know why. So the wedding’s gonna be kind of like that.
Sascha : I think traveling keeps my mind open to see things in a different way. I try to not get used to anything like always appreciate my suroundings. Never think like I know what it is. I’m trying but it’s not so easy. Like keeping a child’s perspective.
Any plans for the future?
Sascha : …………
Amy : …………
Sascha : ………. I don’t really like plans.
So you always wait for a phone call?
Sascha : No, no, it’s not like that….
Amy : We’re going to Italy to teach a workshop at Fabrica.
Sascha : I’m gonna see my son in summer. I eventually want try to make a little agency in San Francisco and Hamburg. It’s more experimental like find a new forms. This is kind of interesting. I’m looking forward to it.
Translation: Mayumi Kaneko