Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and for Sung Jang, an industrial designer and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, it’s the subject of his research on why we perceive certain abstract forms positively. He’s boiled it down to two concepts: elegance and extravagance.
“Elegance is what I call efficiency between effort and result,” he says. “When big things are achieved by seemingly small effort, elegance occurs. Extravagance is when effort is displayed at full scale. There was a joke when I was going to school—’when in doubt, paint it red, make it big, and make a shit load of it.'”
In his ongoing project called Mobi, Jang explores the dueling parameters of elegance and extravagance. “It creates complexity with the simplest of ideas: repeated modularity,” Jang says.
For the first time, Jang explored Mobi at an architectural scale and built a 24-by-9.5-by-8-foot structure for This Is Not A Duet, an exhibition at the design gallery Chamber on view through July 3. To put it into perspective, its footprint of 230 square feet is about half the size of a typical NYC studio apartment and a hair smaller than the microunits under construction in the city. A team of several people spent two days assembling more than 18,000 units to complete the design.
Jang wanted the individual modules to be self-supporting and so he arrived at a triangular, pyramid-like form. “There’s a subtle reference to natural things in the curvature of each unit,” he says. The pieces are injection-molded, semi-opaque polypropylene and snap together. Jang and his team have built tables, chandeliers, and even a massive 24-foot-long whale (which appeared at Volume Gallery in Chicago) with Mobi modules.
Jang remains undaunted by the manpower and shear quantity of pieces involved with this installation, and wants to do something even bigger for the next round. “I think it’ll do well as temporary architecture, large public art, where public interaction with the environment is present.”