What is Blue Print?

Blue Print is a project by me, Rachel Sale. It’s a response to my time spent at the V&A museum, as Adobe Illustrator-in-Residence.

Since starting this 12-month residency at the V&A, I’ve become hyper aware of the evolution of museums and curious about who gets to shape them as we move into the future. So, I decided to start this project, which aims to map out some ideas for imaginary, future museums.

I want to create an opportunity for others to join me in doing this. I believe we’ve all got good ideas for the future and seeing as museums are often public spaces, we should all feel empowered to dream about the role they play in our lives.

So, I’ve created a method that supports individuals to dream up new museums. The methods helps you to avoid preconceptions about museums and instead supports you to draw on your embodied memories for inspiration. Each person who tries the method will generate an vision of a future museum. 

For this first stage of the project, I’ve invited a select group of people to try the method. They’re people from across the world who, in different ways, are actively redefining how cultural spaces operate. The method is reaching them by means of a travelling sketchbook.

The contributions collected in the sketchbook will then inspire a series of illustrations that I will make this summer – blue prints that describe the speculative museums we have collectively imagined.

Research and Inspiration

I’m keen to share with you the various practices have inspired my approach to the Blue Print project.

Visualising the Future

A big theme within this project is visualising the future. As an Illustrator, I believe that vivid, engaging imagery of the future can help us to explore and ultimately create the future. 

William Scott (b. 1964 San Francisco) is an artist that paints utopian visions of San Francisco, which he renames ‘Praise Frisco’. The visions are based on Scott’s memories of ‘wholesome encounters’ he’s experienced. His aim is to remind viewers how beautiful the city and its communities can be.

Science fiction writing as a method for exploring speculative futures. Some of my favourite reads are Cygnet by Season Butler, The City and the City by China Miéville and The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin.

Dolphin Embassy concept drawing by Ant Farm
Architecture groups like Ant Farm (1970-80s USA) who made architectural proposals that were designed to present political / social / artistic statements, rather than feasible, conventional buildings.

Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid was also a painter whose abstract paintings inspired her buildings. “She found abstraction allowed her to avoid preconceived architectural ideas and generate new plans and forms."

I once visited Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan. The Heydar Aliyevw Centre, a new building for the country’s cultural programmes had been built and designed by Hadid. Many people told me that the building was designed to break free from the rigid Soviet architecture that is prevelent in Baku. But even more people told me the building was based on the president’s signature! I don’t know if that’s true, but I like imagining Hadid allowing the expressive lines of a clients signature create a vision for a nation’s future!

Participatory Methods & Collective Making

I’m interested in democratic processes and, like most of my projects, Blue Print invites many people to take part and help shape the work. 

Pina Bausch (b. 1940 Germany) is a choreographer who asked her dancers to show her their bodily ‘gestures’ in response to her prompts ie. ‘show me the moon!” Then she used those gestures “like paints” and created compositions with them.

Consequences’ or ‘Picture Consequences’ is a Surrealist drawing game/method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled to create a surprising result. 

My organisation F.A.T. Studio used this method when we were creating the logo for our new community arts space, Old Kent Road Arts Club. We wanted to create a logo that represented the joy of working together.

I found a beautiful sketchbook in the V&A archive. It belonged to the illustrator Richard Doyle (b. 1824, London). He had shared it with his companions, who added drawings to it, which he would then respond to. I love the idea of a sketchbook as a shared space. Also see The Two Pages Project, by Konstantinos Trichas and Dionysis Livanis, which I was lucky enough to be part of in 2018. 

This book, How We Hold, has taught me a lot about the ethics of working collectively. It’s a gathering of essays, reflections and case studies from creatives who have run projects within the Serpentine Gallery’s Education and Civic programmes. 

I’m grateful to my the V&A’s programme producer Dhiyandra Natalegawa for bringing this book to my attention and for the time we’ve spent exploring how to work ethically within an institution. 

Museum Dreaming: The Method

The method I’ve created is based on the idea that our bodies store important memories that could help us understand what’s important for the future.

The method asks each individual to reflect on the 3 memories

1. A memory of an OBJECT that inspired them
2. A memory of a SPACE that inspired them
3. A memory of a HUMAN INTERACTION that inspired them

During the activity, these memories are unfurled within the individual’s body, through a series of writing and drawing prompts.

Then, with these memories flowing their mind, they fill in the blanks in a statement that describes a future museum – one that is based on those memories. 

What I hope this method does is help people to consider the essence of museums, rather than preconceived ideas about how they should be. I reckon OBJECT, SPACE AND HUMAN INTERACTION are 3 of the most essential parts of museums. So, by asking people to reflect on their own positive memories of these 3 things and then helping them to reconstruct those memories as visions of the future, I hope I am sharing a tool that enables empowered speculation and visioning. 

Journey of the Sketchbooks

We’ve produced 15 sketchbooks which hold the method! 10 people can contribute to each sketchbook and we’re now in the process of sending them out across the world!