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Lemonface does semi permanent

Last week Lemonface Creative attended Semi Permanent 2022 at the magnificent St James Theatre in Wellington. After two years in which our lives were disrupted by the pandemic, so too has our perspective on the future completely shifted.

To be back in a familiar environment, surrounded by like-minded creative brains listening to the great and the good of the design world was nothing short of cathartic.

So, what exactly is Semi Permanent, and what is it all about?

Semi Permanent brings together internationally renowned designers, artists and creative icons for live events, presentations, workshops and conversations. We’ve been to several of these now over the years. Historically Semi Permanent has been Auckland based and it was great to have it hosted in Wellington this year, and for the next two years (if the rumours are to be believed). It felt right to be here. The fit felt right. The buzz of anticipation was rife and the excitement at making new acquaintances and making new contacts (friends even) was palpable.

2022 marks the 20th anniversary of Semi Permanent — a demarcation in the evolution of both their purpose and their organisation. A milestone like this triggers a moment of reflection, imploring us to look back on our achievements and mistakes as the things that helped shape where we are today. It begs us to look forward, too, challenging us to think about where we might be in another 20 years’ time, or at least where we hope to be. After all, the future is a destination we can only get to by acknowledging where we come from and deciding what to bring with us and what to leave behind.

the platform ‘PERSPECTIVE’. The way we look at the world has changed, and with this foresight comes a different approach to engaging with the world around us. At a time when traditional binaries are being dismantled — whether sexual, political, cultural or creative — the year ahead seems a timely moment to reassess the lens that we place on our past, present and future, and to make room for new and varied perspectives.

The Venue

Designed and built in 1912 by Henry Eli White, the Category 1 Heritage status building is home of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and one of Wellington's favourite theatres.

In 2015 the building was found to be earthquake-prone, and work to strengthen the theatre to a minimum of 67 percent of the New Building Standard started in April 2019 – as well as other improvements including upgrades to staging, lighting, sound, air conditioning and rigging systems, plus fire protection, mechanical and electrical systems.

As we sat and absorbed the beauty and the history of our surroundings, we got to thinking of the gargoyles looking down on us. The gold gilded cherubs mischievously perched above our heads. What did they make of the empty seats below their gaze when the virus and the earthquake-prone issues meant none of us could enter through the theatre doors. We’d like to think they were happy to see us back, and we as patrons were most definitely delighted to be there.

We’ll be honest here. Some Semi Permanent events we have attended have been inspiring, thought provoking and memorable. Others less so. 2022 was a GOOD one. Maybe the hiatus meant we enjoyed it all the more, but the organisers should be praised for curating such a stellar line up of speakers. Each one brought something to the stage. They delivered with enthusiasm and we as patrons lapped it up. And they brought examples of their work to share. This is a must for creatives like us. Yes, we want to know about the psychology and journey of their work, but ultimately, we want to see the end result(s). And we did.

The Line-up Day 1

Ethan Eisemann from Slack spoke about translating workplaces into workspaces.

Karen Walker gave us her insight into building a global profile whilst remaining true to home.

Tim Harper of Glorious gave us the low down of NFT’s. We think we understand them now!?

Mikaela Jade of Indigital spoke of connecting cultural knowledge and digital skills.

One of our faves was The Sharesies founders who explained how they financially empowered a new generation through technology and creativity.

Tony Bradbourne of the aptly named Special Group gave us his take the value in searching left-of-centre perspectives that then be applied to the many.

The very energetic and recently unemployed Todd Yellin from Netflix and their journey on reshaping the way we consume content.

Rest (our brains and hearts were full at days end).

The Line-up Day 2
The extremely confident Hector Ouilhet from Google on getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Johnson Witehira, Maori artist designer and academic and his incredible work that fuses traditional culture with contemporary practice.

Liz Ham the Sydney based photographer and author spoke of notions of punk and portraiture, fashion and feminism.

Jess Johnson, Kiwi born, NYC based artist discussed the concept world-building in her animation, music, fashion, VR and textile artwork.

Ben Dalgleish and Ian Valentine dove deep into bringing human ideas to life through creative direction, lighting, and production design.

The Foreign Policy Design Group and their unique insights into their independent creative practice.

Tony Holzner on inventing intuitive visitor experiences that inspire curiosity.

Steve Dunstan (hero of ours) demonstrated the strength of a homegrown brand built through community (a much visited and welcome theme this year).

Kris Sowersby talked of type design and delivered a journey from concept to finished product that was personal, and both emotive and creative, a real highlight.

Rik Campbell of RESN on how learning how brands can stand out through digital development, design and immersive experiences.

Danny Coster on developing unique design DNA through elevating your inner champion of bold ideas.

Wade and Leta brought the event to a close by speaking of combining purposeful eclecticism and performative design to create satisfying and emotional values.

Rest, lots and lots of rest!

What did we take away?

Well, apart from the obligatory goodie bag(s) we took away the wisdom of some great minds. We took away new connections and the rekindling of old friends. We took away the sheer delight of being in a dark and beautiful room and the joy of listening. Intently listening. We remembered what life was like pre pandemic. These are the good times people, and we must never take them for granted.

Take care, see you next month.