1 December 2021
SUSPENSION: THE ART OF COLLABORATION
London Flower School recently collaborated with the Gatehouse Quintet - a London/ Southampton-based five-piece jazz ensemble - to create a unique experience that blended the musical with the visual. We invited the quintet to perform a live-streamed concert surrounded by an immersive installation, SUSPENSION, which was created by our students and led by Creative Director Marzena Joseph as a vital project in the October Career Course. The merging of these two mediums, floristry and music, was a powerful deconstruction of the boundaries that many florists choose to work within.
At London Flower School, we approach floristry as the creation or emergence of art through flowers – not simply as a preoccupation with flowers themselves. This event helped demonstrate that important process to our students, letting them redefine their own boundaries as florists and look beyond our classroom walls to the world of professional floristry that lies beyond them.
Alberto Lopez, a student on the course who now works at Soho Flowers in the Soho Home flagship store, Chelsea, explained the practical value of the exercise: “It was great to see a project through from A to Z; from conceptualisation to the final outcome of the concert. Throughout, we had to consider all the practicalities of a real-life event and how to adapt our design around them – aiming for the installation to be both practical and beautiful whilst still conveying our message and enhancing the live performance.”
EXPERIENCING THE WORLD OF PROFESSIONAL FLORISTRY
At London Flower School, we believe that developing an insight into the professional life of florists outside of the classroom is a fundamental part of the education process. Since working floristry always involves collaboration between people, art forms, and ideas, we ensure our students get the opportunity to work on interdisciplinary projects and group work.
SUSPENSION marked the first group project of the October Career Course. The students had to work together, combining their unique skills and experiences into one cohesive team, in order to execute Marzena’s design and brief. The aim of the class was also to give the students the experience of working for a real-life event, in this case a concert. Not only did they have to consider the design, but also the practicalities of working around other people and in a new location.
Alberto explained: “I learnt how to follow the initial sketch design as well as the importance of stepping back to see the progression of the design - working with flowers and plants (living things) means that unexpected events can occur throughout the creation of the installation. I also learnt the importance of good and stable mechanics, especially in hanging installations.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The installation consists of suspended Miscanthus grass ‘pom-poms’. The title SUSPENSION refers to the mechanic deployed – a fundamental skill to learn in floristry as hanging installations are very popular. However, its use goes beyond the pragmatic. Understanding the technical skills that allow one to create suspended installations opens up a range of new creative possibilities, letting florists access additional spaces and visual effects.
SUSPENSION also relates to the auditory elements of the concert. It is a musical term, which can be defined as “a means of creating tension by prolonging a consonant note while the underlying harmony changes.” At the deepest level, this concept includes that of collaboration: without a second chord to resolve to, the impact and purpose of a suspended note is lost. For the message of our work to be conveyed, therefore, we need the support and input of others.
TOGETHER, WE ARE MORE THAN THE SUM OF OUR PARTS
Collaboration, the: “act of working with another person or group of people to create or produce something” (Oxford Dictionary).
Within the world of floristry, collaboration is essential. A florist cannot create without ingredients from their suppliers; financial input from their clients; the assistance of other florists to execute large scale projects; and set-designers, photographers, and videographers to capture and elevate their work. Whilst every florist works differently, none consistently work alone. These collective collaborations are fundamental to expanding the ways in which we work, whether that be from a practical, logistical, financial, or creative, standpoint. This also applies to music, especially to the genre of Jazz.
Jazz is fundamentally an improvisatory art form. The real-time spontaneous composition and arrangement of music requires an intuitive synergy between musicians, as each individual responds and reacts to the others’ playing. While each musician’s sound is shaped by their own aesthetic, emotional, and musical preferences and experiences, the connection of these sounds into a single auditory experience, or network, is always a collective act.
MORE THAN JUST PEOPLE
London Flower School believes that collaboration can go beyond that of two (or more) human parties. When a florist is inspired and aided by the shape, texture, or colour of their ingredients, it becomes a collaboration between them and nature. This is why we encourage our students to seek inspiration beyond flowers and to incorporate other mediums into their designs. SUSPENSION was conceived of as an event for students to learn this lesson organically.
Without the musicians, SUSPENSION is a hanging installation of varying depths, making use of negative space and textures. However, with the addition of the band positioned throughout it, the installation’s composition changes. The Miscanthus grass ‘pom-poms’ move between each person, coming to life as the band begins to play, adding a dynamic quality to the experience. Not only did the ethereal composition complement the music, but so did the specific use of the Miscanthus grass: its soft texture mirrored the musical sublimity, adding to the songs’ dramatic, story-telling nature, as well as the band’s aesthetic.
Alberto described the potential that such interdisciplinary collaborations offer: “Music and floristry are all about creating a particular universe and combining them both together can only enhance the experience whether it’s including a floral/botanical design in a live gig, music video or photoshoot.”
Not only did the physicality of the band influence SUSPENSION’S design, but also, perhaps more importantly, their sound inspired it. Collaboration runs so much deeper than just people; this was a collaboration between the visual and the aural, the natural and the technological, the material and the conceptual.
A special thank you to former LFS student Alberto Lopez for his comments.
Photography and videography by Yoav Pichersky.