Senan Lee and Pansy Aung make up the duo Salt’n’Pepper Squid, and they specialize in making innovative and often humorous advertising campaigns that range from magazine spreads to promotional videos. Their recent evolution from individual creative producers to collaborators—in June of this year—has inspired new ways of thinking that reach beyond the campaigns the duo are accustomed to making. In September, they came up with their first artistic collaboration, The Diving Bell (2013).
In the age of visual culture, the distinction between art and advertising can be a bit unclear, but is not without precedents. Many well-known designers, advertisers, and documentarians—Charles and Ray Eames, Norman Rockwell, and Werner Herzog, to name a few—work in overlapping spheres of production that all circle around the formation and implementation of utilitarian yet rarified ideas. Making these distinctions can be a bit like splitting hairs. The question is, to what ends do these projects aim? Senan and Pansy’s The Diving Bell implies that a key difference for them, in creating artwork vs. campaign work, is that The Diving Bell is a reflection and exploration of the very process of creating ideas: “For anyone who comes up with ideas on a daily basis, the act of putting on your own ‘Diving Bell’ is the time you use to discover, search, and generate [ideas].”
The Diving Bell is exactly what its title implies, a sculpture of the bell-shaped diving hoods used for deep-sea diving. The term “diving bell” also has another, yet related, meaning: Diving bells are used to transport one or multiple divers to the ocean floor in advance of a dive while wearing the diving hood that The Diving Bell replicates.
Senan and Pansy’s Diving Bell is made from recycled cardboard that has been cut into pieces that form a three-dimensional puzzle that, once fitted together, acts as a materially delicate yet visually weighted sculpture. The two note that: “…the material gives a sense of lightness and frivolity to what could be a forbidding experience.” This sensitivity to the meaning behind their aesthetic material choices is an important point of departure that differentiates their burgeoning artistic practice from their advertising practice.
The Diving Bell functions as a cross-disciplinary form of sculptural empathy, as the two have ostensibly designed a mobile contemplative space that represents the difficulties, isolation, and introverted impulses many creatives feel while working on a new project or idea. There is also a relationship between the deep-sea diving that the work references and the mental pressures involved with coming up with ideas, or the Great Idea, that Senan and Pansy note happens both frequently and with an “on demand” expectation. With The Diving Bell, the two tried to veer away from their practice as advertising creatives, which so often involves giving a product or brand a textural and emotional grounding to connect with an audience. In doing so, the two circled back on themselves and their body of experience, and made a sculpture that grounds their own experiences and those of so many other artists in a consumable, humorous, and reproducible form. This project is an exciting start for these two imaginative individuals versed in visual communication strategies. The Diving Bell piques our excitement for what Salt’n’Pepper Squid will do next.
Senan Lee and Pansy Aung or Salt’n’Pepper Squid live in London and work as a collective on advertising and creative campaigns, and most recently on original artwork. Pansy Aung attended the London College of Printing and Senan Lee the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. The Diving Bell is the duo’s first collaborative artwork to date, and they plan to continue with a series of art objects that investigate the creative process.