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‘We come in peace.’

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Feature by Michael Canning

Tin & Ed create works that live in a borderless dimension. A mind-blowing art and design duo, they work between New York and their hometown of Melbourne, Australia, in what they call "parallel lives in parallel universes". 

Exploring ways that nature, technology and people connect, their work takes many forms, such as exhibits at the Liu Haisu Art Museum, Shanghai Museum, the Artscape Theatre Centre Cape Town, and the Sydney Opera House, or projects with clients including Apple, Thames & Hudson, Nike, Vice, and Tourism Victoria. We spoke with Tin & Ed on creative life in New York, a few favorite spots in the city, and embracing the unknown.


On where you’re from

We both grew up in inner-city Melbourne — Fitzroy and Albert Park. Ed was born in Melbourne, I was born in a small city in the Mekong Delta, south of Saigon in Vietnam. My family left when I was one.

On your move to New York

We travel a lot but have never lived overseas. We love Melbourne and still call it home but we needed to take a leap into the unknown to continue to challenge ourselves creatively. We’ve been making trips to New York for the past 10 years, they were getting longer and longer, and finally it made sense to set up shop. We’ve been here for almost two years now — we flew in with the solar eclipse in 2017. We still work with Australian clients; we like to think we’re based in both cities, living parallel lives in parallel universes.

On your relationship with New York

We’re still in awe of New York — we feel like the new kids on the block here. The energy of the city is inspiring, bewildering, confronting, surreal. It’s a really wild and funny place. For us, New York feels really familiar and comfortable but also completely foreign and alien. It’s a place of extremes and contradictions.

Top: Large scale physical sculpture for Nike AF-1 Battle Force by Tin &amp; ED. Bottom: Tin &amp; Ed studio space. Images courtesy Tin &amp; Ed.

On New York city as a movie character

New York is all about diversity, so it’s difficult to reduce it to a single character or even a single film. We’ve been watching a lot of High Maintenance recently, a show on HBO about a weed dealer who delivers to clients all over New York. Through his job, he catches glimpses of all these different lives. It shows how diverse, funny and interconnected the city is. This comes close to representing what New York is like, but it’s still a tiny drop in the ocean of what is happening here. The smell of weed is also everywhere you go in New York!

On challenges of life in New York

The city can really knock you about, so having good friends around you is super important. We already had a lot of close friends in New York, so that really helped the transition. There are so many distractions in the city, it’s really easy to lose yourself and get completely swept off course. That’s what has been the most difficult to get used to — the sheer amount of things going on. You quickly learn you can’t do everything, and if you try, you burn out really quickly! We both practise meditation daily. It’s extra important in New York to take care of yourself mentally and physically. In terms of work culture, everyone works really hard here, everyone has a side hustle. We’ve always been a bit like that in Melbourne, so we fit in really well here!

‘Travel and creativity are interconnected because they are both about embracing the unknown. Travel forces you to leave your comfort zone and experience other cultures, ideas and people that you are unfamiliar with… for us, creativity is the same.’

On how your travels and creativity connect

For us, travel and creativity are interconnected because they are both about embracing the unknown. Travel forces you to leave your comfort zone and experience other cultures, ideas and people that you are unfamiliar with, that may scare you, even. For us, creativity is the same: we challenge ourselves to explore mediums, processes and technology that we are unfamiliar with. The unknown, whether it be in travel or in work, is a really creatively fertile space. Our recent trips to South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Mexico and Barbados have all fed into our work.

On recent projects and 'We Come In Peace'

We’re currently working on a number of large-scale physical and digital installations. One of these projects, called We Come In Peace, is a digital artwork which takes the form of a virtual dance party. We launched the project at Design Indaba in Cape Town earlier this year. The work has grown and evolved and is part of World Pride Month at Pier 17 in New York. For this project, we’ve 3D scanned artists, designers, chefs, writers, choreographers and friends from around the world, transforming them into digital organisms and then training their avatars to dance using a live game engine. The project is a celebration of our global creative community, but also explores the possibility of a more symbiotic relationship between us, nature and technology.

We’re also playing with how we can use live data streams in our work. We’re currently developing a strobe light that flashes when lightning strikes the earth. It’s only as accurate as our data stream; right now, it only flashes when lightning hits America.

Top: Part of 'We Come In Peace', a digital installation that takes the form of a virtual dance party. Hit Tin &amp; Ed's web link at top of page for more. Bottom: Tin &amp; Ed on stage at Design Indaba, 2019 in Cape Town.

On connecting with local culture

New York is a city of happy accidents, small incidental moments can connect you with a new friend, collaborator or client, or even an experience or situation you never imagined you’d have. We both try to be as open and in the moment as possible, so we don’t miss these opportunities.

‘You quickly learn you can’t do everything, and if you try, you burn out really quickly! We both practise meditation daily. It’s extra important in New York to take care of yourself mentally and physically.’

On something unique to New York’s creative culture

It’s a culture of sharing: a lot of people sharing ideas, processes, resources and connections. That is what makes it really special.

On where you find creative inspiration

So much happens on the streets of New York, it’s a really inspiring place just walking around! There is also a lot of art to see — we try to visit galleries regularly. Mariam Goodman Gallery, Gladstone Gallery and David Zwirner in Chelsea. Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Lyles & King and New Museum in Downtown.

Top: Artwork for adidas x Pharrell supercolor by Tin &amp; Ed. Bottom: EP &amp; Single Cover Art for Roland Tings, 'Each Moment a Diamond'. Images courtesy Tin &amp; Ed.

On favorite food & drink spots

Dimes is our regular go-to for food, coffee, tea and juice, or when we need to get out of the studio. To celebrate, we go to Cervo’s; they have great oysters, natural wine and an awesome lamb burger with white anchovies. Wu’s Wonton King Chinese Restuarant for cheap traditional Cantonese, large tables with lazy Susans, ducks in the window, seafood tanks. All three are walking distance from each other! Close to all these is Clandestino, our favorite place for a drink. We met Baz Luhrmann there once!

On one thing to do if passing through NYC

The best thing to do in New York is just to walk around. For a quick cross-section of Downtown, we would recommend walking down Grand Street. It takes you through the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho and then Tribeca. You can see how quickly the city changes from block to block: the people, the shops, the apartments, the culture, a thousand lives and stories flashing before your eyes.

On something from Australia you need a fix of in New York

Our friends bring us Pizza Shapes when they come to visit!

On window seat or aisle

The middle seat! Just kidding, we both prefer the window seat. We have to take turns!

On New York in one word



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‘You just had to look around New York and there were very open secrets.’