Edited by Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brook
384 pages, hardcover, £75
Published by Unit Editions
Beyond the function for which commercial art was commissioned, can it have value? This resounding question is one that Matt Pyke, founder of Sheffield-based design firm Universal Everything, has explored throughout his career, and these explorations are documented in the book What is Universal Everything?, edited by Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brook with contributions by Antonia Lee. Although Universal Everything has produced exciting digital art and design projects, from interactive museum installations to large-scale video artworks, I’m loathe to describe it as merely a design rm because I feel that it doesn’t do justice to Pyke’s collaborative approach; his position within Universal Everything is even described by Shaughnessy as being the center in a “planetary model.” The firm practiced remote-working models long before they were embraced by other companies, which has enabled collaborations to take place between Pyke and a roster of trusted and talented artists over the years.
The firm’s groundbreaking history aside, this book will appeal to both fans and anyone who, despite being unfamiliar with the firm, is interested in work that breaks boundaries, plays with interactivity, and purposefully misuses code and computer programs to push the limits of what’s possible. Lee’s essay within the book, “A Universal Language of Everything,” is a wonderful contribution. By looking at how Pyke’s experiments have been displayed in galleries, transcending commercial art while still being rooted in it, Lee explores where the dividing line between commercial and fine art exists—and if it does. A valuable read. —Michael Coyne