A Secret Club is a Denmark based collective of people who like to play. They can make almost anything out of almost nothing. Here, designer Kenn Munk tells us more:
In the summer of 2009, a secret club saw the light of day in South East London. A secret club isn’t really a club nor is it particularly secret, “a secret club”, is merely our name and we chose it, because we think, it perfectly reflects our work: hinting at stories, while at the same time confusing you slightly and therefore playing with your imagination.
We believe, that storytelling and collaborative play can teach children and grown-ups alike important social and creative skills that will be useful to them throughout their entire lives, no matter what path they take.
A secret club is, at its core, Annabelle Nielsen, illustrator, artist and at times art&design tutor and Kenn Munk, graphic designer and design tutor. Depending on the project we work on, there are also sometimes a host of other creatives involved, which gives us flexibility when realising our ideas.
An important part of our work consists of immersive art experiences and creative workshops, aimed both at families and adults.
We always seek to create a temporary, alternative world for the participants to enter and play in for a while, before this world disappears again to become a memory.
While visiting this world, visitors often get to make their own “souvenir”, as we think, the souvenir is the perfect object for holding on to the shared experience of playing in our world.
Souvenirs are a great inspiration. The word might make you think of tacky plastic objects that have no real use or that break very quickly. This may be true, but they can also be objects of individual personal value, a reminder of your adventures, special people you have met or extra-ordinary anecdotes. If you have made a souvenir yourself, the emotional value attached to it gets even stronger.
In London, we worked with institutions such as the Victoria & Albert Museum, South London Gallery, the Design Museum and The House of Fairy Tales, for whom we’ve also developed design, concepts and events.
In 2011 we moved to Denmark, where we’re continuing our work with creative and collaborative play and the creation of memories and souvenirs.
One such event is “A Monster for Aarhus” which we introduced at “The Tall Ships Races” in July and in which participants put together a fierce sea monster finger puppet, using the very soul of this small maritime nation and a collection of unique rubber stamps.
Participants choose different aspects of the town, these aspects are then translated into faces, extremities and bodies of the monsters, which are rubber-stamped on a piece of card. The monster finger puppet is then cut out and in a “Top-Trumps” inspired game, each monstrous creation finally gets to attack a chosen landmark of Aarhus to win its heart.
Another stamp-based experience was “A Secret Club’s Tattoo Salon” in which we rubber-stamped people’s inner beauty onto their skin. This took place at the art cinema, Øst for Paradis, to launch the premiere of the movie “A place beyond the Pines”. By answering a rigorous destiny and personality test, it was revealed to visitors what needed to be tattooed onto their skin. In some cases, rather a lot!
Although our work is highly visual, we see ourselves as educators, but not in the conventional sense. There are many ways to learn and visiting a foreign and visually striking world encourages you to explore. Exploration is interesting because you’re on your own and your curiosity drives you. The notion of “Play” is central to all our creative adventures. Our goal is to encourage people of all ages to be driven by their curiosity and realise that “playing” is quality time, whether you are 7 or 70.
When we were commissioned to design a children’s guide to the Danish art museum, Museum Jorn we designed an “Expedition Book” – which introduces young explorers to a magical world that they will gradually become more familiar with and, as with any meaningful adventure, this one has the potential to change the explorers themselves. Part of this change is reflected in the book itself, which invites children to observe, absorb and react to what they see.
Its pages, rectangular to begin with, can change shape, elements can be cut out and get stuck back in elsewhere, the flat pages become thicker, drawings, doodles and notes fill it up and it grows into a sprawling journal/art book that will remind children of their art adventure. Furthermore, the centre page of the guidebook can be taken out and be turned into a mask, which can be individually customised to suit each explorer.
In the future, we’re hoping to do more design work – and not just for art institutions. It’s a good way of engaging with people through play, without having to physically be in the same room. One of the things we enjoy most about this very open approach is, that it can take us in any direction, again, much like an expedition and we love the fact, that so far it has taken us to places we didn’t even expect to go ourselves – we’re contemplating to do a project involving gardening next spring!
We’re always looking for people to connect and collaborate with, and although at the moment, most of our activities take place in Denmark, we keep in contact with fellow artists and designers in other places (meeting people from all over the world is one of the perks of having lived and worked in London). We do embark on international projects, mostly exhibitions and art collaboration, but simply write us if you think we should get to know each other.