Adi Goodrich, Set Designer

Instead of making things as a way to survive obsolescence, the physical remainders that will outlast us all, Adi Goodrich’s work lives for only a few days before being broken back down into pieces. “I’m not really into all that ego of trying make stuff that stays forever,” the Los Angeles-based designer admits. “I’m much more interested in the cycle of creativity, in making things happen, and surrounding myself with everyone who wants to come with.”

Which means that Goodrich, who was just honored with an Art Directors Club “Young Guns” award, might have willed herself into a perfect job: set design. Not only is impermanence a built-in part of the process, but putting up temporary environments also allows Goodrich to run with a large crew, including her best friend since third grade, Eric Johnson. Where they once built skate ramps and treehouses, they now build photographic backdrops and festival sets for clients such as Sony, Wieden + Kennedy, and Target. “A lot of times when I put together a budget, the materials cost almost nothing,” says Goodrich, who started her own studio last year. “But really it’s the manpower, and then [clients] are, like, ‘Why do you have so much crew?’ And I’m, like, because we make this all by hand, and this is what it takes.”

Making everything by hand tops Goodrich’s short list of job requirements, the standards by which she works. The other rule? She doesn’t stay still, even if clients ask for it: “I don’t repeat. This should be exciting, this should be learning. That’s it. And I just stick to those boundaries, and that’s how I know if the project is right for me,” she says. In a new series, published here for the first time, Goodrich refers to paintings from the modernist canon, seeing what happens when shapes and compositions are reconfigured in another medium, and through the filter of her hand and eye. “I was working full-time and going to school full-time, so I didn’t really have any friends,” Goodrich says of her time at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Instead, she would eat sandwiches at the museum in front of a Matisse or in a room of Joseph Cornell set boxes, “and in a funny way the artworks became my friends. When I go back to Chicago, I visit paintings.” The resulting “These Are My Friends and Their Friends” project isn’t just an opportunity to work with people she likes outside of commercial jobs, but actually brings Goodrich’s old buddies with her to Los Angeles.

After all, maybe another way to think of obsolescence is as some sort of party. The whole thing is over by tomorrow, and in the meantime Goodrich keeps refilling everyone’s glasses. “We throw the object away but the photo lasts,” Goodrich told me from the Centre Pompidou in Paris, on a rare break to recharge and visit a mentor, Ludmilla Barrand. “And also what’s lasting is all of us working together, and all the skills we’ve learned. That’s really the core of it.”

Su Wu is the proprietor of I’m Revolting