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Insights 2017 Design Lecture Series

Insights Design Lecture Series 2017 Tuesdays in March Meme culture. Corporate structures. Typographic artistry. Local vernaculars. Post-truth politics. How do we navigate such disparate realities as designers? How do we create finite structures—small ecosystems—in which these ideas can sit side by side, both dependent on and independent of each other? The five designers featured in this […]

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Insights Design Lecture Series 2017
Tuesdays in March

Meme culture. Corporate structures. Typographic artistry. Local vernaculars. Post-truth politics. How do we navigate such disparate realities as designers? How do we create finite structures—small ecosystems—in which these ideas can sit side by side, both dependent on and independent of each other? The five designers featured in this year’s Insights lecture series lead practices that epitomize this challenge. We’ll take you inside the creative team of one of the world’s largest tech companies, through the looking glass with a color-blind illustrator, past the hand-painted signs of Manila, and behind the scenes at one of world’s most anarchic mainstream brands. The lineup features Google Design creative lead Rob Giampietro, illustrator Andy Rementer, social-practice design studio Office of Culture and Design/Hardworking Goodlooking, and editorial designer Richard Turley, currently at Wieden + Kennedy and formerly of Bloomberg Businessweek and MTV. Join us for five unique perspectives on the world through the lens of design. Copresented by the Walker Art Center and AIGA Minnesota.

If you can’t make it in person, please tune in to our live webcast on Facebook Live and participate through Twitter (#Insights2017). For educators, AIGA chapters, and anyone else who might want to throw their own viewing party, have a look at our Viewing Party Kit.

 

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Rob Giampietro (Google Design)
March 7, 7 pm (tickets)

What can interaction designers learn from a stonecutter? How can design be understood as an act of translation? How might the Sapir Whorf hypothesis apply to content management systems? When must we learn to unbuild, instead of building? Designer and writer Rob Giampietro lives these questions, consistently drawing connections between disparate design fields over the course of his diverse career. In his current position as creative lead and design manager for Google Design (New York), Giampietro’s mission is to infuse an appreciation for design into Google’s culture, and by extension, the company’s billions of users. He and his team are responsible for communicating  major Google design initiatives, such as Material Design (Google’s expansive interface program, inspired by tangible interactions with paper, light, layering, and movement) and Google Fonts (their open-source collection of digital typefaces).

Before joining Google, he spent much of his career inhabiting the art and culture sectors, designing for cultural institutions, and writing about design in both pragmatic and esoteric ways, often commissioned by independent visual culture journals such as Dot Dot Dot, Mousse Magazine, and Kaleidoscope. From 2010 through 2015, he was a principal partner at renowned New York design studio Project Projects, where he headed up many of the interactive initiatives; and between 2003 and 2008, he led his own firm, Giampietro+Smith, creating work for clients such as Knoll, Target, and others. For his Insights presentation, Giampietro will give us a glimpse into his idiosyncratic synthesis of design ideologies while offering a look into the evolving design culture at Google.

Rob Giampietro Facebook event (live webcast on March 7)

 

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Andy Rementer (Illustrator)
March 14, 7 pm (tickets)

Andy Rementer is an illustrator and painter whose work has been featured in a number of high-profile brands and publications, from Apartamento magazine to the New York Times, Wired to Lacoste. Rementer honed his particular style while studying at Fabrica in Treviso, Italy. He has stated in interviews that his color-blindness inevitably brings him back to his frequently used bright hues, no matter how hard he tries to adopt a muted palette. This has become vital to his output—pastel and poppy color schemes camouflaging the prevalence of loneliness, isolation, and ambivalence in his work.

His projects often subvert or expand their intended format, whether a furniture catalogue masquerading as a comic book or a set of postage stamps that investigates the decidedly unepistolary phenomenon of online dating. Rementer will talk us through his practice and give us a glimpse into his collaborations with some of the world’s most celebrated brands.

Andy Rementer Facebook event (live webcast on March 14)

 

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Clara Balaguer & Kristian Henson (Office of Culture and Design/Hardworking Goodlooking)
March 21, 7 pm (tickets)

How can the act of publishing be democratized in developing countries? How can local vernaculars be celebrated in the face of globalized aesthetics? What is the cultural significance of EXTREME DROP SHADOWS? The Office of Culture and Design  (OCD) is a studio based in Manila and led by artist Clara Balaguer. Running parallel to the OCD, Hardworking Goodlooking is a publishing and design practice she leads with designer Kristian Henson. Balaguer describes the OCD as “a social practice platform for artists, designers, writers and assorted projects in the developing world.” With their wide network of collaborators, Balaguer and Henson embrace contemporary art and design as necessary tools for progress with the hopes of affecting real change. This occurs by way of social innovation experiments, workshops, conferences, events, and feasts. Projects include product development initiatives designed to enhance the livelihoods of Filipino craftsmen as well as microgrants that they receive and redistribute. Frequently produced in cottage industry presses in the streets of Manila and utilizing the most DIY production values, Hardworking Goodlooking’s books embody the uncertain and insecure task that authors face when trying to self- publish critical content in the developing world.

They also lead book-making workshops in which they teach people how to edit, design, and print their own books in a week or less, using inexpensive and readily available tools. In their lecture, Balaguer and Henson will present case studies from their practice thus far, and discuss the fraught and fractured history of Filipino graphic design, which Balaguer recently wrote about in her essay titled “Tropico Vernacular” for Triple Canopy magazine.

OCD/HWGL Facebook event (live webcast on March 21)

 

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Richard Turley (Wieden + Kennedy)
March 28, 7 pm (tickets)

Wherever Richard Turley goes, he finds a way to avoid playing by the rules. Best known as the art director who reimagined Bloomberg Businessweek magazine as an edgy, design-forward publication, Turley recently ended a stint as MTV’s first senior vice president of visual storytelling and deputy editorial director.

While at MTV Turley oversaw a horde of designers whose basic mission was to create “strategic anarchy,” personifying the corporation’s desire for self-critique and, in his words, “de-brand”-ing the network. The studio generated new TV idents and bumps on a daily basis, using whatever content they felt was appropriate as long as it was immediate and of the moment. Turley has described the approach as a form of social media, simply executed through the channel of a broadcast network. The segments range from abstract chaos to surreal mundanity, live social media conversations with viewers to bluntly worded statements directly responding to current events. In his new position as executive creative director of content and editorial design at Wieden + Kennedy, Turley will bring his unique talent for visualizing ideas to the world of branding.

Richard Turley Facebook event (live webcast on March 28)

 

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Printing of the Insights 2017 poster courtesy the Avery Group at Shapco Printing, Minneapolis.

Mystery Solved: Here’s Who Took That Iconic Koons/Trump Photo

In the grand scale of both unsolved mysteries and viral phenomena, it’s surely but a blip, but around here it’s a surprising turn of events: we figured out who took an iconic photo that’s been the source of some speculation in the art world—and he works right here at the Walker. Last week, as I scrambled to […]

Photo: Ben Schwartz

In the grand scale of both unsolved mysteries and viral phenomena, it’s surely but a blip, but around here it’s a surprising turn of events: we figured out who took an iconic photo that’s been the source of some speculation in the art world—and he works right here at the Walker.

Last week, as I scrambled to get João Enxuto and Erica Love’s Artist Op-Ed on museums, protest, and social change published in time for Inauguration Day, I set out to get permission to reproduce the remarkable image the artists selected to kick off their essay: a Trump supporter viewing Jeff Koons’s 1988 sculpture Michael Jackson and Bubbles. It seemed to capture our current political moment perfectly. A woman—holding a stars-and-stripes backpack and wearing a fanny pack, red baseball cap, and “Trump for President 2016” t-shirt—viewing a sculptural homage to American celebrity in all its peculiarity. The contrasts are arresting. The woman’s everyday apparel juxtaposed with gold leaf—the stuff of religious statuary or Donald Trump’s furniture—could be seen to parallel the gulf between the woman and the billionaire candidate she champions.

Here’s how artnet News senior writer Brian Boucher, writing in July 2016 on how the art world was “going crazy” over the photo, assessed the scene:

It’s only missing a bald eagle, mom, and an apple pie—unless, of course, the woman pictured is your mom.

The image brings together America’s celebrity worship disorder on several levels. Koons, love him or hate him, doubtless aims to mirror the country’s fascination with fame in the personage of one of the most famous people on the planet; Trump’s candidacy owes almost entirely to his own status as a reality TV star.

I have so many questions—about the circumstances that found this woman in full campaign gear at the art museum, about why it went viral within art circles—but, for pragmatic reasons, I really needed to answer much simpler ones: who took the photo, and—as Boucher wondered—was it real or photoshopped?

I tried to sleuth it out. I got in touch with Boucher; did searches on Google Images, Twitter, Imgur, and Facebook; contacted the Reddit user named in the artnet piece; enlisted a friend (who’s a friend of a friend of said Reddit user) to help make contact. No luck. So I went ahead and published, acknowledging in the caption that the photo’s authenticity and authorship remain unknown.

Then, shortly after sharing the Artist Op-Ed on Facebook, a comment popped up, to the effect of: I took that picture!

Ben Schwartz, now a graphic design fellow at the Walker, took the photo last May before moving from Los Angeles to Minneapolis. Visiting The Broad with a friend, he says he noticed the woman because she stood out in her “in-your-face,” head-to-toe campaign gear. “We debated for a minute whether she was doing some sort of performance piece,” he recalls. 

Ben had no idea that the image had gone viral, but he has an idea how: he posted the photo on Instagram, and artist Mungo Thomson, his professor when he was a student at ArtCenter, regrammed it. From there, it was posted by artist Vik Muniz on Facebook—where it shared by his contacts 217 times.

In the end, the story isn’t a political one for Ben, but one that’s instructive for a designer interested in how images are created, manipulated, and shared. “My favorite part about all of it was the speculation that it was photoshopped,” he says. “It was first-hand proof of how the internet can strip away context from an image and create an entirely new narrative.”

When Is an A not an A?: Shannon Ebner and Julia Born on A Public Character

  When is an A not an A? A Public Character is a new catalogue designed by Julia Born, documenting Shannon Ebner’s recent exhibition at ICA Miami. In this body of work Ebner extensively explores one of our most rudimentary graphic signifiers, the letter “A,” shifting between media and roles as a definite and indefinite article.  The creation of such […]

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When is an A not an A? A Public Character is a new catalogue designed by Julia Born, documenting Shannon Ebner’s recent exhibition at ICA Miami. In this body of work Ebner extensively explores one of our most rudimentary graphic signifiers, the letter “A,” shifting between media and roles as a definite and indefinite article. 

The creation of such a beautiful artifact is of course the result of a successful collaboration, one in which two individuals hold a mutual trust and respect allowing each to bring her respective expertise to the project. With the typographic nature of Shannon’s work, and Julia’s deep involvement with content and concept, I was interested in learning more about their working exchange. In the following interview we discuss the process and collaborative efforts that lead to the creation of A Public CharacterA Public Character is available for purchase via Roma Publications.  

 

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Spread from A Public Character, 2016

 

Julia and Shannon, what was your relationship to each other’s work prior to this collaboration?

Shannon: I had a copy of Moyra Davey’s SPEAKER RECEIVER book that Julia designed, and I was really attracted to how the book was handled design wise, specifically how it responded to or was a part of what drove Moyra’s content. But it was Mark Owens who introduced me to Julia’s work when we started working on Auto Body Collision together. I was looking for a recommendation for the ICA catalog and Mark raved about Julia’s work and so when I realized that Julia was in fact the designer for Moyra’s book I got really excited about the prospect of working together.

 

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SPEAKER RECEIVER, 2010

 

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Spread from SPEAKER RECEIVER, 2010

 

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Spread from SPEAKER RECEIVER, 2010

 

Julia: Shannon’s book The Sun as Error, made in collaboration with Dexter Sinister, is one of my five all-time favorites. I’ve looked at it many times; the work, the editing, the design—all of it becoming one. For some reason it didn’t immediately ring a bell when Shannon first emailed me about a possible collaboration for A Public Character. It was only when I googled her name that I found out it was her, and of course I was thrilled! Both Shannon and I share an interest and fascination by the very elementary cornerstones of language. Her work fascinates many graphic designers because she manages to capture and magically bring together typography, poetry, philosophy, politics, language, and aspects of the vernacular– “Concrete Photography” as Laura Hoptman calls it.

 

The Sun As Error, 2009

 

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Spread from The Sun As Error, 2009

 

Before beginning work on the book, what were some early conversations like between the two you? Were there any upfront goals that you both had with this publication?

Julia: I had the opportunity to spend two months in LA right at the beginning of our collaboration. This was a nice coincidence as these meetings and conversations at Shannon’s studio allowed for discourse about the book and created an understanding of shared interests. For an entire week I was reading texts she gave me. Through this exchange we got to know each other professionally and personally, which helped in the numerous late night/early morning Skype conversations.

I also insisted to look at all of her work in order to develop an idea of how A Public Character could define its own place in her already impressive “bibliography.” Shannon envisioned “a book with a proper title page and TOC.” She clearly wanted it to be different from her previous, more autonomous artist books, and in the end the extra material that was considered to be added was left out.

When I left LA I didn’t have a file or mockup (I never make one), but I did have a clear idea of the structure, along with ideas and notes, which eventually shaped the book.

 

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Spread from A Public Character, 2016

 

Shannon: Yes, we were very lucky that these circumstances happened to line up and we were able to have this exchange for an intensive period of time. I also heard Julia present her work at a public lecture (at the HMCT at ArtCenter) around the same time which was extremely informative. I hadn’t quite understood the Rietveld Academy up until this point, and it was very intriguing hearing about this experience and seeing how it is reflected in Julia’s work as well as others like Stuart [Bailey]. Also having Experimental Jetset come through town at the same time for Printed Matter’s 2016 LA Art Book Fair—those guys gave the keynote last year and published their Statement Counter Statement book, and so the ethos around design (not to lump all of these people together because they are all individuals and quite different) and a way of thinking and making around books and publications can be seen in each. Last winter in Los Angeles I felt very immersed in these ideas.

You mention an awareness to allow for the book to “define its own place” amongst Shannon’s previous books. I’m curious as to how this shaped particular decisions throughout the process.

Julia: As mentioned earlier, Shannon felt a need for the book to communicate on a certain level, address the show as a whole, include all works that were in the show, and invite brilliant writers for essays. For every work we were looking for a suitable translation into book form. I don’t think that it differs so much on an aesthetic level from her previous books (I guess they all share a clear, reduced visual language), but it might be the more classical structure of an exhibition catalogue which makes it different from the earlier publications.

 

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Spread from Auto Body Collision, 2015

 

Auto Body Collision

Spread from Auto Body Collision, 2015

 

Shannon: For me it was important that the ICA book not in any way be an artist book, and I was excited for that just because I was coming off of Auto Body Collision and STRIKE and they were both very intense projects. Even though both of those books had essays in them, I approached each as an artist book, which for me means that they themselves are the project, the artwork. I only strictly adhered to that format for The Sun as Error, and in many ways I made a conscience decision with the subsequent two books that I would consider the act of publishing opportunities to commission writing. It felt important for me to do that even though the writing corrupts the purity.

 

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Spread from STRIKE, 2014

 

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Poster included in STRIKE, 2014

 

For A Public Character it was a little unclear to me in the beginning. I mean, I knew I wanted the book to be a catalogue proper, but at the same time here was this opportunity to work with Julia and make some discoveries. Also part of the project of the A’s is that they are discursive, they are promiscuous and not beholden to just this or just that. So if anything that was the larger conceptual conversation—do we stick with the “narrative” of the ICA exhibition or do we further complicate reception by also contaminating the book with external projects?—like when the A’s took part in Erika Vogt’s Artist Theater Program at EMPAC in Troy, or when I worked in collaboration with Erika for her Performa commission and incorporated Cornel Windlin’s A’s into the performance at Roulette Theater, or the first time I showed the work under the title A PHOTOGRAPHY. I felt very committed to an unsettling of the work but eventually I decided it made far more sense to let the book act as a catalogue and tell the story of the exhibition and showcase that experience and this other stuff can get funky somewhere else down the line.

 

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Erika Vogt, Artist Theater Program, commissioned by Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), 2014

 

Shannon, it makes sense that you wouldn’t consider A Public Character an artist book. Yet it feels different from a straightforward catalogue, perhaps landing somewhere in between. I’m curious as to how the working process may have expanded the book to be more than a direct translation of the show?

It could be that I am incapable of making a standard catalogue, whatever that means! It was my original goal to make a conventional catalogue, but the process of working with Julia was entirely unconventional, and so this changed the DNA of the project right away. Julia’s design decisions are content-driven, so ultimately it was the sum of our discussions that contributed to her ideas—things like the french folds for the A’s to give them some body and also what was important to me was this arc in the show from a public character to a private self and how to translate that from the work to the book. Same for the video, which was both the title of the video and the exhibition, how does that get translated? These questions around translation from idea to book became really central, and I think this is what gives the book a different kind of feeling. I still maintain that it is not an artist book, but it is also maybe a little less straightforward from a catalogue. For me the book is very Dutch; it had a job to do, which is to tell the story of the exhibition, but at the same time it has an engagement with material and the book-making process as an integral extension of the work itself that is totally Julia Born.

 

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Spread from A Public Character, 2016

 

Julia, I’m curious about Shannon’s description of the book as seeming “very Dutch.” I’d love for you to expand on this notion as to what that may mean to you?

Julia: I appreciate Shannon’s reference to the books “Dutchness.” I like how she describes, compares, and distinguishes the multiple approaches in designer’s work, who have been more or less influenced and shaped by Dutch culture and education. Having lived there for 16 years myself, it is definitely a huge influence. Even though the work of the designers she refers to are quite different from one another, there is a certain mentality which we all share.

Julia, I’d like to hear more about the working process. As you mentioned, in the beginning  you were fortunate to be able to spend time together which really shaped the ideas for the book. However, moving forward you were working in two different countries in two very different time zones. What was the actual working exchange like with Shannon? How often were you in touch, and what was the feedback like?

Julia: I usually take quite a lot of time to make a book, as I am involved with every step of the process. This book was made in close collaboration with Shannon, despite the location and time differentiations of both our practices. It was important that the decision making on an editorial level happen together, so we did a few late night Skype sessions along with many emails.

Not every artist is willing to be that involved in each step of the process; but it seemed to reflect Shannon’s thorough and committed way of dealing with things. She has a talent to tackle the right questions at stake. I involved her in questions that I typically wouldn’t involve anyone in because I knew I was going to get an interesting answer. Many things we would agree on, and other things we debated about. I am guessing this is why she wanted someone else to design her book.

I’d assume there was quite a bit of dialogue around the way work was shown. I especially enjoy moments such as the close crops of A SINGULAR, the fragmented A SELF, and the decision to do a french fold for Black Box Collision A. Shannon, what sort of conversations lead to these decisions?

Shannon: It had to do with graphic interpretations. I think we both share a dislike for showcasing installation images, and as a result we really worked hard to find a way to represent the sculpture A SINGULAR and the A SELF silkscreen print. In both cases it was a bit of an experiment for me to see what happens when something (in the case of the sculpture) goes from an immaterial font to a three-dimensional, material object back to a flat graphic representation of a drawing reducing the elements to their most basic form, the unit. Same for the silkscreen print, how to let that read like a poem that closes out the exhibition and also as an exit for the book—but also that piece is tricky because it came out of the Auto Body Collision, and the print is very much a collaboration with Mark Owens, so to put it back into book form again is its own riddle. Maybe now would be a good time to say that the letter A can be both a definite and indefinite article which for me speaks to doubt, that an A can be an A and not an A or definite and indefinite depending on the task at hand—something about the space this opens up linguistically acts as a catalyst for how the book and representing the work was approached.

 

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A SINGULAR as shown in A Public Character, 2016

 

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A SELF as shown in A Public Character, 2016

 

Julia, as so much of Shannon’s work is very typographic. I’d love to hear about the decision to use the typeface Mercator throughout the book. To my understanding it’s a typeface that isn’t available commercially, and it has been used quite sparingly.

For quite some time I could not decide whether it should be a serif or sans serif typeface. I eventually realized it needed some pragmatism, something a bit down-to-earth, as every serif typeface I tested looked somewhat detached from the content. There was as well the fact that Shannon herself uses Helvetica in A Public Character in a beautifully brute, raw manner. If I were to use that typeface throughout the book, the borders between work and written content would have dissolved—which could have been an interesting path as well but didn’t seem appropriate in this context. I decided to “color” the typeface for all editorial content just a bit differently, if only subtly.

 

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Mercator in use, A Public Character 2016

 

I encountered Mercator in my years in the Netherlands many times, mostly in letterpress form (the workshop at Rietveld Academie used to have an almost complete set). It was designed by Dick Dooijes who happened to be a former director of my school, and digitized by Laurenz Brunner 10 years ago, though not commercially distributed. Some Dutch children’s books teaching the alphabet use Mercator in a very pure and elementary way. This association with the basics of language seemed quite fitting within the context of Shannon’s work.

 

Dick Bruna, Mercis Publishing bv. License: All Rights Reserved.

 

I’d like to talk about the book as an object. With the large silver foil stamp and the french fold, the book has a remarkably polished feel to it. The production details add a beautiful sense of contrast to the raw photography, concrete sculptures, and even the tone of some writing. Was this sense of contrast a conscious decision or more of a natural outgrowth of the working process?

Julia: I think we both share a deep antipathy towards books that are overdone. It’s a thin line, and we had more than one discussion about whether or not we are pushing it too far. All the elements that we kept, in my opinion, justify their existence as they are linked to some conceptual considerations. The silver foil was an idea prompted by Shannon, as she was considering printing on mirror paper when preparing for the exhibition. At one point she was talking about using reflective material on the cover in which the reader could see him or herself, “from a public character to a private self…” an idea which I really liked. That plus the fact that Luis Zukovsky’s “A” somehow becomes immaterial because the reflection cancels out all material states.

What was the production and printing process like for the book? Were there any difficulties you had to work through?

Julia: The book might look more complicated in terms of production process than it actually was. The only unexpected challenge we experienced was the binding. For most of the black and white images we used a “skeleton black,” which is a technique often applied when printing on uncoated paper. The double hit of black adds extra depth and clarity to Shannon’s images, which I think solidifies their rawness and minimalism. For the foil stamping on the cover I referenced the effect that emerged when we re-photographed the video for the book (long-exposure). I liked how through repetition (an essential element in the video) of the same text, the middle part cancels itself out. This is also a nod to the definite/indefinite topic which is central to the work.

 

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Spread from A Public Character, 2016

 

The only thing that gave us, but mostly the brilliant bookbinder at DZA, a headache was the binding because of the way the french fold pages closed on top. I insisted on printing the A’s each on their own sheet so they feel solid when flipping through the book because of the physical nature of how Shannon defines the “A.” The so called “otabind” binding which we intended at first could not be realized, so the binder suggested this really clever open back, hidden in the dust cover, so the book would still lay flat. This is just one of many examples where bookbinders and printers have contributed precious knowledge and ideas that have shaped the outcome of my books.

 

Image courtesy Roma Publications

French folds in A Public Character, 2016. Image courtesy Roma Publications

 

Shannon, you’ve collaborated with several incredible designers including Dexter Sinister, Mark Owens, and Lauren Mackler. The two of you working together immediately excited me, and the result is stunning. How was this collaboration similar or different than your past experiences?

I have been very fortunate for the people I have worked with and each time I am very humbled by the process and learn a great deal from them. I would be hard pressed to try and parse out the experiences because each one is so very unique. But what I can say is that what I really came to understand through this process is that Julia is a bookmaker through and through and she is engaged in the material form of the book in a very deep way that I totally admire.

 

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Spread from The Sun As Error, 2009

 

To wrap things up, at the Walker we’re preparing for our upcoming Merce Cunningham show, Common Time, which deals significantly with his collaborations throughout his life. Thus, collaboration has been a big topic of conversation. What do each of you feel makes a successful collaboration?

Julia: My entire job is all about collaboration and dialogue. Every assignment, every project I make is developed in conversation with other people, be it artists, institutions, curators, printers, binders, etc. Books perhaps illustrate this collaborative effort in an extreme way, as there are so many parties involved throughout the process. Within this process I see myself as the “guide,” bringing together and coordinating all this expertise. Now and then I need to make decisions, but mostly I am making sure that everything is on the right track.

Merce Cunningham is a truly inspiring example of interdisciplinary collaborations. He was expanding his own field by working together with figures like John Cage or Rei Kawakubo—looking for other visions to expand his own. Together they redefined the boundaries of their individual practices, which is the result of a truly fruitful and successful collaboration. The people that I have closely collaborated with all share a willingness and curiosity to do exactly that, which is why each of these collaborations are truly unique and not comparable.

Working with Shannon once again proved my theory that (at least some) artists are the best designers, but thankfully they still need us to do certain things…

 

On a cach from Paris to Hamburg for the shooting of Cunningham's Ballet"Variations V", Merce Cunningham, movie maker Klaus Wildenham, John Cage(straw hat), 1966.

On a coach from Paris to Hamburg for the shooting of Cunningham’s Ballet Variations V, Merce Cunningham, movie maker Klaus Wildenham, John Cage, 1966.

 

Rei Kawakubo, Merce Cunningham, and company members during costume fitting at Westbath studio, New York City, 1997

 

Shannon: For me it’s about a willingness to exchange ideas and be in dialogue about the process of making something together.  It’s this togetherness but also belief, belief that the end result is not simply a product but is a result of shared time and so the collaboration becomes material evidence of this shared time and the immaterial conversations that were exchanged within this space get put into a form, in the case of many of my collaborations that form is the book.  This question reminded me of something that Will Holder made when working on a project with Stuart and David [Reinfurt] called A Monument of Cooperation. It’s an actual crayon rubbing of a monument on the lower east side.  I don’t know too much more about it but it does seem fitting to me that the basis of a good collaboration is like a monument to cooperation. ◼

 

Brass rubbing of a monument to cooperation found on the grounds of Seward Park Housing Corporation (corner of Montgomery and Grand Streets on the lower east side of Manhattan), Will Holder, 2007

Brass rubbing of a monument to cooperation found on the grounds of Seward Park Housing Corporation
(corner of Montgomery and Grand Streets on the lower east side of Manhattan), Will Holder, 2007

 

 

2016: The Year According to Zach Blas

Zach Blas, Face Cage 1 (2015) Zach Blas is an artist and writer whose practice engages technologies of control and security with queer politics. In his recent works, he responds to biometric governmentality and network hegemony. Facial Weaponization Suite (2011–2014) consists of “collective masks” that cannot be detected as human faces by biometric facial recognition software, […]

Zach Blas, Face Cage 1 (2015)

Zach Blas is an artist and writer whose practice engages technologies of control and security with queer politics. In his recent works, he responds to biometric governmentality and network hegemony. Facial Weaponization Suite (2011–2014) consists of “collective masks” that cannot be detected as human faces by biometric facial recognition software, while Contra-Internet (2014-present) explores subversions of and alternatives to the internet. A lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, Blas has exhibited and lectured internationally, recently at Jeu de Paume, Paris; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; e-flux, New York; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; and transmediale, Berlin. Blas is also producing two books, Escaping the Face, an artist monograph (Sternberg Press and Rhizome, 2017), and Informatic Opacity: The Art of Defacement in Biometric Times (in preparation). His work has been featured in Artforum, Frieze, Art Papers, Mousse Magazine, Wired, and Art Review, in which Hito Steyerl selected him as a 2014 FutureGreat.

Here, he shares his perspective on the year that was, as part of our annual series, 2016: The Year According to                               .

2016 may well be the most violent, painful, and destructive year since my birth. That said, I see this list as not so much of a “top 10” but rather a gathering of events, occurrences, writing, and artworks that I find necessary to engage with—both to better understand and struggle against contemporary forms of control and to celebrate and fight for other possible futures that are more livable for all of us here on earth.

 1.

Bomb denotation robot used to kill Micah Xavier Johnson

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On July 7, 2016, Johnson, a black man and Army Reserve Afghan War veteran, shot dead five police officers in Dallas. This took place amidst a protest over the police killings of black men Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, during which Johnson stated he wanted to kill white police officers. In an unprecedented act, which is only one of numerous instances that horrifyingly exposes racial violence against black people in the US, the Dallas Police Department utilized a bomb detonation robot to blow up Johnson, who was in a nearby parking structure. Never before had a bomb detonation robot been used by police officers in the US to execute a person. Johnson’s killing indexes the further transformation of US policing into war, as military equipment is integrated into law enforcement.

2.

Craig Atkinson’s Do Not Resist

Atkinson’s documentary film on the militarization of the police in the United States is unsettling, to say the least. After attending a screening at the Frontline Club in London this October, I realized my body was aching all over because I had been so tense throughout the duration of the film. The documentary begins in Ferguson in the wake of the murder of Michael Brown, and depicts police officers turning into “warrior cops,” aggressively suppressing African-American protesters with an arsenal of military gear. The film also exposes police training seminars that emphasize the use of “righteous violence.” What especially struck me is when Atkinson focuses on predictive policing, which are algorithms supposedly able to predict—and thus prevent—crime. This, of course, leads to older modes of profiling—racial included—sedimenting in new software. In my current studio practice, I am developing a new body of artworks that confronts the informatic nature of policing today, and this will materialize as a series of immersive installations, titled The Prison-House.

3.

Post-truth

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“Post-truth” is the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year and defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Today, post-truth is popularly used to describe political strategies implemented during the EU referendum in the UK and the US presidential campaign. Consider the outright lie fabricated by the Vote Leave campaign on bus ads, pictured above, that contributed to Brexit; Donald Trump plainly stating that Barak Obama is “the founder of ISIS”; or the proliferation of fake news, provoking incidents like Pizzagate, which involved a man shooting an assault rifle in a pizzeria because of its supposed connection to a child trafficking ring led by Hillary Clinton. If truth is slipping away from politics, perhaps artistic practice should make use of this by telling a better lie, in order to reroute us back to democracy—or better, queer utopia.

4.

Donna Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene

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Every autumn, I teach an undergraduate class at Goldsmiths on “Feminist and Queer Technoscience.” One of the foundational texts we read is Donna Haraway’s 1988 essay “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” which argues for a feminist objectivity in science. I have read this article more than 20 times, and yet each time I sit down with it, I find it thrilling—I get chills. Needless to say, for me, a new book by Haraway is a major event. Staying with the Trouble had a delayed release in the UK, and I was going all over London looking for a copy. I finally picked it up during a trip back to New York. The book tackles climate change with science fiction, myth, and art, all bound together by what Haraway terms “string figuring.” A striking (and rather queer) claim: “One of the most urgent tasks that we mortal critters have is making kin, not babies… It’s making present the powers of mortal critters on earth in resistance to the anthropocene and capitalocene.”

5.

Frankfurt Airport Security Area video

In November, I gave a talk at the Digital Disorders conference at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. On my way back to London, déjà vu stopped me in my tracks at the Terminal B security area in the Frankfurt airport. Among airport workers and agents, security belts with luggage, and a variety of scanning devices, numerous monitors were broadcasting a single video on repeat, dramatizing a young, white German woman and man’s airport security experience. As their bodies—including genitals—are rubbed and prodded, the woman and man smile and flirt with one another, as if their gazes transform the administrative touch of the security agent into a sexual caress. Upon successfully completing their security screenings, they find one another in Duty Free and have a romantic meal together—all before their flights! I had seen this video years before, when passing through Frankfurt in 2013. I find it as menacing as ever, as it normalizes security through heteronormative romance. The video promises that you too may be lucky enough to have such an encounter if you comply with regulations. The entire Frankfurt airport security area, with its many screens and security apparatuses, began to resemble an art installation to me, like some Nam June Paik piece gone terribly wrong. What appeared most pernicious was the placement of monitors playing this security romance video directly above Pro Vision 2 body scanners, as these are the 3D imaging full body scanners that, because of the reductive ways they encourage staff to assess gender, have caused transgender persons to be detained on terrorist suspicions over “gonadal anomalies.” Bizarrely, this security video is on Vimeo, and now that I have access to it, I am developing an installation around it.

6.

The Black Outdoors: Fred Moten & Saidiya Hartman

This year, I found myself intensely searching for material on political imaginaries, utopias, and alternatives. I spent much time thinking about ideas of “the outside,” which is a concept that comes up in a variety of theoretical writings, but I’m quite taken by the versions in queer and feminist thought, such as when J. K. Gibson-Graham argue that there is an outside to capitalism or when José Esteban Muñoz writes about queerness as an escape from the hegemonic present. That said, I was moved by this conversation between Saidiya Hartman and Fred Moten, as they experiment with thinking and imagining their versions of the outside, through “the black outdoors.” Hartman articulates the stakes of this project well: “The enclosure is so brutal.”

7.

Future Queer Perfect at Station Independent Projects

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Yevgeniy Fiks, Toward a Portfolio of Woodcuts (Harry Hay) 3, 2013

An exhibition on queerness, utopia, and communism!? All I can say is yes to that! Curated by Olga Kopenkina and Yevgeniy Fiks, the artworks presented utilize queerness as a modality for considering leftist rebellion and utopias of the past. The School of Theory and Activism in Bishkek created an incredible archival project on the Kollontai Commune, a queer communist group from the Kyrgyz Republic. Yevgeniy Fiks’s Toward a Portfolio of Woodcuts (Harry Hay) consists of text-based carvings that explore communism and homosexuality in the life of Harry Hay, a noted gay rights activist and communist. I am quite fond of the woodcut shown here, but another beautifully states: “Sometimes an agitprop circumstance could overlap with a pick-up ‘Join the union! Join the union! The truth shall make you free!’ And with the employment of a not-universally-noted eye-look, I could connect without speaking ‘Join me in another kind of union! This way lies another freedom!’”

8.

The Empire Remains Shop

Photo: Tim Bowditch

I wish I could have attended the majority of the events that took place at this art installation-meets-pop-up shop on Baker Street in London. The Empire Remains Shop looks to the remains—or leftovers—of the British Empire with food, geographies, and exchange, through a vast public program of performances, meals, and discussions. Initiated by London-based duo Cooking Sections, the shop immerses you in questions, feelings, pasts, and futures of the postcolonial. Some highlights: a screening and discussion with The Otolith Group, a “midnight masala” performance by Shahmen Suku (Radha La Bia), and consultation sessions on how to devalue real estate provided by Cooking Sections.

 

9.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Vapour 

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In April, Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul screened his new feature Cemetery of Splendor at the Tate Modern, along with a silent, black-and-white short titled Vapour. For 20 minutes, thick fog engulfs a village. It is haunting, foreboding, and spectacular to watch. Before the screening, then Tate Modern director Chris Dercon explained that this village, named Toongha, has been the site of violent struggles for land, between residents and the state (and is also where Weerasethakul currently lives). The fog is enigmatic: is it a creeping horror, the fog of war, a safety blanket, or simply the opacity of the world?

10.

Facebook Live stream of battle for Mosul

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On October 18, various news outlets, such as Al-Jazeera and Channel 4, used Facebook Live to stream a military operation led by Iraqi and Kurdish forces to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS. This appears to mark the first time warfare has been broadcast live by major news channels over Facebook. The result: more than a million viewers tune in to watch a cascade of emojis glide over images of war—a bombing and a thumbs up. This is undoubtedly what James Der Derian calls the military-industrial-media-entertainment network—a network that looms ever larger today. As images of war and crisis ceaselessly circulate, their inundation into our lives keeps forcing a question: how to engage with them?

2016: The Year According to Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung

Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung caught our attention at the 2016 Creative Time Summit in Washington, DC, where he presented on SHIT WARS, his interactive (and oft-NSFW) web-app project that mashes up pop-cultural imagery—from Breaking Bad, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and others—with political figures and internet memes. The aim, he writes, is to “document how both [the] left wing and right wing uses populism to their advantages […]

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Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung. Photo: Alex Tu

Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung caught our attention at the 2016 Creative Time Summit in Washington, DC, where he presented on SHIT WARS, his interactive (and oft-NSFW) web-app project that mashes up pop-cultural imagery—from Breaking Bad, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and others—with political figures and internet memes. The aim, he writes, is to “document how both [the] left wing and right wing uses populism to their advantages in 2016 presidential election, and to expose Donald Trump as the most dangerous demagogue.”

Born in Hong Kong and based in New York, his work has been exhibited around the world at venues including the New Museum; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; the Berkeley Art Museum; Sundance Film Festival; and ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany, among many others. In addition to his work as an artist, Hung also freelances as an art director for clients including Facebook and Adult Swim. He co-founded a startup, FUNraiser.us, and co-owns a boutique wine store in Brooklyn called The Winey Neighbor with his wife, Young.

Here, as part of 2016: The Year According to                                , our annual series of artist-generated top-1o lists, he shares his perspective on the most noteworthy moments, experiences, events, and ideas from the year that was.

 

1.

Creative Time Summit

Held in Washington, DC this year, the Creative Time Summit is the leading international conference exploring the intersection of the arts and social change. It expanded my mind tremendously and made me think about how little I’ve done compared to many other activists, artists, and creative thinkers out there. I strongly recommend that anyone who cares about our world attend the next Creative Time Summit. It will move you, it will motivate you, it will make you roll up your sleeves and work to make our world better! Let’s “occupy the future” together!

2.

#NoDAPL

I was ecstatic when I heard that the Army Corps of Engineers denied Energy Transfer Partnership’s easement to cross Lake Oahe with the Dakota Access Pipeline. To the Water Protectors and every person who took a stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, I salute you! The fight is not over: #StandwithStandingRock!

3.

DIY Fake News

Remember last year’s Face2Face technology about “real-time face capture and reenactment”? Now, you can pair that with Adobe’s new VoCo (voice-conversion technology)—a way to to create “Photoshop voice-overs”—to make your own 100-percent fake news. I hope artists will use these technologies to create artworks that reflect our time and create social changes.

4.

Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop

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One of my highlights of the year is meeting with the poets Faloon Branham, Carlos Tyler, and co-founder Tara Libert from the Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop!

“Free Minds uses books and creative writing to empower young inmates to transform their lives. By mentoring and connecting them to supportive services throughout their entire incarceration into reentry, Free Minds inspires these youths to see their potential and achieve new educational and career goals. Free Minds serves 16 and 17 year old youths who have been charged and incarcerated as adults at the DC Jail. Free Minds serves more than 500 youths each year across three successive phases: DC Jail Book Club, Federal Prison Book Club, and Reentry Book Club.”

It is amazing what they’re doing to help incarcerated youth. Please go to their website to read some of their powerful poems and give them support!

 

5.

Pedro Reyes’ Doomocracy

Jenny Tibbels and Sammy Tunis, Gun Party, Photo: Will Star/Shooting Stars Pro

Gun Party, part of Pedro Reyes’s Doomocracy. Photo: Will Star/Shooting Stars Pro, via Creative Time

A brilliant idea with excellent execution! Pedro Reyes’s political haunted house at the Brooklyn Army Terminal was my favorite art installation of 2016. It touches everything I deeply cared about—corruption and government, environmental justice, Wall Street and the financial industry, gun control, women’s rights and abortion, the fast-food industry, institutional racism and marginalization, art and money, xenophobia, terrorism, drone warfare, climate change, and Big Pharma. Now that Donald Trump has been elected, I really feel that Doomocracy is what we are living in now.

 

6.

Yang Youngliang 杨泳梁

Yang Youngliang, From the New World , 2014 (giclee print)

Yang Youngliang, From the New World, 2014 (giclee print)

I discovered Yang Youngliang‘s work earlier this year. He created these absolutely beautiful and intricate videos and photographs based on Chinese Shui-Mo (水墨) landscape brush painting that question urbanization and it’s impact on the environment.

7.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture

Opening ceremony of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, 24 September 2016, Photo: Joel Mason-Gaines

Opening ceremony of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, 24 September 2016. Photo: Joel Mason-Gaines

2016 was perceived as at the start of a new civil rights movement. Under the backdrop of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and politicians shifting our country towards xenophobia due to fear of terrorism and immigration, the opening of NMAAHC could not have been better timed. Two hundred years of African American history are not only an American story, but everybody’s story. Slavery and racial oppression shaped the world we live in today. Please visit.

8.

The Centennial of Dada’s Birth

Marcel Duchamp, a key Dada artist. Photo: Eric Sutherland, Walker Art Center

Marcel Duchamp, a key Dada artist. Photo: Eric Sutherland, Walker Art Center

Dada is the only art movement that really influenced me because it is subversive, revolutionary, and it challenges the conformity of culture and questions the status quo. Dada, according to the poet Hugo Ball, is to “get rid of everything that smacks of journalism, worms, everything nice and right, blinkered, moralistic, Europeanised, enervated.” Dada emerged amid the brutality of World War I and the nationalism that had led to the war. Sound familiar? We need more “anti-art” now.


9.

For Freedoms

Dread Scott, A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday, 2015, ©Dread Scott. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery

Dread Scott, A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday, 2015, ©Dread Scott. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery

For Freedoms is an artist-run super PAC founded by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman that empowers artists to create art that comments on timely political matters. Great examples are A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday by Dread Scott and the Make American Great Again billboard at Pearl, Mississippi. I believe the arts can impact social change and they are doing it within the system.

10.

Donald Fucking Trump

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Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, Ep. VIII: Jizz Trumpredator vs Thug Life from #ShitWars- The Shit Awakens

I really don’t want to put Donald Fucking Trump here, but I have to. It’s like I am trying really hard to hold my projectile vomit. I spent a huge chunk of my time this year making the #ShitWars—the Shit Awakens project, and on November 8, as my friend said: “Your art project turned into reality overnight.” I can tell you, on the day Donald Trump got elected, the color of my vomit was red, white, and blue.

2016: The Year According to Asli Altay

A graphic designer and creative director living in Istanbul, Asli Altay is the founder of Future Anecdotes Istanbul, a design collective that pursues the role of design as editorial input and integral collaboration. The studio has been working closely with artists, architects, curators, publishers and cultural institutions, in search of design as a structural link between […]

asli-altay

A graphic designer and creative director living in Istanbul, Asli Altay is the founder of Future Anecdotes Istanbul, a design collective that pursues the role of design as editorial input and integral collaboration. The studio has been working closely with artists, architects, curators, publishers and cultural institutions, in search of design as a structural link between content and context. She also founded and ran Apendiks, a temporary bookshop, from her studio, which provided in-depth showcases for independent publishers.

Here as part of 2016: The Year According to                             , our annual series of artist-generated top-1o lists, she shares her perspective on the most noteworthy moments, experiences, events, and ideas from the year that was.

 

1.
Kirklareli Muze

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Kirklareli, a small city at the Northwest corner of Turkey, is where my father is from. We went there for a weekend this year and found out that there is only one museum in town. And it is called MUZE, the museum. It is “the museum”— biology, archaeology, and ethnography all rolled into one in a small two story house of roughly 120 square meters. Stuffed animals in panoramic displays, folkloric mise-en-scenes, and relics from antiquity sit side by side, packed into the Noah’s Ark or the time capsule that museums are believed to be. At the entrance, there is a framed sign that reads: “What is a Museum?”—an overarching question that we’ve been dealing with, perhaps the most, throughout this year.

2.
“What is a Museum for?”

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This question has been keeping us busy since we started collaborating with the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, initially for an exhibition titled Who Owns The Street?, following up with a reorganization of their collection display. It has been a process of unlearning, reimagining, Skyping, dining, strolling, and testing out the very idea of the museum.

 

3.
The Menu, Chios

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An unexpected encounter: a restaurant in Chios, by the sea. Good food, bad wine, but then again we should have gone for ouzo. Twelve individual menus written and illustrated by the 9-year-old niece of the owner of the place. Amazing piece of design work.

 

4.
Emoji Silent Film Tournament

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Held in numerous WhatsApp groups with various friends, this was the game of the year. A primer in hieroglyphics.

 

5.
Back courtyards of Kurtulus

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We finally made the move to a new neighborhood in Istanbul, we now have real neighbors. Every time I go out to the balcony, it’s the same bliss. The courtyard is her yard. It starts with one woman coming out to put up her freshly washed linen, then another woman from a different balcony starts chatting her up. The rest is a tilt effect inter-balcony conversation, that goes on for hours. My soundtrack for the rest of the day.

6.
Island-themed books

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Bibliotheraphy of the year has manifested itself in semi-conscious choice of island themed books. Two highlights: Foe by J.M. Coetzee, woven around the existing story of Robinson Crusoe, but this time the story is told by a woman. Second highlight: Satin Island Tom McCarthy. We never come close to knowing the truth.

 

7.
Friends leaving Istanbul

The post-truth has its toll on our daily life. Everybody is in search of islands, one way or another.

 

8.
Palindrome of the year

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are we not drawn onward to new era?

9.
Ahali

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We’ve worked on this sporadic publication years ago as one of our first collaborations with Can, imagining that it will continue for years to come. Creating its own ways, its temporary communities and audiences, issues continue to multiply and accumulate. Following a quiet period after an anthology was published, this year was a good year for Ahali. Installed in new forms and with new selections in Bolzano (ar/ge kunst), London (tenderpixel), and the Glasgow School of Art, Ahali keeps on.

 

10.
Iaspis

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We’ve spent the half of our summer in Stockholm thanks to the invitation by the Iaspis residency program. The physical studio space ended up extending the rooms of my mental space. Pleasures of working, everyday life, and getting ready for the change. Celebrating possibilities, adaptation, and celebrating hanging out… 2016 was a milestone.

2016: The Year According to James Bridle

James Bridle‘s writings and art often explore the intersections of technology, politics, culture, and citizenship. Launched the day before his 2015 keynote at the Walker’s Superscript conference, for instance, his Citizen X creates a visualization of web users’ “algorithmic citizenship,” all the geographic locations one’s internet data passes through. And his 2014 Artist Op-Ed examined a movement in his native […]
jamesbridle_speaking James Bridle‘s writings and art often explore the intersections of technology, politics, culture, and citizenship. Launched the day before his 2015 keynote at the Walker’s Superscript conference, for instance, his Citizen X creates a visualization of web users’ “algorithmic citizenship,” all the geographic locations one’s internet data passes through. And his 2014 Artist Op-Ed examined a movement in his native UK to “deprive” terror suspects of their citizenship. Fittingly, his contribution to the series 2016: The Year According to                              touches on these core themes, but from a new geography—his new home in Athens, Greece.

1.

Refugee Crisis and the Flag for No Nations

On the 17th of January I planted a flag on the shoreline in Athens made from a foil emergency blanket. It’s not a particularly new or unique artistic gesture, but for me it connected a number of thoughts about technology and politics which set the tone for the next 12 months, with an emphasis on DIY and critical thinking. The refugee crisis has been very hard on Greece, and it’s not over yet; in fact, this is merely the initial phase of a far larger and far more devastating global crisis. But I’ve been privileged to see the myriad ways individuals and groups respond, from those braving the sea crossing to the Greek islands to those working to help them in camps and squats on the mainland. The future is hard, and it starts here.

2.

Xylouris White

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I saw Xylouris White—Cretan singer and laouto player George Xylouris and Dirty Three drummer Jim White—play the opening of the Niarchos Foundation in June. Everybody danced. Their album Black Peak, released a month later, has been on heavy rotation ever since.

3.

Jo Cox

Nigel Farage, the tinpot leader of the UK Independence Party, declared on the morning following the Brexit referendum that his side had emerged victorious “without a single bullet being fired.” Eight days previously, Member of Parliament Jo Cox had been killed in the street by a fascist yelling “Britain First.” UKIP’s own election material was filled with racist and xenophobic material. Personally, as a UK citizen living in the EU, I have no idea what the future holds, but I benefit from an immense amount of other privileges. What is more concerning is the abdication of hope, the refusal to believe that we can do better than this. I say now what I said then: Fuck hatred, fuck violence, fuck borders, fuck Brexit.

4.

The Santa Cruz School

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In October of 2015 I saw Karen Barad speak at the Through Post-Atomic Eyes symposium in Toronto: a rare and genuinely life-changing experience. Since then, trying to catch up, the work of Barad and companion writers have become central to my thinking and doing: Donna Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble and the particular success of Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World (both published this year) point to the growing awareness of this work, and along with Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter and Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark have been personal touchstones for 2016.  

5.

Lightbulb DDOS

Just ahead of the Ethereum heist, the Brexit flash crash, and the first automated driving fatality, the massive attack on the internet performed by household objects—fridges, lightbulbs, cameras, and thermostats—gets this year’s award for WTF Futures. The Internet of Angry Things is here, and your toaster hates democracy.  

6.

Latraac

Photo: Angelos Giotopoulos

Photo: Angelos Giotopoulos

Watching my friend Zachos Varfis’s project Latraac evolve over the last year has been wonderful. A skate bowl and social space in a once-vacant lot in the Kerameikos neighbourhood in Athens, Latraac is visionary and beautiful.

7.

Turbulence

Turbulence is on the rise. Just another marker of a world on fire but one that strikes a particularly dark, anthropocentric chord: low-atmosphere Kessler syndrome, the metaphors becoming real, and vice versa. Global warming is not a threat in the future: it’s happening now and everything is entangled.  

8.

Journals and Newsletters

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In response to the above, the Dark Mountain Journal has been particularly helpful, as has Rob Meyer’s Not Doomed Yet. Journals and newsletters are resurgent/emergent forms full of necessary and nourishing goodness: many thanks to Dan Hon, Warren Ellis, Charlie Loyd, and Salvage for their regular appearance in my inbox.  

9.

Suzanne Treister

Suzanne Treister, HFT The Gardener video still, High Frequency Trading Floor, 2014-15

Suzanne Treister, HFT The Gardener video still, High Frequency Trading Floor, 2014–2015

I was lucky enough to see far too many exhibitions to pick from this year, with some wonderful recognition for some of my favorite artists, including the Jarman Award for Heather Phillipson and the Turner Prize for Helen Marten. Alongside Sophia al-Maria’s installation at the Whitney, and Cecile B. Evans and Hito Steyerl’s work at the Berlin Biennale, I’d like to highlight Suzanne Treister’s HFT The Gardener, which I saw at Annely Juda in the summer. Gematria, algorithms, and psychotropics FTW.

10.

Syros

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I moved to Athens in September 2015—this has been my first full year in Greece. One of the highlights of the summer was the Syros Film Festival, and the highlight of that was a drive-in screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey on a village football pitch. About half-way through the film, the bright point of the International Space Station passed in an arc over the screen, the sky already filled with bright Aegean stars. When the film finished, all the cars tooted their horns to The Blue Danube, and I fell asleep, brimful with raki, on a beach.

2016: The Year According to Paul Soulellis

Photo: Antoine Lefebre, Artzines Paul Soulellis is a graphic designer, artist, publisher and teacher. He works in New York City and Providence, RI. Soulellis is the founder of Library of the Printed Web, a physical archive devoted to web-to-print artists’ books, zines and other printout matter. He curates, designs, and publishes print-on-demand publications that have featured […]

Artzines / Antoine Lefebvre

Photo: Antoine Lefebre, Artzines

Paul Soulellis is a graphic designer, artist, publisher and teacher. He works in New York City and Providence, RI. Soulellis is the founder of Library of the Printed Web, a physical archive devoted to web-to-print artists’ books, zines and other printout matter. He curates, designs, and publishes print-on-demand publications that have featured the work of over 180 contemporary artists. Soulellis is a faculty member at Rhode Island School of Design and a contributing editor at Rhizome, where he curates The Download.

Here, Soulellis shares his perspective as 2016 closes, as part of our annual series 2016: The Year According to                               .

 

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Dennis Cooper, Zac’s Freight Elevator

Dennis Cooper’s novels really worked on me in the early ’90s. I lost track of him until this year, when I discovered that his latest work doesn’t contain written language at all. Now he tells stories with stacks of GIFs that he finds online, packaged into ZIP files. They feel like long scrolls or Tumblr posts; he develops them on his well-tended blog, which was famously deleted by Google this past summer. (All of the work was eventually returned.) These browser-based GIF novels and poems have characters and plot lines, but no words. And they feel every bit as violent and transgressive as his literary works. I recently wrote about Zac’s Freight Elevator, his latest novel. This deep dive into the possibilities of the found GIF helped me to understand how distributing open-source(-ish) downloadable ZIP files on the network can be an act of preservation, a form of protection, and a good way to publish art.

 

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Lorna Mills, Ways of Something, Episode 4, minute 7, Dave Greber

For Lorna Mills the GIF is a kind of cinema, and her work is a fantastic explosion of GIF-making energy. But she also has this remarkable way of bringing people together around her practice. She recently curated more than 113 artists to remake the four-hour-long television-broadcast version of John Berger’s 1972 Ways of Seeing. Each artist chose a one-minute clip and provided their own one-minute work in response. Lorna assembled them into a rewriting of the original series. It’s a tremendous, generous work that’s larger than its parts, and it’s featured in the Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 exhibition at the Whitney right now. I watched Lorna’s communal parade of digital makers and then laid down on the floor in Ben Coonley’s Trading Futures, a 3D experience in a cardboard geodesic dome that shares the same gallery space at the Whitney.  

 

 

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I seem to be into collaborative works this year. It probably has something to do with a renewed sense of urgency around collective belonging, which feels especially threatened right now. Since this summer I’ve been in awe of Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke’s epic collaborative work, The 3D Additivist Cookbook, which was three years in the making. The 360-page publication, inspired by William Powell’s Anarchist Cookbook, features 120 artists. It’s a manifesto-in-action for #Additivism, their movement to radicalize, queerify, politicize, and otherwise critically provoke 3D printing, additive technologies, and maker culture. I’m totally fascinated that they released this work as a 3D PDF—a file with dozens of embedded objects that can be viewed and manipulated in Adobe Reader (and printed at home). An archive of source files was also released as a 6GB torrent, making this a stunning example of network-based experimental publishing. I was honored to be a part of the launch at Printed Matter on December 2.

 

 

Christopher Clary, My Porn, Volume 1 [pic Paul Soulellis]

Christopher Clary, My Porn Volume 1, Photo: Paul Soulellis

Christopher Clary in Printed Web 4 [2016]

Christopher Clary in Printed Web 4, 2016

Attending the launch of the Cookbook with me was Christopher Clary, an artist who works with gay porn. In his practice he tries to provoke by finding it, collecting it, re-making and restaging it, and eventually destroying it. Shame and disappointment always seem to lurk just below the surface of Christopher’s practice. I was introduced to him years ago, but we only met in person last year, when I curated him as the first in the Rhizome Download series. Since then, I’ve seen him transform that commission (Sorry to dump on you like this.zip) into an all-encompassing, obsessive body of work that keeps him and his audience very busy. Every Sunday at 5 pm he restages a single JPG from his collection, performs it on CAM4, and auctions the props on eBay (FKNJPGS). His work around image, body, appropriation, identity and queer performance is significant and I can’t wait to see what he does with these 52 performances in 2017.

 

Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair / zine tent [pic Paul Soulellis]

Zine tent at Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair. Photo: Paul Soulellis

Christopher and I both exhibited at Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair in September. I can’t overstate the importance of the art book fair as a model for growing creative communities. Given the looming threat to arts funding, supporting (and enjoying) the fairs feels more relevant than ever. Printed Matter popularized the form in New York and LA, but artists, collectors, fans, and independent publishers like myself are now addicted to new fairs that are being held all over the calendar, all over the planet. This year I was able to attend Miss Read in Berlin for the first time, and this month brings me and RISD to the Odds and Ends Yale Art Book Fair for the third year in a row. But it’s Internet Yami-Ichi (“a flea market for browsing in real life”), started in Tokyo by the Japanese duo Exonemo, that totally transforms this indie spirit into something else. Not really a book fair or a flea market but somehow drawing on the energy of both of those models, this is a place to celebrate network culture and weirdness in physical space.

 

NYC / November 12, 2016 [pic Paul Soulellis]

NYC, November 12, 2016. Photo: Paul Soulellis

Gran Fury, _Silence = Death_, yearTBD

Gran Fury, Silence = Death, 1987

Gathering at the front door of Trump Tower the night after the election, in a spontaneous act of protest, I was sad, confused, and disoriented. By that weekend, marching up Fifth Avenue, the massive public display of energy had transformed into solidarity and action. I showed up without a sign and realized that carrying messages and symbols of resistance in this political crisis will be crucial. Whether we march in physical space or broadcast and amplify online, how do we send clear messages that cut through the noise? This is an essential question for today’s graphic design students. As a teacher, I recently looked back to the work of Gran Fury during the Reagan-era AIDS crisis for inspiration, and traced the history of the pink triangle. Graphic design that feels urgent, necessary, critical, even dark. Do we need a symbol now? What’s our message of resistance in the current crisis? I don’t have answers, but I’m looking.

 

 

[pic Paul Soulellis]

Photo: Paul Soulellis

In the middle of the march that first weekend after the election, somewhere around Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, I ran into my friend Sal Randolph. Sal is an artist and she recently started a new listening/publishing space called Dispersed Holdings, with David Richardson. They now host screenings, happenings, and reading events, enjoyed on grey felt cushions with red stitching, fashioned by David. The space, on the third floor of a very old building on the Bowery, used to be Eva Hesse’s apartment. Sal and David refer to Eva casually, like she’s still in residence, and keep her diaries and a photo on the mantle. These are two remarkable people who are devoted to nurturing creative space for community gatherings—friends, fans, and strangers communing in experience and experimentation. Their events are public, but intimate, occupying some sweet spot between a salon, a dinner party, and an open reading.

 

 

Bulletin [pic Paul Soulellis]

Bulletin. Photo: Paul Soulellis

We need small, independent artists’ spaces now more than ever. They’re safe places for experimentation, where time slows down—real resistance to the commercial art world. Alternatives to the corporate paradigm. Philip Tomaru of Arts and Sciences Projects and Metropolitan Structures is soon to start a new one: Bulletin (located within Bullet, an artists’ space in the East Village). I dropped in to preview the tiny space, which contained an ad hoc display of zines by artist friends on a white shelf. A window looks directly out onto East 3rd Street, and I get the sense that this will be a kind of inside-outside laboratory, with just enough space to install and celebrate. A minimal move that yields something communal and powerful. This spirit of risk-taking and making public feels more and more valuable; urgent, even. Especially now.

2016: The Year According to OK-RM

OK-RM. Photo: Lena C. Emery OK-RM is an independent studio founded in London in 2008 by Oliver Knight and Rory McGrath. Known for its distinctive perspective on design and art direction within contemporary art, culture, and commerce, OK-RM fuses a dedicated content-driven approach with a grounding in conceptual thinking. Recent commissions include the exhibition design and campaign […]

OK-RM. Photo: Lena C. Emery

OK-RM. Photo: Lena C. Emery

OK-RM is an independent studio founded in London in 2008 by Oliver Knight and Rory McGrath. Known for its distinctive perspective on design and art direction within contemporary art, culture, and commerce, OK-RM fuses a dedicated content-driven approach with a grounding in conceptual thinking. Recent commissions include the exhibition design and campaign for Fear and Love (Design Museum), visual identities for Manus × Machina (The Met), the British Pavilion in Venice, and Under the Same Sun (Guggenheim New York) as well as book projects with artists Fos and Shezad Dawood. In early 2015, OK-RM founded InOtherWords, a publishing imprint creating books and other printed matter in close collaboration with artists, writers, galleries, and other cultural protaganists.

Here, Knight and McGrath share their perspectives as 2016 closes, as part of our annual series 2016: The Year According to                              .

 

1.
A reflection on what it means to live today

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Real Review, Issue 2, Autumn 2016. Photo: Max Creasy

September 2016 saw the launch of Real Review as it set out to celebrate the review format, an under-appreciated and underused critical writing format that has the ability to encompass an entire epoch. It’s dedicated to all reading levels: those who have no knowledge of architecture, and those who have been practicing for decades. It’s aim: removing barriers for the casual reader to enter into the world of architecture, without making it a dull or generic read for actual architects.

Too many magazines are taking on the qualities of books. They become these beautiful objects, technically well-executed but often empty of content. People own them, but they don’t read them. The Real Review is an exercise in minimums and constraints. It is engineered to be the most efficient and resourceful design. Making a printed publication is expensive and complicated, so every square millimeter counts. In this sense, we treat the page like real estate. It’s also a reflection on contemporary ephemerality. All magazines should be something that reflect their own time. They should be disposable, with only a precise moment of being useful, and then they are lost. This is why we say the Real Review is pursuing “what it means to live today”—it’s beautiful, but not precious.

2.
A place for production, research, conservation, presentation, and mediation of art

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Approaching Sitterwerk

Our close friend Roland Früh is the librarian of Sitterwerk. Nestled in a Swiss valley not far from Zürich in Sittertal, it’s one those perfect examples of a nonprofit multi-purpose center for arts.

3.
An exhibition that points toward the importance/changing role of design in our time

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Fear and Love at the Design Museum, 2016. Photo: Max Creasy

Fear and Love is an ambitious opening exhibition that “steps beyond the traditional certainties of design in which form follows functions and problems are solved.” It questions the role of design within a complex world and sets out to challenge its audience’s perception of what design is. From our perspective this is a refreshing and exciting stance for the Design Museum to be taking.

4.
An art collector, museum director, curator and book specialist that we should have know about before

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Pontus Hultén. Photographer unknown

Pontus Hultén was director of the Moderna Museet for 15 years (1958–1973). Hultén defined the museum as an elastic and open space, hosting a plethora of activities within its walls: lectures, films series, concerts, and debates. Outside of museum walls Hultén disseminated the ideas, processes and works of artists through a set of catalogues that offer insight into the potential of close collaboration and the form of the book.

5.
A compulsive volume of books

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Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness is one of the most beautifully obsessive, material-aware books we have ever had the pleasure to flick through. It is a hybrid artist’s book come exhibition catalogue available in three colors (yellow, red, and green), each featuring remarkably subtle differences in layout. Apart from the consciously minimal words “Printed in Germany” on the back page, the book is pure image and space, paced to perfection.

6.
An exhibition curated through time in the home

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Home Economics, British Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Curator of Architecture section of the Venice Biennale 2016, Alejandro Aravena called on each country to define its own “frontline of architecture,” and by doing so tried to question the entire definition of architecture. At the British pavilion, a team of young curators—Jack Self, Finn Williams, and Shumi Bose—looked at the societal failure to provide sufficient housing in Britain today, making the statement that this is “not just a housing crisis; it is a crisis of the home.” Home Economics was founded as an exhibition that proposed five new models for domestic life. Curated by time of domestic occupancy the models are presented as full-scale 1:1 interiors in the British Pavilion, displaying architectural proposals as a direct spatial experience.

7.
An exploration into the borders between virtual and material reality/fact and fiction 

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Shezad Dawood, Kalimpong (Ekai Kawaguchi) and Kalimpong (Alexandra David-Néel), 2016. Copyright Shezad Dawood, courtesy Timothy Taylor

Shezad Dawood works across film, painting, and sculpture to juxtapose discrete systems of image, language, site, and multiple narratives. He is a keen collaborator and enjoys bringing a team close to investigate the lines of enquiry. We worked with Shezad for the second time on Kalimpong, where we dived with him into a world lost in time where the past echoes the present—where historical fact meets the fictional or speculative.

8.
An artwork that gives back

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Federico Herrero, Pelican Estate, video still, 2016

Federico Herrero’s site-specific work in a playground at Pelican Estate, Peckham, was one of the highlights of Under the Same Sun, presented by South London Gallery and the Guggenheim New York. The artist expressed his intention to create a work that was part of an experience within the locality, rather than being a decoration on top of it. This work plays closely to one of South London’s Gallery core aims to bring art closer to its community.

9.
A stimulating read by one the most eminent social theorists

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Zygmunt Bauman. Photographer unknown

In his book Liquid Modernity, Zygmunt Bauman examines “how we have moved away from a ‘heavy’ and ‘solid’, hardware-focused modernity to a ‘light’ and ‘liquid,’ software-based modernity.” A 91-year-old socialist who has lived through many political, cultural, and social eras and seen more changes than most, his passion and clarity on today’s complex matters humbles us.

10.
A Healthy View

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View from OK-RM studio, 2016

After eight years of OK-RM we have moved studios, not far—just round the corner—but now with 180-degree of views of the London skylineFrom the east we can enjoy a cacophony of concrete, brick, and glass, from Denys Lasdun’s “Keeling House” to Norman Foster’s “Gherkin.” We recently learnt from a “NetDoctor” that studies have shown that a view can boost self-esteem and those who can look out of a window have greater job satisfaction than those who cannot. With this knowledge we look forward to what 2017 brings…

2016: The Year According to Mary Ping

Mary Ping. Photo: Joyce Ravid Mary Ping is a New York–based designer. In 2001, she launched her eponymous collection, following it the next year with her conceptual line, Slow and Steady Wins the Race. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum at FIT, the RISD Museum, DESTE Foundation, and the Victoria and Albert […]

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Mary Ping. Photo: Joyce Ravid

Mary Ping is a New York–based designer. In 2001, she launched her eponymous collection, following it the next year with her conceptual line, Slow and Steady Wins the Race. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum at FIT, the RISD Museum, DESTE Foundation, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. She is a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Here, she shares her perspective on 2016 in this year’s edition of 2016: The Year According to                               .

2016 was a year that was bookmarked by the passing of cultural heroes and the dawn of an unknown that has been a reality in the making. Too much to distill, so these ten moments were chosen more about their inherent sense of longevity. We are moving faster than we can keep up in many ways, so paying attention and adhering to a long path is crucial. Memory is a responsibility.

1.
Taryn Simon, The Paperwork and the Will of Capital 

Decision of general principle to ban third-party ownership of players’ economic rights. Zurich, Switzerland, September 26, 2014 Photo: © Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Taryn Simon, Decision of general principle to ban third-party ownership of players’ economic rights. Zurich, Switzerland, September 26, 2014. Photo: © Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

The last show of Taryn Simon‘s I saw was Contraband at Lever House, a photographic series of more than 1,000 items seized at JFK airport and exhaustively documented over five days. It continues to sit with me. Her show at Gagosian at the start of this year had a similar investigative approach. We forget the charged potency that mundane objects sitting in plain sight can carry with them and yet hide so well. From the press release: “Paperwork and the Will of Capital addresses the instability of executive decision-making and the precarious nature of survival”—a foreshadowing of how 2016 ended and the new world order of 2017.

2.
Maira Kalman in Conversation with Rolf Fehlbaum

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I’ve been a fan of Maira Kalman since discovering the work of her husband, Tibor Kalman. Oh duh! I thought, a genius with a genius muse at his side. Hearing her speak only made me hope that one day I would get to hang out with her.

3.
Marni, the Final Collection

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I’m a huge believer that when women design for women; there is a lot more interesting subtext happening within each thing that goes on the body. Conseulo Castilgioni, the founder of Marni, announced that her Spring 2017 collection was to be her last and that she’d be stepping down to spend more time with her family. Take a few minutes, put the collection on slideshow, and watch in sequence and in its entirety—it’s better than most films.

4.
MoMA : Items A to Z

Working with Paola Antonelli, Michelle Fisher, and the other members of the MoMA Architecture and Design department has been a true highlight of the year, and I am excited that it will continue into the next. The email exchanges alone make my hungry brain feel full while simultaneously forcing me to step up to the plate. The full day’s symposium addressing topics from A to Z in the anthropology of fashion is available to view. I had the challenging task of reminding people about the Rana Plaza factory tragedy with my co-presenter, Carmen Artigas. I hope these world conflicts further cement the need for responsibility in the supply chain.

5.
PYE Pajamas

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Photo: Rory Van Millingen

PYE is a brand based in Hong Kong that truly does go from seed to shirt. They are in charge of planting the cotton, ginning it, weaving it and so forth. Aside from meticulous shirting for men, they also make the best pajamas.

6.
Stranger Things

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The Duffer Brothers created the best memory album of the’80s this summer with Stranger Things. It is a shared nostalgia of my generation’s childhood passed onto those who were too young to experience it first-hand. It is also very important to point out at that these are kids spending time together using their imagination, going on adventures, and not looking down at a mini screen in their hands, ignoring each other. I must have watched all the episodes seven times each.

7.
Cass McCombs’s Mangy Love

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Cass McCombs’s music has an incredible and inexplicable way of making you listen to all the new work on repeat while also conjuring up all his previous albums at the same time. All of a sudden “Windfall” from Dropping the Writ begins to emerge again from the back of your brain, or “Everything Has to Be Just So” from Big Wheels and Others is waiting to be called up next. The music is timely and timeless, yet untethered to any era or anything. I’m only repeating what has been written many times before, which is that he really is one of the great songwriters of this generation and now that role is more important than ever.

8.
In Valentano, Italy

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Many heartfelt thanks goes to the curators and president at Fondation Galeries Lafayette. Without the commission of the Slow and Steady Wins the Race installation for their exhibition in October, I would not have met the Made-in-Town organization in Paris that introduced me to the mind-blowingly amazing enterprise and artisans at Monteneri, an atelier project situated in the 13th-century lakeside town of Valentano. Working side by side with expert leather craftsman who were combining both traditional knowledge from the region and forward thinking practices of lean and green manufacturing made me even more confident in a better future for the endless production cycles created by our own consumption.

9.
Mark Van Yetter at Bridget Donahue

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Mark is one of those friends who is just your friend. A pal. A bud. Multiple story lines exist where and how you became friends back in the day. He is also one of those people who will surprise you with the fact that he actually paints and then go on to completely sandbag you with how excellent those paintings are. Mark is both face value and a mystery. Spend some quality time with these paintings and it will be more clear.

10.
Don’t Blink by Robert Frank

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Finally, if I had to place some films in a time capsule, this documentary—along with In No Great Hurry, about the life of Saul Leiter—would be immediate choices. Writing about this film won’t illuminate anything, you simply have to watch it. Robert Frank, a Swiss immigrant, responsible for some of the most historically emblematic moments of America.

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