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The Uncollectibles: Andrew Blauvelt on Minnesota by Design

When Walker staff began planning the celebration of our 75th anniversary as a public art center, most discussions revolved around what could be done to feature the museum’s collections. This approach makes sense since the collection is what remains with an institution for the long term. What was interesting for me as a curator of […]

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Minnesota By Design, a virtual collection exploring the state’s rich design landscape

When Walker staff began planning the celebration of our 75th anniversary as a public art center, most discussions revolved around what could be done to feature the museum’s collections. This approach makes sense since the collection is what remains with an institution for the long term. What was interesting for me as a curator of architecture and design is that the Walker does not have a specific collection in this area. This will probably come as a surprise for many people since the Walker has been presenting architecture and design since 1940—it was a founding discipline within the art center. Of course, there are a few design artifacts and works by architects and designers in our permanent collection—Frank Gehry’s Standing Fish, most publicly, for instance, or objects acquired from various exhibitions about design that the Walker has organized over the decades. The reasons for such an omission are varied, but this void within the Walker’s Collections remained seemingly insurmountable at least in the present context of an impending collections-based celebration of the institution.

Faced with this challenge, I reflected back on a project that was initially presented as part of a design history conference I organized in the late 1990s for the now-defunct American Center for Design in Chicago. Dubbed “ReMaking History,” it featured new takes on how history could be undertaken and presented, and was notable because most of its participants were themselves practitioner-historians—enthusiasts, educators, and designers who were often engaged in issues of history, theory, and criticism and who often operated within academic arenas. I recalled a project by Michael Rock, Susan Sellers, and Georgia Stout (now 2 x 4) in New York who proposed turning the city itself into a kind of open-air design museum. Branded the Museum of the Ordinary (MO) it called for various artifacts of design to be presented in-situ—seen as a part of everyday life and not removed from this context and placed in a museum vitrine. Being practitioners, they brilliantly illustrated the possible ways in which such objects could be “called out” in the environment in which they were essentially invisible as things worthy of a second look or even a second thought, such as a mobile advertising van that would pull a billboard through the streets welcoming visitors to the “museum,” or using the ubiquitous mesh construction scaffolding wrap, which could be printed with object label information about a chosen building—cloaking its appearance and thus drawing renewed attention to it. Although smaller scale iterations were undertaken, their larger scale vision has yet to be implemented.

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2 x 4, Museum of the Ordinary, proposal, 1997

The brilliance of what they proposed as the Museum of the Ordinary allowed for artifacts to remain where they were and in the context of their “useful” lives, but it also allowed for the inclusion of what I call “the uncollectibles”— landscapes that change over time, too vast to be expropriated by a museum; immovable buildings, too big to move; objects that by their nature are fugitive, ephemeral, perishable, or no longer extant; and largely immaterial things like services or concepts that do not exist as physical artifacts, or digital objects that live a precarious existence in terms of the future conservation requirements that collections require.

Another important predecessor to this project was one created in the summer of 1975 called Immovable Objects. It was created by Studio Works, a practice composed of architects Robert Mangurian and Craig Hodgetts and graphic designer Keith Godard, for the new Cooper-Hewitt, a design museum of the Smithsonian Institution in New York City scheduled to open in 1976. An “outdoor exhibition about city design” Immovable Objects took as its site lower Manhattan from Battery Park to the Brooklyn Bridge. Essentially annexing both the iconic buildings and more banal bits of infrastructure found in the area, Immovable Objects offered its visitors a walking tour of the city, facilitated by the production of an exhibition catalogue—in this case a newspaper complete with routes, building information, and essays on related topics, such as the evolution of architectural styles in lower Manhattan, the nature of public space in the city’s new plazas, or how zoning codes have shaped the city. The inaugural festivities included a parade whereby architects and designers chose their own or a favorite building to reimagine as a costume to engage passersby.

Michael Rock and Susan Sellers, 2 x 4, Museum of the Ordinary, proposal, 1997

Studio Works, Immovable Objects exhibition guide, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, 1975

Design museums (as well as contemporary art museums who faced some similar issues years ago) are tackling some of these challenges, trying to collect the uncollectible. Leading the way is Paola Antonelli at the Museum of Modern Art in New York who has been trying to “acquire” a 747 airplane, which would still be in service but might have, for instance, its acquisition number on the side of the plane. Those that have been to MoMA know they already own a helicopter, and, of course, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum routinely contends with such massive objects. However, the “live” nature of the object still flying from port to port takes it to a different level. Antonelli’s acquisition of the @ symbol pushes the boundaries of whether an object needs to have a definite or fixed form. Letterforms and characters by their nature exist independently of any particular typographic representation, so what was collected in this case was not a particular font but rather a piece of language, a graphical concept.

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York recently acquired its first digital application, Planetary. This raises immediate questions of conservation, especially as the technical support structures that host such apps (operating systems, web browsers, programming code, etc.) evolve and change in the future. Interestingly, they placed the code for this app online at GitHub, where people can study it, but also add to it and help conserve it for the future—tending it much like open-source software. Museums have also been collecting other buildings, such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s purchase of Eero Saarinen’s mid-century modern masterpiece, the Irwin Miller residence in Columbus, Indiana, or closer to home, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts acquisition of the stunning Purcell-Cutts house a few miles away on Lake of the Isles.

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Detail of Minnesota By Design’s interactive map

In response to this context and these kinds of questions, we launched Minnesota by Design, a new online initiative that takes the form of a website to document the rich landscape of design across the state. The project seeks to increase public awareness of the human-built environment in Minnesota—its landscapes, buildings, products, and graphics, both past and present—and the role that design thinking and practice plays in its realization. This virtual collection has been seeded with some 100 designs that reflect exemplary instances of practical ingenuity, creative thinking, beautiful form-giving, social and cultural impact, and innovative uses of technology. We’ve included descriptive texts about each selection, like the kind you might find on the gallery wall in a museum exhibition. Taking advantage of its online nature and the fact that we are limited to Minnesota, we locate each project to the extent that is possible on a searchable map. Perhaps not surprisingly, this viewing mode reveals that the selections dominate in the surrounding metropolitan area of the Twin Cities. To help correct this location bias, we’ve added a nominations feature whereby users can offer suggestions for future additions to the collection. Users can also help us correct mistakes and diversify the selections across various categories—taking advantage of crowdsourcing at its best by drawing upon collective knowledge or simply having more eyes on the page and out in the world.

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The Minnesota By Design entry for masking tape, invented in 1925 by 3M’s Richard Drew

The virtual nature of this collection is also by design. By eschewing the object-centered nature of most museum collecting and its attendant issues of conservation and connoisseurship, the Walker is free to explore design without the normal barriers of the physical realm. In creating this virtual collection, we especially wish to include those works that cannot be collected in any practical way—for instance, a park or building due to its size or uniqueness. To these “uncollectible” examples, we have added an eclectic mix of artifacts that purposefully stretch the definition of design into perhaps less familiar areas such as food design, service design, and game design. This expansion of design belies the fact that such “new” genres were and remain integral to the Minnesota economy of food processing, retailing, healthcare, and recreational activity.

Minnesota by Design can be extended from its virtual hub to the real world. I can imagine such extensions of Minnesota by Design take the form of billboards or bus shelter ads or other outdoor media around the state to bring awareness to selected designs in all their iconic yet humble glory. Some such ads, by fate of their particular location, could point to nearby designs: “Exit 237 to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Only Gas Station.” One could easily imagine a smartphone app that uses geo-location sensing and augmented reality to allow visitors to “see” buildings and other things from a bygone era in the places where they once stood proud.

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Proposed Minnesota By Design billboard, featuring Henry Dreyfuss’s iconic thermostat

Minnesota by Design, in any of its forms, celebrates a place often recognized nationally for making an outsized contribution to the American design scene. Part of this influence is due to the varied ecology of the state’s design scene—a space composed of boutique firms and in-house studios of Fortune 500 companies, a resurgence of artisanal practices and post-industrial technologies, a long history of public and private sector progressive civic cooperation, and with it, the fostering of what we now call a creative class economy that tends to spawn innovation and entrepreneurial activity. While the design diversity of the state makes it hard to pin down any singular aesthetic or any dominant type of practice, its design output, albeit occasionally elusive to capture, is collectible—if not physically then virtually.

Insights 2015 Design Lecture Series

 Insights 2015 Tuesdays in March Insights is right around the corner and we have an amazing line up of designers coming to share the thinking, processes, and methods behind their work. We’re kicking off this year with a special evening that features both a talk and an exhibition opening celebrating Minnesota design. From there, we’ve got design […]

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 Insights 2015
Tuesdays in March

Insights is right around the corner and we have an amazing line up of designers coming to share the thinking, processes, and methods behind their work. We’re kicking off this year with a special evening that features both a talk and an exhibition opening celebrating Minnesota design. From there, we’ve got design legend April Greiman (Los Angeles), artist collective/trend forecasters K-HOLE (New York), experimental designer Bart de Baets (Amsterdam), and Design Fiction proponent, James Langdon (Liverpool).

If you can’t make it in person, please tune in to our live webcast on the Walker Channel and participate through Twitter. (#Insights2015)  Here’s a kit for educators, AIGA chapters, and anyone else who might want to throw their own viewing party.

 


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Minnesota Design: A Celebration (featuring Andrew Blauvelt)
March 3, 7 pm (tickets)

Insights 2015 kicks off with a unique two-part event celebrating Minnesota and its long-standing design legacy. The evening begins with a presentation by Andrew Blauvelt, Walker Art Center senior curator of design, research, and publishing, who will explore the Walker’s new web-based Minnesota design collection highlighting Minnesota’s diverse heritage across the design fields. From the world’s quietest room to the Honeycrisp apple, from the humble sticky note to the Prince logo, Blauvelt offers a crash course on what makes our region such a hotbed for innovation. The talk will be followed by the opening of MGDA/AIGA Minnesota: A History Exhibit, marking the history of the AIGA Minnesota chapter on the occasion of the AIGA’s 100th anniversary, curated by designer/educator/author Kolean Pitner and design director Mike Haug. On view will be fascinating ephemera, posters, and correspondence presenting the chapter’s 37-year history of helping businesses and the public understand the meaning and value of graphic design. Check out the exhibition and join us in celebrating our vibrant design community. At the opening party, free snacks will be provided and a cash bar will be available.

 

Wet-magazineasdfApril Greiman (LA)
March 10, 7 pm (tickets)

Through her Los Angeles–based studio Made in Space, visionary graphic designer and artist April Greiman has been creating vital work in a variety of media for more than 30 years. She helped pioneer the integration of technology and art as one of the first practitioners to explore the desktop computer’s creative potential, and her unique fusion of a postmodernist mentality with digital technology became emblematic of the “New Wave” design approach in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Her art direction (with Jayme Odgers) of Wet Magazine is a touchstone of this era, inspiring countless designers since its creation. Today, Greiman is known as an artist creating numerous multimedia works for both solo and group shows as well as commissions for public spaces. Her work has been featured in museums and galleries around the world, and has been covered by everyone from the New York Times andTime Magazine to ESPN and PBS. She received her advanced design education at the Basel School of Design, studying with Wolfgang Weingart and Armin Hoffman, among others. Previously, she served as the head of the design department at the California Institute of the Arts. Greiman has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the AIGA gold medal for lifetime achievement and honorary doctorates from Kansas City Art Institute, Lesley University, Academy of Art University, and Art Center College of Design. She is currently serving as faculty at both Woodbury University School of Architecture and the Southern California Institute of Architecture. Greiman’s groundbreaking 1986 issue of Design Quarterly (“Does it make sense?”) is currently on display in the Walker exhibition Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections.

 kholeK-HOLE (NY)
March 17, 7 pm (tickets)

 K-HOLE exists in multiple states at once: it is both a publication and a collective; it is both an artistic practice and a consulting firm; it is both critical and unapologetically earnest. Its five members come from backgrounds as varied as brand strategy, fine art, Web development, and fashion, and together they have released a series of fascinating PDF publications modeled upon corporate trend forecasting reports. These documents appropriate the visuals of PowerPoint, stock photography, and advertising and exploit the inherent poetry in the purposefully vague aphorisms of corporate brand-speak. Ultimately, K-HOLE aspires to utilize the language of trend forecasting to discuss sociopolitical topics in depth, exploring the capitalist landscape of advertising and marketing in a critical but un-ironic way. In the process, the group frequently coins new terms to articulate their ideas, such as “Youth Mode”: a term used to describe the prevalent attitude of youth culture that has been emancipated from any particular generation; the “Brand Anxiety Matrix”: a tool designed to help readers understand their conflicted relationships with the numerous brands that clutter their mental space on a daily basis; and “Normcore”: a term originally used to describe the desire not to differentiate oneself, which has since been mispopularized (by New York magazine) to describe the more specific act of dressing neutrally to avoid standing out. (In 2014, “Normcore” was named a runner-up by Oxford University Press for “Neologism of the Year.”) Since publishing K-HOLE, the collective has taken on a number of unique projects that reflect the manifold nature of their practice, from a consulting gig with a private equity firm to a collaboration with a fashion label resulting in their own line of deodorant. K-HOLE has been covered by a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, Fast Company, WiredUK, and Mousse.

 

 

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Bart de Baets (Amsterdam)
March 24, 7 pm (tickets)

Amsterdam-based Bart de Baets is a fierce formalist, an unrelenting experimenter who has developed a unique typographic attitude that has influenced designers around the world. His work spans the entire cultural sector for clients in the fields of art, music, performance, and film. A few of his clients include the Amsterdam club Paradiso, cultural centers such as W139, De Appel, AFK, and the New Institute, and film programs such as the Weight of Colour and A New Divide? De Baets is also known for his self-initiated projects, including Dark and Stormy, an ambiguous fanzine he publishes with Rustan Söderling featuring contributions from an international array of artists, and Success and Uncertainty, a poster series and publication made with Sandra Kassenaar during an artist residency in Cairo amid the chaos of 2011’s Arab Spring. Confronted with the reality of state-imposed curfews, the resignation of President Mubarak, and the politically charged environment, de Baets and Kassenaar were forced to explore their status as outsiders, questioning the relevance of their intentions—and in the process, creating beautiful and vital work. De Baets teaches graphic design at both the Gerrit Rietveld Academy (Amsterdam) and the Royal Academy of Arts (the Hague) and conducts workshops throughout Europe.


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James Langdon (Liverpool)
March 31, 7 pm (tickets)

The UK’s James Langdon has carved out a unique practice that fully integrates his design, editorial, and curatorial pursuits. As one of six directors of Eastside Projects—an artist-run exhibition space dedicated to promoting cultural growth in its home town of Birmingham, England—Langdon designs and edits many of the organization’s publications and is responsible for creating a series of experimental manuals that explore its mission through ideas as varied as urban renewal, adhocism, and public engagement. In 2013, Langdon founded the itinerant School for Design Fiction, working with students to investigate the storytelling inherent in the design process, the emotions embedded within an artifact, and the benefits of living in speculative worlds. As a curator, Langdon organized Arefin & Arefin: The Graphic Design of Tony Arefin, an exhibition celebrating the overlooked but highly influential British graphic designer; Book Show, exploring the form of the book; and a restaging of Norman Potter’s In:quest of Icarus at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Langdon has been guest lecturer at schools around the world, including Werkplaats Typografie (Arnhem), Jan van Eyck Academie (Maastricht), and Konstfack (Stockholm). He is the recipient of the 2012 Inform International Award for Conceptual Design, presented by Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Germany.

 

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Insights 2015 identity designed by Nani Albornoz. Laser cutting provided by David W. Johanson and Park Grove Laser. Printing courtesy the Avery Group at Shapco Printing, Minneapolis.

Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age

Tickets for the Walker/Mn Artists–organized conference Superscript, a look at “online art publishing’s present and possible futures,” go on sale in five days and we’re expecting them to sell out quickly. The conference features an amazing lineup of critics, artists, authors, and thinkers talking about a variety of artistic disciplines. Some talks I’m really looking forward […]

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Tickets for the Walker/Mn Artists–organized conference Superscript, a look at “online art publishing’s present and possible futures,” go on sale in five days and we’re expecting them to sell out quickly. The conference features an amazing lineup of critics, artists, authors, and thinkers talking about a variety of artistic disciplines. Some talks I’m really looking forward to: Claire Evans (of YACHT) discussing her position as “futures editor” at Vice‘s Terraform; artist James Bridle always brings an interesting take on the future of publishing (see the recent Artist Op-Ed he wrote for us); and Eugenia Bell diving into what has made Design Observer so successful over the years. Besides that we get to hear from people representing e-flux, Hyperallergic, Triple Canopy, Pitchfork, Rhizome, Buzzfeed, frieze, Creative Time Reports, LA Times, Temporary Art Review, and The New Inquiry. !!!

And because we’re doing it the Walker way, there will be some fun crossovers with our programming: two new film premieres commissioned by the Walker (by Moyra Davey and James Richards), a crowd-sourced criticism component to our International Pop exhibition, and some healthy supplemental online content including a series on this blog about design and content strategy.

Superscript identity by Dante Carlos. Website by Anthony Tran.

From Line to Point – ASSIGNMENTS IN DESIGN EDUCATION

Departing from the exhibition Taking a Line for a Walk (see pdf for further information), which was presented at last year’s 26th International Biennial of Graphic Design in Brno (CZ), we are developing a publication that focuses on the peripheral layer of language that runs neglected through the history of design education. A collection of contemporary […]

Departing from the exhibition Taking a Line for a Walk (see pdf for further information), which was presented at last year’s 26th International Biennial of Graphic Design in Brno (CZ), we are developing a publication that focuses on the peripheral layer of language that runs neglected through the history of design education. A collection of contemporary assignments will make up a key part of the book, and as such we hope it will become as comprehensive, varied, and international as possible. To insure just that, we would like to invite design educators from all corners of the world to share their assignments. We would be delighted to receive your contributions!

For more details and guidelines on the project and how to contribute download this pdf or get in touch with us via email.

Information on the exhibition Taking a Line for a Walk here.

2014: The Year According to David Reinfurt

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artists Shahryar Nashat and Korikrit Arunondachai to filmmaker Sam Green and architect/artist Andreas Angelidakis—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to       […]

Reinfurt_BW_webTo commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artists Shahryar Nashat and Korikrit Arunondachai to filmmaker Sam Green and architect/artist Andreas Angelidakis—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to                                 . 

David Reinfurt is an independent graphic designer and writer in New York City. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1993 and received an MFA from Yale University in 1999. On the first business day of 2000, David formed O-R-G inc., a flexible graphic design practice composed of a constantly shifting network of collaborators. Together with graphic designer Stuart Bailey, David established Dexter Sinister in 2006 — a workshop in the basement at 38 Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side in New York City. The workshop is intended to model a Just-In-Time economy of print production, running counter to the contemporary assembly-line realities of large-scale publishing. This involves avoiding waste by working on-demand, utilizing local cheap machinery, considering  alternate distribution strategies, and collapsing distinctions of editing, design, production and distribution into one efficient activity. Dexter Sinister published the semi-annual arts magazine Dot Dot Dot from 2006–2011. David recently launched a new umbrella project called The Serving Library with Stuart Bailey and Angie Keefer. David was 2010 United States Artists Rockefeller Fellow in Architecture and Design and currently teaches at Princeton University.


My top 10 are listed in the order they happened. Things often make most sense like this.

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01

Where Were We

This is a shop sign designed by Angie Keefer and Kara Hamilton and hung outside Kunstverein on Gerard Doustraat in Amsterdam to announce an exhibition by Kara Hamilton. The exhibition was staged something like a store and included jewelry, shoes, and other consumables. Angie also contributed a text that framed the show about a certain kind of painted pleat.

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02

Dawn of Midi

In February, I saw Dawn of Midi play at Kaufman Music Center. The three-piece band includes only a prepared grand piano, an upright bass, and drums. With this limited kit, (impossibly) they played their album Dysnomia from beginning to end, note-for-note to match the highly repetitive, manipulated, and poly-rhythmic music on the record. The performance was spectacularly uncanny, I felt as though I had seen-heard it before and I guess I has as I was listening to Dysnomia on constant repeat for much of the last part of 2013. I ran into my friend Prem Krishnamurthy at the show, and now I see that he included this record on his Top 10 of last year. Uncanny.

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Arvo Pärt

In May, I went to Carnegie Hall to hear works by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Equally spare, repititive, and mystical, the music has some affinity with Dawn of Midi. Anyway, the crowd at the show seemed to know this as well and mixed Eastern Orthodox clergy members in full regalia with tattoo-covered Manhattan School of Music graduates. It was an eccentrically, fantastically fashionable crowd. Arvo was there himself, as was Björk.

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04

Dune

Where was I? I never read this book when I was the age to do so, but found it on a bookshelf this May. Soon, I was enveloped in its world where water is as precious as life and giant sandworms stand in cars. When I read the book, I didn’t know about Jodorowsky’s Dune, the documentary released this year that tracks the previously director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempts at turning Frank Herbert’s epic book into a film.

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Model for 'Monument to the Astronauts' circa 1966-8 by Naum Gabo 1890-1977

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Claude Parent (and Naum Gabo)

For A Needle Walks into a Haystack, curator Mai Abu ElDahab invited aging French architect Claude Parent to design an exhibition space on the ground floor of Tate Liverpool and rehang selections from its collection. The result felt something like an architectural model built at 1:1 scale. Installed in the ramped space alongside works from Gillian Wise, Gustaf Metzger, Anni Albers, and Francis Picabia, were two of artist Naum Gabo’s maquettes including model for “Monument to the Astronauts.” Perfect.

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06

Yes, But Is It Edible?

Also perfect, this book compiled by Will Holder and Alex Waterman of the works of Robert Ashley was released in September. This is a book to be performed, a collection of scores produced by the authors to allow non-musicians to perform Ashley’s music. It follows that Will and Alex performed a couple of Ashley pieces in a sweltering classroom at PS1 during the New York Art Book Fair.

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07

Christopher Williams

The Production Line of Happiness ran from July to November at the Museum of Modern Art last last year. I saw it, finally, in October. The show is a comprehensive testament to this work which mines the process of image production, and it was great. The best work, however, was in the gift shop where Williams offered his image of a rotated Renault Dauphine-Four auto sitting on its side as a postcard. The postcard’s orientation is ambiguous, but presented in the shop vertically the car seems to be suspended somewhere outside of gravity.

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08

This Equals That

Also outside of gravity, this children’s book by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin moves laterally from one photograph to the next. It was released in November. Photographs are supposed to be toxic in children’s literature, but Jason and Tamara’s light and warm touch makes the guided tour through the visible world a wonderful, strange trip.

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09

Richard McGuire

In November, this issue of the New Yorker showed up in my mailbox. The cover is the work of illustrator Richard McGuire, who was also the subject of an exhibition at the Morgan Library organized by curator Joel Smith. More on this time-space bending cover is here.

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Interstellar

Finally, in December I saw Interstellar. Luckily, I’d managed not to read much about the film in advance. I did, however, read a New York Times op ed by David Brooks which is well worth checking out. I was also impressed by an interview on NPR with director Christopher Nolan where he was asked about the film’s uneasy correspondences with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. He said, simply, something to the effect that you can’t make a space movie in 2014 that does not “know” about 2001 and that he chose to make that explicit, rather than hide it. Nice choice.

2014: The Year According to Andreas Angelidakis

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from designer David Reinfurt to animator Miwa Matreyek—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to                   […]

Angelidakis-apoGiannisVastardis-0200_web

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from designer David Reinfurt to animator Miwa Matreyek—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to                                 .

Trained as an architect, Andreas Angelidakis often switches roles between artist, curator, architect, and teacher. His multidisciplinary practice often takes the internet and the perceptive and behavioral changes it has brought on as its starting point. In the past year he worked on the space for the exhibition of instruction-based artworks DO IT at Garage in Moscow, he curated and designed a survey exhibition of the Dakis Joannou collection at DESTE foundation in Athens, he designed a show of contemporary magazines at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, and made the installation Crash Pad, which acted as the preliminary statement for the 8th Berlin Biennial. He currently has a retrospective presentation of his work at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Greece, and he is included in the Greek Pavilion at the 14th Architecture Biennale in Venice. Upcoming shows include Period Rooms at the Niuewe Institut in Rotterdam, and designing the exhibition architecture for a survey exhibition of film director Alejandro Jodorowsky at the CAPC in Bordeaux. Recent shows include The System of Objects: The Dakis Joannou Collection Reloaded by Andreas Angelidakis at the DESTE Foundation, Athens (curator and architect); PAOLA at Breeder Gallery (curator); Group Mountain at Breeder Gallery (curator and artist, solo and group show); Domesticated Mountain at GloriaMaria Gallery, Milan, April 2012 (solo, artist); The Angelo Foundation Headquarters collaboration with artist Angelo Plessas at Jeu de Paume museum espace virtuelle; and Blue Wave at the MU Foundation, Eindhoven, Netherlands (architect and artist, solo exhibition).


 

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Best Book

Extrastatecraft by Keller Easterling. Easterling is in my humble opinion the most interesting, unexpected and lucid thinker in urbanism. Her urbanism provides a deep understanding of how the contemporary world operates, and Extrastatecraft is just a must read.

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Best Experience

Attending the Eternal Internet Brotherhood, in the West Bank in Israel/Palestine. A truly surreal experience, both for the location, but also because it was a like being transported to an artists’ colony, no audience, no age or agenda, sleeping outdoors next to the Dead Sea, thinking about the internet as a desert.

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Dahlem Berlin Biennial

Best Venue for a Biennial

My work for the 8th Berlin Biennial curated by Juan Gaitan was at Kunstwerke, but the Dahlem Ethnographic Museum has to be the best venue for a biennial in a long time. Visitors not only saw the Bienalle works but had a chance to get lost in the corridors of the museum, making for juxtapositions of pure genius.

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Monditalia

Best Exhibition

Monditalia, at the Venice Biennial of Architecture. Koolhaas brought together the dance, film and architecture biennials at the Arsenale, which made for a space where passing an esoteric performance with a minotaur you happened upon a research on Italian nightclubs of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, then an elderly group of 50 chanting seniors, then another research on the Berlusconi suburbs and so forth. An exhibition as chaotic and as focused as the internet itself.

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Best Encounter

Meeting the legendary Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky at CAPC in Bordeaux, courtesy of its director Maria Ines Rodriguez. Its when you meet somebody who’s fan you’ve been forever, and they just surpass any expectation. Bonus Tarot reading included.

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Best Purchase

A used zCorp450 3D printer. I started using 3D prints back in 2002 when zCorp was a startup and was offering free 3D print samples to users who were curious. Having the printer, even though the running costs are literally studio killers, just takes it to another level. I was never into actually building buildings, but printing brings them closer to home.

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Best News

Documenta 14 will be jointly held in Athens and Kassel in 2017.

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Best Research

Janell Watson’s Literature and Material Culture from Balzac to Proust: The Collection and Consumption of Curiosities. I got this while looking for literature on Bibelot, or tchotchkes. I’m always daydreaming of buildable bibelot bunkers and other places to escape.

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Best Collaboration

Was with the Swiss Institute for their first annual design exhibition. Working with Simon Castets on Fin de Siècle was the best, because he went along with my idea to push the show as far as possible from a design exhibition, even when I was having doubts about going too far.

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Best Swim

Swimming at midnight on the island of Samos, on a dark beach lit only by the frontier patrol and the bioluminescent sea water.

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123Dcatch

Best App

123Dcatch 3D scanning for iPhone has to be my favorite app, even though it doesn’t always work perfectly. Learning to love the glitch.

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Sandberg

Best Biography

I really enjoyed Ank Leeuw Markar’s Willem Sandberg: Portrait of an Artist, for its insights into how contemporary art museums came to be how they are today through the radical decisions of The Stedelijk’s famous director, Willem Sandberg. A must read for those into exhibition histories. The result of my hallucinatory interpretation comes at The Niuewe Instituut in Rotterdam this January, 1:1 Period Rooms.

2014: The Year According to Omar Sosa

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artist Kalup to poet LaTasha Diggs, author Jeff Chang to futurist Nicolas Nova—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to             […]

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To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artist Kalup to poet LaTasha Diggs, author Jeff Chang to futurist Nicolas Nova—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to                                 . 

 

Omar Sosa is a Barcelona-based art director, graphic designer, and publisher. In 2008, after a period of working at Folch Studio in Barcelona as a Business Partner, Omar founded the magazine Apartamento together with his friend Nacho Alegre. Apartamento is now distributed in 45 countries. Two years later he went on to win the prestigious Yellow Pencil Award and Apartamento was awarded the Best Entire Magazine of 2010 by the D&AD association (Design & Art Direction Association, UK). Sosa has worked as the Art Director for a wide range of international clients: Flos, Louis Vuitton Group, Rizzoli International, Carolina Herrera NY, DDG Partners, Corriere Della Sera, Patricia Urquiola, Ricardo Bofill Architecture, among others. His work spans from designing books and magazines to creating brand identities, designing exhibitions and generating successful liaisons among creative professionals.

 


 

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01-NEOPTOLEMOS

Neptolemos Michaelides house, Cyprus

Last January I went to Cyprus for the opening of an exhibition of the Cypriot light designer Michael Anastassiades and had the chance to visit the private house of the Cypriot architect Neoptolemos Michaelides and his wife. They both passed away few years ago and now the house belong to their foundation. We came together with the photographer Hélène Binet who took beautiful pictures that where then published in the last issue of Apartamento (pdf) and in a exhibition in Cyprus that opened last month. The house has an incredible architecture full of sensibility and respect for nature and light, and it’s still full of the furniture and amazing collection of fossils and stones that once belonged to Neoptolemos.

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02 MAX LAMB

Marmoreal by Max Lamb, Milan

April is a great month, not just because the winter is over but also because it’s the Milan Design Week called Salone. This year I’ve been quite lazy, too many offerings usually make me end up remembering nothing. One of my favorite things was this nice project of my friend the British designer Max Lamb for Dzek. A whole room entire made for this special terrazzo.

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04-LA-FABRICA-BOFILL

La Fabrica of Ricardo Bofill

This is the house/studio of one of the biggest architects in Spain of all times, Ricardo Bofill. This is seen from its neighboring building, Walden 7, also by Bofill. It’s a huge recovered cement factory from the beginning of 1900.  The size of a cathedral, it’s an incredible work in progress for more than 40 years.

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05 GIRARD

Alexander Girard: An Uncommon Vision, New York

May is design week in New York and Herman Miller made this amazing exhibition about the legacy of the designer and architect Alexander Girard. Together with them we launched the 13th issue of Apartamento featuring an extensive supplement about the legacy of Girard and his family in Santa Fe (New Mexico).

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06 DONALD JUDD

Donald Judd Foundation, New York

While in New York I had the opportunity to visit the recently restored Judd Foundation. The 5-story Soho iron building was purchased by the artist Donald Judd in the 1970s and served as his studio and house for his family. It has been fully restored this year and is finally open to the public.

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111 Lincoln Road, Miami

While in Miami this June I was impressed by this amazing parking deck by the Swiss architecture studio Herzog & de Meuron. I was even more impressed when I heard that the owner of the parking deck lives on the top floor with a huge garden and a swimming pool.

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08-CITY-FLATS-HOTEL

City Flats Hotel, Michigan

Every time I travel to the small city of Holland (Michigan) I have the opportunity to explore new rooms at the City Flats Hotel. The hotel is well known because Holland is home to many of the biggest furniture companies in the US, which means that many, many designers have stayed in the City Flats Hotel. This hotel is peculiar in that every single room is different, with all the possible configurations of queen bed + king bed, double queen bed, queen + double single, etc., that you can imagine. It’s known that you don’t want to receive the kind of room I got the last time, which featured two queen beds facing opposite walls. It was definitely impossible to get a good rest there.

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09-WALDEN

Walden 7, Barcelona

This is another beautiful project from the architect Ricardo Bofill—a subsidized housing complex built in the early 1970s. I always knew it existed but never went to visit it. I was impressed by the color, proportions, and shapes, its little streets inside and balconies make it resemble a small vertical city.

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10 FOUR SEASSONS

Four Seasons Restaurant by Philip Johnson, New York

I had the opportunity to have a drink at the bar and I was impressed by the space, the sculptural ceiling installations, window curtains, and materials on the toilets.

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Kiss Room, Paris

I met the interior designer and artist Mathias Kiss in Paris and showed me one of his recent projects. This tiny 10sqm bedroom in the backside of a bar in Le Marais could be rented for one night, 1000 nights are for sale and it will be destroyed after. The whole space is skillfully covered in mirror tiles with a geometric architecture that enables the guests to feel like you are underwater. Despite being all covered in glass, the spaces feels incredibly cozy rather than a torture room, and the effect after you have a shower and the whole little space becomes visible because of the steam is something you have to live.

2014: The Year According to The Office of Culture and Design

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from designer Tiffany Malakooti and musician Grant Hart  to  artists Kalup Linzy and Alejandro Cesarco—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to       […]

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To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from designer Tiffany Malakooti and musician Grant Hart  to  artists Kalup Linzy and Alejandro Cesarco—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to                                 .

The Office of Culture and Design is an autonomous platform for artists, writers, designers and social practice projects in the developing world (primarily, the Philippines). In 2013, The OCD opened a design studio and publishing arm called Hardworking Goodlooking, through which they publish the results of their experiments (and those of others) in print and other formats.

Clara Lobregat Balaguer is a writer who sometimes makes art, has learned to do graphic design, used to host shows on national television in the Philippines, and has experience in advertising. In 2010, she founded The Office of Culture and Design, an organisation through which she executes social practice projects in culturally underserved communities in the Philippines. She has released one book as author, and nine as publisher at the helm of the editorial house, Hardworking Goodlooking. She has exhibited artwork at Singapore Art Museum, Casa Asia Madrid, Galeria H2O, Ayala Museum, New York University (NYU), Hangar and La Capella.  She has lectured at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Bennington College, Ateneo de Manila and University of the Philippines, Diliman. She has won prizes at the San Sebastian El Sol Festival and Premios LAUS and can say that one of her advertising productions is in the permanent collection of the Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. She was the youngest directorial board member for the international design NGO, Design for the World, from 2007 to 2009. She likes plants and karaoke.

Kristian Henson is a New York–based designer and publisher. After receiving his MFA from Yale School of Art in 2012, he continued his research and extended his design practice by actively collaborating with artists and institutions in The Philippines. He holds the position of art director for The Manila Review, a Filipino literary criticism and arts journal, and is the head of design for The Office of Culture and Design. In 2013, he co-founded Hardworking Goodlooking, a publishing imprint and studio that consolidates the experiments of The OCD. His publishing work has been exhibited at The New Museum, NY Art Book Fair, Printed Matter, Ooga Booga, PrintRoom Rotterdam, Yale University Art Gallery, Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive Melborne, OBSCURA Festival Malaysia, Ateneo University Press, and The Singapore Art Museum.

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BIGGEST MIRACLE

Typhoon Hagupit (known locally as “Ruby”)

Typhoon Ruby downgraded from super typhoon to typhoon classification just before it made landfall in the Philippines on December 6, causing much less damage than expected to areas already hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Lots of deaths were avoided by evacuating over 2.5 million people from coastal areas, and the Philippine government actually seemed to have their act a bit more together this year. Big, big relief for the country most affected by climate change in the entire world. It was no walk in the park and the country has sustained heavy damages, but it was nowhere near the tragedy it could have been.

Hagupit aftermath
Philippines Climate Risk Index

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BEST ART EVENT IN METRO MANILA

WSK 2014: Festival of the Recently Possible

We have always been fans of Manila’s sound bricolage festival, WSK, organized every year by a small team of irreductibles. Tengal, Merv Espina, Joee Mejias and Chesca Casauay did not disappoint in 2014, offering a week-long pirate radio show station packed with different programs, an applied workshop session for a curated selection of artists, field recording sessions, talks and concert-type events at three off-the-beaten-path locations. The roster included intermedia artists, conceptual musicians and research programmers from all over Asia and one dude from the United States.

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Metro Manila’s art scene is dominated by a sale-centric, neo-liberal art market devotion, which can be disappointing in terms of curatorial vision. It also makes the existence of an underground festival such as WSK something akin to breeding unicorns. Their programming, every year, surprises and challenges its audience, something that doesn’t happen all the time at art events in our neck of the woods. It is no small feat for this crazy festival to have survived and transcended the underground (without selling out) over the past six years, getting better and more legit with each issue.

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The festival originated as an act of rebellion against the mainstreamy music festival celebrated simultaneously all over the globe, Fête de la Musique, a promotional event of the French government. WSK used to be called Fête de la Wasaque, and it was scheduled at around the same time as Fête de la Musique, which is also held in Manila. It first emerged as an alternative arena for musicians frustrated with the non-challenging music championed by the global establishment. Over the years, the local festival has matured from mere humorous rebellion to serious experimental conviction. WSK is a contraction of the Tagalog word “wasak,” which means wasted, crazy or destroyed.

WSK2014 website

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3 Joko Widodo, Indonesian president and heavy metal enthusiast

BEST POLITICAL POP CULTURE HEADLINE

Majority Muslim Indonesia elects metalhead Joko Widodo as president

Aside from being into Slayer, Widodo is not related to the military in any way and comes from the humblest of backgrounds, a revelation in itself for a country plagued by elite level, military-government corruption. He has been making headlines since his election for his reformist policies and his collection of metal band T-shirts. We super wish we had the chance to elect someone like him to run the Philippines. So far, we’ve only had oligarchs, ex-movie star political puppets, gangsters and shadies to choose from, come election time, save for a few exceptions like Walden Bello. Side note: Indonesia has a fascinating black metal scene.

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MOST INTERESTING FILMS

The Look of Silence by Joshua Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer’s follow up film to the critically-acclaimed and socially impactful documentary, The Act of Killing, won the Grand Jury prize at the Venice Film Festival and the highest award at CPH:DOX film festival in Copenhagen this year. Both films effectively liquify the borders between art/creation and social agency, without considering either of the two ends more important than the other.

Critics of Oppenheimer’s approach decry the cinematic immorality of testimonial-type documentaries, claiming that it is impossible to truly respect filmed subjects when you are exploiting their stories for their emotional properties, a result ultimately controlled by the filmmaker and not the subject. Oppenheimer, however, gave his protagonists a certain level of directorial responsibility and fomented an interaction between subject and filmmaker, a sharing of filmic control that was reflected in parts of the final edit. His approach may or may not have been enough to allow the subjects to represent themselves instead of ceding control to the “other,” but what is clear (to us) is that there was a real sensitivity, on the director’s part, to portray his characters with respect, and to immerse deeply in their situational and historical context. Whichever side of the argument you may be on, the fact remains that both of these hybrid documentaries have struck a deep chord for change, both within and outside the filmmaking practice.

Trailer
Film site


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How to Disappear Completely by Raya Martin

This is the young Filipino director’s most acclaimed film yet since his breakout period drama, Independencia, and possibly also his most controversial. It is a highly aestheticised story of superstition, fear and violent abuse in small town Philippines. How to Disappear Completely also features a great soundtrack by Filipino musician, Eyedress.

Trailer
Film site
Eyedress


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Manakamana by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez

Produced at the Sensory Ethnography Laboratory of Harvard University, this documentary recounts the journey of Nepalese villagers to worship at the temple of Manakamana. It features only 11 uncut shots, but took 18 months to edit. A carefully paced, strangely fictional-feeling piece of sensory ethnography that sees the world from a moving cable car.

Trailer
Film site
SEL site


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Storm Children, Book One, by Lav Diaz. 

Through this slow-cinema chronicle of the devastation left after Typhoon Haiyan, Lav Diaz shows that he “takes his responsibility as an artist [seriously, and that] he is concerned about his people, using film as a means to convey… to a wider public the fact that even though Tacloban and its people have disappeared from the news because they’re not deemed newsworthy anymore, they are still struggling and [they] need help.” That quote is from the film review hyperlinked below, BTW.

Film review

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BEST ART WORLD HEADLINE

Dutch artist Renzo Martens moves to the Eastern Congo to continue a 5-year plan to gentrify the jungle through his Institute for Human Activities
Suspend your politically correct disbelief and moralistic Western anger. Watch Martens’ film, Episode III: Enjoy Poverty, the most significant piece of social practice art (if you can call it that) we have seen to date. Rethink applications of “gentrification,” in vocabulary and in real life (the world is not Brooklyn, Barcelona or Shanghai). Your anger is your own guilt and/or insecurities in disguise.
Martens’ experiment with engagement and social agency in artistic practice has yet to determine results. For now, we follow the IHA’s progress online and in the news, crossing our fingers for their success or, at the very least, for an in-depth analysis of their struggle at the end of the five-year period.

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TOP NEW FRIENDS MADE

Discussion Lab

Really glad we got to know the people at Disclab, a Philippine collective for research and criticism that does some of the most groundbreaking (local) work, to date, in terms of sensory and critical commentary on art politics. They describe themselves as online squatters, because—as almost all of the independent art-related collectives in the Philippines—they are not just chronically underfunded but wholly ignored by our government. Despite claims made since 2012 by current legislators that the cultural class is of high priority (because we make significant contributions to things such as the nation’s GDP and soft power quotient), collectives like Disclab usually have to fend for themselves. It’s inspiring to see the level of quality, professionalism and productivity that groups like them are able to hustle with little to no institutional support.

Website


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Anarchist Infoshops of the Philippines

2014 has marked a lot of collaboration with four particular anarchist collectives and infoshops in Manila: Flowergrave, Feral Crust, On Site and Etniko Bandido. Without them, many of this year’s OCD efforts would not have been possible. To cap off the deepening relationships with these collectives, we got to attend the Philippine Infoshops and Autonomous Spaces Conference, a nation-wide meetup held late this year. We camped out for two nights in a small backyard, somewhere on the provincial outskirts of Metro Manila. The program was super intense, with loads of presentations on what tiny, anti-system collectives are doing to help their communities all over the country. Was quite a lesson in sticking to your grassroots guns and making every little peso stretch as far as it can towards the common good. We also drank a lot of Tanduay rum.

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An infoshop is a community activity space that begins with a library. The books contained in each infoshop’s library are usually titles that reflect anarchist, anti-system and alternative philosophies. They are open to read, borrow and photocopy. In order to disseminate the ideas contained in these libraries, as well as each infoshop’s particular activist agenda, direct action activities are organized. These may include food drives (Food Not Bombs), everything-for-free markets, workshops, skill enhancing sessions, conferences, exhibitions, concerts, rallies or any other form of radical protest.

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7 All Hardworking Goodlooking Books available in 2014

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT

Finishing 7 Hardworking Goodlooking books in 2014, just in time for the New York Art Book Fair

Seven books in one year on the tightest of budgets and the deadliest of deadlines is a personal best for us. We still can’t quite believe we did it. But we totally did. Here’s the GIF that proves it. (Back patting ensues.)

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8 Kutis Mayaman means Rich People Skin

MOST INFURIATING PIECE OF AUTO-RACIST ADVERTISING

Kutis Mayaman campaign by skin-whitening brand, Glutamax

This questionable piece of marketing logic makes our top 10 because it’s heinous, and also because it’s lighting in us a longstanding fire to do something to counteract the culture of shadism (and its relation to classist elitism) that is rampant in the Philippines. For those who don’t speak Tagalog, the slogan “Kutis Mayaman” translates to “Rich People Skin.” Previous billboards from this same brand, all put up on highly trafficked thoroughfares, boasted equally ridiculous slogans and concepts.

The blog post we link to below, probably sponsored in some way by the skin whitening brand, speaks volumes of how this sort of marketing reflects the darkest side of Filipino self-image issues. Pun intended. The first line of the post is revealing: “Who wouldn’t want to have skin like it belongs to a rich person? I know I do!” 

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MOST “PEG NA PEG” DISCOVERIES MADE ON THE INTERWEBS AND IRL

In Tagalog-English slang, “peg na peg” means that you admire something or someone as a role model. It is an expression born of advertising jargon. At meetings, when clients ask you to send visual references for campaigns, they ask for your pegs. This refers both to the JPG file format in which references are usually sent, and the fact that you are pegging a campaign against these references.

Ghetto Biennale

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Early this year, we discovered through our friend Robert Peterson’s Facebook wall that something amazing called the Ghetto Biennale exists and has been running since 2009 in Haiti. It is a gloriously complex, moving, contradictory and hardcore stand for the cause of social practice in the cultural (developing) world. Here’s a great quote from their website, which we relate to wholeheartedly:

“While the Ghetto Biennale was conceived to expose social, racial, class and geographical immobility, it seemed to have upheld these class inertias within its structural core. The Ghetto Biennale is looking for balance amongst the multifarious and often contradictory agendas underpinning the event. Are we institutional critique or a season ticket to the institution? Are we poverty tourism or an exit strategy from the ghetto? What was the effect of the earthquake and the ensuing NGO culture on cross-cultural relations in Haiti? The straplines for the previous Ghetto Biennales were ‘What happens when first world art rubs up against third world art? Does it bleed?’…Did the Ghetto Biennale bleed, and if so where?”


 

Field Experiments

Kristian Henson, our head of design, came across this company at The Site Unseen design fair in NYC. They describe themselves as a “nomadic design collective exploring traditional crafts,” traveling around the world to create products, printed matter, films, installations and other stuff, inspired by vernacular forms of artisanry. So up our alley, it’s not even funny. And they also have a neat website.

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9 DECENT DESIGNS 2

MOST PROVOCATIVE FOUND BOOK TITLE OF THE YEAR, FROM THE BOTTOM SHELF COLLECTION

Decent Designs of Railing and Stair Case by Experienced Architects

So, this one was tough. We find a lot of really crazy titles in Filipino bookstores, mostly on the forgotten bottom shelves. So many great additions to our collection this year: Being a Social Being, The Cyrupaedia of Body Building (written by a guy named Cyrus), Kosher Yoga, Herpestes: The Electrifying Filipino Martial Arts… but we finally decided upon a title so honest, so real that it could only have been written by someone extremely secure in their own self-worth, someone with experience. Also, the photograph on the cover of Decent Designs… is hyperconceptual. The turnstile in front of the path leading to a residential house, the cryptic picture of the hand holding an American football in the window… so many things post-postcolonially ponder.

Other titles in the series include Modern Designs…, Attractive Designs…, Simple Designs…, and Latest Designs… They are all printed in India at a press called Printer’s Cottage, and the cover was designed by a certain Graphic Boss. Yes, a thousand times yes to all cottage industry printed matter from the developing world.

 

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#hardworkinggoodlooking

2014: The Year According to Eric Hu

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from designer Tiffany Malakooti and musician Grant Hart  to  artists Kalup Linzy and Alejandro Cesarco—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to       […]

portait_2To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from designer Tiffany Malakooti and musician Grant Hart  to  artists Kalup Linzy and Alejandro Cesarco—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to                                 .

Eric Hu is a designer based in New York City and a partner at Nothing in Common, a design and technology studio in Brooklyn. He received his BFA from Art Center College of Design in 2011 and his MFA from the Yale School of Art in 2013. Previously Eric was the design director at digital agency OKFocus.


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Day after violence in Ferguson

BlackLivesMatter / #ICantBreathe

The injustice surrounding the treatment and deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Renisha McBride, the unfair sentencing of Marissa Alexander, and countless of other crimes against humanity caused a rupture in the racial discourse of this country. We can no longer deny that white supremacy and anti-blackness still exist at every level of society. It would be completely ignorant to go about our lives in the same way. The acts of cruelty that occurred this year are a wake-up call for this country and there’s no excuses to remain silent now.

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Hashtag Activism

In the same conversation, we’ve seen the rise of social media activism as a true force for change and discussion in 2014. #BlackLivesMatter, #ICantBreathe, #BringBackOurGirls, #YesAllWomen, #NotYourAsianSidekick, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, #OccupyCentral and many other hashtags played a large role in facilitating organization and discussion. It’s important to note most these hashtags were initiated and spearheaded by women of color, who all too often have their contributions sidelined, re-appropriated or completely erased as their work reaches a wide audience. For example, #BlackLivesMatter was created by Alicia Garcia, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tomet after the death of Trayvon Martin.

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I went with my friend Rob Matthews to see this at Tribeca Film Festival this year. It’s about a 19-year old in Britain, prematurely transferred to an adult prison—the same prison that houses his father. Both of us were stunned at Jack O’Connell’s performance and the bleak hopelessness the director painted.

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It’s pretty safe to say that, in the rap world, every year in recent memory is Atlanta’s year. Still, the music we’ve heard so far from that city has felt completely different during these past twelve months. Without a question the artists of Awful Records such as Father, Ethereal, Archibald Slim (and some indirectly affiliated acts such as ILoveMakonnen, Key! and OG Maco) have introduced new life in the music scene with an undeniably different sound. As head of Awful Records, Father has kept a spirited DIY approach (the label started out as a graphic design project), producing instrumentals from himself as well as other artists on the roster along with a lot of the cover design and illustration.

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JACK댄스 NYC 2014

Simon Whybray’s London club night sensation jumped on a World tour and swung through New York City at China Chalet last October. Everything from the lineup, the visual branding, seeing nearly all my friends from the Internet in one place, the crowd control, and of course, Whybray’s infectious joy were on-point. I don’t remember what I saw or heard half the time, but I remember how I felt the whole time.

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Mould Map 3

Mould Map is a comics/narrative art anthology series that’s one of the most well art-directed, immaculately printed publications in that genre. The third issue features 224 pages of gorgeously reproduced work from artists such as Daniel Swan, Jonny Negron, and Sam Alde rendered in more spot-colors than I care to count. I mean, I’m all about the nice and delicate art books that come out of Roma publications printed on Munken paper with the cerebral essays typeset on twelve columns and everything, but at the end of the day it feels so good to just come across a collection of pure formal rawness. Definitely a moving eulogy to all the haters.

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Rae Sremmurd, “No Type

It was late September; I was getting a burger on South 2nd and Havemayer in Brooklyn. Extremely hungover and not in any sort of mood to hear loud noises, the first line of the chorus comes blaring out of this green Mitsubishi Eclipse a few feet away from me. The opening line was followed by this perfectly timed pause before the second line introduced itself just as vividly. I pretty much jerked my head as if I had been smacked across the face, instantly falling in love with the crescendo and decrescendo of Swae Lee’s voice. The light turned green and the car sped away before I could hear the rest of the track. I’ll defer to David Drake’s take on it: “The hook is obvious, immediate, perfectly calculated in all its brash vitality: just a scant impression of a melody, a quick one-two-three punch that’s as memorable [as] NBC chimes. ‘No Type’ revolves around a simple strand of an idea, perfectly framed and executed—the platonic ideal of a hit.”

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O.G. Maco, “U Guessed It”

If you asked me at the beginning of the year if a rap track, relying on nothing but a juvenile melody consisting of three single piano notes in A# with single note in D# and a loud voice, would make entire crowds lose their minds like this song does, I would’ve said, “I guess that’s theoretically possible, but we’ll have to see.” If you ask me now I would say, “Not only is this indeed possible, there is a verifiable precedent for this exact scenario.” What a great year for music.

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Tobias Frere-Jones / Jonathan Hoefler

One of the largest type foundries in the industry split up, went to court over millions of dollars and a loss of nearly one’s entire life’s work, and made headlines in all major news publications—definitely not on good terms. I can’t really think of a bigger event that occurred in the design world this year. The whole situation is really sad and I’m just glad it got resolved. (#IStandWithTobias though)

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Yuri Kochiyama

Rest in Power.

2014: The Year According to Nicolas Nova

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from the Office of Culture and Design to the Arab Image Foundation’s Rima Mokaiesh and musician Grant Hart  to  filmmaker Sam Green—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: […]

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To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from the Office of Culture and Design to the Arab Image Foundation’s Rima Mokaiesh and musician Grant Hart  to  filmmaker Sam Green—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to                                 .

Nicolas Nova (PhD) is a researcher, writer and co-founder of The Near Future Laboratory, a design and technology collective interested in exploring the near future’s normal everyday ordinary. He is also Professor at the Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD – Genève) and curator for Lift Conference, a series of international events about digital culture and innovation. His interests lie at the intersections of ethnography, design, and digital technologies.


This list is not meant to be exhaustive at all. It’s just a set of documents, projects, and signals that I found intriguing in 2014. The mix is broad and the juxtaposition of an anthropologist’s book with video games and fungi-infected art pieces is intentional as it reflects the diversity of what the world around us produces. Each of these cases offer an insightful perspective on phenomena and attitude to understand the condition we live in, and eventually create things to explore it.

(1)

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La composition des mondes by Philippe Descola

An impressive interview with this anthropologist who describes how we humans make sense of the world around us through the relationship between nature and culture. Anglophone readers can read “Beyond Nature and Culture,” published in 2013, that address similar issues.

(2)

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Internet Machine by Timo Arnall

 “Cloud computing” is definitely a bad metaphor, this film by Timo Arnall shows the invisible infrastructures of the internet, its material underpinning in a contemplative way.

(3)

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Corrupted C#n#m#

Hacked digital media + bacteria/fungi/algae/insects-infected electronics + data forensic techniques to create experimental video pieces. Fascinating and puzzling.

(4)

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 SQM: The Quantified Home by Space Caviar (Joseph Grima, Andrea Bagnato, Tamar Shafrir)

An exploration of the intricate relationships between digital technologies and domesticity. Very important for people interested in the future of the home.

(5)

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Atari landfill excavation in New Mexico

Atari buried some 3.5 million copies of the video game cartridge E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in Alamogordo, New Mexico back in 1983. That’s a crazy story, but it’s even weirder to observe that they have recently been dug up. I see the whole thing as a metaphor of our society of consumption.

(6)

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Twitch plays pokemon

Wikipedia defined it as “a crowdsourced attempt to play Game Freak’s and Nintendo’s Pokémon video games by parsing commands sent by users through the channel’s chat room.” I watched part of it and became fascinated by this kind of cultural phenomenon: very erratic and incomprehensible but definitely fascinating as an example of networked collaboration.

(7)

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Eclats d’Amérique by Olivier Hodasava

A novel that is based on the author’s visit of all 50 US states using Google Street View. Only in French, sadly, but very intriguing, a good example of how digital technologies can stimulate new forms of documenting reality. It reminds me of this race across the US through Google Street View.

(8)

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The Future Does Not Exist by Alain Bublex and Elie During

 An insightful book about the idea of “The Future” with texts from a philosopher and an artist/designer who produced artifacts that express the conversation.

(9)

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Lawyers replaced by computers

Algorithms have become a prevalent topic in many different domains, but we’re reaching a new level when even white collar work can be replaced by machines.

 

(10)

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GTA V wildlife documentary

A sort of weird nature documentary of ocean life in Grand Theft Auto V. Definitely a boundary object that draws lots of question about gaming journalism, weird ethnographies, and the heterodoxy of digital culture.

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