Design, art, and the gradient between, featuring the creative output of our in-house design studio.
“At first I had a hard time identifying what the official logo of Sochi is,” says designer Lance Wyman of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics identity, which consists only of the Olympic rings and the website of the games, sochi.ru. Wyman is well positioned to comment on graphic design around the Sochi Games as well […]
“At first I had a hard time identifying what the official logo of Sochi is,” says designer Lance Wyman of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics identity, which consists only of the Olympic rings and the website of the games, sochi.ru. Wyman is well positioned to comment on graphic design around the Sochi Games as well as changes in the field: he’s the creator of one of the most celebrated design systems in history, the identity for the 1968 Mexico Olympics. “It still isn’t clear in my mind, so I guess the branding is going to rely on it along with other images.” In anticipation of his appearance at the 2014 Insights Design Lecture series, Wyman shares his thoughts on Sochi and the challenges that Olympics branding faces today:
At first I had a hard time identifying what the official logo of Sochi is. It still isn’t clear in my mind, so I guess the branding is going to rely on it along with other images. I have been impressed by the use of quilt-like textures made from indigenous Russian patterns that have been applied to uniforms and souvenir objects, though the sports icons, which are heavily stylized, don’t give me a sense of relating to Sochi.
I think the Olympic identities of the last few years express a need for new branding strategies. There are so many interests vying for attention and so much exposure that a more integrated approach is required. The identity of the Olympics themselves has to compete with the commercial exposure needs: the overblown opening and closing ceremonies, security requirements, restrictions to prevent knock-offs, etc. The resulting Olympic branding image is fragmented.
I think it is very difficult to have a strong identity that works for all. The five-ring Olympic logo has been kept intact since the inception of the modern Olympics. That’s been a boon, a consistent branding image that has done its job well. The problem starts with the attempt to identify the host country in a way that is compatible with the rings. The common attitude in corporate branding is to stay away from the basic logo, don’t get too near it with other elements, other colors, etc. There are elaborate corporate manuals spelling out all of these rules. The result in the case of the Olympics is often two logos that vie for attention. Even at its best, this is a difficult strategy when it comes to applying a branding image to the Games. Using a strong style for event symbols that suggests the culture of the host nation has been successfully used as a method of creating a sense of place without interfering or fighting with the image of the five-ring Olympic logo.
I think the purpose of the ancient games was to get together in peace, to put down the arms and have a friendly sports competition. Whether that was ever really accomplished I don’t know, but I still like the thought. As technology enables the Olympics to really become the focus of a global audience maybe that’s a good thought to make real.
Look for more from my conversation with Wyman in a forthcoming piece on the aesthetic and cultural back-story of his designs for the 1968 games.
Insights 2014 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’ve got design legend Lance Wyman (New York), cultural designer Sara De Bondt (London), “conceptual entrepreneur” Martine Syms (Los Angeles), and Sweden’s premier […]
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’ve got design legend Lance Wyman (New York), cultural designer Sara De Bondt (London), “conceptual entrepreneur” Martine Syms (Los Angeles), and Sweden’s premier graphic designer, Henrik Nygren (Stockholm). After each lecture feel free to stick around and chat with the speaker and fellow designers, have a drink, and browse our new ARTBOOK@Walker design book shop. Insights is a partnership between the Walker Art Center and AIGA Minnesota.
If you can’t make it in person, please tune in to our live webcast on the Walker Channel and participate through Twitter. (#Insights2014) Here’s a kit for educators, AIGA chapters, and anyone else who might want to throw their own viewing party.
Lance Wyman (NY)
March 4, 7 pm (tickets)
When combined, the art of branding and the science of wayfinding design can profoundly transform a space. Lance Wyman is the humble master of this, designing massive graphic systems for cities, airports, expos, transit systems, zoos, and museums over his more than 40-plus-year career. In the process, Wyman helped to define the field of environmental graphics. His iconic identity for the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics—“’60s op-art kinetic typography,” as Wyman calls it—exists as a pinnacle of environmental and branding design and was credited with reintroducing Mexican visual culture back into the nation’s design vocabulary. Other projects include the identity for the 1970 FIFA World Cup, the Washington DC Metro map, the 1980 Minnesota Zoo identity (which was selected as one of the 10 best designs of the year by Time magazine), and projects for the Library of Congress, Jeddah International Airport, Chrysler World’s Fair, and the Aspen Design Conference. His work has been exhibited in museums around the world and is also in the collection of MoMA (New York). Wyman has taught corporate and wayfinding design at Parsons since 1973. Don’t miss your chance to hear from this legendary designer.
Sara De Bondt (London)
March 11, 7 pm (tickets)
Sara De Bondt is the epitome of a cultural designer, combining a love of contemporary typography with a deep investigation into the history of graphic design. Through her design practice, which consists of client-based work, designing and editing books, and curating conferences, she is consistently contributing to the critical discourse. Her playful aesthetic is idea-based, typographically driven, and always fresh. Her clients include the Nottingham Contemporary and Wiels Centre for Contemporary Art in Brussels as well as projects for the V&A, the Barbican, London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, Camden Arts Center, and MIT Press. Most recently, she took over the art direction of Tate Etc. magazine. In 2008, De Bondt cofounded Occasional Papers, a nonprofit publishing house investigating the histories of architecture, art, design, film, and literature. In 2009, she curated the conference The Form of the Book, which explored the past, present, and future of book design. She received her MFA from Sint-Lukas, Brussels, and completed postgraduate research at the Jan van Eyck Academie. Prior to opening her own studio in 2004, De Bondt worked for Daniel Eatock’s Foundation 33 in London. She has taught design at the Royal College of Art, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, and KASK School of Art.
March 18, 7 pm (tickets)
LA-based Martine Syms is many things—a graphic designer, a “conceptual entrepreneur,” a net artist—but most importantly, a thinker who examines the assumptions of contemporary America and ways that identity and memory are transformed by the shifting boundaries of business and culture. Her work explores themes as varied as Afrofuturism, queer theory, the power of language, and the spiritual nature of the color purple. The topic of her recent SXSW presentation, “Black Vernacular: Reading New Media Art,” asked the questions: “What does it mean for a black woman to make minimal, masculine net art? What about this piece is ‘not black’? Can my identity be expressed as an aesthetic quality?” From 2007 to 2011, Syms was codirector of the influential Golden Age project space in Chicago, where she organized dozens of cultural projects and initiated a publishing program of young, emerging artists. She has collaborated with artists Paul Chan and Theaster Gates, and created web design for fashion retailer Nasty Gal, among many other projects. Her work has been exhibited at venues such as the New Museum (New York), MCA Chicago, Capricious Space (Brooklyn), and the Soap Factory (Minneapolis). In her new Insights talk “Black Vernacular: Lessons of the Tradition,” Syms will describe her connection with the black radical tradition, using poet Kevin Young’s ideas as a framework to understand her own design practice and strategies of code-switching.
Henrik Nygren (Stockholm)
March 25, 7 PM (tickets)
There is an effortless simplicity to Henrik Nygren’s work, a Scandinavian modernism that stands in counterpoint to the excess of most visual communication today. His art direction of Stockholm New magazine in the 1990s presaged a global return to restrained typographic palettes and bold photo editorial direction in publications. As Sweden’s premier graphic designer, Nygren has helmed his own studio for more than 20 years, working in the fields of book design, exhibition design, identity and branding, packaging, and communications. His practice caters to cultural organizations such as the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, Moderna Museet Malmö, the Hasselblad Center, and Phaidon books. Among many other awards, he was the recipient of the 2007 Platinum Egg and Berling Awards, and his work has been exhibited in Tokyo and Sweden. As an educator, he has had a profound impact on the Swedish design scene, teaching at Beckmans College of Design (Stockholm), Berghs School of Communication (Stockholm), the Swedish School of Arts, Crafts and Design (Gothenburg) and Forsbergs School of Design (Stockholm) since 1992. An 896-page monograph surveying the past 25 years of his award-winning work will be published in 2014 by Orosdi-Back. This lecture is copresented with the American Swedish Institute.
Insights poster design by Dante Carlos
Printing courtesy the Avery Group at Shapco Printing, Minneapolis
I love this portrait that Walker photographer, Gene Pittman, shot of artist/director Steve McQueen while he was here for his dialogue with Stuart Comer (watch the conversation here). The blue glow suggests some off camera television or computer screen—a nice allusion to McQueen’s profession and also his piece Illuminer, in which a body in a hotel […]
I love this portrait that Walker photographer, Gene Pittman, shot of artist/director Steve McQueen while he was here for his dialogue with Stuart Comer (watch the conversation here). The blue glow suggests some off camera television or computer screen—a nice allusion to McQueen’s profession and also his piece Illuminer, in which a body in a hotel room is visible solely by the glow of a television news report. And the flat gray background feels oppressive, helping accentuate the limbo-like environment between light sources and that sense of artificiality that makes me want to frame it like an Elad Lassry photo. McQueen loved it and told Gene it was mad.
To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from multimedia artist Ralph Lemon and spoken word artist Dessa to designer Martine Syms and photographer JoAnn Verburg — to share their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to […]
To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from multimedia artist Ralph Lemon and spoken word artist Dessa to designer Martine Syms and photographer JoAnn Verburg — to share their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to .
Prem Krishnamurthy is busy. As a founding principal of Project Projects, he creates some of the most respected design work today, focusing on print, identity, exhibition, and interactive work with clients in art and architecture. The studio continues to grow, and as it does, all three leaders of the group expand their fields of practice with self-initiated projects. In Prem’s case, this meant founding P!, a multidisciplinary exhibition space located in New York’s Chinatown: “P! proposes an experimental space of display in which the radical possibilities of disparate disciplines, historical periods, and modes of production rub elbows. A free-wheeling combination of project space, commercial gallery, and Mom-and-Pop-Kunsthalle, P! engages with presentation strategies and models to emphasize rupture over tranquility, interference over mere coexistence, transparency over obfuscation, and passion over cool remove.” Below is Prem’s top-10 list of 2013.
Looking back, the latter half of 2013 steadily accumulated highlight after highlight — including shows like Massimiliano Gioni’s The Encyclopedic Palace in Venice, the newest edition of the Carnegie International, Bartholomew Ryan’s 9 Artists exhibition at the Walker, and Jay Sanders’ Rituals of Rented Island at the Whitney — each of which re-articulates and perhaps even redefines a particular mode of exhibition-making. With so many good things to choose from, I’ll focus on a handful of the year’s Grenzgänger (border crossers), who moved between contexts and conversations with such ease that it seemed like the boundaries were all in our heads anyways.
Triple Canopy’s Benefit to Honor Brian O’Doherty
One of the most moving events of the year was art journal Triple Canopy’s annual benefit in New York’s Chinatown. The multifaceted legacy of 85-year-old Brian O’Doherty — polymath artist, writer, editor, and more — was celebrated by a young generation of boundary-crossers. Having worn many hats well before it was fashionable, O’Doherty is best known for his seminal 1976 essay, “Inside the White Cube,” which exploded the ideological construct of the “neutral” gallery space in a single gesture; simultaneously, as the pseudonymous artist Patrick Ireland, he has reimagined the exhibition form through his spatial drawings, language-based sculptures, and conceptual works. This year, he will publish The Crossdresser’s Secret, a novel based on the 18th-century Chevalier d’Eon, who lived as both a man and a woman — suggesting O’Doherty’s inimitable straddling of all sorts of borders. The strangest and most memorable moment of the evening involved PS1 founder Alanna Heiss mounting the stage in an animal outfit and calling down to O’Doherty to join her, each donning a full-sized horse mask — easy to put on, but comically difficult to remove later. Unexpected, surreal, yet casually intimate, this performative gesture crowned an evening that toasted the ties binding all of us weird, creative folk to this difficult city and the irreplaceable friendships formed here.
The Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry
Miami caught its first glimpse of this astounding collection in the exhibition, A Human Document, curated by Rene Morales at the new Perez Art Museum Miami. Comprised of more than 75,000 objects (and apparently containing at least three times more artworks than that), the Sackner Archive is like manna for the typographically minded. Over the past decades, Ruth and Marvin Sackner amassed this collection of diverse works ranging from early modernist books, typewriter art, micrography, and more, bounded only by a shared focus on the experimental word-image. The gem-like PAMM exhibition served as a teaser, hinting at the wealth of objects contained in the archive. I hope this show is only the beginning for the Sackner Archive’s public presence. On the other side of the Biscayne Bay is Miami Beach’s Wolfsonian Museum, boasting a world-class collection and research library of early 20th-century works of graphic communication and visual propaganda. With these two perfectly complementary collections in town, Miami might be poised to become a new mecca for graphic designers and all lovers of visual language.
Provenance by Amie Siegel
Artist Amie Siegel’s newest project, premiered at Simon Preston Gallery in the fall, tracks the shifting value of the modernist furniture removed from Le Corbusier’s Indian city of Chandigarh. Beautifully haunting, the central film’s traveling eye registers the persistence of objects across continents and cultures. Provenance explores the manifest ways in which patrimony and origin are fetishized, twisted by the market into salable currency. Design typically inhabits the world of everyday utility, yet the current blurring of boundaries brings it closer to high art. We who work in the elite worlds of art and design inhabit a land of double-standards, invented luxury goods, and manufactured scarcity. With her conceptual denouement — the auctioning of an edition of the film at Christie’s in London — Siegel’s project achieved a new level of self-implication, biting the hand that feeds it while acknowledging that we must work from within the system to reform it.
Dysnomia by Dawn of Midi
Dysnomia was by far my most-listened-to album of the year. The trio that makes up the band — Aakaash Israni, Amino Belyamani, and Qasim Naqvi— have created a new form of music that is genre-defying. Its sonic precedents include the tightly-woven polyrhythms of electronic dance music, yet it’s rendered by acoustic drums, upright bass, and prepared piano. Is it contemporary jazz? Is it minimal music? Analog techno? Post-rock? The resulting album demonstrates that such distinctions don’t matter when the music is this riveting.
The Joycean Society by Dora Garcia
Among many surprising presentations at this year’s Venice Biennial, one standout was this geeky show, far from the Giardini’s buzz on the island of Giudecca. Following a group of crotchety older men (plus a woman or two) who gather weekly to discuss James Joyce’s notoriously difficult Finnegan’s Wake, Garcia’s video managed to do something rare: it captured the exuberance of amateur discourse. Gallery-spaces-as-reading-rooms and art-world-seminars have been in vogue for a while now — we even organized a series of reading groups at P! last year, led by curator Ruba Katrib, Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith, editorial collective Superscript, and others — yet Garcia’s film showed why book clubs endure. When conducted with passion, curiosity, and nerdy aplomb, the seminar form, freed from an institutional context, possesses quietly radical potential. In an atomized world, where discourse often equals hitting the “like” button, group dialogue and argument around texts can change minds. What a contrast to the art world we read about in magazines and the news — which apparently consists primarily of art fair parties, astonishing secondary-market sales, live performances with celebrities, and the like — rather than the real work of making and thinking.
A contemporary bestiary at the Natural History Museum, Venice
I was lucky to catch this exhibition, tucked away at Venice’s Natural History Museum. Close to the Prada Foundation’s recreation of Harald Szeeman’s Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Forms — with its claims to radical architectural and historical juxtaposition — A contemporary bestiary actually lived up to such lofty claims and went beyond. The exhibition inserted contemporary artworks by Lara Favaretto, Rosa Barba, Paola Pivi, and others into the museum’s permanent displays. The artworks were well-chosen and compelling, but the unexpected standout was the exhibition design itself. The act of intervention demonstrated an interesting proposition: exhibition display, which has the challenging task of taking non-museal objects and imparting to them an auratic power, itself may possess a powerful presence. Wandering through the rooms of the museum, each with their own bespoke character — from “underwater” areas with different fish species in hanging bubbles to immersive naturalistic tableaux — I remembered my own childhood memories of the artificial constructions in natural history museums. In these cases, the staging of such fantastical scenes has the potential to outpace the studied ways of contemporary art objects.
Richard Hollis at Artists Space
Thanks to curators Emily King and Stuart Bailey, New York had a chance to experience the rigor and resolve of one of Britain’s most influential visual thinkers. For over a half century, Hollis has approached graphic design with a clear sense of the political struggle implicit in disseminating and communicating ideas. The printed word has rarely seemed so alive, responsive, and generous as in Hollis’s hands — words and images following arguments instead of formats. In his seminal layout for John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, Hollis established that graphic design’s most significant task is to create the necessary conditions for critical thinking. The show’s structure and sequence mirrored an edited video of the designer’s recent talk at the ICA London, projected in the space and providing an ongoing soundtrack for the printed pieces, posters, and sketches on display. Through this curatorial gesture, the exhibition itself became a script for Hollis’s remarkable reasoning, which aspires to change the world quietly.
The Radicality of Reading
In the face of proliferating image feeds and accumulating 140-character posts, 2013 felt like a great year to revive and reimagine the experimentation with reading that characterized the early avant-garde. My partners at Project Projects, Adam Michaels and Rob Giampietro, each collaborated with thinkers on projects that I’m envious of: Adam’s layout for The Pragmatism in the History of Art, by art historian Molly Nesbitt, rethinks how the visual language of an academic book might be activated through the multidisciplinary work of the designer-editor. The book’s shifts in typographic voice and careful consideration of text/image relationships become an essential part of the final work. Rob’s collaboration with writer and philosopher Susan Buck-Morss on susanbuckmorss.net, her new website and publishing platform, effortlessly allows the reader to move between essays, images, and ideas through associative and non-linear channels. Reinvigorating early experiments in hypertextuality, the website allows Buck-Morss to publish outside of the typical academic and institutional channels. Both cases demonstrate that brilliant writing can be made more accessible through design that responds to it with sensitivity and generosity.
George Maciunas at Cooper Union and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
As someone interested in the fertile overlap of the everyday and the speculative, I’m fascinated by George Maciunas, the Lithuanian-born founder and central figure of Fluxus. Maciunas radically commingled art and design through his many entrepreneurial ventures; two exhibitions, half a world apart in New York and Madrid, illuminated different aspects of his life’s work and the long shadow that it still casts. On view at Maciunas’ alma mater Cooper Union, Anything Can Substitute Art: Maciunas in Soho documented his attempts in the 1970s to establish artists co-ops in Soho (alongside his comically serious legal tangles with New York City authorities). In light of the city’s current real estate market and the difficulties that young artists have making a life here, the exhibition made Maciunas seem positively prescient. At Madrid’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, the wide-ranging exhibition +-1961 deftly recast the pre-history of Minimalism and Conceptual Art. As part of the show, printed ephemera including flyers and posters from Maciunas’ short-lived AG Gallery, hinted at his penchant for risk and experimentation. Open for less than a single year, the gallery and its forward-thinking programming suggested how a modest space can play a crucial role as a meeting point and laboratory for ideas.
Lucy Skaer at the 9th Mercosul Biennial
Artist Lucy Skaer provided the high point of this impressive and ambitious biennial in Porto Alegre. Her piece, neither object nor action, existed somewhere in between. Working closely with the resin manufacturer and packager Irani, Skaer accomplished a striking intervention in their workflow: out of the thousands of sacks of raw resin produced for distribution in a given day, five sacks instead contained a flawless, faceted block of resin. These crystalline objects, with their manifest aesthetic qualities, are nevertheless merely a functional piece of raw material, to be melted down and reformed by whomever purchases them. This gesture reframes questions of utility and beauty: the gallery and factory become contiguous, at the same time that the contextuality of visual pleasure is foregrounded. Skaer’s elegant insertion offers us a glimmer of other potentialities for art’s place in the contemporary world — rather than consisting of rarefied objects, art might occur in the ephemeral ruptures of everyday life, in forms surprising, slippery, and stunning.
To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from multimedia artist Ralph Lemon and spoken word artist Dessa to designer Martine Syms and musician Greg Tate — to share their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to […]
To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from multimedia artist Ralph Lemon and spoken word artist Dessa to designer Martine Syms and musician Greg Tate — to share their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to .
Based in Amsterdam and founded in 1997 by Marieke Stolk, Erwin Brinkers, and Danny van den Dungen, Experimental Jetset has been consistently reinterpreting the implications of modernism, often from a countercultural perspective. The studio is perhaps best known to US audiences from their appearance in the documentary Helvetica (2007) and their dogmatic use of that typeface has become a defining aspect of their work and has influenced new generations of graphic designers. Experimental Jetset’s iconic print work explores ways in which we are both shaped by and help shape our material environment. Projects for cultural clients include most recently the new identity for the Whitney Museum of American Art, and collaborations with the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, Purple Institute, Centre Pompidou, Colette, Dutch Post Group, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Le Cent Quatre, De Theatercompagnie, and 2K/Gingham, which released their iconic John&Paul&Ringo&George T-shirt design. The studio’s work has been exhibited in galleries across the world — including the Walker’s 2011 exhibition Graphic Design: Now in Production — and in 2007 New York’s Museum of Modern Art acquired a large selection of their projects for inclusion in its permanent collection. Since 2000, members of Experimental Jetset have been teaching at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam.
The Deposition of Richard Prince
True, this paperback was published in 2012, but we only got around to reading it in 2013. Edited by Greg Allen, and designed by Lex Trueb, The Deposition of Richard Prince is basically a transcript of an oral testimony Prince was forced to give as part of a copyright infringement lawsuit against him, back in 2009. Part legal thriller, part artist monograph, The Deposition lays bare Prince’s education, artistic history, influences and methodology. We were already huge admirers of Prince, but after reading this book, we respect him even more. Even in the face of the harshest criticism (in this case, juridical criticism), Prince remains true to himself, and punk as fuck. (Illustration: The Deposition of Richard Prince (published by Bookhorse), as shown on the website of Motto Distribution.)
Guy Debord: Un Art de la Guerre
Taking place from March 27 to July 13, 2013, at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Guy Debord: Un Art de la Guerre was basically an exhibition built around the personal archive of Debord, as acquired in 2011 from his widow, Alice Becker-Ho. It showcased a wealth of material: from Lettrist and Situationist pamphlets to Constant’s New Babylonic scale models, from Asger Jorn’s Cobra-period paintings to the protest posters of May ’68. There was also a large selection of photographs by the Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken (from his Love on the Left Bank series), drawings by Jacqueline de Jong, and even some Provo-related material. Needless to say, it was quite a powerful experience to come across such a large collection of artifacts related to the individuals and movements who have influenced our ways of working and thinking so profoundly. (The exhibition also came with a really good catalogue, published by Gallimard). (Illustration: front of the catalogue, designed by Martin Corbasson.)
Mulatu Astatke, live at the Bimhuis
Malatu Astatke (whose work some readers might know through compilations such as Ethiopiques 4, or else through the soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers) is probably most famous for his cool, vibraphonic Ethiopian jazz. However, when performing live, Astake and his band are not afraid to turn these iconic compositions inside-out, and transform them into complete free-jazz/improv freak-outs. The show we attended (November 28, 2013, at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam) also featured a post-gig DJ-set by Terry Ex (of The Ex), so yeah – it was pretty much a perfect night. (Illustration: sleeve art of Mulatu Astatke: New York, Addis, London, designed by Matt Thame.)
Lawrence Weiner lecture, Stedelijk Museum
The talk by Lawrence Weiner, that took place on September 21, 2013, at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, turned out to be quite an inspiring event. Introduced by curator Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, it featured Lawrence Weiner being interviewed by Ann Goldstein (of the Stedelijk) and Soledad Gutierrez (of MACBA), discussing a wide variety of subjects: marks and notations, drawing as a form of navigation, the relationship between people, objects and language, the surplus value of art in society, the egalitarian potential of the pixel, the gestural benefits of folded paper, just to mention a few. We walked away from that lecture truly electrified. (Photo: Written on the Wind, Lawrence Weiner at the Stedelijk Museum.)
Glasgow in general
Invited by LongLunch (a group of Scottish designers organizing lectures in Glasgow and Edinburgh), we did a talk at the Lighthouse in Glasgow, which took place on June 20, 2013. Although the lecture itself went okay-ish (we’re not really strong speakers), we really loved the city. So many good record stores, art spaces, bars, venues, and vegan restaurants (Mono, Stereo, The 78, Saramago, etc.). We bought zines at Good Press, rode the Clockwork Orange, did a tour through the GSA, visited the Glasgow Press, and attended a very interesting symposium at the CCA (featuring speakers like Simon Reynolds, Paul Morley, Olia Lialina, and James Bridle). The only thing we didn’t manage to do was paying a visit to Little Sparta, the garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay (situated just outside of Glasgow) – but we’ll do that next time. (Illustration: the poster we designed for our lecture in Glasgow, as photographed by LongLunch.)
We used to teach at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, between 2000 and 2010 – and then we decided to quit, for several reasons. In 2013, we were asked to teach again, at both the Rietveld Academie (Amsterdam) and the Werkplaats Typografie (Arnhem) – and, much to our own surprise, we said yes. We are glad we accepted these invitations to teach – it’s simultaneously rewarding and refreshing to be involved in the dynamics of teaching again. (Illustration: detail of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie building, as shown on the website of the academy.)
Although the graphic identity we developed for the Whitney Museum was launched in 2013, we actually designed it in 2012 (in fact, we started even earlier, in 2011). So in that sense, we personally associate the Whitney more with the year 2012 than with 2013. However, 2013 is the year we first saw the graphic identity being applied by others, namely the Whitney in-house graphic design team (headed by the brilliant Hilary Greenbaum). And we have to admit, it was only then that we felt the whole thing really came alive. The Whitney designers excelled themselves – they really managed to make the graphic identity their own, coming up with results we never even dreamed of. A good example (of the way they seized the graphic identity) is the material that they produced on the occasion of Halloween 2013, including carved pumpkins, goodie bags and window stickers. (Illustration: bats and ghosts on the glass of the Whitney’s lower gallery, as photographed by Matthew Carasella.)
We’ve always loved Paris, but after we visited it in 2013, and noticed the recent increase of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, we love it even more. There seem to be dozens of (relatively) new places around – from vegetarian French cuisine (Gentle Gourmet Café, Soya, etc.) to herbivore fast food (e.g., East Side Burgers, M.O.B.). Certainly adds an interesting new dimension to Paris, at least in our view. (Illustration: photo of the “facade” of East Side Burgers, as shown on their website.)
Einstein on the Beach
Seeing the 2012 production of Einstein on the Beach, as performed in January 2013 at Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam, was certainly a personal highlight. Directed by Robert Wilson, composed by Philip Glass and choreographed by Lucinda Childs, this reworked version of the classic 1976 opera managed to take our breath away, for five solid hours. We know, that’s physically impossible – but you get the idea. (Illustration: promotional photo for Einstein on the Beach, 2012.)
Punk 45: Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself!
The full title being Punk 45: Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys its Young – Underground Punk in the United States of America, Vol. 1, 1973–1980, this double album offers an unbeatable selection of US punk, post-punk and proto-punk singles – solidly compiled (and packaged) by Soul Jazz Records, as they always do. In fact, we are listening to the album right now, as we’re compiling this Top Ten list. (Soul Jazz Records have also released an accompanying 400-page book, ‘Punk 45: The Singles Cover Art of Punk, 1976-1980′, featuring full-size reproductions of sleeve designs, and an essay by Jon Savage – but we haven’t had the chance to take a look at it yet). (Illustration: cover of Punk 45: Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself!, designed by Adrian Self.)
Moving our studio
Last summer, we relocated our studio – which turned out to be quite an intense undertaking. After a four-year-period (1997–2001) at the Domselaerstraat (where we actually worked from Marieke’s living room), and twelve years at the Jan Hanzenstraat (2001–2013), we are currently located at the Vinkenstraat. So yeah, zip-code-wise, we traveled from 1093 to 1053 to 1013 (all safely within the borders of Amsterdam). The move took a lot of time and energy (and in fact, there are still stacks of boxes we have to unpack), but it sure was worth it. A new space, a new neighbourhood (“De Jordaan”), a new walking/biking route: guaranteed to keep things fresh and interesting. Or at least chaotic. (Illustration: Photo of our old studio [in the Jan Hanzenstraat], showing units ready to be moved.)
Karina Bisch’s Kiosk
On June 29, 2013, we were in Lyon for the unveiling of Kiosk, a large public artwork created by the French artist Karina Bisch. Basically a huge open pavilion, the sculpture consists of reproduced fragments of iconic modernist architecture, pieced together in an almost Frankenstein-like way. As a disclaimer, we have to admit that we were somewhat involved in this project (for Kiosk, we designed a series of posters, a publication, and some lettering on the pavilion). But even if we wouldn’t have been involved, we would still count Kiosk as one of the highlights of 2013. Honestly. (Photo of Karina Bisch, standing inside her sculpture.)
REDO Conference, Prishtina
REDO was an international graphic design confererence that took place in Prishtina (or Pristina – apparently, both spellings are correct), between November 22 and 24, 2013. The event had a bit of a pro-situ/dérive/flaneur-like theme, the line-up included two of our favourite studios (Our Polite Society and Mevis & Van Deursen), and some of the lectures took place in a really interesting building – the National Library of Kosovo. The thing is: we weren’t there. We were actually invited to speak, but we were simply too busy to accept this invitation. So we just couldn’t make it to Prishtina, much to our own regret. But we are certain that if we could have made it, it would have been one of our highlights of 2013. (Photo: Matthias and Jens (of Our Polite Society) and Linda (of Mevis & Van Deursen), standing in front of the National Library. We should have been standing there as well. But, alas.)
To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from painter Matt Connors and spoken word artist Dessa to design firm Experimental Jetset and musician Greg Tate — to share their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to […]
To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from painter Matt Connors and spoken word artist Dessa to design firm Experimental Jetset and musician Greg Tate — to share their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to .
As the director of the Printed Matter NY and LA Art Book Fairs and curator of editions, Shannon Michael Cane exists at the epicenter of the book making world, acting as a liaison between independent book publishers, artists, institutions, and the public. Printed Matter is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of publications made by artists. Cane has also worked as an editor and publisher, founding the queer art zine They Shoot Homos Don’t They? in 2005, and writing for magazines such as BUTT, Little Joe, and Straight to Hell. Here are Shannon Michael Cane’s top 10 artist books of 2013:
An amazing collection of collages by Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell involving hundreds of Islington Library’s book stock. Once caught, the pair were sentenced to jail for ‘larceny, malicious damage and wilful damage’. Published by Donlon Books, London.
Throughout this body of work, Sutherland reimagines visual culture as a psychedelic network of photographic overlays known as “dypsets.” Published by Printed Matter Inc., NYC.
A collection of eight loose-leaf color posters referencing Marc’s text-based work, the prints are bold and beautiful and focuses on positive song lyrics. Self Published, NYC.
A beautiful collection of previously unpublished b/w photographs taken in a strip club in New York in 1976, a time when the city had a grittier side to it. Published by Editions Lutanie and Préféré, Paris.
A collection of 100% genuine newspaper billboard adverts from Johannesburg, collected over the last decade and printed on a risograph - outrageous and humorous. Published by Ditto Press, Chopped Liver Press, London.
A fanzine-style publication looking at the celebrated career of a protagonist of British punk; Linder Sterling. Published by Walther König, Köln.
A zine from the creator of Casual Encounters–a collection of photographs of empty road ride signs, some printed as a negative transparency on black paper. Self published, Arizona.
A beautifully printed collection of photocopies and multi-coloured original screen prints on paper and transparent foil. Published by Lubok - Verlag, Germany.
A facsimile printing of a Brice Marden journal from 1970, with a random collection reference photos creating an insightful image bank. Published by Karma, NY.
A collaboration between designer Duncan Hamilton and Sam Falls in which hand made rubbings of surfaces of the artists studio were re imaged via an offset printer. Published by Printed Matter Inc., NYC.
To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from painter Matt Connors and ebook publishers Badlands Unlimited to design firm Experimental Jetset and musician Greg Tate — to share a list of their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According […]
To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from painter Matt Connors and ebook publishers Badlands Unlimited to design firm Experimental Jetset and musician Greg Tate — to share a list of their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to .
“I’m a web designer, mostly,” said Martine Syms as she began her talk at SXSW Interactive last March. Based in Los Angeles, she’s also a graphic designer, “conceptual entrepreneur,” net artist, and thinker on themes from contemporary art practice to Afrofuturism, queer theory to race — the topic of her SXSW presentation, “Black Vernacular: Reading New Media Art.” She asked audiences in Austin: “What does it mean for a black woman to make minimal, masculine net art? What about this piece is ‘not black?’ Can my identity be expressed as an aesthetic quality?”
Syms will speak as part of the Walker’s Insights Design Lecture Series on March 18, 2014.
Frozen Chicken Train Wreck by Laurence Hamburger
“All Blacks Are Brilliant.”
I bought this book on a whim. It was an instant favorite. Frozen Chicken Train Wreck gathers facsimiles of front pages from South African tabloids into a gorgeous book object. The absurd headlines conjure surrealist writing and the OuLiPo movement, but also remind me of Teju Cole’s “Small Fates” project. Sourced from the author’s personal archive, the book celebrates a vernacular art form.
Further Considerations on Afrofuturism by Kodwo Eshun
“Black existence and science fiction are one and the same.”
I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi films and spacey sounds, but never concerned myself with the literary form. This year I was invited to consider what it feels like to live in the future by the Faustus Group, write about our shifting values for OMNI Reboot, and talk about being black in the 21st Century for the “Black Radical Imagination” film series at REDCAT. A friend recently sent me a link to Further Considerations on Afrofuturism [pdf], the 2003 essay by Kodwo Eshun, and now it all makes sense to me. Once you start to speculate, you can never stop.
Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? by Metahaven
“We consider a designer here to be any form-maker, regardless of material; design is merely a few decisions on a form and its boundary — in jokes, this consists of what is said, and importantly, what is not said.”
I’m obsessed with this treatise on comedic resistance. I wish I’d written it. Monty Python imagined a joke that could kill, Jimmy Fallon envisions one that will blow your ass off, and in this short text Metahaven give new meaning to the phrase “laugh riot.” I’ve added this e-book to my “uses of comedy” bookshelf alongside Paul Beatty’s anthology Hokum and David Robbins’ Concrete Comedy. I daydream about ditching graphic design to write jokes, but maybe I should take it more seriously.
Mass Effect by Lauren Cornell and Ed Halter
“Now, artists working with media or appropriation regularly disappear into a fractured, if public, media system and re-emerge in art… In this context, attitudes between an artistic or private ‘me’ and a corporate or public ‘them’ have broken down.”
Couldn’t you argue that this line of work — seeing culture as the new nature — not only acknowledges the logic of the market, but basically endorses it, refuses to offer any idea beyond it? … They’re all winking at consumerism while celebrating its emotional effects and the pleasure of its surfaces, and they all give their own kind of shout-outs to the art world.”
I used to think capitalism could offer freedom, but I’ve changed my mind. In this conversation, curators Lauren Cornell and Ed Halter discuss the implications of art’s mass appeal. Is it still possible to sell out? If being an artist is suddenly of value to the so-called creative industry, should I take the money and run? Can anything I make within that context ever be art? If I’m able to share my ideas with millions of people, does it even matter? I haven’t found the answers, but this conversation asks all the right questions.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Yachts by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“I am not just a romantic, I am a committed one. That is to say, I believe in the importance, not just in feeling things, but in following those feelings through. Should that following lead you to disaster, it can never make you wrong. It can only make you a traveler.”
I’ve been a reader of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ popular blog for a while. I’m not a commenter, but I like to think I’m in dialogue with him. Sometimes I write in response to his posts. I love his writing because he remains levelheaded, while allowing himself to express emotion. His work always reminds me that it’s okay to feel some type of way. Though Coates’ entire blog is worth reading from beginning to end, this year I was particularly excited by “The TNC Futility” series in which he outlines (with data) how racist policy was designed to destroy black wealth. To quote Michael Jackson, “You can’t win, Child / You can’t break even / And you can’t get out of the game.”
“Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Man-Child” by Moira Weigel and Mal Ahern
“The Man-Child wants you to know that you should not take him too seriously, except when you should. At any given moment, he wants to you to take him only as seriously as he wants to be taken. When he offends you, he was kidding. When he means it, he means it. What he says goes.”
This is a bro’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing — nothing — without The Grown Woman. Moira Weigal and Mal Ahern’s indictment of the beloved Man-Child had me tweeting from the rooftop. Their thoughtful analysis details how affective labor has stripped both sexes of humanity. Having it all is a death sentence without more imagination and more courage from everyone.
Greatest Hits by Matthias “Wolfboy” Connor
“I didn’t always do nothing; I used to be someone who did something.”
Matthias “Wolfboy” Connor’s Greatest Hits is depressingly hilarious. It’s a collection of first-person fiction that follows a motley crew of neurotic narrators. Connor tells stories about the constant malaise that accompanies contemporary existence. I couldn’t stop thinking about “Cool Shoes,” which details the rise and fall of a notable sneakerhead. It hit me hard. I remember wanting to be a shop girl.
Interview between Gordon Hall and Colin Self
I am so interested in these moments of refusal to identify oneself, or silence or blankness or vagueness as possible modes of resisitance to an identity-based assimilationist political structure. There has to be room to not answer a question, or change the subject, or make a gesture instead of speaking and so on.
I am in love with this interview between artists Gordon Hall and Colin Self from Randy Magazine, a self-described “celebration and critique of the queer arts.” In this dialogue, Hall and Self begin with their initial encounter on the dance floor and wind through radical politics, minimalism, ritual, and performance.
Little Joe magazine
“Mike, I hope it will be lewd and nude.”
My friends know me as a bibliophile, and anytime I’m asked about magazines I have two words: Little Joe. It’s the best. The writing is excellent, the design is phenomenal, it’s critical, but fun, and I learn something from each issue. Speaking of which, if you have issue one — call me. Will pay top dollar.
Stray Light by David Hartt
“I’m not interested in the decisive moment, I’m interested in this perpetual moment that we can never experience.”
David Hartt’s images are “slow-moving and awkward.” They take time to make and require an equally durational consumption. Hartt was given unlimited access to the historic Johnson Publishing Building on Michigan Avenue, a monument to black imagination. Continuing his ongoing investigation of vernacular utopias, Stray Light catalogs the meditative photo and film work, alongside a conversation with scholar Darby English.
Seen above is sign painter Dan Madsen hard at work on a mural for the exhibition Album: Cinematheque Tangier, A Project by Yto Barrada. Check out more photos and read an interview with him at Crosscuts, the Walker’s film/video blog.
Seen above is sign painter Dan Madsen hard at work on a mural for the exhibition Album: Cinematheque Tangier, A Project by Yto Barrada. Check out more photos and read an interview with him at Crosscuts, the Walker’s film/video blog.
The Walker has a history of hiring great illustrators—such as J. Otto and Sara Varon—to create entire worlds for our Education department’s family programs initiatives like Free First Saturdays and Arty Pants. This year we invited British design collective Nous Vous to work with us, and they produced the sprawling scene that you see above. […]
The Walker has a history of hiring great illustrators—such as J. Otto and Sara Varon—to create entire worlds for our Education department’s family programs initiatives like Free First Saturdays and Arty Pants. This year we invited British design collective Nous Vous to work with us, and they produced the sprawling scene that you see above. Nous Vous is Jay Cover, William Edmonds, and Nicolas Burrows. We asked them for six illustrations—one for each issue of our bimonthly magazine for a year—that we could also repurpose for postcards and other marketing materials. They decided to create one massive illustration that breaks down into six sections, which we love. Read about how they made it below:
Can you describe the concept behind the piece? Emmet and Dante at the Walker picked out a few of our existing pieces that they liked, and also threw in a few ideas that they had about possibly creating characters or ‘monsters’ looking at/interacting with things. They also wanted it to be ‘weird and whimsical’ and for it not to appeal to too young an audience. The three of us have not ‘drawn’ on the same page for a long time and recently we have all been having fun drawing guys. It’s pretty fun to smash some people together. The piece was fun to make so hopefully it has a good vibe about it. It’s unlikely we would be able to create something like this individually so this kind of sums up the point of working together, to do something more complex and fun and also we may not have made something like this if the Walker hadn’t asked us. We wanted to depict an abstract suggestion of a really active workshop, gallery or art school and fill it full of people doing things relating to the process of making art (in any context—non-professional/professional), aspects of the family programme and the architecture of the places where art ‘happens’ or is presented, whether that’s the artist’s studio or a small gallery, an institution like the Walker, on the walls of a cafe or a sculpture garden etc. We were trying to make something that has a lot of dynamic aspects to it, that draws your eye around, to reflect the excitement that the Family Programme offers participants. The interaction between the guys is what makes it dynamic or interesting, and it’s an unexpected and awkward interaction due to the way the image was made.
How did you go about creating it? It was fairly free and loose to begin with. We all created guys and then we put them together with one of us going through and then tightening up all the illustrations. Most of the crossover happened quite serendipitously. It’s fun making characters that you know will have to interact with others but you are not sure how. There’s an element of wanting to make ourselves and each other laugh by making stupid guys and then it turns into a bit of a puzzle locking them altogether. We’ve tried and failed to make images in a similar way before. We made a list of six rough areas for which we thought about what characters could be doing, and what objects there might be there. So we have a workshop, an outdoor forest/garden, a cafe, a gallery, a sculpture garden and a theatre. Then one of us would compose the images in panels. We ended up making the first two panels as we went along, and then we made the other four all at once.
In your illustration, several tables, or at least flat surfaces (floors, pools, walls) appear, always covered with a variety of objects. It’s a motif that shows up elsewhere in your work—what significance does a cluttered surface have to you? We like things. We like to draw things, make things and live with things. So it’s very much a manifestation of our personal physical worlds, or perhaps our fantasy world. Surrounded by things we’ve made or would love to have made, hanging out with some fun guys and plants and pools. It’s just something we ended up drawing or representing because these surfaces with objects are our immediate environment for most of the time, so they end up getting put into the work. I suppose we started to notice the sculptural or rhythmic qualities of the detritus, the tools and materials present whilst making work. It’s also a way to symbolise certain things, or to suggest something about the characters or the world they’re in.
Do any of the characters have interesting stories behind them? The characters really only come out of the way they are drawn. Really we’ve tried to represent a really odd bunch of people so that anyone could see themselves as part of it. There are certain guys that we all pick out and smile, because they have a silly face or are doing something weird. They don’t have specific stories. We all like to make drawings that have just enough in them for people to grab hold of but still have some work to do in terms of forming a specific character. It’s nice when people can bring their own imagination to this world. There are a few friends and references in there that are maybe a bit more personal but it’s more mysterious for them to stay that way…
Can you point out some of the artists that you reference in the piece? Maybe it’s more fun for people to find them. They’re not very obscure, but here’s a list.
❑ Fischli and Weiss
❑ Joseph Beuys
❑ Yves Klein
❑ David Nash
❑ Katharina Fritsch
❑ Robert Wyatt
❑ Florentijn Hofman
❑ The Lely Venus
We also threw in some cheeky references to our own work in the ‘gallery’ panel at bottom right. The framed work on the wall and the ceramics are all ours! Some others got a bit buried in the drawing process, but there are figurative references to Frances Alys pushing the block of ice and Jackson Pollock painting. They weren’t chosen necessarily because we’re hugely into these people, more that they had something interesting visually to contribute and anchored the illustration in the art world a bit more.
Are there illustrators out there that inspire you? Some yes, of course! Although we are more inspired by things that are not illustration, design or art. But lots of people: Laura Carlin, Sara Vanbelle, the mighty Marcus Oakley, Matthew Hodson. Too many to mention really. Most are friends which is an added inspiration. Most illustrators we like are people who do other things as well as illustrating. It doesn’t have to be a thing in it’s own right. It’s exciting when people make work and then sometimes illustrate or apply their work to different things. This always feels more interesting and is more about getting an idea or an energy across rather than a focus on pure illustrative style.
From the way you talk about this, this project served as a way to bring the three of you together, primarily through the act of making. What does “making” mean to Nous Vous? The reason we like to work together is to vibe off each other, so when we get a chance it’s nice to take it. Making, for all of us, is a an act that can be a bit transcendental, it’s when we make sense of things and let go. It’s social in the way we work, as we make together, it can be awkward making in a public way but you soon let go of your pretence and when you do it becomes quite freeing. Making is also communal in that we like to make things for people. Sure the main pleasure is for us, in the act, but we like to make with the knowledge that other people will find some enjoyment in it. We each have our own individual practices too that are personal and solitairy. It’s good to have both, otherwise we’d probably get bored of one approach or the other. We individually make ceramics, drawings and music as well as other stuff, but together we mostly work on design projects or curatorial stuff, and some illustration work like this brief. Some things work better approached individually and some things work better together, and it’s good to recognise that. Making and thinking is often the same. It’s hard to think without making but then I guess making can be most ‘zen’ when you are in the moment and not thinking specifically. But I guess you become a channel for all the stuff you have thought about and filled up on, and it kind of pours out subconsciously. So in that way it’s important to fill up, stock up on stuff so have some splurge to purge. The making process itself is the space in which you can think and work the thing out as you go along. So for example, we had a rough idea what this image would look like, but we didn’t plan the details, we just started to do it and then worked around problems that came up, ironed things out. You can’t do that without starting something and nothing ever turns out exactly the way you plan it. And why should it? That’s the fun of making things. Things happen along the way and you end up with something you never imagined you would. That’s especially true when you’re collaborating…
We are happy to announce that the Walker design fellowship position will now be named the Mildred Friedman Design Fellow. Known to many as Mickey, Mildred Friedman served as the editor of Design Quarterly and was the Walker Art Center design curator for much of the ’70s and ’80s. She organized a series of groundbreaking […]
We are happy to announce that the Walker design fellowship position will now be named the Mildred Friedman Design Fellow. Known to many as Mickey, Mildred Friedman served as the editor of Design Quarterly and was the Walker Art Center design curator for much of the ’70s and ’80s. She organized a series of groundbreaking exhibitions, sometimes in collaboration with Martin Friedman, such as Sottsass/Superstudio: Mindscapes (1973); New Learning Spaces and Places (1974); Nelson/Eames/Girard/Propst: The Design Process at Herman Miller (1975); De Stijl, 1917–1931: Visions of Utopia (1982); The Architecture of Frank Gehry (1986), the architect’s first major museum exhibition; Tokyo: Form and Spirit (1986), featuring the work of Japanese designers such as Arata Isozaki, Tadanori Yokoo, Toyo Ito, Tadao Ando, and Eiko Ishioka; Architecture Tomorrow (1988–1991), a series of installations undertaken by Frank Israel, Morphosis, Todd Williams/Billie Tsien, Stanley Saitowitz, Diller+Scofidio, and Steven Holl; and Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History (1989), the first large-scale museum survey of the field in the United States.
Above: issues of Design Quarterly edited by Mildred Friedman
The Walker’s Design Department began its internship program for graphic designers in 1980 under Mickey’s watch and ever since, it has uniquely provided recent graduates an opportunity to practice design as part of the Walker’s award-winning studio team. Unlike typical internships, fellows engage in all aspects of the design process, from initial client meetings through press checks. It is this holistic exposure that differentiates the Walker fellowship from more fragmented internships. Fellows work extensively with internal clients as well as external vendors, present and advocate for their solutions, participate in studio discourse—from critiques to blog writing—and, of course, shape the design of their work. Each fellow works independently as well as collaboratively with other studio members, whether the design director, senior designers, studio manager, pre-press specialist, or editors. Thus, fellows contribute wholly to the Walker’s design team as full-time graphic designers for an entire year. They come to the Walker from across the globe and have left the Walker to pursue a variety of opportunities, from working for companies such as Apple, Dwell, Nike, and Chronicle to founding their own design studios to inevitably working for a variety of museums and cultural institutions, and of course teaching design at universities around the world. (Apply.)
A selection of posters promoting the Design Fellowship throughout the years:
Below is a conversation about design at the Walker between Mildred Friedman and curator Joan Rothfuss, New York City, August 6, 2004:
Joan Rothfuss: When you began working at the Walker in the early 1970s, how did you define your role?
Mildred S. Friedman: I began by designing all of the office furnishings for the new building, working very closely with Ed [architect Edward Larrabee Barnes]. In the 1960s, I had worked as a designer for the architect Robert Cerny, so the Walker interiors were a natural project for me.
When the design of the building interiors was finished, it was necessary to develop other areas that were the Design Department’s responsibility. The journal Design Quarterly already existed, so that was an essential part of my job. I did change it. We recruited a number of incredible writers from outside the immediate area, people like Richard Saul Wurman, Rem Koolhaas, and Bill Stumpf, who had written on ergonomics, urban planning, and various important topics. In the 1970s and 1980s, Design Quarterly became a catalogue for a number of Walker exhibitions such as New Learning Spaces and Places; The Design Process at Herman Miller; The River: Images of the Mississippi; and many others.
JR: These were groundbreaking exhibitions in many ways, but your curatorial activities took a dramatic leap with the Frank Gehry show.
MSF: In the early 1980s, I wanted to undertake a large-scale architecture exhibition. I didn’t know Frank Gehry, but I had been reading about his work for a long time and I thought it was significant. His office is in Los Angeles, so one day I just called him and asked, “How would you like to do an exhibition at the Walker Art Center?” And he said, “Where?” We told him it was near Canada, because, you know, he was born in Toronto.
JR: I had no idea—I thought you must have been the best of buddies before you started working together.
MSF: No, but he and his great wife, Berta, did become our friends as the exhibition developed. When I went to Los Angeles, I stayed in their guest house, and spent time visiting his projects and talking with members of his then-small staff. I asked him to create five full-scale objects for the show in which we would then put drawings, models, and photographs of built works. He created a lead-coated wood fish, a cardboard enclosure for his cardboard furniture, a copper enclosure, a Finnish plywood snake house, and a series of wood trees.
It’s hard to believe now, but at that point Frank had a reputation mostly among architects, few others had heard of him. The exhibition traveled to New York, Toronto, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Houston. It was the first opportunity for a wide audience to see his work.
JR: Could you talk about the origins of the 1986 Tokyo: Form and Spirit exhibition?
MSF: Martin [Friedman] and I went to Tokyo because we were given a joint travel grant by the Japan Society. We went with Rand Castile, who was then head of the Japan House gallery, and Lily Auchincloss, who was his patroness. For almost a month, we traveled all over. Rand is an expert on Japan, as he had lived there for many years. We loved it. When we came back we said, “What are we going to do with all this information?” So we began thinking about an exhibition, but we didn’t know what it would be. We had met Arata Isozaki—one of Japan’s most prominent architects. He sat down with us and was incredibly helpful. To make a very long story a little shorter, he helped us arrive at the idea of talking about the Edo period and today’s Japan by comparing the two—in terms of the art that was produced, what it looked like, how it worked, and so forth. The concept was that we would look at major aspects of life, such as walking through the city, spirituality, working, playing—all the things that everybody does everyday. We would have objects to represent what each aspect looked like in the Edo period—for example, a tea house. Then we would ask a young architect (in that case Tadao Ando, of whom at that point almost no one in the United States was familiar) to design it. So throughout the show we would pair historical Edo objects with contemporary updates.
We borrowed most of the Edo-period material from American museums because it was difficult to get loans from Japan. Then we invited Fumihiko Maki, Tadao Ando, Shiro Kuramata, Eiko Ishioka, Hiroshi Hara, Toyo Ito, Tadanori Yokoo, and Shigeo Fukuda to participate. We were lucky—when we went there in 1982, they were all happy to participate because they wanted to make reputations in the United States. Isozaki helped by introducing us to the others. It wasn’t that difficult. We had great fun with it.
JR: The exhibition had a sort of dry run in Tokyo, didn’t it?
MSF: Yes. We wanted to see the work before we brought it to the United States. There was really no other way to see it. A good deal of it looked pretty terrible. The materials were wrong in many instances—not what you would expect from Japan. Martin and I brought one of the Walker’s crew members over, and we did critiques. The projects needed some real materials and proper workmanship. It was a big success; parts of the show were shown in a Sapporo beer warehouse, an auditorium, the top floor of a fashion house, and so on. They sold tickets and had events at these various places. We finally got it all together and brought the whole thing back to the United States. We also had to bring over some Japanese craftsmen to work with us. Our crew was so magnificent because they took many incomplete installations and finished them. At the Walker, the show picked up a real edge.
Organizing Tokyo: Form and Spirit was a real adventure. One of the funniest stories concerns a video we were using to raise money for the project. Not speaking Japanese, we took the video around with us. During one visit with the Kyocera Company, which produces cell phones, we couldn’t make the video player work, so we asked for a technician to help. Two elderly gentlemen in snap-on bow ties came down. They looked like Maytag repairmen. We asked, “Could you please have this video played, so we could present it to the powers that be?” When they had it working, Martin said, “Now we are waiting for Mr. Nakamura and Mr. so-and-so…” And they said, “We are Mr. Nakamura and Mr.…” So, we sat there with red faces while this video played, and when it was all over Mr. Nakamura turned to Martin and said, “Now Friedman-san, would you be kind enough to tell me once again the name of your exhibition? Such interesting material you’re showing us. So persuasive, so beautifully documented.” So we told him, “We’re calling it Tokyo: Form and Spirit.” And he looked at his colleague and sort of smiled, and then he said, “But Friedman-san, this is Kyoto.” Martin said, “Oh, couldn’t we think of it as a working title?”
Needless to say, that story happened in many versions, but in the end we did get support from many generous people. •