Blogs The Gradient Flat Files (Our Work)

Ordinary Pictures teaser trailer

Here is the teaser trailer for our exhibition Ordinary Pictures, cut by our videographer Andy Underwood-Bultmann. The show, curated by Eric Crosby, surveys a range of conceptual picture-based practices since the 1960s through the lens of the stock photograph and other forms of industrial image production. You can take a walkthrough of the exhibition here. […]

Here is the teaser trailer for our exhibition Ordinary Pictures, cut by our videographer Andy Underwood-Bultmann. The show, curated by Eric Crosby, surveys a range of conceptual picture-based practices since the 1960s through the lens of the stock photograph and other forms of industrial image production. You can take a walkthrough of the exhibition here. We’ll be publishing a post about the accompanying catalogue soon.

Andrea Büttner—The making of a visual identity

One of the latest exhibitions at Walker Art Center is the first U.S. solo exhibition of the work of German artist Andrea Büttner. Curated by Artistic Director Fionn Meade, the exhibition continues the Walker’s ongoing presentation of solo shows by emerging artists who have not yet had significant museum exposure in the United States. Büttner’s […]

One of the latest exhibitions at Walker Art Center is the first U.S. solo exhibition of the work of German artist Andrea Büttner. Curated by Artistic Director Fionn Meade, the exhibition continues the Walker’s ongoing presentation of solo shows by emerging artists who have not yet had significant museum exposure in the United States.

Büttner’s practice intertwines art-historical concepts with social and political issues, often exploring unexpected connections between art and religion, deviance and ethics, or shame and visual expression.

The newly commissioned installation features a range of new works, including a living moss sculpture, large-scale woodcuts, and etchings that capture and transpose the smear and blur of fingerprints left on cell phone screens. Through deploying a wide range of pre-modernist media, Büttner restores outmoded methods in order to provoke and challenge conventions of high and low. She constructs a profound space between ornate and humble, dissociation and humility, and the urge to judge or to remain objective.

 
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Personally, I was particularly captivated by the complex details in Büttner’s prints and woodcuts (many of which can be seen here). My initial design sketches for the visual identity explored the combination of typography and woodcut patterns and an attempt to use fragments of Büttner’s works and her carved forms/line-work. What I found interesting was the complex markings that were left-behind by the sharp edge of Büttner’s carving tools and which range from hairline markings to triangular, gouge-like markings.

 
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An important step in designing the visual identity was finding an appropriate typeface—ideally a classical, but not boring, serif typeface. The chosen typeface, Noe Display, responds to the pronounced and crafted feeling of Büttner’s work. Designed by the type foundry Schick Toikka, the typeface is a Transitional-style, high-contrast headline typeface. Noe Display’s sharp triangular serifs and terminals give it strong and distinctive characteristics, echoing the similar shapes which occur within Büttner’s etchings and woodcuts.

To emphasize a connection to Büttner’s sharp woodcuts within the typographic treatment, I slightly altered the height and appearance of the umlaut. Rather than keeping the two dots that typically appear within the umlaut, I instead swapped-in two triangle shapes that derived from the top, triangular part of the letter “t” in Noe Display. These triangles also replaced the dot above the letter “i”.

Intrigued by the small details in Büttner’s work, I then decided to respond by creating my own level of typographic detail through a series of customized punctuation marks that would subsequently be embedded within the texts associated with the exhibition. As a base for the punctuation, I used the same Noe Display-derived triangle shape to then create a comma, colon, period, and apostrophe. The resulting punctuation marks, which appear throughout the typeset materials connected to the exhibition, make a small intervention on the space, yet are elements that may go easily unnoticed upon first glance. This subtle intervention was made in order to focus more attention on the detailed and contemplative nature of Andrea Büttner’s work.

The developed visual identity was applied to various exhibition materials—from the invitation for the exhibition opening, to the gallery guide, to exhibition labels, title walls, and related texts.

Design and photos: Gabriela Baka

 
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Another Look Inside Hippie Modernism

We cut a longer trailer for the exhibition Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, curated by Andrew Blauvelt, featuring more footage from inside the exhibition. The show closes February 28th here in Minneapolis, after which it travels to the Cranbrook Art Museum and then the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. The trailer was edited […]

Insights 2016 Design Lecture Series

   Insights 2016 Tuesdays in March Join us in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Insights Design Lecture Series, with four talks by some of today’s most exciting designers. Over their careers, these visual form-makers have created vast collections of symbolic imagery—logos, layouts, photographs, alphabets—intended to elucidate the present and destined to one day delight […]

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 Insights 2016
Tuesdays in March

Join us in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Insights Design Lecture Series, with four talks by some of today’s most exciting designers. Over their careers, these visual form-makers have created vast collections of symbolic imagery—logos, layouts, photographs, alphabets—intended to elucidate the present and destined to one day delight and confound historians of the future. This year’s series features lectures from South Korean conceptualists Sulki & Min, music-packaging designer Brian Roettinger, design curator Jon Sueda, and Susan Sellers, cofounder of 2×4 and current head of design at the Met.

If you can’t make it in person, please tune in to our live webcast on the Walker Channel and participate through Twitter (#Insights2016). For educators, AIGA chapters, and anyone else who might want to throw their own viewing party, have a look at our Viewing Party Kit.

 

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Sulki & Min Choi (Seoul, KR)
March 01, 7 pm (tickets)

When asked what their studio motto might be, designers/artists Sulki Choi and Min Choi replied, “Clarifying is our business, obscuring is our pleasure.” Indeed, this tension between fact and fiction, concrete communication and abstraction, reveals itself throughout their practice as the designers create what they call “impurely conceptual” work. The married couple founded their design practice in Seoul in 2003, focusing primarily on the cultural sector with projects such as graphic identities for the BMW Guggenheim Lab, architecture firm Mass Studies, and the 2014 Gwangju Biennale; the guest art direction of Print Magazine’s 2012 “Trash” issue; and an extensive graphic system for the architecture exhibition Before/after.

Working in both Roman and Hangul alphabets, their intense approach to typography reveals a deep interest in language. Whether systematically inverting English oxymorons in a type specimen poster or dissecting the typographic relationship between Hangul vowels and Taoist yin-yang symbolism through a series of patterns, much of Sulki & Min’s work exerts an almost scientific approach to the use of words, reminding us that language is, in fact, the earliest and perhaps greatest “kit of parts” at a designer’s disposal.

In 2006, the duo founded Specter Press, a publishing imprint that presents monographs of Korean artists. Sulki & Min are also one half of the artist collective SMSM, which is an “applied-art collective devoted to health and happiness.” Their work has been exhibited internationally and Min also curated Typojanchi, which is a typographic biennial in Seoul. Sulki teaches design at the Kaywon School of Art & Design, and Min teaches at the University of Seoul.

 

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Brian Roettinger (Los Angeles, US)
March 08, 7 pm (tickets)

The work of graphic designer/artist Brian Roettinger is an uncanny union of punk ideology with a conceptually driven mode of modernist design. He frequently employs architectural strategies such as repetition and structure (think die-cuts and folds) while subverting this sense of order by manipulating the production process in unexpected or “wrong” ways (think pulling the sheet out of the printer before it is done). Hailing from Los Angeles, Roettinger launched his own record label in 1998 called Hand Held Heart and began to release albums by bands such as the Liars, No Age, and the Chromatics, featuring artwork that he designed and produced himself. The moniker Hand Held Heart came to encompass all of Roettinger’s creative output—curating, publishing, editing, artwork—including his stints as the in-house designer for the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), art director for LA–based fashion magazine JUNK, a variety of projects for clients such as Yves Saint Laurent and MIT Press, and most obviously, his ongoing work in the music industry. As Rolling Stone’s 2009 Album Designer of the Year, Roettinger has created album artwork for Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk, Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet, and most recently, Florence + the Machine’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. In 2013, Roettinger was commissioned to design Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail album, which was nominated for a Grammy (his second nomination).

With friends, Roettinger was also responsible for celebrating the now-legendary Colby Printing Press in LA, for which he created an official archives, curated an exhibition, and designed and edited a beautiful catalogue.

 

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Jon Sueda (San Francisco, US)
March 15, 7 pm (tickets)

Over his career, Jon Sueda has carved out a unique practice for himself as a designer, curator, and educator—a practice that has allowed him a curious perspective simultaneously creating design, generating dialogue about the field, and helping shape the designers of the future. Originally from Hawaii, Sueda has bounced around the globe, working in California, Holland, and North Carolina, and finally founding his design studio, Stripe, in 2004. Since then he has created work for a variety of cultural clients such as Chronicle Books, the New York Times Magazine, the Architecture Association (London), and REDCAT Gallery. For seven years, Sueda served as director of design for the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, creating all of their exhibition graphics, catalogues, and branding. He is also the art director of Exhibitionist magazine, a journal “by curators, for curators”; coeditor of Task Newsletter, a journal of design; and a co-organizer of AtRandom events, a “community-sponsored public gathering of designers, artists, writers, and researchers within the Los Angeles area.” Sueda is currently the chair of the MFA design program at the California College of the Arts.

As a curator, Sueda creates shows that endeavor to contextualize aspects of the design field. His most recent exhibition, All Possible Futures (SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco), tackled the subject of speculative design, examining the conditions in which graphic designers are able to create work outside of the typical client-based relationship. Featuring an international range of practitioners, the show and its accompanying catalogue have been highly influential, mapping the connections between speculative fiction, academic investigation, think-tank innovation, and contemporary art.

 

Susan Sellers (New York, US)
March 22, 7 pm (tickets)

From her early career working with Dutch studios Total Design and UNA to cofounding a preeminent global design agency to teaching at the Yale University School of Art to her recent appointment at the world’s third most-attended museum, Susan Sellers has kept herself at the epicenter of some of the world’s most exciting design and cultural scenes. She has actively explored issues as varied as data visualization, screen-based technologies, critical design, material culture, brand development, and craft. In 1994, Sellers cofounded 2×4, an agency with offices in New York, Madrid, and Beijing. Its massive output includes anything from brand work for Vitra to in-shop displays for Prada, environments for Nike, identity work for the Brooklyn Museum, pattern work for Kate Spade, and the design of a 7-screen cinematic experience for Kanye West. On top of her work at 2×4, Sellers was recently appointed head of design at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she will oversee a team of designers, installers, and architects to execute the full range of the institution’s design needs, including print materials, gallery installations, and signage. In March 2016, the institution will unveil its newly designed brand—Sellers’s Insights lecture will be her first public presentation of what should be a fantastic new identity.

Sellers is also one of the core faculty members of the MFA graphic design program at the Yale University School of Art, where she helps shape one of the most prestigious design programs in the world. She has written about design for such publications as Eye, Design Issues, and Visible Language and her work has received countless awards.

 

 

Printing of the Insights 2016 poster courtesy the Avery Group at Shapco Printing, Minneapolis.

Designing the Hippie Modernism Exhibition Catalogue

The catalogue for Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia is edited by curator Andrew Blauvelt and contains new scholarship that examines the art, architecture, and design of the counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s. The catalogue surveys the radical experiments that challenged societal norms while proposing new kinds of technological, ecological and political utopia. It […]

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The catalogue for Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia is edited by curator Andrew Blauvelt and contains new scholarship that examines the art, architecture, and design of the counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s. The catalogue surveys the radical experiments that challenged societal norms while proposing new kinds of technological, ecological and political utopia. It includes the counter-design proposals of Victor Papanek and the anti-design polemics of Global Tools; the radical architectural visions of Archigram, Superstudio, Haus-Rucker-Co, and ONYX; the installations of Ken Isaacs, Joan Hills, Mark Boyle, Hélio Oiticica, and Neville D’Almeida; the experimental films of Jordan Belson, Bruce Conner, and John Whitney; posters and prints by Emory Douglas, Corita Kent, and Victor Moscoso; documentation of performances by the Diggers and the Cockettes; publications such as Oz and The Whole Earth Catalog; books by Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller; and much more.

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While the turbulent social history of the 1960s is well known, its cultural production remains comparatively under-examined. In this substantial volume, scholars explore a range of practices such as radical architectural and anti-design movements emerging in Europe and North America; the print revolution in the graphic design of books, posters and magazines; and new forms of cultural practice that merged street theater and radical politics. Through a profusion of illustrations, interviews with figures including: Gerd Stern of USCO; Ken Isaacs; Gunther Zamp Kelp of Haus-Rucker-Co; Ron Williams and Woody Rainey of ONYX; Franco Raggi of Global Tools; Tony Martin; Drop City; as well as new scholarly writings, this book explores the conjunction of the countercultural ethos and the modernist desire to fuse art and life.

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While designing the publication, one of the tensions we were interested in exploring was the relationship of the hippie as popularized by the media and its authentic counterpart, if such a thing existed. As Andrew describes in his preface to the catalogue, “The hippie was and remains a highly mediated figure, one used rhetorically within this project as the same kind of empty signifier to which accreted many different agendas. Or, as the Diggers once said, the hippie was just another convenient “bag” for the “identity-hungry to climb in.” If the publication could illustrate both the hippie as utopic countercultural agent and the hippie as “devoted son of Mass Media,” we might begin to emulate a Hippie Modernism.

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117Typographically, we responded to lo-fi publications such as the Whole Earth Catalog, How to Build Your Own Living Structures, Be Here Now, and the Foundation Journal on one hand, and the iconic, corporate advertising language of the ’60s and ’70s on the other. Bridging these two registers came quite naturally to many of the artists and designers of this era, who understood that envisioning a utopia meant performing it, broadcasting it, projecting it, publishing it, and advertising it. Creating the future meant co-opting the strategies of mass communication.

 

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One obvious example of this was “Advertisements for the Counter Culture,” an insert in the July 1970 issue of Progressive Architecture magazine, in which representatives of the counterculture were invited to create advertisements for their various projects and efforts. In the preface, editor Forest Wilson wrote, “The following pages reflect deep discontent with things as they are. We should be concerned when such options cease to be advertised, for it is when those who seek change despair of its realization that violence becomes inevitable. The public notices that follow are put forth to offer alternatives to our way of life, not to destroy it.”

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In addition to reprinting the insert in our catalogue, we created a 16-page reimagining of it through the lens of Hippie Modernism, interspersed throughout the essay section. Some of these pages feature real ads, publication covers, and layouts from the period, while others are fictional recreations (the McLuhan ad, for example, required restaging a photoshoot in order to translate an ad that was originally black-and-white into full color). The pages are printed on Constellation Jade Riccio, a dreamy, pearlescent paper embossed with a wavy pattern that brings to mind the organic psychedelia of certain hippie projects such as Elias Romero’s oil and ink light show experiments, while also reinforcing notions of mass production and surface, by way of it’s highly artificial nature. (I first saw this paper used beautifully by Laurent Fétis and Sarah Martinon in the design of the catalogue for the 23rd International Poster and Graphic Design Festival of Chaumont 2012.)


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The book also includes an extensive plate section, featuring images and descriptions of the projects featured in the exhibition.

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Finally, the image on the cover of the book depicts the US Pavilion for Expo 67 (Montreal), designed by Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao, as it caught fire on May 20, 1976. As a signifer, the photo by Doug Lehman seems to perfectly encapsulate the friction implied by the term “hippie modernism” and, more explicitly, the counterculture’s utopian agenda being subsumed—and deemed a failure—by the conservative era that was to follow. With each passing year, though, this reactionary characterization of the counterculture moment rings more and more hollow, as contemporary practitioners revisit the revolutionary strategies these artists, designers, and activists deployed.

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Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia (Upcoming Events)

Acid heads turning on to LSD. Activists tuning in to issues of social injustice. Hippies dropping out of mainstream life. These and many other agents occupied the tumultuous landscape of the 1960s counterculture. Its antiauthoritarian and antiestablishment positions transformed not only society and politics but also art and culture. Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, which opens to the public […]

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Acid heads turning on to LSD. Activists tuning in to issues of social injustice. Hippies dropping out of mainstream life. These and many other agents occupied the tumultuous landscape of the 1960s counterculture. Its antiauthoritarian and antiestablishment positions transformed not only society and politics but also art and culture. Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, which opens to the public on October 24, surveys the radical art, architecture, and design of the 1960s and 1970s, examining the work of those seeking alternatives to the strictures of mainstream society.

Curated by Andrew Blauvelt, the exhibition will launch with a broad range of programs, including lectures by visiting artists such as Haus-Rucker-Co and Emory Douglas; screenings of films by Jordan Belson, the Cockettes, and Drop City; and even an evening exploring the counterculture scene in 1960s Minneapolis. See below for our full slate of programs (scanned from our related events flyer) and click through for more information. And check back soon as we’ll be posting content from the exhibition catalogue, new interviews, and images of the exhibition.

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Widening the Scope: On Intangibility, Embodiment, and Ephemerality

On March 17, the Walker’s design director Emmet Byrne and shop director Michele Tobin released Intangibles, an online collection of intangible products/artworks created by artists and designers. We asked Marvin Lin, editor-in-chief of  music blog Tiny Mix Tapes, to respond to the collection.  — Much of our lives revolve around intangibility, including our consumption of […]

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On March 17, the Walker’s design director Emmet Byrne and shop director Michele Tobin released Intangibles, an online collection of intangible products/artworks created by artists and designers. We asked Marvin Lin, editor-in-chief of  music blog Tiny Mix Tapes, to respond to the collection. 

Much of our lives revolve around intangibility, including our consumption of art. From live performances to museum visits, value is often placed on the experience of art, not on the physical and material components that make much of it possible. But how we value intangibility is tricky in certain contexts. During the Baltimore protests, the racism and injustice that led to the looting of material objects and the destruction of property were considered intangible concepts to those on the periphery, but tangible realities to those who experience them through material loss and economic disparity. Or consider the problematizing role that technology plays in making us increasingly more comfortable with intangible experiences yet complicating how we assign value to them: What leads us to favor a newly purchased vinyl album over a folder of MP3s, despite the latter getting more play? Or what about the difference in value between a conversation over coffee and that same conversation online?

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The Walker’s new online collection further destabilizes our valuations of intangibility by shifting the context. Instead of just peddling the usual wares — generally speaking, objects that can be held — the Walker’s online shop page is now also selling what it calls Intangibles, a multidisciplinary collection of art/products whose primary purpose is to call attention to their intangibility. So instead of retro drinking glasses and billfolds, we have a ZIP file and disappearing photographs; instead of stamp sets and watches, we have burning paper and a screening for a film that has yet to be made.

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The concept of intangibility unifies the collection, but what it means to be “intangible” is immediately put into question by the artists. In a time when digitizing is eroding both our bodies and our traditional sociopolitical contexts, several of the works from Intangibles aim to re-embody experiences whose tangible forms have been altered, de-emphasized, or made obsolescent. These works range from being incredibly involved (BodyCartography Project offers 25 “performance interventions” in which an artist will meet its buyer in a public space at an agreed-upon time and perform a dance) to incredibly simplified (K-HOLE is selling a champagne cocktail with an uncirculated mint penny dropped inside, topped with prosecco), but all speak to this reclamation of tangible, bodily experience as understood through spatial orientation, a compensation for a physicality that we’ve been slowly forfeiting to the data stream.

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Other Intangibles meet this displacement by challenging our very concept of material existence. So we have works like Suburban Seastead by Andreas Angelidakis, who is selling digital property on the online virtual world Second Life for 1 million Linden dollars ($3,986.12), and Anonymous Fantasy Online Identity by Metahaven, who, for $299 more, could create a visual online identity to use when you enter your new virtual home for the first time. While these artists are ostensibly designing virtual lives, there are material implications to avatar construction and digital renderings: being an image on screen is also being a node in a network, which involves hard-drive space and bandwidth limitations, data centers and power grids, racks and cooling fans, cables and wires burrowed in our soil. So, when artists offer PDFs (Claire Evans), voicemails (Martine Syms), apps (David Reinfurt), and JPGs (Boym Partners), they’re also inexplicably roping in a complex network of technologies that enable their very transmission and reception, acting much like containers for intellectual property (which is, incidentally, one of the most widely accepted forms of intangibility).

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But any serious examination into intangibility also implicates temporality, so it’s no surprise that many of the artists explore art’s relationship with time. And what better way than through music? Composer Nico Muhly, for instance, wrote 12 ringtones for 12 separate buyers, but his sold-out piece — titled Canonical Tones — wasn’t complete until each ringtone was installed and played by each consumer. Another music-based example comes from CFCF, whose Targeted includes selling micro-jingles and Instagram soundtrack music. But perhaps the most ephemeral experience goes to photographer Alec Soth’s Disappear With Me (also sold out), which involved sending 25 original photos to each buyer through Snapchat, a mobile messaging app that automatically deletes photos and videos after being viewed. The piece is most significant, however, not because of its intangibility, but because of its inherent fleeting nature, becoming Soth’s way of not only aestheticizing a communication tool, but also adding value to time itself. The ephemerality of Disappear With Me was really Soth’s way of enhancing the ephemerality of the buyer’s own experience, where it’s less about the rarity of the artwork and more about the transience of the transaction. In other words, tangibility, in this context, becomes a question not about whether you can touch the art, but for how long it can be consumed.

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This general uneasiness over ephemerality — an obvious consequence of a digital consciousness — manifests most clearly in anxieties about the future. While an antiquated stereotype of the artist portrays a tortured soul laboring over the creation of a great piece of art intended to “withstand the test of time,” the artists here are often resisting that egotistical desire to project themselves or their artwork into the future. In fact, some of these Intangibles are interesting not because they disengage from the future, but because they are about the future itself: Claire L. Evans’s FutureAbstract tailors PDF summaries of science fiction books to your “most relevant future” (determined through an online quiz), while Julian Bleecker and Near Future Laboratory’s Design Fiction Services allows buyers to customize their own future through an audacious variety of options (ranging from a Quick Start Guide to something that doesn’t yet exist to a “Wikipedia-esque History of a Fictional Company Related To Your Idea”).

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The absurdity with which these artists approach the future speaks in part to the idea that all art, regardless of definition, is ephemeral. From an audience’s perspective, art has never been a solely tangible experience anyway; we’re not meant to “touch” paintings in order to experience them, and any materials used to create so-called tangible art won’t last forever — thus, making all art inherently time-based.

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But there’s a reason why Intangibles is billed as a shop of products without physical form. By using the shopping platform to exaggerate the conceptual dissonance, Intangibles is able to depict the modern consumer experience in an artistic manner, to re-fetishize scarcity and entrepreneurship in an otherwise overbearing free market, to disrupt the internalized values that we assign to actual tangible products. But beyond complicating these tenuous market relationships, beyond expanding what it means to be an artist in a digital world, beyond asking challenging questions about our differing values of art and commerce, what we also end up with is a subversion of the very idea of intangibility: Through their emphasis on “making impressions” rather than “leaving imprints,” the works in Intangibles allow us to rethink our bias toward physical objects and re-envision our aesthetics on a grander timeline, offering lateral pathways that cut through the level of tangibility and place us on new timescales altogether.

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After all, if you widen the temporal scope, everything starts becoming ephemeral — widen it a little bit more, and everything becomes intangible.

Marvin Lin is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor-in-chief of music webzine Tiny Mix Tapes. He has served as an editor for Pitchfork and the University of Minnesota’s alternative magazine The Wake, and authored the 33 1/3 book Radiohead’s Kid A. You can reach him at marvinylin@gmail.com and find some of his writing at tinymixtapes.com as “Mr P.”

 

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Superscript Successories

In a 2014 article about the trajectory and form of the design manifesto, Andrew Blauvelt and I wrote: The turn of the millennium also saw the rise of the lifestyle or motivational manifesto, which offers motivational aphorisms for daily life—bite-sized chunks of wisdom— a replicable formula for success. … [This] trend toward listicle arrangements of compact nuggets […]

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In a 2014 article about the trajectory and form of the design manifesto, Andrew Blauvelt and I wrote:

The turn of the millennium also saw the rise of the lifestyle or motivational manifesto, which offers motivational aphorisms for daily life—bite-sized chunks of wisdom— a replicable formula for success. … [This] trend toward listicle arrangements of compact nuggets of vaguely familiar phrases betrays an orientation toward today’s webcentric communication landscape, in which the number of buzz-worthy, hyperbolized statements seems calculated to increase the number of user clicks. We live in the age of the TED talk, subjected to the “relentless epiphanies” of speaker after speaker delivering their eighteen-minute takes on subjects that warrant much deeper conversation.

Our recent Superscript conference wasn’t a place where people came to firmly declare something. In fact, many of the speakers seemed more interested in a healthy deconstruction of the conference’s premise. But that didn’t mean that the speakers left without bestowing great, provocative wisdom upon us, which we happily consumed and regurgitated as context-less bits of Twitter fodder. The conference covered a broad range of topics relevant to online arts writing and publishing—complex topics, including the way information and opinions circulate online, how they become truncated, distorted, decontextualized, and misinterpreted through social media, and how they can ultimately create active dialogue through online communities. To help promote the live webcast of the conference we decided to take advantage of the typical conference behavior of tweeting sometimes pithy, sometimes inspirational quotes by the speakers—successories for the Pinterest generation—by creating visual quotes that circulated through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. They did what they were designed to do, increasing the visibility of the conference and its live webcast, though sometimes at the expense of the speaker’s original intent, sometimes to the displeasure of our online followers (I’m not sure if institutional trolling is a thing quite yet). Please do enjoy the full context of each quote above by clicking in to view a full video of each talk. Or browse all of the videos here.

 All visual quotes designed by Nani Albornoz.

Call for Applicants: The Walker Art Center Mildred Friedman Design Fellowship 2015–2016

Design Fellowship 2015–2016 DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JUNE 4 If you have experienced problems e-mailing your portfolio to us, please send a note to emmet.byrne@walkerart.org. The Walker is pleased to announce that its 2015–16 Mildred Friedman Design Fellowship is now open for application. Since 1980, the Walker’s Design department has maintained a graphic design fellowship program that […]

Design
Fellowship
2015–2016

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JUNE 4

If you have experienced problems e-mailing your portfolio to us, please send a note to emmet.byrne@walkerart.org.

The Walker is pleased to announce that its 2015–16 Mildred Friedman Design Fellowship is now open for application.

Since 1980, the Walker’s Design department has maintained a graphic design fellowship program that provides recent graduates the opportunity to work in a professional design studio environment. Selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants, fellows come from graphic design programs throughout the United States and abroad representing a diverse range of design programs, such as Art Center College of Design, California Institute of the Arts, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Eastern Michigan University, Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, NC State University, Rhode Island School of Design, Royal College of Art, Werkplaats Typografie, and Yale University, among many others.

What we are looking for:

Ideal candidates will be firmly grounded in visual design principles and the print design process with some experience in interaction design. In addition to print-based projects such as exhibition identities, wayfinding, and collateral materials, this year’s fellow will also work on select online publishing initiatives. The fellow will join an accomplished team of professionals known for creating industry-leading work. Immersed in the Design department, which includes Editorial, Photography, and Videography, fellows gain a deeper understanding of design, work on projects with rich, interesting content, and are expected to produce work to the highest standards of design excellence. See samples of previous fellow’s work here and in this video highlighting 75 years of Walker design. The fellows will also be key contributors to the Design department’s blog, The Gradient—so an interest in the discourse of graphic design and contemporary culture is highly desirable. Fellows are salaried, full-time employees and are involved in all aspects of the design process, including client meetings and presentations through production and development. DURATION OF FELLOWSHIP: August 1, 2015 – July 31, 2016

How to apply:

For consideration, submit the following materials by PDF attachments only: 1. a letter of interest; 2. a resume, including names and contact information of 3 references; 3. a PDF portfolio containing 8–10 examples of graphic design work (total file size can be no larger than 19 MB, otherwise your file will be rejected). Email application packets to jobs@walkerart.org. If you do not receive an automatic confirmation of your application, please send another note to the same email address, without any attachments.

No phone calls please. For more information, visit our fellowship page.  Also check out the Walker’s job listing.

Some of our recent projects:

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👋 We’re looking forward to meeting you! 😗

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.

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