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Clearing the Haze: Prologue to Postmodern Graphic Design Education through Sheila de Bretteville

Author’s preface: At the outset, this project was defined as an intensive effort to examine and reassess the work of Shelia Levrant de Bretteville. The initial motivation was driven by the connection of the rise of feminist voices in design, the Woman’s Building, postmodern design, and experimental pedagogy. We recognize that many female designers worked […]

Author’s preface: At the outset, this project was defined as an intensive effort to examine and reassess the work of Shelia Levrant de Bretteville. The initial motivation was driven by the connection of the rise of feminist voices in design, the Woman’s Building, postmodern design, and experimental pedagogy. We recognize that many female designers worked in the 1970s and 80s, however we saw that few had as large a contribution on contemporary graphic design today, as Sheila Levrant de Bretteville.

 

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Sheila Levrant de Bretteville

 

In the process of researching the historical contribution of de Bretteville, it became clear that while several publications exist that address the history of graphic design and female designers, an in-depth exploration on the topic has not been documented. There is tendency within design history to glaze over important accomplishments and accolades by women. If anything, we can say there has been false nostalgia as to the honest history of what happened. The commentary of these times is scattered in hard to access publications and with this, our research questions the cultural and academic recognition written in history books in current circulation.

Acting as facilitators, instigators, and participators, this essay was conceived with a level of framing extended towards feminism, equality, women’s rights, challenging the status quo, and encouraging students to think proactively and experimentally. It was our feeling that if we are going to talk about graphic design in our contemporary landscape, it is imperative to go beyond presuppositions and intellectual establishment and clear the haze of historical contribution. The impacts of these examinations interject important conversations into the creative and academic fields. De Bretteville’s teaching and practice changed the face of contemporary graphic design, and should be adequately acknowledged in history for her monumental work.

 

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Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Arts in Society: California Institute of the Arts: Prologue to a Community, 1970

 

Historical perspectives are important for the enrichment of the history of North American graphic design education. The history of graphic design in the contemporary construct is increasingly hard to unravel, let alone the history of the Design School at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, California. Nevertheless, let’s consider this a unique moment in the history of graphic design: an interesting moment as a result of the people who had been involved in shaping, inspiring, and educating graphic designers at a high-level; yet also interesting as a result of the dissemination of the methodologies and philosophies that CalArts developed within it’s graphic design program, specifically of those developed by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville. Clearing the Haze, is an attempt to contextualize the design education of the times rather than to explicate or theorize it. The context is of our own experience as graphic designers and former CalArts students, in a way linking our participation and passion to our own pedagogy.

 

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Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, California Institute of the Arts: Admissions Bulletin, 1973–1974

 

CalArts

In the fall of 1969, Sheila returned to New York after working in Italy in a design studio at Olivetti. She took a desk in an office shared by Robert Mangurian and Craig Hodgetts. Shortly after Craig was tapped to become Associate Dean of the School of Design at CalArts, Sheila was asked to come and work on preparing branding materials (letterhead, posters, etc.) to attract students for each school at the newly established CalArts. A special issue of a journal fell into her lap, making her editor as well as designer of the issue titled, Arts in Society: California Institute of the Arts: prologue to a community1 which came out in June 1970. The School of Design was seeking students for whom “ecology, technology, and human needs trumped taste and style”2 as the basis of meaningful work. At the request of Richard Farson, Dean of the School of Design at CalArts, Sheila joined the Design faculty as CalArts began its first academic year at an interim campus at Villa Cabrini in Burbank in 1970.

Having no previous teaching experience, Sheila drew from past assignments3 from her studies at Yale4 and from a former high school5 design faculty’s text,6 which included a chapter on design education, to create the curriculum. Additionally, Sheila reviewed the way in which she had been taught, in the light of her experience to the events occurring around her at while attending Yale—the civil right movements in the States, the protests of our war in Vietnam, the assassination of MLK and the Kennedys—in addition to her work collaborating with Emanuel Sandreuter on freedom of the press and TV posters for the Italian Communist Party. In Italy, Sheila read the teaching pedagogy of Paolo Friere and was convinced that teaching could be a horizontal exchange of information. She explored the best ways to open up assignments in such a way as to capitalize on the different experiences, knowledge, and skills which the CalArts students brought to the school.

 

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Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Announcement poster for the CalArts School of Design, 1970

 

Mashing up these international influences—Bauhausian/Modernism from Yale; a progressive/radical awareness; a more traditional graphic arts education from her Brooklyn, New York, high school years—Sheila reworked assignments in a prescient Postmodern graphic design pedagogical mode. Her choices can be seen directed to “enable the sexploration of visual phenomena.”7 Sheila knew that an able designer required a set of visual and formal skills in order for that student/designer to better access their own unique voice in a well thought through and well made manner. In this new context, students were encouraged to express their own experiences and make choices that reinforced their ability to speak through form. The intent was for all students to move toward producing meaningful content of their own.

The spirit of the early 1970s was one of collaboration where each person’s contribution was honored and the work done was not strictly circumscribed by media specificity. For example, Sheila taught a class with Craig Hodgets where two-dimensions and three-dimensions of form were created by each student. Another was an interdisciplinary class taught with Jivan Tabibian, a political scientist and Ben Lifson, a photographer. This multi-disciplinary class included an aspect of what has become known as “the object project,”8 and the beginning of her faith in the meaning of every choice in physical and visual form making. “The object project” asked each participant to bring in an object. As students went around the room and each person described the physical aspects to the object chosen, Sheila was astonished to see how much information was inadvertently being revealed about the person as the student described their chosen object. New to teaching, Sheila was unsure how best to deal with what was embedded in the physical form of the objects, which was much more than she had ever anticipated. She knew that each of us is intimately connected to the things that we choose, but it took a fair amount of time for her to recognize that she could use this intuitive attraction to objects, events, and situations to develop the intimate connection to the physical qualities of the work that students produce.

 

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CalArts exterior, 1970. Designed by architecture firm Ladd & Kelsey. Courtesy of the CalArts Archive.

 

In 1971, two years later, CalArts moved out of the temporary quarters at Villa Cabrini and into the current CalArts Thornton Ladd9 building in Valencia, California. Sheila had outfitted the printing lab to not only have lithography and engraving but also a Vandercook flat-bed printing press, a Rotaprint Offset Printer, and a Diatronic photographic typesetter. This made it possible for students to have their hands on the means of making multiple copies. The first years at CalArts were open to having “Institute Students” who could take courses at all or any of the CalArts Schools and students like Albert Innaurato and James Lapine who became dramatists, along with Bia Lowe and Bernard Cooper, who both became fine writers—all took classes taught by Sheila.

 

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Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Everywoman newspaper centerfold, 1970

 

 

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Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Everywoman newspaper centerfold, 1970

 

During the summer after Sheila’s first year of teaching at CalArts, she was asked to create a special issue of the Everywoman newspaper.10 Sheila designed the layout in the format of Consciousness-Raising (C-R), which creates an equality of voices. The newspaper gave a two-page spread to each writer, each having an equal amount of space, regardless of hierarchy in the newspaper. The dissolution of hierarchy was also a way to counter patriarchy. Empowered by the new publication’s focus on women and as the only female faculty member at the CalArts School of Design,11 Sheila approached Victor Papanek, then Dean of the School of Design, to start the Women’s Design Program,12 in which reading and discussion had an equal place alongside design work. After some prompting, he agreed. The work of the program was published in the sixth issue of the British journal Icographic13 along with an essay by Sheila on the rigid separation between men and women in design and the workplace. Sheila’s writing, titled “Some Aspects of Design from the Perspective of a Woman Designer” asks designers to help to revalidate what have been designated as ‘female’ values and devalued as such.14 The publication also included comments from each of the students and their visual work, which included type studies, photography, and documentary video. Sheila’s critique of both design and contribution to feminism worked to establish an equality based on reframing not by gender (male and/or female), but as equal individual people, individual designers.

 

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The Women’s Design Program at CalArts, 1972. Unknown Artist, Courtesy of the CalArts Archive

 

The Women’s Design Program ran in tandem with Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro’s joint Feminist Art Program at CalArts. Paul Brach, Dean of the School of Art, had agreed to offer the Feminist Art Program, a separatist program, at the behest of his wife Miriam Shapiro and Judy Chicago considering that there were no permanent women faculty members to mentor young women. Both the Women’s Design Program and the Feminist Art Program were investigatory, meaning that the class structure was about a way of exploring things they didn’t know about. It wasn’t just the transfer of knowledge from teacher to student: it was about the teacher and students exploring something together from which both were learning. Ultimately, both Chicago and Sheila decided that they would do better without CalArts and in 1972 they sent out brochures inviting students to their separatist program for the following year. In 1973 Sheila, Chicago, and Arlene Raven named their newly established program the Feminist Studio Workshop (FSW): the first independent school for women artists, which later became the Woman’s Building in downtown Los Angeles.

 

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Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Feminist Studio Workshop brochure, 1973

 

 

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Courtyard of the Grandview Woman’s Building, 1973. Courtesy of Otis College of Art and Design Library

 

Woman’s Building: Women’s Graphic Center

The Woman’s Building rented the former Chouinard Art Institute building (which officially dissolved in 1972) from CalArts for $3,000 per year—a deal brokered by Sheila—and opened on November 28, 1973.15 Woman came from around the country to work and create in this new feminist, creative, separatist space, until the Building’s unexpected sale in 1974, at which time Sheila and Cheryl Swanack searched Los Angeles for a new Woman’s Building, eventually relocating to downtown L.A. during the summer of 1975.16 The Woman’s Building fostered a kind of utopian communalism which was a unique philosophy for the time. Being an artist meant “accepting the responsibility for being one (lone artist as individual producer).”17 Moreover, it was about something other than being an artist: it was about being a fully formed person, who was able to come to terms with the suffering and/or injustice she had previously experienced in her girlhood, through her family, and/or through her community of origin. During the renovation of both Woman’s Buildings (one at MacArthur Park, the other a public center in downtown L.A.), the help of men and children affiliated with the women there was enjoyed and welcomed.

 

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Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Pink, 1974

 

The exhibitions and educational programs at the Woman’s Buildings were intended to form a participating community of like-minded women who were collectively seeking to remake themselves through the new formats offered at the Woman’s Buildings. The pedagogy that Sheila had fostered was one in which instructors and mentors respected and gave “unconditional love toward a student.” This encouraged students to freely change what they needed and wanted to develop.18 The program focused on Consciousness-Raising (C-R) (also called awareness raising), a technique that focuses the attention of a wider group of people on some cause or condition. “Using [C-R] techniques as the basis for developing an intensive, two-year curriculum that acknowledged the unique vulnerabilities and social pressures faced by young women.”19 C-R was an omnilateral, relatively leaderless, group-directed exploration in the verbalization of individual experience, which embodied a “person is political” motto, positioned within second-wave feminism. This radical pedagogy used self-expression as the paramount element in art-making, which, at the time, was atypical for an art school. It was as much about asking questions as finding answers.

Chicago left after the first year while Sheila and Raven stayed at the Woman’s Building. Housed within the Woman’s Building was the design program of the Women’s Graphic Center (WGC) which, under the guidance of Sheila, was considered one of most important features of the Woman’s Building. A number of the faculty were CalArts alums such as Helen Alm, who guided the printing in the WGC and Suzanne Lacy20 who taught performance.21 The WGC was built on the precepts of Sheila’s egalitarian pedagogical attitude—a sort of Marxist approach, which treated design as a public communication imbued with the efficacy of social change. In 1973, Sheila reprised her statement on the FSW brochure when she delivered a conference paper to the American Institute of Architects saying:

The process by which forms are made and the forms themselves embody values and standards or behavior that affect large numbers of people…. For me, it is this integral relationship between individual creativity and social responsibility that draws me to the design arts.22

Sheila wrote a number of compelling articles on woman’s rights and space often ending up in feminists publications published through the Woman’s Building such as Chrysalis, a magazine of women’s culture, a contribution to culture, media studies, and women’s studies before there were courses in women’s studies in colleges and universities.

 

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Chrysalis: a magazine of women’s culture, Cover of Volume 1, 1977

 

Projects at the WGC focused on typography, printing, and criticality within the social sphere. The wooden typeface Kabel was discovered as a part of the building’s past and was used for the Woman’s Building entry signage. Traditional fine art printing (such as etching and lithography) were not included due to limited resources and space. Their focus was on self-publishing in the form of letterpress-printed, offset-printed and silkscreen-printed posters, postcards, broadsides, artist books,23 poetry chapbooks, stationary, and other kinds of small-press endeavors.24 Sheila again brought back “the object project” in a Feeling to Form class taught with social psychologist Jane Stewart, urging students to find suitable forms from which women could derive content as a way of upending Modernist precepts of form as content.25 Feeling to Form, then, was a literal reversal, extracting form from content, rather than content from form. This class arguably produced the most highly realized art at the Building, often in graphic form.

The art of the Woman’s Building sought action in addition to expression. Some of the best-known performance work was also the culmination of Sheila’s graphic design pedagogy. In particular, Leslie Labowitz’s and Lacy’s Three Weeks in May (1977), which updated a map with reports from the L.A.P.D., printing the word, “rape” on spots on a map of greater L.A., generated large scale pubic awareness and media attention. The event combined a performance piece on the steps of L.A. City Hall with self-defense classes for women in an attempt to highlight sexual violence against women. As WGC student Emily King said, “printing gave work power and distance.”26

 

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Three Weeks in May, Suzanne Lacy, 1977. Courtesy of Suzanne Lacy

 

Sheila’s format of direct address in public spaces, offered an original and persuasive lesson in feminist pedagogy, personal growth, and the search for authentic forms. In this vein, Sheila developed and taught the class, Public Announcements/Private Conversations (1975), which then became a series of site-specific art projects produced from 1977 to 1978 in which participants were asked to “write, design, print, post their posters, negotiate with the owners of the public places, and collect responses about and for places in the shared environment… Within this theme each woman gives graphic form to her concerns, placing this work—and thus placing herself—in public view.”27 The project could then be tailored to each students needs and support the individual to find her own personal material and forms to express in. Through this class and others, form became a transformative experience, resulting in the perception of personal wholeness and collective unity at the Woman’s Building.

Eventually the continuing short-fall of funds, and a level of dissatisfaction within the Woman’s Building ranks caused the WGC to unravel. The program’s final year was from 1979–1981. Despite being hired in 1980 to create a program of Communication Design and Illustration at the Otis Art Institute/Parsons School of Design, Sheila stayed on the board at the Woman’s Building until 1981 when the FSW was terminated in favor of salvaging the Building itself. In an interview with Jenni Sorkin in 2010, Sheila says, “it made sense for the next generation to take it over. And maybe they’d have fresher ideas or a way to relate to the community that they felt stronger about coming there. I know that I couldn’t do it anymore. The Women’s Graphic Center as a commercial entity just didn’t capture my imagination in the way that the Woman’s Building as an entity did. It just simply didn’t. And it’s not that I wanted to get a job at Otis/Parsons. It’s more that I wanted to go somewhere else, do something else. And I like beginnings, and it felt like endings to me.”28 The Woman’s Building remained open as a rented studio space until 1991. Times had changed and the seemingly utopian collectivity proved to be an ideal that was not sustainable.

 

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Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Poster for Women in Design, conference, 1975

 

Otis & Yale

The educational model that was developed by Sheila at the Woman’s Building carried on at Otis Art Institute/Parsons School of Design (presently known as the Otis College of Art & Design) and helped to shape the Otis curriculum. Sheila initiated and chaired the Department of Communication at Otis from 1981–1990 which included an outreach design group called Brook7n where students created and completed community based projects. Working to bring in faculty from various backgrounds, Sheila hired Laurie Haycock and P. Scott Makela, Ave Pildas and Everett Peck, Jim Hieman, Leah Hoffmitz, Gary Panter and Georgianne Dean. Her work with Brook7n was collectively designed for non-profits, doing projects such as murals in Sam Good hospital and a billboard using a rebus (a puzzle in which words are represented by combinations of pictures and individual letters) to communicate to non-literate people about classes in reading.

The Communications Design and Illustration Department that Sheila had developed at Otis was a parallel department to the Communication Department at the Parsons School of Design. Both programs, headed by David Levy in New York, were designed to allow students to travel from New York to Los Angeles. This newly developed bi-coastal college for the arts was the first of its kind, but proved challenging. Sheila describes the difficulty of this time: “It took a while for me to figure out the flights [and] travel, because actually, a sustained program makes a lot more sense at that age level. But I didn’t know that at the time, and it was another activity.”29 Over the next nine years, Sheila worked through the logistical strains and developed a curriculum that contributed significantly to the field of design and visual communications pedagogy. In 1990, one year prior to the end of the Otis/Parsons partnership, and shortly before Levy’s departure in 1991, Sheila was appointed a full professorship at the Yale University of School of Art.

 

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New Haven Register, 1990. Courtesy of Sheila Levrant de Bretteville

 

As Sheila replaced Alvin Eisenman30 as the new director of the graduate program in graphic design at Yale in 1990, she also became the Yale University School of Art’s first tenured woman. While most faculty and alumni affirmed her appointment, others were outraged. Paul Rand, who had been a member of the faculty since the late 1950s, resigned as an act of protest against Sheila’s appointment, and then convinced his long-time colleague Armin Hoffmann to do the same. Starting in the 1950s the Yale program, based in modernist theory, was instrumental in establishing the profession of Graphic Design in the United States. Acting as a conduit between Yale and the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basle, directed by Armin Hoffmann, the Yale program was unique for its time. The graphic design curriculum established at Yale became the model for most education institutions, changing its focus from advertising to graphic design during the 1960s.

Sheila’s design pedagogy at Yale was pluralistic and pushed design as a proactive practice (rather than focusing solely on corporate service). The program was person-centered (emphasizing the students’ desire to communicate, and focusing on what each student felt necessary to be made and said and to whom they wanted to say it). Students were assured that they would be able to see themselves within the large body of work that they produced in the two-year program.

As the director of Yale’s program, Sheila acknowledged her role as a leader but was quick to point out that although she called together faculty meetings, she wanted the faculty to talk about what they found interesting and to question issues of the moment. In an interview in 2008, Sheila spoke about her past experiences which continue to influence her design pedagogy today:

“Freedom to fail, sense of community, support, taking chances: these are lessons I bring from my initial teaching position at CalArts, 41 years ago. Our past experiences are really what we bring to the pedagogy of graphic design.”

The lessons and guidance that have been experienced by hundreds of Sheila’s students throughout the years has meant that her influence has been disseminated across multiple facets of our visual and cultural landscape. Her contributions to postmodern design pedagogy opened doors to female voices in a male-dominated society, encouraged students to be more experimental, and supported non-traditional art environments. Without a more concise and complex understanding of the past, we fail to stay open to the future. It is in this vein that we strive to clear the haze of historical contribution and reach beyond the theoretical and formal exercises that most of us learn in art school today.

 

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Sheila Levrant de Bretteville photographed in 2014, at her home, in New Haven, CT   Photography: Thomas Giddings

 

In realizing this project, we are deeply grateful for the generosity of our contributors and supporters, in particular Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Peter de Bretteville, Naomi Honeth, Michael Ned-Holte, Jenni Sorkin, and Lorraine Wild.

 

Editor/publisher’s note: For more on Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, see Lorraine Wild and David Karwan’s essay titled “Agency and Urgency: The Medium and Its Message,” published on pages 44–57 of Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia (Walker Art Center, 2015). In Wild and Karwan’s essay, de Bretteville is heralded as an influential designer that “led projects and developed strategies that exemplified the new experimental and reformist attitudes about pedagogy, which continue to resonate today.” De Bretteville is also described as being “part of a [group of] influential designers and architects from the late 1960s and early ’70s who began to question the hierarchical, authoritarian aspects of design and the fading modern idea that there were singular formal principles that were universally appropriate.” (p. 54)

 


 

Notes

1 Arts in Society: California Institute of the Arts: prologue to a community, Volume 7, Issue 3, 1970.

2 Sheila de Bretteville, phone conversation with the authors, April 20, 2013.

3 Wayne Peterson, a Yale colleague kept all the assignments given at Yale and sent Sheila de Bretteville copies.

4 Sheila de Bretteville received her MFA from Yale University, 1962–1964.

5 Sheila de Bretteville attended Abraham Lincoln High School, a public school in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York, which includes many notable alumni, including Alex Steinweiss and Gene Federico who became influential graphic designers working in New York City after the war. Leon Friend was the chairman of the art department at Abraham Lincoln High School and “exposed students to working artists and visiting critics, including emigre designers such as Austria’s Joseph Binder and Germany’s Lucian Bernhard.” He also directed a student club called Art Squad, which “produced work in all media, including graphic design.” The work of Art Squad “was an awkward yet energetic interpretation of the modern style that reflected the influence of sources ranging from Bayer to streamlined product design.” (Wild, Lorraine, ‘Europeans in America,’ from Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History, 1989, 153.)

6 Friend, Leon, Graphic Design: a Library of Old And New Masters In the Graphic Arts, New York and London: Whittlesey house, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1936.

7 Sheila de Bretteville, email with authors, April 17, 2013.

8 “The object project” is an assignment Sheila de Bretteville has been giving to her students since the beginning of her teaching career, and has become a requirement for first year graduate students at Yale from 1990 to today.

9 Thornton Ladd was a Modernist architect who designed CalArts and the Pasadena Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum).

10 Everywoman, designed by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, 1971. Everywoman was a collective newspaper designed for the Fresno Feminist Art Program by Sheila de Bretteville, who had encountered the program as an invited visitor.

11 “CalArts was a place of intensive masculine bravado; the premiere American art school of the 1970s, the place to make a Happening alongside Kaprow, the progenitor of the genre.” Sorkin, Jenni, Learning from Los Angeles: Pedagogical Predecessors at the Woman’s Building, 40–41.

12 The Women in Design program (1971–1973) came out of a question posed by Sheila de Bretteville, “what would happen if I only taught women?”

13 de Bretteville, Sheila, Icographic 6, Croydon, England, 1973.

14 de Bretteville, Sheila, Icographic 6, “Some Aspects of Design from the Perspective of a a Woman Designer,” Croydon, England, 1973.

15 Sorkin, Jenni, “Learning from Los Angeles: Pedagogical Predecessors at the Woman’s Building,” 47.

16 What followed was then a frenzied search for a new building that would offer the same public visibility, until the former headquarters of Standard Oil in downtown LA was secured as a location. Sorkin, Jenni, Learning from Los Angeles: Pedagogical Predecessors at the Woman’s Building, 48.

17 Sorkin, Jenni, Learning from Los Angeles: Pedagogical Predecessors at the Woman’s Building, 42.

18 Sheila de Bretteville, email interview with Ginger Wolfe-Suarex, interReview 08, 2007.

19 Sorkin, Jenni, Learning from Los Angeles: Pedagogical Predecessors at the Woman’s Building, 49.

20 Suzanne Lacy is another individual who came out of the CalArts design pedagogy and went on to hold several positions at academic institutions, including Dean of Fine Arts at California College of the Arts (CCA) from 1987–1997 and Chair of Fine Arts at Otis College of Art and Design from 2002–2006.

21 Starting in January 1975, twenty-two women began a 4-month intensive workshop learning offset lithography, screen printing, and letterpress.

22 de Bretteville, Sheila, conference paper delivered to the American Institute of Architects, July 1973.

23 Artist Books by the likes of Frances Butler, Poltroon, and Ed Ruscha (who began his student career as the editor of Chouinard’s student newspaper) made a distinct impression on students, including WGC student and artist, Emily King.

24 Self-publishing was crucial to progression of individual feminist communities in the 1970s, including the proliferation of lesbian press culture.

25 Such as the Bauhaus-style graphic models that permeated American Modernism via the emigres who brought them, like Laszlo Mohloy-Nagy at the Institute of Design in Chicago and Serge Chermayeff at Yale.

26 King, Emily, Artists’ Books by Women, 57.

27 Public Announcements/Private Conversations, course description, 1975. Woman’s Building files.

28 Jenni Sorkin interview with Sheila de Bretteville, an oral history with Sheila de Bretteville about the Woman’s Building, CCS AS-AP project, June 22, 2010.

29 Ibid.

30 Alvin Eisenman founded and headed Yale University’s graduate program in graphic design beginning in 1951—the first graduate program in graphic design in the United States. He remained the director of that program until he was replaced by Sheila in 1990.

31 !Women Art Revolution, video interview with Sheila de Bretteville, February 15, 2008, New York, NY, Stanford University Digital Collections.

Meet The Ventriloquist Summerschool tutors: Kristian Henson

On the weeks preceding the application deadline for The Ventriloquist Summerschool (remember, it’s July 1st), we’re running a series of weekly interviews, 5 questions each with the 4 tutors involved. The dynamic is (hopefully) simple: João (Doria) interviews Kristian (Henson); Kristina (Ketola Bore) interviews Laura (Pappa); Kristina interviews João; João interviews Kristina. Kristian Henson already left a trace […]

On the weeks preceding the application deadline for The Ventriloquist Summerschool (remember, it’s July 1st), we’re running a series of weekly interviews, 5 questions each with the 4 tutors involved. The dynamic is (hopefully) simple: João (Doria) interviews Kristian (Henson); Kristina (Ketola Bore) interviews Laura (Pappa); Kristina interviews João; João interviews Kristina.

The Office of Culture & Design / Hardworking Goodlooking

The Office of Culture & Design / Hardworking Goodlooking

Kristian Henson already left a trace on The Gradient when invited by Dante Carlos in the “2014: The Year According to ————” post series. Together with his partner at The Office of Culture and Design and its editorial house Hardworking Goodlooking — Clara Lobregat Balaguer — they presented a rich list of noteworthy ideas, events and objects encountered in 2014.

Today’s questions, though, are mostly framed through pulling from personal impressions I got (and kept) when meeting him for the first time (again, through Dante). Shortly, Kristian hosted me for a few days when I traveled to New Haven in 2012 for my MFA interview and we kept in touch since then.

When putting together the ideas for The Ventriloquist Summerschool with Kristina, I thought of inviting Kristian as one of the tutors since I still see too little disconnect between who he is as a person and how he performs his own work and ideas, plus a critical interest on matters of cultural colonization (a combination I judge to be quite central to the discussions we’re aiming to raise and work on this coming summer in Oslo).

——

In Darkness, Hardworking Goodlooking 2014

In Darkness, Hardworking Goodlooking 2014

Filipino Folk Foundry (FFF), Hardworking Goodlooking 2014

Filipino Folk Foundry (FFF), Hardworking Goodlooking 2014

João Doria: Kris, let’s talk about center and periphery.

Kristian Henson: For me “center” describes a popular mainstream or a definition of a system with an ordered hierarchy and “periphery” is a subculture, an underground, or the overlooked margin of society. The two must exist together, with the periphery being the element that recalibrates the center forward, and the center being the element that is the ground on which the periphery can run around, disrupt or hack. Without the center there is no periphery, and vice-versa.

In my work I placed myself in the periphery willingly. In the periphery there is actual space to work, things to change and outcomes are unknown. The Office of Culture and Design and Hardworking Goodlooking addresses the margin through different channels, strategies and platforms. Sometimes this requires working with rural art spaces, planning indigenous food events, meeting with local anarchist activists, attending a round table of contemporary artists or maybe teach a workshop in Oslo. I’d like to think my work is in service to the periphery, to foster self-representation and give the marginal a voice.

IMG_3502 IMG_3495 IMG_3450 IMG_2986 Images from Tatlo, a book launch and art event at Ooga Booga 2 / 356 Mission, Downtown Los Angeles
JD: Let’s also talk about voice and representativity.

KH: Voice and representation are very important to me. Often I believe that voice is something many people feel is reserved for the realm of art. However I feel that is a huge oversight and a limited mode of thinking.

Inside all notions of industry, technology, politics, economy, and culture is something humanistic in one form or another. As humans we are the catalyst that set things into action. Everything we make from the eccentric to the functional echoes its maker both knowing and unknowingly. The structure of a building, the wire frame of a website, the steps of a dance routine, the contours on a bottle of shampoo all have an author. Formal, sensual and psychological footprints which map our origins, intentions, motivations can be found even in the most banal of objects. It is clear that in order to live and work with intention we must start by looking at our footsteps and understanding our voice. Intention will only equate to better work and outcomes.

My work with The OCD on one end is a means to define my own voice and work with intention but on the other end a means to help study the voice of contemporary Filipino art and visual culture. Without going too deep into Post-Colonial, Neoliberalist or Globalization theory, for a long time The Philippines and other “developing” cultures with parallel histories allowed outside elements to dictate our voices for us. In our attempt to decolonize I find it critical to invest in projects of self-representation in order to write our own histories and leave behind a body of research for the future to build upon.

Hunt & Gather, Terraria, Wawi Navaroza, Hardworking Goodlooking 2014

Hunt & Gather, Terraria, Wawi Navaroza, Hardworking Goodlooking 2014

Nowhere, Kristian Henson Unpublished Thesis Work at Yale School of Art, 2011

Nowhere, Kristian Henson Unpublished Thesis Work at Yale School of Art, 2011

Untitled (marbled paper), Kristian Henson

Untitled (marbled paper), Kristian Henson

JD: Tell me a bit about the framework you set for yourself to keep things going. It wasn’t like that since day 1, was it?

KH: My “framework” came organically, charting a general direction or field but allowing the work itself to grow on its own terms. I think its important to deeply understand how you work but not necessarily control all outcomes. Lately, I’ve been trying to reference back to my earnest study and interest in Zen (Nothingness) and Wabi-Sabi (The beauty of the imperfect) when describing my design perspective. Allow me for a moment to have some fun and get a little hippie right now – it’ll make sense I promise.

In Zen there is a dialectic that I like between control and decontrol, an essential paradox. In this system of thinking it is most optimal to reach neither end of the spectrum in order to be both at the same time, creating a balance of nothingness (this is fairly obvious). However, since we live in societies built on control, more emphasis must be made on decontrol, letting things go, allowing for imperfection and embracing chaos. Chaos not like the fuzz of an electric punk guitar (actually maybe), but more like the way water falls from a fountain into a glass.

All of that is to say that my “framework” tries to be fluid and adaptive. In urban anthropology this can be termed as fluidity or hybridity, the state in which boundaries are dissolved, identities melt and maps warp—a term that was created to address our current globalized and migratory reality. I find the concept of fluidity beautiful, it echoes Zen / Wabi-Sabi but in social science terms. I try to emulate fluidity by putting my work in positions that allow it to stay active and continue to move into more positions but allowing other people and places to warp my own process. I consider each publishing project as a node or hub that branches into more projects which will flow into new people and more places. The “framework” then can be described not a strict grid but more like a web, something that is adaptive and dynamic to the situation, environment and climate. By considering my work as a constellation of links my hope is that they collectively will speak in dialogue with one another which will create a new understanding or at the very least a landscape of its own.

The Office of Culture & Design, established 2010

The Office of Culture & Design, established 2010

Clara Lobregat Balaguer, shot by Geric Cruz 2014

Clara Lobregat Balaguer, shot by Geric Cruz 2014

JD: Now tell me about your friends.

KH: I love my friends, without them my practice wouldn’t be possible! I enjoy graphic design so much because it is inherently collaborative, it requires social interactions and outcomes rely on the relationships between parties.

When partnering with Clara Balaguer, founder of OCD and co-founder of HWGL, our informal network of friends overlaid in this very powerful way and this specific patchwork of intersecting collaborators strikes as a major character of the project. I also think our skill sets and philosophies compliment each other, sometimes it feels symbiotic-both independent and interdependent. We are based exactly 12 hours apart (Clara in Manila and myself in New York) or half the world away yet we operate this global operation by the most common but powerful tools of this age: skype, gmail, dropbox, whatapp, paypal .etc. The nature of our operation, you could also say, reflects the new potential of the globalize nature of friendships, collaborative partnerships and companies which are being formed in the contemporary “post-internet” space.

Without my partnership with Clara and her view points on social engagement, her extensive patient ground work in the Philippines and her wild humorous aesthetic tastes, I highly doubt the connections and revelations about my own work could be realized and so our friendship has been crucial in my practice and in my life.

Jim, Kara & Cynthia Henson in The San Fernando Valley circa 1976

Jim, Kara & Cynthia Henson in The San Fernando Valley circa 1976

Kevin Henson, detail of In Darkness, Hardworking Goodlooking 2014

Kevin Henson, detail of In Darkness, Hardworking Goodlooking 2014

In Darkness, Hardworking Goodlooking 2014

In Darkness, Hardworking Goodlooking 2014

JD: Last question, still on the same line of thought: tell me about your family.

KH: Family is very important. Being a product of the Filipino diaspora, it must always come back to family in one way or another. Your family is this small raft in which learn about yourself. Growing up in suburban Los Angeles feeling alien, having an identity crisis, finding home in marginal subcultures, handling sibling trauma, witnessing my family repatriate back to The Philippines—all adds subtext that informs my work. I have had many very unique life experiences through my family, we were by no means a prototype, yet it falls part and parcel with a shared broader cultural experience.

My overall feeling is that by grasping onto our own personal peculiarities and narratives, deep rich resources such as our family, conversely open a lens to larger connected human issues if only we allow ourselves to be specific and true to ourselves.

Call for Applicants: The Ventriloquist Summerschool

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Jul 1, 2015 This summer from the 10-15th of August The Ventriloquist Summerschool will happen in Oslo. It is Norway’s first design summer school and welcomes students and professionals from both design and all other creative fields. The Ventriloquist Summerschool will look at how and why designers speak through their own creations. What […]

Maypole Dance at Central Park, New York

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Jul 1, 2015

This summer from the 10-15th of August The Ventriloquist Summerschool will happen in Oslo. It is Norway’s first design summer school and welcomes students and professionals from both design and all other creative fields.

The Ventriloquist Summerschool will look at how and why designers speak through their own creations. What can it mean to use one’s own voice, regardless of the arena of action? What is the difference between speaking personally and professionally? The participants will get space, time and infrastructure to develop their own projects so the discussion can happen through the work itself.

Organized by João Doria (NO/BRA), graphic designer, and Kristina Ketola Bore (NO), design writer – they are joined by Laura Pappa (EE/NL) and Kristian Henson (US) in teaching four workshops that will run parallel throughout the week. The participants will be asked to choose one, which is headed by one of four tutors. During the week three guest critics from diverse fields will also come in to talk about their practice and what role ventriloquism’s metaphor plays in their profession.

The Summerschool is open for anyone of any age, studying or working within design, the arts and all other creative fields. Applications are welcomed from all over the world – both from students and professionals.

The school is free of charge, but participants must apply for the 32 places available through the application form on the website.

http://the.ventriloqui.st/summerschool/

The Ventriloquist Summerschool is made possible by a Grafill stipend.

Kevin Lynch: Overlay drawn for “Composite Photo Identification Map: JJ.” Documentation created as part of the Perceptual Form of the City, a research project investigating the individual’s perception of the urban landscape.

TUTORS

Kristian Henson (1981) is a New York based designer and publisher. After receiving his MFA from Yale School of Art in 2012, he continued his research and extended his design practice by actively collaborating with artists and institutions in The Philippines through The Office for Culture and Design and its editorial branch, Hardworking Goodlooking.

Laura Pappa (1988) is a freelance graphic designer based in Amsterdam. She has graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn, Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem. Since 2014 she has been the coordinator of the Critical Studies masters programme at the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam.

Kristina Ketola Bore (1986) holds an MA in Design Writing Criticism from London College of Communication. She works as a design writer and critic, editor and is a partner in the publishing house Particular Facts. Some of the places she has lectured include Bergen Academy of the Arts, Oslo National Academy of the Arts, NTNU and the Estonian Academy of the Arts.

João Doria (1982) holds an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University School of Art. He’s a Brazilian graphic designer based in Oslo, Norway and has taught, exhibited and received awards in countries such as Brasil, France, Germany, Norway and the USA. In 2015 he has, so far, exhibited at It’s a Book (HGB-Leipzig, DE) and at the 26th International Poster Competition (Chaumont, FRA).

From Line to Point – ASSIGNMENTS IN DESIGN EDUCATION

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

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

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

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

2014: The Year According to David Reinfurt

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

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

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


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

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01

Where Were We

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

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02

Dawn of Midi

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

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part

Arvo Pärt

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

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04

Dune

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

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

05-a

Claude Parent (and Naum Gabo)

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

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06

Yes, But Is It Edible?

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

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07

Christopher Williams

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

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08

This Equals That

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

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09

Richard McGuire

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

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10

Interstellar

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

2014: The Year According to Andreas Angelidakis

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

Angelidakis-apoGiannisVastardis-0200_web

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

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


 

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2014-12-03 14.51.13

Best Book

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

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10151936_238597649597637_2712803700929752890_nScreenshot 2014-12-09 11.46.25

Best Experience

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

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Dahlem Berlin Biennial

Best Venue for a Biennial

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

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Monditalia

Best Exhibition

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

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2014-07-24 21.51.14

Best Encounter

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

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2014-11-24 16.40.50

Best Purchase

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

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csm_Documenta_14__06_10_14__c__Nils_Klinger__1__2b2ae4db96

Best News

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

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2014-08-03 17.58.19

Best Research

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

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SI_Fin_de_Siecle_25web

Best Collaboration

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

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2014-07-28 21.04.46

Best Swim

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

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123Dcatch

Best App

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

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Sandberg

Best Biography

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

2014: The Year According to Omar Sosa

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

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

 

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

 


 

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01-NEOPTOLEMOS

Neptolemos Michaelides house, Cyprus

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

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02 MAX LAMB

Marmoreal by Max Lamb, Milan

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

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04-LA-FABRICA-BOFILL

La Fabrica of Ricardo Bofill

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

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05 GIRARD

Alexander Girard: An Uncommon Vision, New York

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

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06 DONALD JUDD

Donald Judd Foundation, New York

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

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07-1111-LINCOLN-ROAD

111 Lincoln Road, Miami

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

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08-CITY-FLATS-HOTEL

City Flats Hotel, Michigan

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

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09-WALDEN

Walden 7, Barcelona

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

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10 FOUR SEASSONS

Four Seasons Restaurant by Philip Johnson, New York

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

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kiss

Kiss Room, Paris

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

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

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

CLB-BY-STEFAN-KRUSE-JØRGENSEN KmEzlz04jsPAnre9YaOx2tf9JxKjG_Hyt5JOvM1XA44

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

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

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

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

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BIGGEST MIRACLE

Typhoon Hagupit (known locally as “Ruby”)

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

Hagupit aftermath
Philippines Climate Risk Index

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BEST ART EVENT IN METRO MANILA

WSK 2014: Festival of the Recently Possible

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

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

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

WSK2014 website

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3 Joko Widodo, Indonesian president and heavy metal enthusiast

BEST POLITICAL POP CULTURE HEADLINE

Majority Muslim Indonesia elects metalhead Joko Widodo as president

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

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MOST INTERESTING FILMS

The Look of Silence by Joshua Oppenheimer

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

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

Trailer
Film site


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How to Disappear Completely by Raya Martin

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

Trailer
Film site
Eyedress


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Manakamana by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez

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

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Film site
SEL site


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Storm Children, Book One, by Lav Diaz. 

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

Film review

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BEST ART WORLD HEADLINE

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

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TOP NEW FRIENDS MADE

Discussion Lab

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

Website


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Anarchist Infoshops of the Philippines

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

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

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7 All Hardworking Goodlooking Books available in 2014

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT

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

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

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8 Kutis Mayaman means Rich People Skin

MOST INFURIATING PIECE OF AUTO-RACIST ADVERTISING

Kutis Mayaman campaign by skin-whitening brand, Glutamax

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

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

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

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

Ghetto Biennale

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

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


 

Field Experiments

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

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9 DECENT DESIGNS 2

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

Decent Designs of Railing and Stair Case by Experienced Architects

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

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

 

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2014: The Year According to Eric Hu

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

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

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


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Day after violence in Ferguson

BlackLivesMatter / #ICantBreathe

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

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Hashtag Activism

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

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

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

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JACK댄스 NYC 2014

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

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Mould Map 3

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

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Rae Sremmurd, “No Type

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

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O.G. Maco, “U Guessed It”

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

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Tobias Frere-Jones / Jonathan Hoefler

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

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Yuri Kochiyama

Rest in Power.

2014: The Year According to Nicolas Nova

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

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

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


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

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La composition des mondes by Philippe Descola

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

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Internet Machine by Timo Arnall

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

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Corrupted C#n#m#

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

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

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

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Atari landfill excavation in New Mexico

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

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Twitch plays pokemon

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

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Eclats d’Amérique by Olivier Hodasava

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

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The Future Does Not Exist by Alain Bublex and Elie During

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

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Lawyers replaced by computers

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

 

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GTA V wildlife documentary

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

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