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Postal Works by Clive Phillpot, from Please Come to the Show

    Sara De Bondt, who recently spoke at the Walker as part of our Insights lecture series, is co-founder of Occasional Papers, a non-profit publisher dedicated to producing affordable books on art, design, architecture, film and literature. Their most recent publication, Please Come to the Show, which launched June 10th, is edited by David […]

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Sara De Bondt, who recently spoke at the Walker as part of our Insights lecture series, is co-founder of Occasional Papers, a non-profit publisher dedicated to producing affordable books on art, design, architecture, film and literature. Their most recent publication, Please Come to the Show, which launched June 10th, is edited by David Senior, bibliographer at the Museum of Modern Art Library in New York. The book was published on the occasion of Senior’s MoMA Library exhibition recently traveling to the Exhibition Research Centre in Liverpool and the catalog “consists of a wide range of MoMA Library’s exhibition-related ephemera—invitations, flyers and posters from the 1960s to the present—presenting them as an historically overlooked but integral aspect of exhibitions. Often the first point of contact between the audience and artist, such items form part of an essential lexicon for graphic designers, curators, art historians and anyone interested in the event-based nature of showing art. Filled with full-colour reproductions of numerous examples from the MoMA Library collection, the book includes new essays by Gustavo Grandal Montero, Will Holder, Antony Hudek, Angie Keefer, Clive Phillpot, David Senior and Suzanne Stanton.”

Below we present Clive Phillpot’s essay “Postal Works” from the catalogue. Clive is a writer, curator and former art librarian.

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Postal Works
by Clive Phillpot

I have moved house and consequently weeded my belongings maybe ten times since 1976, but through all that time I held on to a postcard announcing what is probably a performance (that I never witnessed) by Kevin Atherton at 8pm on 14 October 1976. The card informs the reader that ‘A Work Opened Up’ will be performed at the Battersea Arts Centre. Why have I kept this particular piece of paper, measuring six by three and a half inches, for so long?

The card has an internal border of a black line that breaks briefly on the top at the point where a paperclip has been attached, then, above the centred textual information, is another paperclip opened up and straightened out into a bendy line and fixed to the card with adhesive tape. This art announcement is unusual in its incursion into the third dimension, but its fascination lies in both its minimal sculptural quality, and its enigmatic content. How does a straightened paperclip connect with what happened after 8pm at the Battersea Art Centre? The lack of a ready answer contributes to the suggestiveness of the mailed work and to its ongoing curiosity.

As well as these qualities the card has usefulness, even after the event, as a record of an artist’s work and a record of one of the events at a particular venue at a certain time, just like most items in files of art documentation. The fact that I have filed and preserved Atherton’s announcement for such a long time counters its intrinsic datedness. Like nearly all the items in this exhibition it was conceived as something short-lived, that is, ephemeral. Printed ephemera are so-called because, they resemble the Ephemeroptera, the biological order of the mayflies that emerge (in the month of May) from their larval form in streams, take flight and last but a day before their lives are done. In turn printed ephemera would initially appear to have no further function once the event that they announce has occurred.

This exhibition, too, contests the status of the pieces of paper that it brings together, since years after their appearance they have been preserved and are now displayed and their content, their design, their artistry, fêted. It will also be apparent that these humble announcements and invitations actually communicate very specific items of information that have enduring value as particles in the art historical food chain.

The world of art museums and galleries has had a need for invitation cards for many decades, but with the radical changes in art in the 1960s, when artists began to take charge of the ways that their work was publicised and written about, the exhibition announcement became another arena in which the artist could work. This was a time when artists’ magazines burgeoned, as did book art, mail art and artists’ postcards.

While art announcements take many forms, the simple postcard, usually sent in the mail as is, without an envelope, is very common, and provides a small harmonious forum for verbal and visual statements. To illustrate the potential of the form one might highlight a microcosm of artists from England, who have similar interests and who have utilised the postcard form to make artworks that also announce exhibitions. They are Richard Long, Hamish Fulton and David Tremlett, each of whom has worked in remote regions of the world, and with the land itself. Richard Long has stated that ‘everything that I show in a gallery or put out in other ways, is art in its own right’. And indeed, in his recent 2009 exhibition at Tate Britain, he not only showed over eighty sculptures and wall works, but also perhaps three times as many printed works, including artist books and postcard announcements. His card for his exhibition at Sperone Westwater Fischer in New York in 1978 epitomises the announcement as artwork. It depicts his circle of driftwood on a shore in the arctic, placed in the foreground of a vertical photograph which also shows waves in the Bering Strait and a forbidding sky. The whole image, a study in greys, has a white border and two lines of lettering in white. This is a rewarding and compelling image; a small artwork. (Strangely the same photograph, bled off and without lettering, was issued in a postcard edition by Gebr. König in Cologne, but this has none of the iconicity of the New York announcement.

The idea of the artist’s postcard —a sibling of the announcement as artwork —was also made more visible in the 1960s as the mail art network expanded. For instance, a bit later, in 1977, Image Bank, the alternative space in Vancouver, published their Image Bank Post Card Show. This exhibition in a box contained works by such mail art stalwarts as Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, Dadaland, General Idea, Ray Johnson and Mr Peanut, as well as other sympathetic artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark and Sol LeWitt. Others who encouraged artists to make postcards included Klaus Staeck who had himself made postcards and stunning posters; his Edition Staeck published cards by Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono, Dieter Roth, Claes Oldenburg and several more artists. Yet another extended phenomenon was Eleanor Antin’s 100 Boots. This series of 51 black and white postcards surprisingly depicted the odyssey of 100 boots as they made their way across America. Each card showed the boots en route, in a field, in a farmyard and so on, until they arrived at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Such postcards intermingled in the postal system with announcement cards and so ended up in ephemera collections as well. Getting back to announcement cards, however, there were artists who not only devised work for such cards, but also embarked upon serial card works. One of the most notorious is that by Robert Barry in 1969 in which he composed cards for exhibitions of his work in the USA and across Europe, which announced: ‘for the exhibition the gallery will be closed’. Thus after exhibiting elusive phenomena such as radio waves and inert gases he began to exhibit nothing, drawing attention to this fact by utilising these mailed announcements. Another series of interrelated cards were Joel Fisher’s announcement cards for a string of exhibitions in the mid-1970s, also across Europe, in which he paired a photo of one of his eyes with an eye of the gallerist presenting his work.

 

 

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Five cards from the 8 Man Show series, by Ray Johnson. New York: 1962-68
From the MoMA Library Collection

Other artists played more complicated games with announcements. For example Ray Johnson made a set of ‘five cards in diminishing print size’ for a series of ‘invisible shows’ each referred to as the ‘8 Man Show’, apparently at three different galleries. The exhibitions were, however, inventions, as were some of the artists who appeared to have exhibited: thus ‘Ray Johnson’ metamorphosed into ‘Ray Charles’, ‘Kay Johnson’ and ‘Ray Johnsong’, while ‘George Brecht’ reappeared as ‘Mrs. Brecht’. And the galleries, also fictitious, started as the ‘Robin Gallery’—probably a play on the Reuben Gallery —and then its successors the ‘Woodpecker Gallery’ and the ‘Willenpecker Gallery’ (which alluded to the artist John Willenbecher).

Other art world phenomena that contributed to the flood of printed and mailed ephemera included the publishing of artists’ magazines. Thus there are cards announcing parties or benefits to celebrate the appearance of magazine issues: the Image Bank issue of Art-Rite for example, or the various cards for Just Another Asshole. Then there is a card to announce the press conference at Grand Central Station for the release of Les Levine’s compelling subway poster ‘We Are Not Afraid’. There is another for the ‘Eat-Art Show’ at the Art Caféon Second Avenue. Yet another is for the exhibition of work by Frank Kozik at CBGBs on the Bowery. The venues —and the occasions —are multifarious.

Today we may be witnessing the end of the growth in postal announcement cards after only a few decades, for most exhibition venues are cutting back on the production of cards and other items to publicise their exhibitions or events. Email announcements have more or less taken over. Some of the more corporate galleries still issue dinosaurial card announcements but these are generally larger, thicker and more ostentatious than before.

An array of art world printed ephemera tells us a lot about the times in which they were produced. If one thinks, perhaps, of printed ephemera from the nineteenth century, the look and means of these earlier specimens is vastly different from, say, the printed ephemera of the late twentieth century, for the older ornamental typeset sheets with their inventive layouts gave way to the immediacy of offset, duplicated and xeroxed material often literally revealing the hand of the maker. So along with the art in ephemera and the information in ephemera, we can discover the look and feel and facts of the times that they document.•

Please Come to the Show
Edited by David Senior
Published by Occasional Papers
With the support of the MoMA Library and the Exhibition Research Centre, Liverpool John Moores University
ISBN: 978-0-9569623-7-9

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All Possible Futures: Experimental Jetset on Speculative Graphic Design

This interview is fresh from my new book All Possible Futures, published by Bedford Press. The book accompanies the exhibition of the same name, which was on view at SOMArts Cultural Center from January 14 through Feb 13, 2014, and features texts by Rachel Berger, Max Bruinsma, Emmet Byrne and Metahaven, Catherine de Smet, and Emily […]

allpossiblefuturescover_5aWhiteBGThis interview is fresh from my new book All Possible Futures, published by Bedford Press. The book accompanies the exhibition of the same name, which was on view at SOMArts Cultural Center from January 14 through Feb 13, 2014, and features texts by Rachel Berger, Max Bruinsma, Emmet Byrne and Metahaven, Catherine de Smet, and Emily McVarish. In addition to these texts, I conducted interviews with a variety of practicing designers in an attempt to get a deeper understanding of “speculative” graphic design practices and the various positions and orientations designers are taking today. Below is my interview with Experimental Jetset.

 

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Experimental Jetset, The Society of the Speculative button, 2014. Commissioned as part of All Possible Futures

Jon Sueda: What does the term “speculative” mean to you and your practice?

Experimental Jetset: We realize that some designers and artists are doing really interesting (and brilliant) stuff under the umbrella of “speculative design” (Metahaven comes to mind, obviously), and we do confess we always feel a slight tingle of excitement when concepts such as “design fiction” and “speculative realism” are brought up. But, other than that, we have to admit we’ve always very much disliked that word, “speculative.” It just has too many negative connotations to us: spec work, financial speculation, et cetera.

Politically, we have always been highly influenced by the Amsterdam squat scene of the 1970s and 1980s—and, within that particular idiom, the figure of the spekulant (in English, the “speculator” was the absolute devil. It represent­ed the real estate broker, the person who somehow made a profit from the vacancy of houses. Within the narrative of the squat scene, there was a strong dichotomy between the symbolic, speculative value of the building (as channeled by the real estate broker), and the actual, material use of the building (as practiced by the squatters). And although we have never been squatters ourselves, that scene certainly has been an inspiration to us, and we still strongly sympathize with it. So it’s no wonder that we feel a certain suspicion when we are confronted with the word “speculation.” To us, it represents something we have always opposed.

You could also argue that it is exactly the practice of speculation that got us all into the current economic crisis. “Wild West capitalism,” financial gambling, stock brokerages, banking for profit, and so on. To us, the notion of speculation is intrinsically linked to the whole concept of neoliberalism.

We realize that your use of the term is completely differ­ent. But, still, we might just be a bit too materialist (in the Marxist sense of the word) to get excited about it. We like our environment to be clearly grounded in some sort of material base, and the moment things start to “float” is the moment we get suspicious. Our whole practice is based on this idea of going against the illusory power of the image by revealing the material proportions of the object. So it is only logical that this notion of the “speculative,” as something that only exists as an illusion, doesn’t fit well with our way of working and thinking.

Maybe we simply don’t believe in the speculative, in gen­eral. In our view, something is either real or it isn’t. A sketch, a proposal, a plan, a scale model—we see these things as real, not speculative at all. Between the sketch and the fin­ished drawing, we see no gradients of realness. A sketch is a real sketch in the same way that a finished drawing is a real finished drawing.

Which reminds us of proposition 5.61 of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s famous Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. Logic pervades the world: The limits of the world are also its limits. So, we cannot say, in logic, ‘The world has this in it, and this, but not that.’ For that would appear to presuppose that we were excluding certain possibilities, and this cannot be the case, since it would require that logic should go beyond the limits of the world; for only in that way could it view those limits from the other side as well. We cannot think what we cannot think; so what we cannot think we cannot say, either. 1

In other words, for Wittgenstein, something either exists in the world or it doesn’t exist at all, and in the latter case we can’t even speak about it. Or, at least, that’s how we interpret his quote: as an argument against the speculative. “We cannot think what we cannot think”—so there’s no such thing as “pure” speculation. Speculation will always result in something real: a real thought, a real sketch, a real model. It will always stay within the borders of reality, of language, of the world.

But, apart from these more philosophical considerations, when it comes down to it, we simply don’t believe that this notion of the speculative automatically has some sort of sub­versive or redeeming dimension. True, in some circles, “the speculative” is used almost synonymously with “the critical’ (which happens to be another word we’re quite wary of). But, in our view, the speculative exists on the same level as the spectacular: this whole floating sphere of illusions, false im­ages, inflated signs, projections. Which is exactly the sphere we’ve tried to oppose all throughout our practice.

Guy Debord’s critique of the spectacular was famously titled The Society of the Spectacle. Come to think of it, we now find ourselves in something very similar: the society of the speculative. Having said that, we know we shouldn’t be too judgmental about this whole notion of the speculative. Nowadays, it might indeed be speculative projects that can give designers some sort of breathing space in an economic and political environment that is becoming increasingly tight and hostile.

Issues of PHK (selection) / series of fanzines produced between 1994 and 1996. Designed by Experimental Jetset and Cindy Hoetmer.

Selected issues of PHK, a fanzine produced between 1994 and 1996 by Experimental Jetset and Cindy Hoetmer

Jon Sueda: One could say that the work in this exhibition represents a parallel universe, designers who practice on the margins of the profession, making work which might only exist because they were proactive about initiating it. Does this parallel universe exist?

Experimental Jetset: It’s interesting. Reading your question, we suddenly remembered our own situation after graduation. We actually come from a zine background. When we were studying at the Rietveld Academy, we were publishing our own fanzines, posters, T-shirts, et cetera. And even before we went to art school, we were involved in creating mini-comics, mix tapes, and mail art. So you could say that we are products of exactly the sort of parallel universe you talk about.

Right after graduation, something happened that changed our way of thinking about this whole notion of the parallel universe. We came across an interview in Emigre in which a graphic design group said something to the extent of, “It’s great that we produce our own little zines, so that we don’t have to bother our ‘real’ clients with our creativity.” (Now, we are paraphrasing this from memory, so we might have completely misquoted it. But, as we remember, this was more or less the way it was said.)

This sentence was quite an eye-opener. A shock. We sud­denly realized the danger of a certain kind of self-publishing—the kind that functions as some sort of external outlet for creativity, as a way to redirect creativity to where it can do the least “harm,” so to speak. And from the moment we came across that quote, we abruptly ceased our practice as self-publishers and decided to fully focus on assignments.

In other words, we tried to stay away from the model of the “schizophrenic” designer, the designer carrying two port­folios: a portfolio with “free” projects (“for fun”), and a portfolio with “corporate” projects (“for money”). To us, this model was, and still is, an absolute nightmare. We want to drive our crea­tivity exactly to the place where it can do the most harm, so to speak. In all our projects, we absolutely “bother our clients with our creativity,” as often and as relentlessly as possible.

During those years after graduation, we were often think­ing about a sort of Hitchcockian model. Hitchcock didn’t distinguish between films “for fun” and “for money.” Rather, he managed to inject his subversive creativity directly into the heart of the Hollywood movie industry, and exercise his au­thorship right there. This model has always been an example to us, especially at the beginning of our practice.

Sixteen years down the line, we have softened up a bit, and think about it in a less dogmatic way. We now realize that every designer has to find their own way to organize their practice, even if that means artificially compartmentalizing one’s practice into “self-initiated” and “client-driven” work. The current situation (economically, politically, et cetera) is so bad, we totally understand that some designers feel the need to create some sort of parallel universe, just to stay sane.

As for our own way to stay sane, we would describe our current position as follows:

It may sound absurd, but we really regard all our projects as self-initiated, whether they involve clients or not. The way we see it, the moment we consciously make a choice to involve ourselves in a project (for example, by saying yes to an assignment), we are, in fact, initiating it. That makes everything that we do self-initiated (or maybe “self-inflicted” is a better word).

We see none of our work as “free,” in the sense that we really don’t believe that there is such a thing as a project that’s completely free of restrictions, free of limitations, free of specifications. After all, there is always a given context to respond to, a series of parameters to work within, a set of circumstances to react to. This set of circumstances might include a client or not, but in the bigger picture, that’s not even important, in the sense that it doesn’t make the project less or more “free.”

So, while we see none of our projects as “free,” we do see our own role within these assignments as “free” in the sense that, even within the most limited circumstances, we always have a certain freedom of choice. We always have the free­dom to quit an assignment (which is one of the most reas­suring securities that one has as a designer). Sure, quitting an assignment automatically means a loss of income. But, ultimately, we do have that choice, however hard it might be.

In short: the assignment is never free, the designer is always free. (We know, it’s an almost existential position, to be condemned to freedom and all that jazz.)

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Jon Sueda: Design can be a way to solve a problem, to visualize complex information. A critical tool to provoke debate, and promote aesthetic and social values. These responsibili­ties seem to be ever expanding. In your opinion, what should the primary role of a designer be today? And in the future?

Experimental Jetset: We find it hard to define what the role of the designer should be. We have always disliked this tradition of designers dictating to other designers how to work and how to think. In all our interviews, we have always tried to emphasize that our views are strictly personal. We never want to force our beliefs onto other designers. So we only can talk about what we see as our own role, today as well as in the future.

The role we try to fulfill—or, better said, the obligation we feel—is to design in such a way that the reader (or viewer, or spectator) is constantly aware of the fact that he or she is looking at something human-made: an object that is made by humans, and thus can also be changed by humans. We want to contribute to the constructed, material environment around us, but not without also creating some sort of awareness that this environment is just that: material and constructed.

At a very concrete level, in our day-to-day practice (if there is such a thing), this basically means that we want to break the spell of the image and continuously reveal the fact that a printed object is “just” ink on paper—nothing more, but certainly nothing less. The graphic identity we recently designed for the Whitney Museum of American Art is a good example of that. It basically consists of a zigzag line occupying the available space within any given format. The zigzag is effectively emphasizing the material proportions of the designed object. The zigzag breaks the spell of the im­age, emphasizing the thing-ness of the design. Or, at least, that was our intention.

In our view, this role, this obligation, will become more and more relevant in the coming years. As we enter a future that seems more and more detached from the notion of a mate­rial base (a good example of this detachment would be the phenomenon of the Cloud), we think it’s good that at least a couple of people will try to keep things grounded. Just a hand­ful of village idiots (we are talking about ourselves here) who, instead of pointing to the sky, are pointing at the ground.

Jon Sueda: In many cases, speculative projects are self-initiated efforts (sometimes with little visibility), proposals within academic contexts, provocations, or sometimes unrealized enquiries. How do you define the “realization” of a design idea or concept?

Experimental Jetset: As we already argued in our answer to your first ques­tion: theoretically speaking, ideas, and concepts are already real, in and of themselves. A sketch is a real sketch, in the same way that a finished drawing is a real drawing. In theory, they both possess the same degree of realness.

On a more practical level, however, and in our day-to-day practice (whatever that may be), we would say that some­thing is realized the moment it is multiplied—when it is printed, or published online, or made public in some way. In a short text we recently wrote (“Socialism as a Graphic Language,” which appeared in volume 1 of EP, published last year by Sternberg Press), we described the act of multiplica­tion as “the movement from one to many, from solitude to multitude, and from the individual to the collective.” So, that sounds pretty real to us. Or, at least, real enough.

1. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. C K Ogden (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1922).

About the author:
Originally from Hawaii, Jon Sueda has practiced design everywhere from Honolulu to Holland. After earning his MFA in Graphic Design from CalArts in 2002, he was invited to North Carolina State University to serve as a designer in residence, followed by an internship in the Netherlands with Studio Dumbar. In 2004, Sueda co-founded the design studio Stripe, which specializes in printed material for art and culture. He is also the co-editor of Task Newsletter, and the co-organizer of AtRandom events. Sueda has lectured, taught workshops and has been visiting critic many universities. In 2007, Sueda relocated to the San Francisco area, where he is an Assistant Professor in the Graphic Design Program at California College of the Arts (CCA).

The Center for Sensibility: Towards Critical Graphic Design Practice

(But first some background information.) THE WHY NOT IN THE LIFE OF AN ARTIST IS WHAT DECIDES EVERYTHING; IT IS DESTINY. IT IS THE SIGN THAT CONVEYS TO THE INEXPERIENCED ARTIST THAT THE ARCHETYPE OF A NEW STATE OF THINGS IS READY, THAT IS HAS RIPENED, THAT IT CAN BE BROUGHT FORTH INTO THE WORLD […]

(But first some background information.)

THE WHY NOT IN THE LIFE OF AN ARTIST IS WHAT DECIDES EVERYTHING; IT IS DESTINY. IT IS THE SIGN THAT CONVEYS TO THE INEXPERIENCED ARTIST THAT THE ARCHETYPE OF A NEW STATE OF THINGS IS READY, THAT IS HAS RIPENED, THAT IT CAN BE BROUGHT FORTH INTO THE WORLD
—YVES KLEIN

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Yves Klein, 1928–1962

To understand this photo of Yves Klein—holding a levitating flame in, yes, pre-Photoshop days—is to understand him as both a playful provocateur and also a critical creator. Many know Klein as Le Monochrome, the man who patented a unique painting formula that resulted in his brilliant, and famous, IKB canvases. Yet, perhaps not as many know of his radical criticality: Yves Klein critically rejected preconceived notions of painting in ways that productively afforded new ideas for the medium. Through writing (which he did prolifically) and creating (in ways that expanded the painting medium), his creations antagonized what painting could be.

But, rather than annihilating the practice, Klein used his tools to re-imagine the very nature of his discipline, and it is his form of criticality that I am most interested in borrowing to draw potential parallels to a critical practice in graphic design discipline.

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Through Klein, I sought to borrow his archetype of antagonizing a creative discipline, in addition to some of his concepts. The Center for Sensibility, my thesis project, antagonized the practice of design and sought ways to productively work against prescribed notions of design practice. Inspired by Klein, I sought ways to immaterialize design, and to show that the doing nothing aspects of design—like research, writing, and organizing content—are viable parts of practice. I explored immateriality in two ways: 1) as a research-based process that enables me to bring new ideas to my practice and share them with others; 2) as immaterial design, forgoing a designed artifact for a designed experience, that permits a community to participate in my project. Inspired by relational design, I sought to eliminate disciplinary boundaries of my university (a school of art and design) to permit a cross-disciplinary dialog about graphic design. These ideas, I thought, could build towards interesting applications for critical practice. Before I jump into my project, though, I’d like to share the ideas and resources which laid the framework for my exploration.

DESIGN SHOULD BE CAPABLE OF GENERATING ITS OWN MEANING FROM ITS OWN RESOURCES
—ANDREW BLAUVELT

Critical practice is not the same as expressing opinion or criticizing a finished design; it is not about taking to the comments section of a blog to tear down a designer or a design. Although that form of criticality is productive in its own right, critical practice is more about expressing disciplinary issues or concerns in ways that help define and strengthen the graphic design discipline.

The motivation for critical practice is within problem finding: locating issues or concerns within a discipline and exposing them to discussion. Or, in the case of Yves Klein, creating in a way that exposes and investigates the concern.

For graphic design, motivations for critical practice are plentiful and many. These motivations re-imagine the way graphic design works; they are productively contrary to preconceived notions of practice. Concerns include designing self-initiated projects or self-propelled research questions rather than client-assigned projects (read the essay Research and Destroy: Graphic Design as Investigation by Metahaven’s Daniel Van der Velden),  or designing to inquire into distribution (like The Book Trust), or, in the case of Forms of Inquiry, exposing design to other creative domains (like architecture or painting) to influence ways of designing. These practices not only antagonize practices of design, but they are fruitful applications of contrary forms of thinking about the discipline. Critical discourse leading to thoughtful application.

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The Book Trust, 2010

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Forms of Inquiry Exhibition

Andrew Blauvelt exposes some ideas about disciplinary concerns in his 2013 D-Crit lecture “Graphic Design: Discipline, Medium, Practice, Tool, or Other?” (a lecture that is a timely reassessment of his 2003 essay “Towards Critical Autonomy, or Can Graphic Design Save Itself?”). The design discipline of the late 2000s—an amorphous blob akin to the Ghostbuster’s Marshmallow man—ballooned to a vast array of practices: motion graphics, font design, info graphics, web design, systems design..the list goes on. This fur ball of practice weakened the idea of a coherent discipline and, moreover, no forms of practice gave the discipline running room for critical discourse. Waging a war on too many fronts, design had no strict focus, and no foundation for critical discourse—no methods of designing that better defined or strengthened the discipline.

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The Marshmallow Man (AKA, the design discipline circa 2000 as an amorpheous blob)

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The Furball (AKA, Graphic Design Modes of Practice)

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From Blauvelt’s D-Crit lecture, “annihilating” the blob of graphic design practice by allotting the discipline running room for critical self-refleciton

In order to “save itself” and move towards critical discourse, Mr. Blauvelt states that design must use its own forms and methods of practice in self-reflexive ways, ways that allow design to generate meaning from its own resources. Design that self-initiates its own projects, self-propels its own research and content, and self-reflects inward (exploring design through designing, or writing about design). These self-reflexive practices build critical discourse, help strengthen the discipline: critical practice forms a core, foundational center that reflects upon the knowledge, skills, applications, and needs of the discipline. By forming this core center, we can make or write according to these principles. Again, critical discourse leading to thoughtful application.

 

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Vision, Interrupted

René Magritte, L’histoire centrale (The Central Story), 1928

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Image credit: the cover’s collaged image is partially sourced from a photographic work created by Sydney Shen

Collected texts: on obstructed vision, blindness, perception, darkness, speculation, adaptation, and various other excerpted ruminations surrounding said subject matters; presented in parallel with a collection of images depicting certain avant-garde individuals whom, for reasons yet unknown (fashion statement? spiritual experience? an attempt to more intimately connect with their surroundings?), have obstructed their own vision.

Motives of pursuing ideals of trend and fashion aside, one might ask: to what end are the individuals presented throughout this publication blinding themselves?

Is it, as Denis Diderot asserts, an attempt to perceive their surroundings more abstractly and thus without deception?

Or, as with Oedipus Rex before them, have they willfully blinded themselves out of the shame brought forth by some terrible revelation that has exposed their own ignorance and inability to realize their true identity?

the nature of clouds presents a wide array of hypotheses of this nature, intended to examine the motives of and experiences behind obstructing one’s own vision.
—Preface (excerpt), the nature of clouds

 

 

the nature of clouds, a project I’ve recently published through Edition MK, is a 236-page book which is accompanied by a series of 3 offset-printed posters (each of which I apply a unique, ultramarine-blue-chalk mark to).

With a selection of 27 excerpted texts that I’ve presented alongside a collection of images that reveal a particular contemporary visual phenomenon that is widely-seen yet seldom given a name, I edited together the nature of clouds with the intent of presenting the otherwise-disparate collection of texts and images in a way that searches for new meaning and interpretation between the two.
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content

The texts that I collected for the nature of clouds refer to a spectrum of subjects such as: self-inflicted blindness, blindness as punishment, the blind’s perception of their surroundings, adaptation, echolocation, the symbology of blindness, the explorations of blindness within art, blind prophets, et al. I sought out and chose these texts for the thought-provoking ways in which they enhanced the visual content of the book’s collected images. These texts include excerpted works from philosophers such as George Berkeley, Denis Diderot, and René Descartes, Greek tragedian Sophocles, physician-authors F. González-Crussi and Patrick Trevor-Roper, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, critic and novelist John Berger, theorist Guy Debord, as well as texts focusing on the works of artists, such as Giuseppe Penone and Lygia Clark, who specifically explored blindness and sensory deprivation in their work.

Meanwhile, the connective thread shared between the images that I’ve presented throughout this project, as it quickly becomes obvious, is the fact that all of the subjects appearing in these images are shown either with their faces and eyes completely covered (often with a large, flowing piece of cloth or drapery) or, simply, with their vision obstructed in some way. The subjects in these images can, as I like to think of it, be imagined to be in a state of blindness (or, at least in a state of heavily impaired vision).

I prefer to describe what is appearing in this collection of images as a type of “visual phenomenon”—one that, based on the shear amount of iterations produced, appears to be alive and well within the contexts of contemporary photography, art direction, fashion, visual art, et al.
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setting the stage

The intended sentiment behind the book is one in which the viewer wouldn’t necessarily be able to determine whether the book advocates for the visual phenomenon mentioned or if it’s tearing it down. I felt that taking one position or the other, especially in this scenario, became much less interesting because the chosen position leaves you at a conclusive point where the conversation terminates. Instead, I attempted to leave the message and editorial direction of the book more open to interpretation and the reader’s own imagination.

I also believe it was necessary to go beyond the point of producing a book that simply said: “hey, look at all these similar images of people with their faces and eyes covered, isn’t this crazy?!” Pointing a light on this visual phenomenon is, of course, a substantial part of the book, but the book couldn’t just be about the visual phenomenon alone. That’s what a Tumblr cataloging the visual phenomenon would be for, because that’s all a Tumblr is expected to be. As such, I had no doubt that the collected texts were essential for inclusion in this book. An examination of this visual phenomenon (regardless of your position on it) becomes so much more compelling when an image is simultaneously presented alongside a text that provides the basis for viewing the image through an alternative lens or which tells a story in such a way that the reader is encouraged to imaginatively interpret the image beyond it’s surface intentions.

This project began as a recognition of a pattern that wasn’t difficult to see. But the more this pattern seemed to perpetuate itself, the more I felt compelled (like some modern visual anthropologist) to explore it further and to create a context or site that could enable the pattern to be seen from new and unexpected perspectives.
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Poetry derives from inspiration, from an inner vision connected to dreams. Closed, blind eyes connect one with the world of the dead, with those who can no longer see. They are the mask which hides the expression of the face from the onlooker and allows a vision of the world which in not present but past or future. To be there but not to see, to appear there but not to be present, like the Pythia or Sibyl who used to pronounce prophecies with their faces covered. …

The condition of dreaming is blindness. One can imagine better with one’s eyes closed. Light invades the mind. With eyes open, one absorbs light. With the eyes closed, images from one’s mind are projected onto the vault of the cranium, on the wrapping which surrounds us, on the inside of our skin which becomes a border, a division, a definition of the body and a container of our thought. The wrapping is important as it is the definition of the individual.

—Giuseppe Penone, in Giuseppe Penone: Sculture di linfa (Milan: Mondadori Electa S.p.A., 2007), 226.

 

 

 

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approach

I do think there’s some relevance to bringing visual trends, patterns, phenomenon, recurring motifs (or whatever you want to call them) into the arena of collective examination and reflection. That said, I also feel very aware of the relative absurdity of bringing attention to a visual occurrence taking place within a niche world of creative output. With that thought at the fore of my mind throughout the project, I attempted to interject elements of humor (albeit a very deadpan type of humor) into the book as a means of throwing the seemingly serious tone of the book off balance.

Examples include:

—The book’s overall tone of feigned naivety that suggests that the subjects depicted in the images throughout the book are actually coping with and adapting to the affects of blindness.

—The use of satirical and amusing pairings of text and image content, as with the section of the book that pairs an excerpt from Patrick Trevor-Roper’s essay, “Total Blindness”—in which he recounts the story of a saint who, after looking at a man lustfully, tears out both of her eyes, only to then be given two replacements by God that, unfortunately, are so large that they had to be carried around like handbags—with an image of a woman (her head completely draped with vision obstructing fabric no doubt) who is lugging around two pineapples.

—The implication that the subjects in the images have, as with Oedipus Rex, willingly inflicted injury on their own eyes to the point of blindness.

—The inclusion of a statement of dedication, addressed to René Magritte, which acknowledges the influence of his demonstrations (referring to his 1928 paintings, titled Les Amants and L’histoire centrale) of how one should go about “swathing the heads of pretty young things with excessive yet stylish amounts of cloth and drapery… .”

 

 

René Magritte, Les Amants (The Lovers), 1928

René Magritte, Les Amants (The Lovers), 1928

René Magritte, Les Amants (The Lovers), 1928

René Magritte, Les Amants (The Lovers), 1928

René Magritte, L’histoire centrale (The Central Story), 1928

René Magritte, L’histoire centrale (The Central Story), 1928

 

 

on the title: the nature of clouds

I had happened across a John Berger book that I had never heard of, titled The Sense of Sight. Many of the texts were a nice surprise to me because they were written in such a different way than the structured and academic tone of writing found in the Berger text that many of us know so well, Ways of Seeing.

Many of the texts in The Sense of Sight are poetic, obscure, and at times difficult to read and decipher. But one of these texts in particular, titled “On Visibility,” had an influential affect on my search for a book title that was at once mysterious and referential.

In many ways, I feel that the below passages from “On Visibility” serve as very apt metaphors for the modern condition of image production, creativity, and trends.

At the beginning of the text, Berger points to what has become increasingly more obvious in the worlds of visual production as time moves on:

All appearances are continually changing one another: visually everything is interdependent.

 

He then speaks to the concept of visibility in a very remarkable way: 

Visibility is a form of growth. Aim: to see the appearance of a thing (even an inanimate thing) as a stage in its growth—or as a stage in a growth of which it is part. To see its visibility as a kind of flowering.

 

Finally, he concludes the text with a really great allegory. The passage could be interpreted in many different ways, but through the lens that I had created for this project, I found the word “clouds” in this passage to be interchangeable with the notion of the life and existence of a visual phenomenon (which, of course, is what the nature of clouds indirectly addresses):

Clouds gather visibility, and then disperse into invisibility.
All appearances are of the nature of clouds.

—John Berger, “On Visibility,” in The Sense of Sight (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 219.

 

 

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on the marks of ultramarine-blue chalk

These marks/gestures, simply said, are an attempt to visually represent and reinforce the arguments that Berger proposed in the above passages from “On Visibility,” namely: the idea that a visible thing is a form of growth and that it gathers visibility (represented by the actual making of the mark of ultramarine-blue chalk) and that this visible thing then disperses or disappears into invisibility (represented by the fact that the mark of ultramarine-blue chalk is highly mutable by touch and able to be effectively erased).
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on thamyris, phineus, and tiresias

The publication is accompanied by 3 limited edition, offset-printed, ultramarine-blue-chalk-marked posters, respectively titled thamyris, phineus, and tiresias, each the name of a blind prophet.

Rarely in history was a humane thought given to the armies of blind beggars that languished in every kingdom. … [The] Byzantine Emperor Basil … sent back his 15,000 prisoners, every man blinded, to their king (who died of the shock). And in England blinding was introduced in AD 600 as an alternative to the death penalty. Thus the blind remained through history as ineducable mendicants, who only came to the fore when their sightless eyes were replaced by an inner vision. The famous soothsayers of history and fable have, in the main, had their prophetic eyes liberated by their blindness.

As Milton put it:
Blind Thamyris and blind Meonides and Tiresias and Phineus, prophets old.

To these may be added Blind Bartimeus, who recognized Jesus as Messiah, ‘Capys, the sightless seer,’ who inspired Romulus, and Appius Claudius, who warned the Roman Senate of disaster if they came to terms with Pyrrhus. Democritus, the laughing philosopher of Abdera, even eviscerated his eyes so that he might think more clearly, and this was the practice of some muezzins, who, after learning the Koran by heart, thus ensured that they could not be distracted by beauty. Indeed a similar pseudo-castration was suggested by certain Fathers of the Church, on the ground that a vision of the next world was preferable to vision in this.

— Patrick Trevor-Roper, “Total Blindness,” in The World Through Blunted Sight: An inquiry into the influence of defective vision on art and character (New York: Viking Penguin Inc., 1988), 159–160.

 

 

thamyris

thamyris, edition of 100, 312 x 484mm (12.25 x 19in.) — Image credits: this poster’s collaged image is sourced from photographic works created by Audrey Corregan and Tania Shcheglova and Roman Noven of Synchrodogs

phineus

phineus, edition of 100, 312 x 484mm (12.25 x 19in.) — Image credits: this poster’s collaged image is sourced from photographic works created by Manon Kündig and unknown

tiresias

tiresias, edition of 100, 312 x 484mm (12.25 x 19in.) — Image credits: this poster’s collaged image is sourced from photographic works created by Alberto Moreu and Federico Ferrari

 

 

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the_nature_of_clouds_misc_4     the_nature_of_clouds_misc_5
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availability

the nature of clouds, thamyris, phineus, and tiresias are all currently available for purchase at editionmk.org.

Each will also be on sale at the upcoming Medium Cool art book fair in Chicago on August 11.
related

I’ve also created thenatureofclouds.tumblr.com (NSFW at times) as an ongoing visual postlude to the nature of clouds

Art IRL > Non-Pedigrees > The Glamorous > Istanbul > Cultivated Neon Signs

Non-Pedigrees constitute art IRL. Non-Pedigrees are those graphical, spatial, and medial forms that can still be found in Istanbul. Non-Pedigrees contrast to the self-reproducing International Style that is called contemporary architecture, design, or art. Non-Pedigrees contrast to those forms that not only represent the global cultural system, but also global capitalism (for example müteahhit). They […]

Non-Pedigrees constitute art IRL. Non-Pedigrees are those graphical, spatial, and medial forms that can still be found in Istanbul. Non-Pedigrees contrast to the self-reproducing International Style that is called contemporary architecture, design, or art. Non-Pedigrees contrast to those forms that not only represent the global cultural system, but also global capitalism (for example müteahhit). They have not sacrificed local identity to modernity, they are still somehow specific. Non-Pedigrees contrast to the big player forms in attention, in appreciation, and in cultural reflection. They are not considered as intended or authored; they are not recognized at all – if ever, as trash or kitsch.

Non-Pedigrees are leftovers, marginal, often too-small-to-be-noticed forms and spaces that live their life below radar level. They are usually not product of any adequate profession – be that art, architecture, or design. They have been there for the ordinary and common life. They have been there for a business that has already lost the competition within global economy, but that carries on. Non-Pedigrees do not comply with aesthetic or qualitative standards and fashions.

But they are valuable in at least three points, referring to the international global style. They contain the local, the romantic, and the glamorous. Insofar, they are able to create an organic public sphere, open for participation, business, and talk. Thus, they embody spaces, essential for political, social, economic and aesthetic negotiation.

The Glamorous > Istanbul > Cultivated Neon Signs

Istanbul has been described as exotic and oriental. These terms obviously originate in a Western perspective, in which Istanbul appears as the ‘Other’ of the old European city. Yet, there might be a better term to describe specific phenomena in Istanbul: glamour. Glamour stands for something irrational, ineffable, and enchanting. It is rather the uncontrolled situation than the image-perfect sleek scenery. It is not associated with success and superiority; that would confuse it with glossy or luxury. Glamour is a more ambivalent, difficult, broken, and even critical form. Glamour is not just beauty. It is rather an effect of imagination than a particular kind of style. It is inspiring in that it includes the risk of achieving something that is actually not achievable: the light works that refer to shops that are hardly there at all, too small, too barren. These lights promise outside, what there does not exist inside. Yet, they have these led signs that attract attention and mean modern business. They are hilarious and in that they show optimism and energy literally and metaphorically. They create a street show that is communicative [1] challenging communal high voltage decoration. They promote the business while creating a special kind of symbolic architecture, using iconic signs, smileys, hearts, crowns, etc. They are popular culture producing an aesthetic without knowing. Still, they light the nights for local, mostly poor, neighborhoods, characterized by layered complexity and seeming chaos. It is these aspects that decide over death and life of great cities – adapting the title of the famous book by the American activist Jane Jacobs [2].

[1]
Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour: Learning from Las Vegas, MIT Press 1972
[2]
Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Random House 1961


Internet Café and Call Shop, Sultan Internet House, Aksaray, Istanbul
In Sultan Internet House it is possible to “smoke water pipe and check mails at the same time”. The surreal space is about 40 square meters and full with computers. They play loud arabesque music inside; smoking is allowed. The neon signs are produced by Animasyonlu Led Tabela in Istanbul.


Internet Café and Call Shop, 3D Internet, Aksaray, Istanbul
Also called Cybercafe, this internet café is at the basement of an apartment building. It advertises 3D Internet with blinking LEDs. Below the typography, there is an image of 3D-Glasses that do not blink anymore. On a big poster in front of the entrance they write “3D Internet, for the first time in Istanbul”. Inside, there are about 20 computers connected with 3D-Glasses and headphones, separated with simple wooden boxes from each other, like the open space office of Jacques Tati’s Playtime. Inside this wooden boxes not PlayStation but PolyStation game consoles are connected. The owner tells, “we have internet, yes, but if you want to see 3D, we have games and films.”


Internet Café and Call Shop, Internet C@fe, Aksaray, Istanbul
They say: “We don’t have Internet”. They offer orange juice, toast, coffee and black tee. Students with uniforms are not welcome inside.


Internet Café and Call Shop, Internet Club, Aksaray, Istanbul
Internet Club, actually is a 24 hours open game hall, with a huge range of games. They also check examination notes, or make reservations from hospitals for old people, who do not have internet at home and “print everything you want with a laser-printer”. On the shop window it is written in English: “Have Arabic Keyboard”. They offer Playstation 3, Digital TV, Cinema 3D, Call Shop as written at the entrance door. Everyone can become a member of the Internet Club.


Photography/Internet Shop, Ender Teleskop, Sirkeci, Istanbul
In Ender Teleskop, the reconstruction of one of the first built telescopes by Galileo is exhibited. On the shop window there are a lot of binoculars, telescopes. Inside, there is wireless internet and black tea for free, and a big table for laptops.

Art IRL > Non-Pedigrees > The Romantic > Istanbul > Adopted Landscapes

Non-Pedigrees constitute art IRL. Non-Pedigrees are those graphical, spatial, and medial forms that can still be found in Istanbul. Non-Pedigrees contrast to the self-reproducing International Style that is called contemporary architecture, design, or art. Non-Pedigrees contrast to those forms that not only represent the global cultural system, but also global capitalism (for example müteahhit). They […]

Non-Pedigrees constitute art IRL. Non-Pedigrees are those graphical, spatial, and medial forms that can still be found in Istanbul. Non-Pedigrees contrast to the self-reproducing International Style that is called contemporary architecture, design, or art. Non-Pedigrees contrast to those forms that not only represent the global cultural system, but also global capitalism (for example müteahhit). They have not sacrificed local identity to modernity, they are still somehow specific. Non-Pedigrees contrast to the big player forms in attention, in appreciation, and in cultural reflection. They are not considered as intended or authored; they are not recognized at all – if ever, as trash or kitsch.

Non-Pedigrees are leftovers, marginal, often too-small-to-be-noticed forms and spaces that live their life below radar level. They are usually not product of any adequate profession – be that art, architecture, or design. They have been there for the ordinary and common life. They have been there for a business that has already lost the competition within global economy, but that carries on. Non-Pedigrees do not comply with aesthetic or qualitative standards and fashions.

But they are valuable in at least three points, referring to the international global style. They contain the local, the romantic, and the glamorous. Insofar, they are able to create an organic public sphere, open for participation, business, and talk. Thus, they embody spaces, essential for political, social, economic and aesthetic negotiation.

The Romantic > Istanbul > Adopted Landscapes

The tensions with globalized economy, with biological and technological reality are more than noticeable in Istanbul, where the gap between the rich and the poor seems huge in every aspect of life. However, there are preserved local microcosms and habits that ignore these problems and that are arguably romantic in a productive way (not consumerist like in theme park-like housing projects). Their forms combine functional with impractical elements, creating organisms that achieve somehow autonomous aesthetic statements. Of course, these statements are raw and barbaric from a perspective of high culture: they are collections of sunny beaches, palms, mountains, cows, and Porsches. But these statements do imply what Hegel observed for romantic art and architecture: they contain a principle of subjectivity, of particularity and individuality, not in the singular element, but within the overall sentiment and longing [1]. Nature, kitsch landscapes, palms and beaches exist for decorative and atmospheric reasons, not for product placement. Above all, there is something comfortable and relaxing within the most humble scenes that display pragmatism and pose at the same time.
Spaces are shared, where there is almost no room, hospitality is exhibited even to dirty street animals; there are clichés, dreams, fragments of better lives that also improve the actual existence – if only for a sense of romantic humor. People offer tea, Nescafe, bananas, and an Atatürk calendar to us.
[1]
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik
1835-1838


Grocery, Öz Karadeniz Market, Yıldıztabya, Istanbul
The grocery, bakkal shop where you can buy everything, sells nutella and fake Nutella (Sarelle) side by side. Everything is in perfect order. The shape of the food counter and the colors of the food matches the stream of the Huangguoshu Waterfall, framed at the rear wall. The owner thinks that this image goes very well with his shop – even though he doesn’t know where it was photographed.


Meatball Restaurant (Köfteci), Untitled Restaurant, Akarsu, Istanbul
At the entrance of the restaurant, selling grilled meatballs, there is a plastic poster of the Swiss Alps, a surreal collage of spring and winter of the same landscape, reminding Magritte’s Empire of Light. The blue/green poster is a big contrast to the red/pink restaurant-space. Its frame is printed, so that there is no need of a wooden frame. There are even cows. The tiny TV was showing a film with Türkan Şoray, who made a lot of films thematizing: girl is poor, boy is rich: boy falls in love with girl.


Barber, Melih Erkek Kuaförü, Karlıtepe, Istanbul
The vibrant red and pink furniture of the very narrow corridoresque barber shop is complemented by the huge all-over wallpaper of a mediterranean beach; Ölüdeniz, reflected by the mirrors at the opposite side. Every mirror is showing a part of the beach. Beside the elegantly curved beach, there are 9 clocks (7 on the wall, 2 on the table), and 5 calendars, perhaps counting the minutes until – what? The humorous Barber tells that “he is a big fan of Orhan Gencebay“, who is famous with his nostalgic and melancholic lyrics, for example, the song “Batsın Bu Dünya” meaning “This World Should Sink”. Gencebay being called the advocate of arabesque music denies this classification and calls his style independent turkish music: “even sociologists misapply the term ,” says Gencebay. He adds: “I am talking about melancholy, fatalism and drama, my music has nothing to do with arabesque.


Barber, Kuaför Mustafa, Eyüp, Istanbul
In the microscopic kitchen area of ‘Berber Faik’, the image functions as a virtual window into the Bolu Province, where he comes from. The teapot seems to get its water directly from the fresh water lake Abant. In a very democratic way, there are hung up fan posters of Galatasaray, Besiktaş and Fenerbahçe footballers around the sinks.


Barber, Berber Faik, Eyüp, Istanbul
There are not only two goldfish and a swordtail in the tiny shop, but also two canary birds and a cat, crunching brekkies. Documented by photographs, there is also a horse, a squirrel, and a lion. The barber is drinking tea with a friend in this living still life. He is really kind to everyone especially to his animals. The fish recently got a new lighting in their aquarium.


Greengrocer, Untitled Greengrocer (Manav), Aksaray, Istanbul
The greengrocer does not leave decorative decisions to chance: the pink sunset over Tahiti is placed above exotic fruits, like pineapples and coco nuts. Over it, there is a framed quote headlined with “Word of Advice” written by the 13th century Persian mystic and poet Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (مولانا جلال الدین محمد رومی), who said: “What you seek is seeking you.”


Barber, Yavuz Erkek Kuaförü, Dörtyol, Istanbul
The space combines wood with pastel shades: the walls are pistachio, the chairs are lilac. It is a gentleman’s business that offers tea to a worker, who enters the room to limber up. The painting, one of the berber tells us, depicts a phantasy place. “It is a dream landscape,” he says. An old tape of Müslüm Gürses is laying on the table. He points at the tape: “and this is the dream music, best to listen to on tape”. The other barber of the shop prefers Bülent Ersoy, because her music is sad and happy at the same time. At the beginning of the singer’s career, Bülent Ersoy, aka Diva or Abla (“Sister” in Turkish), wasn’t accepted as a transsexual musician; now she is a big star.


Barber, As Erkek Kuaförü, Moda, Istanbul
The walls of the light green painted Barber shop are covered with 36 framed images of very romantic landscape sceneries. The floor is painted in blue creating an underwater atmosphere together with the walls. Most of the hanging images are illustrating heavenly good weather with palm trees, sea, beach, mountains, sunset, wooden boat, … no geographic limitations. A poster of a small island called Koh Nang Yuan at Koh Tao (in the Gulf of Thailand) is placed directly opposite the entrance; it is the biggest image in the shop.

Art IRL > Non-Pedigrees > The Local > Istanbul > Domesticated Atatürks

Non-Pedigrees constitute art IRL. Non-Pedigrees are those graphical, spatial, and medial forms that can still be found in Istanbul. Non-Pedigrees contrast to the self-reproducing International Style that is called contemporary architecture, design, or art. Non-Pedigrees contrast to those forms that not only represent the global cultural system, but also global capitalism (for example müteahhit). They […]

Non-Pedigrees constitute art IRL. Non-Pedigrees are those graphical, spatial, and medial forms that can still be found in Istanbul. Non-Pedigrees contrast to the self-reproducing International Style that is called contemporary architecture, design, or art. Non-Pedigrees contrast to those forms that not only represent the global cultural system, but also global capitalism (for example müteahhit). They have not sacrificed local identity to modernity, they are still somehow specific. Non-Pedigrees contrast to the big player forms in attention, in appreciation, and in cultural reflection. They are not considered as intended or authored; they are not recognized at all – if ever, as trash or kitsch.

Non-Pedigrees are leftovers, marginal, often too-small-to-be-noticed forms and spaces that live their life below radar level. They are usually not product of any adequate profession – be that art, architecture, or design. They have been there for the ordinary and common life. They have been there for a business that has already lost the competition within global economy, but that carries on. Non-Pedigrees do not comply with aesthetic or qualitative standards and fashions.

But they are valuable in at least three points, referring to the international global style. They contain the local, the romantic, and the glamorous. Insofar, they are able to create an organic public sphere, open for participation, business, and talk. Thus, they embody spaces, essential for political, social, economic and aesthetic negotiation.

The Local > Istanbul > Domesticated Atatürks

Obviously, Istanbul is being rebuilt in terms of modern, International Style – architecture, design, and art are being leveled according to global standards. Yet, there are leftovers in the ordinary everyday life, most interesting for their anti-form, their intention, and contextuality. They include more than a lot of professional works, although or because they are not representative, but do embody a sense of place; a sense of place imagining the city as collective, dense structure with elements that are open and responsive to their context; a sense of place that may be “the underworld of ‘low’ culture”, to quote the architectural theorist Colin Rowe [1]. Still, this sense of place produces collage forms that, for Rowe, are able to accommodate more than a limited clientele. Instead of endorsing a private and atomized society, these forms combine the naïve vision of an ideal (political) world with the management of the existing or not existing (money). These forms are “sufficiently two-faced,” combining statements and spontaneous randomness, individual and collective history. Of course, these forms may be politically debatable, economically irrelevant, and too small to be part of urban studies, but they show a deliriously sustaining local culture that has to face globalization and internationalization.

It is not so much the delirious images of Turkey’s national hero Atatürk that generate this kind of local culture. It is rather their context, how Atatürk has to sit through everyday life, how he is appropriated in that he has to share spaces with documents, family portraits, and timepieces; how the Turkish superego is domesticated as if he was a family member; how he is sometimes but a leftover and sometimes becomes a political statement.

[1]
Colin Rowe, Fred Koetter: Collage City, Birkhäuser 1984


Butcher (Wholesale and Retail), Furkan Et Toptan & Parakende, Karlıtepe, Istanbul

In the butcher shop covered with big prints of meat, especially red meat, there is only one exception: the poster with Atatürk. The meat posters are draped with green vegetables like parsley or green pepper; Atatürk is draped with green plants. The meat posters have black wooden frames with a thin gold edge; the same frame is used for Atatürk. The meat is dark red with white veins; the Turkish flag behind is also dark red with a white moon and star.


Restaurant, Untitled Restaurant, Sarıgöl, Istanbul

Half a bread chicken döner restaurant sells nothing else than half a bread chicken döner for 1.5 TL (0.63 €, 0,83 $). There exists nothing than chicken döner, a small television, tables, chairs and an Atatürk poster. Probably, before the Döner shop bought the new and bigger TV, the aparatus was placed in the opening next to Atatürk. These ‘holes’ have been commonly made for TVs. Now, it provides a view into the kitchen.


Flowershop, Destina Çiçek Evi, Gaziosmanpaşa, Istanbul

The flower shop sells real and plastic flowers, and houses a framed Atatürk poster: he is sitting on his horse, the background shows a dramatic atmosphere – similar to the two photos of the owner’s sons hanging above Atatürk. The florist says: “those, who do not like him, would avoid the name ‘Atatürk‘ and just call him Mustafa Kemal or even just ‘He’.


Fabric Shop, Bursa Pazarı Tekstil, Eminönü, Istanbul

Rolls of cloth fill up the downstairs drapery shop. There is one pillar that gives space to an Atatürk portrait. About ten vendors, all male, are working in the huge shop and there are almost only female shoppers. One of the vendors shouts loud, pointing to his friend: “he is the grandson of Atatürk, you should also take his photo”. The other one says: “we are all grandsons of him”.


Shirt-Tailor, Gömlekçi Yakup, Eyüp, Istanbul

Atatürk sits in one of his chicest outfits on the wall of the tailor in Eyüp region, known as the religious region in Istanbul with the sacred mosque there. The tailor is just producing shirts for men. He complains about clients complaining: “Take this down. We don’t need him.” There are other images on the walls: a poster with Arabic text, and an image of the Mecca with people dressed in white.


Restaurant, Şöhret Köftecisi Since 1959, Sirkeci, Istanbul

The owner of the restaurant (a grill house claiming to be famous with meatballs) is proud of his Atatürk ‘artwork’, “it is unique, nobody in the city has the same one,” he says. “I am happy that Atatürk is looking at me, while I am working. It is a coincidence that he looks right, placed in the middle of the wall,” he adds. The copper 2d-sculpture is the only decorative object hanging; all other elements are functional, pale in the one-space restaurant.


Barber (Hairdresser for men), Baris Erkek Kuaförü, Dörtyol, Istanbul

In the small barber shop there are certificates, posters of sport cars, a lot of mirrors and a framed photocopied painting of Atatürk at the wall. The old hairdresser is sitting with his friend discussing the change in Istanbul: “Everything has changed, and everything will change even more.” They worry about the current changes, especially the urban transformation and renewal projects (kentsel dönüşüm), “these are just superficial shows of the government, nothing fundamental as the modern changes of Atatürk” they maintain. The owner adds, “Atatürk is the person he likes the most in his life, just behind God.” In the melancholic barber shop, they listen to the most melancholic music of Zeki Müren.

Hang-Over: Art Basel Miami Banners are Cultural Bank Notes

Art Basel Header

Here in Miami, Art Basel and related fairs are now far-past, full-swing. Art has been shown. Parties have been thrown. Many flights have departed, and tents will now come down. For now and a little longer we are all hung-over on Art, Basel and our drugs of choice. Mine is graphic design.

A few weeks ago—largely overnight—a sea of printed banners popped up all over Miami. Their function was to announce the many, many art and design fairs that are now over. To my eye, they evoke giant bank notes pined-up as visual currency.

I offer readings of these cultural currencies from the perspective of a newly minted Miamian. Walker editors: shudder away. At at the very least I am a graphic designer who (newly) resides here. My humble critique focuses on the relative value of art and design as communicated by the formal character of the various banners. There are a number of graphic design materials that serve as kinds of cultural currency during basel, VIP Passes, brochures, pamphlets and books among others, but I’m most interested in the wider public consumption of the banners.

As an insider/outsider, I am particularly struck by the similarities and differences of graphic design approaches across fairs. Together they tell a story of art, design, and commerce. They tell a story of convention, taste and tradition.

I present a sampling of cases of a wider field of banners as bank notes. Enjoy as I take them and you up into the air of graphic-design-critique, tongue firmly-in-cheek:

Art | Basel Miami Beach Banner

Art Basel

The main fair banner that is most known. It’s a blend of “edgy” and “safe” design decisions. “Edgy” choices: right/top alignment of the headline, fluorescent salmon, are balanced with “safe” choices: a marine blue flood, minimal punctuation, and the largest sponsor logo of the banners in my survey.  It asserts value through name value and visual consistency.

It also asserts value through juxtaposition. Art | Basel, Miami Beach is North America’s largest art fair, but it is named after a city in Europe. There is a sense of displacement and globalness by seeing the name of a very tropical city nestled nect to to the name of a very temperate city. The blue and salmon express this well. Heinz Hoffman’s Block typeset by the brilliant Swiss team of Müller + Hess are in sync with this fair of dualities. It’s Swiss sans serif—all business—but with rough hewn edges—all party. Pretty on point. But it is UBS’ logo, a bank, that puts the commodity nature of our current art “market” front and center. No date or location information needed. Yes, they are ballers like that.

For those who want to go deeper see Rob Giampietro’s excellent essay on the Basel identity in the context of other Art identities inspired by the current masters of low-high-brow Dexter Sinister.

Basel Elevation: 260 m (853 ft), Miami Elevation: 6 ft (2 m). High marks for execution.

Design Miami Banner

Design Miami

Pardon my cruddy photo.

This is one of the few more high-profile fairs to use a photo in the design of the banner (Jewelery Fair, and Miami on the River do as well). Design Miami is the official design satellite of Art Basel and their marketing materials cross-reference each other. However, the currency of the banner has its own distinct visual language.

Design Miami asserts its value through the familiar language of (product) design material culture in one of its most recognizable forms: a silhouetted lounge chair of modernist lineage. The chair is presented on a stark white ground with artful drop shadows. A diagonal black slash echoes the form of the chair’s legs and arm supports also slices the composition and the right side of the word mark “Design Miami.”

The slash does a nice reference to the displacement effect of Basel and Miami Beach. It also is sympathetic to the forms of the chair. Juxtaposition of “safe” and “edgy” (see Basel and Pulse) return in a centered, humanist (see NADA) san-serif that is set upper and lower case.

What at first reads as Helvetica is actually a now familiar Laurence Brunner’s 21st-century redux called Akkurat. It’s the softer side of modernism and looks handsome with a slash.

Miami Projects Banner

Miami Projects

On the spectrum between graphic design signifiers of “safe” and “edgy” (I’m starting to question these terms themselves and where they come from.) Miami projects asserts it’s value by swinging towards “edgy” most strongly of the banners surveyed. Rather than “conventional” vertical or horizontal (the banners tall and skinny format actually lend to the convention of book spines where type is usually on its side) the fair name is wildly askew. Well as wildly as allowable for “safe” reading. The headline is also 1/2 positive and 1/2 knocked out or negative.

Support of black and red-orange wedges suggest a lineage to early 20th Century Russian Constructivist graphic design that has been reinterpreted through the graphic design style cycle far too many times as a set of signs that point to rebellion, upheaval and “up and coming” art and design. The date is present and next largest in the hierarchy  with the location, and the WWW url in place (see Pulse).

What at first seems edgy is actually quiet safe.

NADA, Miami Beach Banner

NADA

In an approach that I will call “there, but not there,” NADA asserts its value, by aspiring to be valueless. The banner is mostly white material, with black, outlined san-serif Type, and tiny “mouse type” below with only the month, name of location, and cross street information. See comments about 2×4‘s “Blank” Urban tree project on Speak Up a few years back.

The typeface from my speeding car seems to be Gill Sans, but set in regular or light weight says that value is not about typeface choice, or images, or even color. Its about being a humanist sans serif all in black, artfully  not there. Nada currency is a well positioned nothing.

To use a Fellaism: One hand, formally it’s a love. On the other hand, formally it “seems to mean”  like so much ironic typography trying to be without irony.

Pulse Miami Banner

Pulse

Visually one of the loudest banners. The very large condensed, sans serif cropped to the edges of the banners paired with with loud colors pushes to the “edgy” pole. It asserts value in the “impoliteness” of it’s typography. It says to me, that this is a fair of youthful energy. The words Pulse and Miami are turned on 180 degrees of each other to further impart dynamism to the composition.

The lack of letter-spacing in the all-caps type of the venue name, address, makes my inner fussy typographer squirm (see Scope below). The need to include a URL and a “WWW” that preceded it come across as a plea in internet-speak to project a youthful, connected fair. Those that are fluid in internet know that no url is needed in this context, especially with the almost anachronistic WWW attached. Just google it.

I often saw the Pulse banner hung as pairs like in the above photo. Perhaps an ad buy strategy to make it stand out more? Though louder than much of the other currency, I question the fidelity of the formal message.

Scope Pavilion Banner

Scope

Rather than a large typeset name, the fair is represented by a large and ambiguous typographic mark that evokes both a letter “S” turned on it’s side, and the mathematical symbol for infinity. In other applications it is also a neo-ligature of the lowercase “c” and “o” in scope. Really ingenuous. It uses mystery and intrigue to assert value.

The supporting typography is justified, with inconsistent word spacing in the middle line. The typographer in me cringes at the combination of carefulness and carelessness. To paraphrase my friend, Matt Monk: The banner creates”?” in my head, followed by “!” followed by a “?.” When maybe a better sequence might be to evoke a”?” followed only by “!”

It says they don’t care so much for the details of typographic tradition, or they don’t care that they don’t care.

What does that say about me? “S” for Silas anyone?

Untitled Art Banner

Untitled

A new fair on the scene. I was drawn in to its more nuanced use of typographic contrast and hierarchy. Less bold and flash than Basel, but more there to hold on visually than NADA. It’s still image free, which says “contemporary art,” but a deep color flood of an unusual color.

It  seemed to be a plain or ultra light cut Andrea Tinnes’ Switch, but after cross referencing the specimen, I realize it to be a formally more restrained copy-cat. I was saddened by this. But why?  Why was I trying to attribute certain moves to type designers in the way that I would certain visual langages or styles to artists? Why end with such a rant?

Perhaps because I know how much work it takes to come up with a distinct typographic concept, and then how hard it is to execute harmoniously. But then I got to thinking what crooked room am I sitting in that makes me feel that this unicase treatment is less worthy than Andrea? (Disclosure: I’ve interviewed Andrea and consider her a hero). Was there not a unicase drawn by Bayer in 1925 of the Bauhaus, redrawn by Matthew Carter in 1991, made popular by Abbot Miller, and Ellen Lupton, and Mike Mills? Tschichold had his unicase. Bradbury Thompson his.

Hang-Over

I say these things not to drop names. I am not a graphic design snob. I am a graphic design aficionado. I post this critique not to bash or rip, but to illuminate and to try to understand the rhizomatic connectedness of our current graphic design landscape. I am interested in celebrating our history, and our current moment in a very exciting time of exchange between commerce, art, and design.

I am interested in the discourse of taste, and tradition. But all this is lost without context. Meredith Davis clearly says it is the people, the places and systems along with the things themselves. To paraphrase another colleague, Nikki Juen isn’t design in general, and graphic design in particular about relationships?

What do these banner / bank notes say about the relationships we have to graphic design, art, commerce and other human beings? We can spend the next year contemplating and ruminating.

From Miami beach to Minneapolis we are back to our less fabulous, but (happily) more grounded selves.

 

Catalog and Archive: two Szeemann designs

For Craig Buckley’s fall workshop “Publication, Politics, and Print: Episodes from the Twentieth Century” each first and second-year student of the Yale Graphic Design MFA presented one or more publications from the special collections of either the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library or the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library. I picked the catalogue […]

For Craig Buckley’s fall workshop “Publication, Politics, and Print: Episodes from the Twentieth Century” each first and second-year student of the Yale Graphic Design MFA presented one or more publications from the special collections of either the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library or the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library.

I picked the catalogue of two exhibitions curated by the late Harald Szeemann, “Live In Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form” (1969) and “documenta 5: Questioning Reality – Image Worlds Today” (1972). A lot has been written about both exhibitions, and by more competent people[1] but when researching I found very little on the accompanying catalogues.

To quote from the introductory text of Hans Ulrich Obrist’s 1996 Artforum interview “Mind Over Matter”:

“…Harald Szeemann has defined himself as an Ausstellungsmacher, a maker of exhibitions. There is more at stake in adopting such a designation than semantics. Szeemann is more conjurer than curator—simultaneously archivist, conservator, art handler, press officer, accountant, and above all, accomplice of the artists.”

WABF (to keep it short), is often cited as the first show to bring together post-Minimalist and Conceptual artists from both the US and Western Europe in a European institution. In Szeemann’s words: “(…) The participating artists were in no way object-makers; (…) the forms of each work, the choices of materials and form were extensions of the artist’s gesture; (…) so the meaning of this art lies in the fact that an entire generation of artists has undertaken to give ‘form’ to the ‘nature of art and artists’ in terms of a natural process[2].

When browsing the WABF catalogue for the first time, I found in it not only a collection of traces of Szeemann’s working methods translated to rich design/editorial decisions but also a moment of great intensity and freedom, when artists could either produce a work or just imagine it, as Lawrence Weiner once said.

There are, so far, three versions of this catalogue. The first was meant for the Kunsthalle Bern show in 1969, where Harald Szeemann was the director, the second for the ICA showing (modified and supplemented by Charles Harrison) and the third was a facsimile edition in 2006 published on the occasion of the exhibition “Villa Jelmini – The Complex of Respect”. All the design comments below refer to the Kunsthalle Bern version, unless noted otherwise.

  

The book “Harald Szeemann: Individual Methodology”[3], a research project developed by the 16th Session of the International Curatorial Training Program of Le Magasin–Grenoble (published in 2007 by JRP|Ringier and elegantly designed by Corinne Zellweger) displays a number of pictures of Szeemann’s own archives/offices/workspaces over time. In each picture you see lots of bookshelves, binders, boxes, rolodexes and many other cataloging devices. Szeemann’s deep interest in the archive is the first key to reading both WABF and documenta 5’s catalogues.

  

WABF’s catalogue cover is one first and bold design gesture. When Szeemann, who designed and directed the catalogue himself, chooses to use his own handwriting to announce the title of the exhibition (presenting it in all the languages of the Swiss cantons as well as English), he determines the tone for the rest of the catalogue and, considering the funding situation [4], suggests that the show belongs to him rather than to Kunsthalle Bern’s programme.  The full exhibition title appears a second time on the cover page where it is set in Univers (of course).

After the presentation and curatorial statement texts in the beginning (set in Univers as well), there is a pink-paper spread with the front and back of one of Szeemann’s famous A4 (folded down to A7, probably to fit his pocket/wallet) phone lists[5] occupying one page each, right before the actual catalogue starts. This image gives us a huge clue on how personal the decisions involved in this catalogue were.

 

The first page of each artist set is placed always on the right-hand side to align with the index, here a phonebook-style set of dividers in alphabetical order distributed throughout the volume. With Szeemanns’ love of the archive in mind, it is not by coincidence that the WABF book is bound with single-sheets 2-hole punched, put together with metal paper fasteners. It almost seems like the curator himself manually put each WABF catalogue together.

      

The basic layout structure gives each artist a name, a face and biographical information, akin to a card in Szeemann’s personal files.  And because the show grew out of a number of workshops with the artists, the same gesture of giving room for each artist’s voice to modify Szeemann’s previously defined structure affects that basic layout allowing many transformations ranging between instructions on how a particular artist wants to be featured in the catalogue to instructions on how to build the exclusive work of art for the show.

documenta 5: Questioning Reality – Image Worlds Today” could be viewed as the most significant and most conceptually complex exhibition of the first years of Szeemann’s career. It was conceived as a vast collection of visual things from our visual world –“a concentrated version of life in the form of exhibition”. Szeemann adopted an encyclopedic approach, deciding to show objects that did not belong to the realm of art, creating a mixture of ordinary objects and fetish items that belonged to popular, political, or kitsch culture, as well as to religious art and outsider art.

My claim is that the documenta 5 catalogue editorial strategy is analogous to that of WABF, elevated to monumental scale. documenta’s catalogue design history so far was tied to the Bauhaus tradition through the practices of Arnold Bode (architect, designer and founder of documenta) and Prof. Karl-Oskar Blase, (who designed the identities for the 1968, 1977 and 1987 editions) but Szeemann seemed to believe that the universalist/geometric approach did not best represent his intentions, even considering the encyclopedic approach aforementioned.

 

Prof. Karl-Oskar Blase is found under the Grafik und Design section of the exhibition credit list, and it is understood that Prof. Blase is in charge of the complex system involved in an exhibition of documenta’s scale. Still, under the Katalog/Gestaltung section, Szeemann’s name is found one more time.

The personal inflection of WABF’s cover design finds its analog in the d5 catalogue. Departing from the geometric designs of the previous four editions, Szeemann used Ed Ruscha’s drawing of the number five made of small ants. This emblematic image was also used for the poster. Ruscha’s design thus defined the public image of documenta 5. Also, Szeemann’s decision of having Ruscha’s work instead of/as a “logo” suggests the almighty geometry-based approach had its limitations, while still being very helpful in the organizational realm.

  

The catalogue object is a red, industrial binder, and the print run is 20,000 copies. The pages are again two-hole punched but this time the dividers are not in alphabetical but numeric order, organizing the 25 nucleus of the exhibition in 757 pages.

 

The artist cards are still there, but now the categories to which they belong matters more than an in-context description of their attitudes, or the focus on the personal. The phenomenon represented at documenta 5 was a certain crisis of the art market.  The presence of non-art objects calls into question the relationship between image and imagery and, by extension, the various levels of reality within a work — a task highly dependant on the visitor’s knowledge or willingness to differentiate how the same work exists  in and out of the exhibition space.

The loop between an imagetic cover/public visual image and the rigid grid that organizes and frames a complex set of elements seems to actively participate in that discussion.  The final section of the catalogue, dedicated exclusively for the supporters’ (real) advertisements is now a rich set of images; time and history have shifted its function.

*thanks a lot to Paulina Pobocha and Linda Veiby for the kind notes.


[1] Rattemeyer, Christian (et al.). Exhibiting the New Art: ‘Op Losse Schroeven’ and ‘When Attitudes Become Form’ 1969. London: Afterall Books, 2010.

[2] Szeemann, Harald. “About the Exhibition.” When Attitudes Become Form. Bern: Kunsthalle Bern / Philip Morris Europe, 1969.

[3] Deriaux, Florence, ed. Harald Szeemann: Individual Methodology. Zürich: JRP|Ringier, 2007.

[4] Di Lecce, Claudia. “Avant-garde Marketing: ‘When Attitudes Become Form’ and Philip Morris’s Sponsorship.”Exhibiting the New Art: ‘Op Losse Schroeven’ and ‘When Attitudes Become Form’. London: Afterall Books, 2010.

[5] Very unfortunately omitted on the ICA edition of the same catalogue.

Yale Union. The style sheet is 672 long. The php loop on the index page is 109. The weather is 52 F. The time in Portland, OR is 6:16pm.

What would do you some good is an establishing shot or an articulation of the circumstances. Circumstances can’t be ignored, but they might happily de-intellectualize the approach. Any design, from weaponry to cobblin’ (not sure why, but it seems right to omit the terminal “g” here.) is a provisional response to particular and irreproducible circumstances. Our circumstances, in […]

What would do you some good is an establishing shot or an articulation of the circumstances. Circumstances can’t be ignored, but they might happily de-intellectualize the approach. Any design, from weaponry to cobblin’ (not sure why, but it seems right to omit the terminal “g” here.) is a provisional response to particular and irreproducible circumstances. Our circumstances, in their barest psycho-skeletal detail, were to design and program a website for Yale Union (YU), an institution that hasn’t been around since the Pleistocene epoch or anything. Things are un-smelted here. Our arms are sausagey, our knuckles-drag, and we are trying to adjust ourselves to change, shifting our frame, looking for a position that doesn’t shoot pains down the backs of our thighs. Design plays its part; decisions depend not on their immutability but on their adaptability to all this change.

The attempt was low-altitude. We wanted to take in some ‘real life’ in the design, which is to say, we wanted to take up the real concerns of our institution. So, we made a website that was responsive, like responsive in the superficial it-adapts-to-the-size-of-the-device-way, but also responsive in the sense that the site—a very chopped and screwed Wordpress—can respond in real time to additional content and editorial changes. With the internet, everything too is un-smelted. Nothing ends. So you can make something and then change it and then undo that change and then change it again. We wanted to make that pliability a loud fact. We wanted to build something forgiving, you know, something that allowed us to think and make at the same time.

What else should we say? Should we say, “Well, the site follows the old modernist notion that anything is possible, the postmodernist notion that everything is exhausted, the post-postmodernist notion that since everything is exhausted, everything is permitted.” Bushwa. Not untrue. But a total stucco job. It’s always tempting to put this kind of response before stimulus, to sit back, make finger-steeples and retire into elaborate theoretical justifications for your work, but if we treat our work too ponderously we might negate the very qualities that give it oxygen.

Higher intelligence and special consultation arrived in the third act when Stuart Bailey, a close friend and kind of avuncular figure, invited us to speak to his class at Otis College of Art and Design. Even now, we aren’t all that inclined or enabled to counter the students’ insightful criticism and questions:

1. The pressure of language is perhaps too constant.
2. The site is afraid to let itself go. Better said, perhaps it pays too much respect to formal requirements.
3. (1+2). At worst it behaves like a kid in a tuxedo, at best, it behaves like a kid in a tuxedo.
4. By nature, humans organize information hierarchically, so the absence of a hierarchy naturally makes a statement. Is that statement worth the number of readers that will defect?

Still, the nightmare is involution. The nightmare is that the site produces communication signals, but does not in fact communicate. Have you ever been to a party and someone is just talking at you, like really chewing your face off, and you don’t actually need to be there for the conversation to carry forward? And like, yeah, wow, we don’t want the reader to think it’s a great idea, but palpably an idea. We have a thing about ‘ideas’.

—A.Flint Jamison, S. Ponik, R. Snowden for Yale Union (YU)

www.yaleunion.org

 

Signage on the east wall at The Hollywood Burger Bar, 4211 Northeast Sandy Boulevard, Portland, OR 97213. One example of how in the course of this design we went a decent distance in a circle, to arrive not far from where we started, but considerably more informed. So much for being sui-generis, first to the apple, the original progenitor. I mean, dig how deeply sunk in our subconscious this place is. Clearly our copulation is simulated. Fraudulent. Deeply imitative of the Burger Bar!

 

Yale Union (YU) home page

 

 

 

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