In this essay I will explore neutrality. I started from the work of Swiss designers Müller + Hess called The Impossibility of Neutrality. The work was commission by the British magazine Eye. It is an attempt to create an alphabet consisting of imagery instead of typography. Each letter in the alphabet has been replaced by multiple images. They chose multiple images because different people have different perceptions of what an image could represent. So to make this more precise, the viewer can look at multiple images to understand which letter the sender is trying to convey. The work deals with typography, text and photography, and how it is impossible to be neutral in imagery.
From this work I went onward to the Photographic Dictionary by Lindley Warren. The Photographic Dictionary is a website with photographs representing words. Each word in the dictionary is represented by a photograph. The word that is represented by the photograph below is the word embrace. What happens in this work, just as in Müller + Hess’s work, is that the impossibility of neutrality becomes very apparent. In every image there are many messages that the viewer can read into, and every image can be interpreted in many different ways. An image can not show something neutral, as text can. Or can it?
Stock photography is often used as an image that can just be interpreted in one way. The user searches for a word or a phrase, and the matching photograph appears. Does this mean that the image is neutral? Before looking into that we have to look into what neutrality is. “Neutrality is the tendency not to side in a conflict (physical or ideological), which may not suggest neutral parties do not have a side or are not a side themselves.” I could write a very long paper on this, but this is not the context for this so I will try to make this short.
Images showing people can hardly be neutral I think. Most of them show an accepted norm for the human being which they send as a message. But let’s take something else as an example. Let’s take this image of U.S. dollar bills. I believe it is more or less neutral. It portrays the dollar bills as they are, no more and no less. I feel it is not carrying any messages more than the concept of U.S. dollar bills. But then again the concept of U.S. dollar bills holds a lot of messages in itself, within everything from geography to economy and politics. And also, the bills are stacked irregularly and have creases on them, which makes me think of money that is earned in illegal ways, passed on in duffel bags.
I believe the saying “A picture says a thousand words” fits very well in this discussion. The saying refers to that a picture can convey a lot more complex ideas than a word can. I believe this saying states that a picture can not be neutral. Because if it could be neutral it would just say one, or maybe a couple of words. And the fact that we are able to find different messages and meanings in this picture of the dollar bills show that it can not be neutral. And if the bills would have no marks and stacked in a perfect order, then the assumptions and the messages we are able to read into the image would still be there, just that they would be other messages and meanings.
The famous phrase “The medium is the message” by Marshall McLuhan could maybe also have a place in this discussion. But then saying that no medium could be neutral because every medium tells a different message. I think that “the medium is the message”, as well as that “a picture says a thousand words” are true. By using a medium you tell one story, and then the content of the medium tells another story.
My conclusion in this essay is that it is impossible to be neutral. Maybe even in any aspect of life. I also believe it is a bit funny that Müller + Hess are Swiss. I wonder if any of their government officials read that issue of Eye.
Library, spines facing you, from every direction. The opaqueness of all this knowledge is overwhelming to put it mildly – your head spins of confusion. The environment breathes an air of calmness, yet great anticipation, as if the myriads of hardbound works of literature and art are eagerly yearning to reveal their insides.
You stand still indecisively – you feel yourself on the narrow interface between on the one hand panic like running down the narrow corridor, to the door, halfway collapsing onto the floor and dying, and on the other hand siting down, indulging yourself in every publication that catches your eye, never leaving.
You regain your grip on reality. You see a bright yellow rectangle in front of you. You reach for it and you look at the front cover.
You look at the cover for a solid minute. You like the bright yellow colour and the sturdiness of the cardboard. You look at the image on the cover. Primary colours have always fascinated you immensely. The blue night, the black figure, the yellow stars, and above all the tiny Red Dot as a heart. You are intrigued – you know of this man, Henri Matisse. In your head appear images of bright coloured faces and dancers, composed with mildly crude yet incredibly accurate brush strokes. You also like jazz, and wonder what this book could be about. Filled with curiosity you open it.
That’s it. You’re taking this one.
What appears to be a great and interesting book, turns out to be – according to knowledge that you have newly obtained – merely a small, relatively unimpressive excerpt from the original Jazz. Published in German, this small yellow book is actually a book within a book. A book about a book. The middle set of pages are reduced size copies of all images of Jazz. A ten-page introduction preceeds it; succeeding are German translations and a timeline of Matisse’s life. The design of the yellow book is not very striking – minimalist but conservative, done by the publisher. Judging from the looks, the middle part – the excerpt from the original Jazz - is by far the most exciting.
The original is a thick pack of folded paper, twice as wide and twice as high as the yellow booklet you have found in the library.Twenty colour prints, of which fifteen that span two-page spreads are included in the unbound book, together with seventy pages of huge, handwritten cursive text in French.
Marveling at the bright and bursting colours you wonder – How? Why? What does it all mean? You want to find out everything about this book, so you start researching and reading, to learn more about how this artwork came to be. As you learn more and more you suddenly find yourself 74 years in the past, in the south of France.
You are now Henri Matisse. It is the summer of 1941, and you are 72 years old. You are living in a suburb of Nice, and you own a nice house with a flowery garden, a big studio and a personal assistant. The gods of health have not been benevolent to you – you were diagnosed with abdominal cancer a few months back, and though doctors have removed the tumour, you suffered from serious complications. You have been on the brink of death for a while, and since then you’ve been only slowly improving. Standing is possible but laborious, so you prefer to lay down on your bed.
You have tried to pick up painting again, but it is tiring and difficult, and virtually impossible from a laying-down position. Thus, the ultra-creative human being you are, you have invented alternative methods of creating colourful expressions of expressionist effervescence: the cut-out method. Simple but very effective: cut-out pieces of paper, laid on top of each other to create compositions. You have used this technique before when making paintings, but only as an aid to perfect the lay-out, never as a means to an end. Your assistant dyes paper with pure, unmixed gouache and you use scissors to cut them into any shape you want. Easy and less labor-intensive than painting, you really like this method.
You feel that scissors carry way more feeling for line than a pencil or brush ever will. You feel so much more improvisational and spontaneous, and your life after your near-death state feels like an artistic renaissance. You feel like cutting out people, and flowers and trees. Flowers are so amazing to make, since the natural world is not hindered by preconceptions of classical art. As you once famously said:
Full of inspiration, you start to create one, two, twenty collages. You write handwritten text, loosely accompanying the themes of the collages. The text is very big because you feel it is necessary in order to be in a decorative relationship with the colour prints. Your publisher likes the book and wants to print it: 100 copies without text and 250 ‘deluxe’ copies with text. The copies are printed by brushing paint over metal stencils made in the shape of the cut-outs. The paint is the exact same gouache used to dye the paper, so the copies are highly accurate in shape and colour.
Page from Jazz: Le Toboggan (The Sled)
The collages depict circus scenes, stories, myths, abstract shapes and personal experiences, in vivid colours and an uninhibited style. The cover displays one of your first collages, the clown, and the title of the book: Jazz. You chose this title because you like jazz, and you think there are parallels with the music on the basis of your unbounded, improvisational and innovative way of working. You consider the previous title, le cirque, not inclusive enough for all the themes the book discusses. In the front of the book you include a ‘table of contents’, an overview of all the collages, with individual titles.
Front and back cover of Jazz
Table of Contents of Jazz
The book is received as a wide success and it kick-starts a new stylistic era: the next 12 years, until your death, you will work on more cut-outs. You like the works you have made, though you doubt the artistic quality of the book – you think that the best way of presenting these collages is in their original form: loose pieces of paper, laying on a table in your studio, playful and vulnerable to any gust of wind.
choosing a book without paying attention to the content is like picking an apple based on its skin and form. you never know if the consistence and the taste is reflected by its surface but still you choose it, thinking that the appearance echoes what you want to find inside. this intuitive and impulsive choosing process based on your assimilation faculty, knowledge and cultural education, needs to be done without concession. avoiding everything that incorporates elements which make you doubt is a way to find the precise object that fits your taste. this process can be long but it makes you swim fast through objects and, at the end, allows you to find the right fruit, in which the design and the content are reflecting each other, the materialisation of your desire. this search technique lead me to an old fashioned catalogue issued for an exhibition of herman de vries at the groninger museum in groningen, the netherlands. the book was published in 1980 by the museum itself and is entitled, like the exhibition, “herman de vries, werken 1954-1980”. the design of the book is made by “std suurling treffers designers”. they also came from gronigen and they were, at this time, the graphic designers of the museum. alongside of working for the museum and being independent designers they were also working at the minerva art academy. nowadays the studio doesn’t exist anymore.
speaking about the design of the catalogue, the cover appears fragile and at the same time raw, ruff and powerful. the delicate aspect of the book comes from two different components. firstly, the paper used as a protection for the book itself is created by two layers of recycled transparent paper. the weight of times altered the colour of the paper into different shades of beige and adds an antique aesthetic to the object. secondly, in-between this two layers of tracing papers, two real leaves drift with the rhythm of the reader turning the pages. on the website of herman de vries it is said that they came from a western tree called acer campester. strangely the copy from the gerrit rietveld library contains different ones, looking like the leaves of an elm tree, which is really common in the netherlands. we will probably never know, if the artist himself puts different types or if someone lost the original ones and exchanged them. these natural elements encapsulated into the cover protection remind on the origin of paper, namely trees and leaves, and point out that these objects, made for human use, were, first off all, living matter.
the cover reveals another radical choice: the absence of capital letters. this vacancy occurs in the whole book. most of the time, attributed to the bauhaus ideology of typography, this non-use of capitals could represent the honest approach of the artist herman de vries in his work and his aim to represent nature in it’s purest and simplest form. the first part of the the book, introduced by the director of the groninger museum, frank haks, is mostly composed of texts, essays and poetry by and about herman de vries. the designers chose to create the layout using the aesthetics of a type machine, therefore making use of the typography “courier”. looking at the work of herman de vries, this decision resonates his visual language. the paper being used is another example. it is brown, natural and rough. the second part of the book focuses on showing images of his art works. alongside to this change the paper changes as well. becoming more neutral, it gives the the work all the space needed for expressing itself.
on the back cover, a curious detail pops up: a red stamp saying “all”. it is hard to understand its visual appearance for different reasons, mainly because it is the first time that we see colour. in addition, the size and the disposition are not fitting with the layout either, they are more strictly constructed. during the research about the artist i came across a video which fulfilled my curiositiy. presenting his exhibition for the biennial of venice, where he was representing the netherlands, herman de vries showed an old mantra printed on a booklet in 1974 in katmandu. the sentence “to be all ways to be” is written in big letters inside of it, the typography and the size are exactly the same as in the book.
considering the design of this book, it makes a good example for a successful reflection and interaction between the graphic designers and the artist. in this case, herman de vries took part in the making process, adding some characteristics of his own work to the cover. the catalogue therefore got a handcrafted look and gives the impression to handle something rare and authentic. the aesthetic choice demonstrate the graphics designer’s respect for the artist and merge the book with the world of de vries. a bridge is created, giving the book the aura of an artwork.
Saying if you like a book or not, is easy.
I am not talking about the content of a book, but the object itself.
When you hold it in your hands, you can feel it. Do you want to open it? Do you want to browse through it? Do you like the texture? Do you feel comfortable? Or do you simply like to hold it?
Most of the time you don’t need to ask yourself these questions.
I was in the library, only one book really appealed to me in this way.
Imagine a big book, not thick; fine, approximately the size of A3. You can’t open it directly. You need to remove its white cardboard sleeve, printed with small drawings. Now touch the pages. They are made of a strong, mat and smooth paper. The binding is glued, and almost invisible. All your attention is directed to the black and white drawings. Moreover, you can see some gap between the pages. I like those imperfections, and its mysterious aspect. No text, no title. Only a story about hands, bees, mountains and animated trees going through 34 pages, full-bleed risograph printed. By the way, should we consider the front and back covers as pages of this book? I have no idea. I should just ask it to the author.
Author or artist?
After a long moment I found a discrete hand-written name in the left bottom of the back cover : Marion Molle. Marion told me she graduated from the VAV department last year 2015.
I should send her an email, after which i will tell you more.
Before sending an email, I need her address. I search on google Marion Molle. the first link is her website, you should go and have a look :
I thought maybe I will find some information about her project. After I scrolling over all her projects, I finally find her book. There is no caption, only photos. I look at the section info, and get her address. Email sent. I asked for further information about her work, with a catchy sentence « tell me more ».
2 days after, she told me a lot more.
Her principe is quite unconventional and not that easy, but I will try to explain it to you as accurately as possible. To start with, here is the recipe she used to make this nice book you cannot resist opening when you are at the library.
At the really first beginning, she drew some separate elements with an alcohol-based ink marker on a white background. Then she scanned and associated them to make new compositions. She has some ideas about how they could interact, but she didn’t need to think about it before working on photoshop, which gave her new possibilities. Afterward, she printed the images and draw over again, to add shadows for instance. This way, she compares her small first drawings as ‘puppets’ that she combined to discover unexpected associations. To end up, she scanned them a second and last time, and print the news images with the risograph, which flattens the images and gives the sensation of an unique layer. In this printed technique, you can only work with one color layer at the time, and furthermore, the result is constituted of huge ammont of minuscule dots. That is one of the reason she chose risograph :
she was now able to give a new texture and appearance to her drawings (among other reasons of course, as the price, risograph printing is way more cheaper than laser printing method).
This way, her complete work has been guided by the technique of the risograph printing. For instance she wanted to have the biggest book as possible, but the risograph allows to print on a A3 maximum. This fact explain also the binding, as she couldn’t print two pages on a same format.
Moreover, she didn’t want to give up with those independent elements. She first thought about making another book. But she made up her mind and used them for the cover of the book. So that when you grab it, you have this collection of images appearing as a foretaste of the unknown story hidden inside, ‘enveloping the book with its ingredients’, (as you can see on the very first picture).
By the way, remember, this mysterious aspect comes from the fact the book doesn’t have a title. Actually, it has a title, but not a textual one.
__ .’ ‘. _/__) . .
This is the title. You may ask why, me too. In fact, she found weird to feel obliged to add some text to a book. Therefore this following of punctuation marks was the solution to her problem. But in case she needs to give it a title, she calls it ‘bee book’.
After that, I asked her some question about the meaning of the story. Her really first intention was to conceive a book for children about bees. The insects would have made absurdist ‘tasks’ in a world organized in a way as our human society but with a complete different logic. She would refer to this human aspect, using human body parts’ shapes (that what may explain the hands and the faces). But finally, she tried to make the narrative interpretation of the story, as free as possible, trying to activate the reader’s imagination. This way, she considers the end of the book likewise the beginning of the story.
After two long messages in which she answered to each of my questions, the discussion seems ended. However I remember that I forgot to ask her one more questions : “are you an author or an artist, or even a designer?” I send her another email, but I have no news. I hope one day I will be able to tell you the answers.
For the moment, go to the library and have a look, it is worth it
Rietveld library catalog no : graduation publication 2015
The composition of the ceramic vases Belgian artist Rogier Vandeweghe and vases Dutch artist Jan de Rooden.
Firstly, I’d love to explain why I’ve chosen ceramic vases for this essay. I imagine how the fingers are buried in soft brown slimy mass when I am thinking about creating a vase. I remember a few stories associated with clay from childhood. I grew up in a village. I loved poking around in the mud, but I had a special passion for the mud formed after rain on the roadway. Vehicles in the village – trucks, and the land under the wheels was pressed carefully because of heavy machine. As a soft mass, it was very pleasant to touch. Mud was becoming really strong as soon as it started to dry. I loved to do the round cakes of this manure. A day after i used to threw them on the floor and watch them breaking into pieces. This is the first thing I imagine when I’m thinking about ceramics. It seems to me very important to understand people, what events have affected them, how their personalities formed. An artwork produced by the artist containes all the information about his life, sensibility, condition. That’s why I’d love to highlight some events in the biography of Rogier Vanderwede and Jan de Rooden.
Born in 1923, he was the youngest son in the family. They moved a few years later to Beernem. From 17 to 23 years old, he studied at the Art Academy in Ghenthe. In the year of 1974 he was followed by a short internship at Joost Maréchal. In 1948 Rogier formed a business with his elder brother on the basis of fathers larger company. Their studio was named ‘Perignem (Latin for “through the fire”). In 1954 he married in the Church of St.Anne in Bruges on Maryanna Pyck (the collection vase that i chose called: Rogier Vandeweghe en Maryanna Pyck). Maryanna worked since 1952 as a ceramics painter at Perignem. As soon as regular production was established, Rogier decided to change direction towards a more modern product. The cautious, rather conservative attitude of Laurent and especially of Cecile Roets, which is in complete contrast with the radical and total renewal sought by Rogier, are the direct cause of the rupture between the two brothers in the summer of 1956. In 1957, Rogier Vandeweghe didn’t pay much attention to make his first ceramic production. In some cases, his wife Myranna Pyck painted the initials “RVDW”, eventually adding “Sint Andries”, with cold enamel after the firing. Soon however, Rogier adds this mark with glaze. In 1960, the workshop is named “AMPHORA».
Jan de Rooden Born in Nijmegen in 1931. When he was 5 years old his mother died. From 6 to 14 years old, he was admitted to Elementary School of the Heilig Landstichting. The landscape around us formed a beautiful country to grow up in. “In November 1944 I left home for the Passionist monastery in Mook September 1952 I became novice in the Passionist monastery in Pey, but after nine months I left the novitiate forever. Ultimately I could not reconcile myself with life in a monastery. I found that life too cut off, too safe and too well-provided for. ” As autodidact he started working in the studio of ceramist Lucie Q. Bakker in Amsterdam in 1956, and in 1958 started his own studio with Johnny Rolf with whom he later married.
Rogier was studying in artistic school and Jan at theological collage. But the story of the two artists is like when they meet their women and begin to follow their way.
I feel a similar sense when i am looking at the vase, I find something natural in that. Vases Jan de Rooden remind me about the forest, the surface of the vase is like a bark of a tree overgrown with moss and seabed, shells overgrown with silt. Vases Rogier Vandeweghe remind me of the mycelium, or forest spirits, or rocks. I like that he used black clay, I’ve got a association with caves and coal mining. From vases is completely different. Jan de Rooden used a simple sealed form. It gives a sense of confidence and stability, which in combination with glazing, creates the effect of natural stone. Rogier Vandeweghe several vases connects one composition and shape of these vases is like a bottle, but shorter, with a thin neck and a narrowing nizu.eta composition looks like a beehive. The Rogier Vandeweghe vase can be used rather only as an object, and the Jan vase may well accommodate some flowers.
In conclusion I would say that the facilities are beautiful.
The world opened a new window in 1844, when the public entered “French Industrial Exposition” in Paris. Quickly afterwards, various large public exhibitions were held in different parts of Europe. In 1851, the first-considered International Exposition was held in London called “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations”. A new platform was born, where art, science and technology from different countries were brought together.
In the process of the development of the platform, the pavilions became a tool to improve the image of each country from 1988. A study called “Expo 2000 Hanover in Numbers” by Tjaco Walvis showed that 73% of the countries at Expo 2000 were primarily interested in improving their national image. The world fairs had evolved into big vehicles for national branding.
“In the desert of life the wise person travels by caravan, while the fool prefers to travel alone”, (African proverb)
As the importance of the pavilions’ look grew, the budget grew with it.
At Expo 2000 Hanover, the average investment pr. pavilion was €12 million: A budget that made governments doubt their participation since the benefits were often assumed to outweigh the costs.
In a world today, where branding is a key asset: Is it possible for the artwork to stay as strong and sensuous to the audience? Does the creation of a salable layer (that has to be considered and assessed) leave the message behind? When a world fair tries to destroy the line between exhibition and exposition, is it possible to make both’ part equal?
Creating a community inside of the world fairs figurative walls is interesting. But at the same time, I’m constantly aware of the galleries’ need to sell. Does art lose its artistic value if it has to be salable? And does the price affect the experience of art?
CHART ART FAIR had its debut in Copenhagen 3 years ago. A Danish offer of how a world fair could look like. The CHART director Simon Friese wants to establish an international art platform for the Nordic region: “The ambition to do CHART in the first place was actually to make a platform that had the curatorial level to be able to attract an international audience coming here (…)”
But in the crowd, I feel like the gallery presentations convey get lost. The event has been located the same place all three years: Kunsthal Charlottenborg. In the 17th century surroundings, the location won’t disappoint you, but in the big spaces I feel an enormous distance between the art pieces and me as a viewer.
Before you are invited indoor, you can see advertising on display in different shops around town. Large video installations were put in shops as a warm-up before the fair this August. But every shop they have chosen had a specific status and price range. The locations were obviously chosen to attract an audience with a high income: because the buying of a ticket is only a small part of the money that’s exchanged inside the fair’s walls. If you’re interested in ownership, you can take the matter up with the gallery owner you can find next to every stand. Gallery owners you also can meet in the lounge section solely for specific members of the art world. (Some transported in limousines).
But why do I care? Do I want to play a role in the social club of the arts? Even though CHART is a new-born, the number of viewers has increased with 50% the past two year. Apparently, there are a lot of people, on national and international ground, who are interested in a Nordic art platform. Simon Friese and Denmark’s most famous gallery owners are those men who rule the roost, since they decide the selection of the approx. 28 galleries which are participating.
World’s Fairs are great scenarios to enlighten upcoming art and new ideas. The first telephone by Alexander Graham Bell was shown at Centennial Exposition in 1876. And the infrared touch panels were finally presented to the public at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, after 40 years of research. A lot of people, including myself, imagine the World’s Fairs to be like in the 1950′s, but the medium has changed.
In the old days, the rich would cross the sea to see the wonders firsthand, but the internet put an end to that. “I don’t know today how a World’s Fair can be viable, because everybody has a camera in their pocket,” says Louise Weinberg, World’s Fair Archive Manager at the Queens Museum. With everybody having art from each corner of the world in their pocket, you don’t need to go to foreign countries. With the internet, the outcome of World’s Fairs has been a massive slump.
Is CHART trying to transform art into a trade again? At Kunsthal Charlottenborg, the artwork or art “actions” seem like entertainment you can quickly pass without being further included. Is that the intention of the yearly event? And then I cannot not think about; are artists meant to serve the rich?
Rei Kawakubo is a Japanese fashion designer. She first studied fine arts and literature at Keio university but then later thaught herself how to design and started making clothes under the label Comme des Garcons. In 1973 she incorporated it as a company. Soon Comme des Garcons became a label preferred by the Avant-garde. Kawakubo designes clothes with a modus operandi more familiar to conceptual art than to fashion.
and Yohji Yamamoto,
During the 1980s, her garments were primarily in black, dark grey or white but later more colors were added. The materials were often draped around the body and featured frayed, unfinished edges along with holes and a general asymmetrical shapes. Comme des Garcons is often referred as anti-fashion with their austere, deconstructed garments and the focus is more on the three-dimensionality of shapes and not so much on the surface and finish. By all these means Kawakubos designs challenges the traditional notions of beauty in fashion.
Rei Kawabuko, 1997
In 1997 the spring/summer collection was an ironic commentary on female vanity and advertisements for cleavage enhancing bras and figure sculpting thights. These designs suggest that the mind no longer need to submit itself to the dictates of conventional notions of beauty, but it is free to find it where it will. Also that beauty may not reside in the places what our culture suggests but more in our own imagination.
What is beautiful doesn’t have to be pretty
– Rei Kawakubo
Working together with other professionals like photographers and architects their approach in fashion is very collective. Kawakubo wants to be involved in all aspects of her business like photography, graphic design etc.
Ensemble is a top and a skirt from collection Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body. It is made of cheesecloth stapled together in layers of pattern sections. The sculptural silhouette and the complex piling reflects Japanese ideas about the garment, which is seen as a construction in space. Here the garment is an autonomous sculptural object and it is no longer dependent on the shape of the human body.
This garment was part of a exhibition in Booijmans museum under a theme: Tabula Rasa. I think Kawakubos design fits quite well to the theme because she has been quite groundbreaking in her field by challenging the traditional idea of beauty in fashion.
2. Constant Nieuwenhuys
Constant Nieuwenhuys (1920 Amsterdam – 2005 Utrecht), also known as Constant is dutch. He is a painter but he touched other fields such as sculpture, music and, what interests us, theory and architecture.
His brother Jan Nieuwenhuys, who was born a year after him also became
an artist and their paths are closely related as they founded together with Corneille, Asger Jorn, Karel Appel and others the Experimentele Groep in Holland in 1948. It is important to mention that all those people then took part to the CoBrA movement which we all know and which was a period when Constant painted a lot and a lot of beautiful paintings.
Constant took part to the theorizing of CoBrA. In Wikipedia I found his theory resumed to six points, I translate it here.
– Realism is the negation of reality
– Who denies hapiness on Earth denies Art
– No good painting without great pleasure
– Civilization admits the beautiful to excuse the ugly
– The best painting is the one reason cannot admit
– Imagination is the way to know reality
After CoBrA, he briefly joined the revolutionary Art movement International Situationist (from 1958 to 1960), led by Guy Debord, between others. Asger Jorn was there as well. This part of his life is really important to understand his work New Babylone.
The International Situationists were influenced by Marxist thinking and wanted to end the class society and the merchandise dictatorship. Their thinking is well explained in the book Society of Spectacle Guy Debord wrote in 1967. Guy Debord is an important character to understand New Babylon because in 1956, he theorizes the Derive in his text La theorie de la derive.
One or several people experiencing the Derive are renouncing, for a laps of time more or less important, to the reasons to move and to act they generally know…
– Guy Debord, Theorie de la derive, 1956
Image used for the cover of one of Society of Spectacle editions
New Babylone was supposed to be called Deriville. It is a utopian city in which the defaults of capitalism (and of society of spectacle) does not exist anymore. In this sens, it fits very well in the Tabula Rasa theme.
Constant NieuwenhuysNew Babylone 1966
3. Tabula Rasa
Even though the history and works of Constant and Kawakubo aren’t similar, they work in different fields, different puposes and connections are hard to find, we see that in those both particular works, some interesting aspects can be joined.
The first aspect is the use of architecture thinking for works that are not only architectural. Kawakubo, in Ensemble, thinks the garment as a construction in space, which means that she works with the object but also with the void it creates. Ensemble is a garment created using architecture.
Constant tries to build an utopian city, he has no choice but using architecture (he also made some beautiful models of New Baby- lone). The sketch we are talking about can also be seen as a piece of Art because the city was never built, it was only a big project that, I think, even Constant himself did not think he would see become real. New Babylon is a piece of Art using architecture.
The second aspect is related to the idea of Tabula Rasa. As we saw, Constant relation to it is quite obvious, he wants to built a new city for a new kind of human. In other words start everything again.
Kawakubo, in her garment, tries to challenge our traditionnal idea of beauty and to find new aesthetic values. We saw in Ensemble that the garment becomes autonomous from the body form an can be seen as a sculpture too.
Jan Slothouber is a Dutch architect and designer who often teamed up with his colleague William Graatsma who had the same background. We could also call them artists… Indeed, their status isn’t so clear. They both have been trained as architects working for the DSM (Dutch State Mines) in which they had the kind of privileged position to be very free in their buildings and creations. This way they could develop their interest : cubic constructions.
Considering the art movement of the time (i.e Cobra) as too elitist,they were much more interested to work with CUBE a simple, basic and humble shape, easy to reach for everybody. Also, working with such a basic and geometrical shape opens a lot of possibility and a much bigger diversity of work than an already complicated shape, usable only in a certain context.
According to this view on the Art Scene, they liked also to qualify themselves as « anonymous » and to work around social issues. But, they became famous when the Stedelijk Museum asked them to do an exhibition called Four Sides: Size, Shape, Colour, Letter (Vier Kanten: maat, vorm, kleur, letter). From this exhibition started a big enthusiasm around them, including lots of exhibitions and presentations, such as the Venice Biennial from 1970. [x]
Starting this period they built the Centre for Cubic Constructions (CCC) for which they are very famous. But a few years later, when they’ve been asked to design stamps in favor of children charity, and they used their now famous style to give those stamps value, a lot of people were very skeptic regarding this choice : Slothouber and Graatsma were indeed judged too « avant grade » not accessible enough for the average people. Which is exactly for what they were fighting against.
Richard Artschwager is an American sculptor and painter. He Studied Science and Mathematics. After studying he worked as a cabinet-maker. He got to be pretty successful with his furniture untill his studio and all his contents was destroyed by a fire in 1958. After this he started to work more as an artist, this was in the time that abstract expressionism influenced the arts.[x]
After the 60’s his work is mostly pop- minimal- and conceptual art.
His work had a dichotomy between painting and sculpture, abstraction and representation, industrial manufacture and hand craftsmanship. The works are on one side sculptures and on the other hand pictures of objects. His craftsmanship for making furniture enabled him to make artworks with an identity and function that brings subject materiality, form and space into a balanced combination. Artschwager experimented with basic forms and materials, for example in his work Handle (1962), a handrail shaped in to a frame. The work is simultaneously pictorial and sculptural. Via an utilitarian and aesthetic approach he creates works that emphasize space.
In 1963 Artschwager starts to work with Formica, a new material, synthetic laminate, which was used a lot in furniture making because it was cheap and resilience. Artschwager: “It was Formica which touched it off. Formica, the great ugly material. the horror of the age, which i came to like suddenly because i was sick of looking at all this beautiful wood.” For Artschwager the Formica is a picture of a piece of wood. If you take that and make something out of it, than you have an object. But its a picture of something at the same time, its an object. By covering box-shaped plates with Formica in different colours and textures he creates a composition of domestic objects. In this way he pushes a painting in to three dimensions. mirror/mirror – table/table (1964) and later on triptych II (1967)
This research is about the differences between art and design, we compare an artist and a design couple that both had their artworks in the exhibition ‘Setting the Scene’ at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum. Both of our artists/designers shared the room themed by scale. To which extent is this the right theme to connect them to?
Scaling down is used in architecture to present large designs for building projects in a manageable format, as a floor plan or a scale model. Design and art also use scale models as way of crystallizing and communicating ideas and research. They can be used to experiment freely with form, scale, material, and details – after all a model does not always have to have a ratio of one to one in the real world.
Scaling up or down need not always be a practical solution; it may be and end in itself. A functional object can be made dysfunctional by enlarging it, reducing it or making it from unconventional material. Deviating from the human scale changes an object’s relationship with the human body. And if you enlarge a recognizable pattern far enough it transforms into an abstract structure of its own accord. The surrounding space is also a factor: you see things fundamentally differently when you see them from a distance or stand very close to the object. Scale changes one’s view of things.
CONNECTION WITH SCALE
We think that in Artschwagers work scale isn’t a central point. The alienating effect of modifying scale, is something that Arschwager achieves via material and playing with assumptions. The way he works is different but the result has similar aspects. The work in the exhibition, Counter III, is probably the only work that has a different proportion, but we think his works more relate to form and space. A form that is recognizable for his works is the cube, which is a central shape as well in the works of Slothouwer en Graatsma, our artists relate more in form than in scale. Indeed they’re using the cube for its simplicity and thus the diversity of composition it offers. Slothouber and Graatsma are then able to play endlessly with scale. The cube can be the piece in itself, as well as an essential element (like an atom) to build a bigger form not necessarily with a cube shape. The cube can be the final object or the substance of the object.
There is a clear difference shown between art and design that also matches the common view on this distinction, the works of the artist are not for use even though they look like in first sight, the works of the designer are based on shapes that are not immidiatly recognisble as domestic objects.
Lie van der Werf • Gaetano Pesce Green Street Chair 1984
Gaetano Pesce (1939) was an Italian architect and product designer who reconciled his interests in the fine arts with design in the 1960’s. Pesce, like many of his fellow contemporaries associated with Radical Design, sought design solutions that did not conform to the standardized forms associated with mass manufacture and mass consumption. His works challenge the commonly known concept of a chair, playing with the border of sculpture and objects of daily life that belong to the design world. Pesce continued to play a prominent role in progressive design circles over the following decades, placing greater emphasis on architecture in the 1990s. His multi- and interdisciplinary work known for experimenting with new materials and resin, which has become his signature material, was celebrated in an exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1996.
Lie van der Werff (1962) graduated in 1992 at the Royal Academy of Arts in Rotterdam and in 1994 at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam. She was part of a group of sculptors that brought back the figurative in art and started using natural materials again. Recognizable shapes from animals and humans were reintroduced. This went against the sculptures made at that time, when sculptures mostly consisted from abstract and geometric forms made from industrial materials. Van der Werff makes use of the fictive story behind textile and applies her findings to her imaginary animals. Next to textile she also uses wood and clay to translate her ideas into reality. Looking at her work on her website, her work seems highly theatrical. She is a bit as an Alice in Wonderland, who wears dresses that are too small and hangs out with fictive animals.
How often do we stop and think about the hook we hang our coat on, or the knife we use to butter our bread? Our daily life is a succession of assumptions and presuppositions. We are not always aware of the multitude of shapes and objects we surround ourselves with day in and day out.
Form and function are seamlessly linked in our minds: trousers belong on our legs and a door hinges vertically, not horizontally. By contrast, when an artist or designer alters the form of such an easily recognizable everyday object, takes something away or changes the context in which it functions, the ingrained meaning of the object is subverted.
We started our research based on the connection made by the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum. In the exhibition of Setting the Scene the following questions were asked: What are the differences between design and the visual arts? And how far apart are they?
When we walked into the theme room assigned to us at the museum, we quite quickly chose our subject of interest. In the room we saw a chair that looked like a sculpture and two chairs that looked exactly like chairs but weren’t meant to sit on. We were immediately interested in this combination between the work of Gaetano Pesce (designer) and Lie van der Werff (artist).
There was something interesting about the chair from Pesce, because although we clearly saw that it was a chair, it looked very sculptural. Nevertheless you could see that the user was taken into consideration, there was no doubt where to sit. But material wise the designer was working on the boundaries of design. The eight thin legs under the seat of the chair almost made it look mechanical, almost like it could walk. The fine arts approach of the material (metal, glass fiber and polyester) lifts the chair from being ‚just another designed chair’. This Green Street chair is a result of Pesce’s research of the chair-ness within the chair.
In this exhibition under this theme, the chair makes perfect sense. Pesce’s chair raises the question of how far can you go with the idea of a chair?When is something still recognizable as a chair?
Looking at the chairs of Van der Werff that caught our attention, on the contrary, there are no undefined shapes involved. She used the archetype of a chair and without obeying the rules of design, she transformed it into a dysfunctional object. By processing the wood in her own way she made the chairs unable to sit on, changing them into sculptures. Through the processing she changes the design object into personal sculptures, changing their history, giving them a story and (probably) makes the viewer wonder what happened and to whom they belonged to. Van der Werff’s chairs raise the question of how long can you chop before the chair collapses? How long can you chop until the chair is not a chair anymore? When does it lose its original identity? How can another form arise through transforming an object? But looking at her work in general, these chairs are the only possible work of her oeuvre that would fit this theme.
The work of Pesce and Van der Werff are as far apart as can be, not only looking at the chairs they made. They are not from the same time, not from the same country, not from the same discipline and never use the same materials or even use a concept that is alike. She is a lover of natural materials and colors, lives in her imaginary world and uses herself as part of her art. He, with a love for bright colors, is always looking how far he can go with materials and shapes to disten himself and his work from reality, while keeping it playful. We have to conclude that she only fits this Form theme with these chairs she made in 1992, whereas he would fit the theme with more chairs of his hand, whilst the theme of the room is also the research in his work.
So when the function is taken away, we can apply only the idea of the contemplative concept of an object. Where does design become fine arts? And where does fine arts become design? Should the distinction still be made? To keep the answer as applied to the now as possible, we can talk from our own position as art students. We are from a generation of designers and fine artists that graduate at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy with a diploma that doesn’t make a distinction between the two practices. So the fact that it is changing inside the art schools means that the distinction will disappear more and more in the future. So, let’s mingle.
«Innovation can’t be found in the drawing of an object but in the use that is made of technology, materials, techniques. Technology has no interest for its image, but it is interesting for the service it offers. Its image must disappear, melt into the object. Technology is at the service of the result : price, lightness, comfort…» Patrick Jouin
OneShot.MGX is a 3D-printed stool designed by the french designer Partick Jouin in 2004.This stool was manufactured using the 3D printing technique. Born in the mid 1980s, 3D printing, more formally known as additive manufacturing, was used at this time for visual prototyping. But some companies soon realized that the technology had the potential to do more than just producing prototypes. In 2003, .MGX by Materialise was founded and they invited world-class designers to experiment with this new technique and come up with novel products that were only possible with this new technology. Patrick Jouin was one of them and created on this occasion two chairs, a table and this stool.
I consider this item as one of the the most relevant among the Stedelijk’s design collection. Innovative, surprising, light, handy, delicate, subtile… it satisfies all the expectations that we have from a stool. You can take it anywhere easily, store it in a cupboard, in a car, in a bag. This object is in harmony with Patrick Jouin’s philosophy if we believe his words : «The objects we draw today are more discrete. They are more «affectuous». Discrete friends. They don’t tell less, they simply do it more slowly. It’s like homeopathy. They diffuse rather than they speak.» I discovered Patrick at the same time as his product during the exhibition and I think he has a clear mind about what is going on in design nowadays. He created his own agency in 1998 after some years at Philippe Strack’s agency. His style is often qualified as discrete.
Patrick Jouin is really interested in experimenting new technologies. In an interview about rapid prototyping, P.J. said «The distance in between the creation, the drawing, and the final object was very short. It was like a sketch which is coming alive and taking shape in 3D. I know that every time in the history of design, when there is a new technology, there is always a new aesthetic.»
«Industrial production requires a radical conversion : we must start from the function of the object and possibilities of the machine. The limited performance of the craft production allowed sometimes the realization of original or richly decorated forms. Production by the machine, in series, needs a simplification of manufacturing’s forms and processes.» Willem Sandberg wrote these words around 1970 in a catalogue about the german designer Wilhelm Wagenfeld. Should we consider this way of thinking as still relevant nowadays ? New technologies such as 3D printing make these ideas a bit old-fashioned. I am not saying that this aesthetic is over, but 3D printing doesn’t undergo the same rules as the more industrial technique. Patrick Jouin said : «There are so many aspects, undiscovered yet, it is a new way to think how an object can be made.»
In his book Fabricated : The New World of 3D Printing, Cornell University researcher Hod Lipson describes ten of the underlying principles fundamental to 3D printing. The first principle he notes is that «manufacturing complexity is free». Unlike traditional manufacturing processes, where extra complexity requires a more expensive mold with more parts, there is no penalty with 3D printing when an object is made more complex. On the contrary, in some cases there may even be a benefit. With 3D printing, designers and artists can explore new kinds of highly complex and intricate forms that would have been impossible to realize with traditional techniques, and these come at no extra cost. It is a proverbial candy store of new formal possibilities, resulting in a new design language that is baroque and often eclectic.
«Just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to». It is true that there is a risk of overuse, a risk that it becomes too much. What should designers do now that complexity is not a problem anymore. Designers are still in the early stages of the search for aesthetic in 3D printing. Many of the experiment we see today may appear outdated in ten years, but they are playing an important role in paving the way. With an increasing number of designers, artists, and makers gaining access to 3D printing, a mature formal language will develop over time, uniting and exploiting the full potential of the technology’s aesthetic powers.
«…people often proclaims grand ideas, things that are just after all, the qualities expected about an object. What an object owes us.» Patrick Jouin
Many studios and companies are working on developing this technique. In Amsterdam, we have the 3D Print Canal House, the first 3D-printed house. It also acts as an exhibition and interactive research center for 3D-printed architecture and related areas, such as material recycling, policy making, and smart electricity grids. The 3D Print Canal House has been printed on-site with the KamerMaker, a shipping container that has been converted into a giant 3D printer.
An aspect of 3D printing that I find particularly interesting is the way you share a product. The designer creates a file that could basically be printed anywhere by any 3D printer (if the printer is able to do so), but then a question appears, how is he going to sell it ? In a shop as a finished object or on internet/in a shop as a file still ?
What will make him choose a certain option ? If you decide to sell for example your 3D printed vases in a shop, you will propose to the public a definite object, with definite colors, materials and price. These choices will be of course part of your research and of course as a designer you know better than anyone the nice colors, but you don’t give to the buyer many possibilities. Eventually you could print ten times the same vase with each time different materials and/or colors, but then you take the risk that some of them might not be successful. You might have eventually planned everything with a marketing analyze or something else, but I am sure that 3D printing could be exploited in a much better way. In this way, the 3D print is not highlighted.
Imagine that you sell the product on your website. The vase that you created has a definite shape, but no colors for the moment, it is still a neutral file, just a shape. Then you put it online and decide the price of it. You could also suggests some colors or materials, without saying that one is better than another. The customer will be free now to print the vase as he wants. There is no risk of overproduction in this case and there is also an attractive aspect for the customer. He might feel involved in the project and enjoy the fact of being part of the creative process. I talked about the price previously and I think this aspect is also interesting to discuss. How would you fix a price ? If the customer want to print it at home, you would sell a file only, so the customer will print and pay the material by himself. What is the value of it ? Is it in terms of technical innovation or complexity ? Or in terms of originality ? 3D printing could also lead to personal (home) creations and lead to the disappearance of designers. Of course, there will always be designers, but they could be at stake. For sure, this solution is possible only if a great number a person would have 3D printer at home, and it is still not the case, but it may happen soon. We can already see this kind of website where you have the possibility to create your own product.
I am also wondering about reproduction, re-appropriation and protection. How can you protect a product from reproduction or re-appropriation ? How could you recognize an original from the copie ? You could not.
The last possibility that I find personally the most interesting nowadays is to have your own 3D design/print shop. Imagine that you have your design studio that is at the same time a production place. You keep into the studio a selection of the products, accompanied by suggestions of colors and materials. Customers would come into the shop and ask for the vase 3D printed in red and blue plastic with maybe some adjustements. The nice thing is that you have then a real contact with the buyer, you can advice them, keep them informed and help them. You can imagine many things with 3D printing. It could provide a solution to over-production and consumption.
For example, companies could provide 3D files that allows you to print the piece of your machine that is broken instead of ordering it and get it from the other side of the world. You would just have to print it. For sure, the materials that you use to print will not come alone, but I think it could help. There are many other subjects to discuss, so if you are interested in 3D printing, you should have a look at this conference about the environmental impact of 3D printing that was given on December 13th 2013.
A lot of people are active in 3D printing research. This is the case of Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California which has been developing since 1998 a layered manufacturing process called Contour Crafting, in which cement or concrete is pumped through a nozzle connected to a computer-controlled crane or gantry. This draws the contours of the largescale structure to be built layer by layer.
3D printing with Lunar soil by Foster + Partners[x]
Enrico Dini also, a passionate Italian inventor, has teamed up with the European Space Agency and the architects Foster+Partners to test the feasibility of a 3D-printed permanent moon bases built out of moondust. Contour Crafting is also aiming for the moon in a partnership the NASA. Give the significant challenges of scaling up 3D printing machinery to encompass an entire building, many concluded that, for the time being, the most pragmatic approach is to fabricate constructions in sections and then to stack these sections on-site.
Finally, if you are interested, I link you to some studios who realized some really nice project with 3D printing technique. I hope you enjoyed this article.
A model is initially an object whose purpose is either to represent the real world or to be translated into the real world, in short the model can be a copy of reality or reality a copy of the model. The main difference is in terms of scale. Usually the model is a miniature of reality. But what more can it be? When we look at a toy car and a car, what do we see? Is the toy car just a replica of the car in a tiny scale? It is hard to analyze such a thing but I think that there is a huge difference triggered by (but not exclusively) the change of scale. When the toy car is made, it has no longer the same purpose as the car does. A child playing with it might as well imagine it just as real as the car and drive it around with his fingers, or see it in a whole new world, making it fly away, fist-fight and dance Rock n’ Roll. The new scale for things sometimes creates a new meaning for them above representation, a new reality even if they are seemingly the same object in different sizes.
sketch model of van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam by Gerrit Rietveld [object: SM]
In 1963-1964, the furniture designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964) designs the Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum. In 1964 the architect dies before the project is finished. The building is completed by his partners J. Van Dillen and J. Van Tricht, and the construction was concluded in 1973. The model exposed in the design collection of the Stedelijk was produced by Gerrit Rietveld in those first two years. It is a sketchy model made of wood, paper, cardboard and glass. The final building is close but does not respect this concept, with a unified color of brick and very little white (from front).
I present this piece for multiple reasons. First, because in my personal taste, I prefer this version from the finished one. Rich in contrast between black and white rectangles overlapping each other, the building has the balanced complexity of the Rietveld style although the shapes which compose it stay simple and limited (only colors: white, black and blue) which gives sobriety to the building. When we look at the final museum’s front view, the unity in brick color makes the building lose its striking composition at first sight, for the overlapping rectangles melt into each other. The second reason why I chose this model is because of the way it was made, without any connection to the building itself. I see in between the other models of the museum [x], well built, detailed and clean; something of a stain. On a dirty piece of wood on which we can see quick pencil sketches for the display, an irregular, clumsy, and worn little building is erected. The colors are simply indicated by a rapid and un-precise use of color pencils ( blue and black). The materials used are cheap, and if we try we might not even find one horizontal or vertical line. And yet it is beautiful, marrying complexity and simplicity in form and color, with a rich diversity of cheap materials. Its cheapness gives it a poetic and rough authentic aspect, we see that it was handmade.
This may remind us of James Castle’s sown cardboard sculptures, which are made of scrap which gives them strength, or Bill Traylor’s choice (and no choice) of using cheap surfaces like cardboard for his paintings.
The model is in addition to this, very close to the final version. That sketchy but precise model shows the talent of Gerrit Rietveld as an architect, like the lines of a great draftsman. Its clumsiness along with the use of paper, lightly put together and slight curved, gives a feeling of fragility and tenderness which contrasts with the strongly built shapes of Rietveld’s buildings or the roughness of the materials.
I love this model because –to me– it is not a model anymore but a sculpture that contrasts with what we usually see, giving a new idea of his work and of what a model can be, even though it was not intended to become a piece of art. A model can be seen in ways that exceed its limits as a technical object.
A perfect embodiment of this idea is seen in the Tim Burton film Beetlejuice. The movie takes place in a small town and specifically in a house on top of a hill overlooking the town. In the opening scene (link here and here for the end with spider) a fake areal shot of the town is taken on a model of the town one of the main characters has built. We are tricked into believing that we are flying over a forest to finally overlook the whole town, then fly over and across it all the way to the house on top of the hill. Although it is possible to see that the scene is really shot on a model, the illusion is strong, and we are astonished to see a real spider (this time) which seems to be the size of a hippo, climb over the roof and be picked up by a real (gigantic) hand. What this illusion does is it gives life to the model, it gives it a new reality, and this is proved later on in the movie when we discover that the model has an “inhabitant”. When the protagonists are changed to the scale of the model, (in this scene) they come to its graveyard to dig up the main antagonist, Beetlejuice. In this case, the change of scale from real world to model is more than representation, the real world and the model are entangled, mingled into each other, whilst the two are different, the real world and the new world of the model. The model can open a whole new world for our imagination to create, a transcendental realm full of fire, wonder, and dragons.
From my visit to the exhibition ‘The Future of Fashion is now’ at Boijmans the installation from the artist CC stays strongest in my mind. It was a large installation where the main part was a wooden structure that reached the ceiling. The structure formed few shelves that were full of multicolored sculptural mountains. For me it clearly stood out from the tailor dummies and hanging cloths that were around. On one side of the structure were hanging four lighted-up squares that showed a man’s face, hands and feet.
When I started to research CC as an artist I found out that he is formerly a hat designer. Known as Christophe Coppens or The Mad Hatter from the Country of Surreal Art and Comic Books, Belgium. CC is now living and working in Los Angeles.
His career as a hat designer started when he was only 21 years old. In May 2012 he decided to make an end to that career, he closed his business and became a full time artist after 21 years of designing. He had been producing art work together with the designing but came to the conclusion that he could no longer combine the two. As he said:
“You can’t be a good artist with the mentality of a fashion designer. And I didn’t succeed at being a part-time artist.”[x]
It was surely a hard decision for him but an important one as he didn’t want to get lost in the design world where he had to distinguish between how things should be and how they have to be. Staying there he couldn’t be himself and use all the creativity he bears.
Coppens started making the mountain sculptures one week before closing his business. The first mountain developed during a lesson he took from the ceramic artist Mister Hugo Meert. Soon he made another one and then more and more. Perhaps the mountain shape was natural for him when working with the ceramic after all these years of hat designing. Considering the shape of hats may often be compered to mountains. As he moved to Los Angeles all the mountains around the city and the different shades of colours during different day light had an effect on him. He could surely relate that beauty to his work.
The first mountains were made out of ceramic. Later he started using his old clothes to make the mountains after noticing that all his clothes were linked to the person he was before becoming a full-time artist. The clothes were literally costumes for the outwards person he showed in interviews as a hat designer. It wasn’t Christophe Coppens himself. It didn’t fit him anymore he said, figuratively speaking. He also used some of his old furniture for the sculptural mountains. It became some kind of capsule of his past.
His first exhibition after becoming ‘fulltime artist’ showed his mountain sculptures and was called Everything Is Local, Landscape part 1. It was exhibited in Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam [x]. It was an emotional landscape that kept a hold on to the past at the same time as it looked at the future with joy.
The exhibition immediately attracted a lot of attention, especially in his home country’s press. The Belgian magazine Standaard gave him three stars of five and published an article with the title: Hoedje af voor Coppens (Hats off for Coppens).
Later he made and showed the work called The Hills Are Alive: Landscape part 2. It was exhibited in Tokyo and was livelier than his first one. Full of mountains each with it’s own personality he related Landscape part 2 to the shops he used to have full of hats [x].
His installation for the exhibition ‘The Future of Fashion is now’ at Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam is a collection from both Landscape part 1 and Landscape part 2. There he puts together mountains from the two exhibitions making up the current exhibition that he calls Landscape part 3.
It’s interesting how the mountains are mounted on wooden stands that may be references to theater stages. I get the feeling that the stands help the mountains to reach higher and then not only physically but also mentally. It becomes more of a showpiece then something that could be practical, just as his hats.
All these years of hat designing might have been necessary for the work CC is making today. Now as he is using materials from his past and the memory of who he was before, recycling it to make new art. These are memories that he is ready to put aside but at the same time still wants to enjoy and keep in reach. Probably the lighted-up squares from Landscape Part 3 demonstrate this closure or some kind of a burial of his former carrier. The location of the squares indicates that the man is being crucified and the man is believably his own former identity. It therefore seems that CC is finally ready to say goodbye to his former identity as a hat designer, or what? Will we maybe see his resurrection in his next exhibition?
Tips from CC: Enjoy the present and wear sun screen [x],
Esther de Vries is a graphic designer specialized in book design. Among many projects, she made two books on her father, the sculptor Auke de Vries. The two books, dealing with the same artist, are yet very different, the first one, Auke de Vries Photo Archives, being much more intimate than the second one, Auke de Vries: Sculptures, drawing and work in public space, which is more meant as an chronological overview on the evolution of the artistic career of Auke de Vries. But what is surprising is that both books are very different from the first impression the reader can get just by watching the cover.
Indeed, at first sight and because of its very strong cover and size, the biggest book seems to be one of those very classical and sometimes deadly boring art books that present an exhaustive view of the work of an artist. But going into the design and the content of the volume you can experience it as an actual novel object. A lot of different materials are used in the book, making it exciting to go through, and a great importance is accorded to the process, thus gathering a collection of sketches, photographs and forms that helped or influenced the artist with his sculptures, and even pictures of the artist working in his studio. On all those pictures the text is set in an unquestionable playful way, sometimes even covering the images.
An other particularity that makes the book playful and thrilling is the use of very thin pages presenting a compilation of different forms, cut from a photograph of a work of the artist and magnified. Those pages refers to the collection of forms that the artist developed and used constantly in his work. Esther was keen to scatter that through the pages as, what she calls, an alphabet.
As for Photo Archives, the fabric and very simple cover makes it look at first glance as a secondary book, very small and discreet, soft, not meant to go through the years as the other one. But once more the design and content makes it very special, in a precious and sprightly way. While the other book is meant to present mainly the evolution of the artist’s works, this photography book shows through the collection of pictures the process that took place even before the artworks, as a wandering in the thoughts of the artist.
Here the relation to the reader is completely unusual, as there is no chronological order or reading direction. The reader, who is more a viewer since
there is no text, can open the book in the middle, at the end, or open the same page again and again, led to wander in the same way that the artist was wandering when he took those pictures.
This is also a quite seducing book, designed between rule and coincidence with a set of colors and places for the pictures that are sometimes cut in two by the Japanese binding, leading the reader to focus on a particular shape that recalls Auke de Vries’ work. I noticed that the two books are very different from the first feeling you can get from them.
Yet, maybe Esther’s work, or at least these two books, deals a lot with feeling. That is to say the very strong feeling that the reader gets or is given in both cases of the close connection between the work of the artist and the design of the books. They pay homage to this work. It might has to do with the fact that both books where initiated by Esther herself, and not commisioned, hence the liberties in the design. This is also caused by the very long process that the designer went through while making those books, meticulously choosing each picture and composition, trying all the colors with each image again and again, changing direction until being fully satisfied, regardless of time.
All that makes both works very touching and the enthusiasm of the designer becomes very apparent, discovering a treasure made of all those pictures and willing to share it, making it as complete as possible to preserve the emotion aroused by the pictures themselves.
In the following essay, an almost complete series of books will be discussed in comparison to each other, regarding the design, layout, and publishing choices that the respected artists/designers or publishers had to face. The books in question (both written and designed by) are: Talks About Money by John Barclay, I Heard They Ripped It Off by Robin Ekemark & Brita Lindvall, 37 Assignments by Indrek Sirkel, Can I Make Everybody Happy? by Dag Brandsæter & Noa Segal, and Our Daily Debates by Nina Støttrup Larsen.
The books in this series enquire into the different fields of graphic design, where the basic understanding of whatgraphic design actually is seems equivocal. They investigate this lack of definition in the different fields as a means to contribute to an otherwise arbitrary profession. The focus will be on Can I Make Everybody Happy?, which will be used as a base for comparison with the other books of the series.
All books share a similar front cover, namely a white background, with a black stripe of thick spray-paint horizontally across, that sometimes covers the title. If you place the whole series next to each other, you will see that the lines join up, and it looks like one fat line of spray-paint on a white, clean surface. The title is written in a specific font that is used throughout each book differently, including fonts such as Comic Sans for Talks About Money or Courier New for 37 Assignments also seen below. In I Heard They Ripped It Off, Robin Ekemark and Brita Lindvall created a new font for themselves in “an attempt to tell a story from the closest point of a source”.
Can I Make Everybody Happy? designers Dag Brandsæter and Noa Segal had decided to compose the book of emails that had been sent back and forth between colleagues that mostly disagree on plans concerning the graphic design of specific, unknown projects. Ironically however, is that the blurb on the back describes how confrontations by e-mail are prone to make people aggressive and defensive, and that matters are best discussed face to face. This ironic addition to the production of the work coincides with the theme of the series, namely to investigate the miscommunication in the graphic design world.
In comparison to Can I Make Everybody Happy?, the layout in Talks about Money is a similar type of communication. Dialogue is displayed in speech-bubble format, discussing how much graphic designers can sell their work for. There are, like every other book in the series, chapters, which in this case are divided into a logical structure of explanation. Unlike Can I Make Everybody Happy?, the content is a constructive discussion, where graphic designers ask themselves how much they are worth, further accentuation the lack of definition within graphic design. Below is a picture to get an idea.
In I Heard They Ripped It Off, the chapters are a lot less distinguishable. There are no chapters, as this is a retelling of a story about a specific project, the “Experimental Jetset”. There are divisions sometimes, to make the reader pause for effect, with a blank page. I heard They Ripped It Off seems like a personal encounter with the graphic design choices that have to take place during a project. The retelling of the story in the book feels more personal with this custom scribbled font. 37 Assignments focuses on the variety in 37/100 chosen graphic design assignments over the course of 2002 – 2007 at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, to investigate potential patterns with the projects. To preserve the voice of the teachers, the texts are edited as little as possible: only specific dates are removed to make the assignments timeless and universal. All Assignments are presented anonymously, in an attempt to stress the entire approach of the department not simply the individual assignments. In a way, this book differs from all of the previously discussed, and dives into an almost scientific way of investigating graphic design.
Our Daily Debates is another new approach to investigating the indefinable nature of graphic design. The book is structured like a script, between Nina, Sirkel, and some other colleagues. They joined together to debate about graphic design, their future profession. In a way, this book is similar to I Hear They Ripped It Off, as the wall between reader and writer is once again broken down by the layout choices of the book.
Subsequently, the series contains a variety of books that each contains their own specific design and content layout, sometimes seeming totally unrelated. However, the indefinable nature of graphic design is thoroughly reflected and investigated upon in these books, due to their contrast in content, difference in font choice, or disparity of the choices made to display the content. Therefore, the series works successfully together as a whole to provide a tangible examination of an indefinable, arbitrary, profession.
Can I make everybody happy?: Rietveld library catalog no : 750.1 bra1
I Heard They Ripped It Off: Rietveld library catalog no : 750.1 eke1
When you have found just the right team you collect all the images and structure them. Arrange them as you would hang the exhibition. Make sure that the pictures correspond to eachother. It is crucial to recreate the dialogue between the works, as seen in the exhibition. (A tip: start out with the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe and make Ruby’s works react to that afterwards – it works for me, but play along until you established the dialogue within.)
Then you add a good portion of graphic skills and mix it all up. When that is done, go through the content once again. Does it give you a feeling of entering the actual exhibition? Does the pictures relate to each other? Is the answer yes, please continue to the following step. If not, please go one step back and rearrange until you are satisfied with the result.
Now comes the difficult part – time to press the cover. Here you will need to add a lot of patience and some overwork. First you start out by printing the red title on the front cover. Print it twice to keep the typeface in place. The material is very easy to damage, so be careful to avoid scratches when you uses the printing machine. When the title is printed on successfully and you are happy with the outcome you let it dry. Leave it to dry for a couple of days to make sure the ink is completely dry. (Tip: try to avoid touching the red ink while drying. It might ruin the cover and you will have to do it over again.)
After this you end up with the final result, which should measure approx. 21,4 cm. broad, 26,4 cm. long and 1 cm. thick. This size will make it more suitable for shipping to collectors, friends etc.
Hope you’re happy with your result – enjoy your catalog!
* Swift (1985) This typeface has proved its worth in corporate identities, magazines and newspapers and occasionally in books — it is a versatile type and can be used in a wide range of circumstances. It is a striking type, with large serifs, large counters and letters that produce a particularly strong horizontal impression. This means that words and lines in Swift are easily distinguished, even where there are large spaces between words, as can occur in newsprint. Swift’s large, robust counters were designed to improve legibility particularly in newspapers. It was designed in the early eighties, when papers were less well printed than they are today, and its special features help it survive on grey, rough paper printed on fast rotary presses. Today it is used more often outside newspapers than in. The current Swift (1995) is an improved version with technical and aesthetic enhancements, and has been expanded into a family of twenty-four variants.
A catalog representing an exhibition [x] of Sterling Ruby (American artist 1972) engaging with the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe (American photographer 1946 – 1989).
“Can one have a conversation with an artist who is no longer living? What is the nature of autobiography and biography? Why is psychoanalyzing Robert Mapplethorpe so compelling?”
These are some of the questions Ruby has been working with towards creating a whole new line of works.
“In a way, one can say that, while Mapplethorpe captured surface transgressions, Ruby’s response has been to take the inside outside and shove it in our faces.” [x]
The catalog itself catches your eye right away with its reflecting golden cover and the red stained typography in the front. I wanted to figure out why especially this shiny cover caught my attention and found this phrase online:
“We have long been obsessed by shiny objects – from the latest glimmering gold iPhone to the sheen of a pair of high heels. … It is humbling to acknowledge that despite our sophistication and progress as a species, we are still drawn to things that serve our innate needs–in this case, the need for water.” [x]
This is a search that started as a response to the 'Orthogonal Allegory Thesis' I found at the the essays page of Designblog. It shows the dynamic of my browsing, dealing with the facts I bumped into, as well as the associative impulses that coincides with it. I tried to translate my sketched browse history into a text version, to make it more readable ! If you click it, aninteractive pdf. version will create that experience for you.
I’m interested in taking forms and colours from the world around me and then making objects and drawings which share a similar form or colour. I was interested in the post “shades of blue” by George Kratochvil. A colour chart by Ignaz Schiffermüller, made in the 18th century, to ‘distinguishing between blue’s in the nature’, was the inspiration for a small sculptural work of blue abstract forms. Schiffermuller began by observing the shades of blue in the nature that he observed as a biologist and made an abstract representation of them in the making of his colour chart, which takes the shades of blue into the form of rectangles in a grid pattern. Kratochvil then observes the colour blue, the shapes in a grid pattern, and transforms it into his work. I now come and look through the design blog and am interested in the colour blue, I search for this keyword, open the post that has been made and comment on it. I also observe the shapes of Kratochvils sculpture and have created a drawing which uses them again with the colour blue. The use of past artworks as inspiration causes ideas to mutate in strange and interesting ways- thus is the use of this blog; to provide a library of ideas and images of which to take and re create things from. The drawing I have posted today is part of a dialogue that was started in the 18th century and now exists in a digital way on a blog where you are reading it and entering that dialogue.