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Thinking small, shrinking (hu)man ::


Thursday, November 30, 2017
 

 


How good is your zoom? please device-zoom in order to simulate
the viewing experience of a shrunken person :
 

Short people

Humans have been evolving, growing ever larger with no popular trends in the reverse. This movement is fueled by vast amounts of resources that the human being demands as it grows – things like energy, space, dairy and popular consumer goods. In turn immense costs are inflicted on the environment and fellow human beings, to get such produce on the shelves. This inherited idea that being taller is generally better is widespread in many societies and consequentially those in power tends to also be taller than average..

This collective drive is being fueled by vast utilizations of oh so precious resources that the human species demands as it grows – things like energy, space, dairy and other consumer goods. In turn the immense costs are let out on the environment and fellow human beings, to get such produce on the shelves. This inherited idea that being taller is generally better is widespread in many societies.

But in our time  this aged-old trend be upheld?

The song short people was released by the artist Paul Newman to popular though not universal acclaim in the 1977 with a satirist lyric mocking short people in the favor of the tall. This was quite very ridiculous but also funny, with many short people taking a liking to it on their own. I therefore decided that the opposite of the song, (offered above) should be created to switch the social experience. It’s another sign of the discrimination against short people which does not seem to have receded to this day and beckons the tall as the gold standard.

Throughout vast plains of the internet some attention are being paid to this perceived difference of social values in terms of height. Popular mass media provider Buzzfeed made videos highlighting the many boons of being on the short side (or tall for that matter), and many other accounts add to this. All the more reason to not assume that taller = more prestigious.

 

Short

Going against this widely held belief in the preferability of more height, Dutch designer Arne Hendriks proposes a reverse trend – to shrink. Currently Arne teaches at NextNature of TU Eindhoven, the Design Academy Eindhoven and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and apart from the Incredible Shrinking man is making on a Fatberg.

The Incredible Shrinking Man had, for the past eight years been proposing alternative possibilities diligently curated from all over the world and many specializations. The ultimate “theoretical” goal is to shrink the human average height to 50 centimeters, and greatly reduce the material demands that society consume. The endless litany of social observances and projects featured there offers wondrous though perhaps hard to implement promises to redesign human beings.

Man chicken

 

This is a good opportunity to examine the role of a change maker – if it is indeed possible, and if so how can anyone bring about such a leviathan and un-instinctive changes to the world. Perhaps someone have a brilliant idea, but how then should they show and communicate it to the rest of the world. With this project, Hendriks chose to continue contributing to the development and contribution of this project for the past eight years. Through this sustained timeline, examples have emerged across time, culture and region to show that this thought has perhaps been something lurking in the back of our mind. From this unique body of research Hendriks, often referred to as an artist establish short term, pop up studios in art establishments that keeps evolving with a bigger body of research every time – the latest being Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and ‘invite’ visitor to fish through the considerable body of research including a wall of postcards each illustrating a small info.

 

Studio of suspended disbelief

There seems to be no clear connection from the project’s base in such white cube spaces to major established institutions, namely the government and commercial entities so one wonders how far can this idea go? However upon a closer look in the project’s heaps of documents lead to references to the real world abounds, with a prominent example of the Thai government’s policy to encourage the consumption of milk through its multi-state collaboration, the The Thai Danish dairy company. The government’s policy aimed for project growth of its younglings of 6cm for male, and a rather lesser 2cm extra for females. Hendrik’s admirable research length is able to uncover other unseen details of our society through his dedication to the Incredible Shrinking man. And he is not the only one doing something about it.

shirinking-man12

Mass damon resized

 

This idea has also recently taken off on the Hollywood mainstream albeit in the form of a badly reviewed film, ‘Downsizing’ in which the development of new technology allow the protagonist to choose to downsize his to body to a tiny size, smaller than even a hand. The concept of shrink here is thus illustrated to the extreme, although it is important to note that even though one of the reasons to downsize in this film is impeding human devastation on the environments, which perhaps mirror the situation in our real world, Paul the lead character has another main factor to downsize, namely the financial perks of being able to spend more. His assets of $152,000 becomes a gargantuan $12m when converted and perhaps enable him to splurge and consume even more in a large estate. It is not surprising too that the film’s title of Downsizing alludes to the unsavory act of corporate efforts to cut cost and relief its employees. The notion of going small gains a comical element in Downsizing but nevertheless highlights the need for alternative ways to reduce our hazardous impact on the environment, large part of which are being fueled by the footprints of gigantic big corporates – whom dystopian downsized world has to deal with. The film’s little community worryingly mirror the flawed outside one.

The world is a complex place and being more mindful about the hidden details, whether it be the gargantuan, empirical human footprints on the environs which this day few can deny acknowledging these hidden worlds as Arne Hendrik’s incredible shrinking man project discover are vast and fascinating. Somehow this idea of an ongoing research that involves you, and invites all to add on, is very attractive. 

And who knows maybe you will now see more traces of going small in your life!  

P.S. If you’re interested in Arne’s approach to shrink, take a look at this video where he presents his research and a closer look at the studio of suspended disbelief here, and thank you for your up close attention.
 

 

The Aesthetic Green


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Facing the future access to resources and the wish to preserve today’s climate, changes need to be made.
Looking at the world of design there has always been a tendency to broaden the horizon of consumers, buyers and users. Designers found ways to deal with daily life difficulties, which weren’t considered as a problem until there was a solution, as well as they made groundbreaking discoveries. Some designers are pioneers in developing and processing innovative materials into aesthetic products and others find solutions for social and psychological conflicts by approaching them from unusual angles.
In the last years the concept of sustainable design raised and increased, showing it’s today’s presence in plenty of remarkable projects with approaches diffusing across various disciplines as fashion, architecture, product design and even fiction.

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This is to be seen at exhibitions such as ‘Change The System’ in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, where many projects were dedicated to sustainability.
So Eric Klarenbeek, called the designer of the unusual, who developed a 3D printing material based on straw, water and Mycellium, the threadlike vegetative part of fungus. Printed into a thin layer of bio-plastic the material can gain stability through drying and – in Klarenbeek’s case – become a chair. He went even further and created possibilities to 3D print with only local materials as algae, potato etc.
Remarkable is the aesthetic presence of the final products. Cups, vases, bowls, which you simply want to hold in your hand but cannot as they are displayed in the showcases. This might be what makes a researcher become a designer: using the power of aesthetics to create a bridge leading from innovative development to the manifestation of the product in daily life.

Unfortunately many green designers are seen as criminals when it comes to aesthetics. Next to the pursuing of sustainability as something of moral value, aesthetics are sometimes seen as luxury and therefore a waist of energy.
People who are already familiar with sustainable values, seem to see the beauty in the ethics.
However, this understanding of beauty requires the motivation to consume with a small footprint. A motivation which wants to be spread.
Thus, the power of an object’s visual appearance shouldn’t be underestimated. It can communicate and celebrate ideals and make users value the object and what it stands for.
Experiments in interaction design even reveal that people consider objects they emotionally bond to, as more functional – and use them more likely.

In the end we conserve only what we love.”
Baba Dioum

Thus objects which don’t attract us on an emotional level, will simply not be used and kept.
If it’s not beautiful, it’s not sustainable. Aesthetic attraction is not a superficial concern – it’s an environmental imperative.” wrote Lance Horsey in his book The Shape of Green. He is the first to write and examine the relationship of sustainability and beauty. According to him “beauty could save the planet” as in the end people consume and use what they love. Horsey here uses the example of wolves and dogs to enhance his theory:

The fate of many things depends on whether they please people. Wolves might seem heartier than dogs, but there are 50 million dogs in the world and only ten thousand wolves. Which has adapted better? This view of nature may give you pause—should other species exist just to please us? But as a principle for design, it is essential. If you want something to last, make it as lovable as a Labrador.

grün7 grün4 grün5 grün3

We personalize things we use – and we use things which are personal.
Based on this theses, Jonathan Chapman helps to create an alternative consumer’s philosophy, than our present ‘throw away’ society has. He developed a new design strategy, called Emotionally Durable Design.
Through the conscious shaping and strengthening of the emotional bonding between consumer and object, one can endure the using period and thus reduce waste. According to him this can be achieved through the consideration of the following five elements:

How users share a unique personal history with the product: Narrative
How the product is perceived as autonomous and in possession of its own free will: Consciousness
Can a user be made to feel a strong emotional connection to a product? Attachment
The product inspires interactions and connections beyond just the physical relationship: Fiction
How the product ages and develops character through time and use: Surface

This results in products such as the Stain tea cup of Bethan Laura Wood – an object which gains character through being used. It builds up an individual pattern of tea stains, according to the personal ways of drinking tea.
To establish this design approach further, Lance Horsey asks the question:

What if we created a different approach to aesthetics, one based on intelligence and not intuition? Can we be as about how things look as we are about how they work?

Answers will lead to new aesthetics based on the complex connections of efficiency, sustainability, character, endurance, and the potential to develop with the users personal demand. An understanding of aesthetics which goes beyond an object’s physical presence.

ATTEMPTS ON A RESEARCH ESSAY, COMPLETE SERIES


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

 

claesfrontcover

 

1:
The designer of this catalog is unstated and unfindable and probably dead.
But that’s no good, so lets start again.

2:
During this assignment we were asked to chose a recent edition in the library based purely on its design, in order to research it for the coming weeks and write a publication on it.

Narrowing down my choices to 2 books Henk advised me one was a classic (he owned 4 copies) and the other he knew nothing about. Which was which he wouldn’t tell, so I followed my instinct. I settled on “Skulpturer och tecknigar 17 Sept.- 30 Okt”: a catalogue of Claes Oldenburg’s work from Moderna Museet in 1966.

Safe to say Henk doesn’t have a copy at home.

3:
Emailing Moderna Museet led to nothing fruitful.

4:
The librarian at the Rietveld Library said he would help me research.

He told me:
“Many designers in the 60s weren’t credited at the time because being a designer was so applied. who cares about them? Its all about the artist”
“Claes’ partner was actually dutch… but that doesn’t help you. Fuck.”
“I bought a Claes Oldenburg book last week.”
He said some things about the Moderna Museet but, again, “It’s no use to you. I don’t know”
He wished me luck.

5:
The librarian at Rijksmuseum told me:
“What is your question? I don’t understand your question?”

6:
Last February I went to a seminar by Nasan Tur.
Sat among the group was a woman (about 50) who was neither introduced nor introduced herself. For the sake of the narrative, she will be called Cecille. Cecille was conflicted about many things and had earlier that day talked herself into great confusion about the significance of a plastic Marylin Monroe compared to that of a plastic Buddha. At some point it all spilled out: an architect for 27 years, fed up of not being able to practice creativity within her job; taking a year out; putting everything on hold; trying to start again.
In trying to solve this issue Tur referenced Oldenburg as an example of an artist using interior design and architectural ideas in an artistic form: suggesting Cecille might learn from this. It was insufficient, she said: “There is no space for art when you build a house”.

Then Tur, exhausted by this statement: “Of course there is, make tiny doors”, Cecille: “Then people will keep banging their heads and they will get sick. We cannot live among sculptures”.

front coverclaes back cover

 

They were talking in riddles. She said “Kitsch is the repression of death”, and he: “Kitsch is the sweetness of the soul”. Cecille here being the front of this catalog, and Tur the back.

 

b+w sinksoft sink

Imagine above your two images: on the left a large black and white photograph of a sink and on the right a deflated, dilapidated version sown out of what looks like bouncy castle material: but here I promise not to dwell too much on content but what this content gives to the form, for there are 20 other pages like this in the book.

Here the designer has chosen not to separate the book by sculpture, photograph, sketch but by more obvious subject. For example:“sink, sink.”
“house, house.”
“ironing board, ironing board.”
“light switch, light switch.”
and beneath this one we may see a statement such as “my room is filled with cigarettes the size of cannons”
It becomes almost farce: such poetic expressions beneath large representative works of art.

The layout provokes:
“how typical of ‘art’ to be so obscure, to lay things next to each other and leave the audience to draw parallels.”
One gets the feeling you can assign meaning to almost anything, a little like this publication so far- so now to look at something slightly more grounded.

7:

1pingpongtable_1100
“Skulpturer och tecknigar 17 Sept.- 30 Okt”

2banan_1100a

 

In fact why I chose the catalog- apart from vague memories it evoked- was because of its simple design: the paper is thin and dimly laminate; the font is understated and normal; the arrangement of the text is practical: it sits more or less where you expect it to. The catalog is thin, glue blinded and flops slightly when you open it. Small black borders outline some images but most are left just as they are. These images are often black and white and the coloured ones are stuck in. Initially I thought this was a design decision to emphasize certain works but I found out it was just to make the printing cheaper.

Pulling various other Oldenburg books and catalogues from the library might, I thought, give me some much needed context.

 

3curve_1100
“Claes Oldenburg: Large-scale projects, 1977-1980”above Barbara Rose’s 1969 study of Oldenburg, catalogue Museum Boymans van Beuningen Rotterdam 1983, below.

4red_1100

 

Comparing a catalogue from Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam 1983, Barbara Rose’s 1969 study of Oldenburg and a book from 1980 called “Claes Oldenburg: Large-scale projects, 1977-1980” to mine, I found them all to be remarkably similar, even down to the thin black borders on some images. Two of the books were published in New York so I checked to see if they had the same designer. They did not. However on reading Rose’s acknowledgements I noticed she directly thanked both Claes and his wife for all of their help and even “good meals” they shared during the time of her research.

Perhaps Oldenburg gave some hint as to the style he expected with his work, after all the candor of the design suits Oldenburg’s work so well: which is also presented nonchalantly despite its surreal actuality.

8:
The designer of “Skulpturer och Tecknigar 17 Sept.- 30 Okt. 1966” remains unstated and unfindable and probably dead.

In trying to research it seems I have confused myself and various librarians. The best I can do is to conjure up some lose image of a designer, in a dimly lit office in 1960’s Stockholm; disregarded because their career choice was too “applied”. It is purely assumption- but somehow a nice one- to imagine Oldenburg influenced the design in some way.

Anyway, I think I will send a copy to “Cecille” in the hope that she might make smaller doors.

So you like patterns?


Sunday, November 26, 2017

The book I choose to research is called ‘Biogea’ and was written by Michael Serres, and designed by Jason Wagner. Published in 2012 by Univocal Publishing, which Jason Wagner co-created with Drew Burk.
From the design of this book and from other books that Jason Wagner has designed I can see hints of his personality if not that then definitely his direction of interest. The way all the patterns are so precise and clean cut gives me the impression that he has a methodological nature and an obvious love of patterns both simple and complicated, while enjoying a subtle use of colour. As seen in another book designed by Jason Wagner ‘Variations on the Body’, which is also written by Michel Serres.

Variations -Cover

The fact that Jason Wagner is a part of the Univocal means that a critical look at the company can give an insight on the designer and ultimately the design itself.

Univocal Publishing was founded in 2011 as an independent publishing house specializing in small-scale editions and translations of texts spanning the areas of cultural theory, continental philosophy, aesthetics, anthropology and more. Univocal’s books including Biogea combine traditional printmaking techniques with the create evolutions of the digital age and feature letterpress covers designed by Jason Wagner, who demonstrates the technique in a video.

https://youtu.be/qwQSNhor1EQhttp://

Using techniques similar to this the publishing company oversaw the printing and binding of books from 2012 to May 2017, in which it ceased operations and merged with another company. This could seem to fall down to Jason Wagner who is stated to be moving on to pursue other projects.

But why did I choose this book? I decided on this book for a variety of reasons. I enjoyed its’ simple yet complex design containing a neat revolving spiral-like pattern which is placed in the middle of the book and looks pleasing to the eye. The pattern it self drew my gaze as I found it really intriguing as it resonated with my own interest in complex and unique patterns which I like to create.

The plain colours and easygoing layout of the book for me made it feel more approachable. The design it self didn’t take anything away from the content, for sometimes I feel that the cover of a book can sometimes give you false expectations of what it contains. Being misled into buying something based on its looks. This book however balances this nicely I think by not taking anything away from the content but instead relating and highlighting the themes within.

Biogea

The Typography is placed on top of the design and relates to and supports it nicely. Accentuating its colours and giving the book a clean and natural feel. The pattern initially drew my attention to the book, but as I took a closer look I found that the texture around the design on the cover felt good to the hand and gave it a thicker and more solid feel. This impacted on my decision as the pattern and texture subtly blend their delicate qualities together to create a book that i found aesthetically pleasing. While the design since imprinted on a thicker material felt noticeably different making it stand out from other designs and books.

The almost scientific complexity of the simple and delicate design also relates well to the content of the book for it’s a mixture of poetry and science. While also presenting a philosophy that merges the humanities with all creation. This has made Michel Serres “one of the most intriguing thinkers of his age”, and I believe is a reason why Univocal publishing has design and printed most of his books. Because of the authors philosophical and poetic inquiry sings praise of earth and life, and what Michel Serres names singularly as ‘Biogea’. The design relates well to the content as it mixes light fresh colours with an intricate pattern, which gives a natural clean aesthetic relating to some of the topics within the book. Some of the obvious examples being the use of blue in the typography which links with text within. “ Today we have other neighbours, constituents of the Biogea; the sea, my lover; our mother, the Earth, becomes our daughter; this beautiful breeze which inspires the spirit, a spiritual mistress; our light friends, the fresh and flowing waters.

Even though the design itself is quite precise it has a sense of movement to it and gives the book a poetic feel to it, this also relates to the content, as it’s a mixture of poetic statements revolving around natural themes. “In these times when species are disappearing, when catastrophic events such as earthquakes and tsunamis impale the earth” the author wonders if anyone “worries about the death pangs of the rivers”.

The author asks the same question of philosophy “as the humanities increasingly find themselves in need of defenders. Today, all living organisms discover themselves part of the Biogea”. Knowing the content of the book also ends up shaping my view on the design of the cover as the series of lines almost create a shield like swirl or sea creature, protected by the bold strong title Biogea.
 

Biogea, designer: Jason Wagner, Rietveld Library Cat. no: 157.3 ser 3

The Continuing Story of Life on Earth


Friday, November 24, 2017

Hamburger Eyes. The Continuing Story of Life on Earth… Bizarre title aside- hamburger eyes? life on earth continues!!- what attracted me the most was the cover, more specifically its texture. The pleasant sensation of its grainy, bulky surface on my fingertips reminded me of snowy twitches of bad TV signal, or, perhaps more curiously, the thick, shiny, rough surface of the corridor walls in my primary school in Russia (a serious throwback!). A visuo-tactile experience. A tactile eye (a Hamburger Eye?)

cover-backside_1200

The object-oriented appeal of this catalogue is emphasized by the cover’s minimal design: front- one black and white image, framed simply and straightforwardly, no text; back- modest typeface (and size) of the title, another black and white shot, Kunstverein München. The Continuing Story of Life on Earth is the sixth installment in Kunstverein München’s Companion series, produced in collaboration with Roma Publications since April 2015,  and was released on the occasion of the exhibition by Hamburger Eyes at Kunstverein München. I’m still not entirely sure what Companion series is all about, other than quietly beautiful, tactile books; book-objects. They are artist/exhibition books primarily, all clad in that leathery grain and defined by simple, sharp covers and minimalist layouts; images taking up full pages, and separated completely from text, which always has its own section. I have managed to get hold of two more publications from the series, You’ve got beautiful stairs, you know (artist book for/by la Vasiljeva), and Serving Compressed Energy with Vacuum (exhibition catalogue for Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven). Both have the same multi-sensory appeal of a well-designed object; as publications, they are direct in their materiality but somewhat elusive in their origin and intention: where did they come from? Who made them?

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design-theory-2_1100

Companion is conceptualized and designed by Julie Peeters , a Brussels-based graphic designer, editor and educator. For the sake of this brief research we are going to conflate the series with the person behind them; she is credited under ‘identity’ as well as under graphic design. Companion is Julie Peeters.

Peeters deals primarily with exhibition-related printed matter- booklets, posters, catalogues; on her website you can find examples of ‘anthologies of installations’, exhibition designs, as well as credits for the identity of Lithuanian and Cyprus Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennial. Peeter’s signature minimalism, as seen in Companion, is consistent throughout her design practice: simple yet bold covers without titles (if possible), text relegated to its own section in the back, simple layouts that let images unfold, breath, softly assert themselves. A prime example of this is Julia’s design of Full Colour by Karel Martens, published on the occasion of an exhibition in Tokyo. Graphic, enigmatic cover; title humbly relegated to the spine ; images taking up the whole page, on every page. Never a literal representation, a book by Peeters is an autonomous object, which augments its origin (an exhibition, an artist’s practice), yet has a character of its own.

Full Colour OUTSIDE

Full Colour INSIDE

Upon closer inspection the book’s identity unfolds; The Continuing Story of Life on Earth is not just Peeters. Hamburger Eyes began as a small xeroxed zine, turned into a magazine, and has evolved into a publisher. Publishing since 2001, they have developed their own signature vision of photography-

‘Ray selects images for their almost unexplainable impact, for their ‘epic’ qualities that exceed understanding, that SURPASS LANGUAGE…’
very Peeters?…

and a self-assured design style-

‘the current format is black and white printing on matte stock, print run of 500 copies, 6 x 9 inches, 64 pages, with PERFECT bind

carcrash_1100

catalog pages1_1100

The exhibition

which spawned this curious book (‘facsimiles of spreads from the back issues of Hamburger Eyes’) points to the mutually informative relationship between the design and the content. Each image was exhibited unframed and face up on tables, ‘as if a zine were being collated’. Hamburger Eyes promise to focus on the quality of a given image, rather than on the quality of its framing or installation ~ ~ ~ ~ The Continuing Story of Life on Earth has a very simple yet occasionally claustrophobic (two images stuck to one another on one page, with one blown up on the other) layout that recalls the intimate space of a zine. The book also houses an essay, that weaves throughout the whole book and is punctuated with tiny images- who made the choice when it comes to this punctuation? The publication is authored by Chris Fitzpatrick (editor?…), who also initiated the exhibition; one has to always consider the relationship between the designer and the author. The Continuing Story of Life on Earth is a collaborative effort shared between the two. Here content informs design, but also design informs design: from a zine to a photography magazine to an exhibition and back again trough the catalogue to our book.

Hanburger Eyes /The continuing story of life on earth, designed by Julie Peeters, Rietveld Library Catalog no: hamb 1

Words Don’t Come Easy


Thursday, November 23, 2017

A

 

Object

  1. A material thing that can be seen and touched. (Oxford)

2. A thing external to the thinking mind or subject.(Oxford)

3. Something mental or physical toward which thought, feeling, or action is directed.(Merriam Webster)

 

Conversation

  1. Exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas (Merriam Webster)

2. Talk between two or more people in which thoughts, feelings, and ideas are expressed, questions are asked and answered, or news and information is exchanged (Cambridge, Oxford)

 

Recognition

  1. Knowledge or feeling that someone or something present has been encountered before.(Merriam Webster)

Identification of someone or something or person from previous encounters or knowledge.(Oxford)

The fact of knowing someone or something because you have experienced it before.

2. Acknowledgement of the existence, validity, or legality of something. (Oxford)

Agreement that something is true or legal (Cambridge)

3. Appreciation or acclaim for an achievement, service, or ability. (Oxford)

Special notice or attention (Merriam Webster)

 

B

 

F.R DAVID is a biannual journal- founded, edited and typeset by Will Holder-concerned with ‘the organization of reading and writing in contemporary art practice’. It is chunky: a rectangular block. Like a brick. Or a novel: An object. This is what drew me initially to the Autumn 2017 edition- ‘Recognition’- and is illustrative of an important aspect of Will Holder’s work. His interest in the thingness of words” is manifested physically, not only in the shape and feel of the journal (something which he plays with more explicitly in “Black my Story” an exhibition catalogue in novel disguise), but also in additional items that come with every edition- A book mark and a postcard- things that very much ask us to hold them in our hands. A specific rule defined at the founding of F.R DAVID stipulates that they are printed on the matte side of the card, the gloss side left blank (This is also true of the cover). Another, dictates that seemingly mysterious letters on the spine of each edition when placed together will eventually spell out F.R DAVID’s maxim ‘Words don’t come easy’. Of course, the 80s hit of French pop star, F.R. DAVID, whose name is appropriated hilariously as though it were the author’s on the cover of this intellectual, literary-art journal.)

This kind of inversion of commercial publishing convention is present throughout ‘Recognition’ (and the rest of Holder’s work): images are placed oddly on the page, sometimes even overlapping with the text; the typeface shifts incongruously to ‘American Typewriter’ for one text only; images of text are used at points rather than the typed words; footnotes expand uncontrollably to fill entire pages. By subverting our expectations, Holder makes us extremely aware of the materiality of every aspect of the publication- both literal/physical and linguistic. The event of publishing too becomes an object: Holder organizes performances with readings in strange, poetical formats with quite trance-like elements. Constantly he is reacting against the increasingly conventional, stream-lined nature of the graphic-design industry, a world of “branding agencies and viral strategy analysts”

 

fr-david-cover_950 R.F.Davis-Spread_1100

 

C

 

Will Holder told me about the role of page space and layout in his work in allowing room for multiple meanings:
“My work allows all present to have a voice, and often uses the page to score this polyphony and dissonance.”
In particular, he is concerned with the reader’s contribution to the meaning of a text; his work is conceived of as a collaborative exercise between author and audience and designer and printer and publisher and all who have played a role in producing it. The ongoing, dialogical qualities of book design become increasingly important with the modern explosion of information sharing. In an era very much preoccupied with notions like ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ we need to find ways to re-legitimise published opinions.
“We could say that given today’s onslaught of information and multiple views, reading is an exercise in comparison, in order to distill one’s own position; and not regurgitate what others want you to”

 

F.R. DAVID being a journal, has to accommodate multiple voices more actively even than a publication with a single author. Each text is subject to the “inflection of [its] neighbours”. In catering to this and in embracing it, Holder intersperses separate texts in the ‘Recognition’ issue, using two different style sheets: While some typographical and formal limits are imposed for continuity, there is diversity within these limits, informed by the content. The original typesetting of articles has been maintained where Holder deems it relevant. And in all of these decisions he acknowledges the subjectivity of his own voice, pointing out “that relevance is dictated to me by my reading of the material”.

 

F.R. DAVID as well as many of Holder’s other publications uses primarily ‘The Doves type’, steeped, appropriately, in conversation and history and mystery: Its origins are in The Doves Press, founded in 1900 in London (since when it has been banished for almost a century to depths of the River Thames and then dramatically rediscovered). Its celebrated fount of metal type was designed with the intention of ensuring that it did not distract the reader from ideas within the text itself, ‘the thing intended to be conveyed’. The significance of this sentiment in relation to Will Holder’s intentions is apparent. So too is a playful irony: He is strongly conscious of the agendas of typefaces and the impossibility of one that obediently serves content, rebelling, in fact, in ‘the non-linguistic or extra-linguistic qualities of language’.

 

fr david preface Doves-Character-set-650x1055-July-2016

 

Mischievous subversion of a devise like this epitomizes Holder-style. He leaves questions- about the nature of the publication (a mysterious new magazine, ‘Staples’ with very minimal and odd content, for example, is entirely unexplained); the route we should take in reading it; and the boundaries between earnestness and farce, unanswered. We must surrender to the ambiguity of the work.

F.R.David, designed by Will Holder, Rietveld Academie library catalog no: magazine

The Kraft van Sandberg


Thursday, November 23, 2017

YELLOW

kraft

   kraft

RED

  kraft

BLUE

kraft

  RED

       kraft

              kraft

           kraft

CatalogueS_7eorihgeoirgh

size : 190 x 254

9 jaar stedelijk museum amsterdam

1954 – ’54

voorjaar 1954 tentoonstellingen

stedelijk museum amsterdam van abbe-museum eindhoven

collectie philippe dotremont

cat. 116

stedelijk museum amsterdam 4.7 – 28.9’59

50 jaar verkenningen

in de beeldende kunst

uit de eigen verzameling

en uit bevriende particuliere collecties in nederland

cat.212

stedelijk museum amsterdam 11 jan. – 18 febr. ’63

francis bacon

cat. 326

19.10.2017

Look what I found, this old and cheap looking dark Bacon catalogue! So small but yet so distinct. 5 pages folded together, with only two staples to bind them into one unified object. Kraft paper next to coated paper. Primary red next to brown. Full page picture on the cover and on the inside. These are combinations that catch my attention. They oddly fit together. The design is so particular, and yet I cannot find the name of a designer on the inside.
Why?
It turned out to be obvious. The catalogue was made at a time that Willem Sandberg was director of the Stedelijk Museum. And almost all the catalogues that were made then were his design.

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From 1945 to 1963, Jonkheer Willem Jacob Henri Berend Sandberg, better known as Willem Sandberg, was a Dutch typographer and museum curator, born on the 24.10.1897 and died at 9.04.1984, was the director of the famous Amsterdam modern art museum: the Stedelijk.

Taking over the direction of the museum after World War II, he put all his energy and ingenuity into changing the face of art in the Netherlands, starting by changing the face of the Stedelijk, physically and spiritually. He enabled the museum to a far more prominent place in society. Sandberg was a very resourceful man and faced these changes from many angles: posters, typography, architecture and of course also catalogues; he monitored all of these interfaces to the museum and actively involved in their production, creating by himself all that was linked to it. We can feel the influence of his vision until this very day. Looking at his catalogues today is looking into a life’s work of strong beliefs.
« I think that 328 catalogues were made under my auspices. I assume that around 275 were made by me and the rest by other people. Just guessing. »
Making art accessible to all, was one of Sandberg’s main goals. Envisioned the museum’s infrastructure in a perspective that would make it attractive to all and not only to serious bourgeois on a Sunday afternoon stroll.
« The background to my museum policy has always been that on the one hand I tried to encourage the staff to think of it as their museum, that they participate in it, and that on the other hand I wanted to give young people the feeling that it was their museum. »
One of Sandberg’s biggest aims was to change the relation of people to art institutions, making them more attractive. He even wanted the museum to come to the people, and make them spontaneously relate to the place. To accomplish this he promoted art among young people. Changing the status of art in society should begin by changing the status of art in the young people’s mind.

 

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His work perfectly reflects this wider accessibility. Sandberg liked things to have simple and natural aspect. You could see it by the size of his catalogues, all pretty small and thin.

 

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It is also one of the reasons he was drawn to wrapping paper and used kraft paper in much of his work, despite the critics he got about it.
« I could make catalogues the way I wanted. I was subjected to a lot of criticism, because of the packing paper I used in them. I wanted the pictures to be printed on the highest quality paper, but the text could easily be printed on packing paper or on normal newspaper. It didn’t have to be precisely right, just so. I am an anti-perfectionist. »

 

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The bright primary colors he used inside of his catalogues, or on covers, mostly with his typography, where a legacy of the Bauhaus, a matter of taste, but also a choice to make the catalogues immediately attractive, their colors being absolutely eye catching.

Specific paper for specific content. The paper brings the content to life, makes it organic. It is what allows ink to exists: it gives birth to informations, narrations, visuals.

 

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The paper’s choice plays with the reader senses. The touch, the looks, the sound, the smell. Surprisingly, as one can see in the Bacon catalogue, Sandberg’s choice of paper didn’t necessarily make the reader’s reading easy. The combination of kraft paper and the small Helvetica font even tend to make reading difficult.
A cover, hard or not, a content, thick paper, sometimes no cover. Content printed on the same paper, or similar paper that doesn’t draw attention to itself with a layout, pictures and colors. That is what readers are used to. I ran along the shelves of my bookcase but could not find any books that had a different choice of papers like Sandberg’s. Or only very few. Even though this choice can be partly understood because Sandberg had to innovate in times with little financial playing room. Therefore in the 40s and 50s this combination of cheap paper for text and coated paper for pictures was more common.
Sandberg’s signature can be found in his choice to make a wide contrast in his composition by putting kraft paper next to bright colours. When you put them together, obvious similarities appear between all of Sandberg’s catalogues. Yet they are all very different in a subtle way. Because of the choice of color, paper, or composition, that permanently changes. Sandberg’s design served the content and the artist that he was promoting. And even though he had his preferences, he would constantly innovate, like in the Léger Catalogue from 1957 where there is nearly no text to be found, but only this wonderful composition of pictures and ink in a well thought juxtaposition of several different kinds of paper.

 

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« i believe

in warm printing

and i like vivid colors

in particular red and blue

sometimes yellow

i dislike violet and green

but for violent contrast

i rarely use brown

except

tobacco scrap iron

or wrapping paper »

When we think of books in general, we tend to think more about mind, intellect, and not about their physical presence in the world, with another purpose than to contain and to teach. Still the design of the book makes the difference from a simply nice object to contain with a purpose tending to share or propagate. Sandberg with his signature, made a difference.
Therefore I wish to leave you here with what I was left after diving into Sandberg’s work: the incapacity to unsee his signature, once it was seen.

Sources :
Willem Sandberg Portrait of an artist, Ank Leeuw Marcar, Valiz Amsterdam, Werkplaats Typografie Arnhem
Sandberg graphiste et directeur du Stedelijk Museum, Ad Petersen, Translation to french Daniel Cunin, Institut Néerlandais, Editions Xvier Barral

Rietveld Academie library catalog no: bac 12

Why not?


Thursday, November 23, 2017

64 pages bound between a red start page, a blue end page and slick grey canvas covers, held together by a yellow spine. Marite traced her finger over the slight dents of the lettering- “Topmotiviert” in a harmonious diagonal that fills the cover so effortlessly. The book felt molded to her, felt so comfortable and accessible.

 

Inside, colourful photos of the messy behind-the-scenes of a exhibition setup. One photograph per page, neatly cropped and centered, an orderly catalogue of obscure images. There is no text inside, not even on the start and end pages. The only text with the book is the title on the cover and brief publishing information on the back, as well as the library number: bill l 1. Mysterious, Top-secret. Marite’s curiosity is stirred, igniting her thirst.

 

The photos are taken by Linus Bill himself. His own works in a “state of limbo between being documentary and works themselves”, from the exhibition “Was nun?” at Photoforum Pasquart in 2011 in Biel, Switzerland. The book can be related to the rest of Bill’s works due to its manipulative relationship with size and form. Bill often creates small-scale graphic work such as screen prints, which he then blows up to large works. He has manipulated the size and context of his work in this book, minimizing large works to a small, delicate documentation. The enigmatic compilation is what intrigued Marite, a conundrum that doesn’t need to be solved. No questions asked. The book holds up autonomously without the backstory, becoming a new artwork. But she tried anyway, for the purpose of her project. Alas, she couldn’t live peacefully on with this simple affair.

 

A few days later, Marite is in class introducing her book to her peers. It doesn’t take long, her speech is straightforward like the publication and their practicality goes hand in hand. Her hand lay endearingly on the cover.

“You match the book, “ observes Henk, regarding the rhyme in the colour of the book and Marite’s grey sweater.

“Ha-ha,” she says, “grey and minimal on the outside, colorful on the inside” Quelle cliché. Is the title Topmotiviert also a reflection of her? A prophecy? What does this mean for her? A challenge perhaps? She ponders on her relationship with the book. They were subtly molding together, the book taking over and swallowing her. There’s a jitter somewhere inside her; how can 64 pages and two grey covers jolt her so jarringly?

 

When Marite got the chance to meet the publisher from Rollo Press, she had questions. She had studied the book and her affinity for the book grew stronger by the day. Her eyes had studied the immersive colors and her fingertips had studied the glossy, smooth, creamy-feeling paper, 200 grams at least. It pulled her in and she willingly floated into the depths of vibrant offset printed colors. Top-quality.

 

Hello nice to meet you thanks for meeting with me this won’t take long.

 

“So how did you come about publishing this book?” she started off general, studiously watching the publisher casually flick through it. He shrugged, “well Linus had some money left over from the institution for the exhibition and we had worked with him before so we thought why not.” Marite nodded seriously. Why not, she thought, it almost sounded like an invitation. The book was teasing her. Her heart jumped. Before her mind escaped to the clouds, she refocused on the interview.

“And this title, this diagonal, it’s so captivating,” she said, staring hungrily at the book.

“I just thought it would be kind of funny. It’s difficult to get a perfect diagonal so it’s pretty all over the place,” said Rollo. All its curves and edges, its perfect imperfections.

Marite’s chin quivered, “and the typeface? Is it…” she bit her lip, “is it… Helvetica?”

“Actually it’s a typeface made by a guy who teaches at Rietveld. It’s a font he discovered in an old children’s book and it’s got these really nice perfect round Os and this little wave in the leg of the R.” By this time, beads of sweat had begun forming in the nape of Marite’s neck and in the back of her knees. Her blouse felt tight.

“Thank you so much, it was lovely talking to you, I must go.” She pulled the book close to her chest and dashed out; knees weak, head swimming.

 

Arriving home, dusk setting over the city, she laid the book on her bed. The pink shadow of sunset caressed its canvas bound surface. Marite lit a candle. “We have become one,” she dragged her cigarette, eyes burning with lust. Top-love.

Photography: A Reproduction


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Photography: A Reproduction
Johannes Schwartz’ exhibition Blue, Turning Grey Over You at the Annet Gelink Gallery [x] shows photographs of photographs that Piet Mondrian took from his paintings. In other words, Schwartz’ works are ‘reproductions’ of reproductions. Nevertheless, one should note that Schwartz’ intention goes beyond documenting or copying art works. While Mondrian argues that photography is mainly suitable to imitate art works rather than to be an art form itself, Schwartz proves otherwise by depicting Mondrian’s reproductions, address book and records in photographs exhibited as autonomous art works. Hereby, Schwartz positions himself in a greater debate in the history of photography. The tension between photography as document and personal expressiveness has been the core discussion concerning the status of photography as art.

Nowadays it seems self-evident that photography is seen as art form. This, however, has not always been the case. There was already disagreement on the artistic potential of photography in the 19th century, when the medium was introduced. Nevertheless, it had by far the same recognition as painting. Moreover, photography was often considered a mechanical – rather than an artistic – practice. A century later the distinction between technology and art was put in question. The Bauhaus artists had a multi-disciplinary approach and aimed to integrate design, art and modern daily life. This questioned the position of photography and lead, particularly in Germany, to a highly topical debate during the 1920s. The Bauhaus artists considered photography, as product of modernity, suitable to depict this Modern Era. This was also stressed out in the article “Painting and Photography” (1927) by Ernst Kállai, editor of the Bauhaus Journal i10. Even though Kállai admitted that painting was a higher form of art, the Bauhaus’ approach on photography was still quiet controversial at the time. The Frankfurter School theorist, Walter Benjamin, claimed that art works have a certain authenticity or aura which photographs –whether a mechanical reproduction of a landscape or an artwork – do not have (1935). Mondrian wrote a few lines about photography that comment on and contradict Kállai’s article (1927)[x]. He considers the medium, as Benjamin, a mechanical practice suitable to imitate or reproduce objectivity. He did not value the creative or artistic potential of photography. Mondrian made reproductions for albums that enable him to show and explain his paintings. After that it was no longer necessary to explain the development of his work in his studio. This allowed him to show only his latest painting. Hence, photography was not used as an artistic expression, but as a tool to establish himself as an artist. Interesting is to add that there were only black and white photography at the time, which forced Mondrian to describe the colour composition of his work in the albums as well.

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Johannes Schwartz PM #2, 2017

 

Johannes Schwartz saw Mondrian’s albums along with other personal belongings at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RDK), when he was asked to document them for a magazine. This gave him the opportunity to see objects that are normally are not publicly accessible. Schwartz was particularly fascinated by the albums, which demonstrated the motivation and working drive of the artist. Mondrian took great effort in making high quality reproductions and describing the paintings carefully. The limitations of the medium at the time – e.g. being in black and white – did not seem to bother him and instead he found ways to overcome them. Schwartz got interested in creating a possibility in which more people would see Mondrian’s work attitude. However, his goal goes beyond documenting the objects for an exhibition. Instead, he plays with the (re)presentation of them. Mondrian’s reproductions, for instance, are photographed in colour and put on a wooden shelf with a blue-grey wall in the background. In one work different ‘reproductions’ are grouped in one line, noticeably build up from different pictures photoshopped next to each other. All these characteristics remind the viewer that the photographer took different decisions and actions in the making process. The latter raises questions that refer back to the central debate. It also doubts Mondrian’s position [x]… Do reproductions have the capacity to imitate or reproduce objectivity? Can photography in itself be objective or do the choices of the photographer inevitably evoke subjectivity? Does the intention of the photographer decide whether it is a document or an artwork? These questions, from the many one could ask, put the earlier mentioned discussion in a contemporary context. The visual aspects of the photographs add a conceptual level to the works, which differentiates them from reproductions that are merely meant as a copy. His work aims to intellectually activate the viewer and invite him/her to make associations, reflect and take a position in the debate. One can also go a step further and state that the works themselves provide an attitude towards photography. The exhibition shows that throughout the centuries, photography has developed to be part of the visual arts and that a conceptual level allows reproductions of reproductions to be autonomous works of art.

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A video reproduction of reproductions of reproductions
When visiting the exhibition, I started to think about the role of photography in general and the fact that the medium has never been as accessible as it is today. Everyone can take pictures and videos with their phones and share them globally. This consequently raises new questions about the relation between photography and art. In this train of thought, I filmed my gallery visit on my Iphone. The voice-over is a fragmented reproduction of a conversation I had with Johannes Schwartz about this exhibition.

Mondrian, Rietveld, Theosophy.. wait, what???


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Have you ever heard about theosophy?

We didn’t either, but check out this article because then you’ll know how it influenced Mondrian and Rietveld’s work.

 

Theosophy- what does this even mean?

 

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It is a unity of Religion, Science, and Philosophy that combines a variety of belief systems in its search for an underlying universal harmony. Basically, it is everything, therefore you have to be very focused to understand what specific ideas it defends and how is this shown or practiced in art and life in general.
It is also a doctrine of religious philosophy and mysticism (so it isn’t a religion itself), but holds that all religions contain elements of truth.
Theosophical writers hold that there is a deeper spiritual reality and that direct contact with that reality can be established through intuition,  meditation, revelation, or some other state transcending normal human consciousness.
Theosophy has influenced many artists among whom were Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Gauguin, Malevich, Gerrit Rietveld (and some others from De Stijl movement) and Pollock too. This beliefs played a crucial role in the work of this artists, whose works were seemed to search for the understanding of spirituality.
All in all, theosophy seeks to integrate perception and thought, the natural world and the spiritual work, science and religion.

 

How did theosophy influence De Stijl

 

De Stijl magazine was publishing the group’s design work combined with theoretical writings which also contained mysticism. Members were deeply influenced by theosophy which was also an important part of Bauhaus. You can see that in the way they rejected any form of naturalism in favour of a formal abstraction that connected the movement with Russian Constructivism.

De Stijl group wanted to create a new kind of art, architecture and design in order to raise a disillusioned humanity from the horrors caused by World War 1 and as many artists throughout Europe, they attempted to liberate the arts from tradition. They wanted to change art from individual to ultimate, universal. Their vision was based on deconstructivism – reducing the universe to fundamental elements and forms – the vertical and horizontal lines became the symbols of universal harmony, to which were added primary colours red, blue and yellow along with black, white and gray (considered non-colours). Even if you don’t understand the deeper meaning of theosophy, these are the things you can recognize in artworks of De Stijl movement.
Anyways, members were aiming towards geometrical and technical art which would be an experience as a whole. They were trying to give art a spirit of forms and mystification.
What was important for them was purity in architecture, the absence of organic and personal forms. Like theosophists, members of De Stijl believed in the presence of deeper spiritual reality, whereas a direct contact is established through a state transcending normal human consciousness. They brought a sense of material, intellectual and spiritual unity to art, architecture and design.
 

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Theo van Doesburg’s work related to Neoplasticism – a work from Vilmos Huszar

Mondrian as a member of De Stijl

 

His path to Neoplasticism

 

Mondrian intensified gradually his expressive manner of painting and began to have a more and more intensive use of colours, that eventually lead him to the need to depict the visible aspects of reality.
From 1908, Mondrian began to work in search for a truly form of painting. The artist came to the conclusion that the pure, intense, inner colours (the primary colours) and a simple manifestation of the line (horizontal and vertical) could help reach an abstract form of art that would be suitable to the spirit of the new modern age.
In 1917, Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg founded the group De Stijl. Mondrian used this magazine as a vehicle for his ideas on art, and it was actually in the magazine where he defined his aims and the term Neoplasticism. Though Mondrian established his only visual manifestation/painting style: Neoplasticism, based on philosophical and moral considerations associated with theosophy, this name was also applied not only for his work, but also for the art that the De Stijl circle practised in the different areas.
The intention would be to use the form and line to reduce the visible reality to its essence. So, in Neoplasticism, all the abstraction is connected with the reality. The elements are displaced from their visible form, but reflected in an abstract dimension.
As Mondrian himself considered:

”As a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form. The new plastic idea cannot therefore, take the form of a natural or concrete representation – this new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour. On the contrary it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour.”

Mondrian uses the basic elements of painting: line, form and colour in their purest, most fundamental state, creating compositions with different lines and planes, verticals and horizontals, neutral and primary colours in a universal visual language that everyone could understand intuitively.
Two years later, the architect- designer Gerrit Rietveld joined De Stijl, which had a significant impact on the Neo-plasticists’ ideas and production.
Influenced by theosophy’s ideas, Mondrian reduces all elements to straight lines that cross and form various sized squares and rectangles and restricts the palette to pure neutral primary colors and black, white and grey. This was his proposal to represent the universal order, rather than the physical meaningless world.

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Modrian’s texts on Neoplasticism

How is Neoplasticism connected with theosophy?

 

Piet Mondrian was raised in the protestant church and later on, in 1909, joined the Dutch Theosophical Society, which was one of the main spiritual movements in the Western society at the end of the 19th century. This Society was founded in the United States but quickly spread throughout Europe and had an immediate influence on art, particularly in the Netherlands. In fact this influence was so visible that forty Dutch artists participated in the exposition organized in 1904 in Amsterdam for the Theosophical Society’s International Convention.
From this time on, theosophy was to be a major influence in life and work of Mondrian.
In the journal De Stijl [x], Mondrian published some articles about the influence of Theosophy. In this articles, the artist analyzes the role of traditional art that he considers as a consequence of the lack of harmony inside of man (conflict between matter and spirit) and the imbalance between man and nature. For Mondrian, theosophy was the answer to this imbalance. Theosophy principles could, in his ideas, bring consciousness of the self, and as a result, bring the harmony in this relations.
For him, when the consciousness of individuality or, in other words, the concept of spirit emerges, two conflicts emerge with it. The first one would be the conflict between this individual spirit and his physical body. The second one, as a consequence of the first one, is a confrontation between man and nature, generating a ‘disharmony between man and his surrounding,’ or simply ‘the tragic in life’ as the artist considered.
In this way, we can consider that Neoplastic art arises from the same principal as traditional art does- from the perception of an imbalance inside of man. However, Neoplastic art tries to represent an absolute truth directly: the idea that if the artist represents it, is because he knows it, and not just some partial and accidental truth as traditional art seems to do it.
The aim of Neoplastic art is the representation of the absolute, almost like religion. By reaching this goal, he would be able to help the common man finding his inner balance. How? Modifying the external world to another one capable of bringing some inward balance: by transforming the surrounding environment, he would transform the man itself, and consequentially the society.

 

“Art –although and end in itself, like religion– is the means through which we can know the universal and contemplate it in plastic form.” (Mondrian, 1918)

 

Neoplastic art’s objective is to restore in man a balance with his environment, lost when man gains consciousness of his own individuality. Neoplastic art should be dissolved and fused into and with life.
For the artist himself, neoplastic art shouldn’t be limited to painting but rather extends to architecture and urbanism, and in this way make a real change in the environments. Mondrian considered that each artistic disciplines should perform a specific role, and together they should reflect the common harmony of the universe.
Therefore, for Mondrian, painting’s task would be to act as the guide for the rest of the other disciplines and eventually be dissolved, if the task is successful, into architecture, urbanism, life.
We can consider that theosophical beliefs are expressed in Mondrian’s neoplastic work, both, theoretically and concretely, in a constant demand for a true theosophical art.
Art is, in this way, a reflection of the absolute, “the Radiating Center” (as Theosophy calls it), which is the original force, creator of everything (idea that nature and spirit are manifestations of the same original whole: universal/cosmic order).
The artist, thereby, is the “translator” of a higher reality, and his works must repeat the representation of this “Radiating Center”.
Art should reproduce the conflict between opposing elements and the solution for that same conflict. The image of harmony cannot be static, but represented by multiple dialectics: two levels of elements, among which, simultaneous oppositions are produced (line/plane, vertical/horizontal, female/male, color/colorless…) The universal force/cosmic order/ the harmony, is so expressed in the duality between this contrasts.
While searching fot the harmony between opposites, Mondrian aims to help common man access his own inner harmony. By transforming the entire natural environment, the artist would establish the balance and reflect the image of the common origin of all creation: of the absolute. In this balanced environment, the common man can reach his inner equilibrium.

 

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 Composition A, Piet Mondrian (1920)

 

Gerrit Rietveld as another member of De Stijl

 

He was born in Utrecht in 1888. His father was a cabinet maker and when just a little child, Rietveld joined the family workshop. His apprenticeship was steeped in the traditions of the Arts and Crafts movement which can be seen in his early work (first attempts of furniture design).
In 1911 he opened his first shop in Utrecht and started studying architecture. As many others, he was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. By 1919 he became a member of De Stijl and became friends with its members Huszar, Theo van Doesburg, Robert van t’Hoff and others.

 

What influenced Rietveld’s work?

 

Theosophy played a major role in Mondrian’s art, but since Rietveld was a member of De Stijl too (although he never actually met Mondrian), we can also see the influences of the proclaimed philosophical ideas in his work.
In De Stijl architecture and design, Cubism was again influential but so also were Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie House designs, with their asymmetric free-flow of interior and exterior spaces. Despite all that, Rietveld’s ideas were more down to earth and less philosophical that the ones of Mondrian and Doesburg. He didn’t speak frequently about his work. Therefore the interpretation of it is based on the more philosophical tenets of the other De Stijl artists (members were very different considering a way of thinking) and it sometimes seems as if the designer’s voice may have been overshadowed.
Rietveld’s painted Red/Blue chair became the archetype of the movement, it was also the first time that the De Stijl colours, usually used 2D, (on Mondrian and van Doesburg’s paintings) were applied to a three-dimensional object. It was the first major piece of furniture to accord with the movement’s principles – conceived as a spatial composition, conspicuously disregarding comfort, traditional construction techniques and concepts of decoration (built on a series of horizontal and vertical planes, provides a clear expression of the group’s ideas).

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Gerrit Rietveld: Red and blue chair

 

With the Schroder’s house Rietveld created a totally original vocabulary in building construction and in the treatment of interior living space. The complex, asymmetric cubic construction of horizontal and vertical planes and lines encloses and releases space in a three-dimensional equivalent of a Mondrian painting. Linear elements are red, blue, yellow or black; surfaces white or grey.

 

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Gerrit Rietveld: Schroder house

 

A major effect on Rietveld was also Frank Lloyd Wright’s work who was a functionalist and a part of an International style. The most influential details from his work were the flow he produced between interior and exterior and also the use of verticals and horizontals. You can also see that in Rietveld’s last work, Gerrit Rietveld Academie where glass surfaces are made in a way you can see through the building, therefore it merges with surrounding nature.

 

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Frank Lloyd Wright: Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright: Robie house

 

While quickly recognized as a major contributor to the development of Modernist architecture, interior and furniture design, Rietveld’s later work was largely confined to furniture design. Most known examples are his tubular steel and wood Beugelstoel chair, wooden Zig-Zag chair and wooden Crate chair. Among his other design work was the Netherlands pavilion for the 1954 Venice Biennale and a sculpture pavilion in Arnhem, Holland, built in 1955.
His furniture was designed for a mass production to be available to a large audience, even though at the end is wasn’t mass produced nor standardized – no two versions had the same dimensions.
It’s funny how when you see buildings, you mostly don’t think about the theoretical background of their form. Until we started making this research, we were more focused on functionalist features of buildings and which movement or era they belong too, but now we find ourselves thinking: ” Do this shapes represent some philosophical ideas?”

 

To conclude …

 

It’s interesting how the abstraction of Mondrian and Rietveld’s work seems to be so far from theosophical ideas – when you see the chair or a painting you don’t make an instant connection.
Mondrian and Rietveld both seems to try to make art that could reach the majority of people –a painting that would have an universal meaning (Mondrian) and a furniture that would be available for masses (Rietveld) – Art for everyone, art that would make life better. In a way, one can consider it an utopian idea, since the majority of people does not really understand the theosophical thinking … So the question remains: How educated should someone be when experience their art? Or in other words, to what point do you have to be aware of the purpose of the work to have the full experience of it? [x]

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Now you know. Awesome, isn’t it?

a cooperative research by Neza Kokol and Carlota Bóia Teixeira Neto

Centre of attention: elephant or cockerel?


Monday, June 5, 2017

Ten seconds of watching Arttube’s video about the Designing the Surface-exhibition (posted on the website of het Nieuwe Instituut), brings you Chris Kabel, “concept and curator”, saying the following:

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Although just having visited the exhibition, I did not remember seeing a thickset, usually extremely large, nearly hairless, herbivorous mammal (family Elephantidae, the elephant family) that has a snout elongated into a muscular trunk and two incisors in the upper jaw developed especially in the male into long ivory tusks, [x] at all.

I started doubting if I had seen the same exhibition he was talking about but looking at the video we pretty surely had. But also on the screen (see above) there is no elephant to be seen. Maybe the zoo (or, so called fun fair)

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is too big for the elephant to be found? Impossible. Kabel even mentions giving the elephant centre stage,

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so it must not be too hard to find this “elephant.” What is really meant with the elephant in the room,

an obvious major problem or issue that people avoid discussing or acknowledging [x]

is the surface in design: apperently ‘avoided’ (as quoted above) or ‘ignored’ (Chris Kabel), en therefore in Designing the Surface, put in the centre of the room. Also should be to be found in one of the two other animals in the room: the golden cockerel.

The golden cockerel might be a bit rare - it’s one out of the three animals (an elephant, a zebra and a cockerel) n the zoo –  it is one of the first objects to be seen and written about:

ACT I PATINA: How does the fate of a golden cockerel and his companions intertwine with that of the tormented tale of two fountains, the first crafted from copper and the second one built from brass?

All to be found in a zoo perhaps? Or in the near surroundings of a church?

Gold-plated weathercock, lent by Museum de Roode Tooren, is a weathercock like any other apart from the fact that it’s gold-plated, and therefore it doesn’t lose its shine.

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Normally sitting on the church’s tower in Doesburg, shining bright and golden, the weathercock is certainly put in central view. And now put on the ground, looking at it from closer by, we are obviously not looking at the rotting wooden cockerel inside, but at the shiny golden elephant.

 

Gold-plated weathercock. Museum de Rode toren. exh.cat.no2-patina

Niban-Kan building, Tokyo


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Walking around Shinjunku, Tokyo’s district, one may have noticed the unusual buildings standing out on its east side.
The Ichiban-Kan (“building number one”) and the Niban-Kan (“building number two”) were designed by the architect Minory Takeyama in 1966. They were commissioned by a Korean Toyota salesman, asking him to design both buildings at the same time, and finally completed in 1969. Respectively, one was home of 49 tiny bars distributed through its eight floors, and the other hosted bars, clubs and sauna.

Slides from the 1970s, reproducing the two buildings. Domus Archive

 

In 1977, the cover of Charles Jenks’ The Language of Post-Modern Architecture features an enigmatic Japanese building. It raises the Niban-kan as an icon of Supergraphics, along with its adjacent brother building the Ichiban-kan.
Niban-Kan’s colored surface has been painted over by now, blending now with Tokyo building’s flat designs.
But what made this building so special, beside its colorful surface ?

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In the 60’s, East-Shinjuku was the land of protest and porn, where one could meet the radical, intellectual, and other underground Japanese subcultures. This area’s hyper activity led to an important street competition, where signs and speakers had to be bigger and louder.
Minory Takeyama was challenged to implant a new architecture in the given context. It had to stand out of this saturation of lights and neons, while blending in with the energy of the district.

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Entrance of the Ichiban-kan building

 

Japanese architecture is typically vertical, where each floor has a common area with entrances to shops and bars. As architecture was being more and more influenced by western design in term of multi-storey models, Takeyama exploited the local past of architecture and brought the verticality back to the front, creating a vertical street through the facade. The late-Modern “High Architecture” aim to reveal the movement directly from the outside, such as what’s going on, and how to get there.
The front shows the circulation, to arouse curiosity. This is completed by signs that bring an informative layer to the surface. At night, neons reflect on the glazed area, which emphasize the gap between the surface and the platform, and reveal part of the building’s activity.

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Left: a view of the Niban-kan interior today. Right: The same space with the original flooring, as seen in a 1970s Japanese publication, Domus Archive

 

The Niban-kan and the Ichiban-kan are representative of Tokyo’s relation between private and public space. You can go from the street to the seventh floor without encountering a door. By directly opening to the street, those buildings breaks the boundary and transmit a feeling of public space from the street.

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Entrance of the Ichiban-kan building, with a direct access to the outside

 

In the exhibition “Designing the surface”, The Niban-Kan was presented as an item from the, ‘agency’ category, through Charles Jenck’s 1977 bookcover.
Agency is an action or intervention producing a particular effect. Minory Takeyama’s colorful and ambitious buildings were possible to realize at that time, far from the actual strict rules of urban planning. This freedom made it possible to bring local tradition in the actual architecture and –promoted by Charles Jenk– become a figure of Post-Modernist Architecture.

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Ichiban-kan and Niban-kan seen from Google street view 2016

Architecture became almost a banal experience, we are surrounded by buildings that we don’t question much, because the more we see them, we forget them. We take design for granted. But sometimes one stands out and makes you travel.
It’s fascinating how design, by small changes of the interface, can revolutionize the way we experience our environment.

 

Charles A.Jencks, The language of Post-Modernist Architecture 1977-1987, London. New Institute. exh.cat.no.61-agency

Gaza: A leopard never change its spots but a donkey can change and get stripes


Thursday, May 18, 2017

A cages, a theater, a library and research center – Gaza Zoo, the first one ever in the strip. It opened in January 2006, the same month Hamas, the radical Islamist, came to power

I have chosen to analysis what it is to be Authentic. Authenticity is the undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine. In my opinion, the artist chose to use the donkey as an analogy for the Palestinian people that their “authentic life” is to survive in extremely difficult living conditions. The donkey throughout history has been known to be used for labour by humans and are often overworked. In comparison, animals such as zebras and horses are always seen to be more superior than donkeys. Zebras and horses tend to have more rights and often protected from abuse as though they are on a pedestal. Similarly, the Palestinian people are represented by the donkey who have also been stripped of their true identity as they are not recognised by the Israeli government. Palestinian people have no citizenship rights in the west bank and in Gaza. It is as though Israeli people have superiority and the Palestinian are inferior and are left powerless.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/20436092)

faux is made in imitation, it is artificial, it is not genuine. Faux is the opposite to authenticity as it masks itself to look like the real deal, however underneath lies the truth. The chair, similar to the donkey is sat on by man and are used, changed and adapted. Sincere imitation is achieved through genuine feelings. Portraying these feelings of how you see the world and its changes are the keys to make it.

In the picture below, the man seen is Mahmod Berghote standing with one of Marah Zoo’s world famous painted donkeys. The zoo’s two white donkeys caused an international media frenzy after Mahmod and his brother spent three days painting stripes onto them using black hair dye. Unable to find an animal trader to bring a real zebra through the tunnels from Egypt, the Berghote family decided to make a fake pair using white donkeys. The story was reported all over the world as a feel good news piece and often used as an example of the Palestinian people’s resourcefulness during the siege of Gaza.

 The idea that imprisoned people can make a business out of smuggling, locking up, and exhibiting animals is deeply ironic. There are about a dozen Zoo’s in Gaza and their story is intertwined with world politics in a way that would be unimaginable anywhere else.

In 2005, Dr. Saud Shawa, a veterinarian, decided to establish Palestine’s National Zoo. For Shawa, this was about education and showing people how to care for animals. Supported by international donors, he built a spacious compound with big movement, won elections in Gaza. The border was closed and the initiative was halted before it could get started.

As of today, not a single zoo has been profitable. In fact, there is only one person in the Gaza Strip who benefits from the business: Abu Nadal Khalid, an animal trader. He has animals drugged and smuggled through the infamous system of tunnels leading from Egypt into the strip.

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The Swedish/British Anastasia Taylor-Lind (Great Britain, 1981) is a photojournalist connected with the VII Photo Agency, with a special interest in the Middle East. She made this photo of the Marag Zoo Zebra, Gaza 2009.

 

Untitled photo by Anastasia Taylor-Lind. Exh.cat.no.32-faux

Didn’t I see this before?


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Didn’t I see this before?

Have you ever had this strange, but uncertain feeling that you have experienced something before? An overwhelming sense of familiarity? A moment you are not sure if something similar or the exact same thing already happened? Then you belong to the majority of people who have had a déjà vu. Scientists are still unsure how to explain this phenomenon. Some try to link it to memory functions, claiming that familiar events can trigger memories of forgotten information. Some say it’s a more like a “memory check” of our brain: a signal that there is a conflict between what we think we’ve experienced and what we actually did experience.

There are other interesting theories as well that try to explain a déjà vu:

Precognition: We have the power of foresight. A déjà vu is the evidence that we are actually able to predict the future.

Reincarnation: We have lived before. A déjà vu is the surfacing of a hidden memory, evidence of a previous existence.

Higher dimension: Our consciousness actually exists outside of our physical bodies in a higher dimension, and when a déjà vu occurs, it’s a brief moment when that separation becomes clear.

Parallel universes: There are other versions of ourselves, living in parallel universes. A déjà vu is a moment we share a memory with an alter ego of another universe.

Precognition: A déjà vu is the evidence that we are actually able to predict the future.

 

dejavu-gif

 

In a web app I created for iPads you can move along stories told by various images and collages of hands. Sometimes you end up at a point you think you have experienced before. But is it really the same, or does it just familiar? You might just have a déjà vu.

When browsing through the internet, we often experience this feeling of familiarity. Links and tags create a confusing net of intertwined information, often taking you back to a page you have been before. But because of the information overload we are exposed to, we are often not sure. Maybe you experienced it while surfing through the Design Blog, using the various tags. And you asked yourself, didn’t I see this before?

 

THE DUCK AND THE WHALE, A Play.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

To give my best overview of the creation of the play below is to say a visual campaign was of supplement to a mashed alphabet. Gravity helped me to sit on slow chairs in front of the digital art that was my photo achieve of personal stories, social history and environment. Maybe a dog popped in here or there. It was a process of critical thinking and curiosity to make a personal repossession of the photography. A bit like IKEA did with furniture. I gazed upon the hand in silence, with hidden feelings that I was living the lifestyle of William Chester Minor. My role was a kind of craftsmanship to dye the rules in nature with my own words, words that came to me from simply looking. Some would deem it additive manufacturing, like the work in progress of a futuristic master Azart artist. I was left with a list of words the size of a paperclip compared to the one to the left of me. I don’t disbelieve that if I were to continue my list would fill the human body, now it could fill a large poster made by Jan van Toorn or part of a suit or outfit. Although it would be a never ending process to fill Boijmans van Beuningen. Big here long now I was faced with the problem solving of a typographer, not like Sagmeister but one whose work was fair to say of careless design. The problem was generating a random selection of words to use like animal resources in chaos and order to be the leader and kiss the dialogue. I used a programme that was like some kind of Greek Thonic, that spurted words at me, a surprise selection, which I had to use like a Situationists. On the page the words look like a decoration or embroidery to a narrative surrealism, which imbedded hints of sexuality. To dream like a cyborgian I think I gave the sense of words in animation that in turn has self-made a whole loaf of poetic bread.

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Roots and Branches


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Go on Wikipedia and start a research for something, it can be the most common thing or notion you think about. Then, start clicking on the first link you see, in the sentence that defines what you are searching for. Again and again. If you arrive on a webpage where you have been before, just click on the next link, so not the first but the second one and see where you will end up. Here is my example :

London

london_1100

> capital city

capital_1100

> municipality
> urban area
> human settlement
> geography
> science
> knowledge
> awareness
> perception
> sensory nervous system
> nervous system
> eumatazoa
> clade
> organism
> biology
> natural science
> natural phenomena
> phenomenon
> experience
> philosophy

SQLtree1

So, this brings us to a crucial point. It shows how important arborescence (which means in French from the trunk to the branches) is in a research process. By starting from a very specific subject, you can end up on something you don’t expect to see, something really independent from your first research. By a system of hierarchy, websites choose for you what you should see, in order to make your research larger and more relevant. The concepts presented through the pages are of course connected, because terms are presented to define the notion you are looking for. That is by the way essential for every website : to give a hierarchy. But how? On what logic?

If you follow the previous example on Wikipedia, you can try how many times you want, you will normally end up on the Wikipedia page related to philosophy.

By placing some hyperlinks, you can give an orientation on an internet reasearch. In that sense, links are super efficient tools. Just have a look to what is offered on an everyday internet journey.

But more widely, from the easiest thing, you can always go to something larger in terms of meaning : groups of living species, geographical regions, etc. By defining something, you need an element with a bigger concept to categorize it. Then, is philosophy the final notion, the highest point to reach?

It is basically more than just a simple category in which we can put everything like a cellar where you come to take an old box once a year to remember your sweet childhood.

 

A dopamine delivery service

By spending time by scrolling down, letting my eyes wandering a bit on the DesignBlog, and repeating the same process previously experienced, I found that article by Olya Troitskaya about a concept that defines pretty well this process. It is called “cyberflânerie”. Have a look at it here.

flâneur (word which comes from the french verb flâner) is according to Baudelaire, quoted by Olya Troitskaya, “a person who walks the city in order to experience it”.

By experiencing a part of the internet content in a certain order, you expect something to get, a crucial information, or just an everyday surprise, your dopamine doses maybe. At least some satisfaction.

Play at this (not)serious game, make this fantastic tool a hijacked object, follow the lines, think about this endless journey, how you move through this digital space in terms of pictures and map, with a starting point and an unreachable end.

21g


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

THE DOCTOR OF DEATH

On the 2nd of March at 14:35 I was sitting in the Starbucks at Rembrandtplein, ready to meet the “Doctor of Death”. It may sound like the title of a Blockbuster but in fact the Doctor of Death really exists between us. In Amsterdam. There are many more who have the same job like him but are not willing to talk about it. Believe me, I tried.

I meet Hans S. with mixed feelings. First of all because I was happy to finally find someone who wants to talk about his work and his feelings enrolled with it.

How does it feel like driving a Van filled with tools, make up, a cooling table and 2 big canisters of formalin? Does he whistle when he drives to work?

I was nervous, excited, but mostly curious to find answers to all the questions I had in my mind. It didn’t even matter to me anymore that I was sitting in a Starbucks coffee, listening to jazzy tones and observing the stage, filled with actors

A CALL FROM MY MEMORY

When I was asked to contact a person who’s work we are interested in I saw many pictures in my unconsciousness, but only one was very sharp. It was the picture of a Thanatopracteur. He looked into the camera (it was a scenery of a documentary I watched years ago), commenting: “I am not thinking about the fact that the person is dead. If I would think about his life, I couldn’t do this job as I would loose the focus.” The camera slides back and you see the surroundings of a body, covered by a clean, white sheet which is as stiff as the body under it.

FORMALIN VS. CELL EATING ENZYMES

A Thanatopractuer conserves dead bodies temporary with the help of the conscious use of chemicals. Four minutes after someone dies the body starts to decay. Blood circulation and respiration stops, the body doesn’t get oxygen and starts to release carbon oxides which cause an acidic environment. The low ph level causes cell membranes to rupture, releasing enzymes that would eat the cells from the inside out,……[x]. The “Doctor of Death” slows down the process by exchanging the body fluids, restore or reconstruct body parts in some cases and cover the appearance with make-up.

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TO MAKE-UP THE DEAD

Hans S. told me his daughter describes her dad as someone who “makes dead people look beautiful“. In that sense he gives people who are left behind the opportunity to say goodbye on an open coffin in a respectful way. Especially when people die unexpected the left behinds want to get the chance to see the person one last time before the coffin is closed forever. Hans S. said that otherwise you don’t consider someone as dead. You need to have the visual proof, see the dead person to truly understand the consequences.

NASAL FORCEPS, MEDICAL SUCTION PUMPS AND MORTUARY TROLLEYS

My first intention meeting a Thanatopracteur was all about attending a practise. I was interested in the tools he would use and the process itself as I imagine it a strange scenery and atmosphere to see someone working on a dead body.

Unfortunately it turned out it is not possible due to hygienically reasons and privacy rules. Therefore I had to work with the information I get from the talk.

THE GERMAN CODEX

The most fascinating topic for me became funeral rituals as part of a culture and how they see death in the context of life. During my research and comparing funeral rituals from different cultures my own culture became strange to me. It seemed like other cultures like the Mexicans make death part of life and even celebrate it. In Germany funerals proceed a specific codex [x] in which some points can be designed free depending on the way the body is buried.

I have never been at a funeral as I never lost a close person. I can only make assumptions for myself, exploring the territory like a journalist but also as a concerned. One day I will be at a one.

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THE FUNERAL AS A MEDIUM

I based my design object now on the idea to figure out what would help me to process the loss of a person and make use of the funeral as a medium. The funeral as a medium has the potential to help the bereaved to let go their emotions and share it. Everyone in the funeral came with the same intention and feelings as they had a story with the person who died. This creates an invisible bond between them which helps to feel no longer alone with your grief.

What if there was a room or space after the burial where you could go alone or together to transfer your emotions to an object and let it go whenever you feel like?

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THE RISE AND FALL

The first idea I had was to create an installation with small, handmade objects from different materials that would refer to the person who uses it. Each object would be linked to a ring with a thread and on the ceiling there would be hooks attached. The Thread would go threw the hooks to make the object rise.

However when I was working on the objects I felt there was something wrong with it. It seemed too artificial, too complicated and overloaded. The thread reminded me of a doll house theatre and I felt the technique of rising something would keep your mind rather busy than free.

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THE SUM OF 21g

However I still wanted to work with the body and the funeral as a medium to create a ritual, a shared experience for and with people who need to free their emotions.

While I was working on the objects I developed a feeling for the weight of different materials and started to become interested in it. I remembered from my research the story of a Doctor in the early 20ies, Ducan McDougall, who measured the weight of 5 persons just before and after they died. The result was, that their bodies lost 21 grams after the Doctor considered their death.

SCALE IS A BIT__!

I started to fell in love with the number and made it a restriction to create as many objects I can that would weight 21g in a sum.

I became inspired by the aesthetics of weights for precision scales and wanted to make objects that work as rings. Each ring would have a specific weight attached but will be carried by the person who chooses it.

 Immediately I began working on the objects in metal. However I didn’t had a precision scale during that time. When I already created a small metal collection I finally get a precision scale.

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The precision scale made me realise to stop working in metal and find other materials instead.

THE UPSIDE AND DOWNSIDE

During the process the way how to carry the object became really important. As a jewellery maker I am trained to see the ring-head upside, on the hand. In Jewellery terms it is so to say the main character of the Design. But do I want to communicate that?

((((CONTENT)))) >  DESIGN

The Design of the objects became less interesting to me than feeling their individual weight. It was like you are holding something fragile in your hand and you want to protect it.

So I stopped considering the objects as rings that would decorate your body but start to explore the content. When the object is hanging from the finger you are more sensitive for the weight. You can close your Hand around the object and feel the shape, the surface, the temperature, the weight and it is energy. You start to imagine what could be inside and take all your time you need to carry it with you during the funeral. You would be free to test the other weights or talk to other people to exchange your experience.

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THE WEIGHT OF LOSS

Duncan McDougall was obsessed with the idea to proof that the human have a soul by trying to measure it. For me as a creator it was interesting to work with the restriction of 21g. It became a challenge for me to be directed by a precision scale as it make you operate like a scientist.

The final piece will look like a wooden box on which surface there would be a formula resulting in 21g. Opening the box you would see different handmade weights not only from metal that you can carry with your finger. The box would be a suggestion to  put your thoughts of the dead person into the object and feel the weight of your memories, your thoughts and emotions. They will always stick to this object and you can carry it whenever you FEEL like.

CAPTURED AND CARRIED FOREVER.

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