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Interview to Mr. Martelli


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

 

A few weeks ago I had a really sensible idea. I would have a sit-down with one of architecture’s most progressive faces, ask my questions and occupy their precious time, all in the name of a little assignment. I sent this email out to some emails pulled from the internet:

 

“I know that Mr. Koolhaas and Mr.Martelli (as would be anyone at OMA reading this) must be supremely busy, what with a world filled with commitments, responsibilities and the occasional pause for breath, but I was hoping you could spare a few minutes to a young, art enthusiast with lofty expectations, and help me in contacting him.”

 

Several fumbling attempts at communications; email, Instagram, other emails; (and a flash sighting of him at a crowd at SM some weeks later): I had secured a meeting with Federico Martelli, a proper, nice lad, in Rotterdam the next day. That Sunday I was quite nervous, the interview seemed to have fallen through altogether and only materialised in the last 12 hours. Federico was scheduled to jet off somewhere exotic that day, and I had never conducted an interview. The anxiety gripped me, what to do? I got on a train before I knew where to go, cleared it up with Federico en route, and finally met him in person. I asked Federico Martelli if he was Italian, he said “No.”. Misleading names are a rare sign of genius. After formalities and inviting him to cake and coffee, we presumed to the interview.

Throughout, Federico would emphasise certain things that were of importance to him. Among them are some I would like to focus on: temporality, durability and that architecture makes up the foundation on which him and Rem Koolhaas designed Base °1 and °2.

Martelli explained me how He, Koolhaas and the Stedelijk curators approach the project since the beginning. The collections is recognised as one of the most important in Europe,

the walls are filled with the history of the Stedelijk’s past; more than a century of choices made by directors and curators. What has grown is a 90,000 piece archive to choose from, a supremely diverse catalogue of art reflecting the individuals who have shaped the museum’s existence. The new approach can properly adjust to this diversity as free-choice pathways do away with traditional ideas of how we are guided in our experience. It rids the audience of rooms that follow formulas, instead creates open mazes in which “each wall is a theme”. New meanings can be created by the visitor as two or more walls make relations. Clusters of relation can converge as themes relate to a multiplicity of closely placed others. To summarise: The collection is on display with purposively selected highlights and clusters created by the walls. Two or more walls implies spaces, so relations. These relations are not obligatory and the route around the space remain undetermined and personal.

 

AMO_concept_collage_02

diagram

 

Federico stresses this point, him and Rem are architects. They have designed and built “walls”, not free-standing art display cases, hangers or frames.

The walls are constructed to be solid, Federico and the team spent ages testing re-design to be durable and immutable. They are meant to look solid, some arch over unmoving, as free-standing extensions of the building’s skeleton. This perceived solidity for the audience is a reaction to a fragility in how artwork has been displayed in the past. Free-standing wall within museums, including ones used at the Stedelijk for decades, are seen as aesthetically temporary, provisional. They allow for flexible re-constructions for new exhibitions or for creative freedom in presentation. Bases °1 and °2 extend this trend of mobility and flexibility, yet attach a material solidity that optically asserts permanence. The new walls further allow for greater threshold of art to be displayed, being heavy enough to support differently weighted works. The team faced another challenge to its goal of perceived permanence in the bases’ lighting. Martelli tells of internal discussions with some offering critique of a lack of natural light, arguing that certain, special, artworks would suffer in a space without openings for natural light to filter through, thus being in constant exposure to artificial light. On the other hand, artificial lights if implemented smartly, were found to be able to highlight some works more efficiently, say a cold light that could expose a Mondrian’s vibrant colours. So while the base lacks the natural setting that windows and openings for light to filter through, it can control the direction of light completely thus maintaining the base in one state over time.

All that internal debate, discussions and the good amount of compromises the result of almost 2 years of work is clearly visible today inside Stedelijk.

At this point everything turns out to look like a confidential chat between friends in addition of some little secret funny stories that of course I am not gonna reveal and I will preserve together with the memories of my “official” first “serious interview” of my life

This experience teaches me how many factors are as important as the final result, how many things for the viewer are imperceptible in their individuality but essential to make the whole well balanced and produced by smart studied choices. I hope I successfully find out a bit more about this project and maybe  answer to some of your questions…

 

stay tuned for the next one

Selfie_Clementina-Martelli_950

Final Selfie with Mr. Martelli

 

Putting a book on a bookcase


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I decide to fracture the Stedelijk’s linear path of the new “Base” collection, on a personal/performative dérive, I notice an object, ‘Bookshelf – 1960 – Unknown’ it hangs politely and awkwardly in a small amount of white space in-between a series of wallpaper like paintings by the situationist artist Constant and a collection of Post-War Dutch Design by Jan Van Der Togt. From the bottom up, 3 different coloured rectangular shelves are spaced evenly and fitted onto a thin steel frame, the frame extends an extra 2-3 inches as it curves tightly around 2 nails that are protruding from the wall.The colours, pale reds and yellow and a light grey, a great post-modern colour strategy, they look like faded colours of a Mondriaan.

Screen-Shot-2018-02-19-at-21.00.23

The object was created by the Tomado Company. Tomado is a design company that was very popular in the Netherlands. It has now recently had a resurgence in popularity leading to a very sleek and minimal book being printed called “TOMADO – Van der Togt’s Mass articles Dordrecht 1923-1982” I was very eager to read this until I realised that it was only printed in dutch. The online space were I tried to find sources were also very barren, almost all of the pages where only hosted on Dutch domains that have to get translated via google once you loaded the web page. I didn’t want to struggle with some poorly translated foreign articles so I decided the only way I could get into true contact with this design was through…

1)The Museum – An easily accessible yet unreal space.

2) People – People have experienced real space, people are harder to access. People don’t have large doors where you can enter and exit.

I had heard from Dutch tutors and Dutch friends’ mothers about small experiences with Tomado and offcuts from its history, from what I patched together, Tomado created must have furniture in post-war dutch life because of how cheap it was to produce and purchase. With the popular flat pack system being championed by IKEA at the time, Tomado began to follow suit and made there furniture nomadic; it was easily transportable outside the house AND due to the design only requiring two nails, it became easy to transport in the inside spaces of the architecture. The Netherlands was also greatly improving it’s social housing meaning that instead of families living together in one room, the members of the family dispersed into the different rooms of the house. Children for the first time ever had their own rooms, and with that their first design objects, their first Tomado.

I wanted to see the object in a different space, I used the city for this. Armed only with a creased A4 photograph of the mystical bookshelf and the phrase “Ik spreekt Engels?” I started looking for Furniture stores. I spotted my first piece(s) of tomado furniture accidentally in the window of a coffee shop.

unnamed1

The whole inside wall was littered with the same tomado shelf, around 15 of them, they were hung in a way so that it emphasised the logo “DIGNITA” in thick two-line wall lettering. On the shelves there were bottles of prosecco and cacti that were way out of the reach of any human to grab. This reminded me a lot of how the Stedelijk had exhibited the furniture, it was devoid from any human interaction. I asked where they got the Tomado from and they gave me directions to Overtoom. Here I met a nice Dutch woman who said she does have Tomado objects in sometimes, but it usually goes within “seconds”. I asked her if she used to have any of the furniture when she was growing up and she replied “fuck no” and then said “I hated it, but if you didn’t have it you always knew someone who did”

I now find my self lost in a strange space, it’s a gallery. There is a lot of shitty materials lying on the floor and hung on the wall, curled up straws, large pieces of cardboard and a lot of plastic jelly. I become aware that everything moves in some way, either attached to pistons or to small motors. I go back to what I thought was just some cardboard and I see a small toy camel being spun 360 degrees by a motor. After staring it for around 1 minute I realize I am a camel. Like the camel has a dessert, I have a city, I have to go to different sources to pick up information which leads me to the next source. Through these sources I am given GPS coordinates that I must travel with. I am self sustainable as I access my pocket satellite which I can replenish at different Café’s, I pretend to be a customer and instead siphon their wifi, After I am quenched and have loaded the web page, I travel the city again.

giphy WillemPoos

Eventually I found an antique fair,  after showing my piece of paper and saying the magic word beginning with “T”. I was soon led to meet a man called Willem Poos,

Willem talks to me about how he likes to go to England to buy Tomado furniture and sell it in the Netherlands. He clearly has a passion for this stuff. He also had the bookcase when he was growing up and he said he remembered very clearly that he had a book called “Wim is Weg” translated as “Wim (short for Willem) has gone” I then had the idea of returning to the Stedelijk (the only place I knew the object was) and activate its function as a bookshelf.

I found that the only place selling it was in ‘De Bijenkorf’  an Expensive Dutch mall. The building looked different to how it did when I googled it, it was now encompassed in a outer layer of scaffolding, it wasn’t stable in the real world nor was it stable in my memory. I found the book inside and left for the Stedelijk.

Bijenkorf Wim is Weg

I returned to the fabled bookshelf and upon seeing it I realised this design was placed here because it wanted to be appreciated as a design, yet I found this hard to do as it had no function in the gallery context. It existed as how you would see a photograph of furniture in a catalogue, something that could fit into an empty hole (literally, as in a hole in your apartment) in your life. What I wanted to do was reinsert a personal experience ‘thing’ to make the bookshelf into a design object again. And then I put a book on a bookshelf it stuck out a funny angle with around 2 inches hanging off the edge.

shelve-with-book

it didn’t really fit.

 

Back to intimacy


Monday, February 19, 2018

When visiting a museum, it is often hard for me to decide what to find more intriguing: The exhibited artworks or the visitors walking carefully among them, observing them. Hardly ever do they physically touch, or if it happens, then in shyly hidden ways. Especially when it comes to everyday design objects, there seems to be a big gap in between the visitors and the exhibited pieces, which are locked away from their original function: to be touched and used. During my last visit at the Stedelijk Museum there was for instance a person standing for quite a long while infront of a vitrine where, in between other objects, Kaj Francks „Kilta Services“ was being exhibited.

Franck was one of the designers who developed the „Iittala philosophy“: creating design that is both beautiful and functional, and lasts a lifetime. „Does not ‘beautiful’ ultimately mean necessary, functional, justified, right?“ (Kaj Franck, 1978)

In the center: service „Kilta“, glazed ceramics, production in 1953 – 1975, designed by Kaj Franck

In the center: service „Kilta“, glazed ceramics, production in 1953 – 1975, designed by Kaj Franck

The person looked at the plates and cups inside, slightly leaning against the glass that was separating him from the objects. Why was he so attentively watching them? The longer I observed the visitor observing the tableware and the distant space between them, the more I started to think the glass vitrine away and imagined him having a real physical experience with one of the cups instead: the two being naturally rejoined, exchanging what is deep inside.

‘He holds the cup that is filled with tea, leads it towards his mouth and drinks from it. The content flows in one direction which is his interior. Luxoriously he sucks the liquid inside and the cup seems to be very willing to feed him.

“The cup is the drone of the ceramics world, perhaps the hardest working of vessels and the least appreciated. In the grandest of tea or coffee services, the cup is usually the most underdesigned object, playing the role of subservient pawn to the teapot’s queen.“ (Garth Clark, „The Book of Cups, Abbeville Publishing Group, New York, 1990, p. 17)

He drinks everything of it until it is empty. But it still contains the warmth of the hot drink, as he inserts his finger he can feel it. For a short moment they contain the same warmth, the cup and him: he contains the warm tea and the cup the rest of warmth of the tea.

„Close space! Close the kangaroo’s pouch! It’s warm in there.“ (Le Temps de la poésie, G.L.M. July 1948, p.32)

cup, Service "Kilta", designed by Kaj Franck

Service “Kilta”, designed by Kaj Franck

He shouts into the cup and holds it close to his ear: he hears a distant echo. The echo vibrates a few times and is gone. He holds it close to his breast and feels that it is vibrating synchronously to his heartbeat.

„When we evaluate everyday objects, we should place more emphasis than we usually do on ergonomic quality and tactile sensibility“ (Kaj Franck, 1978)

He fills it with tea, looks at it and it is roundly opened as if it was calling him. He lifts it towards his mouth and his lips connect to the cup. They softly touch and his tongue reaches the wet content. Then the kiss becomes wild.

„Many a slip twixt cup and lip“ (Garth Clark, „The Book of Cups“, Abbeville Publishing Group, New York, 1990)

service „Kilta“, designed by Kaj Franck

Service „Kilta“, designed by Kaj Franck

After finishing he cleans the cup. The cup is very deep, so it is hard for him to reach the ground. He cleans and dries it with care and attention, outside and inside. That makes the cup shine and renews its promissing interior.

„A house that shines from the care it receives appears to have been rebuilt from the inside.“ (Gaston Bachelard, „The Poetics of Space“, Beacon Press, Boston, 1994, p.68)

Afterward him and the cup are cold and empty. He looks around and decides to continue drinking from it: what comes out is sweet. He feels a strange feeling that is increasing and expanding inside of him. It tickles him in an unknown place and he bursts into tears.

„Moreover the cup does not have any immediate sense of drama (…). But that does not mean the drama is absent, rather that we need to examine the cup a little more closely and consciously to discover its sense of domestic theater“ (The Book of Cups, Abbeville Publishing Group, New York, 1990 p. 19)

     "Venus von Willendorf", 1963, by Otto Piene, oil and soot on canvas

“Venus von Willendorf”, 1963, by Otto Piene, oil and soot on canvas

His tears keep on falling inside the cup. It takes more or less three seconds for the first teardrop to reach the ground, the noise sounds far. When the cup is filled with tears he is still crying. He looks inside and sees his face inbetween reflections of light.

„My cup runneth over“ („The Bible“, Psalm 23:, Ezekiel 34:11-24; John 10:1-21)

Suddenly he grabs the cup and throws it against the wall…’

service „Kilta"

service „Kilta”

„A kind of cosmic anguish precedes the storm. Then the wind starts to howl at the top of its lungs. Soon the entire menagerie of the hurricane lifts its voice.“ (Gaston Bachelard, „The Poetics of Space“, Beacon Press, Boston, 1994, p. 44)

As I awake from my daydream, the visitor of the Stedelijk Museum is gone, leaving no trace of evidence for what in different circumstances might have happened between him and Kaj Francks „Kilta Services“.

 

A commentary on the Lower Level Gallery display design for the STEDELIJK BASE


Monday, February 19, 2018

–>On December 14, 2017, the Stedelijk Museum opened its doors to inaugurate the curatorial re-purposing and display of their permanent collection. Under the influence of the research and architectural design of OMA/AMO’s Rem Koolhas and Federico Martinelli, STEDELIJK BASE presents on the Lower Level Gallery, a display and curatorial experiment.

I attended the festivities and found myself overwhelmed by the masses gathered, and the maze of thin steel panel-structures overloaded with works. The crowd of Art enthusiasts traveled the space restlessly and it became a dense environment where all senses where assaulted. Every corner of the space was utilized and the works where closely displayed, interacting and clashing with each other both in context or physically, showing in this first installment of the exhibition pieces from the 1800′s to 1980′s in a great hall tracing endless possible routes by means of the a set of slim self standing steel panels from which most of the artworks where hung or held. Its kind of hard to talk or read about this exhibition if you haven’t seen, so if you are reading and haven’t, and can’t see the animation below, click on the black box.

 

1

 

I have visited the exhibition repeatedly in the past month to informally survey the thoughts and reactions of spectators on day-to-day basis, to get a broader sense of how this specific architectural endeavor on artwork display has been perceived. Eavesdropping conversations and asking around, I’ve heard all kinds of inclinations towards this unexpected environment:   A young student anxiously disapproving a Barnett Newman cornered by a pile of chairs collaged into a wall that, in her opinion, deflated the experience of such a powerful painting into a piece of an absurd scalene puzzle where great art works where being interrupted.

A couple eagerly wandering about the labyrinthine pathways, surprised by the fact that every direction their eyes turned to, there was either a piece provocatively displayed or in conversation with another, that otherwise could have never been intertwined. I myself have been in a constant state of flux about how I feel about it, as in the many visits I have payed to the show I could relate in separate occasions to one or both of the previously mentioned comments, both retrieved from my time in  the BASE’s lower level, dismissing the first floor more or less entirely, due to its conventional curation and display that is densely misted over the experience and for some, controversy of the former. In fact, in the last few visits I didn’t even pass by the first floor and proceeded to focus on the lower level.

Looking for more insight on the stimuli behind the final decision to discharge an overload of works  in this particular manner, I consulted the statements made by the people behind this project. Martinelli expressed in a publication in the OMA’s web project description, that the design and display was highly bound to the way in which and due to the multimedia means of communication function, from a users perspective, people have become prone to focus, process and compare abismal amounts of information. As a way to homologate these tendencies, the disposition and amount of works in the gallery, are in fact, a reflection of these communicative behaviors, where artistic perspectives can be assimilated.

That being said, I still am not sure if I fully appreciate the collection’s display management. If, in deed, it seems to have managed a dialogue between works and compiled and engaging environment to freely associate and compare different works, this does not necessarily mean that it has a positive repercussion on the value some pieces can have by themselves. Even though I felt the heavy devaluation of certain works have been a consequence of this overcharged curation, I have to mention that it has been the very reason I returned and have been in a constant state of critical thinking regarding the reasons behind STEDELIJK BASE’s curatorial experience.

I realize that the dominant ways of communication are shifting the way we perceive things, but should we let them stimulate the way in which we view everything else? Are our lives so strictly joint to  the high tides of rapidly flowing information that it is becoming the standardized form of perception? Is this merely a superficial association? How can we evaluate it, in any case?

Error or hyperlink?


Thursday, February 15, 2018

 

It is tricky to recognize when you are misplaced, it is even harder to respond to it right on the spot. You are supposed to serve your human, you are most and foremost functional and have sublime social purpose. Then your human drags you out of your context so inconsiderately that it leaves you nothing but to show your worn out bottom on the pedestal which supposed to elevate you. As I approach you, by climbing the stairs which is set up next to you, I have the chance to look at you horizontally. Although, a deep and artificial ravine appeared between us. The human expression provoked by your forced position urges me to interact with you but the circumstances leave me unsatisfied.

 

Mies-vd-Rohe-chair_950

 

 Chair by Mies van der Rohe (but it doesn’t matter)

 

The chair was the first object at the exhibition which talked to me through the atypical situation that chance created. The situation was somehow absurd and opened to interpretation. Just as if Pawel Freisler, a Polish avant garde artist would had created it to dislocate my train of thoughts.

Freisler “was negating reality and its status quo by encouraging people to create alternative imaginary order. In his work a given subject or place served as a catalyst for creating an extraordinary social situation.

His actions in public space are a form of probing reality, to reveal its absurd dimension. (…) In 1971 he undertook his first work with a table and a chair. What mattered was the table’s status as a “basic idea”. He was attempting to arouse interest, to break routine, without giving observers any hints as to the real meaning of his activities”.

I found myself in the position of a pleased voyeur, which tickled both my curiosity and fantasy. I was busy with taking photos then I looked around with a sheepish grin. As if I was afraid of being caught on the street while taking sneaky pictures under a stranger’s skirt.

 

 

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freisler

Pawel Freisler – Activities: Table and Chair

 

 

Self-realisation as a spectator helps to stay alerted and turn reflective. Gabriel Lester found another way to break habitual patterns down. He introduced a project (SEEN) in an arts centre where “projections suggested a look inside. The projected scenes are environments where groups of people observe something that is out of sight, hidden behind the wall. This juxtaposition – created by watching a projected environment inhabited by people who, in turn, appear to be watching something out of view – provokes the sensation of the observer being observed, and consequently a higher awareness of one’s active and inverted role as a spectator -

as though watching an image that is quite literally looking back at you.”

SeenF-1600x1027

SEEN (2006)

 

 

Standing and staring underneath the pedestal, the unusual imagery in my head widened my perspective as I was abducted of the traditional and passive spectator’s role that I usually undertake. I started to look at Stedelijk’s way of displaying more critically as their concept seemed to override the artworks so much that whole new stories were about to emerge. My story, and the museum’s story. But certainly not the chair’s.

 

The designers explained, they made the arrangement in order “to  reinforce cross-connections and shared narratives. The lay-out understands the collection as a network of relation rather than as a presentation of individual artworks. To capture these networks, very thin walls define an almost urban environment of free association and multiple relations.” 

 

How much freedom do I have while walking between the walls of the designers’ concept? How much space do the objects have to be explored from three meters high?

 

 Zofia Kulik and Przemyslav Kwiek were post war Polish artistic duo and uncompromising critics of their surroundings. They said once: “The world is half wonderful, half ugly. The humanistic and artistic theories are usually formed in the mood of the former half. This creates a false edifice of ideas and philosophies, especially a false concept of the artist, his mission and values, his false status.

 

IMG_9331_950

 Chair by Mies van der Rohe (exhibition design by Rem Koolhaas)

 

  

Real exchange with the chair could not happen. I could not find anything beyond the meanings that I gave to it. The revealing moment that I experienced did not say much about the object itself. It was about the gap between me and it, and all the uncanny thoughts I filled the gap up with. The chair appeared to be in the weird melting pot of the museum’s peculiar way of showcasing, chance, and my tyrannical associations, which made me unable to explore the chair’s real properties.

But still,

how handy errors can be?

.

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Are they errors to be fixed or useful hyperlinks?

WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY


Sunday, December 10, 2017

 

WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY

Our clothes are probably some of the most tactile and flexible objects surrounding us – touching our bodies at all times. This is probably also why it has been such a hard job for designers and researchers to combine it with the stiff mechanics of technology. The term used when these fields are combined is Wearable Technology. Something that fashion designer Pauline van Dongen has been known internationally for exploring. But while Pauline van Dongens works primarily exist in the span of the human body interacting with its physical surroundings, I find it more interesting to research how technology can elevate our identity through clothing.

 

solar-shirt

 

We use technology to perform our identities online.

We use fashion to perform our identities through garments.

Why not try to physically combine technology with clothes as a way of enhancing how we showcase our individuality and uniqueness.

 

For wearable technologies to become truly integrated with fashion we have to bridge the divide between aesthetics and how we understand technology’s usefulness.” – Pauline van Dongen

 

FASHIONABLE TECHNOLOGY

It is obvious that clothes functions as a protective extension of the skin, but it is just as important that they help us form our individual identities. Our identities are ‘wearable’ and changeable through fashion, and have been so for a long time now. The new aspect of adding technology to this equation will hopefully be able to offer alternative and new ways of transforming our identities.

At the moment, there is already a lot of researching going on and a lot of solutions being proposed as to how wearable technology can change our current view of fashion. This research does not only include experiments like Pauline van Dongen’s, regarding the practical usefulness of technology in fashion, but can also have a more conceptual or aesthetic focus point. These projects become interesting since this is where a lot of the ‘identity-making’ in fashion occurs.

Ying Gao is another fashion designer dealing with the concept of technology intertwining with her designs. But in comparison to Pauline van Dongen she uses technology primarily for conceptual and aesthetic reasons. However, this still interacts between the human body and its surroundings, but does not allow the wearer itself to manipulate his/her clothing. Something I think that would be a logical next step with wearable technology.

 

ying-gaos-kinetic-garments-move-with-sound-designboom-07

 

Other research exemplifies how this self-initiated interaction might become possible. Dr. Sabine Seymour, who is the director of the Fashionable Technology Lab at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, has even written a book with this exact title, Fashionable Technology, that researches the intersection of design, fashion, science and technology. On top of that, several companies are working on inventions involving textile – such as touch-screen fabric. I find this study interesting because it is the steppingstone for making fashion truly customizable at any time. And not only by the external domain of a phone or computer, but by actual interaction with the textiles you put on your body. This idea of technology leading to a more tactile and touchable communication with your clothes – instead of it being dematerialized in a device – also takes technology in a totally new direction.

 

Google+Levi+Strauss+Touchscreen+Clothing+Display+Alliance+Blog

 

INDIVIDUAL TECHNOLOGY

Of course there is plenty of ways to approach linking the gap between aesthetics and the functionality of technology. Personally, I am curious about a solution where that link would manifest new ways of projecting my personal identity. Combining the idea of a, supposedly soon-to-be, future where textiles can act as touch-screens, I have tried to conceptualize how technology can have an effect on fashion and its personal value.

 

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

 

There is no doubt that technological innovations will have a deep impact on the meaning and communication of fashion and thereby identity.

[…] we have now entered an age in which technology is not only a bodily extension, but also a physical improvement, enhancement and expression.”

Throughout your life your identity is constantly changing, so it seems only logical to design new types of clothing that can follow your personal development. As my video suggests, this would be possible if clothing became truly obedient to your personal wishes and could be customized with your own hands. You could then at any given moment change the appearance of your clothing – and your identity. A more analogue example of this is the Color-In Dress, made as a cooperation between Berber Soepboer (fashion designer) and Michiel Schuurman (graphic designer). Although my experiment is limited to colors and patterns, you could imagine that even shape or texture could be transformable too, with the rate technology is developing.

Indeed, this way of customizing your style is already possible, but at the expense of a fast, unsustainable and trend-driven industry. If my (suggestive) model of wearable technology [x] is realized, I believe that this would establish an intimate dialogue between body, mind and fabric – making fashion more valuable to the wearer. It is the relationship you have with your clothes and how it mirrors your personality and emotions, I find interesting to develop further with technology.

Pauline van Dongen’s vision is based on the belief that technology can add new value and meaning to fashion. She does this while focusing on the human body and an interactive relation to its surroundings. I believe, that it is just as important how wearable technology can add an interactive level to our projection of ourselves, and change our relationship with fashion on a very personal level.

 

Results of day-to-day technology and modern media.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

An introduction to: Forensic Architecture. 
Forensic Architecture (FA) is a research based agency located at Goldsmith’s university, London. It undertakes advanced architectural and media research on behalf on international prosecutors, human rights organizations and political and environmental justice groups. It refers to the production and presentation of architectural evidence – buildings and larger environments and their media representations.

As contemporary conflicts increasingly occur in dense urbanized areas, homes and neighborhoods become targets. Casualties come to be in cities, buildings and the ‘safety’ of their own home. Nowadays, thanks to this multimedia era, urban battlegrounds are overflowing with information and data shared to social media platforms. Many violations, undertaken within cities and buildings, are now caught on camera and are made available almost instantly. The premise of FA is that analyzing IHL and HR violations must involve modelling dynamic events as they unfold in space and time and creating navigable 3D models of environments undergoing conflict, as well as the creation of filmic animations, and interactive cartographics on the urban or architectural scale.

 Forensic_Architecture3.top_

These techniques allow FA to create precise, convincing and accessible information that could be crucial for the pursuit of accountability. Architectural analysis is also important because it enables new insights in context of urban conflicts.

The widespread possession of cheap digital recording equipment, the development of satellite communication, the public availability of remote sensing technology and the ability to communicate and diffuse information instantaneously through the internet have made urban conflict more complex, but also generate enormous amounts of data that can be used as potential resources for monitoring. However, these transformations also lead to secondary conflict about interpretation that takes place on news and social media websites. The establishment of new forums of international jurisdiction mean that also contemporary forums themselves become dense media environments. In them screen-to-screen interaction replaces face-to-face deliberation. The combined process of the urbanization and mediatization of war makes FA an urgent and indispensable practice for human rights investigations. FA seeks to respond to these challenges by developing new modes of media research and new modes of media presentation for urban and architectural environments.

 

FA1-6.5-Photo-montage-TO-BE-CROPPED-TO-IMAGE

 

Results of day-to-day technology and modern media. 

Nowadays our lives are filled and dependent on electronic devices, and with that I don’t mean ‘the ones that keep you breathing in the hospital’. It is the smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart watches and what not, that makes that we can function in modern society. Because of it we can keep up with the ever-changing world on a speed that we have never seen before. Now it is a very contemporary debate if this is a positive development, many pointing out the negative. From a subjective and personal point of view I would have to place myself on negative end of the spectrum as well, seeing the unfavorable short and long term effects. Finding out about FA was because of that very thought-provoking.
I will open up a research project that compares positive and negative aspects of modern media and technology use in the present-day.
I will introduce this research through a series of set examples.

 

Generation Selfie

First of all, a negative side to the rise of social media is the deteriorating self image and esteem of essentially Generation Z and the Millennial’s.  Quoting scientist Clarissa Silva:

“Social media has been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression, narcissism and decreased social skills. As a Behavioral Scientist, I wonder what causes this paradox? The narratives we share and portray on social media are all positive and celebratory. It’s a hybridized digital version of “Keeping up with the Joneses”. Meaning for some, sometimes it appears everyone you know is in great relationships, taking 5-star vacations and living your dream life. However, what is shared across our social networks only broadcasts the positive aspects of our lives-the highlight reels.”

The idea of saving and sharing the highlights of our lives has been a long past introduced concept, think about the photography albums your parents made of you and themselves. But in this new form of doing so, we are constantly bombarded with other’s excitements and achievements in life as well. From the envy and hate- love relationships we hold with our online society grows a competition with a non-existent finish line. Seeing photos and videos of your ‘friend’s’ beautiful holiday destinations, their new set of clothing and perfect life is just a start. The image we have our own appearance decreases drastically, not only as an indirect result of the examples shown above, but also the obsessive behavior around beauty.

It has been part of mankind that the vision on beauty evolves over time and differs from culture to culture, but the coming of social networks has changed the game thoroughly. We can change our DNA online to look like what we see as perfect. Setting impossible goals for ourselves in real life, which makes it less interesting to ‘live’ there.

Animated GIFAnimated GIF

Here is a link to an ongoing social media based project using Instagram as publishing base and inspiration input.

 

Panoptical Society

“He who is subjected to a field of visibility and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection”

A quote from Michel Foucault about ‘Discipline and Punishment’ and his theory of the panopticon, referring to an experimental laboratory of power in which behavior could be modified, he viewed it as a symbol of the disciplinary society of surveillance. Jeremy Bentham proposed the panopticon as a circular building with an observation tower in the center of an open space surrounded by an outer wall. This wall would contain cells for occupants. This design would increase security by facilitating more effective surveillance. Residing within cells flooded with light, occupants would be readily distinguishable and visible to an official invisibly positioned in the central tower. Conversely, occupants would be invisible to each other, with concrete walls dividing their cells. Due to the bright lighting emitted from the watch tower, occupants would not be able to tell if and when they are being watched, making discipline a passive rather than an active action. Strangely, the cell-mates act in matters as if they are being watched, though they cannot be certain eyes are actually on them. There is a type of invisible discipline that reigns through the prison, for each prisoner self-regulates himself in fear that someone is watching their every move.

 

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Cross section drawing of how the prison is structured.

 

Nowadays we can question till what extent our privacy is legitimate. Especially in the western world where conspiracy theorists can not stop about ‘big brother’ and the never ending evolutionary steps in technology which make registering everyone’s smallest move and collecting this data easier. Still to be a fully functional in the society we shaped we require the illusion of privacy. It allows us to be fully human. This illusive quality of privacy is not something of the past decade, it goes back to the Hebrew bible. Consider beautiful Bathsheba, who strips for a bath in the second Book of Samuel, an ancient text, only to come under the lustful gaze of King David, pacing on his palace rooftop. Or Hamlet, whose private conversation with his mother is overheard by Polonius, hiding behind the drapes.

 

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Bathsheba at her bath, by Jean de Troy (1750)

Hamlet Kills Polonius

Hamlet killing Polonius, by Leonard de Selva (ca. 1980)

 

This enormous growth of ways to document humanities slightest movements with or without their full realization is not lacking a reason. Governments worldwide are gathering data about their civilians, justifying it by telling us it is for our protection. Like possible terror attack prevention. But why would they need your WhatsApp messages? A connection to your webcam? And access to private files? Princeton computer-science professor Edward Felten explained that simply because it’s cheaper and easier than trying to figure out what to take and what to ignore. “If storage is free but analysts’ time is costly, then the cost-minimizing strategy is to record everything and sort it out later,” Felten noted. Ofcourse this is questionable as well. And we have reason to be suspicious, we all know how classified and mysterious the higher working powers can be. Cases like Edward Snowden’s make us aware of the ambiguity of the top authorities. Snowden, a former contractor for the CIA, left the US in late May after leaking to the media details of extensive internet and phone surveillance by American intelligence. Mr Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, faces espionage charges over his actions.

This being a very contemporary topic, artists (as they tend to do) have taken a liking in the subject as well. At the Sonic Acts: The Noise Of Being exhibition in February 2017, I saw the work of Zack Blas called Facial Weaponization Suite. It showed several masks hanging on the wall and a video explaining the cause. He calls is a protest against biometric facial recognition and the inequalities these technologies propagate. This mask, the Fag Face Mask, generated from the biometric facial data of many queer men’s faces, is a response to scientific studies that link determining sexual orientation through rapid facial recognition techniques. With this work he makes us question ourselves how much autonomy, privilege, power and privacy we let them take away from us. Or have they taken it all already, and is what is left just an illusion?

 

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.

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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.

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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:

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“Skulpturer och tecknigar 17 Sept.- 30 Okt”

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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.

 

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

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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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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

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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.

SC_1 SC_2

SC_3 SC_4

SC_7 SC_6

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SC_9 SC_10

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.

 

Child_Stedelijk

 

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.

 

CatalogueS_11 horizontal

 

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.

 

 9Jaar_Stedelijk_2 9Jaar_Stedelijk_12 100_3 1954_2

 

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.

 

 LEGER

LEGER_2

LEGER_9

« 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.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

 

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?

 

theosophy

 

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.

Mondriaan in Stijl 1         Mondriaan in de Stijl_950

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).

rietveld1
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.

 

 schroder housecover-schroder-house-rietveld-utrecht
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.

 

Fallingwater

robie-house-02-2

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


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