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Archive for January, 2017


Not how but why it’s been made like this


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Designed by COMA (a Dutch graphic design team working in Amsterdam and NYC)

Why ? First impression

Because of the colors. The weight. The shape of the cover. The transparent papers inside. The size of it. Maybe also because it looks like the books my mother used to have and read when I was little.

 

Why ? The object itself

hella copie

Physical aspect

Facing it, the object is shiny, composed of a large not centered title, a long and wide color picture placed horizontally in the middle and a silvery text at the bottom. The object looks humble, not pretentious. You easily guess it’s about a woman but the only thing you can see is male bodies holding red vases. The object wants to be complicated. By framing it’s cover with lines neither the text nor the picture are following, the object seems in a paradoxical state, containing without holding, focusing while spreading.

The object seems to feel comfortable on a table, it adapts to its surrounding. When you get in contact with it, it’s mostly homogeneous cold. At one point, the object asks to be touched further more.

After a week, the object seemed to reject the room I gave it on the floor. The colors of the book didn’t agree with the contact of the blue lino my room is filled with.

d5

Many try outs showed that the object is not cooperating with any of my pockets which made me think that it’s not the type of object you can easily bring with you. Maybe it doesn’t want to be shared.

The investigation on the book and its environment led to the idea that design make an object belong to a place. A shape could apply to many structures. For this case, I could say that the addition of the table and the hands are comfortable for both the user and the book.

It felt like the design of this book is a communication between vanishing in its environment (this conclusion came with experimenting the book placed next to the toilets for few hours) and being dedicated to a specific situation (open on a 75cm height table, in contact with both glances and hands).

 

illudesign

Why ? What does the contact of this designed book to a non-designer person ?

 

Non-Designer Person (NDP) : It’s a book.

Hypothetical Designer Person (HDP) : Yes. Can you guess how it was made ?

NDP : It has a blue wire that connects all the pages and the cupboard cover, so I guess it was industrially sewn. The pages are smaller than the cover.

HDP : Do you feel any rhythm in the layouts ?

NDP : Yeah, you can feel a harmony in the structure and links between texts and pictures. Sometimes the presentation wants to show an evolution, the composition is a bit repetitive. Maybe because of the grey frames that are always at the same place on each page.

HDP : How many colors do you see ?

NDP : Six. Blue, red, grey, black, yellow and white.

HDP : What do you think the colors are based on ?

NDP : I guess that the pictures taken for the book were inspiring for the designers, so the colors must belong to the topic.

HDP : How can design tell something without any words ?

NDP : In this case, you can follow a conversation between how the images and the texts are placed. There are smaller and bigger images, just like the text. The parallel is made by the composition and the sizes.

HDP : Without knowing what the book is about, can you guess the subject ?

NDP : The rhythm of the book is carried with transparent mat papers,  dividing the object in multiple parts. It feels like your are transported from a place to another in a spatial way. You also feel that the positions of the pictures are showing an evolution. As if the book is built through its topic.

HDP : Now that you wondered how esthetic can lead your glance, how do you meet the content ?

NDP : Content can be shown in so many ways. You can say something, and act in a way that says something else. Opening a book that you find esthetic, a book that attracts you and, then, realize that the content is disappointing, you feel like you’ve been cheated. Esthetics can fool you, because design is the structure of the content, it’s what make the content accessible.

HDP : How would you apply these ideas to this specific book ?

NDP : This book lied to me in a way. Because I felt like the content wasn’t worth the design.

 

Why ? How to meet a book without reading it ?

 Defining taste, instinct and anticipation

 

Either you hide your eyes, or you empty your brain.

The first part of the book that you notice is the spine, which is always trying to attract you. Showing all the information you need. Since I have to focus on the object, I blurred my vision to only see color spots on the shelves of the library. What is easily attractive to me is simplicity.

But then, the question that comes to me immediately is « How design can please me and others ? How can a designer can discuss beauty and attraction ? How to anticipate the singular tastes of people ? »

My instinct led me to this book in its visual aspect, and what I define as beauty could lead me to another interest, the topic. Beauty or visual statements can be the link to knowledge. It’s just like meeting someone in a club. First of all, you’re attracted by the spine, then by the cover, and, finally, by what’s inside (if you dare opening). Design is maybe about meeting an appearance to then go further, what makes you want to understand the attraction of what we define as « beauty ».

I’d say that design is the body while content is the mind. As your esthetic cannot please everyone, your mind is flexible, and the information you can get in a book won’t ever sound the same. Both esthetic and content can evolve but the link between how you show and what you show always works as parallel.

In fact, the book says something. The way you edit a book makes the object a story on its own. When you see the evolution of the images and the process Hella is going through, the discussion bellow the pictures emphasize this specific process. While the project is getting bigger, the information on the book are moving. Even though I feel like the book has a repetitive aspect, the pictures taken by Joke Robaard are a link between the content and the visual aspect. Esthetic is built but content is the starting point, so that’s when design has to adapt.

« [Maybe] Graphic Design will need to become a part of the thing and not the thing itself »

Michael Bojkowski

 

What seems interesting, reading back the first impressions I had, is that Graphic Design evolves with technologies. To me, this book can stand for a specific time of the book’s History (the 00’s) as Michael Bojkowski made me realize, questioning « Why graphic design ? ».

Hella Jongerius by Hella Jongerius / Rietveld library catalogue no : jonger 1

content vs appearance?


Monday, January 30, 2017

In high school, my teachers always thought that the content of a book was more important than the appearance. I had to choose my books based on the texts inside of those. Opposite to what I was asked to do high school, in this Basicyear I was asked to choose a book on its graphic design. I was pretty surprised when I was told to because I am totally not used to do that. I liked the idea of it immediately. At the same time, I actually did not really get why we had to reflect a book’s appearance until we had this guest presentation of Elisabeth Klement, a teacher from the graphic design department in Rietveld. She showed lots of books where she did the graphic design for or just really liked. She told us that the content of a book is dependent on the looks of it and also the other way around.
So when I was wandering through the library, this specific peachy/sand/pink colored book caught my attention immediately. I remembered that Elisabeth showed this one in her presentation. I took it out of the shelves and saw this nice bold font on the front saying: ‘From A to K, Aglaia Konrad’

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The book is like an encyclopedia. In an alphabetically placed order, you go through a list of words which refer to the rapidly advancing process of urban globalization. The content is focused on the relationship of society and spaces and how they change. On the cover of the book, the letters and words A to K are spread playfully over the cover. The A and the K are echoing behind the title as big geometric shapes which remind me of modernistic buildings from the past 50 years. graphic designer Linda Van Deursen made the decisions about the fonts, the cover, and the initial layout. She created an architectonic feeling in all these choices. The co-designer of the book is Eva Heisterkamp, a freelancer who got this job from Linda because she thought the job would suit her.

Aglaia Konrad is an Austrian photographer. She has a fascination for architecture, urbanization and especially their transformation. This leads into rough photographs of abandoned buildings, unfinished constructions and city infrastructures without any human beings involved. She experiences architecture and urbanization as something overwhelming. Something elusive. It is not simply about architecture but about trying to understand space and how it becomes nature itself in at a certain point. She studies the signs and codes, actions, representations and meaning of the architectural system.
Last year she had a solo exhibition called ‘From A to K’ in Museum M in Leuven. Paired with this exhibition she decided to publish a book included all the terms referring to her studies in alphabetical order. The photos featured in the book are her works from 1950 on till now.

Screen shot 2017-03-06 at 4.57.46 PM

Linda van Deursen acclaimed international fame. Together with Armand Mevis she established the graphic design studio Mevis & van Deursen in 1986. Linda Deursen has been head of the graphic design department at Gerrit Rietveld Academy from 2001 till 2014. She is a critic at Yale School of Art since 2003. The agency has done great things. For example identity projects, organizing events, exhibitions. One of their more recent projects is the logo and identity for Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. They were awarded for several art prizes as the Amsterdam Prize and the Grand Prix at The Brno Biennial
Recently they also design the printed version of the magazine South as a state of mind: DOCUMENTA 14.  A magazine which is being published four times biannually till the opening of the exhibition in Athens which is paired with documenta 14. The magazine could be seen as a manifestation included critique, art, literature and research.

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Eva Heisterkamp was a student of Gerrit Rietveld Academy, she graduated in 2007 in the TxT department. Joke Robaard was head of the department back then. After having worked for Mevis & van Deursen for four years she now became head designer of Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. I was especially interested in her role in the whole design project I was wondering how much she had to say about the layout and division of the content. She answered me all my questions clearly in an email.

After analyzing this book the past few weeks, I could tell that the design of the book made the content stronger. Using Times Ten and Univers as main type fonts is very convincing. The fonts are formal but also a bit playful because they are a bit horizontally stretched. The empty space between the words refers to the emptiness of the decayed cities. The repetition of the words in alphabetical order refer to the repetition of modernistic buildings and the recurrence of urbanization. Every page has a vertical line placed on the left side, which accentuates the vertical aspect of modernistic cities where all buildings are raising to the sky. The book sometimes still seems under construction like cities themselves are. At one page you just see a row of O’s on the left side and a picture placed over what used to be ‘ the rest’ of the word which starts with an O. The pictures are most of the time black and white except for some pages. Eva herself decided which pages she wanted to be in color and which ones to be in black and white. There is also another book which is all printed in color but less editions of those were published.

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Aglaia selected the pictures per chapter. She communicated this to Linda and Eva. Eva told me that through the whole process a lot of things changed and she could decide a lot in the design process. For example this case she told me that the font size of the essays were smaller in the beginning. In the last correcting round, the authors of the texts disagreed with the font size. The whole layout shifted, which made it very hard to finish the book in time. I find it very remarkable and a bit funny that the title refers to an unfinished alphabet because the design itself also seems like ‘unfinished’. Eva noted that here and there are some mistakes been made in the design, but I think we will find it out ourselves.The content, the appearance and even the process were constantly progressing. It all was endlessly in juxtaposition. That’s why I think content and appearance are always dependent on each other.

 

Aglaia Konrad, from A to K /Rietveld library catalogue no : konr 2

Communication / Expression


Sunday, January 29, 2017

"daled collection" cover

This is a book I choose from the library.

I find books very beautiful, both as reading material, but also simply as design objects. What got my attention when I chose this book is the very noticeable yellow paper band around it, with a line of cut out text over it. This creates two overlapping layers of text, which I find an intriguing choice both because of the unusual amount of text appearing on the cover and because of the confusing effect it generates.

Anyway, the book itself is actually simply a catalogue, yes, nicely organised and curated, but still just a very simple catalogue like many others, illustrating an art collection and describing it’s value.

The designer is Walter Nikkels [x], a rather well known dutch typographer based in Dordrecht. He had a very broad career, even winning two prizes for his work as a designer. He curated many books and catalogues, worked as a graphic designer for Stedelijk museum, but also curated several exhibitions and did the interiors for Museum Kurhaus Kleve.[x]

As I was researching him, I found that in 2013 he published a book called “Walter Nikkels: Typography: Depicted [x]” written and designed in collaboration with graphic designer Wigger Bierma, who actually taught at Rietveld until a few years ago. It is a chronological survey of Nikkels’ work trough images, a sort of dictionary of his visual voice.

Graphic design is a language that uses elements like typography, colour, composition and paper kind, to communicate information visually.

Each graphic designer develops a style during their career, and in a way, it becomes a personal voice. Sure, it’s usually very much related to the aesthetics of the historical context the designer is working in, there will always be a ruling combination of colours or the particularly popular font of the moment, but I think what makes a very good graphic designer, is the ability to develop a personality that makes his work recognisable and unique, but without becoming overly repetitive (and therefore boring).

Walter Nikkels worked mainly on museum catalogues, it’s very important to him for the content of the books to be neat and legible to the reader. In the Daled collection catalogue I borrowed from the library his attention to the balance and to highlighting the value of each image and art piece featured in the book is particularly evident.

He treats graphic design like architecture, the page like a vast blank space where elements are organised to give meaning and importance to the content, like art pieces in a museum. There is a great sense of rhythm in his work, and a great sense of silence, reached through colour, composition and most importantly, typography combinations.

couplet 5 card

 

“Couplet 5″ Invitation card design (for Stedelijk museum 1995)

Vertical composition – The word couplet is divided in its two syllabs (cou – plet) written on two separate but parallel columns. Number 5 appears in the first one to balance the symmetry, maybe confusing the reader at first, but “couplet” is written in blue and orange letters (in contrast to the black number) guiding the reader’s eyes through the word.

Interesting in particular, even though hardly noticeable, is the difference in typography between the columns, the first one bearing text in regular style, as a pose to the second one in italic.

barnett newmann  notes

Catalog “Barnett Newman Notes” 1993

Use of vertical composition appears again – and, again, a peculiar orientation of text – to make a separation between the name of the artist ( Barnett Newman) and the book content (notes), while keeping the two together in the same composition.

 

 

schwitters

 

“Ich ist Silent” catalog, 2000

Once again a very simple, regular, geometric composition – Once again the variation of  typography (in this case spacing between characters and size) to maintain a certain composition 

 

It’s a form of graphic design that may not appear as very creative, in the sense that it’s mainly driven by practical purpose of clarity. I mean, there are many ways of treating the content of a book by making it more playful, while still keeping it very easily understandable.

Nikkels’ style definitely belongs to a more traditional kind of graphic design, focused on the meticulous search for the right balance in elements such as: the dialogue between text and image, the overlapping of different layers of text (like, as I mentioned before, on the cover of the Daled collection book), the choice of typos combinations and colours, the relevance of the background, composition, spacing, size, proportion and more.

However I think one defines balance for him/her self.
I mean, of course there are composition rules that one can’t ignore because they are shaped on the way we process visual input by nature, but balance doesn’t necessarily mean neat, and this took me a while to understand and accept.
I always just assumed that Walter Nikkels’ way, was the only way, because it makes sense, but I figured, it just really depends on one’s purpose at the end of the day.

By understanding balance and the rules of composition a graphic designer develops a “handwriting”. Manipulating and experimenting with the possibilities they offer, just like pretty much everything the art world. And this also made me think of the fine line there is between art and design. How personal can graphic design become before it is considered a form of expressive art?

But -
maybe it doesn’t make sense to separate the two anyway.

Everyone has an innate individual way of visualising words on paper. It’s in the way one writes notes or thoughts on a sketchbook, even. We are naturally inclined to express ourselves visually and this visual language is universally understandable no matter how personal it is. Graphic designers communicate information, as well as expressing themselves through their work.

And even Walter Nikkels. He filled a whole book depicting his graphic vocabulary, maybe a bit cold and hardly “expressive” in the strict sense of the word, but his style still features elements reflecting his individual personality, otherwise he wouldn’t have had a point in making the book in the first place.

 

Daled : a bit of matter and a little bit more : the collection and archives of Herman and Nicole Daled, 1966-1978. /Rietveld library catalogue no : 700.5 dal 1

 

Walter Nikkels Depicted /Rietveld library catalogue no : 757.3 nik 1

NU- A N C – ES OF NO.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

giphy 2

 

The book design has a strange appeal;

boring Facebook blue and random pages in between. Unsettling uppercase letters of split up words all over one page, very prose looking straight aligned text on the other. A woman holding a picture of another woman lying naked under a zebra. Low resolution smiley face.

 

Nuances_of_no_5Nuances_of_no_4

 

Hanne Lippard graduated Rietveld as a graphic designer, but then carried her words from printed matter to sound files and live performance. ‘Nuances of No’ is her book, a collection of written work released in 2013. In making the book, she designs her own content, which allows her to create a similar voice to her sound work.

Visual information like spaces provoke silences in the readers head voice.

By the placement of the words on the page in relation to each other, or switching or removing letters and making slip of the tongues, she also plays with language, takes attention to sounds and stretches their meanings.

(variations)

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As your eye is guided through the page, text sounds like poetry.

(every word)

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The design of the word becomes the form of her voice.

In her spoken works she has a monotone, articulate, clean and soft tone which is robotic yet sounds as if it could be coming from somewhere inside your head.
This similar feeling is present in the book as well, this time through the colour of Facebook; trustworthy, artificial and sort of anonymous. Some pages in between have pixelated smiley faces and click button images taking the reader into a virtual world context, which adds to the atmosphere she creates.

(underscore)

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The design of Hanna Lippard [x] serves to vocalize her written thought in ‘nuances of no’; making the words surround the reader in the mind.

(echo)

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One or two voices.

(goodbye)

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*soundfiles are readings from the book in my voice. only (echo) is my words in my voice.

 

 

Nuances of no. /Rietveld library catalogue no : lippa 1

For those who dislike graphic design


Sunday, January 29, 2017

For those who dislike graphic design

 

1

December 2016, I’m at the school library. Our society is individualistic, so we take ourselves too seriously. The graphic design in here reflects that; everything should be minimalistic, aesthetic and decent all the time. There is no space for an ugly colour scheme or a freakishly curly title anymore. It’s pleasant to look at for sure, I think, but it doesn’t fascinate me. I mean, what stories do those smooth columns tell?

Today, the sky is grey and my energy is gone. Art makes me sigh because I’m so moody and I long for my bed. Unfortunately, I can’t go home and sleep, because I received a long list of books, of which I should choose one to research its design.

With a crotchety gaze, I witness a mountain of books slowly emerging on top of the reading table. I see the diligent hands of my classmates searching for a nice design, while I hear “ooh!” and “ah!”, but in my mind, I only hear “boo”. I conclude that I truly hate graphic design and try to find an acceptable book.

After a couple of sighs and an attempt to sleep on the ground, I find something that satisfies me; a book with self-mockery. It’s called Cosima von Bonin hippies use side door. The moment its colourful cover smiles at me from the pile of bitter looking books, I admit I don’t really hate graphic design after all. Apparently, there are still books in this library that are a little less tight.

 

 

2

January 2017, I’m in my room. Choosing a book was easy, but researching it is not. Somewhere in the back of my mind there is the fading knowledge that this assignment is important, because it’s very useful to learn about graphic design. But the rest of my mind is stuffed with other things, so I’m very much distracted.

At a certain point, my thoughts drift away to my website. I type the address in my browser and then watch it with a frown, concluding that I should make my own design, instead of using a template. With confidence, I open Photoshop, to make a visual plan of what my website should look like. But my confidence doesn’t last long. Those damned fonts! None of them seems to work! And then the background… White looks so bald, but all my alternatives look distracting. I just want my website to look cool and exciting, but that turns out to be much more complicated than I thought.

I ask Google desperately what to do, and although I find answers that make sense, it doesn’t help me get much further. Then, I realize there’s a better way to learn; I should analyse existing designs. Hey, wait… Wasn’t that the assignment for the book? I try to clear my mind of distracting thoughts and finally place the book in front of myself. Let’s see what I can learn.

 

 

cosima-von-bonin-hippies-use-side-door-49

 

 

3

The book asks for attention by the way a big colourful photo is printed on its cover. I see a stuffed shopping cart in a lumberyard, in which two little black dogs cheerfully look at the camera lens, with their pink tongues hanging from their mouths. The image stops where the wrapper begins, except for the dogs’ tongues; they’re printed on the bright orange wrapper as well. This little graphic wink breaks the ice; it gives the book an approachable feeling. Besides that, the awfully bright colours and the simple font make the book look modern and careless.

I start to leaf through the book. The paper is thick and matte, so the pages make a pleasant, crackling sound, as they slip along my thumb. I see big photos printed in colour, big white spaces and small amounts of text. Once in a while, I get a glance of something odd, repeated through the book but always looking the same; it’s a photo on a different paper size, that looks a bit alien amongst the other pages. The frivolous artworks that are being presented and the royal use of unprinted paper make the book look even more careless. Still, the book is attractive, because of the large amount of images in comparison to the text.

From the text, I conclude the book is a catalogue, showing the latest exposition of Cosima von Bonin’s work. The book itself is designed by Yvonne Quirmbach, a graphic designer from Berlin.

 

 

4

 One of the things Google told me when I was looking for the secrets of graphic design, was how a graphic design is comparable to an outfit. Just like fashion, graphic design is a language that is being used to tell a clear message. Like google said, you wear a bathing suit to the beach and a suit to a job interview, not the other way around. But there’s more to clothing choices than that; if you want to show off at the beach, you might put on your fancy sunglasses and if your job requires that you’re humoristic, you might wear your Simpsons-socks at the interview. It’s the same with books; within the lines of the function of a book, the designer has the freedom to tell a lot more.

And that’s clearly visible in the book I chose. Quirmbach’s design adds to the carelessness that can also be found in Von Bonin’s works, so the design and the content are at the same level.

 

 

5

Now, I discovered something important; I was wrong about graphic design. It does tell a story. So, if I translate that to my own attempt to make a web design; the design shouldn’t look cool and exciting, instead it should tell the viewer that my work is cool and exciting. But… Wait, is that what I want it to tell? And if I do, how am I going to translate that into a lay-out?

The design struggles clearly haven’t decreased, but fortunately, I gained some respect for graphic designers. Next time I enter the library, I’ll do it with a humble bow, instead of a moody face.

 

Akademie X : lessons in art + life /Rietveld library catalogue no : 700.8 mor 1

Buy Buy Buy + Lessons in the Capitalized Art Scene


Sunday, January 29, 2017

I was attracted to the book. My desire was driven by the tangibility of its opening mechanism. So simple yet so satisfying to open the binder. Almost a modern take on a grand old anglo-saxon book binding tradition, all that it almost needed was a royal institutional stamp in wax, now just to let me break the seal.

Akademie X: Lessons in art + life

Attractive and seducing in its simplicity. The binder hits your tangible senses immidiately.

When first Akademie X lessons in art + life was opened, it contained a colorful index, for some reason I was drawn by its strict composition of its bars of pastel color, most likely because I am a long lost lover of chaotic mess and dynamic colors and these strict lines grabbed my attention as the opposite to my immediate visual desire. But also the paper-texture of the front cover was very rough, it gives a good balance between the soft pastel colors and the rough paper. It creates tension somehow.

Akademie X - Index

Akademie X - Index has a beautiful scale and the paper quality immidiately catches your attention.

I continued in my discovery of the book and was drawn by the interesting format, that the content was organized in. The complete book is a collection of educational looking, enlightening content. The content are various contributions from artists all together forming the fictional institution “akademie x”, the worlds first akademie without the boundaries of a physical institution. It is a collection of thoughts and exercises and light guidance in how to live a (healthy) creative life. On the back of the book it states; “This inspirational and practical guide on how to live a creative life has been devised by the world’s most thought-provoking artists + writers.” The content of the book differs from each other, every chapter is a contribution written by a specific artist. Additional to this, each contribution is supplied with a small section of photos of each artists major works. Because of the contributive element, each chapter has a different formatting (or more precisely; the formatting intended by the artist has been left untouched perhaps).Graphic Designer and Art Director Julia Hastings who has designed the book, has created the complete book in a beautiful colorful grid. Within this grid all artist contributions are placed centered in a white frame. The white frame has the rough rectangular dimensions reminding of an A4 xerox, which gives the intentional A4 feeling as well. Furthermore on some of the sections the A4 xerox has been added “archival holes” to give it the feel of an archived xerox paper.

Akademie X - Xerox Representation

Akademie X - Xerox representation; but is it authentic when its computer generated?

But it somehow questions me if it creates a dishonest feel however? Does the computerized graphic representation any good for the book, or should it have been a real scanned xerox, ugly and crumbled as it could be? But in fact perhaps giving it a more honest representation. The important graphical design take is the grid surrounding the imaginary A4 xerox.

Just like the notion that a digital music album of today, still necessarily have to be released in square dimensions. It tricks a conservative notion in us that the dimensionalized representation of an A4 (or the square music album) is giving the book (or music) authenticity, wereas the xerox scan might have created a messy output but more authentic representation. And perhaps a more real feel and less “anti-commercial” commercial look? Because is this book basically commercialized authenticity? What story does it tell?

That sets me into another troubling chain of thoughts. Researching upon the publisher made under the publishing house Phaidon; after browsing through the catalog of publishings it was easy to spot the certain anti-commercial yet commercial grip that is intended for the viewer. It is made pretty, just as mentioned above with the non-authentic A4 xerox. The quality of the paper is a little thicker than a regular 80g/m3 A4 inkjet paper, yet the paper texture is the same as a regular 80g A4.

Courier_New_2017

The hipocrisy of the post-digitalized world permeates the art world, authenticity will be absend during the next decades.

The heavily intended “courier new” layout font catches exactly the hungering market-ready segments of art students, intellectual art lovers and participants in the game of academic thinking, promising us the authentic experience for the flashing dazzling price of only 29,95 EUR. Nevertheless we are victims of todays best commercialized marketing-weapon: capitalized user experience (or experience economy). We are quickly dwelled into the narrative of “authenticity”. You, me and everybody remotely interested in capturing the “anti-neo-capitalized” authenticity which doesn’t exist in the western world anymore in my opinion. These fleeting moments of absolute truth is in fact just a marketed salesmen’s narration. You are not even aware of the fact, that it is a product you are buying yet. Courier-fonts and rough textured high-quality paper, lead their perceiving way, persuades you to think it is as real as what you handwrite yourself. The undecided white pages and lack of commercialized layout-settings makes you think you have a nice little treasure of undisturbed authenticity. Every word spelled out in the art worlds best authentic-yet-commercial-friend “courier new” makes you accept the narrative that this is not a commercial book, but a guiding collection of fine arts academy notes taken directly from the worlds best mentors and professors. Bring in Harry Potter’s Tom Riddle and his soul-sucking diary of truth. “This book will learn you to live a healthy creative life” could be the salesmen-slogan spelled out on the front cover, but then it would probably attract the silicon-valley entrepreneural segment (and not the intended in-crowd from the contemporary art scene).

In 1999 the american authors and economists B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore wrote a book named “Experience Economy” and already in 1998, Pine and Gilmore wrote an article in Harvard Business Review stating “Welcome to the Experience Economy” proclaiming a new era of capitalized business models [X], based upon the design of experiences ultimately leading to excessive brand-value. This economic understanding permeates todays music industry, art scene and creative industries for good or for worse. In terms of the art world it dilutes the honesty and blurres the vision.

The most famous example was the capitalized Starbucks coffee experience.

The Starbucks coffee experience states that buying a cup of coffee from 2 cafés (a non-branded café and the other from starbucks), has the same given production rate, that the brew of beans costs for both cafés. Now the experience of coffee is what you are buying, that includes brand-value and the sub-cultural element of being a part of something, a community of coffee-lovers. You are an expert for the dazzling price of 10 EUR at Starbucks.

The most important element in this example is also the birth of anti-culture that automatically are created. More precisely put; counter-cultures to the specific structures, which automatically appears. The experience economist and marketing director’s supreme job, is then to capitalize it well too! In best case without you even noticing that you are being sold a new “counter-culture” product. So relax fellow art student, you are consuming capitalized products without even noticing it, the more awareness of your normcore behavior you spread the sharper your marketed profile gets.

Normcore understood as the counter-culture developed in the fashion industry as a counter-culture to the posh stylized look of the 2000′s. Normcore became the unpretentious, normal-looking phenomenon working against the same industry during the 2010′s. However, it was developed within the industry by the industry nevertheless, it’s just as transgressive [X] as the commercial fashion-culture it developed itself from, capitalized “hide-and-seek” in it’s purest form, now happening faster than ever before (or is it slower than ever before?).

Which leads to my dystopic conclusion; that the book (red. Akademie X) is a very well designed output of capitalized experience design – and values, wrapped into a nice little narrative about contemporary cultural succes.

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“If you buy this book, you will learn the basic steps in the secret language of contemporary art!”

You are perceived to buy the commercial starbucks coffee, disguised as an easy looking authentic cardboard cup of joe, with courier new fonts written all over the dark brown fair-trade cup full of promising brew.

“An artist should not make himself into an idol” is one of the commandments that the book states, even though the complete list of artistic contributors have been idolized and later on capitalized by thousands of museums, gallerists, art students, artists, intellectuals and academics worldwide. And no harms done by that, if you don’t take the cultural commandments for granted or listen to them.

But the western contemporary cultures excessive authenticity-hunt is full of hypocrisy in our post-digitalized, yet soon to be automated, world. We are soon based upon digital systems designs that are dictated by the linear neo-capitalistic ideologies. We just don’t want to admit it yet.

Now go out and write some more creative commandments and cultural stigmated dogmas with New Courier fonts.

We will need these statements to understand the hypocrit-era that we truly live in today.

 

Akademie X : lessons in art + life /Rietveld library catalogue no : 700.8 mor 1

 

External Book References:

  • Various Authors (2015) Akademie X: Lessons in art + life, Phaidon Press, London 2015, Printed in China

  • Pine, J. and Gilmore, J. (1999) The Experience Economy, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 1999.

The Fleeting Flux


Sunday, January 29, 2017

“A Flexible History of Fluxus Facts & Fictions”(2004) is a series of memories by artist Emmett Williams. He presents these memories through collages. On the left-hand pages a historical picture is shown. On the right-had pages his own work is shown. His own work consists of either a historical picture of something that he has made or a picture of a work made by someone else mixed with his own trademark drawings. Often he uses the same drawings.

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The most important “additive” is a small, brightly colored human figure. It is present on nearly all pages. These small humanoids appear to be Williams’ trademark drawing, almost like a signature. They appear and re-appear almost in all of his own works, but also in almost every text about him. I fail to discover an origin. It seems to be a quick drawing that simply stuck around. The work it is most featured in is “Twenty-one Proposals For the Stained-glass Windows of the Fluxus Cathedral ”. This work shows a variety of sketches for lead-pressed windows. About these drawings Williams says: “All these funny little people, who are they, where do they come from, and where are they going? I don’t think they are self-portraits, although they do creep into a lot of my works. They have been keeping me company as far back as I can remember, even as a child, ever-present doodles dancing in and out of a kind of automatic drawing.”

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The second most present drawing is that of a round head, reminiscent of Mayan imagery, sticking out his tongue. This image is one of the main symbols of Fluxus. It is first featured on the Fluxus-manifesto. It seems well used by not only Emmett Williams, but also other artists, where it functions as a symbol for Fluxus. I cannot find any sources for the meaning of the symbol. It might be random, which would fit the Fluxus movement.

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The left-hand pages are the historical ones. They keep up the appearance of being informative. But often they lack interesting information or they are just not complete. They give you just enough information to become curious, but they never deliver.

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Another choice within the of the book, which strikes me as odd, are the page numbers. Only the works of Williams are marked. And the table of contents only reflect those pages. The historical documents and pictures are not registered. And thus are difficult to re-find. This makes me wonder with what goal or reason this book was made. It’s hard for me to believe that its original set-up is that of an overview of Fluxus-art. The numbering makes me feel like the book is a the consequence of the arrogance and nostalgia of a has-been artist. “Look, I was part of this important movement” Williams screams at me through his book.

Emmett Williams gives me the impression of being an artist wit low technical ability. In his many collaborations he appears to offer no more than the concept. Even so with this book. For the last three-or-so books he has worked on, he collaborated with his wife, Ann Nöel. I feel that somewhere in this mixing of artistries the book suffered. Ann Noel’s books are well composed and often interestingly designed, with a lot of thought to spacing.

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Fluxus, or any movement that presents themselves as performative and playful, is something that triggers me. Often though, the joyful and exciting aspects of such movements are not translated well into other mediums. As is the case with this book.When I picked it up for the very first time, a sense of anticipation took hold of my body. “A Fluxus book, by a Fluxus author” I thought “will be as lively, as I imagine the period to be”. But the opposite is true. The very strict character of the design of the book (left historical, right his own work) creates a limited set of rules. A set of rules that is never broken within the book. They make the book, after the first bunch of pages, a very boring read. Ofcourse, in the book, information is presented. This information gives you an insight in the events and people that were the Fluxus-movement. But because of the dull choices in design, the information gets lost, or in the best cases, makes you want to read other books.

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I’ve looked up other works by Emmett Williams that were meant to last and not be for the moment, like a performance. Besides his acts he also wrote concrete or visual poetry. These poems are simple but effective. They show a small idea, well executed. They often deal with the personification of language versus language being something abstract. It can be powerful in this way and expertly exert the feeling of Fluxus. Emmett Williams shows that he knows what spacing your words can do. He shows that he thinks about how a page should be divided. So why did he give up in “A Flexible History of Fluxus Facts & Fictions”?

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What is it with Fluxus, Dada and other movements that burn so brightly, but are so sad to recollect? Maybe it is the fleeting quality of such movements. On the side of the theater school it states “Art is a deed in time”. I feel this is true for all performative art forms and everything related to or commenting on performative art forms. The art “happened’ then, with the performance. Every attempt to recreate it is a way to hold on and futile. Fluxus is like an ex-lover. We should let go. Factual (or fictional) descriptions of Fluxus meetings leave me silent with awe, burning with envy and somber with historical awareness. I was not there! And I will never will be.

 

A flexible history of Fluxus facts & fictions /Rietveld library catalogue no : 706.8 flux 2

Transitions – from autonomous to applied arts


Sunday, January 29, 2017

A line, a letter, a page, a building, a photo, a book – separate stages that can either stand by themselves or remain transitioning points while executing somebody’s vision. It is common that an artist starts one’s creative process with making a sketch or writing down a sentence that popped out in the head, though, later on this idea might get a completely unexpected appearance. After the piece is created it will most likely be documented in a book, that sometimes serves as an autonomous work. Therefore, it is important to choose a right graphic designer to collaborate together for this process.

 

For my design research, I have decided to look into Alon Levin’s designed book ‘De Paviljoens: Journal of a Building 1992-2004’ that is a documentation of the former contemporary art pavilion in Almere.

 

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According to the Artistic Managing Director of the Museum De Paviljoens, Macha Roesink, the aim of this book was to expose the complexity of building such as De Paviljoens and document the history in a case study of the life of a building, in the form of a journal composed of accounts by many of the people who have been involved.

 

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Museum De Paviljoens

 

The building is transportable, like the ultimate kit, but it is standardized to meet building regulations. Documenting it in a book clearly makes it even more handy. I think it was not accidental that Alon Levin was invited to design the book as he himself works transiting from fine arts to design. To understand the concept of his way of working, it is important to look at his other projects.

 

In A. Levin’s book ‘Things Contemporary’ published by Dexter Sinister & Alon Levin, 2009 he talks about his interest in man’s eternal pursuit of order; not the ideal of order, which renders things absolute, resolve and static, but in the actual process of organizing things, which inevitably falls short. Artist takes up forms such as the triumphal arch, the victorious podium, or the Ferris wheel, and translates them into model-like wooden constructions and plaster forms reminiscent of the model. It creates images for the ambiguity of success and failure, for the instability of ideological, economic and scientific systems. Analogous to the accumulation and formation of knowledge in the “free encyclopedia” Wikipedia also Levin prefers, when he reused, deconstructed or repeated individual elements of his own works. Data, buildings and documents appear as moving building blocks in a constantly transforming and updating view of the world. To process this information, he uses charts, diagrams and transforms his knowledge into abstract geometrical shapes that later become sculptures or installations. Space-grabbing constructions from simple materials available in the construction market are based on the exploration of the technical and architectural achievements of the Western world and their significance for contemporary society.

 

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Things Contemporary published by Dexter Sinister & Alon Levin, 2009
 

Even though, it seems Alon Levin himself does not see switching from graphic design to fine arts as transitioning, I was curious to find out when and how do these two spheres meet. His pieces and texts are based on invoke either the incalculably large or the immeasurably small, hence the mathematical sublime, the way in which they thematise structure and collapse points. Using the design made for ‘De Paviljoens: Journal of a Building 1992-2004’ and photos of various installations I tried to create some ‘systems’ that could represent their ‘shape’. I discovered he used three sizes for the font, therefore a zigzag in my drawings representing ‘text’ in the book is in three different sizes. Considering purified and structured shapes he applies into his pieces I decided to replicate both pages and 3D objects into slightly modified, geometricized shapes. At some point I realized a certain rhythm appears, which blurs the line between two subjects of my research.

 

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Left – sketches of installations by Alon Levin, Right – schemes based on ‘De Paviljoens: Journal of a Building 1992-2004’

 

In fact, these two ‘sequences’ I made are just my interpretations of Levin’s creations. They might transit into something new and exciting at some point and that would probably be sort of an example the way the original author was building them. In ‘Things Contemporary’ he admitted that during his studies at Gerrit Rietveld Academie he wanted to understand the power of manipulating information: not just consume it, but to actually make it. To try and understand how all the information we ingest daily is organized and what the thoughts and structures behind it are. I think one of the best representations of this attitude is in his project ‘The Basics of Growth’ that dealt with similar ideas in botany as in economy, making some comparison through books that A. Levin had published himself. The content of these books was from Wiki that provides the material for the content of a book. He later on transits from the book into 3D structure based on the same subject, which in this case was a greenhouse on the rooftop of the office building.

 

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The Basics of Growth

I presume researching the history of the pavilions, he applied this same method in a reverse version – firstly, understanding the building with its context and then transmitting it into a book.

Throughout my research I learned that the endless cyclical game is the fundament of Levin’s work – a natural flow that drives him from one medium to another.

 

De Paviljoens : journal of a building, 1992-2004 /Rietveld library catalogue no : 700.4 pav 1

Catalogue–as–exhibition


Thursday, January 19, 2017

What do you see when you look at a book for the first time? Is it the title? Is the typeface on a cover? Is it color? Alternatively, material? Why do we still print books if we have internet, computers, e-books, tablets and phones, some of which have a screen of a pocket book? Well, in fact, because we still need a physical medium. It is notably hard to predict the development of technology. Fifteen years ago we could get a DVD exhibition catalog or indeed a movie. It would be a modern and bright solution, maybe quite fashionable.

feeling the book 2

People who are questioning the need for printed books assume that it is easier to read from digital sources. Furthermore, It is simpler to carry, and the digital book does not require physical place. Nonetheless, why do we need a material text? ‘The book, if properly designed can last more than five hundred years’ – says Irma Boom. However, digital data can probably remain longer. Though it is the feeling that makes the book unique. It is the design transformed into a three-dimensional object.

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book feeling

 Xerox Book (1) and Seth Siegelaub: Beyond Conceptual Art (2)

(more…)

Belonging somewhere – About Trends and being trendy


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

 

Having initially planned to interview an at the moment very hot graphic-designer as a foundation for my essay on contemporary design practices, I have been busy preparing myself for the last few weeks. When the person realized that I was not only interested in paying credit to her work, but more on taking it as a starting point for a broader discourse, she must have somehow felt offended, which then lead to not answering my messages anymore.

But maybe this unpleasant situation is a way to grasp something much more important. Something she shares with millions of other designers. By name: The fear of getting lost in the digital haze of simulacra through not being present in the right discourse. The fear of being rumbled and detected as: a Trend.

That leads me to the questions: What is behind the designers glimmering self-promotion facade in the haze of social-media? How aware are graphic designers about the form of language they use? And last but not least: How does this influence the increasing visual conformity in contemporary design?

As modern graphic design has one of its major roots in the post-war development of Swiss Style it might be worth having a look at its approach in order to deal with the questions raised. Since figures like Emil Ruder, Helmut Schmid, Hans-Rudolf Lutz and Wolfgang Weingart amongst others were very aware of the designers` responsibilities towards their work as well as society, the relation of form and content played a crucial role.

With the appointment of Emil Ruder as a teacher at the Kunstgewerbeschule Basel in 1942 things started changing in Switzerland. Breaking with the tradition of symmetrical and dogmatic grid-based layouts the young Swiss typographer defined new rules for a new mind-set, challenging his fellow designers.

Typography at this time was a heavily discussed field from the highest sensibility. Only the smallest disagreements about the fonts chosen and the way they were used, led to outrageous debates.

As a result of that Ruder was constantly pushed to defend his position. This made him very aware of the design decisions he took and led to him consolidating a clear personal attitude – which inspired generations after him. But how did it really look, his attitude?

Adrian Frutiger, French type-designer and close friend of him, explains it in the preface to Ruder`s book “Typographie” rather well:

“For Emil Ruder space has never been merely a lifeless paper surface to be covered with lettering or ornamentation at will. In his hands the passive background transformed into a vital and active foreground. Every piece of typography thus becomes a picture in which black and white are played off against each other; indeed, an effect of depth is often created, the eye being led by lines or rows into a third dimension.

Letters, words and groups of text form perfectly legible elements in space but are at the same time figures moving on the paper scene; designing in type – typography – might almost be said to be akin to staging a play.

In spite of his bent for pictorial thinking, Emil Ruder is never tempted to indulge in merely playful designs in which the actual purpose of printing – legibility – is lost. He himself writes in the introduction to his book: “The printed work that cannot be read becomes a product without purpose””

 

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However Emil Ruder took a very clear position, not only design-wise. With the creation of political posters, like the one shown, he actively engaged in the societal debate. And that directly leads me to the work of probably his most famous student: Helmut Schmid.

After completing a typesetting education in Germany, Austrian designer Helmut Schmid got accepted at the Kunstgewerbeschule and studied there together with people like Karl Gerstner and Hans-Rudolf Lutz.

Despite his very international career right after graduating he remained faithful to Ruders philosophy. In some sense he even intensified it. After leaving Basel, Helmut Schmid´s career led him from Scandinavia over Canada to Japan, where he finally ended up introducing Swiss typography to his students at Kobe Design University until 2012. Besides that, Schmid realized two projects I want to point out in order to show his approach:

Firstly, Helmut Schmid was initiator of the so-called typographical reflections – a series of booklets constantly responding to current political events. In the example shown Schmid illustrates a newspaper article about former US-president George Bush mixing up the two terms democracy and hypocrisy.

 

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Secondly, Schmid developed a completely new corporate design for the social democratic party in Germany and the successful campaign for his namesake, the old-chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

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The magazines designed for that campaign were inspired by a series of covers Hans-Rudolf Lutz created for the Typografische Monatsblätter ™ in 1977. For that Lutz mimicked the title-page-designs of popular magazines and adapted them to the format of the tm, showing how consumers mostly read title pages by its visual appearance only. Helmut Schmid made use of that effect and imitated Germany’s most popular tabloid in order to mislead voters and promote his candidate.

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Having mentioned Hans-Rudolf Lutz twice so far, it is necessary to say some things about him: Lutz was – besides his study-time in Basel – active in the expression typographique group in Paris and later on, busy teaching typography to famous schools in Switzerland, Germany and the US. Lutz also had – like Ruder and Schmid – a political approach towards design. Through running his own and still existing publishing house, he released important books not only on graphic design and educational topics, but also on literature. For example he printed editions of the, at that time, boycotted Marxist author Konrad Farner in order to make his work accessible for people.

In an interview with Eye Magazine Lutz explains his work with the following words:

“I want to put across an educational approach which is a socio-political ideal. But even if I didn’t want that – and this applies to all designers – there is no such thing as neutral typography. No one can produce design or write texts which say nothing.”
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Being aware of this, the term of “attitude” played a central role in Helmut Schmid’s work. As part of a research project at University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf in 2005 a monograph with the title “design is attitude” was published. In addition to documenting Schmid’s graphic design work, he wrote about his personal approach to typography and his general design philosophy. The following passage (out of the book) sums up his understanding of graphic design rather well.

 

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There was, of course, also a time after Ruder, Schmid and Lutz – a time of even louder rebellion against the Swiss Style of typography, aiming for a not yet existing, complete freedom in design. One of those revolutionaries, for example, was the third Ruder-student Wolfgang Weingart – a designer questioning his teachers’ attitude just as Ruder did in his early years and paving the way for numerous aesthetic developments taking place in later decades. With Weingart graphic design reached a breaking point, because he made the debate about Swiss Style become international. April Greiman, an American graphic designer visited Weingart (who later became a teacher at Kunstgewerbeschule) in Basel and took his ideas to the US, where she again inspired people like David Carson. Also Neville Brody teaming up with Erik Spiekermann in London began breaking, bending and bounding typography-rules in exciting experiments.

At this point I would really like to introduce a quote by Hans-Rudolf Lutz, who spoke with the Eye magazine about the repetitive circle of renewal in graphic design:

“Time and again, individual pioneers, or groups, emerge who achieve a perfect fusion of form and content. Then comes a whole wave of imitation, which reduces the form to an aesthetic shell. A while back, everything was put through the Ruder mill, then it was Weingart or Brody. Now it is Carson.”

Perhaps these words of Lutz also made Wolfgang Weingart think, as he questioned his experimental works in a later period in which he discovered simplicity again. He clearly said: “I do not know where we are heading to in typography. Maybe we come back to Ruder again.” – as he wanted to shout: “Look at this world-wide chaos – let us find the way to our roots again!”

And today this is, more than ever before, one of the big challenges. To give the things we design meaning again and prevent us from getting lost, like I mentioned in the beginning.

Although the things raised are only small observations, they still can be taken as an example to show how the designers’ relation to what was called “attitude” formed in a time of hardened structures and endless possibilities.

In that sense: Do not let ourselves be overcome by the tempting resources of endless aesthetical trends, but instead consciously approach our designs in order to make them either different for a reason or sustainable for a purpose. But never trendy, just because of a need to belong somewhere.

 

Programming language as a System of Thought


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

by Medeina Musteikyte

From a conventional viewpoint programming is a process of command execution that brings about a certain result; a problem-solving tool to produce a desired outcome. Aside from its practical usage, coding is expanding to a different sphere of interpretation where new meanings gained, outgrow its primary function.
My essay examines the role of non-function oriented programming, the artistic value of the concepts behind works of code and experimental programming languages. An overview of examples from Algorithmic Auction to ‘Esolangs’ — Esoteric Programming Languages is questioning the boundaries between programming and artistic practice and exploring the creative potential of such method.

bodyfuck – undo from nik hanselmann on Vimeo.

 

A work of code can acquire different forms and exist as an object, text or music piece gaining new definitions and material qualities.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Likewise conceptual programming languages can be perceived and interpreted by their instructions alone, without executing a command or using a computer. Designed for experience of thinking through them, esolangs unfold the confrontation of computer logic and human thinking in the most rational or the most absurd processes [x].

Sound file: castleman_css_descramble

 

pdf-scan_cover [click on image] to download thesis by Medeina Musteikyte

all rights to this thesis are property of the author © 2016 : http://medeina.xyz/

 
 

Welcome to my homepage!


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

by Noémie Courtois

The Internet arrived like an ufo, bringing a promise towards the future. When it became accessible to the broad public, users started to play around and share their hopes, dreams and productions with  the global village in which their children will be living. The birth of the Internet created a specific utopic spirit and everybody was invited to the party.

‘‘And here comes everybody ; moms teens, celebs, goths, tots, gamers, nerds and artists’’. Everybody else, Cory Archangel, 7 [x]

 

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The Internet changed a lot over the last decades, this utopic spirit began to fade and its users with it. Today, these webpages have been hidden and forgotten by everyone. Luckily, our digital heritage defenders do exist and are truly active ; there seem to be a resurge of our digital culture and artefacts.

In my thesis, I’m exploring the Internet in a sociological and archeological perspective. I’m developing the idea of a ‘digital folklore’ (cf Olia Lialina ) ; Today more than before, there is a wish to keep traces of our digital tradition. The defenders of our Internet culture are fighting against the forgetfulness of a material that henceforth belong to the past. This thesis is a contribution to save that part of history that went missing in the fast Internet evolution.

 

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The first users of the Internet were the first digital tribes and they were living in a specific environment:

‘‘A structural, visual and acoustic culture you could play around with, a culture you could break. There was an ocean of options and one of the options was to be different. (…) It was bright, rich, colorful, naive, slow, personal, direct and under construction.
It was a web of sudden collections and personal links. It was the Internet of personal pages and personal collections. It was the web of indigenous and barbarians, the web for the amateurs soon swept by Internet experts’’

A vernacular web, Olia Lialina, p19 [x]

 

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The importance of the first tribes lays in the spreading of the Internet architecture and culture. The shutting down of GeoCities (the biggest hosting service at the time) marks a shift in the Internet history : only a very small part of webpages have been saved,  there are holes in the shallows of the World Wide Web and pages are filled with dead links.

 

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Shot(picture?) of one of the many digital ruins, where images have been replaced by the icon "image not found".

They work as a religious triptych and are inspired by traditional construction : The birth, the life and the death

They are the remains of the first digital tribes : structures that were once complete and have fallen into a state of partial of complete disrepair. These digital monuments became places of worship, places where you can remember this specific time where movement and construction were the core of the online activity.

This specific idea lead me to my graduation project:

« Incidentally they're all gone,
well not exactly gone... more sort of... absent… »

 

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The 3 tapestries were part of the graduation show.
They work as a religious triptych and are inspired by traditional construction : The birth, the life and the death

The tapestries pay tribute to a web that is gone or -say- hidden. They work as a religious triptych and are inspired by their traditional construction : The birth, the life and the death. The idea of making tapestries came into my mind quickly while writing my thesis. Initially, tapestries were made to educate illiterate and uneducated people about subject of war, religion and so on. Whilst contributing on saving the history, they were also made to make a space warm and welcoming (such as the first webpages). The connection between the Internet archeology and tapestries was really straight froward; they also recall the computer screen and pixels.

 

thesis_900 [click on image] to download this thesis by Noémie Courtois

all rights to this thesis are property of the author © 2016 http://courtoisnoemie.tumblr.com/ [x]

 

willit

 


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