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Gorillas inside a box


Saturday, November 25, 2017

The first indication given to us about this assignment was to select a book based solely on its design. As soon as this information was delivered the first thing that popped into my mind was to find one that would present the most extravagant, out of the box features, so that whatever the next steps to follow would be, the subject matter could not be accused of being boring.

Ironically enough, I chose a book that is inside a box. Which actually was the main reason it outshone its shelf mates, that suddenly looked very serious with their glue bind cover.

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Puzzle box by Ines Lechleitner is an artist book released in 2009. I was momentarily skeptical at the functionality of its green gapped cardboard cover —not that it mattered to my eyes, since the pick was based on unconventionality—, or to put it in a way that fits better the central reasoning that led to my choice, maybe the fact that it would present an additional layer to access its content, or remind the feeling of opening a present, would make it more interesting. Soon, the content justified the packaging: it is composed by two books one being the artist’s work where you can find pictures of a group of gorillas in a German zoo and drawings that explain the movements made by the camera. The second one being a response of different authors to the work carried out. Then, two videos were also included — found as a CD in the book— that focus on the gorillas entering and leaving the frame, and finally, a map of the relations between the gorillas’ habitat, the photographs and videos. The box now seemed like a handy support to carry the CD and the map.

You can find the true reasoning behind the design in the author’s website: «Puzzle Box is modeled after ‘Beschäftigungskästen’, which were designed specifically for apes as an interactive occupation and recreation tool. The apes are expected to learn how to manipulate grains inside the box by pushing them from one level to the next in order to gain access to the food.»

This box was inside the gorilla’s location and is recurrently found throughout the images of the book

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As I mentioned earlier the book contains a response of different authors to the work. It was captured as a conversation between the artist and the authors. When I finished reading it, I imagined myself participating in that conversation. To get more insight on what the artist had experienced over the period of 5 years in which she developed this project I decided to go to the Amsterdam zoo to elaborate my response.

I quickly began to make associations. The humans standing there encircling the gorillas’ cage while expressing their reactions could be similar to the way the gorillas manipulate the Beschäftigungskästen, both actions are driven by the effect, even if in the first case it might be entertainment and in the latter obtaining some food. It is interesting to consider the sizes of those involved in this equation and the movement of this idea which goes inwards in distance.  Us humans look at the cage and touch the glass with our fingers while inside, the gorillas look at the box touching it to get some food. And even taking it further, while manipulating the box the gorillas fell into it, furthering the confinement, satisfying the humans need for entertainment and consumerism now possible through the Puzzle Box in which they lie. Definitely, I noticed how much my perception of the zoo as a place had shifted since I was a child.

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There are five polar notions that get emphasized in the book

we/them

open/closed

active/passive

space/movement

In the frame (onscreen)/ out of the frame (offscreen)

The pictures in black and white somehow make stronger the sensation of two different entities separated by distance. The framing delimits the space in a way that makes you wonder what is around, almost as if each picture wasn’t complete or was a piece of a puzzle. It also happens with the video where you would need a 360º panorama to understand the full set. The pace in which the gorillas are depicted is calm, almost uninterested.

In the zoo, once I spent enough time with the gorillas and my brain ended up getting used to the extreme, overwhelming aroma, I was able to truly concentrate on their movements, realizing how much more aware I was becoming of my own. I felt there was a strong relation between this feeling and the fact that the whole work of the artist (the map, the video, the pictures and the drawings) was to know very precisely, almost memorizing, each step and movement of the gorillas knowing what movement it was, which place were they occupying in space, when they did it, all of it systematically. This is also linked to the book’s design that appears to be calculated, calm and neat, using the same typewriter font throughout the book, and clean ‘one-line’ drawings.

Remembering that humans possess in a 98% the same DNA than gorillas I suddenly felt funny imagining my movements being dissected in a book.

 

Puzzle Book, designer: Ines Lechleitner, Rietveld Library Cat. no: lec 1

Layers & Colors


Monday, September 19, 2011

In the physical world absolutely all surfaces are transparent or opaque. For example a concrete wall — it is a completely opaque element. But with the help of different computer programs we can make even a concrete wall transparent and may apply transparent effect to a video.
I adore the “clean” design, where is only information and no superfluous elements. So, the chosen work does not fit my taste, but that kind of design always attracts my attention.

Another very good way to use a blend of transparent layers, when you need to show two (or more) elements at once and you haven’t much space on one page. Wim Crouwel did it as a professional, he gives us the opportunity to consider both of the cabinets and at the same time takes care of the volume of the catalog, which is also important.
For example, I chose another more cheerful work — it’s Dries Wiewauters‘s poster “Deconstructing Mickey Mouse”, again space is saved, and thus nothing is lost, but also something won.

In general, thoughtful design wins!

Man Loved, Man lived, Man Ray


Friday, May 13, 2011

To really understand Rayograms, i think one needs to experience it. It is not just about playing with objects on photographic paper in a darkroom. It definitely is more than that.

My first experience with Rayograms was in my second year of high school in Switzerland. It was so new to me. I knew nothing about darkrooms let alone photograms. As a first reaction I went out to the nature and collected whatever i found to be interesting. There were leaves, branches, beads whatever one can find. After playing around enough, i started becoming more picky about my objects. Each object had to be more special, had to have a reason to be there. That is where the process becomes very self reflective. Objects have meaning or associations and you end up questioning them and yourself through them. Until something makes a bit of sense, if not with their meanings, then with their visuals.

Looking at the Rayograms of Man Ray i really started to become curious of his life through the objects he used like scissors, films,keys flies, comb, needle, iron

Especially the negative film  as an object seemed to be reappearing all the time as well as scissors and needles.

Despite their quality as objects, they really make me question their associations and that is where i started researching more on Man Ray’s life. I wanted to know to where and to what they were connected in his life.

Man Ray’s work not only seem experimental they also are very personal. The double thing with ”knowing” though is that once you know it you can never see it in its purest form and that is also quite important in very abstract, open end works like Rayograms.

Rayograms which is named after Man Ray started to come into existence only after he experimented with various mixed medias throughout his life. Thus it is important to know the stages Man Ray went through in his career to see the layers under his rayograms.

It all started at Boys’ High School, where he educated himself by frequently visiting the local art museums where he studied the works of old Masters.

Early works of Man ray includes expressive figure studies and Cezannesque landscapes made from observations.

Between 1913-1915 when Man Ray lived in a small artists colony in Grantwood, in an effort to keep expenses at minimum Man Ray shared the rent on a small shack with the American painter Samuel Halpert. It was from Halpert that Man Ray emulated the artists’s utilization of contoured form and brightened palette.

Over time Man Ray removed himself from direct observation of his subjects,reducing figures to flat patterned disarticulated forms and his imagery became increasingly abstracted and artifial.

While living in New York, he became friends with Marcel Duchamp who was interested in showing movement in static paintings. Obviously influenced by Duchamp Man ray’s works began to depict movements of the figures. Later on again like Duchamp, Man Ray made ” ready-mades”.

His work called ”gift” shows influence from both Duchamp and his parents.
(more…)

(Dis)appearing


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Excavation, Adidas Spezial and Mondriaan


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