I’ve updated my site with a couple of new projects. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to take some proper photos and wirte some proper words at some point but for now it’s good to have new stuff up there. Hope you like.
I went to the opening (and only!) night of a show my friend Tomomi Sayuda was involved with called Nixon Art Mosh. Only really one guys worked jumped out at me, this was the illustration work of Andrew Hem. He exhibited landscapes from moleskin sketchbooks. I particularly liked the way that the actual sketchbooks were framed rather than just the pages, and also the way the images where framed on the page was great. When you were looking at the work the fact that the sketchbook was there in front of you was very apparent and you got a real feeling of effort and worth form them- I was very aware a person had spent time making these images.
Me and my lovely girl popped over to the Museum of Everything over in Primrose Hill today. I had high hopes after last years first show which was brilliant (see old post here: post!).
The pictures above are a sticker you get on entry and a sketched version of, what for me was the most interesting hanging space in the whole show: a narrow corridor with breeze blocks hung with small frames holding small postcards. There were also large blow ups of some of the postcards (about a1 and bigger) which was a nice play on scale (a recurring theme), and also some large pieces made up of lots of small pieces (I know what I mean but maybe the picture will help if you don’t).
Firstly, as I say, I had high expectations and one of the things I didn’t like as much as last time was the use of the space and the route they took you on through it. I have vivid memories of being guided through a minor labyrinth of small spaces and corridors to come to an opening which gave onto the top of a set of stairs and an enormous double or triple height space, the walls of which were covered in work- proper salon style. The amazing feeling of unexpectedness was really special to me, this time we were guided another way through the space (which had been reconfigured slightly anyway) and that moment of awe wasn’t as poignant as it had been in the first show. Also the contrast of small rooms and corridors to large spaces wasn’t as apparent as it had been.
Having said that the show still threw up the strange ‘grotto’ like environments which characterised the last show. Shells adorning an entire room reflected the obsessive nature of the collector and the room with the homemade miniature fairground which was animated 4 times an hour intoxicated as you waited for it to come to life and then left you with a childish giddyness 2 minutes later as it died.
The weird lighting made the badly placed plaques really hard to read but fortunately most gave little added information to the work. There were a few that felt right. One story about a screen that Sir Peter Blake had bought told how he’d purchased it rather than a roomful of stamps. The story left you not regretting that he hadn’t bought them but you did want to see them, and I suppose it was more that you were intrigued by Peter Blakes’ character rather than anything else- what decisions informed his choices and also wondering at the opportunities that were presented to him- who else is offered the chance to purchase a room full of stamps. Fantastic.
The light however did give some dramatic shadows which were really great but unfortunately couldn’t be documented due to the ‘No Photography’ rule. This would have been fine but there was no affordable catalogue or any exhibition view postcards. (As you can tell I’m more interested in the display, feel and curation of this exhibition which often isn’t documented in the ‘gift shop’ at the end. I don’t like organisers and institutions to govern the visual ‘memories’ I take from a place.)
Now onto some of the work shown. Walter Potter was a taxidermist and he made dioramas of scenes cast with stuffed animals. The interesting thing about his work (other than the ‘freak’ 2 headed lamb and 3 legged sheep he taxidermied), was the use of scale it employed. In one scene a doll’s house was used in place of a real house, makes sense. But then a normal cat cannot inhabit the same world as the scaled down house. In it’s place a kitten is used, and puppies and baby mice and an assortment of infant creatures who themselves are strangely proportioned when compared to their adult forms. Then there is a cockerel- and here Potter used carefully selected and positioned feathers from an actual cockerel on a small former. Likewise a cow, even in infancy, is not the correct scale for this scene and so calf skin is stretched expertly over a cow shaped frame to produce the correct effect. This range of skills, techniques and real and ‘fake’ creatures leads to a crazy scene of miniaturisation and freakishness. I’m reminded of a quote from Calum Storrie (‘From Soane to Soane’ in Inventory Vol 2, No. 2, edited by Neil Cummings (1997).)
“Each railway station, car, gun and doll’s house shows us our world made small. Of course by juxtaposing different scales of object this world is made absurd. So what at first, appears as a way of simply relating to the world (especially the world of made things) is actually a mad tableau which defies coherence.”
I also really enjoyed how personal and intimate the whole Museum feels, the hand crafted feel reflects the outsider/folk art which it exhibits. Here I should give a nod to This Is Studio, who created the branding and graphics for the show- lovely stuff. Link: thisisstudio.co.uk. There is no getting away from the humanness of the show. The Museum is very accessible and welcoming. The curio/ freak show aspect of the work shown arouses the voyeuristic tendencies in us and, as the introductory panel encourages you- it’s about the experience of it as much as anything else. Certainly as you enjoy a cup of tea afterwards you feel like the tip through the varied rooms, corridors, spaces and types of work was similar to an hour and half tour through the human mind.
I went and saw the Design Research Unit (DRU) show over at Cubitt Gallery in Angel this weekend. I’d shamefully never heard of these guys but they were the original post/multi/trans disciplinary guys. Working over industrial, architectural, advertising and graphic design they were formed in 1943 (cheers Wikipedia). They have impeccably designed material which covers branding for the likes of ICI, Ilford and the legendary graphic system for British Railway. (Which always reminds me of Roundels equally legendary rebrand for Railfreight in the 80s). All of this belongs to a style of solid, accurate and robust design who’s strength comes from not just the flawless work but also the consistency of it’s application. The guidelines they lay down for the brands are exhaustive and particular and you get a real sense that the brands they created are successful through the rigour laid down by their creators. It is in contrast to the work of one of today’s branding forces: Moving Brands. Their offer is based on their brands adapting to different situations and responding to it’s audience. This is great for today’s twittered up social networked scene but I don’t know that it necessarily creates the same kind of well loved, iconic and long lasting work as the commanding and authoritarian brands from DRU. I suppose it has a lot to do with different times and approaches- DRU’s work is not very sympathetic to the contexts it’s applied to- it imposes itself but then as time passes it’s audience grow up with it and it becomes more comfortable. With MB’s work it is more immediate and welcoming but perhaps more transient- it will be interesting to see what from the brands created now will still survive and be as iconic 50 years on as British Rail.
Perhaps the best name for a design practice ever:
The show is a traveling one and I loved the display which was on very functional and beautiful Dexion racking, mmm:
Came across a brilliant set of videos from Offset which is a 3 day creative conference. These videos are from 2009- expect the 2010 one shortly. But the line up is brilliant and it’s a great resource- all are good but I am a massive fan of the Oliver Jeffers, David Shrigley, Chip Kidd, Harry Pearce and Anthony Burrill talks. All excellent. Offset link: here.
Little bit late but here it is. Went to the RCA in short- was surprisingly disappointed with the Interactions work- I think now that most people can use an arduino a bit and appreciate that electronics and stuff isn’t as hard as it used to be, the magic has left a bit. I’m not impressed now by a sensor or a projector with a something on it- I’ve seen it before- quite a bit. It all needs to be coupled with an intelligent and good idea which didn’t seem as apparent as in previous years. I was surprisingly pleased with the Product stuff though- don’t know why- perhaps because a fair bit of the interactions electronicy stuff has osmosised over- as I said- all that stuff is a lot more accessible than it used to be- the best piece of electronic interaction that was there was in the Design Products space.
Earth Coffin by George Fereday looks like what it is- but a good idea mind.
Pressed Chair by Harry Thaler. Not often I like chairs- but this one seems to actually live up to it’s eco concepts- I like that if you left it outside it might begin to look like a watering can. I think the raw metal one would look better with age- tricky to do.
Disappearing by Andrew Friend. Read the website and see the pictures. I like this one for a few reasons- the objects look like they are older than they are- the one for the sea looks like a 20 year old buoy. Also the project only comes alive in the photographs- the objects are almost by the by- the photos are the heroes here- contextualising the objects in wall sized photographs at the show was a winner- I’ve got a real thing at the moment for how far do you need to take a project before it’s a project.
Paula Antonelli, senior curator at the MoMA has acquired the @ symbol for the permanent collection of the museum. That’s pretty brilliant. I think what’s more interesting is the kind of conversations she must have had with colleagues about it’s inclusion- there was some opposition to it’s acquisition. And what was discussed about what museums should and could acquire- what’s the purpose of museums. And what effect does the acquisition have on the @ symbol in general- will people treat it with more reverence now it’s been held on a pedestal? Interesting stuff. Click here to read Antonelli’s blog about it over at MoMA.
Took a trip to the Design Museum and here’s my round up of favourites from the Design Awards. The stuff shown is what I reckon is most awesome- there was of course some stuff that I didn’t dig- but the following was so good I left feeling good about the Design industry which I hadn’t expected.
This is Sugru- a material which can be moulded by hand and cures at room temperature to become a washable, heatproof silicone. Sold as coloured lumps in various sizes it’s designed for hacking your objects- fixing, making better and is generally just awesome.
The Really Interesting Group (RIG) have created the Newspaper Club- utilising down time at printers they have created a service which allows individuals to upload artwork for their own newspapers of between 5 and 5000 copies- they’ve made printing incredibly affordable. Perhaps the most interesting (excuse the pun) thing which started it off is ‘Things Our Friends Have Written On The Internet’, a publication aggregating images and text from blogs, and websites into a printed publication. Heavy web 3.0 shit.
In a similar vain It’s Nice That get my respect for producing a consistently quality package of blog, features, jobs board, exhibitions, artwork and most importantly for me an extremely affordable printed output: again, using the advantages of the internet to create content. Printing it turns it into something better- sort of brings it full circle.
The Incidental has so many people involved that i’m not going to try and name check them all but it’s pretty fucking encouraging to see some familiar names in there. Basically it’s an almost immediate magazine based in and featuring both Milan 2009 and The London Design Festival 2009. Content was sourced from the people going around the events- tweeted, blogged, reported directly and then sifted, filtered and created into a new publication each day. Simple- brave- dramatically scaleable- pretty and above all useful.
Real Time by Maarten Baas is a clock which is changed manually- he’s done a few- some with brushes, some as installations but this one is done with some red glass- black paint (I think I read it was latex) and a squigee. Watch the video. Not in the show but found on his website: I really really like his clay furniture series- I mean I really like it and I’m not into chairs.
Also worth a mention were BBC iPlayer, Amazon’s Kindle (Both of these were of going to happen, but are still well designed and pretty revolutionary), Why Not Associates Literary Forest, and The Trillion Dollar Project (to raise awareness for The Zimbabwean newspaper.
I’m interested in the relationships between objects. For the purposes of this piece of writing, ‘objects’ will be 2D images or titles/words.
I am interested in the relationships which can be formed between two objects when they are presented side by side- as in a book spread. The spread creates a context for the objects to inhabit and invites the viewer to understand not only two separate images, but also the narrative which the objects create together, through merit of sharing the same space.
There are three ways in which adjacent objects may reference each other.
The first is to do with the physicality of the objects – colour, shape, form - strictly aesthetics. Two images may refer to each through merit of both being blue, or the focal point being a clock etc.
The second is concerned with the symbolical nature of an object and the ideas, attributes, and meanings which such objects reference. For example an image of a beach representing a memory of a holiday, a shell as a souvenir of the same experience, or a train ticket of the journey completed to get to the holiday. Other examples of ideological referencing could be religious symbols, celebrity icons, or brand logos.
The third referencing type is one of labelling and frames. Objects, even if attached arbitrarily, through their nature of sharing a page, refer to each other and have a dialogue. Through merit of being under the same title or being grouped together, these artefacts are forced to begin a discourse with each other. This is known as contiguity- from Aristotle’s ‘Laws of Association’- whereby things which are in close proximity are linked and ‘readily associated’.
Referencing is what allows objects to connect with each other and have a dialogue. Whether this dialogue is interesting or communicates the intentions of the curator depends on how well those objects rhyme together.
The skill of rhyming objects is similar to that of the story teller: to create either an ideological or physical (material or aesthetic) thread between a group of objects to create a fuller, deeper understanding of their context, history, and narrative. Juxtaposition of objects is very important and a pair may still rhyme even if the neighbouring objects are incomplete. Rhyme can give a spread a certain poetic and approximate logic.
I am particularly interested in the accidental ways in which objects may rhyme- when two things are abstracted from their original context and framed as a pair to extract something entirely unexpected and meaningful.
James Turnley created ‘Two for the Road’ as “an editing experiment based on the visual similarities that can be found when photos are presented side by side.” Through merit of proximity the images share a contiguous dialogue. Through this, the image’s messages are skewed and a new message emerges. In a similar way that the title of an artwork affects the context it is viewed in, so when objects are put together they cannot help but be changed by each other.
‘Two for the Road’ is a curated attempt to create rhyme. ‘Them Thangs’ is run by Justin Blyth: ‘It is a collection of things I like, intended for visual inspiration’. It is perhaps best described as a visual blogzine. The display of the images is part curated and part organic. Images are selected but then allowed to flow through the page, creating many and different relationships. Images which ordinarily would seem unremarkable, when viewed as a collection (through benefit of being physically/aesthetically, ideologically or contiguously related) become a necessary part of a captivating and beautiful whole.
Words and Pictures is a website I am in the process of creating with Mike which attempts to cultivate the moment of rhyme by allowing uploaded content to appear next to each other randomly. This is to further explore the themes discussed here: particularly contiguity, and also to create content for an off line printed magazine of curated and edited pairs of objects.