A few days ago I had the chance to talk to Nadine Clemens, the president of Design Friends Luxembourg. We spoke about Resolute–Design Changes, Postscript: Luxembourg and the local design scene.
With Resolute exhibition Design Friends celebrates its 5th anniversary. It has always been its mission to invite internationally renowned designers from many fields of design and present their work to the local community. But for some time now the association’s leaders have felt there was something missing in the rich programme they offered every season. In October of last year, during the Night of the Museums, Design Friends presented a portfolio show featuring 100 Luxembourg-based design studios, so now Resolute–Design Changes is accompanied by Postscript: Luxembourg. This addition presents socially involved projects that come from designers who are either based in Luxembourg or have some link to it.
Postscript perfectly complemets the themes chosen for the main show. Two projects that caught my eye were “A Do Something But Not Anything Manifesto” by Isabelle Mattern and “Jailbird Manual” by Socialmatter. The first is a compilation of questions, keywords and instructions that relate to, among other topics, personal experience, commitment, motivation and ways of working. These are presented in the form of a layered recording, a poster with a transcribed text that is typographically interpreted and a jar filled with small pieces of rolled paper that each has a short text on it. The second project is a guide with a set of tools and techniques useful in carpentry. Designers from Socialmatter, Giacomo Piovan and Lynn Schammel, decided to present the guide as graphically interpreted manual of instructions. This graphical tool is now being used at the penitentiary centre Givenich, Luxembourg.
Existing political, economical, ecological and even social structures are widely questioned. … As a consequence design can no longer only be defined by just technical performance, aesthetics, or creativity. …
Dennis Elbers, London Calling, Dee, Issue 3, 2014
It is still quite rare to see a design exhibition in a museum. But thanks to Dennis Elbers and Sven Ehmann’s initiative, and the sensitive approach to design of Nadine Clemens, the president of Design Friends Luxembourg, it is now possible to see Resolute–Design Changes exhibition at the Casino Luxembourg–Forum d’art contemporain. The projects presented in Resolute and Postscript Luxembourg give us insight into how socially responsible designers approach social problems and how they try to solve them on a bigger scale. What’s interesting is that these designers always work in, with and for a community. Their work is no longer just about staging provocations; it is about involvement and finding solution.
Design for Social Innovation applies the abilities of talented individuals to collective creativity and to the transformation of complex systems at great scale. In this new role, the designer’s practice takes place not in private studio but inside an organisation or community. It the invisible dynamics of individuals and their relationship with each other instead of material resources. Its method and value are in collective participation and creativity that engage organisations in finding solutions that work for them.
An interest in social matters has become a hot topic in the world of design. Dutch design, for example, aims to make an impact on a society rather than show off strong visual concepts. With Works That Work,Peter Bil’ak, a Slovakian graphic and typeface designer based now in The Hague, quietly revolts against the usual magazine publishing models and promotes design that happens in most unexpected places and circumstances. Alice Rawsthorn in Hello World casts light on the new challenges we all face when it comes to solving delicate social issues using design systems. In her book she showcases fantastic examples of projects concerned with communities. Everyday Rebellion documents social movements that speak up against inequality, injustice and fraud. And, last but not least, the V&A curators have recently shown Disobedient Objects, an exhibition which explores the role such objects play in grassroots movements.
Conclusion? Designers and people involved in design fight to be sustainable; they put their efforts in growing something, often intangible, rather than creating objects that you can buy and throw away when obsolete.
Typography is not only for reading and must not be a pain. Typography can be a game and a lot of fun.
At the beginning of September I went to see Weingart Typografie at the Museum of Design in Zurich. I spent a couple of hours there looking at his work and the work made by his students. And, while I was sketching and taking notes, all of a sudden, Weingart entered the exhibition room and I said hello and he looked at me and asked me if he had taught me…
On my way out I bought a copy of 30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typogrfische Monatsblätter: TM RSI SGM 1960-90 published by Lars Müller Publishers. Typogrfische Monatsblätter was a typographic journal that became a discussion platform for professionals in the field of typesetting and printing.
In “Typografie ist eine Kunst für sich” from 1973, Tschichold called typographical game playing a hybrid decadence, stressing that a good typographer, unlike the self-aggrandising graphic designer, never actually feels free, he does not play, but rather follows the considerations of his reason.
30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typogrfische Monatsblätter, p.134
Is this typography worth supporting, or do we live on the moon? Typography is not dead, yet! But its effect is undoubtedly anaemic and vague. But, by and large, it is intact, it is definitely less than ever a practical skill. Instead, it endures as an intrinsic necessity. Typography lives! It is not regarded with the primacy of perhaps 10 or 20 years ago, and is comprehended less as a “picture”, but rather, more as a “text”. Nevertheless, it remains a prominent element of “visual communication”: indispensable, and occasionally fresh, even original.
Peter Kornatzki, 30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typogrfische Monatsblätter, p. 157
As for the exhibition, it is a thoughtfully organised space that shows Wingart’s practice as a constant search for solutions. It shows clearly his regard for process-oriented work.
I was not interested in a single result, but in the research. I was interested in process-oriented teaching…
At the Basel School of Design they try to bring out in people a kind of intuitive approach to making things visual, whether it’s typography, or drawing, or whatever, and help them find ways of analysing what they’re doing while they’re doing it.
Hamish Muir, 30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typogrfische Monatsblätter, p. 169 (originally published in Heritage, Emigre, no.14, 1990)
…but one of the important things I learned from him was how to work; a healthy process. It was more of a process of discovery and exploration than of trying to make something that looks like the teacher’s or anybody else’s work. When he gave an assignment, he would encourage us to work on 20 different iterations all at the same time. I found that method very useful. …They may all be good solutions, but maybe only one is really appropriate. I think that is the strongest thing I learned from Weingart: a playful, beginner’s-kind-of Weingart mind.
In my search for information about Herr Weingart I found out that he liked listening to Bruno Walter’s rehearsing Mozart’s Linz Symphony.
While working on the week ends in the typeschop at the school, Weingart often wheeled out a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and played the music of German composers–Wagner, Bethoven, Mozart–would accompany his labour. One of his favourites was a recording of a legendary orchestra conductor Bruno Walter rehearsing Mozart’s Linz Symphony in which Walter implores his musicians to share his grasp of a particular passage as a “shimmering”. The same could describe Weingart’s body of work. His typographic vision embodies a similar vitality and richness. It shimmers.
Wolfgang Weingart’s My Way to Typography is a publication that accompanies the exhibition. It is an interesting read for anyone involved with art, design or typography. Keith Tam and Stuart Bailey, among others, wrote about the book and it is striking how contrary their opinions were on Weingart’s practice, the design and the content of his book. Either you love it or hate it, I guess.
[hlysnan] in old English means to listen with intention and attention. The exhibition and the publication titled [hlysnan] The Notion and Politics of Listening prepared by the curators Berit Fischer and Kevin Muhlen for the Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain presents sounds that inspire to reflect on spatial and sociopolitical relations. The selection of recordings presented in the Casino carries meaningful messages that examine usually unexplored territories, like the impact of drone surveillance on civil communities in FATA, the voice as a tool to gain position in society, historical speeches as a source of recreation of history, the concept of mimesis as resistance, etc. As for the publication that accompanies the exhibition, it is a conceptual piece that records some aspects of work made by sound artists who take part in the [hlysnan] project. The book contains, among others, a very interesting essay by Peter Cusack who is a ‘sonic journalist’ and records sounds in dangerous places like Chernobyl. Anther essay worth mentioning is a piece about the linguistic diversity under threat of disappearing by John Wynne.
The exhibition focuses rather on sound than an image. There is a sense of emptiness in the rooms which enhances the experience of listening. The artists invited by the curators presented powerful projects that made me listen and think about some of the aspects of sociopolitical dependencies I didn’t realize existed. The curators wanted as little visuals as possible. For me that was an invitation to produce some drawings. The images below are some of the drawings I made while listening to the recordings in the Casino Luxembourg.
The sonic bleed of a circling drone that one cannot necessarily see, but hear, is a constant reminder that a deadly strike may come at any time, quite literally out of the blue.
Subliminal Projection Company is an experiment to transduce memories of the artist to the visitor. The method applied — subliminal text concealed under nature sounds — imitates the self-hep CDs that are widely used in the hope of effortless self-improvement. Instead of the inspirational self-improvement messages, Menick infiltrates recollections of his childhood.
The future’s past has caught up with itself. In the Citadel residents are equipped with special auditory mechanisms for acute hearing. Communication has been stripped down to its most basic level; the voice and its aural residuals. Here, voice recognition technology controls the flow of social exchange. The Interlocutors of the Citadel control the social order as well as the very limited resources of life. The voice is the key to pass. The Interlocutors guard vocal codes with full authority. Those in the half-light exist on the periphery without access.
We’re culture that is always looking for that other message, always looking for that new arrangement.
Cloude Levi Strauss The Strange Mind
The last couple of weeks I spent on reading about brands and branding, about material culture and self-transformation. I have also visited NEVER FOR MONEY ALWAYS FOR LOVE exhibition and had a chance to listen to Bruce Duckworth’s lecture on packaging design. The lecture inspired me to go back to a series of interviews from Brand Thinking by Debbie Millman and Chief Culture Officer by Grant McCracken. I also went to London to see CONSUMPTION at the V&A. And, the whole thing in this post is an interesting mix of different aspects of our material culture.
Design has successfully established itself-so much so that it has become an and in itself, something more than just a tool to boost sales; rather, it creates “meaning” and becomes the actual purpose of buying. … Good designers must be part-sociologist or “social seismographers”: they must be in close contact with the needs, desires and fantasies of society. … but design can make important contributions to help change people’s mentalities. Design is linked to daily life, its gestures and objects-and this is precisely the terrain on which profound social changes operate. If, in the past, design has helped to circulate the consumerist lifestyle, it can now in turn prepare the minds to accept a less predatory relationship to our natural and social resources-a relationship where the physical appearance of objects is not continually offered up to value and money. At the same time it can contribute to a more playful relationship to life in which not everything must necessarily be seen under the angle of power, wealth or self-affirmation, and where ‘gift’, ‘sharing’, and ‘free’ are not empty words.
Design, the ultimate stage of capitalism? by Anselm Jappe, philosopher and essayist
I think of brands as bundles of meaning and branding as a process of meaning manufacture and management. Branders find meaning in our culture and invest this meaning in brands.
CONSUMPTION, the fifth cycle of the Prix Pictet (the global award in photography and sustainability) at the V&A, London
We are all consumers. We have invented new forms of building, industrial production, farming and energy; we have emptied the seas and ravaged the land in our relentless drive to satisfy our unquenchable desires. We have at times sustained our appetites through the exploitation of the world’s poorest people. The consequences of our voracity are everywhere for us to see. We override the eternal cycle of the seasons to be sure to satisfy our daily cravings. Even our basic needs are now commoditised; we crave things we didn’t know we needed and which quickly become obsolete.
My favourite selection of photographs was scanned objects by a Chinese artist Hong Hao. For twelve years he’s been scanning objects he consumed. Hong Hao created a visual diary of things, a unique and personal inventory that attempts to question the culture of consumerism.
The Typorama finished a couple of weeks ago and I am still thinking about the walls of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris filled with Apeloig’s fonts, Metro-size posters and the music used for his animations composed by Barbatuques, Iannis Xanakis, Maurice Ravel and Laurent Rochelle, among others. Typorama, the exhibition and the catalogue, presents the panorama of Philippe Apeloig’s work which is conceptual, functional and artfully crafted.
For me, the most important thing in the exhibition were Apeloig’s sources of inspiration, his Jewish roots, the fact that his grandparents came from Kazimierz Dolny in Poland, his fascination with movies like, 8 ½, Orfeo Negro and Battleship Potemkin.
The way Philippe Apeloig presented 30 years of his work made me think of Alexander Dorner’s “Atmosphere Rooms”.
Across the Atlantic, the German curator Alexander Dorner was experimenting with a different approach to explaining the relationship between art, design and architecture as director of the Landesmuseum in Hanover. Since the mid 1920s he had used pieces from its archive to depict the cultural history of particular eras by creating what he called “Atmosphere Rooms”. The grand finale was the Raum der Gegenwart, or Room of Today, for which Dorner commissioned Moholy-Nagy to create an immersive sequences of images depicting glimpses of contemporary art, architecture, design, theater and sport with screening of experimental Soviet films including Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” and Dziga Vertov’s “Man with a Movie Camera”.
Alice Rawsthorn, Hello World
In this post I gathered some quotes and images which are glimpses of culture, design and art that I wanted to dedicate to Monsieur Apeloig.
I begin with a small town in Poland, Kazimierz Dolny. Then I move on to Malevich’s Black Square, Dutch Design, Wolfgang Weingart’s Line Pictures for Armin Hofmann, Phillippe Petit’s tightrope walking at the World Trade Center in 1974, and, finally, Pina Bausch’s Nelken from 1982.
Kazimierz Dolny in Poland used to be a place of two cultures and two religions, Catholic and Jewish. They existed next to each other till the Soviet and German occupation almost wiped the Jewish out of the town, out of the whole country. But, there are people, young people who want to remember that Jewish culture influenced Polish culture and that it is an important part of our heritage.
Jaśmina Wójcik is a Polish multimedia artist. In 2011 she created the acoustic walk around Kazimierz Dolny. It was a project with audio guides in which she used stories about Jewish that don’t live in Kazimierz any more, but are still present in the memory of its inhabitants.
…the acoustic walk around Kazimierz Dolny consists of prints of Jaśmina Wójcik’s drawings hung on the facades of houses. The drawings are the central part of the project, and create the points on the walk’s map. The path is created by places – existing or not – where Jews used to live (e.g. the cheder, the mikveh, the Tzadik house, the synagogue, the kosher slaughterhouse). Each participant gets an MP3 player, a map and an instruction. The MP3 player becomes a personal guide.This is a personal and alternative way of touring around the town–through something that does not exist anymore, or what remained in a very small scale. Yet it constitutes a very important part of the town’s history and heritage. The project aims at creating a universal message relating also to contemporary events. In their headphones the participants hear real memories of the pre-war life in Kazimierz Dolny (archived by Bożena Gałuszewska and the Brama Grodzka Center – NN Theatre in Lublin). The town used to be bicultural – Poles and Jews where neighbours here. After WWII the Jewish community vanished completely. The project is an expression of memory about them. Of respect. Of preserving their presence… of their metaphysical return…
The Last Futurist Exhibition 0.10 in 1915 … the placement of the suprematist paintings suggested the way icons were hung; … Black Square, which was, with total explicitness presented as an icon, or rather, in the position of an icon.
Van Doesburg’s upper-case alphabet was constructed from vertical and horizontal slabs of the same thickness and could be stretched vertically and horizontally to force texts to fit any format. Neither aesthetic nor legibility were major considerations, and the assumption that conveying information is a primary objective of typography as of marginal concern. Perhaps Moholy-Nagy was referring to Van Doesburg when he wrote that ‘clarity is the first prerequisite of all typography. For the sake of legibility the message must never suffer from a priori aesthetics. The letter types must never be forced into a pre-planned form, for instance into a square’. Yet, as demonstrated by the cover for the published 1920 Antwerp lecture Klassiek Barok Modern, Van Doesburg could use his alphabet quite effectively.
Dutch Graphic Design: A Century of Innovation by Alston W. Purvis andCees W. De Jong
Not able to sit still during Hofmann’s class for an entire day, and to avoid having to draw lines with a ruling pen, I found refuge in the typeshop. There I was in my element. In a thin, square slab of wood I drilled one hundred holes, a grid of ten by ten, into which I then screwed one hundred L-hooks. With this construction it was easy to turn and twist the hooks into any desired direction or pattern. The technical problem of designing the Line Pictures for Hofmann was solved. By securing my construction in the bad of the letterpress I could print many variations by adjusting the height of selected hooks to the exact height of standard metal type. The hooks of the grid not intended to print were screwed deeper into the wood, too low to be inked by the rollers.
Tightrope Walking at the World Trade Center, New York, 1974
Petit was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass and received a quick sentence doing a free show for children in Central Park.
What inspires me is the fact that I learn how to stop to look at things at one point. You need to learn how to seek, not to look and then you’ll refresh your eye, then you can meditate more about what you can do. That’s the way to find the best inspiration. … It has to be playful.
Museum Haus Konstruktiv presents an art project with audio guides envisioned by Delphine Chapuis-Schmitz . For this project, Delphine has chosen excerpts from artists’ writing, literature, philosophy and dictionary entries. The texts do not describe the exhibition currently on show (Victor Vasarely), they are inspired by the museum itself, the rooms and the collection. This project is an interactive game between the artist and the visitors in a place that is one of a kind.
The line is a means to mediate the quality or timbre of a situation, and has a structure which is quick and abstract and more or less thinkable, but it’s the tonality or, if you want, wholeness of a situation that is what I’m trying to get at.