Wojciech Zamecznik, Photo-Graphics

Briefly Noted

Warsaw, Zachęta – Natonal Galery of Art

Wojciech Zamecznik, Photo-Graphics

Photography and film combine the features of the biological and the technological eye, and perhaps thanks to that they are able to merge two models of knowledge–the optical, which is deemed passive, with the participatory one.

It could be asserted that for Wojciech Zamecznik, photography and film were ways of being in the world and the tools for changing it. Therefore, that which supports the hegemony of seeing–photography, perceived as the “witness” or “trace”–becomes a tool for its deconstruction or gradual modification.

Karolina Ziębińska-Lewandowska, The Power of Seeing

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Activism by Design

In the new issue of Traces published by Casino Luxembourg – forum d’art contemporain there’s an article I wrote last year.activism_by_design_2

Design awakens desire. Design infatuates and seduces. And design has the beguiling power to stoke our appetite for contraptions and gizmos we don’t yet possess and hardly need. There’s no question about it, design is a business, and as such it feeds on us. This is the sophisticated and predatory ecosystem modern designers must fit into, although the reason they get into design in the first place might be a need to do something worthy, to solve problems, to change the world.

Dennis Elbers and Sven Ehmann, the curators of Resolute: Design Changes, are showing how the design community, empowered by technology, is experiencing a change in which independent creative individuals, with the help of crowd funding, open source platforms, and social media, can have impact on society. “Resolute is the outcome of an ongoing conversation between me and Denis Elbers, the force behind the Graphic Design Festival in Breda”, said Sven Ehmann when I asked him how the project came about. “We did a show about visual storytelling together before. When we were reviewing that earlier show and discussing a potential subject for a next exhibition at the festival, the idea for Resolute evolved. Behind all that is our curiosity about the latest changes and developments in creative culture. We were a bit fed up with nice looking or crazy looking or fancy looking designs and were impressed by the attitude and dedication of a next generation of designers and projects”.

Originally shown in 2014 at Design Festival Breda, Resolute showcased 21 socially involved projects. Organized into three categories—Revolt, Review, and Refresh—and presented through posters, campaigns, pop-up books and board and video games, Resolute addressed topics ranging from urban farming to drone surveillance and genetically modified leather. It traveled to Luxembourg on the occasion of Design Friends’ fifth anniversary and was accompanied by an additional selection of six socially engaged projects called Postscript: Luxembourg. Designers based in or with some link to Luxembourg tackled topics like the reintegration of inmates in a penitentiary, badly designed urban space, and happiness. The recurring element threading through the work was the designers’ concern for people as a community. As Elbers noted in an article for DEE magazine, “The avant-garde of the emerging generation deals with social values by placing their design practice in the middle of society, rather than trying to influence it from above”.

So what does it mean to design from within society? As Cheryl Heller writes, “In this new role the designer’s practice takes place not in a private studio but inside an organization or community”. Today a new breed of designers is on the altruistic mission of growing something good. To do so they are stepping into the world and getting involved with people and communities to understand the dynamics at the root of a problem. Research and the representation of its results has become not only a crucial part of design’s domain but also a powerful weapon against manipulation, corruption and fraud. Communication and collaboration are also an intrinsic part of the new equation, as only by working with other professionals can designers make an impact.

Ruben Pater’s Drone Survival Guide is an example of this. His typology of drones is one of the elements in Twenty-first Century Bird Watching, which itself is part of a larger series of works called Untold Stories. These are politically and socially engaged visual narratives in which Pater researches, analyzes, and presents stories that shed light onto, as he puts it, ‘the unspoken issues’. In this case the issue unspoken is drone warfare and when I asked Pater what inspired him he wrote, “In 2012 there was a lack of reporting on drones, particularly the use of military drones and its devastating effects in areas of conflict. The Drone Survival Guide was an attempt to familiarize the general public with this phenomenon in a visual way”.

Raising awareness may be a first step in change, but obviously it is only a beginning. As Predatory Policy shows, designers have to partner with other professionals to make a lasting impact. Making Policy Public by the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) is a series of campaigns in which designers, advocates, and CUP tackled public policy. As CUP’s website explains, Predatory Policy is about stopping “predatory equity takeover of affordable housing in New York City”. CUP’s team first did an impressive amount of research and then presented the data skillfully enough to speak to both tenants and decision makers. Looking at the result you can see how carefully the text and graphics have been balanced and how a specific set of solutions is presented to encourage people to take action. This foldable poster became a tool to empower individuals to fight predatory equity.

Socially engaged projects don’t always produce tangible outcomes or results that are easy to measure. Lynn Schammel and Giacomo Piovan are the founders of Socialmatter and the creators of the Jailbird Manual. While talking with Lynn about the Jailbird project she told me that the work they did for the penitentiary’s woodshop gave the inmates hope and self-esteem. Inspired by Enzo Mari’s Open Design Theory, Jailbird Manual is a guide containing a set of woodworking techniques that are tailored to the inmates’ needs. It is the outcome of a collaboration between inmates and designers, at once a manual to be referenced and a point of departure for the inmate’s creativity, autonomy and self-confidence.

There has been a lot of interest in design for social causes over the last decade. MFA Design for Social Innovation at SVA, AIGA’s Design for Good, the Finish INDEX: Award and the Changing the Change conference in Turin are just some of the design initiatives that have been launched, and this year’s Utrecht Manifest biennale was called, appropriately enough, Design For The Good Society. But this impulse to design for good is hardly new. Whether Charles Booth was a designer by accident or intuition, the design of his first poverty map in 1889 demystified the state of the poorest parts of London. Meticulously researched by a team of social scientists, economists, statisticians and philanthropists, the color-coded data produced such a public outcry that the government was forced to take action and handle the issue with care.

People like John Ruskin, William Morris, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Guy Debord, Ken Garland, Victor Papanek and other design activists have inspired subsequent generations to design responsibly and consciously. Yet their work has not always led to immediate change. Something—be it the nature of mass production and mass consumption, politics, the commercial character of the design industry—has always got in the way. Why might the new wave of design activism meet with more success?

Design activists are afraid of neither commitment nor hardship. They avidly research and do whatever it takes to fight injustice and corruption, to help the disadvantaged, to help communities, to understand complex systems and cast light upon the thorny issues of our time. But, maybe every new generation thinks they are the first to know how to make the world a better place. Is it not naive to think that the responsibility for growing something good rests solely on the shoulders of designers? Do we not all need to embrace activism, as chances are this is our best hope for meeting the challenges we grapple with? Each of us has to look for integrity in our work and lives, to be sustainable, to learn how to grow something good rather than just buy and throw away. After all, we are part of a community.

ABSTRACT OR NOT Philippe Apeloig in Luxembourg

Philippe Apeloig is an influential French graphic designer. His approach to a given assignment, whether it is a poster, logotype, or font, shows an impressive amount of both thoughtfulness and understanding of the subject matter at hand. His typographic solutions are skilfully crafted and demonstrate great attention to detail. He always aims to get the maximum effect with the minimum of means. Apeloig is a master of typographic interpretation. His work is idea-oriented and process driven. He can thoughtfully play with words and images in order to transmit concepts that are aesthetically appealing, perfectly balanced, and intelligent.

Most of the time I start from a text, from typography and I continue with images. I use the editing techniques from film editing. I carve my ideas into pieces and then reassemble them in a different order. I manipulate them until the composition is right and it is strong enough to fix itself in the visual memory of the public.

 When you read a text most of the time it’s very static—you don’t even look at the shape of the letters, you consider the meaning—but one of the goals of the designer is to make text appear spectacular, like a show that really catches your eye.

 The challenge is to be persuasive: like an actor who convinces the audience to suspend disbelieving. He has to interpret his role so vividly that he and his character become one.

Philippe Apeloig

Last Wednesday Philippe Apeloig came to Mudam, Luxembourg to talk about his work. It was one of the events organised by Design Friends. I was given the opportunity to coordinate this talk. On this occasion DF published a little catalogue featuring some of the projects Philippe Apeloig Studio worked on and an interview with the designer. The book will be available to buy on DF’s website soon.

Philippe_Apeloig_01 Philippe_Apeloig_02 Philippe_Apeloig_03

DESIGN CHANGES: POSTSCRIPT

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.

I’ve been here; I hope the same for you, Henryk Tomaszewski, Warsaw

I do not have patience to admire beauty in itself–skilful eye or hand. I prefer failure to mastered perfection… I am not interested in showing-off accomplished forms anymore. I enjoy, instead, playing with a language I do not know yet.

 Henryk Tomaszewski, editor Agnieszka Szewczyk, translation Kinga Kowalczyk

I have recently visited Zachęta – National Gallery of Art in Warsaw where Henryk Tomaszewski’s graphic work is on show till 10th June. The exhibition and the work of the leader of the Polish Poster School was a revelation and a fortunate coincidence. In this post I used some of the photographs I had shot in the gallery, fragments of the exhibition catalogue, Steven Heller’s article for the New York Times (2005) and one of the episodes of the Polish Film Chronicles (1978).

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Even when he made a poster to advertise another artist’s exhibition, Mr. Tomaszewski interpreted the content. For example, to announce a 1959 show of Henry Moore’s sculptures, he created a veritable sculpture garden from the letters of the artist’s name and placed Moore’s “Mother and Child” on a pedestal made from the “O” in Moore. But this handling of the subject was not just a flagrant personal conceit; Mr. Tomaszewski succeeded in showcasing the salient features in Moore’s work that were akin to his own.

Steven Heller, Henryk Tomaszewski, Leader of the Polish Poster School, Dies at 91

PKF – Polish Film Chronicle, a 10 minute long newsreel, was part of the official information media in the communist Poland. I decided to use one of the episodes here to give a feel for the times in which Tomaszewski lived and worked in.

“Politics is like the weather,” he once said, “you have to live with it.” His art benefited from this resistance, since he was forced to come up with concealed satiric images in his work. He stayed clear of overtly political issues and focused entirely on designing posters for cultural institutions and events.

Steven Heller, Henryk Tomaszewski, Leader of the Polish Poster School, Dies at 91

“Atmosphere Rooms” for Philippe Apeloig, Paris

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.

Acoustic Walk

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…

http://www.akustycznyspacer.pl

Black Square

0.10_Exhibition
A section of Suprematist works by Kazimir Malevich exhibited for the first time at the 0.10 exhibition (via Wikipedia)

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.

Igor Zabel on The Last Futurist Exhibition 0.10 in 1915

Dutch Design

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Theo van Doesburg, alphabet design, 1919

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

Wolfgang Weingart

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The Line Pictures for Hofmann by Wolfgang Weingart

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.

Weingart: Typography

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.

Chris Kelly, CBS, New York

 

 

Nelken, Pina Bausch, 1982

Nelken-Lutz_Foerster-c_Maarten_Vanden_Abeele

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.

 

Philippe Apeloig

 

 

Commonplaces Summer Programme Basel

Coat of arms of the canton of Basel-Stadt
Coat of arms of the canton of Basel-Stadt

A week ago Tony Pritchard, my course leader from the LCC, asked me to write about my experience in Basel. So I looked through my archive and I gathered the information about the course, as well as some photographs and quotes which help elucidate the philosophy behind the Basel School of Design and their Summer Programme.

Between 1968 and 1999, the ‘Basel School of Design’ had conducted an Advanced Class of Graphic Design which was attended by students from all over the world. When the school was transformed into University Level, this Advanced Class was unfortunately closed.

From the Basics in Design and Typography Programme, Basel 2008

When the Schule für Gestaltung Basel (Basel School of Design) first announced its First Summer Program ‘Basics in Design and Typography’, three weeks of workshops for graphic designers, students and educators, it emphasised the fact that the course would be conducted by Wolfgang Weingart and would ‘re-open a dialogue’ with the legendary Advanced Class of Graphic Design, closed since 1999 …

The course was delivered in a series of huge, clean white rooms, previously used as exhibition spaces within the Gewerbemuseum (trade museum) building. On the floor above was the Basel School of Design library; on the floor below was the Swiss Poster Collection. Each student was given their own enormous working space for the course. At the start of each class, all the equipment and materials were to be found ready and waiting in a neat pile on each desk. However, by far the most noticeable feature of the studio was the complete absence of computers . . .

Back to basics in Basel by Rupert Bassett

http://www.eyemagazine.com/feature/article/back-to-basics-in-basel-extract

The course was delivered in a series of huge, clean white rooms, previously used as exhibition spaces within the Gewerbemuseum (trade museum) building. Summer Programme 2008.
The course was delivered in a series of huge, clean white rooms, previously used as exhibition spaces within the Gewerbemuseum (trade museum) building. The Summer Programme 2008.

Drawing and Designing with Peter Olpe

In this workshop we had to draw pieces of track ballast from the Swiss Railway.

The piece of ballast, from the workshop, I still have on my desk.
The piece of stone from the workshop. I still have it on my desk.

What we do not see we cannot tell. What we see incorrectly we will report incorrectly.  

Josef Albers: To Open Eyes by Frederick A. Horowitz and Brenda Danilowitz

From the workshop with Peter Olpe
Drawings from the workshop.

Only with a rich vocabulary of a solid graphic training is it possible to move freely among all one has learned. It is significant that often the most elementary experiences – which are commonly undervalued – are exactly those that can be the most lasting.

A Drawer’s Thoughts on Drawing: Drawing Makes Things Visible by Dorothea Hofmann

From Leonardo comes this observation: The line has an intellectual nature because, although it does not exist in reality, it can be understood to clarify objects. …the drawing cannot be a reproduction of nature, but that is possesses rather its own special reality.

Drawing as Design Process by Peter Olpe

My work from the workshop
My work from the workshop: “Relationships”.

Tonal work is risk-free; line is perilous voyage. Line drawing had a nakedness that forced students to think in advance of the line they drew.

Josef Albers: To Open Eyes by Frederick A. Horowitz and Brenda Danilowitz
My work from the workshop
My work from the workshop: “Final Piece”.

Colour and Designing with Dorothea Flury

For the workshop we just needed paper and tempera.

From the workshop.
Group’s work.

In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is–as it physically is. This fact makes color the most relative medium in art. In order to use color effectively it is necessary to recognize that color deceives us continually. To this end, the beginning is not a study of color systems.

Interaction of Color by Josef Albers

My work from the workshop. Colour relationships.
My work from the workshop: “Colour Relationships”.

Basics in Typography with Wolfgang Weingart

Designing book covers using paper and scissors.

After completing one of the task. Group discussion.
After completing one of the tasks. The little round box with a six-point, semi bold Berthold Akzidenz-Grotesk was always on Weingart’s desk.

Good typography is not loud. A responsibly applied and readable type style is the first ingredient of good composition. Today, asymmetric composition is certainly feasible, however, typography is intrinsically symmetrical. A text block without indents is unclear. Indents help the reader by the logical order of the text. The best typography is invisible to the reader and serves to transmit the thoughts and intent of the author. Beautiful text, a text well composed, is legible. One of the highest virtues of good typography is its subtle elegance. It is not the duty of the typographer to consciously display or emulate the style of the current trends, nor to reflect the spirit of the times. Typography must be itself. It must be pleasing to the eye and not tiring. Good typography has absolutely nothing to do with remarkable or exotic type styles. This is the opinion of amateurs. The essence of letter-form is not modernity, but readability. (from Jan Tschichold’s document sent to Wolfgang Weingart)

It seemed as if everything that made me curious was forbidden: to question established typographic practice, change the rules, and to reevaluate its potential. I was motivated to provoke this stodgy profession and to stretch the typeshop’s capabilities to the breaking point, and finally, to prove once again that typography is an art.

My Way to Typography by Wolfgang Weingart

My drawing from the workshop.
One of the drawings I made during the workshop.

Space and Form (3D) with Stephan Primus

During the workshop we only used paper and a cutting knife.

Examples of work from previous courses.
Examples of work from previous courses.

Don’t even worry about being without a studio or being away  from your tools; you can always get out the paper. (from Josef Albers’s Report on a Course)

Josef Albers: To Open Eyes by Frederick A. Horowitz and Brenda Danilowitz

The following photographs present my work from the workshop.

Different forms.
Different forms.
Libraries of forms.
Libraries of forms.
Progression 1
Progression 1.
Progression 2
Progression 2.
Complexity
Complexity.

Things I liked most:

  • the struggle while I was drawing the ballast stones
  • Peter Olpe’s amazing pinhole cameras, which he builds himself
  • the school’s poster collection, shown by Dorothea Flury
  • Dorothea’s comment that students came to the Basel School of Design for Armin Hofmann, but wanted to stay for Kurt Hauert.
  • the visit to the Novartis Campus (a treasure trove of design) guided by Kaspar Schmid and Lize Mifflin (Mifflin-Schmid Design)
  • Beat Keusch who, according to Weingart, is the most sensible Swiss designer http://www.beatkeusch.ch/
  • Paper Museum and it’s exhibition: 50th Aniversary of Helvetica
  • Shaulager, a place to check out http://www.schaulager.org/smq/
  • Letterform in Public Space, a guided tour through the city of Basel with Lisa Pomeroy
  • Vitra, the collection of chairs and the Conference Pavilion designed by Tadao Ando http://www.vitra.com/en-us/corporation/designer/details/103924

 

*The black and white photographs (Drawing and Designing, Space and Form) come from the book we received after the course. They were made by two assistants in the Summer Programme,  Mo and Anne.

Here are some photographs of the book.

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Yasunori Morinaga's work.
Yasunori Morinaga’s work.
Yasunori Morinaga's work.
Yasunori Morinaga’s work.
Yasunori Morinaga's work.
Yasunori Morinaga’s work.