The MayDay Post crew will be attending the Saturday sessions of this symposium at Columbia University, which we heard about through André Tavares, one of the speakers. Come and meet us!
One of my favorite presentations at the Design and Film symposium last Saturday was Stuart Kendall‘s talk on the film Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time. The documentary, directed by German filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer, focuses on Goldsworthy’s site-specific sculptural work.
I was particularly interested in Kendall’s reading of this film, which he says it is not about making, but about modifying things. To Kendall, Goldsworthy’s work challenges an anthropocentric view of the world (as vindicated from Descartes to the multiculturalist agenda), the fetishism of the heroic creator or the question of artistic and environmental appropriateness. Kendall’s lecture explored the concepts of modification vs. creation, of art – but also design – as disciplines that are part of a historical and material continuum he called long now.
This notion of a natural, physical continuum that contains humans, their actions and their consequences (as opposed to the notion of nature as a human construct) inspired a few questions asked by Kendall in his talk, such as: “What do I want to make today? What trace of my life can I leave here today? What can I do to improve existing matter and its environment?”. This is a fascinating, revolutionary way to look into human, material production. In the end, and as expressed by Goldworthy himself, “I don’t think the Earth needs me at all. But I do need it”.
After reading this month’s issue of Metropolis from cover to cover (yes, in paper!), I have to say it is probably the magazine’s best yet. From the inspiring essays (John Hockenberry, Bruce Sterling and Deyan Sudjic) to Paul Makovsky’s interview with the always enigmatic Jasper Morrison, Peter Hall’s re-visitation of MoMA’s Good Design programme or Karrie Jacobs’ atmospheric review of the Kindle, this is just an extraordinary example of what magazine can and should be: an informed, topical and enlightened take on the world. It’s only a shame Metropolis keeps putting ads on odd pages… The result is a fractured, messy read. Considering pretty much all its content is available for free online, I would like to see the physical reading experience improved. We, its dedicated printed version readers, deserve it.
A magazine art director friend of mine recently posted on his Facebook profile a great article by Gabriel Sherman. Sherman is a contributing editor at New York magazine and a special correspondent to the New Republic, and in Slate‘s The Big Money he writes how this may be a tough time for magazines, but that it is also an opportunity to take a step back and look at what is really important. His spot-on analysis of the issues involved in the print publications crisis includes these two remarkable sentences, with which I totally agree.
It’s not that magazines are dying; it’s that magazines that were created solely for advertising or market-share purposes are. New magazine titles often fail from a combination of bad timing, bad thinking, and a bad choice of brands to extend. Put simply, there are too many mediocre magazines (as anyone who gazes at the newsstand at Barnes and Nobles would conclude).
In this new media age, people talk about the importance of transforming readers into “communities.” Magazines have never had a community problem. Great magazines have built enduring relationships with their readers that Facebook and Tumblr still aspire to. But in a race to grow their businesses, publishers put advertising first and editorial excellence second.
A Boing Boing post last week featured book sculptor Brian Dettmer’s work. It got me thinking about another artist, Jose Dávila. I came across Dávila’s work while researching criticism of Rem Koolhaas’ mega-book S,M,L,XL. When Koolhaas created S,M,L,XL, he encouraged criticism of the publication as vulgar and confusing; that was the point. Nonetheless, the book was often written off as extravagant and empty.
Dávila was one of the more offended critics. His reaction to the book involved its destruction for the purpose of his art. As an artist fascinated with the political conceptual art of the 60s and 70s, his work sought emphemerality, was site-specific and irreproducible. Dávila was convinced that theories of dematerialization were best conveyed not in the creation of books, but in their demolition. For a project, he sliced S,M,L,XL into four pieces, each ranging in size from small, medium, large and extra-large pieces. Taking S,M,L,XL as the quintessence of the state of the art book publishing, Dávila conveyed his discontent by rendering the book useless as anything but a sculptural object.
To him, even intact, the big books of art and architecture were unable to achieve a non-sculptural importance as the books were “expensive, over-designed publications that are usually entirely devoid of content.” This reception of S,M,L,XL is troubling because Dávila construes the wealth of content in the book (which could even be considered as too much) as nothing. While he has duly noted that the image rich publications like those of Koolhaas and Bruce Mau (graphic designer and co-author of S,M,L,XL) “sacrifice readability for the sake of flashing design, he neglects to engage the compromised readability for a productive result. Complicated doesn’t always equal unusable.
Dávila cannot counterbalance the book’s artistic merit with its role as commodified object. In referring to the book as an unreadable prop, he is basically refusing to consider anything other than the black text on white paper in non-descript covers as books. S,M,L,XL is a legitimate manifesto, and the hallmark essay “Bigness” is frequently cited in architecture and urban planning texts. Part of the brilliance of S,M,L,XL and certainly integral in its success is the harmonious embodiment of aesthetic object and useful object. And because many critics encountered an entirely new and not readily understandable form in S,M,L,XL, their reactions only scratched the surface of the work’s complexities.
If looking at friends of friends’ Facebook photo albums or reading TMI Twitter updates is not enough of a time waster for you, try netdisasters.com. It’s as moronic and pointless as throwing water balloons at passersby, but if you liked that you’ll love this.
Netdisasters.com lets you destroy – or disasterize! – existing websites for fun. And that’s it, really. It’s harmless, too – you don’t actually destroy anything, it’s only an online game. The editors at Very Short List reccomended this website on March 18th, making it a cross between Anger Management, Henchman’s Helper and Banksy.
What? I guess it must be an American thing to associate guns and destruction to anger management, entertainment or Banksy, because I failed to find any relevance, appropriateness or even humor in this website. Call me an European “we don’t need guns to be considered citizens” woos, but after spending a few minutes on the site and reading the FAQs, I felt the need to sign up for a stricter gun-control petition. Sadly, I didn’t find one.
I’ve been following Andy Rementer’s Techno Tuesday comics since we worked together at Fabrica four years ago. Apart from being hilariously funny, Rementer’s (and the occasional guest writer’s) take on our world of ubiquitous computing is a great, sharp critique to our über-connected society: we laugh at the pathetic characters in his small vignettes not because they’re info-excluded, but because they’re info-dependent. Even if most of the stories (such a shame Rementer has only a few strips on archive, there is so much more Techno Tuesday to be seen) show nonsensical, weird or ridiculous situations, we can’t help to imagine they can actually be happening to someone, somewhere. And then we realize we may even find ourselves in their position one day. Who’ll be laughing then?