ART, DESIGN AND CULTURAL REPORTAGE: NEW YORK — LONDON

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Documents of Transient Art

A studio visit from graphic designers and proprietors of Specter Press — based in Seoul, Korea.

by Jonathan Lee

18 February 2010

Sulki & Min Choi stopped by to show us some of their work and talk about their recent activities. It was really great to meet graphic designers who are operating with such a strong conceptual approach to their work. They also shared a range of books and posters from their imprint Spector Press. Both are Yale MFA Grads and were researchers at JVE prior to establishing a permanent practice in Korea. They are really great people and great designers so check them out and order some books.

Min & Sulki

Many nice things to look at

Sasa 44: Annual Report 2006

Cover Sasa 44: Annual Report 2006

Perspecta 35, Excercise in Modern Construction part 3, Our Spot: New York

1/4: Oriëntatie

SKMoMA Highlights — a ghost publication that mirrors the form of a true MoMA Highlights catalog. Featuring the works of Korean contemporary artists, for the fictitious South Korea Museum of Modern Art.

SKMoMA Highlights — spreads mirroring each other

Catalog for Hyungkoo Lee’s solo exhibition at the Korean Pavilion, La Biennale di Venezia, 2007.

stills from slideshow

stills from slideshow

stills from slideshow

stills from slideshow

still from slideshow

sharing

looking

thanks to sulki & min


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10 January 2010

Before the end of the year I visited the Turner Prize show at Tate Britain. One of the short-list artists, that fell to the golden Richard Wright, was Roger Hiorns who was nominated for his amazing off-site installation called Seizure. There was no photography allowed at the Tate but I was able to get some shots of  ”Seizure” which was installed in an abandoned 1970’s council building at Elephant & Castle.

While waiting on this line I had vague notions of what was inside the building, which is that Mr. Hiorns crystallized the space with copper sulphate.  Additionally I was given these instructions, and an interview which I am including excerpts from below.

“Take great care when entering and leaving. There is a step. Walk slowly and carefully throughout. The floor is very uneven. Mind your head. Surfaces are sharp, and many crystals hang down. You may touch the walls but please dont break or damage the crystals. Do not attempt to climb or sit on the surfaces.”

Installation Site

Standing outside the viewer is presented with the emotional aspects of this abandoned building. There is the expectation that it’s desolate, empty, and has been an eventual failure as a structure, socially and constructively. It is now a by-product that is unquestionably uninhabitable and has yet to be worth the cost of demolishing.

Upon entering the stark low-rise, I stepped into a coveted jewel box, a crystal-encrusted flat, something that appealed to my childhood anticipations of discovering hidden spaces. I haven’t seen copper sulphate used as a material since I was in science class trying to grow rock gardens (oh yeah- and Tokujin Yoshioka’s Venus Chair- interesting to look at alongside Hiorns), but nothing remotely challenges the scale which Hiorns presented here. It was psychologically and visually heavy. The manner that it addresses the architecture is that of a secretive moss, or heavy dust covering, but in an apocalyptic, violent sense, almost to the degree that volcanic lava might cover a landscape and leave vague reminders of a historical form. This covering was actually still growing, while the building adversely was in a state of decay.

Detail

Bath coated in Copper Sulphate Crystals

James Lingwood, Co-Director of Artangel, conducted an interview with Roger Hiorns for the text titled The Impregnation of an Object, July 2008:

JL: What led you to the kind of architecture which would host the project? The space we found is quite specific and there is the idea of working in a small part of a larger whole, where the living spaces were replicated, all the same size with all the same configurations.”

RH: I have a deep interest in Brutalist architecture and the best example of that is the Robin Hood Estate designed by Alison and Peter Smithson in Poplar in East London. That was the place I was initially thinking about.

JL: What is it about the Robin Hood Estate?

RH: It was the first of its kind in London and one of the most extreme. These buildings were about containing large groups of people who were all living in the same kinds of places and being encouraged to think the same kinds of thoughts. There was the idea of a collective, the dream of growing together for the greater good, and I suppose I have always been very distrustful of the collective, it’s like my attitude to religion. These kinds of buildings don’t work, as a model they have not passed the test of time.”

“JL: These kinds of buildings began to deteriorate quite quickly. By the 1970’s they were already in bad shape.”

RH: They’re still somehow rather beautiful, they seem to carry the stain of life, to take in everything they were experiencing. I am always interested in this material called experience and what that would be. The grinding of an engine is an experience. The collective nature of the place is a kind of experience, an amalgam of memories.”

Details of Main Space(L) and Entry(R)

Ceiling Detail

Detail

“RH: I am completely objective about my own artwork, I can stand outside of it and work out whether it should exist or not. That’s why I use materials which enable me to be detached, materials which are their own thing, have their own genetic structure. Rather like copper sulphate is as auto-genetic, my work is also auto-genetic, it tries to make some sense of my psychological position and then basically makes itself.

JL: What about the blueness of the crystals-was that something else that attracted you to the material?

RH: The color was always a sidetrack for me, it was never about the beauty, about claiming something to be a beautiful object after it had undergone the crystalizing process. That would just be banal, though banality is not a bad thing always.”

Seizure was commissioned by Artangel and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, in association with Channel 4 and also by the National Lottery through the Arts Council England.


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2 January 2010

I’m in New York briefly before returning to London, and it happens to be the one week where most galleries are closed due to the Christmas/New Years holiday! New Years eve led me to the MoMA, along with the rest of New York. Struggled through the Bauhaus & Tim Burton shows, and by habit checked out the design and architecture galleries which showcase a rotating selection of MoMA’s permanent collection. This never fails to impress. My favorite aspect of this gallery is the central showcase, which is a jewel box of product designs from the past century. Braun always has a substantial line-up of products here, more than not by Mr. Rams.  The “Less and More” show at the Design Museum in London creates such a cohesive time line of his work, and here is was nice to see single specimens alongside products from contemporaries. For the millionth time I realize how wonderfully timeless all of these products are, the work being present for precisely that reason. Most of the participants have lived by the staples of modernist principles, building a roster of manifestos which have yielded decades of iconic design.  To kick-off the New York posts here is some eye candy from the showcase at the MoMA along with some manifestos (take it or leave it!) to inspire the New Year.

MoMA

Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design,                   Good design is innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design makes a product understandable.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is honest.
Good design is long-lasting.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
Good design is environmentally friendly.
Good design is as little design as possible.

Portable Transistor Radio & Phonograph (Model TP1) 1959,Design by Dieter Rams, manufactured by Braun AG, Frankfurt, Germany, Plastic Casing, Aluminium Frame, and leather strap

Rolf Harder, Alcan Foil Pamphlets for Aluminium Company of Canada, lithograph, c.1960-62

Case Detail

David Gammon, Turntable, Polished aluminium, brass, plywood and acrylic, manufactured by Transcriptors Ltd., New York, 1964

Enzo Mari, Timor Perpetual Calendar, plastic,manufactured by Danese S.r.i, Italy, c.1966/ Massimo Vignelli, Max-2 Stacking Cup,plastic, manufactured by Heller Designs Inc. c.1970/ Pio Manzu, Chronotime Clocks, ABS polymer casing and metal parts,manufactured by Italora, Milan, c.1968

Adolph Loos, excerpt, “Ornaments and Crime”, 1908
The change in ornament implies a premature devaluation of labor. The worker’s time, the utilized material is capital that has been wasted. I have made the statement: The form of an object should be bearable for as long as the object lasts physically. I would like to try to explain this: a suit will be changed more frequently than a valuable fur coat. A lady’s evening dress, intended for one night only, will be changed more rapidly than a writing desk. Woe betide the writing desk that has to be changed as frequently as an evening dress, just because the style has become unbearable. Then the money that was spent on the writing desk will have been wasted.

Massimo Vignelli, excerpt ,”The Vignelli Canon”, 2008

Whatever we do, if not understood, fails to communicate and is wasted effort. We design things which we think are semantically correct and syntactically consistent but if, at the point of fruition, no one understands the result, or the meaning of all that effort, the entire work is useless. Sometimes it may need some explanation but it is better when not necessary. Any artifact should stand by itself in all its clarity. Otherwise,something really important has been missed. The final look of anything is the by-product of the clarity (or lack of it) during its design phase. It is important to understand the starting point and all assumptions of any project to fully comprehend the final result and measure its efficiency. Clarity of intent will translate in to clarity of result and that is of paramount importance in Design. Confused, complicated designs reveal an equally confused and complicated mind. We love complexities but hate complications! Having said this, I must add that we like Design to be forceful. We do not like limpy design. We like Design to be intellectually elegant – that means elegance of the mind, not one of manners, elegance that is the opposite of vulgarity. We like Design to be beyond fashionable modes and temporary fads. We like Design to be as timeless as possible. We despise the culture of obsolescence. We feel the moral imperative of designing things that will last for a long time. It is with this set of values that we approach Design everyday, regardless of what it may be: two or three dimensional, large or small, rich or poor. Design is One!

Ladislav Sutnar, Build the Town Blocks, painted wood, c.1940

Ladislav Sutnar, Build the Town Promotional Cards, paper, c.1940

Ladislav Sutnar, Build the Town Promotional Cards, paper, c.1940

Walter Gropius, “Bauhaus Manifesto”, 1919

The final goal of any plastic activity is the building! To decorate it was once the most noble task of the plastic arts; they belonged intimately to the component parts of the great art of architecture. Today, they delight in an autonomy that may, again, lead to a collaboration among all creative artists.

Architects, painters, and sculptors must relearn to known and understand the complex form of the construction as a whole and in its element: Then their works will be filled again with the architectonic spirit that they lost in the art of the drawing room.

The old art schools could not achieve this unity, and, anyway, how could they have done it–art being unteachable. They must turn again to workshops. The universe of model draftsmen and of those who work in the applied arts, a universe where one limits oneself to drawing and painting, must finally rediscover the universe of building. When the young man who feels the call for plastic creativity first learns a trade, as in the old days, then the unproductive artist will no longer be doomed to unfinished works, for he will have a trade, a capacity to excel in something.

Architects, sculptors, painters, all of us, we must return to manual work! For there is no “professional art.” There is no basic difference between the artist and the artisan. The artist is just an elevated version of the artisan. Thank heaven, during rare moments of light that are beyond his control, art flourishes unconsciously from the work of his hands, but the knowledge of the basics of his work is indispensable to any artist. It is the source of all creative production.

Let us therefore form a new union of artisans, free of the arrogance that led to a separation of classes and built a wall of arrogance between artisans and artists! Let’s have the will to do it, let’s conceive and achieve together the construction of a future that will unite everything: architecture, sculpture, and painting in a single formation, and that one day will rise toward heaven, the shining symbol of a new faith.

Diagram of the Bauhaus Curriculum

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, “Working theses”, 1923.

We reject all aesthetic speculation, all doctrine,and all formalism. Architecture is the will of the age conceived in spatial terms. Living. Changing. New. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, only today can be given form. Only this architecture creates. Create form out of the nature of the task with the means of our time. This is our work. O F F I C E. B U I L D I N G. The office building is a house of work of organization of clarity of economy. Bright, wide workrooms, easy to oversee, undivided except as the organism of the undertaking is divided. The maximum effect with the minimum expenditure of means. The materials are concrete iron glass. Reinforced concrete buildings are by nature skeletal buildings. No noodles nor armoured turrets. A construction of girders that carry the weight, and walls that carry no weight. That is to say, buildings consisting of skin and bones.


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David Chipperfield
Form Matters
&
Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

by Jonathan Lee

25 November 2009

Here are a few images from two exhibitions currently on view at the Design Museum – British architect David Chipperfield’s Form Matters and Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams. Both Chipperfield and Rams are very serious in their approach to design, and both are incredibly formally oriented. I got the sense that this was an intentional scheduling decision on behalf of the museum, and found it interesting to consider and experience both shows sequentially.

Form Matters Entrance

Form Matters Entrance

The Chipperfield show seems to be a more carefully considered show, the space seemed more complex and the flow of the show seems a little more natural. I imagine the second floor gallery easier to program, than the split-up third floor galleries. The show featured video, images, drawings, and most importantly models – almost none of which are depicted here, for whatever reason I only took images of the wall graphics (the strongest part of the visual identity of the show).

Project/Wall Graphics Detail

Project/Wall Graphic Detail

Project/Wall Graphic Detail

Project/Wall Graphic Detail

Wall graphic detail

Project/Wall graphic detail

Less and More felt a lot looser in program. The products were placed in rows on long rectangular pedestals or tables, a few inset in vitrines etc. but I am not sure this was really the best method of display for the work. It did allow for a full view of the prducts in most cases, but the result seemed similar to a sidewalk sale or antique furniture shop. Another side affect of the long tables was the simplicity of movement through the space, the tables acted as long galleys that felt restrictive or too committal. I really enjoyed seeing so much of Dieter Rams’ work, but I felt the show lacked coherency or even a very clear message.

Two interesting moments occur in the show – my favorite was a sort of faux living room filled with Rams’ furniture and products. This was actually the most conventional area of the exhibition design – but it had a nice cumulative effect to be able to see all his pieces next to each other. Finally, there was a case at the very end of the exhibition, with a few pieces from the museums collection that were made by designers (Ives, Morrison, Fukasawa) of later generations whom were “influenced” by Rams’ work. I found this moment weak, and such a missed opportunity. This is precisely the argument the show wanted to make, but perhaps the process of clearing the rights and exploring the idea of inherited language and influence loomed too large a problem to address. Rams’ work of course clean, beautiful and rigorous – either way it was worth seeing first hand.

http://designmuseum.org/

Main Room

Main Room

Panels

Panels

Braun Radio

Braun Radio

P1050134

Turntable

P1050116

Tabletop Design in case with text label

P1050101

Dieter Rams life


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