Archive for the 'Identity' Category

Floaters

With the huge countdown clock appearing above the departure board at Central Station, excitement for the Commonwealth Games has stepped up. The nine digit clock had initially shown 128 days to the opening ceremony before somebody switched it off and on again to get the correct number of 135 days. This minor glitch of 7 days brought back fond memories of being part of a group of Glasgow School of Art students contributing to the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony in 1986. The 1986 Games were affected by a large political boycott and financial mismanagement. A rotund newspaper tycoon with black dyed hair called Robert Maxwell had stepped in promising to invest £2m. Unfortunately the contribution of this demagogue was just £250,000 encouraging Private Eye magazine to lampoon him as the “bouncing Czech” (he was Czechoslovakian born).

Commonwealth_2

Oceania

Oceania

With The Pastels on my Sony Walkman, I walked over to Garscube Road from Wilton Street to join my fellow GSA students at the Display company. We assembled in a big warehouse and were briefed by a monosyllabic boss man in a nylon shirt on the master plan for the Opening Ceremony. Demographic schemes including Africa and Oceania were proposed for carnival style floats. These would be driven around the running track in Edinburgh with happy people waving their hands in fancy dress. I was put in charge of ‘blowing up’ thumbnail drawings of the Houses of Parliament and applying them to the side elevations of the float. I was given a small projector with a 25 meter flex and a wobbly podium on wheels to complete the enlargement. This took me two weeks to execute and when it was laid out on the warehouse floor, it was twice the size required. I was happy to be dismissed of my duties because it meant I could join my fellow students who had nearly completed their 3D rendering of the great barrier reef. After a few more days we were all asked to meet with the monosyllabic boss man who proceeded to hand us some money in small brown envelopes. Our work was done, it was time to leave and the BBC stepped in.

The graphic design that complements major sporting events from the mid 1960s onwards is a patchy affair. Otl Aicher and the 1972 Munich Olympics was breaking new ground. However, when researching the graphic design for the 1986 Commonwealth Games, I found very little evidence. The logo designed by Joe Hall stands up very well (the cross of St Andrews combined with roman numerals), but I was struggling to find anything else. I shifted my in-depth research to the iPad and YouTube. To my delight I found the VHS footage I was looking for of the Opening Ceremony in 1986. Move over Danny Boyle, Yer Magesty and 007 – this is “Smile With Us”. The floats appear at the beginning up to about 3:25 when the female daredevil with the tan coloured shower cap and swimming goggles defies an icy wind off the sea and lands on the grass. The smooth journey of the floats around this jamboree of a running track is assured by blue tractors. The highlight of the pageant (at 5:00) is a massive shortbread tin on wheels stopping briefly in front of the Royal Box and then being escorted out of the stadium by paramilitaries in white boiler suits – blink, and you will miss it.

Will the Red Road flats being blown up and beamed live into the ceremony at Celtic Park on a 100 meter ‘Window on the Commonwealth’ LED screen, be able to match this?

watching us

this is a fantastic resource that has a wealth of information on topics relevant to modern society and globalised culture.

“There’s already a lot of information on the Internet, so our goal is to cut through the noise and garbage, to present valuable information in a clear way, so it’s accessible, useful and easily digested. This still may not be an easy undertaking though, and we can understand that — especially considering the complexity and interconnectedness of the topics, as well as the crossing over of sources; but also for the fact that the information here can be incomplete, sometimes contradictory or even controversial. But this is the point. It’s all part of what we’re trying to do: provoke critical thinking, questioning… and doing.

We’ve fundamentally built this resource to inform and inspire action — and no, we’re not talking about clicking the stupid ‘Like’ button on Facebook, signing online petitions or letter writing — we mean informing and inspiring real-world action; taking this information away from the computer to rejuvenate the strong networks with the people around you in the real world, to discuss, plan, act. This is not a symbolic action or clicktivism website, nor is it a simple collection of popular content, like the other websites available. It’s a resource that aims to inform, inspire and provoke action; to generate a multitude of responses and reactions. This is just some of what is needed to break paradigms, subservience, acquiescence, and to cultivate inspiration to continue work on the plethora of puzzles and problems addressed in the information published here.”

thoughtmaybe.com

adam curtis documentaries

More Info

More info on the rebrand project the students association are undertaking, can be found here. The brief is open to students and alumni.

Re-Brand hype

https://www.facebook.com/artschoolrebrand

http://www.scribd.com/bookings15/documents

POW if you don’t know about me

POW better ask someone quickly

’cause POW!

Whitney

Personal thoughts on the rebrand of the Whitney by Experimental Jetset. That makes the content sound more exciting and contentious than it actually is. Elsewhere on the internet…

Tiny Field Trip

identity

This is advance warning of a trip for graphics 3/4 to the CCA on tuesday morning to meet and talk with Stuart Bailey. Dexter Sinister’s ‘Identity’ project is currently on display at Tramway, and they’re also involved in this film event at Tramway that you may want to go to. You might also want to download this companion piece to the identity project.

M’72 Legacy

ian mclaren

M’72 – Design Legacy is a symposium at UCA Canterbury, running from 29-31 June 2012, which explores the legacy of Otl Aicher and the design work for the 1972 Munich Olympics. It’s of interest for a number of reasons, not least that it features Ian McLaren (pictured above, a former head of department of Vis Com at GSA) who worked as one of the small design team creating and deploying the identity system for the 72 games.

The second reason that it is particularly interesting to me is that through another blog I write, I was contacted recently by Alexander Negrelli, a researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academie, who is about to publish a book called Kommando Otl Aicher, looking at terrorism, politics, sport and design through the lens of visual identity. It sounds like a really interesting book, but due to funding issues within Dutch arts, its publication has been delayed until later this summer. A trailer can be viewed below.

Martin Boyce and the Design Research Unit, (unbeknown to him).

BRbadge

“The machine is accepted as the essentially modern vehicle of form. Our designs will therefore be essentially designs for mass production, but at the same time we hope to rescue mass production from the ugliness and aesthetic emptiness which has so far characterized the greater part of its output”. —Design Research Unit, 1943

Another post-talk train ride, another blog write up. Again, seizing on the time allowed by this journey, I’m going to try to condense an interesting talk from Martin Boyce, and an interesting peruse around the Design Research Unit exhibition, currently at the Cooper Gallery in Dundee, into a succinct and coherent blog post.

The talk for me raised some pertinent issues which were hinted at in an earlier post covering an interview with Metahaven, where the politics of aesthetics raised their head, and the point was made about how the politics of a design piece can fade over time, (or at least not be directly replicated in a different place and time). Boyce’s work heavily references, and in some cases perhaps directly appropriates, design forms of various types. And he talked eloquently about about how by processing and representing these forms in a contemporary art context, their meaning is changed, “distorted by the process of recollection”.

While it might be possible to question this appropriation of accepted ‘well’ designed objects – is it primarily for their forms and aesthetic value? – he pre-empted this by talking of his lack of ‘academic’ insight into his work, and interest in “wild knowledge”. He talked about following his eye and instinct, and this reminded me of an idea of Brian Eno‘s, where he talked about the “intellect catching up with the instinct”. I think there’s probably a studio project in this, and the same could be said for his approach to his typographic pieces. It was interesting to hear how these pieces came into being and how they then went out into the world, with seemingly little reference to typographic history or conventions which we perhaps get a little fixated by.

The Design Research Unit exhibition which this talk ran alongside was a concise and functional display of some of the projects undertaken by that design organisation between 1942 and 1972. Again, the key thing it raised for me was that the politics of the time, while implicit in the work, often get overlooked by designers who seem fixated with this orderly way of working in terms of stewarding design and identity today. It’s difficult to put my finger on, but I’m fascinated by why the template laid down by this early move into corporate compliance is so resilient. Maybe it connects to ideas about why a particular way of looking at design, productivity and manufacturing, (and I guess by all this we mean the free market economy in its many facets), achieved such traction in the post-war years. Definitely a subject for further thinking, and a very good exhibition, well worth a visit.

guidelines

N.b. Apologies for the use of ‘Boyce’ during this post. ‘Martin’ seems overly familiar, while ‘Boyce’ sounds a bit pompous. Rock and a hard place.

Identity

The danger is that it’s just talk. Then again, the danger is that it’s not. I believe you can speak things into existence. – Jay-Z, Decoded, 2010

via Artists Space | “Identity”.

Every Movement Needs a Logo?

Comment on the design politics of Occupy Wall Street. (Originally) from the NY times.

Image Crisis, Image Opportunity

From Rob Walker, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Googled Reproduction. Connects (in my mind) with this (or this). (And this).

On Privacy, pt 1

Seeing as the Rapture didn’t occur on Saturday, you might want to tune in to Adam Curtis’s new series, ‘All Watched Over by Machines of Love and Grace‘ – What I hope will be an entertaining, insightful, and probably eclectic look at the politics, culture, society and technology we’re currently immersed in. All this on the back of a weekend where Twitter has been at the centre of a legal storm over privacy, and the geographical impotence of national laws has been tested, firstly by the aforementioned micro-blogging site (or rather the users of) and secondly by a shrewd Scottish Newspaper.

Conflating the issues of ‘freedom of speech’ here with the widely reported use of Twitter and other social media sites in the Arab-Spring would devalue the latter and elevate the former, but they possibly feature somewhere on the same spectrum.

Meanwhile, closer to home, super-injunctions at GSA prevent me from telling you that the Head of ———– was recently seen ——— a ——— with a learning outcome.

Piloti’s Nooks and Corners

Private Eye’s Piloti has kindly granted me a three month licence to reproduce this article about the Stephen Holl building project .

Glasgow School of Art, designed as part of a competition in 1896 by Charles R. McIntosh, then a young assistant in the Glasgow firm of Honeyman & Keppie, is one of the most famous buildings in the world.

This subtle and eclectic stone structure, with its echoes of Scottish castles, Elizabethan architecture and “Queen Anne” and Arts and Crafts buildings in England, is gawped at constantly by hordes of starstruck architects. Its creator, “Rennie Mackintosh”, as he became known, has become a figure of myth as well as the patron saint of the Glasgow tourist industry. And two years ago, to mark the centenary of this truly wonderful work of architecture, the school announced a competition for an adjacent new building to replace the brutal concrete tower which the Mackintosh successor firm, Keppie Henderson & Partners, contrived to erect on the opposite side of Renfrew Street in 1970, when Glasgow was busy destroying itself.

Any new building on this sensitive site might be expected to respond to the character of the city and be deferential to poor old Toshie’s masterpiece. But no. Faced with 150 entries, including several from respected Scottish practices, the assessors surrendered to cultural cringe by plumping for a fashionable international superstar, Steven Holl of New York.

Holl paints as well as designs and is responsible for modishly angular and arbitrary new museum buildings in places like China, Norway and the US. He says things like: “Building transcends physical requirements by fusing with a place, by gathering the meaning of a situation.” But Holl has come up with a design which is scarcely respectful to Mackintosh.

At least the new building will run along the street line of Renfrew Street and incorporates the 1930s Assembly Hall. But that’s as far as it goes. Holl’s creation will rise much higher than Mackintosh’s block and, by having the top storey jutting forward, will overshadow it.

Whereas the original block is carefully and delicately detailed, Holl’s is a crude composition of plain surfaces and awkward angles. Facing Mackintosh’s facade, with its big north-facing mullioned and transformed windows, Holl proposes a recessed “landscape loggia… that gives the school an exterior social core open to the city. Natural vegetation with some stonework routes water into a small recycling water pond which will also reflect dappled sunlight on to the ceiling inside” — which suggests he has little understanding of Glasgow’s weather, especially in winter.

Mackintosh managed to provide practical, well-lit studio spaces that still work. But Holl, who drones on about a “new language of light”, proposes to waste space by having “Driven Void’ light shafts” inside the building to provide “direct connectivity with the outside world through the changing intensity and colour of the sky.”

Worst of all is the fact that this banal conception will be “coated in a thin skin of matte glass referencing Mackintosh’s stone skin”, whatever that may mean. Holl denies that all this southfacing glass will reflect too much light on to the old building, for: “This material is almost like alabaster. It is soft, without reflection.” As the Iron Duke once said, if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. But why glass at all? The character of Glasgow is of stone, and it is not necessary to imitate Mackintosh’s style to produce architecture which could be both original and yet harmonious — as the original School of Art was to the neighbouring tenements and villas.

Depressingly, this crude and insensitive design has met virtually no criticism in Scotland. Of course it was clever of Holl to team up with the Glasgow office, run by Ian Alexander and Henry McKeown (both graduates of the school), of the firm of JM Architects (not to be confused with RMJM who recently hired Sir Fred Goodwin [Eye 12551), for in Glasgow nobody likes to rock the boat. Naturally Seona Reid, director of the School of Art, considers that “the inventive use of light, material and section make it a worthy companion to Mackintosh, a striking building of which we will all be immensely proud”; but there has been remarkably little dissent from kow-towing to the American superstar among her members of staff. Ranks have closed: the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society has rolled over, as has the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. Naturally the city council is all in favour.

Almost the only dissent has come from the distinguished Scots film-maker and pioneer in the rehabilitation of once-despised Toshie, Murray Grigor, together with Professor William JR Curtis, the (English) historian of modernism and the author of studies of Le Corbusier. In an open letter to the governors of the school and its staff and students, Professor Curtis writes: “The Holl project is lacking in urbanity and would not be out of place in a business park in China or the USA, but it is completely alien to Glasgow with its grid, urban grain, and sombre facades in stone and glass. Above all it fails to harmonise with Mackintosh’s marvellous building opposite. To respond to a historical context does not mean copying the existing, but it does mean interacting at several levels from overall volumes, to proportions, to materials”. I could not have put it better myself.

If Steven Holl’s arrogant matte glass lump is built, it will not just be a waste of £50m but another of modern Glasgow’s far too numerous architectural foul-ups.

‘Piloti’

GLASGOW School of Art, designed as part of a competition in 1896 by Charles R. McIntosh, then a young assistant in the Glasgow firm of Honeyman & Keppie, is one of the most famous buildings in the world.

This subtle and eclectic stone structure, with its echoes of Scottish castles, Elizabethan architecture and “Queen Anne” and Arts and Crafts buildings in England, is gawped at constantly by hordes of starstruck architects. Its creator, “Rennie Mackintosh”, as he became known, has become a figure of myth as well as the patron saint of the Glasgow tourist industry. And two years ago, to mark the centenary of this truly wonderful work of architecture, the school announced a competition for an adjacent new building to replace the brutal concrete tower which the Mackintosh successor firm, Keppie Henderson & Partners, contrived to erect on the opposite side of Renfrew Street in 1970, when Glasgow was busy destroying itself.

Any new building on this sensitive site might be expected to respond to the character of the city and be deferential to poor old Toshie’s masterpiece. But no. Faced with 150 entries, including several from respected Scottish practices, the assessors surrendered to cultural cringe by plumping for a fashionable international superstar, Steven Holl of New York.

Holl paints as well as designs and is responsible for modishly angular and arbitrary new museum buildings in places like China, Norway and the US. He says things like: “Building transcends physical requirements by fusing with a place, by gathering the meaning of a situation.” But Holl has come up with a design which is scarcely respectful to Mackintosh.

At least the new building will run along the street line of Renfrew Street and incorporates the 1930s Assembly Hall. But that’s as far as it goes. Holl’s creation will rise much higher than Mackintosh’s block and, by having the top storey jutting forward, will overshadow it.

Whereas the original block is carefully and delicately detailed, Holl’s is a crude composition of plain surfaces and awkward angles. Facing Mackintosh’s facade, with its big north-facing mullioned and transformed windows, Holl proposes a recessed “landscape loggia… that gives the school an exterior social core open to the city. Natural vegetation with some stonework routes water into a small recycling water pond which will also reflect dappled sunlight on to the ceiling inside” — which suggests he has little understanding of Glasgow’s weather, especially in winter.

Mackintosh managed to provide practical, well-lit studio spaces that still work. But Holl, who drones on about a “new language of light”, proposes to waste space by having “Driven Void’ light shafts” inside the building to provide “direct connectivity with the outside world through the changing intensity and colour of the sky.”

Worst of all is the fact that this banal conception will be “coated in a thin skin of matte glass referencing Mackintosh’s stone skin”, whatever that may mean. Holl denies that all this southfacing glass will reflect too much light on to the old building, for: “This material is almost like alabaster. It is soft, without reflection.” As the Iron Duke once said, if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. But why glass at all? The character of Glasgow is of stone, and it is not necessary to imitate Mackintosh’s style to produce architecture which could be both original and yet harmonious — as the original School of Art was to the neighbouring tenements and villas.

Depressingly, this crude and insensitive design has met virtually no criticism in Scotland. Of course it was clever of Holl to team up with the Glasgow office, run by Ian Alexander and Henry McKeown (both graduates of the school), of the firm of JM Architects (not to be confused with RMJM who recently hired Sir Fred Goodwin [Eye 12551), for in Glasgow nobody likes to rock the boat. Naturally Seona Reid, director of the School of Art, considers that “the inventive use of light, material and section make it a worthy companion to Mackintosh, a striking building of which we will all be immensely proud”; but there has been remarkably little dissent from

kow-towing to the American superstar among her members of staff. Ranks have closed: the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society has rolled over, as has the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. Naturally the city council is all in favour.

Almost the only dissent has come from the distinguished Scots film-maker and pioneer in the rehabilitation of once-despised Toshie, Murray Grigor, together with Professor William JR Curtis, the (English) historian of modernism and the author of studies of Le Corbusier. In an open letter to the governors of the school and its staff and students, Professor Curtis writes: “The Holl project is lacking in urbanity and would not be out of place in a business park in China or the USA, but it is completely alien to Glasgow with its grid, urban grain, and sombre facades in stone and glass. Above all it fails to harmonise with Mackintosh’s marvellous building opposite. To respond to a historical context does not mean copying the existing, but it does mean interacting at several levels from overall volumes, to proportions, to materials”. I could not have put it better myself.

If Steven Holl’s arrogant matte glass lump is built, it will not just be a waste of £50m but another of modern Glasgow’s far too numerous architectural foul-ups.

‘Piloti’

Lava Lunch

work

Tickets for the next LongLunch talk by Lava, (taking place in the Mac Lecture Theatre at 7pm on 5th May), are now on sale. There are 15 free tickets for GSA students, allocated to the first 15 people to email me at n.mcguire[at]gsa.ac.uk with the word LAVA in the subject line.

What are other art schools doing? #1,342

Creative Review report on the New look for Bauhaus Dessau Foundation.

London Study Trip

1st Year Department of Visual Communication

London Study Trip
24-27 January 2011

25.1.11
DAY 1

VISIT / 10.00am
Company / Alex Swain
http://www.company-london.com/
– An informal insight into business acumen combined with how to take a client on a creative journey.

VISIT / 11.30am
The Association of Illustrators / Paul Ryding
http://www.theaoi.com/
– There is very little former graduate Paul Ryding does not know about contemporary illustration.

VISIT / 1.00pm
Tomato / Michael Horsham
http://www.tomato.co.uk/
– An intimate sharing of large and small projects from one of the most influential agencies. There portfolio goes back to 1991 and are continuing to work with Underworld.

VISIT / 4.00pm
Pentagram / Jane Pluer
http://pentagram.com/en/portfolio/
– One of the most impressive offices in the creative industries with a workshop to match. Imperious work delivered with style and elegance.

26.1.11
DAY 2

VISIT / 11.00am
Browns Design / Jonathan Ellery
http://brownsdesign.com/
– Jonathan engaged with the students immediately by asking how they defined art compared to design. Award winning work from a man who applauds the students form outside London including The Glasgow School of Art.

VISIT / 1.30pm
Field / Vera-Maria Glahn
http://www.field.io/
– A German duo working with all the latest programming software and code to produce really beautiful ‘cross-media’ work. Cool rooftop garden with views over to the City of London.

VISIT / 4.30pm
Build / Nicky and Michael Place with former graduate Lynne Devine
http://wearebuild.com/
– Michael allowed us to touch, feel and sniff the quality of his best design for print. Designers Republic guru happy to be working in a small agency with one of our best graduates.

=VOID

void

Enter the contextual void.

Identity Protection Scheme

In that rarest of venn diagrams that features Jim Davidson, Branding, Corporate Identity, Semiotics and Colin and Justin, we find out that a Glasgow pantomime dress broke the Geneva Convention.

A spokesman for the Red Cross said; “The emblem is a special sign of neutrality and protection recognised by all sides during armed conflicts.Misuse of that emblem – even when done in an innocent and light-hearted manner – has to be addressed. Repeated and widespread misuse of the Red Cross emblem could dilute its neutrality and its ability to protect.”

Uncorporate and Critical Identity

I don’t often write posts about the book and website of the week (see right), but these two are worth a special mention. Uncorporate Identity, if I may be subjective for a moment, is the current book to read about visual language, identity (crisis), urbanism, politics and design – erudite and far-sighted, an awkward and exhilarating ride. DxCrit is a very useful design criticism resource, allied to the design criticism course at SVA in NYC. A video from that below, on failure and design.

Crossing the Line: The 2010 D-Crit Conference: Peter Hall from D-Crit on Vimeo.

Uncorporate Identity

OMG! lol, just taken delivery of Uncorporate Identity.