Ninski has owned The Changing Countryside by Jorg Müller for many years. He shared it with me for the first time 6 years ago and I was just in awe.
Although this is sold as a hardbound book it is not really a book at all. It’s an unbound collection of seven meticulously rendered fold-out spreads meant to be viewed successively. It’s truly a work of art. And it is really meant to be viewed much larger than you can on a computer screen, but please click on the images to enlarge them a bit as you go through them.
When I was a kid I was mad about aircraft. I was the type to have multiple plastic model projects on the go, and I could identify and list the specs on just about any military plane. Janes was my preferred reading… well, you get the idea. I suppose had I grown up to be an artist, and realized I could mess about with full scale versions of my dream jets, I’d be doing what Fiona Banner has done. These two recent installations at the Tate Modern are gorgeous, and for me, drool inducing.
Pictured is the Impossible Project founder Dr. Florian Kaps.
I love the defying-all-odds story here, the bringing a product offering back from the edge of extinction. I’ve been a fan of Polaroid cameras for a long while, having used them years before they became a trendy staple of a hipsters arsenal. I’m conflicted though by my affection for the unpredictable and painterly images one can create and the concern I have for the chemicals involved in making it happen. The biggest plus for going digital is moving away from all the sketchy toxic elements needed for instant film and traditional lab work. In any event, the Impossible Project is a cool development, and shows that insurmountable odds can be overcome with passion and determination. Plus their stores are bright, modern and actively engage their customers and fans.
Chris Ware truly is a genius cartoonist/illustrator/social commentator. Ninski’s post last week about Ware’s rejected Fortune magazine cover reminded me of his string of stellar covers for the New Yorker.
I immediately thought of Chris Ware’s Halloween cover for the New Yorker you see here above - the children’s faces draped with masks, the parents faces draped with the light of their hand-helds. They’re so ‘connected’ their lives are simply passing them by. The message - pull your head out of your ass, er, gadget, and live. On your death bed you’ll regret not living more in the moment, not that you didn’t Tweet that you were ’sooo craving a cheeseburger’ more often.
The weather is beautiful in NYC today - I’m going outside.
There are few movies I have anticipated as much as Tamra Davis’ Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child. Yet another screening was held at the MOMA NY last week which has created another wave of buzz and the release of a mini trailer by Nowness.com.
I remember the first time I saw a portion of Tamra Davis’ interviews at the MOCA Los Angeles back in 2005 where there was a touring exhibition of a retrospective of JMB’s work. On the opening night of the exhibition I was there to celebrate the launch of a Basquiat collab project I did for a certain lifestyle brand and to see the show for the first time. As a part of the show there was a short 20 minute film of an interview by Davis. The footage shows a young Basquiat speaking about his works and his life, and is one of the few instances the artist was on film. It was an amazing tease and left you wanting more. And, now we finally do get much more.
The film releases at the Film Forum in New York on July 21st, and will be shown through August 3rd. After which I am sure it will be more available.
As a part of the buzz of the film, Nowness also asked “Style Guy”, Glenn O’Brien, to explain why his good friend was not only a groundbreaking artist but should also be looked at as a style icon. There are a lot of great images of JMB, but the one that always gets me is the NYT Magazine cover photo pictured above (also the main collateral image used by the unmentioned lifestyle brand). If you told someone that photo was taken yesterday, not knowing who Basquiat was, they would wholeheartedly believe you. How many people can you say that about?
What an awesome big fuck you to Fortune-types. Lovely. Sad that a magazine of this stature can’t stand a little heat, or rather, truth. I wonder if Chris was hoping his cover art would be rejected. See his beautiful artwork here.
The Samba.com has provided a fantastic trove of pdf repro’s of old brochures, instruction/ service manuals for Volkswagens (and more). This is a great source for design inspiration, be it for colour, layout, or infographics. What is unusual and cool (for the web) is the quality- image sizes tend to be nice and large. Love it. Check out the collection here.
The “new” 458 Ferrari. A big step ahead in terms of power and technology. Very high tech, and far removed from the days of Ferrari’s being semi-unreliable. Ferrari really has there shit together now. It’s a pity there isn’t an optional manual transmission. Some stats: Engine - 4.5 liter V8. Weight - 3042 lbs. 570 hp @ 9000 rpm. 420 lb-ft of torque. 0-62 mph in 3.4 seconds. Top Speed - 201 mph. Astounding performance stats, and it allows any two-bit driver to avoid disaster when pushing it (see 2nd Evo video after the jump). I like how the venting and ducting is very F1 inspired, but perhaps the whole package is a bit too sanitized and “digital” for my taste. It’s interesting too how 400 or 500 bhp is the norm now in many luxury cars- it’s almost the standard. Back when i first got interested in “supercars”, this sort of power and performance was unusual and exciting. Now it seems a car must push 1000 bhp to be exceptional. Test drive video’s after the jump…
Kate Bush is a brilliant artist. She has long been one of my favourite musicians. An incredible songwriter, and yet quite overlooked in recent years… perhaps due to her quiet lifestyle. I’m happy to read she is getting some respect from young female musicians as they recognize her influence. Read all about it at the Guardian website.
Stephen Bayley, an outspoken opponent of outsourced skill and manufacturing, has a lot to say about China being the largest exporter in the world and countries eliminating their ability to make even the simplest of things.
Anything that is made betrays the beliefs and preoccupations, the morals and manners, of the people who made it. So it’s been melancholy these past 30 or 40 years to note that Britain has successively, even systematically, abandoned key industrial technologies.
If the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, in his imminent Radio 4 series on the importance of products in civilisation, were to restrict his field to the UK since 1980, it would be a very strange and very short series of products he showed us: a hand-made Formula One car with a German engine, a Sunseeker yacht and a high by-pass turbo-fan. I’d need more time to think of anything else.
So while cautiously optimistic Business Page stories about a return of outsourced manufacturing have not (yet) caused outbreaks of mass national hysteria, they are welcome evidence of a change in mood and priorities. It would be nice to live in a country where we could make buckets. Certainly, reports of the death of manufacturing were not much exaggerated. It remains to be seen if it is as feasible as it is desirable to recover lost skills and actually manufacture the goods we want to consume.
Still, the change of mood is everywhere. The next book by economist John Kay is called Obliquity and it makes the case that commitment to products is the true source of wealth. Boeing, for example, became a great company not because it was pledged to a high rate of annual return, but because it was committed to making the best possible aircraft. This is certainly true, but, alas, economists much less able than Kay have burnt our ears off for half a century arguing all too successfully against the long-term investments in R&D that made the awesome 787 possible. And how we suffer for this false witness.
No one expects any sentimental return to the production of greasy, heavy things in soot-stained factories operated by sweating, under-paid artisans in leather aprons. (They have those in Asia.) This would be as absurdly anachronistic as William Morris addressing contemporary Victorian malaises encouraging the dressing-up in tabards and performing of medieval masques.
There are cleaner sorts of manufacturing today, but they bring similar benefits to those enjoyed when steam and coal and iron and enterprise made us rich. Manufacturing puts a company or a country in a virtuous circle: Toyota’s century and a half experience of making textile looms has made it a leader in carbon-fibre weaving, an important future skill. Italy makes great modern furniture not because of Milan’s great designers, but because of Milan’s metal-bending workshops where the great designers can get their ideas processed.
The trade benefits of manufacturing don’t require much emphasis in a country where we are all dragging around more than five times our own weight in mood-altering deficit, but there are even more important occult advantages. If you make things, you need to understand ideas, materials, markets, skills. If you make money, you just need the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing master. And when you make things, you restore that essential practical and moral connection between effort and reward. Of course, this was a connection carelessly lost when we wanted the economy run like a casino rather than a workshop.
This was all beautifully explained in a regrettably obscure 1944 pamphlet by W. Julian King, a Californian engineer. King’s Unwritten Laws of Engineering was recently reissued by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, but should be made a part of the national curriculum and, if there is still time, incorporated into any electable government’s manifesto.
The Unwritten Laws are not about physics, but behaviour. As opposed to the insolent selfishness of the usurer or the recklessness of the gambler, manufacturing requires social cohesion, personal responsibility, teamwork, commitment and vision. It needs clarity and accuracy, not obfuscation and dissimulation. Long wave integrity is more valuable than short wave greed. The manufacturing process demands that individuals be decisive and share information. And this process is on an orderly progressive scale that positively stimulates personal human development: you start with an idea, it becomes a more elaborate specification that is in turn mass-produced, distributed, consumed, recycled. At each stage, additional cumulative skills are required and generated. And, as King explains, this process teaches it’s better to do a modest job well than an ambitious one badly.
Somehow, that last sentence makes me think of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Here was a decrepit monument to the godless and fractious manipulation of money, not the more humane and enduring task of making goods. And how might the disreputable behaviour of the bankers have been improved had they been required to understand that the laws of nature require deposit and withdrawal to be in some sort of hygienic balance? Something for nothing is fraudulent.
Yet, amazingly, you can hear Gordon — Safe Hands — Brown say that manufacturing is an irrelevance, that we can be sustained by our “creative economy”. Never mind the sinister semantic links between creative economy and creative accounting, this is a ruinously stupid opinion. The creative “industries” we so rightly admire cannot exist in isolation. They were in the first place stimulated by their relationship to manufacturing and can only be kept viable by continuous contact with the facts of industrial life.
To listen to the Prime Minister on manufacturing is as dismaying as hearing pot-bellied, lardy pub bores talking of footballers’ performance when they would rupture their colons jogging to the gents. Manufacturing, Mr Brown, calibrates the moral compass. People who make real things not only make real money, they behave better. The day I am writing this, China became the world’s biggest exporter.
It does not matter whether you call it engineering, technology, design, craft or even art. Whatever it is called, a system that gives priority to an engagement with products over a lust for quick returns is a more stable and wholesome one than a system where derivatives are a more reliable source of wealth than making a teapot.
And it is, ultimately, a system more likely in the long run to make profits. Yes, I know Keynes said that in the long run we are all dead, but I don’t want to end up in a Chinese coffin.
I’ve made no secret of my love of JMB. What I had not heard is that there is finally going to be a definitive and revealing doc on the art legend. Linda Yablonsky of T Magazine writes about the new documentary, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child,” she previewed at, of all places, Art Basel in Miami - which couldn’t be further from the roots at which Basquiat’s art had sprung. She writes a very poignant summary of her experience and how it was juxtaposed by the gaudiness of the week. Here is an excerpt:
“The last thing anyone expects from an art fair in a resort town like Miami Beach is a shattering emotional experience. The fair is about the commerce of bling, not the transformation of the spirit. Yet that is what arrived on Friday night, when the filmmaker Tamra Davis previewed her new documentary, “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child,” at the Colony Theater on Lincoln Road.
The film, which will premiere next month at the Sundance Film Festival, was a labor of love for Davis, who met the artist in 1983 and, with the screenwriter Becky Johnston, interviewed him on camera two years before his death, at age 27, from a heroin overdose. That was in 1988. Davis then put the footage away until a traveling museum retrospective made it clear that there was little of the actual Basquiat on film. (He played a character role in “Downtown ‘81,” and Julian Schnabel’s “Basquiat,” with Jeffrey Wright in the title role, was partly fiction.)
“Jean-Michel was so angry about friends he felt had betrayed him by selling paintings he had given them,” Davis told the audience during a brief panel discussion at the screening, “that I felt making a film would be taking more advantage of him, even after his death.” Eventually she made a short and submitted it to Sundance, where the Arthouse Films producer David Koh saw it and encouraged her to turn it into a feature-length story.
At the screening, the hip-hop producer Fab Five Freddy, who was a Basquiat cohort, recalled the intense rivalry between Schnabel and the younger art star. “Julian making a film about Jean-Michel is like George Foreman making a film about Muhammad Ali,” he said, to knowing laughter. Tamra Davis’s Basquiat, he added, is the real thing.
I can vouch for that. Basquiat was someone I knew personally, and the film, which details his meteoric career and includes poignant interviews with key friends and colleagues (Glenn O’Brien, Diego Cortez, the dealers Annina Nosei and Bruno Bischofberger, Fab and Basquiat’s longest-term girlfriend, Suzanne Mallouk, among others), made my heart ache. Davis has created a profoundly moving testament to an artist who really could not do anything but make paintings, to the gritty New York of the early ’80s and to the creative community that helped foster Basquiat’s genius. It is also, as Davis put it, “a classic tale of what fame does to someone who is so beautiful and has such force.” At the end, everyone sat for several minutes in stunned silence, hardly a dry eye in the house.
I thought about the places I could have gone that night — the cocktail party at the Webster for Victor and Rolf, the Moncler dinner for Pharrell Williams at Casa Tua, the Gang Gang Dance concert at O.H.W.O.W, the Visionaire party at Le Baron in the Delano, Francesco Clemente’s dinner for Sante d’Orazio at the W — and how ironic it was that the tragedy at the heart of this film provided the only real perspective on the madness of the whole week, which the fair itself had engineered. Against the dozens of relentlessly product-promoting social events surrounding it, the real world isn’t just distant. It doesn’t exist.”
Love them Linus bikes. Beautiful, basic line of bikes with simple lines, and with tasteful details and cool add-ons such as their canvas bags. The prices are reasonable as well, especially considering these bikes are fast becoming an in thing to have.
Slightly over six decades ago “1984“ was published. George Orwell’s novel is just as relevant in todays world as in 1949, perhaps more so as many of the imagined tools of oppression are now a reality (TV’s in every home and cctv’s come to mind.) NPR put out a great report on the book’s anniversary, including commentary by Christopher Hitchens, author of Why Orwell Matters.
We’ve seen The Pet Shop boys and Brian Eno get involved, and now increasingly other artists and designers are lending a hand in resisting the loss of freedoms in the UK. Neville Brody has a statement piece vis a vis surveillance and freedom included in new show on at the Design Museum entitled “Freedom Space.” The show is called Super Contemporary and he is one of fifteen designers presenting work, including Paul Smith (cute Rubbish bin) and Zaha Hadid (pure rubbish.)
Its encouraging to see this sort of involvement. It helps get another viewpoint out there and strengthens the debate that is ensuing in England.