1/28/2010 11:25:30 AM
Imagine a dollar bill, brought to you by Exxon. Or picture a 20-dollar bill bearing an image of Steve Jobs instead of Alexander Hamilton. Aaron Marcus writes for the AIGA design blog that customizable currency could help the United State government climb out of the multi-trillion dollar debt that it’s currently mired in. Donald Trump, Steven Colbert, Nike, Target, or even foreign heads of state could pay for the privilege of having their faces stamped on American currency. According to Marcus, it would be “one small step for graphic design, one giant step for the U.S. financial system.”
1/28/2010 11:06:44 AM
The good people at Drawn! have posted a wonderful little clip of designer and filmmaker Saul Bass. Here's the part that got me:
The fact of the matter is that I want everything that I do personally to be beautiful. I don't give a damn whether the client understands that that's worth anything or that the client thinks it's worth anything or whether it is worth anything. It's worth it to me. It's the way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful things even if nobody cares.
1/20/2010 8:55:49 AM
Hundreds of years ago, long before Napster, YouTube, and Facebook, artists, businesspeople, and politicians worried about the rise of the amateur. In Sweden, Rasmus Fleischer writes for Eurozine that government officials have worried for several centuries that amateur musicians—unapproved by the local unions and guilds—would take jobs away from professional musicians. In the country that more recently gave rise to the infamous Pirate Bay, these “beer fiddlers,” “non-guildsmen,” and “spare-timers,” who often worked for nothing more than the love of music were the source of near-constant hand wringing and screeds against amateurs, including this gem from a professional musician in 1934:
All other professions consistently oppose free-loaders and non-guildsmen [...] Thank God that there are sensible people among musicians, too, and that most or even all members recognized the danger of legalizing amateur musicians in the practice of a profession, in which they do not belong.
In spite of the constant attacks, the amateurs always manage to find new ways to remain relevant. More progressive or “prog” musicians even formed a “progger” (sounds like “blogger”?) trade union to protect the rights of amateurs. In exhaustive fashion, the article shows that those who fight against amateurs are aligning themselves on the wrong side of history.
1/15/2010 5:04:22 PM
In some cities, artists are taking a cue from locavores to create community-supported art models, not unlike the increasingly popular CSAs that establish a relationship between farmer and consumer. Next American City reports on a number of volunteer-run arts organizations—Brooklyn’s FEAST, Chicago’s Sunday Soup, Portland's Stock—that are working to boost local art from both sides. In the case of FEAST, "locals pay admission to a volunteer-cooked dinner in exchange for the chance to vote on a set of artist proposals," according to Next American City. "The winning artist takes home the proceeds and presents the resulting work at the next dinner."
Like a community-supported farm, FEAST uses its recurring dinners to create a cycle of production and consumption, a reciprocal relationship between artists and their community. FEAST gives emerging artists access to cash and a captive audience, and in exchange for its investment, the audience is granted the power of the patron, a role traditionally reserved for the wealthy.
“There’s something kind of crazy about art fairs where maybe 1,000 or 2,000 very wealthy people get to essentially decide what’s being consumed as artwork,” Jeff Hnilicka [cofounder of FEAST] observes. FEAST creates a marketplace in which the bit players in the mainstream art world—emerging artists and the ordinary public—become the primary actors. In New York, you can pay $15 or $20 just to consume culture at a museum. At FEAST, you can pay $10 or $20 to help create it. “There’s an untapped market of families and people in this neighborhood that go and drop $20 or $100 at the bar or $40 on a babysitter and a movie,” says Hnilicka. “We’re tapping into a market that isn’t asked to fund an artwork.”
Happily, it seems these models are popping up from coast to coast: There's a version of Sunday Soup now operating in Buffalo and a FEAST going strong in Minneapolis, with more in the works in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Source: Next American City
Image by Kramer O'Neill, courtesy of FEAST Brooklyn.
1/14/2010 11:53:33 AM
If you’re seeking fodder for the indefatigable and dreadful “what is art” conversation, I’ve got it for you. But I’d rather you watch this video simply because it’s delightful.
David Bartley is responsible for overseeing the art in storage at the Walker Art Center. In this video he displays five works from the Walker’s collection that must be explicitly labeled as art to save them from being mistaken for trash.
(Thanks, Modern Art Notes.)
Source: Walker Art Center
1/14/2010 10:37:45 AM
If you are a visual thinker like me, you get frustrated trying to follow text-only instructions. When I cook, I constantly read and re-read recipes to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. The easiest way for me to understand something is to draw me a picture, so I was delighted to discover Recipe Look, a fun website that encourages people to take their favorite recipe and create hand-drawn instructions. Some are probably too vague for the average cook to actually follow, but they provide an example of how images reinforce text. I’d love to see a whole cookbook of these.
(Thanks, HOW blog.)
1/14/2010 10:27:07 AM
You can usually spot an album cover from the jazz-classical label ECM the moment you see it: minimalist design, modern san-serif type, and, often, a photograph of—well, it’s not always clear. It might be a dance of shadows, a slice of the night sky, moonlight on waves, a blurred landscape. It is almost never a portrait of the musician, it never shouts at you, and it is never test-marketed. Love or hate this rigorous approach—I have moments of both feelings about ECM’s immovable aesthetic—it is proudly design for art’s sake, and it has remained remarkably consistent since the late ’60s, when Manfred Eicher founded the label.
The design magazine Creative Review writes about a new book of post-1996 ECM cover art, Windfall Light, tracing the ECM aesthetic straight to Eicher: “Eicher still holds true to his main objective—described in the new book by pianist and composer Ketil Bjornstad as ‘rendering an expressive idiom visible’—and the work collected here is a testament to a truly committed vision.”
Eicher told Jazz Times in 2001 about the roots of this vision:
“As a passionate moviegoer I have always been interested in photography. [Graphic artists] Barbara and Burkhart [Wojirsch] and I developed an idea to go for a certain kind of cover design. It was not intended to be different from others but we wanted something more austere, sparse and maybe a little more clarity to the direction of how the music could be enveloped. It was never the idea to illustrate the music but more to be a counterpoint to the music.
“I want to present an idea I feel, or that my colleagues feel, as good—unlike the general tendencies of record companies, which attempt to fabricate things in order to please an audience. Nowadays we see more and more business people taking charge: packaging and marketing are the key words. But that’s not what it is about. We need to trust our instincts, have something to tell and say it with the force of our convictions.”
Of course, many music listeners aren’t bothering with album art at all these days, except perhaps as one more tiny navigation enhancement on their handheld player. International design magazine Eye questions whether album art even has a future:
However much designers want to create design for music, the fear remains that album covers—perhaps albums themselves—may prove to be a historical blip, a short detour in the long history of music. “The Rite of Spring” didn’t need a sleeve design, nor did Duke Ellington’s “East St Louis Toodle-Oo.” With hindsight, the 78s of early jazz and folk music, with their ever-changing formats and anonymous paper bags … are closer to today’s downloads than more recent music products. “Does the visual add something?’ muses [designer] Stephen Doyle, talking about the ‘incredible shrinking’ that has taken place during his career. “Maybe it’s the ultimate freeing up of music. Is the album cover the cord of the telephone?”
Sources: Creative Review (article not available online), Jazz Times, Eye
See Utne Reader’s recent coverage of ECM releases: a review of Keith Jarrett's Testament: Paris/London and a sample track from Rolf Lislevand's Diminuito.
1/12/2010 3:13:02 PM
UtneCast 35: Chinese Punk Rock / Toronto’s City Idol / Rio’s Inspiring Sounds : Hide Player
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This episode takes us around the world. First, an interview with Amy Adoyzie, author of an article in the current Utne Reader about China’s punk rock scene, including samples from Chinese punk bands Subs and Brain Failure.
Next, Leif Utne talks to the organizer of City Idol, a fun and creative project that used an American Idol-style process to choose and run candidates for Toronto’s city council. A documentary about City Idol is slated for release this fall.
Finally, assistant editor Bennett Gordon reviews the amazing Brazilian hip-hop album Inspiring New Sounds of Rio de Janeiro.
Episode sponsor: Mother Earth Coffee & Tea
1/12/2010 1:07:42 PM
UtneCast 24: David Lynch on Moviemaking and Meditation: Hide Player
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In this week’s feature interview, guest David Lynch, famed director of such dark masterpieces as Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Mulholland Drive, and most recently Inland Empire, joins host Leif Utne to discuss his creative process, how he became a filmmaker, and the influence meditation has had on his life and art. The May/June issue of Utne Reader features an article excerpted from Lynch’s recent book Catching the Big Fish.
For 33 years, Lynch has practiced daily Transcendental Meditation, which he believes has the power to reduce stress, improve health, and promote world peace. And he is putting his money behind that belief, helping to fund research on the use of meditation in schools, as well as the social ripple effects meditation can have on society.
Music Review: Keith Goetzman takes a look at the new album from Canadian alt-rockers Apostle of Hustle.
Episode Sponsor: Mother Earth Coffee & Tea
1/12/2010 10:54:52 AM
When sopranos sing high notes in operas, they can be really hard to understand. To get the power they need to reach the operatic heights, the singers are forced to adjust their vocal tracts, which can make certain words extremely difficult to pronounce. In 2004, scientists tested opera singers and found a way to get that problem by pairing specific vowels with high notes, giving singers power and intelligibility.
More than 100 years earlier, Richard Wagner seemed to understand this concept without the help of science. According to Seed, scientists have found a statistically significant correlation between the vowels Wagner wrote for high notes and the ones scientists identified as preferable for singing. Wagner’s skills developed over time, too, suggesting that he had a scientific understanding of the way voices work that even he wouldn’t have been able to communicate. According to Seed:
Just as Jackson Pollock incorporated fractals into his splatter paintings, Wagner seems to have used vowel-pitch matching in his operas—a concept that scientists wouldn’t formally explain for well over a century.
To hear Wagner's scientific understanding in action, watch a clip from Die Walküre below:
Image by bmann, licensed under Creative Commons.
1/11/2010 2:56:04 PM
When photographer Alec Soth closed down his blog in 2007, he didn’t dwell on the details. “I’m hitting the road and hanging up the blog,” he wrote. “Send me a letter—I’m sick of e-mail.” In a flash, the only photography blog I ever truly loved was finished. Alec didn’t just telegraph his passions when he posted; he made them infectious. Oh, and he was hilarious.
Enough of the eulogizing. He’s back. In December, Soth launched the delightful group blog Little Brown Mushrooms (an appendage of his new publishing adventure), and it’s an entirely different beast. Reading it feels a little bit like being late to a treasure hunt and scrambling to catch up without the benefit of the first clues. And that’s not a bad thing. Like I said: delightful.
Looking for an easy entry point? Try any of the videos Soth has posted. Hell, start with this gem:
Source: Little Brown Mushrooms
1/5/2010 10:17:15 AM
Instead of filling their music video with tropes—champagne-sipping revelers, guys on treadmills—the new video by C-Mon and Kypski stars anyone who wants to be in it. Just fire up the web cam, log onto the website, and mirror a pose provided by the musicians. The final product will be a crowdsourced montage that you can preview below.
Source: C-Mon and Kypski
1/4/2010 2:59:44 PM
What’s wrong with jazz? Pianist Matthew Shipp shares his scathing diagnosis with edgy music magazine Signal to Noise in a cover profile in the latest issue:
“The jazz industry has become a huge funeral parlor,” he says. “Within jazz, the historical weight is so oppressive. If you look at a jazz magazine, eight or nine months of the year they’ll have the same covers you could have seen in 1972. Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock. At least if Spin magazine has an article about the Eagles, they’ll hide it in the back. And if the Eagles go on tour the rock industry treats it as a nostalgia act, but in the jazz industry, if Keith Jarrett or Herbie Hancock go on tour they treat it like it’s real music and it’s important. We’ve heard enough of them—they’re millionaires, they should just go somewhere and stop playing.”
Whew. While I share some of Shipp’s distaste for the mustiness of the jazz world, I don’t see these four musicians as the core of the problem, and in fact I regard Jarrett’s new Testament: Paris/London as one of his finer solo albums. (Read my review in the Jan.-Feb. Utne Reader.) In any case, no matter what Shipp thinks of Jarrett’s and Hancock’s arrangements of notes, his suggestion that they’re not playing “real music” is ridiculous and arrogant.
So it was with some amusement that, later in the same interview, I found Shipp closely echoing something Keith Jarrett told me 12 years ago in an interview. This is what Jarrett said about his solo piano performances:
“To do an improvised concert—[every] time I walk on the stage and play from zero—I need to find a way to start the journey without creating the subject matter in my mind. In other words, I cannot have a melody or a motif in my head, because those things will protrude into the fabric. They will be too prominent and make the music seem like a solid object rather than a flowing process. I have to not play what’s in my ears, if there’s something in my ears. I have to find a way for my hands to start the concert without me.”
And this is how Shipp, in his own saber-tongued style, describes preparing for his solo concerts:
“When I sit down to play I try to empty my mind of everything. When I sit down to play I don’t give a fuck about anything. I don’t give a fuck if the concert works, if it doesn’t. I don’t give a fuck if you like it or don’t. What’s important is the honesty of the communication that I’m trying to have with my own inner self and then relating that to the audience. So I have to be completely open to the moment, which means being empty.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Shipp has a new solo album, 4D, due out on Thirsty Ear Recordings on January 26.
Source: Signal to Noise (article not available online)
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