Found this wandering around the back lots in Culver City last time I was in LA, a portent of some sorts…
This will be appearing on the Graphic Design Festival Breda website at some point soon…
Graphic Design Festival Breda 2014
Once every two years, for the past six years, I’ve made the journey over to Breda to be entertained, provoked, empowered and made new friends, met up with old ones and had a wonderful time. Breda is the perfect location for this most idiosyncratic of all design festivals, large enough to get moderately and joyously lost in (I take great pride in having got lost in almost every Dutch town from Groningen to Eindhoven, via Leiden and Den Haag) to being small enough to familiarise and remember favourite haunts for repeat visits and orientate around regular festival sites. Breda for me, is GDFB.
Festivals, no matter what the celebration, have a bewitching presence on the locale, a presence that is most keenly felt by those who take part. That feeling of ‘festival head’ you get when all normal life twists and everyone in town becomes a friend, a fellow festival goer, and you begin to think that everyone and everything is part of the show, is something that happens to me every time I visit GDFB. This is surely the sign of success for a festival; establishing a brief suspension of reality in the ordinary everyday world.
This suspension of reality allows for a clearer picture of current affairs in the design world. The idiosyncrasy of GDFB, in my valuation, is the highest compliment that can be paid (especially in the world of design festivals where matters are often run with the bureaucratic zeal, sense of entitlement and derision to the arts that they may as well steamroll designers in the street) comes in no small part from the tight curation and dedication of Dennis Elbers and the family of staff that make the programme happen.
There is no finer example of this idiosyncrasy and tangent thinking at work than the three day Retweet lecture series which I was proud to be a part of this year. Under the title of Retweet in homage to our increasing appetite for sharing summarised information via social media, the programme brought together the eclectic and eccentric, the bombastic and fantastic in one long and glorious knockout procession of obsession and intrigue. One of the greatest elements for me was that I don’t think I ever heard the words ‘graphic design’ uttered once during the entire three days. This was a line up less concerned with the mores of graphic design more the importance of expanding the field of visual design through scientific research, technology, religion and politics. Given the task of using Twitter to forward on and share the bombardment of information thrown from the stage, I found myself completely absorbed (as did the rest of the audience) in subjects ranging from ‘how to brand terror’ to tax evasion, fungi farming and punk. The audience was enthralled, marveling at the dedication and passion at which the speakers attacked their subjects, often leaving the sessions reeling at the access we’d been given to the guests level of research and vision, our world view changed.
One of my favourite parts of the day were the post lecture lunches, where speakers, visibly relaxed after their performance, would gather round the table and reveal even more about their research, more often than not finding common ground with their fellow guests and audience. Food was a major factor in the social life of the festival with Ravanello Pop-Up food store, located in the Stadsgalerij Breda, becoming a focal hub of the event. The building, which also contained a performance space and a gallery became the type of place that made you wish it was there all year round – part of the festival legacy and impact that events like this have on the town; they offer an alternative view of what can be done with imagination and vision.
It was at Stadsgalerij that most of my meetings with designers and guests happened. Meeting up with international collaborators from the U.S. Mike Perry and Steve Powers, brought home the international reach of this burgeoning festival, whilst witnessing them in action, painting murals in the local community, showed the impact of GDFB has as a lasting influence in the area long after we’ve all packed up and gone home. And I, for one, can’t wait to be back next time. Long live this eclectic, eccentric, friendly and intelligent festival, Breda owes you a gratitude for putting guests on their map and then getting them lost in your charms.
The cult renaissance in 1990s style visuals / fashion has less to do with ironic retro references and much more to do with the hyper-stimulated tumblr generation and the endlessly scrolling web page. This fresh generation of creative curators are finding inspiration in a decade that saw the end of a human paced era and the beginning of a digitally leaping one.
Retro culture as we knew it is over. Our western cultural past is no longer mainly served with retro irony by those too late or too young to join the party, nor by pompous posturing by those that were there first time around.
“Technology has been moving forward faster than we are able to digest, figure out, interpret and make use of. We are perpetually trying to catch up. I think the 90’s mark the start of this or, at least, the end of what was before”
|Baz &Chaz, Peckham Hotel|
So says Justin Solitrin before continuing…
“Maybe it’s a grasping nostalgia trying to refer to a slightly slower time – the tombstones for a human-paced world,” he adds. “As far as I’m concerned it is not about retro at all, but more about creating something quite radical – and simple at the same time.”
|The Common Chant|
“Being born in 1987, the visual aspects of the 90’s and my ideas of art and design are interwoven. Often, I experience feigned/implanted nostalgia, which is definitely informed by the amount of imagery I absorb online daily.
It seems to be a common strand throughout the net-art community. I don’t find my self deliberately trying to draw from the decade.” Julia explains.
|Jeff & Paul|
New York based Jeff & Paul work with clients including The Art Directors Club and Google. They explain the seepage of these 90s references into the mainstream: “Nineties design, (mis)use of interface elements and references to the early web feel like very deliberate choices to evoke nostalgia for that era. The web was weird and mysterious in the beginning – playing with the visual language of the early web brings back that feeling.”
The self-styled ‘transatlantic design studio’ Department International, run by the duo ‘Brian & Bobby’, works in print and identity design and has developed an aesthetic that is rooted in Brian says: “There is definitely a naïveté to the 90’s that is very appealing to me – the idea of actively treading new ground without care if something is good or not… rejecting taste and doing something unconventional”.
Baz And Chaz uphold the role of aesthetics. As Baz explains; “I grew up in the 90’s. Early-internet aesthetics are important to me. I like the primitivism of it. I think there’s too much [poor quality] digital design nowadays. So to look back at early digital aesthetics – the really lo-fi, primitive stuff – is a way of highlighting that.”
|Urban Outfitters, Joel Evey|
Joel Evey, Print Art Director for US retail chain Urban Outfitters coined the phrase ‘the tumblr generation’ when trying to talk at internal level about the company’s target market.
He believes that it is crucial for mainstream creative companies like his to look to avant-garde visual culture and graphics. he states “Other retailers might not think this smaller segment of the market is worth going after, but I contend that it is, because they are the ones that are starting to influence taste.”
New York-based Body by Body are the prolific artists Melissa Sachs and Cameron Soren, who have been producing T-shirts and artwork for a couple of years.
Their Lookbook created back in 2010 still seems fresh, incandescent, gleefully making use of seemingly disparate corporate logos like PayPal.
|Body by Body|
“There is definitely a lot of [pre- and early Internet] aesthetics prevalent on sites like tumblr, but there are also those who play with those aesthetics outside of the Internet realm or with aesthetics from two weeks ago, which is why we don’t necessarily segregate them from each other” explains Sachs, “In a way it is more about the infinite sharing of imagery that has an overwhelming influence on our aesthetic output.”
Body by Body recently held an exhibition in March 2012 with longterm collaborators Deke2 and (Parker Ito)grandly entitled Anime Bettie Page Fucked By A Steampunk Warrior, which included a collection of video pieces that push the boundaries still further…
|GreekNew Media Shit|
Sterling Crispin is another agitator, currently studying for an MFA in Digital Media at The University of California.
Crispin is Well known for his excellent comical stab at noting a movement underway back in April 2011, Crispin set up the site Greek New Media Shit to uncover the seemingly generic plastering of digital self referencial works. He’s also a committed artist and when asked about how he sees the world, Crispin responds…“I think its much more radical to be in the world today with sincerity and optimism, rather than irony, sarcasm and cynicism. We all share the same Internet, which levels the playing field of distribution, allowing for ancient masterpieces to be viewed along side smiley-faced alien gifs, in a constant stream of tumblr posts and status updates.”
Tweet The Distorted Truth In Glitch
Random, Chaotic, Unexpected and Unpredictable – Not Just ‘®adical’
‘Forms of graphic ‘distortion’ are now common to the internet, perhaps complementary to the almost bathroom-like sterility of web standards, or to demonstrate the infinite shaping and reshaping of memes and visuals as part of an evolutionary process authored by everyone and no one.’ Metahaven
The Dirty New Media
‘Many artists do see glitch as a tool for critiquing popular culture, but many see it simply as a nostalgic–8bit generation–aesthetic, others as digital psychedelia, others as a lens through which to dissect language + linguistics, and others yet, as a purely structuralist/materialist practice.’ Nick Briz
“Over the past couple of years the visual glitch has become commodified. It’s now just another filter in the designer’s arsenal, at least as far as the gliche (glitch cliche) is concerned.” notes Ant Scott one of the first glitch VJ’s now staunch artist under the name Beflix. The Glitch community is as fractured and distorted as the work it produces. GLI.TC/H the annual global new media festival that brings everything together. Nick Briz co-founder and co-organiser of the festival explains the diversity of the scene and the balance between commercial and ‘punk ethos as“[It’s] evident from all the debates that glitch.errz partake in glitch art for very different reasons. We had plenty of ‘punks’ present but we also had designers who work at ad agencies.”
So what of the commercialisation of the genre? According to Briz this can be split up into two different concepts. One is the commodification of genre, the other is it’s commercialisation.
The graphic design community manipulates the aesthetics of glitch, harking back to halcyon days Melvin Galapon is a UK-based designer who works on both commercial and artistic projects using glitch and dot matrix as an aesthetic basis for his work. He suggests “there is a kind of movement where using glitches and dot matrix is retro-cool as the generation of people currently creating work come from an era where this was part and parcel of the technology we are all a part of”
We’re comfortable looking at screens and connecting to networks that show nothing but beauty and an obsession with perfectionism. To this end, distortion is closer to the reality of our fractured, temporal information society.’ Travis Stearns
|Printer Tragedies from the Bloomberg Businessweek printer|
Speaking of the relevance to glitch and branding, Fontaine suggests “glitch and disturbance makes a work or experience seem imperfect and therefore more real. It’s important that we mix the real and the virtual, blurring the boundaries – it’s what people are used to now in these new hybrid realities we immerse ourselves in everyday.”
Design by Metahaven; Photo by Meinke Klein
Design by Metahaven; Photo by Meinke Klein
Transparency also has a political connotation and the self appointed bastion for this is the notorious Wikileaks organisation. Dutch design company Metahaven took on the job of fund raising for the organisation and produced a number of products including a scarf, complete with distorted Louis Vuitton graphics as well as mugs and T-Shirts. The work was recently featured in an exhibition at the Museum of The Image (formerly The Graphic Design Museum) in Breda, Netherlands.
‘…A whole new approach that combines today’s possibilities in technology, (neo)craft, social media and advertising to create a new world image’ Dennis Elbers.
Glitch is not disposable, it is the error of our digital ways if we think it is.