Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

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Beginning the end

28 February, 2009

I absolutely refuse for this to be the last time I write about Trent Reznor — and it won’t be. But what I’d like this to be is an open letter, less for protest, but rather more for clarification. Because the phrase ‘disappear for a while’ is certainly one of the last things you’d like to hear being spoken by the man responsible for producing the music you discovered you couldn’t not love the first time you watched Mark Romanek’s ‘Perfect Drug‘, then enamoured by its absinthe-coloured allusion. Indeed that was also the same year I had listened to Bowie’s ‘I’m Afraid of Americans‘ and eventually figured out the connection amongst others that bound NIN to the 1997 hit single as well as to Tool, Jane’s Addiction, Aphex Twin, Mötley Crüe and producer Bob Ezrin. But I know better than to plead, for as any fan of Nine Inch Nails would know, Reznor’s announcement at the end of last year doesn’t really come as a surprise. Any exacting musician has good sense of when a break is needed. And the ongoing decline resulting from the industry’s marginally adaptive 1990s MO further backfiring in the face of the tightening of fans’ purse-strings in difficult economic times hasn’t exactly made it easy to fill concert halls to the brim.

So the news of an impending and indefinite hiatus has again resurfaced lately, in preparation for what may be considered the final assembling of NIN on-stage, touring alongside resurrected fellow Alt-Nation legends Jane’s Addiction. In an earlier statement issued by Reznor on the band’s official site, he wrote ‘2009 marks the 20th anniversary of our first releases. I’ve been thinking for some time now it’s time to make NIN disappear for a while. Last year’s ‘Lights in the Sky’ tour was something I’m quite proud of and seems like the culmination of what I could pull off in terms of an elaborate production. It was also quite difficult to pull off technically and physically night after night and left us all a bit dazed. After some thought, we decided to book a last run of shows across the globe this year. The approach to these shows is quite different from last year — much more raw, spontaneous and less scripted. Fun for us and a different way for you to see us and wave goodbye.’ He asks, ‘Will it work? Will it resonate in the marketplace? Who knows. Is there big record label marketing dollars to convince you to attend? Nope. Does it feel right to us and does it seem like it will be fun for us and you? Yes it does.’

And perhaps he’s right. After all, the NIN canon has continued on strong since 1989, and the last few in particular have led to milestones that would be best kept untarnished in memory. The output of Reznor’s multifaceted genius coupled with his ever-changing team of musicians, engineers and producers has survived a spate of conflicts facing music corpocracy since as early as the 1990s with TVT Music up until Reznor’s decision to split with Interscope in 2007. As he puts it, ‘Corporate rock still sucks.’ That considered, an intimate tour allowing fans to remember and revel in the previous twenty-seven halos would be just the thing that’s needed at a time like this to celebrate all that’s been put forth since Pretty Hate Machine. As such, there’s a real chance that I may fork over a large sum of money I don’t yet have for a ticket when the tour schedule is announced. I had the opportunity to see NIN perform in Brixton back in October 2007 whilst on the European leg of their Live: With Teeth tour, and my memory of the performance which culminated in a profoundly moving keyboard solo for the very same ‘Hurt‘ that Johnny Cash himself later re-interpreted to great effect is reason enough to see them again. And the Beside You in Time DVD (clip below) provides additional incentive, though unlikely needed.

It may be worth mentioning that I respect Trent Reznor as much as I enjoy listening to NIN, for his understanding in the complexities of groundbreaking composition as much as for his having endured twenty years whilst making progress through well-made decisions rather than following a falsely lucrative spiral down. Having stood his ground in regards to both preserving his creative independence and being outspoken with his view of the previous US administration (to the extent of choosing not to perform), Reznor has come a long way in achieving the career he has whilst also evolving into the man he is today. He’s known for having told fans to ‘steal‘ his music. And upon finding out that the US Military had reportedly been using his music in the torture of detainees, he immediately issued the following statement: ‘It’s difficult for me to imagine anything more profoundly insulting, demeaning and enraging than discovering music you’ve put your heart and soul into creating has been used for purposes of torture. If there are any legal options that can be realistically taken they will be aggressively pursued, with any potential monetary gains donated to human rights charities. Thank God this country has appeared to side with reason and we can put the Bush administration’s reign of power, greed, lawlessness and madness behind us.’

But I must admit that I dislike to even think that the word ‘final’ fits into this equation. Deep down, I still have a sneaking suspicion that a special edition DVD will follow, alongside a greatest hits round-up and perhaps some more of that phenomenal instrumental dreamscape composition from Reznor as seen on Ghosts I-IV (the first to be released under a Creative Commons license under his independent imprint The Null Corporation, accompanied by a visually successful video competition about which I shall be posting shortly). Maybe Tapeworm will be brought out from under the dust and revived, or maybe Reznor will produce IDM under an alias, to be released on his own net-based label to continue the trend he helped to begin with Radiohead and that now Portishead is considering to follow (more on that soon). Or maybe he’ll help to turn-out a few more protégés to combat the increasingly uninspired ‘twee‘ sound of the industry mainstream. Or eventually (ideally) this would culminate in a reunion tour of sorts, five or so years down the line…Who knows? But I do know one thing: This is most definitely not the last time I will be writing about Nine Inch Nails.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

Nine Inch Nails – ‘Beside You in Time’, 12 of 19
North America, Winter 2006 (
Halo 22)

See also: The slip (pieces at random)

Downward spiral (pieces at random)

Rainbow revolution (pieces at random)

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Going indoors

4 February, 2009

As the young Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude overlooked the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a tag was described in narration as being ‘a reply, a call to those who heard, like a dog’s bark understood across fences’. Set on the Heights Promenade in The Fortress of Solitude, a sentence from that chapter still lingers with me years after having read it: ‘Under oblivious eyes, the invisible autographed the world.’ It was through this monumental saga by Jonathan Lethem that I first began to understand street art and the multifaceted history that has brought it off streets and into galleries today. In a plot spanning generations in Brooklyn’s Gowanus projects between the 1970s and 90s, the Solitude‘s story was one painted by graffiti as representation of cultural identity, musical heritage and gentrification. Tags representing names were the artists’ signatures sprayed on the sides of  buildings and trains, to be displayed to the world en route to the next destination. A fine line running through the graffiti underground defined the segmented yet not entirely separate areas of self-expression, vandalism, and street culture that were so richly diversified by an impoverished creative youth and their livelihoods often stereotyped by gangs and crime. Yet since its very inception, the cryptic messages alluding to the characters bearing credit for colourful blurbs and stencilled imagery were just as much a mark of their own brands as it was their ideas.

The cover of the Faber edition of the Solitude pays homage to the tags within: ‘DOSE’ etched in black, sprawling in its myriad ways. Anyone from Gowanus would have known that it was the work of Mingus Rude. And Dylan Ebdus’ as well, although he himself had no ‘name’ of his own, and therein lay the metaphor of his personal conflict. Since before the time of Christ, the etches and inscriptions on surfaces (‘to scratch’ in Italian’s graffiare) served as signage to communicate messages for public consumption (initially believed to be that of prostitution). It’s interesting to think that even the current revival of graffiti in the Middle East, for example, can be drawn back to examples of proto-Arabic Safaitic in the Arabian peninsula region in prehistoric times. But ‘modern’ graffiti as we understand it today began to take its overt shape in the late 60s on the streets of cities such as London (‘Clapton is God‘), Philadelphia and New York. Implemented by music-lovers, activist ideologues and groups protective of their urban territories, New York City came to the fore as a graffiti centre in the 1970s, where the use of tags as ‘bombs’ was introduced onto the subway network, and the mirroring of a growing hip-hop music scene in both competitive quality and source of inspiration was undeniable. It’s this street sub-culture with its off-shoot terminology and music that’s conjured the names of Lethem’s characters (Bob Dylan and Charles Mingus) and the likes of Bomb the System.

Written by Adam Bhala Lougha, the award-nominated film features a group of New York graffiti artists and coincidentally enough, a fantastic score composed by alternative hip-hop artist El-P. But it took until halfway through the 1980s for street art to go indoors and formally enter the art world. The very foundation of the United Graffiti Artists in 1972 served the eventual purpose of drawing artists into a gallery environment that would spotlight their work with a respect often lacking in its habitual haunts of the urban built environment. Neo-expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat was the graffiti artist formerly known as ‘SAMO’ (Same Old Shit) whose work bore the ‘wildstyle’ combo of hip-hop and spray-paint. Graffiti artist John Fekner was said to have demonstrated the plight of New York’s deteriorating standards in urban living through ‘art interventions’ portraying many concerns towards the social and political welfare of the city’s inhabitants throughout the 80s. Fekner is well-known for these word installations underpinned by contemporary urban issues and stencilled on buildings throughout New York. And consequently, as city officials moved to drive forward ‘clean-up’ campaigns to rid the streets of what they viewed to be vandalism, graffiti became more commonplace in galleries overground.

It is this move that helped to continue the ‘culture jam’ of political and socio-economic subversion dominating as artists’ themes. While a debate raged on as to whether or not graffiti was ‘art’ in the first place, Basquiat and others like him exhibited in their own studios. A show at the Brooklyn Museum in 2006 has since paid tribute to such graffiti legends, and designer Marc Ecko has long been an advocate of graffiti as art. Increasingly popular in the commercial mainstream over the years, advertising has picked up on graffiti in tactical account planning to push product hype: IBM launched a campaign in 2001 which saw the spraying of sidewalks in San Francisco with tags such as ‘Peace, Love and Linux’. Last year, Youdoodoll founder Sarah Lu launched a ‘paint-off’ in association with Pepe Jeans, stencilling some colour onto Portobello Road’s façade. And of course who can forget Obey Giant’s Shepard Fairey (headline photo) and his iconic posters for Barack Obama? Widening acclaim for his cross-hatched propaganda and street art has landed him at the Irvine Contemporary with Regime Change Starts at Home, and Manifest Hope over at the DC Gallery. Fairey has also collaborated with Syd Garon and Paul Griswold on N.A.S.A.’s debut promo for the track ‘Money’ — once more seeing the meld of hip-hop, street art and bold political statement.

The current exhibition of subversion artist Brad Downey over at StolenSpace‘s Dray Walk Gallery in East London is another fine example of street art being contained within the confines of a gallery setting. Titled An Honest Thief and running until 8th February as his first solo show in the capitol, Downey presents visual challenges to urban archetypes through the mangling of street signs and riddling of traffic markers (photo above). His concoctions of ‘found art’ in the urban spaces of Atlanta, New York, London and Berlin are founded upon his being a member of a family within which his upbringing inextricably bound him to the US Marine Corps’ itinerant lifestyle. As such, Downey’s understanding of varied systems of regulation endemic to geopolitical landscapes is one of the reasons why he is so fine-tuned in producing provocative displays of de-regulation in the public setting. Currently a lecturer on ‘unsanctioned public artwork’ (himself a graduate of the Slade School and Pratt Institute), his understanding of urban art within a framework of social context is translated into his assembled pieces. By removing the facets of mundane objects succumbed to the status quo, he re-interprets them only to then put them back in — infusing re-instalment with a new-found sense of meaning still relevant to their initial metropolitan situations set out by political city officials and ‘official’ urban planners.

Another exhibit I’ve visited (although almost exactly a year ago to date) was an Urban Angel retrospective in East London. The primary grassroots urban art dealer comprised of a small group of private collectors and affiliated artists diversified in the creative styles of stencilling, urban sculpture and contemporary street art is set firmly amongst my favourite of creative London rosters today. With the work of street artist PURE EVIL‘s Charley Edwards and his vampire bunnies featuring last year with pieces such as the pink-sprayed ‘FUCK ART LETS DANCE’ and infamous ‘LIVE EAST DIE YOUNG’, the space presented many more examples of graffiti artistry. Edwards, influenced by San Francisco’s skateboard culture and graffiti artist Twist, launched a spray-campaign in London to examine what he states as being the question of the ‘big picture’: ‘What does evil look like?’ The  positive reception it received is certainly far from surprising: February 2008 saw the industry puritan Bonhams‘ first auction dedicated to urban art, further anchoring the style in commercial mainstream. Having newly opened its permanent Art Lounge space on Redchurch Street this past December, the show titled XXI is previewing tomorrow by invitation and will run throughout the month with original features from artists such as Copyright, Derek Albeck, Dotmasters, Inkie, Know Hope and Zeus (of the distressed Chanel graffiti given mention here a while back).

And bidding us return back to New York is yet another specimen of London graffiti via the world-trekking Banksy. Obviously not needing any more formal introduction, Banksy exhibitions taking place since 2000 and his recent selling of works at auctions for unprecedented sums in the urban art world is news buzzing regularly through today’s media circuit. He is, of course, one of the most recognizable icons in the graffiti street art movement; and with a reputation that precedes him, he’s acquired fame despite his adamantly maintaining pseudonymity. In October last year, Banksy’s comical ‘Village Petstore and Charcoal Grill‘ sprang up in New York’s West Village (see video below), taking his incredibly intelligent style of satire to even higher levels. The tongue-in-cheek guerilla installation, as filmed by the talented filmmaker Seth Brau, pokes fun at everything from consumer culture and fast-food, to surveillance society and its own self-deprecation. The animatronics involved so greatly departs from anything else seen on street art’s urban horizon that it nearly inadvertently demonstrates the great diversity and potential in street art as an artform in its having done so.

And so it is in the midst of all such irony that it appears the artworld’s institutionalized industry of traditional, ‘un-street’ setting most famously adorns the greatest visual impacts of artists whose autographs are no longer invisible — and whose audience is not so oblivious after all… Filmed and edited by Seth Brau. Music title ‘Barefootin” by Daniel Holter and Kyle White of the Burst Collective. Courtesy of Burst Labs and Extreme Music (Sony/ATV).

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Street value (pieces at random)

Warhol v Banksy (pieces at random)

My playground (pieces at random)

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RIP tDR

1 February, 2009

1986 – 2009

Traipsing between those fine lines of celebration and remorse, it’s difficult to know just how to begin when writing an obituary. Sentiments of grief are best kept at a minimum should you not wish to upset anyone, whilst vacuous praise may have a rather opposite effect. But how does one go about writing the necessary retrospective when the deceased is not a person at all but an enterprise, a conceptual entity shaping the era in which it was up and running? Short of having lived on another planet for the past six months, news of the global recession having taken its toll on major business leaders and small players alike is nothing new. However, one closing its doors in particular has brought on the sort of sentiment felt when a good friend moves away. In fact, this very piece has been sitting in my draft box for the past three years, left to ferment as a blank page at large reserved for the studio that inspired my career choice and passion for a field that — let’s face it — hasn’t always been as experimental as it is today. Admittedly I was so enamoured, so enthralled by what I saw to be (and indeed was) at the very pinnacle of graphic design enterprise at the time that I’ve been too wrapped up in navigating my way through the realm which it has created for itself and for the many clients whose successes were partly hinged on the humourous, constructivist visual impact it provided them across boundaries.

But never did I expect to be writing on such a sad occasion of finality. And it is thus after twenty-three long and successful years, The Designers Republic has bid its farewell. In founding the studio in Sheffield all those years ago in order to provide graphic support for the flourishing ‘SoYo‘ music scene and the band Person to Person, creative director Ian Anderson managed to create a dynamic home-grown alternative to the overrated London design scene. The byline to be ‘Made in the Designers Republic, North of Nowhere’ soon became a desired branding of its own, though ironically tDR’s roots were based on a vision less ‘branded’ and rather more frank about big-city commercial culture and the insatiable consumer demand that went along with it. But it is precisely this paradox that has dominated throughout its lines of work in recent years whilst setting itself apart from the rest, catering to big-name clients such as Nokia, Nike, Saatchi & Saatchi, Orange, and commerce’s favourite target of criticism: Coca Cola. Today, the quintessential tDR style noted to have been inspired by Moscow’s VKhUTEMAS school of the 1920s is perhaps one of the most recognizable of UK studios abound: bright colours, abstract shapes, in-your-face images and modern disjointed typeface in English, Japanese and binary code that screams out whether it be in print, screen, a national flag or a European Space Agency logo.

All of these elements played into the tongue-in-cheek aesthetic that shaped much of its famed output. But to be honest, it’s wasn’t the corporate shelf of Anderson & Co.’s portfolio that first caught my attention. Referring back to its initial connections to the Sheffield music scene, I actually discovered tDR through the work it had done for electronic labels such as Warp Records and the now defunct Em:t Recordings — and for groups such as Moloko and the similarly defunct Funkstörung (see video below). Who can forget Richard D. James leering in a bikini on the cover for the Windowlicker EP, or the vintage sci-fi number for Mat Jarvis’ Gas 0095? The Nine Inch Nails lithograph concert poster series fatigued and true to the band’s industrial heritage proved a further irresistible pairing between the studio and music, as well as the more recent steel-clad limited edition of Quaristice following a long line of covers for Autechre with the hypnotic accents of tDR’s ‘Customized Terror’. I had drawn a comparison some time ago between Anderson and both Warhol and Hirst, and it was vis-à-vis the inextricable links to music that their tremendous impacts paralleled on the cusp of visual representation viewed by an audience of listeners who enjoyed such imagery built on the sounds that lured them into collecting merchandised memorabilia via concert venues and niche online retailers.

And this impact has certainly not gone without ample recognition: In 2001, Q magazine chose the 1987 cover of Age of Chance‘s Don’t Get Mad… Get Even! as one of the ‘100 Best Record Covers of All Time’. Meanwhile, a sold-out 1994 Emigre issue revolving around the Republic was auctioned off for more than $750. Even more recently, tDR was featured amongst the roster of twenty-four artists in the Maxalot projections at the Hague for the TodaysArt Festival in 2006,  with a statement of simply ‘Wait Here. Help Is On The Way.’ spanning across the City Hall building in a fashion that went beyond correct kerning demonstration: it was another example of the ethos that brought about the wordplay visuals of ‘Thinking and Doing’, ‘Design or Die’ and ‘Work Buy Consume Die’ en route to the ‘This is the Emperor’s New Clothes’ theory. Incidentally, TodaysArt also brought the work of tDR alongside that of Universal Everything, another Sheffield-based studio whose director Matt Pyke served at tDR as a senior designer for eight years. Which brings me back to the point of the studio being in Sheffield: the playful anti-capitalist ethos so evident in Anderson’s work stems from his world-view (and love of good music) that led him there in the first place. ‘Sheffield doesn’t have places like Hoxton Square,’ he told the Creative Review in August 2001. ‘And I think, Good, that’s why we’re here. I’d rather slit my throat than have to work with people like that.’

‘The majority of clients haven’t the faintest idea what they’re getting into when they work with us, and a lot of them just haven’t got the balls to see it through. It’s really disappointing to realise that so many people involved in commissioning creativity haven’t got the faintest idea what creativity is.’ Amen. Finally somebody said it, and I couldn’t agree more. The fact that Anderson doesn’t ‘really give a shit about what anybody else does, or about being in anyone else’s band’ is why the legacy of The Designers Republic is worth more attention than much of the rest out there (though it does seem they buckled under commercial pressure throughout the last three years). But their ingenuity and individuality has always counted so positively in terms of a socio-anthropological relevance throughout a broad spectrum of visual communication. Now, not having had a chance to purchase any of the limited edition prints from the tDR online ‘disinformation’ merchandise flagship lovingly tagged as ‘The Peoples Bureau For Consumer Information‘ (the neon night-scene Tokyo print and catchy T-shirts were amongst some of my favourites), I’m glad to know that Anderson has indicated that eventually tDR ‘will rise again’. In the meantime, a copy of the LovebytesVolatile Media DVD, several albums, and various videos will serve just as well amongst the prized memorabilia to reminisce in anticipation for the second coming of the Republic.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

‘Grammy Winners’ directed and produced by The Designers Republic
Funkstörung, Appetite for Disctruction (!K7 Records, 2000)

See also: V&A Forever (pieces at random)

Ambient space (pieces at random)

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To wake up…

29 January, 2009

It began with a single idea: ‘Go to a place. Ask fifty people the same question. Film their responses.’ And what a tremendous response it has been so far. This intimate series from the Crush + Lovely creative studio based between New York and San Francisco provides unique insight into the personal desires of strangers when spontaneously asked various questions — the most recent being where they would like be when they next wake up. Revealing an interesting juxtaposition between those who would like to stay where they are and others who yearn to be elsewhere, the impromptu approach of filming the individuals featured at random was inspired by the project’s first undertaking in New Orleans by the Deltree start-up led by creative entrepreneur and director Benjamin Reece. Narrowing in on the question of what one wished would happen by the end of the day, the original take of the Fifty People, One Question concept has since led the team of soon-to-be former Boom Design Group creatives to the streets of New York, Brooklyn, and most recently London. All beautifully shot with suitable chosen soundtracks to match (Four Tet, Louis Armstrong, Au Revoir Simone, Do Make Say Think), the Deltree slogan of ‘To Move You’ couldn’t have been more fitting.

Having just been informed that the Crush + Lovely team have struck a deal with Deltree to continue production and distribution of this dynamic film series, it looks like the third question in line is set to be ‘What one thing would complete you?’ — though the upcoming city destinations have yet to be disclosed. Featured above is the Brooklyn edition, and the remainder of the videos can be viewed at Crush + Lovely’s page on Vimeo. Great snapshots of people encountered on both the London and Brooklyn shoots are also available on Flickr via photographer and executive producer Nathan Heleine. Directed by Kenneth Chu, filmed by Benjamin Reece, produced by Nathan Heleine, with sound by Tung Bach Ly.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Deltree Blog

Boom Design Group

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Ampersound

25 January, 2009

With the exception of this morning (norovirus woes throughout the night),  I’ve taken to regularly posting a couple of news stories and a single music video to my Facebook feed as I begin to tackle the day’s work ahead over breakfast. Several people tell me they frequently tune in, though more for the music, and I’ve been contemplating whether it might be easier to just present the videos on a page of their own. I’ve been an avid fan of music videos for as long as I can remember (the Jacksons, Ace of Base, Metallica — all introduced to me on-screen), and despite there being several ‘channels’ online with great collections, production information is not always as comprehensive as should be, and not all players are made for convenient embedding elsewhere. So in my poor state last night I had no option but to follow through — and all 165 videos posted to date (with the exception of those removed from YouTube since 2007) are now up on the new Ampersound site.

The current domain is set to change once the IP points in the right direction, so take note of the new address when updated. Still much progress to be made, but have a browse through and let me know what you think.  It’ll be added to daily, alongside extra additions taken from this site and my bookmarked collection not yet tapped into. And on another though related topic, Express Checkout was also refurbished recently. It’s about time, too, seeing as my foray into the blogosphere actually began there and not here. Admittedly this tangled web of sites is starting to become a bit difficult to cover overhead alongside my writing articles for other non-affiliated sites. So the video library will eventually be incorporated into this site, and from there everything is likely to become a new section featured on one or two of the domains currently in main use. In any case, I’ll follow up on all that soon, whenever there’s another chance (hopefully without the involvement of projectile vomiting next time).

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Sticky logistics (pieces at random)

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Sticky logistics

20 January, 2009

Many apologies for the recent random disruptions in operation. I had received e-mails last week about several on-site issues resulting from the host having difficulties with universal caching earlier. But luckily that issue has since been resolved, with the premier of WordPress.tv coming as more than adequate conciliation. Of course there has also been yesterday’s sudden disappearance of the UI — or change, rather — as maintenance finally went full-throttle. The feedback received since the previous update seemed to be just as split as I was on the decision. I figured the indecisiveness indicated that by now it was beyond overdue: the gradient grays were not at all helping to curb the claustrophobia. So here it is, lots of white space with sparse linear noise. The silhouettes will more or less be up for the time being. With deadlines approaching, there isn’t much time for well-calculated construction as yet. But consider this a trial-run to verify whether shifting content-focus makes lengthy reading and image-viewing more of a comfortable task to tackle outside the confines of the feed reader. Things may continue to alter throughout the upcoming few weeks until a single stylesheet settles the matter. So if loading appears faulty until then, this will most likely be the reason why.

Just thought I’d throw that in to clear up the confusion, as the title and image above suggest that this post wasn’t initially meant to be an update. The banter of the day narrows in on something that has kept these pages and indeed other areas of daily activity afloat. I like to think of it as the Band-Aid for modern living, fit for the organized though slightly frazzled multi-tasker whose work inevitably becomes steeped in mounds of paper despite all the paperless alternatives gadgetry offers today. The Post-it Note is certainly one of those inventions that is the quintessential brandname-namebrand: Hoover, Kleenex, Cola — any type of object referred to by the name on the tin rather than the term in the dictionary. To think that a small square of paper with non-abrasive adhesive could become such a fundamental part of what we instinctively expect to see in offices, classrooms, and on desktops worldwide is something of an incredible feat. One can only dream of designing an item that is so solidly welded to the culture or activity whose purpose it serves, that it essentially never goes out of demand. In the spirit of Objectified, I owe it to Dr. Spencer Silver to give him an honourable mention here, as without him, Arthur Fry would never have conceived the adhesive application on paper and the Post-it would never have been patented by 3M to launch in 1977.

Today, made available both under the original brand umbrella and in other extraneous generic forms, there’s no shortage of colours, sizes and applications for the household sticky-note. Brooklyn-based artist Rebecca Murtaugh is well-known for using them in installation art pieces, often requiring hundreds of dollars’ worth to cover walls and furniture for a neon mosaic effect isolating the contours of objects through two-dimensional texture. In the virtual world, Jack Cheng’s popular StickyScreen homepage alternative to 3M’s Post-it Digital Notes is a great project providing some space to jot down a brief itemized to-do list for constant reminder every time you open your browser. Even further on the multimedia front, award-winning illustrator Jeff Chiba Stearns animated his entire journey to become a filmmaker on 2,300 Post-its, set to a score by Genevieve Vincent (watch Yellow Sticky Notes below). And its use for sake of memory makes good sense: Harvard psychology department head Daniel Schacter, the author of The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers, discusses how the Post-it functions as a ‘prospective memory cue or an external memory aid’ that compensates for our inherent absent-mindedness due to the ceaseless sources of distraction in our lives.

And on that note, don’t forget to watch the inauguration streaming live from D.C. today at 11 am EST (4pm GMT) courtesy of MS Silverlight via the official inaugural site. Comprehensive updates will also be featured on Joost‘s ‘Everything Obama’ channel for US-based users and anyone using a proxy, and CNN.com Live is covering this historic event in tandem with Facebook.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: ‘Humble Masterpieces’ (MoMA 2004)

British hallmarks (pieces at random)

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Industrial image

18 January, 2009

As any fan of the font Helvetica (Glenn Sorrentino, no doubt) will know, Gary Hustwit’s documentaries are good food for thought.  His 2007 independent film Helvetica, a rather notable recent example, took the fiftieth anniversary of this single, iconically-Swiss font and shaped an entire discussion around it in focusing on the art of visual communication through graphic design and typography in our modern, posterized, urban-aesthetic world. The full eighty minutes of insightful interviews from renowned designers such as Michael Bierut, Bruno Steinert and Lars Müller places this feature along the same lines as Phaidon and Die Gestalten Verlag in my home media library in terms of educational value elevated by a generous helping of inspiring eye-candy. Which is why I was so delighted to find out several weeks ago that Hustwit’s next full-length release is expected to premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival at the end of March. And this time, the main object(s) of focus will be industrial design — yet another field that has tremendously impacted our living spaces, and dare I say probably even more so than graphic design.

It’s fascinating that despite the extent to which our lives are determined by the use of objects we choose to buy and surround ourselves by, it still seems that many of us know very little about who made them and the creative processes that went into making them for mass-consumption in the marketplace. Objectified seeks to redress this issue, examining the realm of industrial design through the perspectives of both our interfacing with manufactured objects through our use of them, and reciprocally the industrial designers who design them for us to use. Hustwit defines objectified as having two meanings:  one as being ‘treated with the status of a mere object’, and the other as representing ‘something abstract expressed in a concrete form’. Through exploring what ‘good design’ is, Hustwit is set to reveal a great deal about what such objects serve to reflect about us and our contemporary society — continuing the age-old form vs. function debate whilst highlighting the importance in understanding consumerism, identity, expression and sustainability in relation along the way.

Once again, it provides insights of several of the industry’s greats, including interviews with MoMA curator Paola Antonelli, Apple’s Jonathan Ive (yes, the iPod designer), Naoto Fukasawa (MUJI audio), the IDEO design consultancy, and revolutionary designer Karim Rashid. Not himself being an expert in either graphic or industrial design, Hustwit’s refreshing approach undoubtedly provides a very much needed look at not only what design is or what it does, but rather what it means and what it may one day become. His interest in the profound way that industrial designers influence the threadwork of culture and interaction is one that many more people should be inspired to share. He asks, ‘If you could get all of these designers and design experts together at a dinner party, what would they talk about? […] Maybe there’s a third meaning to this title, regarding the ways these objects are affecting us and our environment. Have we all become objectified?’ And for a $500 donation, you can become one of ‘The Objectifiers’ whose names are listed in the  credits — along with a DVD and other special merchandise thrown in the mix as objects of appreciation.

Produced and directed by Gary Hustwit, edited by Joe Beshenkovsy, and shot by Luke Geissbuhler.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Swiss Dots

Objectified (Shop)

Helvetica Teaser