Monday, October 26, 2009

Neill Boomshank

Neil Blomkamp is South African and you might therefore expect him to be a chauvinist racist. But Niell is a geek, and that has overridden his social predispositions. Instead he’s followed a band vegan Boers on a notable trail of digitalism and responsibility!

Neill is only 30 years old (born 1979!), and has worked on various ad projects as special effects supervisor, accumulating skills that have allowed him to assemble hand-held analogue with believable digital effects. More recently he has directed some bigger-budget enterprises, including a Halo preview (you are an idiot or a girl if you don't know about this) and District 9 with Peter Jackson. Which old Wacko derived from Blomkamp’s original, 6-minute short ‘Alive in Joburg’. In which I just noticed D9’s protagonist, Shartlo Copley at 3:18. Gr8.

And he did the Citroen C4 advert with the transformer rip-offs (a transformer would never morph into a C4! Don’t mess about. F-16s and Mustangs, son), and David Guetta’s track over them!? Check his filmography on wikipedia.

But anyway, the main point of this post is that Neill has conceptualised and visualised one of the best exo-suits ever, easily among the greats of Matrix’s APU and Aliens’ Powerloader. Enjoy it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pomp & Clout

Pomp&Clout is a Brooklyn-based visual communication / brand firm, making film and graphics. How great. They are great, though. They have various corporate clients, including Apple, Nike, Mazda, Visa, Carnegie Mellon and Mad Decent, among others. Particularly 'now' are their recent music video projects, such as the 80's vector-inspired Dre Skull - I want You and analogue-noised Jeffer for Boys Noize. Good work. And as they have the hardware and human resource to create good motion content, they've even made some interesting video-promos for their own party, 'Lovelife'.

And whereas I usually enjoy the assumption that people from decades bygone were lesser intellectuals than our civilised bunch today, I am again proven wrong. Shockingly. Have a look at Len Lye, who scratched and marked frames to achieve comparable patterned distortion, as in the 'Swinging the Lambeth Walk' video. In the 1930's.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Techno Genesis

Swedish Architect, music producer, programmer and part-time college Erik Levander enthusiastically tipped me off about 'The Tone Generation' podcast. Levander synopsises:

If your knowledge about the origins of electronic music is limited to Kraftwerk, perhaps with a vague connotation of the names Stockhausen, Cage or Varese, this podcast will both make you an expert on early electronic music and give you hours of fascinating listening for free!

Artist Ian Helliwell serves you well chosen bits of music along with dry, but precise information. If there is something like an objective charm, Ian Helliwell's excellent podcast sure has it.'

True that.

Stream or download here

Monday, October 5, 2009

Freaky Freitag

Freitag is a Swiss company run by namesake brothers, using recycled truck tarpaulins and other automotive materials to make bags. The bags are subsequently durable, individual and ‘green’, although veer dangerously close to high school tech class. Reflecting their re-use mantra, their flagship store in Zurich West is made from used shipping containers. Designed by Annette Spillmann and Harald Echsle, the boxes were Gutted, reinforced, piled-up 26 meters high and braced, ranking as Zurich’s tallest structure.

"Optimum use had to be made of the small plot of land right next to Gerold-strasse. The standard 20-foot shipping container was chosen as the basic building block for the construction of an asymmetric tower of 9 containers rising from a 4 x 2 base. Set back from the road, the structural shell of the building emphasizes the size of the adjacent brownfield site. The base is used as a sales outlet, while the tower has become a striking landmark. The circle, from product to building to product, is complete."

Container architecture has a fairly polar spectrum of really bad to pretty good, and I’d ike to vote for this in the latter. Also interesting are LOT-EK and NL Architects efforts.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Horizontal Harmony

[Screenshots/Images top to bottom: Graphic Therapy ; Realities:United ; Bluesfear Worm; Soulwax/ 2 Many DJ's (2007! oops)]

The Horizontal Way is a website dedicated to horizontal web layout and navigation. It’s an original but surprisingly rare solution, and is most suited to image content, rather than text. Such as portfolios or design publications. The site describes its applications, using examples to illustrate the possibilities.

The soulwax/2 Many DJs site is also surprisingly fresh for a pair of overrated Belgian goons. Its ‘fairly unusable’, but it’s interesting, and in any case I’m not sure functionality was their primary objective. And its not the National Rail website, so don’t complain. Someone grey did that one, so your granny will still be able to book her train.

Geometry James

James Kirkup is responsible for some refreshing graphic design. At 21 years old, he has a calm aesthetic that belies his years, and is likewise modest about his portfolio. Often overlaying simple geometry over existential photography, his use of placelessness is reminiscent of avant-garde 70’s graphical dreamscapes, like those of Superstudio.

I am also a particluar fan of his laissez-faire attitude towards and crop marks and colour bars around the edges of his posters.

View more James’s portfolio and other enterprises on his site. He also contributes to the 'SluttyFringe' blog. And check out the rest of the creative web-community on Cargo Collective.

Ab DFab

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Modular Mission

[Top to bottom: Zvi Hecker's Dubiner House, Ramat Gan 1960; Detail of a second housing complex in Ramat Gan, 1972; Moshe Safdie's Habitat 67 for the 1967 Montreal World Expo]

Zvi Hecker , born May 31, 1931 in Krakow, Poland is an Israeli architect currently working in Berlin. Enjoying success around the 70’s, a subsequent slowdown has seen him largely overlooked. He accumulated an eclectic portfolio of built and unbuilt work, using a formula of geometry and chaos.

His studies in crystallography in particular generated some interesting results, as manifested in the Ramat Gan residential complex in Jesusalem, 1979 – 1985. Using the crystalline analogy he was able to generate flexible and perpetual forms. Unfortunately this proved a constructional nightmare, and threw architectural values to the wind. Sharply sloping walls also somewhat affected the functionality of the internal spaces.

His creative use of modularity has been significant for modern architecture, and his 1960 Dubiner house was a precursor to Moshe Safdie ’s Ubiquitous Habitat 67, at the Montreal World Expo in 1967. Moreover his intricacy is a pleasure to behold at an architectural scale. His website is impressively bad on all fronts, but if you brave it you will find more of his work.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fresh Beats

I will briefly excuse myself for the puerility of this post, and I'll agree its old - nearly 250,000 people have seen it. But people are still commenting on it, and ignorance craves provision. Its MSTRKFT's Oh snap!! bootleg, and it deserves a special mention for being an excellent example of VJing, using extremely limited material. And it has kept me both visually and aurally amused. Big Willie and Jazzy smash it. One distraught viewer remarked:

'Try doing this for 4 minutes...I dare you'. I think everyone should.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Flourescent Fandango

Born in Mexico City in 1977 and currently working from NYC, Alejandro Almanza Pereda  says that his work creates tension, ”Related to how we see risk and how we see danger, and the respect that we have for these.” [Interview]

Pereda creates precarious compositions using everyday objects and materials to create a sense of tension and impending danger, using our familiarity with them to heighten our measure of improbability. One critic even came up with the profound conclusion that it:

“Highlights human frailty…like the soft wind from an oscillating fan”
Wow. Really? Intellectual over-indulgence is an artistic prerogative. Probably heightened by the Mexican’s national shame [hilarious?]. But Alejandro needn’t worry so. While some of the more inert structures might ‘create tension’, others suggest freedom. And these interest me the most.

Assembled with fluorescent light tubes and clamps, the sculptures imitate the modular makeup of scaffolding (as above). His structural use of lighting components is poetic, and replacing the dull metal with glowing tubes is not only mesmerizing, but it seems so logical (although no one else saw it coming) as they share similar dimensions. And the compositions maintain the same material familiarity that we can identify with, flaunting any 'nu'-age media.

I’m very jealous, and intend to make my own scaffold lamp.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

'Fucking Summer'

In May Platoon launched the 'Fucking summer' / 'scheiss sommer'  promotional campaign for the Arena summer season 2009. The operation included a holistic campaign of posters, online, social networks, adds and more. Arena is a post-industrial complex on Berlin's river Spree, hosting creative businesses, bars, concerts, cultural events [recently international design festival DMY] and river-bound pool the 'Badeschiff' / 'Pool-Ship'.

For a while the area was battered with the thematic posters, which used an eye-catching blend of straws, piss, ketchup, condensation and cigerettes to put their point across. It's exemplary of the continental branch of rational photography and is preferable to silly indie shots of some gymnastic goth contorting 'to the beat'. And likewise preferable to the predictable graphical melodrama that promotions usually employ. They have a natural, dreamy depth and satirical 'truth' that lends depth to the environment they're pasted to. But they suffered for their art, as their collectibility became a problem for the campaign.

Friday, September 4, 2009


[Jonathan Schipper's installation "215 Points of View" on display at Pierogi's Boiler space during art fair week 2009]

I came across this chap, Jonathan Schipper, on his quest to uncover our humanity, with his project ‘Invisible Sphere’ (above). A 5.5 foot diameter sphere covered with video monitors & surveillance cameras, each monitor displays a live video feed from a camera placed on the opposite side of the sphere. The sphere can be rolled around in its environment and is a surveillance device that reveals what is just beyond it. Its scale & mobility defy secrecy. It’s an example of his narrative ability, which could be put to good cinematic effect. And in fact reminds me a bit ofthe film 12 Monkeys.

The Brooklyn-based artist's favored mediums are mechanics, video and sculpture, and some of his animatronic creations are as acute as they are disturbing. Check out the project videos on his site , they clarify a lot. Also, a visit to the artists' studio, on the 'Cool Hunting' Youtube channel.

Overall he seems like the kind of man whose drinks invitation you should decline, as his Victorian-theme party in the woods would turn out to be an elaborate bluff, and he would probably just cast you into his next sculpture or shank you with a pneumatic axe.

Layout Lexicon

Coordinating dense information and still giving it logical layout and visual heirarchy is difficult. Newspapers are pretty good at it, and this student project that i stumbled upon on deviantART has gone some way to deciphering how. The highlights and annotations detail elements that I had not yet considered and helped me resolve some layout issues of my own. For those who haven't had formal graphical or typographical training, but who still embark on flyer / poster / card / leaflet / pamphlet / book design, which many of us do, this is a valuable insight.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Berlin Calling

From the director of 'One Day in Europe' (Berlinale 2005 in Official Competition) and 'Berlin is in Germany' (Berlinale 2001 Panorama Audience Award), Hannes Stöhr, Berlin Calling is a dramatic and intimate account of techno to accompany Speakiing In Code on your Techno night-in.

Breifly: a man (Ickarus / Kalkbrenner) tours clubs around the globe with his manager and girlfriend. On the eve of their largest album release he is admitted to a psychiatric clinic after overdosing at a gig. And various tribulations pre/post. But the story almost seems like a Trojan Horse for what interests me more: a patchwork portrait of hard-to-get shots of the camera-shy Berlin night-scene.

Usually these types of films are post-posthumous accounts of inherently self-destructive artists of UK or US origin. Using a living artist and riding on the phenomenon of Berlin has facilitated a unique promotional campaign. Running the film's releases alongside a tirade of Kalkbrenner’s club fixtures has mutually generated interest in both the film and Kalkbrenner's music.

Paul Kalkbrenner was/is a real-life dj, the film’s protagonist and sountrack artist, thereby creating a surreal unification of realities. And he delivers the perfect music for the movie: the soundtrack contains ten exclusively produced tracks, including the movie´s hymn “Sky and Sand” [with vocals by his brother, artist Fritz Kalkbrenner]. In addition there are five previously released tracks, all exclusive Berlin Calling edits. Alone or in the context of the movie, they are good.
Check the official website for release dates and give the trailer and tracks a look.

PS I had drinks with the Director and female lead a few weeks ago.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Speaking In Code

Berlin is renowned for its rave scene, of which techno is a significant part, its success outside the Bavarian foothills probably attributable to a lack of dubious German lyricism. Since its 90's heyday of silly acid-induced synths, it has developed into an intellectualised, rational genre. German and similarly fond Dutch sympathizers have voiced complaints at the 'noise' that UK producers rack up, and conversely boast at the simplicity and understated power of Techno in comparison. While it has taken me a while to feel exited about, techno is listenable and hypnotic, and its consistent, well-produced riffs are particularly useful during extended Berlin nights.

The scene is bizarre and filled with enigmatic hopefuls, and I was bare pleased when I stumbled across Director/Producer Amy Grill’s documentary ‘Speaking In Code’ which follows some of the hopefuls. The official site nd featured links explain more. Synopsis:

‘Speaking in Code is an intimate account of people who are completely lost in music. A heartbreaking and lighthearted documentary, it's a vérité glimpse into the world of techno. Captivating and entertaining, the film takes you around the world, following the people who make electronic music ... their lives.’


Monday, August 17, 2009

Double Standards

[Images: Record sleeves; Exhibition manuals; Letterheads; Shopfront design]

Double Standards. No, not like feminism, but more like a design studio from Berlin that I investigated after noticing a string of their posters hovering around. There's fairly sparse descriptive prose on the website, but judging from the pictures and menu sorting, it's principally a surface-based, visual communication/graphic design co, doing books, catalogues, posters and mixed campaigns etc. Using block colours and typography, the work is comparable to the contemporary school of rational Dutch design, and shares some of its clarity, unlike a fair amount of more cluttered communication around the city. Their strategies and mediums are also interesting and original, and worth a look.

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