Branding Terror. The Logotypes and Iconography of Insurgent Groups and Terrorist Organizations. Available on amazon UK and USA.

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A book about the visual identity of some of the world's main terrorist organizations wasn't going to remain unnoticed. When it was published by MERRELL last year, every single design blog and magazine wrote about it. Yet, i only discovered the existence of Branding Terror last month, when i had a ridiculously great time at the Graphic Design Festival in Breda (NL.)

In a similar way to what happens with consumer goods, the name, slogans, and visual codes of a terrorist group are not only key manifestations of its identity, they also contribute to the reach and influence of the organization. An anecdote that appears in Artur Beifuss' introduction to the book illustrates the importance and impact of this visual communication. A few years ago, an Italian amateur ­league football club adopted for its players' shirts the logo of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, changing its name to 'Zassbollah' (a combination of 'Hezbollah' and the name of the team's captain, Luigi Zasso) in the process.

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Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

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Terrorist mask series #8: IRA (via Branding Terror facebook page)

The book is authored by graphic designer and creative director Francesco Trivini Bellini and by writer and (ex)counter-terrorism analyst Artur Beifuss. Which means that the publication is obviously carefully designed but also that the information about the history, imagery, attacks, ideologies and capabilities of each of the 65 organizations has been meticulously researched.

The authors of the book are conscious that they are dealing with a delicate topic. They approached it in an almost clinical way while acknowledging the suffering of the victims of terrorism.

In his foreword to the book, Steven Heller, a design writer and former Art Director at the New York Times, wrote: The extreme violence committed in the name of these logos makes writing about them in terms of aesthetics or production values seem silly and irrelevant. Yet these terrorist groups are all brands, and are given a certain viability through branding methods. Branding is a tool that has no conscience or morality - it can be used for good or bad, and sometimes for both in tandem.

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FAI (Federazione Anarchica Informale) From Branding Terror

I contacted Artur Beifuss as soon as i came back from Breda and he was kind enough to answer my questions:

Hi Artur! Are there logos that stand out from the others? Which ones do you think are the most imaginative, the most efficient (strictly from a design point of view of course)? and why?

Yes, there are some good ones, the Hezbollah logo for example. It perfectly reflects the organizations history and ideology. It is interesting to compare the Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards logo. Allegedly the Iranian's founded and trained the group that later became to be Hezbollah. Both logos use the same elements to convey its ideological message. I think the Hezbollah logo is very powerful because it is memorable and easily recognizable.

But more important than the logo is what people will do with this logo. In the digital age, logos can go viral modified and used for all kinds of contexts. It is not uncommon to see fashionably dressed women and men wearing t-shirt with Hezbollah logos. Just google 'hezbollah' and 'girls' to understand what I am talking about. Seeing the logo in such a context tells the recipient that Hezbollah's ideology is indeed applicable in contemporary society. At least more than watching bearded men talking to a camera somewhere in the mountains of Waziristan.

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Hezbollah logo

And on the opposite hand, which one do you think is the worst conveyor of ideology?
The one(s) that completely missed the point?

All of the logos analyzed in Branding Terror make some kind of ideological reference. None of them really misses the point. However, there are some logos that are completely overloaded with references and elements, the logo of the Islamic Organization of Uzbekistan is a good example. It has so much Arabic text in it that one does not know where to look first. Also, this particular logo would be lost on all recipients that can't understand Arabic.

Does branding a terrorist organization has to respond to the same rules and requirements than branding any commercial product? Or do you find that other 'laws' are playing?

In a way it has to respond to the same rules, yes. People have to know what you stand for, and the logo should be easily recognizable. However, terrorism means violence and death in most of the times. Even terrorist groups find it difficult to advertise for that. In the letters from Abbottabad for example Al-Qaeda media advisors recommended Bin Laden to keep a distance to the Al-Qaeda branch in Iraq because they started beheading people. This is not something that Al-Qaeda central - if you want to call it like this - wants to be associated with. They were losing followers over that.

You used to be a counter-terrorism analyst? Now that sounds really interesting. What did the work involve? And how did you use that background while working on the book? when did it come helpful?

My position involved searching and analyzing information about terrorism in five languages. Through this job I acquired a good understanding of transnational terrorism. This did help me to make the content of the book multilayered. Also, I knew how to find information that gets as close to the primarily source as possible and how to correctly assess them.

I read that you used the official lists of "designated foreign terrorist organisations" of five governments: Australia, India, Russia, United States and the European Union. First of all do the list overlap? Or do they have different definition of what a terrorist organization is?

The definitions slightly differ. And the lists overlap to some degree. But governments tend to put groups on their list that are of relevance to their own geopolitical position. For example many separatist groups from India you will not find on the list of the United States. Globally active groups like Al-Qaeda are listed as a terrorist organization on most of the lists.

After the book was finished, did you get emails from people sending you other logos? And do you now find yourself in front of a long list of logos you wish you could have included? Could you imagine publishing a second edition of the book for example or do you think that what had to be told has already been communicated in the book?

Yes, some people approached us with their own projects and ideas. And we are always happy to get in touch and exchange ideas. Branding Terror was exhaustive as it is at the time of publishing. All organizations that are on the designated foreign terrorist list of which it was possible to track down the logo are included in the book. Branding Terror was set out as an encyclopedia, a branding manual and a collectible item. We like to see it as a work in progress. There are always new groups emerging and designated as a terrorist organization. It would be nice to have the logos of these groups all in one place, preferably in a nicely designed book series.

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Babbar Khalsa International logo

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RAF logo

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Hanns Martin Schleyer under the logo of the RAF (Red Army Faction) and a sign saying "Prisoner for 31 days" in 1977 (via Branding Terror facebook page)

Terrorism is a bit of a tricky subject. It is associated with subversion and violence and that often get people's attention. And it must be difficult not to pass any judgment, political or moral when dealing with the topic of terrorism. How did you approach the topic? Did you struggle to stay neutral? How did you manage that?

Branding Terror is based on information found in Open Sources. It is a technical analysis of the visual communication of terrorist and insurgent groups. The logo is the unit of analysis. Of course many so-called facts can be considered biased since they were collected and collated by people with a certain political and moral agenda in mind. These people can be ELN members in Colombia or Analysts in a Washington think tank. I used analytical techniques I learned in my profession to approach the topic. But of course it is not easy to read over hundreds of dead bodies every day. But I was not there to judge, just to simply collect, collate and analyze the information.

Have you ever received any feedback from any of the organizations you mention in the book?

No, I have not received such feedback.

What are you both working on now? Any new projects you could share with us?

Francesco is taking a creative break at the moment. In the meantime I speak on conferences, in design schools and advice marketing companies about what can be learned from Branding Terror. And yes, coming back to your questions earlier, I do systematically collect logos on the side. The next project is trend research, especially analyzing countercultures of the future.

Thanks Artur!

Views inside the book:

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Sponsored by:





Photography: A Cultural History (Fourth Edition), by Mary Warner Marien.

Available on Amazon USA and UK.

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Publisher Laurence King writes: Mary Warner Marien discusses photography from a truly global viewpoint and looks at a wide-ranging collection of images through the lenses of art, science, travel, war, fashion, the mass media and individual photographers. In addition to representing the established canon of Europe and the United States, key work from Latin America, Africa, India, Russia, China and Japan is also included. Professional, amateur and art photographers are all discussed, with 'Portrait' boxes devoted to highlighting important individuals and 'Focus' boxes charting particular cultural debates. New additions to this fourth edition include an overview of photography's involvement in conceptual art, a detailed review of the photographic work of artist Ed Ruscha and new material on European Worker Photography during the 1920s and 30s. Many new pictures have been added throughout the book, including superior versions of historical photographs and recent images from contemporary photographers, including Walead Beshty, Youssef Nabil, Lalla Essaydi and Ryan McGinley. A rich and vivid account of the history of photography placed in an essential cultural context, this indispensable book shows how photography has charted, shaped and sharpened our perception of the world.

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Richard Billingham, Ray's A Laugh, 1996

Mary Warner Marien is Emeritus Professor at Syracuse Uni­versity and this publication started as a textbook for her students. Don't let that detail alarm you, this is by far the most engaging, exciting and informative book on photography i've ever read (and i've read quite a few).

The author examines the story of photography, the technical innovations and the key figures of the rather brief story of the medium but she also looks at the impact it had on society and culture. And vice versa. Photography is indeed a powerful weapon. From its early days until its current guise, it has been equally used to denounce social injustice and to function as an instrument of political propaganda.

By explaining the historical and cultural contexts in which photographers worked, Warner Marien shows us how to research, interpret, understand and ultimately look at a photography. A skill we often overlook in our age of image overload.

Photography. A Cultural History is also a very entertaining book. It will take you from the early days of tabloids to the heyday of Kodak, from racial profiling to documenting public executions, from social documentary to the history of medical experiments.

Have a look at some of the works, ideas and facts i discovered in the book:

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Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne performing facial electrostimulus experiments on "The Old Man"

French neurologist Duchenne de Boulogne used electrical currents to stimulate facial expressions. The newly invented photography offered him a tool to capture the resulting expressions of his subjects.

His monograph The Mechanism of Human Physiognomy was the first publication on the expression of human emotions to be illustrated with actual photographs.

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John Thomson, The Crawlers, London, 1876-1877

John Thomson collaborated with journalist Adolphe Smith to produce the monthly magazine, Street Life in London, from 1876 to 1877. This early type of photojournalism documented in photographs and text the lives of the street people of London.

The "Crawlers" lived in the street and whenever they had enough cash to buy tea leaves then they would "crawl" to a pub for hot water.

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Photographer Unknown, Corporal Samuel Thummam, 1865

Photographs of American Civil War veterans were circulated to teaching hospitals in an effort to improve battlefield care, recovery and prosthetics

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Lewis Hine, Child in Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908

Lewis Hine, photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, recorded the lives and work of hundreds of children in the United States in the first decades of the twentieth century. His pictures were instruments of persuasion. He believed that if the public could see for themselves the abuses of child labor, they would demand laws to end it.

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Clara Sheldon Smith, Claude F. Hankins. Caption reads: "In 1904 Claude Hankins , aged 14, was convicted of murder and paroled after serving four years."

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Tom Howard, Dead! (Execution of Ruth Snyder in New York's electric chair. Front page of the New York Daily News (January 13 1928)

Ruth Snyder was sentenced to death for killing her husband. Her execution, in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison was captured in a well-known photograph.

Because photographers are not permitted into executions in the United States, the New York Daily News commissioned a man no one at the prison knew to document the moment. Tom Howard strapped a miniature camera to his ankle and linked he photographic plate by cable to the shutter release concealed within his jacket.

The next day, the photograph made the front page of the paper. For many years afterwards witnesses to executions were searched and asked to hold up their hands so they could not operate hidden cameras.

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Imogen Cunningham, Irene Bobbie Libarry, 1976

Imogen Cunningham was one of the first photographer to portray older people in a way that reflected their individuality. She was 92 when she started working on After Ninety, a series of photos of elderly people. The photo above sows tattooed circus attraction Irene "Bobbie" Libarry (83) in a nursing home.

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Lee Miller, Buchenwald, April 1945

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Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dessau. A young Belgian woman and former Gestapo informer, being identified as she tried to hide in the crowd © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photo

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Ralph Amdursky and Charles Baker, Colorama. © 2009 Kodak

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Colorama by Kodak

From 1950 until 1990, Kodak's gigantic Colorama photographs dominated the east wall of Grand Central's Main Concourse. The photographers employed used the company's innovative technology to print oversize and meticulously staged photos that portrayed an idealized view of American life.

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Charles Lee Moore, Firefighters hose demonstrators, Birmingham, 1963

Charles Lee Moore documented the American civil rights era.

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Philip Jones Griffiths, Napalm Victim, Vietnam, 1967

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Vo An Khanh, Vietcong Improvised Operating Room, U Minh Forest, 1970

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Yves Klein, Harry Shunk, and Jean Kender, Leap into the Void, 1960

The famous photography Leap into the Void is also a famous photomontage. Harry Shunk first photographed the street empty except for the cyclist. Then, Klein "climbed to the top of a wall and dived off it a dozen times--onto a pile of mats assembled by the members of his judo school across the road. The two elements were then melded to create the desired illusion." (via)

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Catherine Chalmers, Praying Mantis Eating a Caterpillar from Food Chain, 1994-1996

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Catherine Chalmers, Frog eating a Praying Mantis from Food Chain, 1994-1996

Catherine Chalmers portray predatory insects and animals snacking on other living, wriggling creatures.

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Chris Killip, Youth on Wall, Jarrow, Tyneside

Chris Killip spent two decades in the industrial communities of the North East of England. His gritty images attest the impact that the decline of industries and the detrimental economic policy had on British working class.

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Susan Meiselas, Street fighter, Managua, Nicaragua, 1979

Susan Meiselas is best known for her coverage of the insurrection in Nicaragua and her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America.

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The Cambodian Genocide Program at Yale University has scanned more than 10,000 photographic images pertaining to various aspects of gross human rights violations under the Khmer Rouge regime. In this preliminary release of data from our existing archive, we focus on the victims of the Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh, the notorious "S-21" extermination center.

More than 5,000 photographs were taken of prisoners being processed into the facility for interrogation and execution.

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Peter Dunn and Loraine Leeson, Health Cuts Can Kill. Campaign to Save Bethnal Green Hospital, 1978

A2 poster produced and distributed through the hospital campaign committee over 30 years ago. Still painfully relevant.

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Piss Christ, with partial damage. Photograph: Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters

Andres Serrano's Piss Christ, a "photograph of the crucifix submerged in the artist's urine"), was made in 1987 and wherever and whenever it was exhibited the work met with controversy, protest or vandalism. In 1989, Sen. Alfonse D'Amato used it as an example of art that ought not to be supported by state funding.

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Tim Head, Toxic Lagoon, 1987

Tim Head created brash, seductive compositions using discarded mass-produced materials.

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Richard Billingham, Ray's A Laugh, 1996

Ray's a Laugh is probably one of my favourite photo series ever (together with Pieter Hugo The Hyena & Other Men.) In this work, Richard Billingham portrays the domestic life of his alcoholic father Ray, and chain-smoking, tattoo-covered mother, Liz. The wonky framing and approximative focus gives the series sincerity and authenticity. It is brash and unforgiving but in the process Billingham managed to make his parents perfectly lovable.

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Larry Sultan, Pictures from Home

Larry Sultan photographed his father and family over a ten year period spanning the 70s and 80s as part of an elaborate project that included his parents own photos, home movies and statements.
Larry Sultan's project Pictures From Home was inspired after watching some old family films and looking through old albums that they had not seen in years. He looked through the old reels of films and albums and studied how they represented his family and their connection to history, memory and time.
Using the old images as inspiration Larry Sultan took photographs of his parents in their retirement home

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Richard Misrach, Bomb Crater and Destroyed Convoy, Bravo 20 Bombing Range, Nevada, 1986

In 1952, the U.S. Navy began illegally testing high-explosive bombs on an enormous expanse of public land near Fallon, in Nevada. Richard Misrach's photographs capture both the natural beauty and the man-made devastation of the land.

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Ron Haviv, Blood and Honey: A Balkan War Journal, 1992

Blood and Honey: A Balkan War Journal chronicles the horrors that the Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, and Kosovar Albanians perpetrated against each other. The image above shows a young Serb militiaman about to kick a woman in the head.

Views inside the book:

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Show Time: The 50 Most Influential Exhibitions of Contemporary Art, edited by writer and exhibition maker Jens Hoffmann. With contributions by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Massimiliano Gioni and Maria Lind.

(available on amazon USA and UK.)

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Publisher Thames & Hudson writes: Tracing a history of the field through its most innovative shows, renowned curator Jens Hoffmann selects the fifty exhibitions that have most significantly shaped the practice of both artists and exhibition curators.

The book's thematic sections focus on a huge variety of exhibitions, including those that have explored public space; reflected on globalization; engaged audiences in revolutionary ways; and brought into the gallery other disciplines such as theatre and architecture.

Short texts introduce and place each exhibition in context, accompanied by installation photographs and factual data about the participating artists, venues, dates, curators and publications, and many feature quotations from the originating curators exploring the premise of the show. The book concludes with a roundtable discussion by some of today's leading curators.

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Carsten Höller, Y, 2003. Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia - Archivio Storico dell Arti Contemporanee and Air de Paris. Photography: Giorgio Zucchiatti

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David Hammons, America Street, 1991 (featured in the exhibition Places with a Past: New Site-Specific Art in Charleston)

Show Time examines the most game-changing and risk-taking exhibitions of the past 30-ish years. The survey begins in the late 1980s when the Cold War ends and globalization takes off.

The book surprised me. I knew i'd find beautiful images, compelling ideas and elegant texts in there and i haven't been disappointed. But i also thought that Show Time would provide me with a clear confirmation that contemporary art is far too busy contemplating its own navel to question its relevance in today's society and to engage with a public whose idea of a wise investment does not involve shelling out 32 pounds to enter the immaculate tents of the Frieze art fair. But i was wrong (up to a certain extent) as many of the innovative exhibitions the author selected not only show the evolution of the profession but also a clearer desire to go and meet the public whoever and wherever it may be. Another fairly recent trend in curatorial practice is to cross boundaries, to explore and communicate with other practices such as theater, architecture, literature, science (though i didn't find any convincing example of art&science exhibition in the book), etc.

The book explores nine themes in contemporary curating:

Beyond the White Cube presents exhibitions that invade public space often with the purpose to meet a public which would not normally be tempted to enter a cultural institution. These are probably my favourite kind of exhibitions as they usually deal more efficiently with social and political engagement and ambition to achieve deeper connections between art and the whole society.

The best example is probably inSITE. Located in the border region between San Diego and Tijuana, the biennial focused on social and political issues related to border control and of course immigration between the US and Mexico. Artists and cultural producers from both sides worked together and the organization usually involved the participation of immigration officers and human rights groups.

Interestingly, Hoffmann notes that while the biennial drew much attention in the press and local public, it didn't attract the more 'traditional' art crowd.

I suspect that inSITE is the most exciting biennial that ever was. Ever timely theme and terrific selection of artists. Here are two of the works created for it:

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Francis Alÿs, The Loop, ephemera of an action, Tijuana-San Diego, inSITE97, 1997

In 1997, Alÿs 'crossed' the US-Mexico border at Tijuana by plane. He boarded in Tijuana and flew to Mexico City, then to Panama City, Santiago, Auckland, Sydney, Singapore, Bangkok, Rangoon, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Anchorage, Vancouver, Los Angeles, and arrived in San Diego a few days later. Alÿs exposed a loophole in Mexico-US border control through a physical loop on a global scale, but in so doing highlighted the fact that this could only be possible for a privileged few.

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Mark Bradford, Maleteros, 2005

Mark Bradford's contribution for inSITE_05 was to give a hand to the Maleteros, the porters who -unofficially- transport luggage and goods between the border of the US and Mexico. Together they worked on a system of maps and signs that promoted their marginalized work alongside that of the labor of policemen, bus drivers and taximen.

Artists as Curators as Artists celebrates artists who intervene through artistic experiments or curatorial work in museum collections as gestures of institutional critique or as a way to use the exhibition as an artistic medium.

In 1992, Fred Wilson collaborated with The Maryland Historical Society to shake up its collection and present Mining the Museum: An Installation. The intervention highlighted museums' hidden agendas and the silences around certain episodes of the history of Native and African Americans in Maryland.

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Fred Wilson, Mining the Museum: Modes of Transport, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, 1992-1993

Across the Fields and Beyond the Disciplines. The key word here being (as always) 'interdisciplinary'. This section of the book explores exhibitions that open up to other fields such as architecture, science and mass media. New methodologies, new ideas, new processes and thus new perspectives emerged from these broader cultural influences.

In 1999, the exhibition Laboratorium turned the whole city of Antwerp (BE) into a laboratory where artists and scientists explored possible common aspects of their working processes. Workstations in the exhibition space enabled visitors to carry out their own experiments while other workstations, distributed throughout the city, worked as laboratories to reflect on specific themes: the laboratory of doubt, a cognitive science laboratory, the first laboratory of Galileo, etc.

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Carsten Höller, Key to the Laboratory of Doubt, 2006

New Lands looks at shows that paid homage to the 1989 exhibition Magiciens de la Terre, one of the first group shows to give equal emphasis to art from all over the world. The shows in this chapter therefore take on art from areas of the world as diverse as Eastern Europe and Africa, and that had remained for political, cultural or other reason, under the radar.

A chapter is dedicated to Biennials, the prolific model of exhibition that launches curators' careers, opens up vast touristic possibilities for cities in search of new energy and serves as meeting point of the international art elite.

While some have merely replicated the biennial model, others have attempted to twist and reinvent it. Manifesta, for example, is 'pan-European' and nomadic. Each edition sees the event move to and infiltrate a new city.

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Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled, 1998. Manifesta Luxembourg. © Roman Mensing / artdoc.de

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Hans Schabus, 'Forlorn' and 'Another Try for a Room for "Western"', 2002, installation view from Manifesta 4, Frankfurt, Germany. Courtesy Manifesta, the artist and the Kerstin Engholm Gallery, Vienna. Photography: Bernd Bodtländer

New Forms looks at attempts to rejuvenate or even overthrow well-known exhibition formats and processes. (Is it me is this starting to get a bit repetitive?)

For example, An Unruly History of Readymade applied the principles of the readymade to the making of the exhibition (which was obviously about readymade artworks.) The show was held in the largest juice-production factory in Mexico. Stacked artworks and pallets of juice stood side by side.


An Unruly History of Readymade

The chapter Others Everywhere deals with shows that explore race, sexuality, class, gender, nationality. Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement, for example, embraced the Chicano movement and the more experimental art that comes with and out of it. The movement, which emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, encouraged political empowerment and ethnic prides over issues such as civil rights or immigration.

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Gary Garay, Paleta Cart, 2004. Courtesy of the artist, © Gary Garay

Tomorrow's Talents Today presents exhibitions that, by placing artists under new categories, have been formative to certain artist groups or affiliation. Nicolas Bourriaud's show Traffic and his text about relational aesthetics is probably the most discussed example. As was Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection which gave us/made up the YBAs.

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Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tragic Anatomies 1996

The last chapter, History, presents exhibitions that set a new art-historical agenda through a greater consideration of female and non-Western artists and underrepresented art forms such as performance and conceptual work. I'm sad to read we still see 'female and non-Western artists' as separate categories in need of special attention.

That's for the 'more socially-engaged than expected' content. Now for the form: Show Time features the slick images that define art books nowadays. It is also doing a great job at not being too heavy on the art jargon. I wouldn't say that this is a book for a public that has zero interest in contemporary art but it does help making it more approachable, easier to read and experience. It also definitely puts the whole curatorial practice into a more challenging and 'challengeable' perspective

I hope the intro to the review doesn't me sound like a bitter, ever-discontented gallery-goer. I do love contemporary art but i've been almost traumatized by the aloofness some of the major art shows and fairs i've seen recently. The book made me realize that i should just be more selective and see better exhibitions.

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Philippe Parreno, No More Reality, 1991, installation view from No Man's Time, Centre National d'Art Contemporain--Villa Arson, Nice, France, 1991. Courtesy the artist, Villa Arson, Nice, and Air de Paris, Paris, © Jean Brasille/Villa Arson

I'll close the review with a sentence Hoffmann wrote in the introduction of the book: "Show Times includes very few museum shows from the United States, which is perhaps an indication of a general lack in curatorial innovation in the American art world, cuts in public funding, increase in private interests, or all of the above." I don't think the problem is the lack in curatorial innovation, i'd rather believe that slashed funding for culture and increasing mingling of private sponsorship is to blame. Take note, Europe! We are well on our way to meet the same under-funded, risk-phobic fate.

Views inside the book:

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Speculative Everything. Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming, by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby.

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(Available on amazon UK and USA)

Publisher MIT Press writes: Today designers often focus on making technology easy to use, sexy, and consumable. In Speculative Everything, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby propose a kind of design that is used as a tool to create not only things but ideas. For them, design is a means of speculating about how things could be--to imagine possible futures. This is not the usual sort of predicting or forecasting, spotting trends and extrapolating; these kinds of predictions have been proven wrong, again and again. Instead, Dunne and Raby pose "what if" questions that are intended to open debate and discussion about the kind of future people want (and do not want).

Speculative Everything offers a tour through an emerging cultural landscape of design ideas, ideals, and approaches. Dunne and Raby cite examples from their own design and teaching and from other projects from fine art, design, architecture, cinema, and photography. They also draw on futurology, political theory, the philosophy of technology, and literary fiction. They show us, for example, ideas for a solar kitchen restaurant; a flypaper robotic clock; a menstruation machine; a cloud-seeding truck; a phantom-limb sensation recorder; and devices for food foraging that use the tools of synthetic biology. Dunne and Raby contend that if we speculate more--about everything--reality will become more malleable. The ideas freed by speculative design increase the odds of achieving desirable futures.

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Dunne & Raby, Teddy Bear Bloodbag Radio

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Dunne & Raby, Technological Dreams Series: No.1, Robots, 2007

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Dunne & Raby, Michael Anastassiades, Huggable Atomic Mushroom: Priscilla (37 Kilotons, Nevada), 1957, 2004-05

A book that champions the power of ideas is always a great addition to anyone's library. And because my lack of enthusiasm for design is fairly well documented, i'm going to be cynical and add that a book that calls for more ideology and values in design is a rare find indeed.

In Speculative Everything, Dunne and Raby ask whether it is possible for design to operate outside of the market place while at the same time acknowledging that we live in a consumer society. Once the focus of design is not on selling a product, can it act as a catalyst to connect, debate and speculate? And more importantly, can it turn us into more discernible consumers?

You probably already know how the formula works: the two designers create objects, photos, texts and insert them into scenarios that are neither too realistic nor too outrageously disconnected from the world as we know it already. They don't package the work in a complete narrative either. Instead, they sketch a skeletal structure that leaves enough space for the public to be puzzled, fill in the gaps and attempt to answer the many questions that lie at the core of the work that Raby and Dunne submit to their attention.

Most of us aren't used to a design that doesn't do all the imaginative work and requires us to think. Yet, we live in a time when consumers moonlight as producers, rediscovering craft, 3Dprinting at home or self-publishing porn fiction. So why shouldn't we also be stimulated (by design or other creative disciplines) to produce our own dreams, our own ideas about a future that should or shouldn't be?

If you've ever asked yourself perfectly sensible questions such as "What is speculative design?" "Is it the same as critical design?" "Is this another name for fiction design?" "Why don't they call that art?" or just "What's the point?", then you'll probably find satisfying answers in this book. And because by now Dunne and Raby are used to communicating with scientists, artists, fellow designers, as well as the broad public, they answer these questions in a clear, efficient and very enjoyable way.

Speculative Everything neatly and quietly dispels the myths, misunderstandings and simplifications surrounding speculative design. Of course, there will always be people who dismiss Dunne and Raby's work for being too arty, and, well, too speculative to be strictly design but if some of them ever read the book, i'm quite convinced that they will at least agree on the fact that its authors ask some valid questions and more importantly perhaps articulate them in an intelligent, compelling way.

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Dunne & Raby, United Micro Kingdoms, 2012/13

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Dunne & Raby, Between Reality and the Impossible, 2010

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Dunne & Raby, Between Reality and the Impossible, 2010

I often find design to be too insular but in their book, Raby and Dunne look beyond design and survey the works that operate in the same speculative area. These works belong to all creative disciplines under the sun: art, architecture, film, manga, cinema, literature, science, art, ethics, politics, etc. And it's quite a joy to read about works as different as Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror tv series and Luigi Colani's shark-shaped plane. I couldn't resist listing some of these works below:

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Luigi Colani's aircraft from 1977 is based on the shape of the Megalodon shark. It has four flight decks and swing-wings at the rear. Each flight deck can seat up to 1,000 passengers

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Troika, Plant Fiction, 2010

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Insititute of Critical Zoologists, Hiroshi Abe, Morosus Abe, Winner 2009 Phylliidae Convention (from the series The Great Pretenders)

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Robert Duvall surrounded by the police in George Lucas' movie THX 1138, 1971

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PostlerFerguson, Liquid Gas Tanker, frpm the series Wooden Giants

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Ai Hasegawa, I Wanna deliver a Dolphin, 2013

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Jaemin Paik, When We All Live To 150 (Moyra's 'child' in her second family), 2012

P.s. Favourite quote from the book is "Designers today are expert fictioneers in denial" (p.88)

Previously:
Between Reality and the Impossible,
United Micro Kingdoms.

Art and the Internet, edited by Phoebe Stubbs, with contributions from Joanne McNeill, Domenico Quaranta and Nick Lambert.

(Available on amazon UK and USA.)

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Publisher Black Dog Publishing writes: Art and the Internet is a much-needed visual survey of art influenced by, situated on and taking the subject of the internet over the last two and a half decades. From the early 1990s the internet has had multiple roles in art, not least in defining several new genres of practitioners, from early networked art to new forms of interactive and participatory works, but also because it is the great aggregator of all art, past and present. Art and the Internet examines the legacy of the internet on art, and, importantly, illuminates how artists and institutions are using it and why.

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Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (image via ilikethisart)

To be honest, my first reaction when faced with a book dealing with 'internet art' was akin to the cries uttered by a heretic about to find himself into the hands of Tomás de Torquemada (the only thing i can say in my defense is that my job exposes me to an awful amount of really bad online art.) In theory, i'm not a fan. However, a quick look in the book made me realize that i shouldn't be so hasty in my judgement. You see, internet art or net.or or web-based art or however you wish to call it is not monodimensional. It comes with depths and with as many opportunities for interpretations and distortions as its purely 'physical' equivalents. So yes, i was definitely not jumping for joy when i read the words 'art and the internet' but then i opened the pages and they were all there! JODI, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, Vuk Cosic (please bribe this man out of his art-retirement), Alexei Shulgin, etc. All of whom i believe are all quite genius. And then there's the new generation of artists, pranksters and activists who like you and i, probably spend far too much time on the internet but have the excuse of turning it into spectacular, thought-provoking or simply amusing works.

Art and the Internet opens with 3 essays. Nicholas Lambert explores how web-based art has been embraced (or rather not really embraced) by art galleries and institutions. Joanne McNeill looks at how moments of intimacy are shared via web cams. Domenico Quaranta takes a more historical approach to net.art and to its relationship with physical space. Each of these essays communicate splendidly the gaiety, wit, diversity and charm of art on the internet.

The book closes on interviews with Attila Fattori Franchini, LuckyPDF, Eva and Franco Mattes and Marisa Olson and on seminal texts about art and/in the internet by some of its most recognised rock stars: Alexei Shulgin, Miltos Manetas, Olia Lialina, John Perry Barlow, etc.

It often seems that internet has been created for the sole purpose of having people droll over cute cats and then stick their head into home appliances to recover from the emotion. Art and the Internet demonstrates not only that there's nothing wrong with that but also that internet art deserves a greater offline exposure.

Now for a couple of remarkable works i discovered or rediscovered in the book:

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Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, 60X1.com, 2003

The very garish, very dazzling 60X1.com throws into a tumble dryer photos of political figures, pop culture icons and images found in cyberspace. The result is as user-unfriendly as possible: the domain name is not catchy, the file size are slow to appear on the screen (at least they were at the time) and it's a struggle to locate the word 'enter' that will lead you to the next page where another word 'enter' will be carefully hidden. After going through a series of splash pages, the visitor realizes that there is no destination to explore, that it's journey ends there as there is in fact no core content.

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Charles Broskoski, Directions to Last Visitor, 2011

Directions to Last Visitor demonstrates how easy it is to geographically locate users through their IP address. Log on to the website and it will use the Google Maps API to show you the driving directions to the (physical) address of the last person who visited the website. The project makes you realize how simply typing an url can lead to further dissolution of your privacy.

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Owen Mundy, I'm Unable to Fulfill Your Wish, 2011

I'm Unable to Fulfill Your Wish are 'dystopian visualizations' that use a computer program to streamline data from social networking websites and turn them into delicate, basic but also anonymous graph drawings.

Ultimately, the works highlight the inability of interfaces and other digital spaces to represent the complexity of everyday life and question whether technology and open data will ever achieve its utopian promise.

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Andy Deck, Glyphiti, 2001

Glyphiti is composed by multiple, anonymous participants who edit a "drawing wall" collaboratively by working on one 32 x 32 pixel section at a time.

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Clement Valla, Postcards from Google Earth, 2011-2013

Clement Valla fortuitously discovered what he first thought were glitches on Google Earth images. However, these broken images are the result of a constantly of the constant and automated data collection handled by computer algorithms. In these "competing visual inputs", the 3D modellings of Earth's surfaces fail to align with the corresponding aerial photography.

Google Earth is a database disguised as a photographic representation. These uncanny images focus our attention on that process itself, and the network of algorithms, computers, storage systems, automated cameras, maps, pilots, engineers, photographers, surveyors and map-makers that generate them.

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Aram Bartholl, Map at 'Hello World!' Kasseler Kunstverein, Fridericianum 2013

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Aram Bartholl, Map at Rencontre Arles 'From Here On'. Photo by Anne Foures, 2011

Aram Bartholl's iconic Map drags Google Maps red map marker into the street.

In the city center series 'Map' is set up at the exact spot where Google Maps assumes to be the city center of the city. Transferred to physical space the map marker questions the relation of the digital information space to every day life public city space. The perception of the city is increasingly influenced by geolocation services.

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David Horvitz, 241543903, 2006-ongoing (image via urlesque)

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David Horvitz, 241543903, 2006-ongoing (Image via artribune)

David Horvitz's Heads in Freezers is as simple as its title. People are invited to take a picture of their head in freezers. The twist is that they must tag it with "241543903" and uploaded it to social media sites.

Now a quick image search of the number 241543903 shows pages after pages of people shoving their heads into freezers.

The Age of Collage. Contemporary Collage in Modern Art. Edited by Dennis Busch, Robert Klanten, Hendrik Hellige. Preface by Silke Krohn.

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Available on amazon USA and UK.

Publisher Gestalten writes: The Age of Collage is a striking documentation of today's continued appetite for destructive construction. Showcasing outstanding current artwork and artists, the book also takes an insightful behind-the-scenes look at those working with this interdisciplinary and cross-media approach.

The collages featured in this book are influenced by illustration, painting, and photography and play with elements of abstraction, constructivism, surrealism, and dada. Referencing scientific images, pop culture, and erotica, they reflect humanity's collective visual memory and context.

Through confident cuts, brushstrokes, mouse clicks, or pasting, the work in The Age of Collage gives the impossible a tangible form. It expands the possibilities of the genre while turning our worldview on its head along the way.

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Nils Karsten

A book with Yul Brynner on the cover was always going to get my attention.

The Age of Collage adopts the model that made the success of Gestalten books. Plenty of efficient images and a few comments about each of the 80 artists whose work is presented. The intro is more informative than usual (or maybe that's just because i know so little about collages), it says a few words about the strategies of collage, its history and even more interestingly about its presence in contemporary culture from the Beastie Boys' video Sabotage to sampling or mood boards of ads agencies (or even Pinterest i would add.)

And because this book is a visual joy from cover to page 285, i'm going to leave you here with a few discoveries i made while flipping through it:

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Jorge Chamorro, Handmade collages for Poisson Soluble, 2013

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Jorge Chamorro, Pair, 2013

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Beni Bischof

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Brian Vu, Outer Limits, 2011

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Valero Doval, Arlequin Series, 2009-2011

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Valero Doval, Monkey Twins

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Valero Doval, Circus dog I

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Linder Sterling, Oh Grateful Colours, Bright Looks, 2009

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Sarah Eisenlohr

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Nils Karsten

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Dominic McGill, The Splitting of Reality in Two Parts is a Considerable Event, 2009

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Nicholas Lockyer, Leave me no choice but to plot my revenge, 2012


Views inside the book:

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