This by way of introduction: we enjoy answering the question, â€œWhatâ€™s your favorite . . .â€ (fill in the blank here), because it give us a chance to talk about ourselves, and to tell others who we are by ostensibly talking about someone or something else (a favorite book, movie, author, artist, band, album, etc.). By telling others what we like, we try to tell them who we are. Perhaps it is even a manifestation of our higher impulse to obey the Delphic Oracleâ€™s injunction to strive for greater self-knowledge, for how often do we turn to art precisely to learn, not about the work in question, but from the work about ourselves and the world around us?
For those of us who care about art, literature, film, (â€œcultureâ€ as they used to call it), nothing says â€œwho we areâ€ more than the books we read, the movies we watch, the music we listen to . . . So when someone asked me recently who my favorite movie directors were, I responded with enthusiasm, despite the fact that the answer I gave was accompanied by the kind of unsubstantiated generalizations that generally drive me crazy when I hear other people spouting them:
Jean-Pierre Melville, for his unfailing portrayal of â€œcoolâ€ in cinema.
Michelangelo Antonioni, for his relentless depictions of post-Marxist â€œalienation,â€ not among the working class, but among the wealthy and privileged bourgeoisie of post-war Italy.
David Lynch, for just being plain weird in the most provocative ways.
Cool, alienated, weird. What else do we want from the movies?
It also occurred to me that Melville, Antonioni, and Lynch are all deeply western filmmakers, obsessed with a uniquely western response to the struggle between good and evil as a kind of spiritual crisis. Melvilleâ€™s heroes are often criminals, but they live by a code (like the bushido code of the samurai evoked in Melvilleâ€™s 1967 Le samouraÃ¯) which allows them to live with a sense of honor and distinguish right from wrong, even in the moral gray of the criminal underworld. Friendship, loyalty, courageâ€”these are the virtues of Melvilleâ€™s heroes, and these qualities add up to a certain â€œcoolâ€ that he may derive from American actors like Bogart, Dean, and Brando, but to which he gives a uniquely French twist (different from the kind of â€œcoolâ€ we saw developed by later American actors like Steve McQueen and Paul Newman). It is within this sense of â€œcoolâ€ that Melville explores his own sense of spirituality, in the context of a kind of warrior ethic that is simultaneously an aesthetics of style. In Melvilleâ€™s hero the ethical and the aesthetic are gracefully blended in the notion of cool.
Antonioniâ€™s characters, on the other hand, although not criminals, are far less heroic; and while they occupy eminently aesthetic surroundings, they are wholly unethicalâ€”not because they are evil, but because they are weak. Melvilleâ€™s three virtuesâ€”friendship, loyalty, and courageâ€”are wholly lacking in Antonioniâ€™s world. These characters are too close to pathetic to be tragic, but they are not contemptible because they are often too much like we are, and even in the fantasy world of the movies we find it difficult to hate ourselves. They are living through a kind of modern crisis from which all the heroics have been drained, and what is left behind is lush, indulgent, stylish and visually gorgeous, but spiritually bereft. It is in their response to this sense of bereavement that Antonioniâ€™s characters regain a kind of antiheroic charm, especially in the case of the female leads played by Monica Vitti in the four films she did with him between 1960 and 1964. Anything that can still be affirmed against this backdrop of modernity takes on a new significance.
Finally, with Lynch, cool and despair join hands to occupy a landscape that is alien in direct proportion to how familiar it seems on the surface. Unreal things happen in familiar places (our homes, our neighborhoods, inside our own heads), proving that these landscapes are not so familiar after all. What we thought was the comfortably familiar is revealed as concealing dark, hidden corners. These may be the corners of our own imaginations, which tend to run away with themselves, at least if Lynch has anything to do with it. But here too there is a kind of spiritual struggle going on; and a struggle between good and evil that is very real for Lynch, even if it is a rather narrowly conceived western (it would be Manichean if it didnâ€™t keep doubling in on itself and implicating his filmsâ€™ various heroes with a sense of their own moral ambiguity) sense of good and evil. The devil, last seen in the works of Milton, Goethe and Dostoevsky, is still alive and well in the films of Melville, Antonioni, and Lynch. He is still charming, still tempting, and still leaves a wake of despair that demands some sort of spiritual response from those he encounters. For filmmakers, with all the resources of the visual at their disposal, these responses, no matter how ethically grounded, must always be aesthetic as well.
All this may or may not be true, but it isnâ€™t really what I want to say about these directors, or how Iâ€™d like to write about their films. These comments are marked by the kind of unsubstantiated generalizations that one expects to hear at cocktail parties (at least the kinds of cocktail parties Iâ€™m always hoping to be invited toâ€”as long as theyâ€™re serving good whiskey along with the small talk), but they are not really the stuff of careful observation of the visual details that makes watching great cinema a great pleasure. What I would like to be able to do is discipline myself to greater acts of seeing. Iâ€™d like to see more, when I look at a movie, in the hope that great movies would reciprocally teach me to see more when I look away from them.Â Â
Also by way of introduction: Iâ€™m sure its curmudgeonly of me to admit Iâ€™m uncomfortable with the word â€œblogâ€â€”not because it makes me feel old, but because I am old, and it makes me feel like I should be doing something to compensate for that fact, rather than merely sitting back and enjoying it as the result of the long and laborious process of having stayed alive long enough to earn the dubious title. Instead of â€œblogâ€ I prefer the old-fashioned word â€œessay,â€ which is more dignified, more accurate etymologically, and more representative of something that someone has labored over and taken time and care with. Whether or not someone has something to say, they should say it thoughtfully. â€œBlogâ€ sounds like a particularly unpleasant body function. Something that happens to you when youâ€™ve put down too much ambrosia salad on a hot 4th of July afternoon after drinking flat beer and eating some baked beans that werenâ€™t quite right to begin with. An essay, on the other hand, is the record of an earnest attempt, the written vestige of an effort that calls on you to try your very best, no matter how embarrassing the results, or how inadequate to the hopes and ambitions we brought to them.
Any essay that is not, on one level, a failure, is an essay that stopped too soon, when we were still feeling safe and secure in our own thinking. Often the failure is where things get interesting, where risks are taken and uncertainty and insecurity allowed to crawl out from under the rock weâ€™d like to hide them beneath. A â€œblogâ€ on the other hand, sounds like what it too often is: a spewing forth of whatever comes to mind without thought or reflection, without the care of craft or the craft of care. (This, for the record, is neither a blog nor an essay, but merely a rant. An inferior but satisfying form of literary production much older than the blog and not nearly so interesting as the essay.)
And this idea of the interesting failure is germane to the movies as well. One distinguishing characteristic of a great movie director (and perhaps this is true of great artists in any area of production) is that there is as much to learn from their failures as from their successes. Along with their masterpieces, Antonioni, Melville, and Lynch all made bad movies; but they are bad movies Iâ€™ve learned a lot from watching and thinking about. There is such a thing as a provocative failure. (Who was it that said, â€œI would rather be a successful failure than a failed successâ€? I think it might have been a character in one of my novels, but perhaps it was the author consoling himself after the completed project.) Merely competent directors are capable of making good movies, but their bad ones will be devoid of interest.
There is such a thing as a â€œmerely badâ€ work of art, one that is not even interesting in the way it fails. I care most about the work of those directors who not only risk going wrong, but actually precipitate themselves into the breach, knowing that the only alternative is to remain perpetually on the safe side of what they are comfortable and familiar with (what they are â€œgood atâ€). The comfortable and familiar being antithetical to art however we choose to define it.
Next time: some thoughts about seeing in Francis Ford Coppolaâ€™s The Godfather.
David Carl is a member of the teaching faculty at St. Johnâ€™s College in Santa Fe and a co-founder of the St. Johnâ€™s College Film Institute. He is the Director of the Collegeâ€™s Graduate Institute, a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Cultural Artifacts, teaches for The Curious Oyster (a private adult education project committed to Contemplation, Conversation and Conviviality)Â and has written several books, including Heraclitus in Sacramento, Fragments, Meditations on Initiating the Apocalypse, and Further Adventures in the Unsubconscious. He watches movies in his living room in Santa Fe, NM.
Kind of like the 12 days of Christmas, but with more drugs
Time for the annual pilgrimage of sun seeking art enthusiasts and their accompanying art advisors, handlers and the like to the city of Miami Beach. The fairs are numerous, spilling over onto the sand and the mainland. This year, my eighth year watching my hometown transform into an art circus, I decided to let the wind blow me where it may. As long as youâ€™re doing something it canâ€™t be that bad. In this special edition of Whatâ€™s the T? weâ€™re serving recap realness and some Miami T for Chicagoâ€™s inquiring minds and wannabe snowbirds alike.
Tuesday, December 3
Woke up to the news that Miami B-listers Christian Slater and his girlfriend, Brittany Lopez, tied the knot on Monday. We heard that Slater courted Lopez at her former job at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. Basel Tov!
Why wait until the weekend to party? Even though the â€œbig fair,â€ at the convention center doesnâ€™t open until Wednesday, there are just not enough party hours in the day. By the time we saw Locust Projectâ€™s exhibition by Nicholas Hlobo in their main space and Frances Trombly in the project room it was time. So we begin. Tuesday night marked the opening of Design Miami, the sister fair to Art Basel in Miami as well as in Switzerland.
Design Miami’s sandy tent
Always a classy, champagneâ€™d out affair, this year was no different. It was a pleasure to see Chicago design galleries, Volume (showing Jonathan Munecke) and Casati Gallery (showing David Salkin). Trending this year at DM were lamps that look like floating jars, gigantic sand hills, e-cigs (which appeared to be trending everywhere, I think itâ€™s New Yorkâ€™s fault). In attendance were a number of notables, including 2016 Olympic sailing hopeful, Sarah Newberry and artist, Emmett Moore; another celebrity here; Primary Projectsâ€™ Nick Cindric and Robins Collection Curator and Director of Cultural Programming for the Design District, Tiffany Chestler; Bleeding Palmâ€™s Ronnie Riviera (who made a hilarious Basel Death Clock Site); and Locust Projectâ€™s Amanda Sanfilippo with artist, Justin Long. We even ran into our favorites, LVL3â€™s Vincent Uribe and Anna Mort, dressed impeccably as always.
Bleeding Palmâ€™s Ronnie Riviera
Sarah Newberry & Emmett Moore
Tiffany Chestler & Nick Cindric
Amanda Sanfilippo & Justin Long
Itâ€™s imperative at Basel to never to stop moving and as our party guru says, always leave the party before it gets old, so before too long we were off the island and en route to the Rubell Collectionâ€™s annual shindig at their museum caliber space in Wynwood. Unsurprisingly, the Rubellâ€™s used the occasion (as they do every year) to feature their daughter, Jennifer Rubellâ€™s, excessive food â€œinstallations.â€ One year it was a wall of old fashioned doughnuts, then there was the year with the honey falling out of the sky.
So much egg custard.
This year, Jennifer busted out none other than the tiny-pie seesaw. A monstrously long but narrow white table, completely covered in miniature egg custard pies, slowing moved up and down, while waiters brought around bite sized versions of every other desert option possible on silver platters. There was, of course, a copious amount of alcohol (if youâ€™re paying for drinks during ABMB then something is wrong), Perrier (totes trending and in three flavors), macaroni and cheese in martini glasses (donâ€™t ask me), and fried rice in takeout containers. The party was totally banging, but the tiny custard pies were awful. Among the many illustrious guests were Siebren Versteeg and his new gallerist, Miamiâ€™s Brook Dorsch; artists, Patricia Hernandez and Christina Farah.
Patricia Hernandez & Christina Farah
Kizzy, Dorsch & Versteeg
On our way out we couldnâ€™t resist stopping at the old Perrotin space down the street from the Rubells, The house/ gallery, now Galerie Eva Presenhuber, is simply gorgâ€”classic design and a super sweet back yard, but the party was lame and we werenâ€™t really feeling it.
Disappointed by the quality of the pie and weary of mixing vodka and sugary deserts, it was time for a cheeseburger interlude before moving onto the last stop of the night, Rat Bastardâ€™s fifth annual Anti-Art Becomes Art Show at the only British pub in all of Little Haiti, Churchillâ€™s. We finally got a chance to see Chris Corsano, the wunderkind solo percussionist hailing from Massachusetts.
Chris Corsano at Churchills
In the list of things I wish I made it to but couldnâ€™t was the TM Sisterâ€™s beachside performance at the Untitled fair on Monday and Tuesday night. Also not spotted was Kevin Arrow, though we kept seeing his Kenny Scarf paint-bombed Honda Element driving through Little Haiti.
Wednesday, December 4
Another day, another art â€œexperience.â€ We ditched the vernissage (sorry Sly) for the opening of Autumn Caseyâ€™s new curatorial venture, Space Mountain, right next to GucciVitton in North Miami. Being a NMB girl myself, I couldnâ€™t be more excited that great galleries are moving north. Space Mountainâ€™s first show, Big Deal, featured 12 ladies and a drag queen, all born in Miami. Needless to say, it was a big deal. Loved the zebra corner piece by Renata Rojo and the drawn over coasters by Beatriz Monteavaro. We spotted the Hartmannâ€™s; and Miami It-girls, Serena Dominguez and Sarah Attias working it in overalls, side boob and Pikachu really hard. Outside the exhibition there was a serendipitous pop-up bar serving seasonal gourmet cocktails with cider and lattes.
Work by Renata Rojo. Photo by Autumn Casey
Serena Dominguez and Sarah Attias
After some chill times and good vibes at Space Mountain it was time to head to Mana Wynwood for the Kendrick Lamar with Miami fave and all around sweetheart DJ, DZA. After much confusion and a bunch of naked ladies painted by Vanessa Beecroft and Kanye West (Iâ€™ll save you the suspense, Yeezus was a no-show), we found ourselves on a couch in the VIP section popping bottles and waiting for Kendrick. Waiting for Lamar took for-ev-er. Though the event started around 9 or 10 PM, Kendrick Lamar didnâ€™t grace the stage until almost two in the morning. The only thing that made the waiting bearable was DZAâ€™s super danceable sets in between each set.
If we did anything after Kendrick Lamar, it probably shouldnâ€™t be repeated here anyway.
Header image is a detail of Vincent Uribe’s Basel Arm.
Thursday already? NADA VIP opening was obvi a must. Itâ€™s the only fair worth going to, in my opinion. The booths were looking fresh as always and the Midwest was repping hard with great booths from Scott Reederâ€™s American Apparel shirts in the lobby to Shane Campbell, our boys at the Green Gallery, and Midway Contemporary Art from Minneapolis. Locust Projects, Miamiâ€™s premiere non-profit gallery space had a booth right next to Midway with items priced to sell, including an edition of hip art historical hats from artist and yacht boy, Justin Long.
David Lewis MIA
Booths with no art were definitely trending at NADA. One booth just featured a copy machine spitting out invitations for another exhibition and we heard gallerist David Lewisâ€™ sickness led to his empty booth, featuring an advertisement and email address. As far as booths that actually had art inside of them go: NYCâ€™s The Hole booth was only half unpacked, with burned work by Kaspar Sonne and gigantic pours by Holton Rower suspended inside of plywood shipping crates. We were also stoked to see those sweet little Alain Biltereyst we loved at Devening on view with Jack Hanley gallery. John Rippenhoff at Green tipped us off to the mini XYZ collective booth, where we about died over the purple eggs and collages by soshiro matsubara.
Anya Kielar at Rachel Uffner
Anya Kielarâ€™s large scale screen prints at Rachel Uffnerâ€™s booth looked like cyanotypes and were just gorgeous. Could have lived without the gigantic beer cooler piece that everyone seemed to love, but I am still regretting not pouring myself a pina colada at San Juanâ€™s Roberto Paradise Gallery, who were also showing work by Jose Lerma and Tyson Reeder. Lermaâ€™s mirrors were irresistible to Luis Gispert as well, we ran into the artist checking out the booth. Another Miami native, I was also stoked to see his work at Rhonaâ€™s booth in the main fair.
Juni Figueroa at Roberto Paradise
Luis Gispert in front of Jose Lerma’s work at Roberto Paradise
Also spotted! Dan Gunn, but not that Dan Gunn, and a super preggers Lisa Cooley. She was really working that bump!
They knew about the real Dan Gunn. Were not amused.
Hugo Montoya in the bass car.
By the time I mad it outside to the deep bass van outside of the fair I was ready to move on. Though the booths looked awesome, we were disappointed at the lack of chill on-going pool party outside. Just one medianoche from downstairs and we were out.
Nailed it, Chris.
The official PAMM opening took place to much fanfare and back rubbing from the Miami community. Itâ€™s as if no one even noticed that the museum is still a construction site. Later that night Cop City Chill Pillars, great band and old friends from West Palm, played at Churchills to a small yet enthusiastic crowd.
Cop City Chill Pillars
Friday, December 6
Friday morning is made for collector brunches. Some pastries at the Craig Robins collection followed by the best coffee at the de la Cruz Collection building. Oh, and I guess the art was OK, too. As per usual, the Miami collectors were ping-ponging off each other, with both collections prominently featuring Sterling Ruby and Wade Guyton. We were also surprised to see some new stuff, like Hugh Scott-Douglas (who at the ripe age of 25 was all over Basel and NADA) and a massive Rob Pruitt installation on the third floor of the de la Cruz.
Rob Pruitt faces at the de la Cruz Collection
Rich people and their handlers abounded. Weâ€™re pretty sure we spotted Klaus Biesenbach chatting it up with the fiery Rosa de la Cruz through an impressive Dan Colen basketball backboard sculpture.
Biesenbach through the Dan Colen.
After sneaking in a quick lunch at Michaelâ€™s Genuine (where we saw many of the collectors getting turned away by the 2 hr wait), it was back to the beach for some lounging at the Mondrianâ€™s Friends with You pool installation on the bay. By the time we saw the sun setting under FWYâ€™s gigantic inflatables we were ready for what was yet to come.
Friends with you at the Mondrian.
Sunset at the Mondrian.
Youth Code at Gramps.
In a scene out of a sleezy Miami Vice episode, we slinked into the Kettle One/ Gigiâ€™s party in Wynwood using just a name in order to pregrame for the Youth Code show at Gramps. Not only was the LA duo pretty hot, their set was awesome and way under appreciated by the too cool crowd at Gramps. Right after the YC set we bounced back to Churchills just in time to catch Wolf Eyes at Andrew McLeesâ€™ Look Alive two day music fest. The crowd was super NYC and super enthusiastic, though I thought the Wolf Eyes set was incredibly boring. Why are they famous again?
Saturday, December 7
Saturday already!? We were almost at the finish line. Whatâ€™s the T? spent Saturday getting back to our roots at the Bad at Sports bathroom recording booth. We jumped on the mic with Duncan McKenzie, Brian Andrews, Patricia Maloney during their interview of Miamiâ€™s the end/ SPRING BREAKâ€™s Patricia Hernandez and Domingto Castillo. We mostly talked about boats, German cinema and 9/11. If it sounds confusing, thatâ€™s because it was. Without Richard Holland around there was no one to keep the jokes on schedule. Iâ€™m looking forward to hearing the cacophony posted on the podcast.
Domingo Castillo eating a banana with b@s
Otherwise, we thought the Dimensions Variable booth, featuring work by Frances Trombly and Martin Oppel amongst others was maybe the only thing worth seeing at PULSE aside from the chill hammocks outside of the Ice Palace.
Work by Frances Trombly.
Work by Martin Oppel.
Dimensions Variable booth at Pulse.
After wrapping up the interview, we headed to the #followmeto (have you seen this thing? Itâ€™s ridiculous!) party at The Versace Mansion. Yes, that Versace Mansion. Shout out to our girl Linling at Inside Hook for hooking it up. The party was awesome and someone even jumped in the heavily mosaicked pool before the night was over! It was totally tripped out.
Since we were already on the beach, we decided to hit up Sandbar for the NADA party. Usually a choice against our better judgment, the Fade to Mind takeover was pretty rad. We ran into our Midway Contemporary pal, Nathan Coutts, along with most of the other NADA exhibitors and too many NYC snowbirds to count. More than anywhere else I had been last week, this party was on the internet. Check out born-to-blog Adam Katzmanâ€™s piece in the Miami New Times about the evening.
Loathe to let the evening end before 5AM, we made our way over to a warehouse on 71st street to catch Jelly, a star-studded trio featuring the Kerr brothers and Rainer Davies. As soon as we got there ran into Bhakti Baxter taking a disco nap and as soon as the show was over we had to turn in too.
Sunday, December 8
We survived all the way until Sunday! We took our sweet time waking up and heading down to the convention center in order to say our final goodbyes to ABMB. Not really giving a fuck about the convention center, we checked out a few of the booths that we knew would be sweet (Rhonaâ€™s, Metro Pictures, Two Palms, Hauser & Wirth, Blum & Poe, etc). Mostly, we were there for the NOVA section, featuring galleries like Spinello Projects (which we heard sold out) and 80M2 Livia Benavides from Lima, Peru.
Too many first names: Hugh Scott Douglas at Blum & Poe
Work by Luis Gispert at Rhona Hoffman
Walking through the fair we saw a bunch of art handlers we knew ready to pounce when the public finally left, but we also ran into old friend and Curious City producer, Logan Jaffe with her sisters, Hunter and Chandler. Hot ladies with dude names? Yes please. We also wanted to check out the â€œpop-upâ€ bar by Jim Drain and Naomi Fisher in between booths N26 and 27. The bar, Paradise Working Title, was staging Club Nutz on Saturday afternoon with Brian Cooper and members of the audience trying to make stiff Basel goers laugh. Artist, Malcom Stuart, was on the mic ripping a few as well. There was also a stripping magician and blood. Thatâ€™s all Iâ€™m gonna say.
The Jaffe Sisters. So lindos!
Club Nutz at ABMB.
Jim Drain inside Paradise Working Title on Sunday.
After the fair and some sushi on Lincoln Road, we headed over to the misleadingly titled Babes of Bushwick party on Collins Ave. They called it â€œPool Party,â€ yet there was no pool. Very disappointing. I thought the Sandbar party was on the internet, but this party was the internet proper. Still a good time though and we ran into some choice Miamianâ€™s and our generous SF B@S bureau. We also ogled over our new BFF Malcom Stuartâ€™s collection for Joyrich. Seriously, though.
Malcom Stuart’s collection for Joyrich.
With just a couple of hours of Basel remaining we headed back to the mainland and Gramps for the tail end of the Black Cobra BBQ. Straight from the Gramps to Miami International Airport and back into the tundra. Hello Chicago.
Shout out to Radz for picking out the two biggest trends of Basel: #ecigs and #purses. Thanks Miami!
Maria with (n)IMBY Keepsakes at Our Lady of Guadalupe, 2012. Photo: Jenny Polak
Juliana Driever talks to the NYC-based artist, Jenny Polak, who’s work, “Â brings human scale to the urgent politics of immigration in the US.” When asked about the relationship between her art and activism, Polak replies:
Portland Correspondent, Sarah Margolis-Pineo, talks to Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson. Margolis-Pineo begins evocatively, “I first metÂ Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson PaulsenÂ as they were carting a tank of helium into the desert,” and the interview goes on from there. At one point, Gray says:
I should say now that I have never been to Samarkand (in present-day Uzbekistan), and that my views of it have been shaped almost entirely by its mythical role in Clive Barkerâ€™s novelGalilee. A quick bit of slacker research, though, reveals the essential nature of that city to match Barkerâ€™s description pretty well. Situated on the Silk Road, Samarkand was a city of wonders, the ultimate crossroads, a center of commerce as well as of art and culture. People came from thousands of miles to experience the wonders of the city itself, but more so, to meet and trade with one another.
Chicagoâ€™s Lampo is a nonprofit organization that has been presenting experimental music and intermedia projects since 1997. Over that time, Lampo also has maintained a strong focus on design in its printed promotional materials.Â Running throughÂ January 17, the Post Family is showing a mini-survey of Lampo design work, drawn from the sound organizationâ€™s 15-year archive.Â The Post Familyâ€™s Alex Fuller speaks with Andrew Fenchel and Alisa Wolfson from Lampo:
Alex Fuller: How did Lampo get started?
Andrew Fenchel: Â When I started things in â€˜97 I had no special expertise in music. I was a fan. Iâ€™d been listening to weird stuff since high school and going to shows since college. I liked that moment of discovery, especially live, with other people around and the artists there. I wanted to make that happen. I had no background producing events, and I learned as I went along. In retrospect, the lack of experience was helpful. I didnâ€™t know what I was getting into or why I shouldnâ€™t do it. But I wasnâ€™t a complete fawn. I had spent some time around art museums through a couple of internships. I began thinking as much or more about the artists, rather than just the audience, recognizing that Lampo could offer extra support for their work. And I believed producing beautiful design would help make each project special. Alisa and I first met when Lampo was just about a year old. So, design was almost always integral to the idea.
Fuller: Much of the sound you present is electronic. Why was print appropriate for the design work vs. digital?
Fenchel: Most of the things weâ€™ve produced have a practical function. Posters and postcards are promotional. Program notes are educational. From the beginning Alisa and I also talked about a secondary idea, considering the stuff as artifact. Print is what is left over. It extends the identity of the organization and documents the work. But beyond that, I also had something sort of poetic in mind. That might not be the right word. Iâ€™m very interested in the relationship between the live experience, the memory of that experience, and the tangible printed remains. We brought that present and past idea into our design. Like any time-based event that happens and then is over and done, there is the act of reading the words on the poster, and then later an understanding that now it has been read, or red â€” a color we use a lot. It was kind of a private joke.
Alisa Wolfson: Graphic design is something I do for work.Â Like Andy said, we met when Lampo was just starting. So, we began our relationship looking at and talking about design and ephemera. We wanted to make things for Lampo and felt a responsibility to the artists to do that. We also both love Fluxus andÂ were inspired by its focus on live performance and dedication to capturing the moment through print. And, print it was and will be. Itâ€™s the family business
Fuller: How do you curate the Lampo program?
Fenchel: Lampo is structured as a series of select programs, to keep things special for the artists and the audience. I try to create relationships between events, within and across seasons, but I’m not interested in being didactic about those connections. They’re not secret, but I prefer to be suggestive and not say more. My goal is to keep the program varied but linked. It’s a fun challenge, like a puzzle. What is mostÂ important to me is that we work with artists who will be able to take advantage of the invitation, and whatever resources and energy we can offer, to do something they might not otherwise be able to do.
Fuller: Has the graphic identity changed over time?Â
Wolfson: I remember doing some early weird type experiments to try to make a proper Lampo logo. They all felt manufactured and over designed. Then we started working with Helvetica.Â For the system and look, we both agreed a tight set of guidelines would help us create authentic pieces that would be true to our idea of Lampo. We wanted something matter-of-fact. We never wanted to mimic sound through visuals. Instead, we started with a limited set of elements, and we continue to work with these in different variations, as we also add new ones or evolve them.
The poster dimensions were determined byÂ how many we could efficiently make on a standard press sheet. The skinny proportion of those posters became a standard we still use in other pieces. Silkscreen was practical and appealing because it was fast and had a really beautiful, tactile quality. To get saturated fields of color, we had to leave a small border around the poster edge. That border then carried through to other pieces, even when not required by the printing technique. We stuck with Helvetica. Type was often all caps, centered, not fussy. The palette was limited too. Andy loves word play. As he mentioned, different shades of red dominated early on, a wink to â€œreadingâ€ in the past tense. Later we expanded to oranges, browns and blues â€” colors we saw on bricked up Chicago buildings against a perfect Midwest sky.
These days weâ€™ve moved away from silkscreen. We have added plaid as a formal element, an everyday reference to math and pattern. And we introduced a new Lampo Folio series, where we produce large-format booklets to document certain past events that have a more visual component. The way we continue to cycle elements in and out and add new ones is something like the way the Lampo program is curated, too.
Fuller:Â Â The show celebrates more than 15 years of beautiful graphic design and challenging sound art. What was the experience like unearthing your archives?
Wolfson: It was fun and strange and exciting. I feel like Iâ€™m such a different person now, but itâ€™s great to see everything together as a group, and really cool to realize what weâ€™ve done. I know we both look forward to doing more.
â€œReading Lampoâ€ is on view at the Post Family, 1821 W. Hubbard, throughÂ January 17. VisitÂ lampo.orgÂ andÂ thepostfamily.comÂ for more information. ThisÂ Saturday, December 7, the Lampo fall season continues with a performance by ex-Emeralds member Steve Hauschildt at the Graham Foundation.Â
Alex Fuller is one of seven partners in the studio/gallery/blog called The Post Family, founder of 5 x 7 publishing and a Design Director at the Leo Burnett Dept. of Design.
Work by Zacharias Abubeker, Matt Austin, Matthew Avignone, Clarissa Bonet, Kate Bowen, Dan Bradica, Molly Brandt, Billy Buck, Debbie Carlos, Claire Demos, KK Depaul, Todd Diederich, Thomson Dryjanski, Jackie Furtado, Daniel Hojnacki, Kelly Kristen Jones, Kimberly Kim, Natalie Krick, Megan Lee Miller, Meg T. Noe, Jessica Pierotti, Jonathan Pivovar, Josh Poehlein, Greg Ruffing, Justin Schmitz, Christopher Semel, Rafael Soldi, Sonja Thomsen, Michelle Wang, David Weinberg, Nicole White, Krista Wortendyke, Victor Yanez-Lazcano and Gurl Don’t Be Dumb.
David Weinberg Photography is located at 300 W. Superior St. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.