Guest post by Alex Fuller
Chicago’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. Running through January 17, the Post Family is showing a mini-survey of Lampo design work, drawn from the sound organization’s 15-year archive. The Post Family’s Alex Fuller speaks with Andrew Fenchel and Alisa Wolfson from Lampo:
Alex Fuller: How did Lampo get started?
Andrew Fenchel: When I started things in ‘97 I had no special expertise in music. I was a fan. I’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 didn’t know what I was getting into or why I shouldn’t do it. But I wasn’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 we’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. I’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 — a color we use a lot. It was kind of a private joke.
Alisa Wolfson: Graphic design is something I do for work. 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 and were inspired by its focus on live performance and dedication to capturing the moment through print. And, print it was and will be. It’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 most 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?
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. 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 by 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 “reading” in the past tense. Later we expanded to oranges, browns and blues — colors we saw on bricked up Chicago buildings against a perfect Midwest sky.
These days we’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: 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 I’m such a different person now, but it’s great to see everything together as a group, and really cool to realize what we’ve done. I know we both look forward to doing more.
“Reading Lampo” is on view at the Post Family, 1821 W. Hubbard, through January 17. Visit lampo.org and thepostfamily.com for more information. This Saturday, December 7, the Lampo fall season continues with a performance by ex-Emeralds member Steve Hauschildt at the Graham Foundation.
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.
In the first of his monthly columns for Dezeen, V&A senior curator Kieran Long argues that today’s obsession with authorship and celebrity “leads to serious imbalances in the way we see design in the world” and calls for an overhaul of the way design is curated in the twenty-first century.
Long, who was an architecture journalist before being appointed to curate design, architecture and digital at the V&A last year, points out that museums like the V&A focus on handmade, one-off objects at the expense of the mass-produced, anonymous objects that predominate in the real world. “The museum is more or less silent on the era of extraordinary Chinese manufacturing we are living through,” he says.
Below he sets out “95 Theses” for contemporary curation, including provocative statements such as “Ugly and sinister objects demand the museum’s attention just as much as beautiful and beneficial ones do” and “Museum curators have as much in common with investigative journalists as they do with university academics”.
Every morning, on the way to my office, I pass a sign that reads: “Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” At the Victoria & Albert Museum, the building is always telling you to do something. The didactic, Victorian and Edwardian decoration asks you to pay attention to nature, to design and manufacture, to the provenance of objects, even where your food comes from. But this particular sign is deeply serious in its upper-case, gilded typeface. It can be seen only by V&A staff, and most often by the people who empty the bins in the service road at the back of the museum.
As a motivational slogan, it’s espresso-strength, but it also betrays an emphasis at the V&A on the handmade, the artisanal and the one-off that design institutions, the media and designers themselves share. An object that an artist’s or craftsperson’s hand has touched has far more chance of making it into the V&A’s collection than something mass-produced or anonymous.
In our China gallery, for very good institutional reasons, there are no contemporary, mass-produced objects. The twenty-first century is represented by artisanal glass and works of conceptual furniture design: the museum is more or less silent on the era of extraordinary Chinese manufacturing we are living through. Dezeen has a similar emphasis: while the site is catholic in its tastes, the anonymous, the mass-produced and the semi-designed are suppressed in favour of the work of a fairly coherent group of designers.
There are all sorts of pretty reasonable explanations for this. The most banal is, of course, that star designers are click bait: celebrity matters, especially in the media. On the other hand, some might argue that designers’ work is simply better than the anonymous manufactured stuff that surrounds us. It’s easier to love the milled aluminium monocoque of Jonathan Ive’s Macbook than the awkward black plastic housing of a traffic light.
The emphasis on the authored leads to serious imbalances in the way we see design in the world. In future months, I will use this column to try to broaden the conversation about what design is, to try to move beyond a myopic interest in what designers and architects do, toward understanding what their work tells us about the world we live in. The others writing here (Sam, Alexandra, Justin and Dan) are all much better at this than me: I’m looking forward to reading their work. read more
You’re not likely to see a better display of the most important architecture and design of the 20th century anywhere else this summer, so the fact that Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America only focuses on what came out of post war MI is even more remarkable. Starting with Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen’s highly influential submissions for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings at MoMA in 1940, and ending with a recreation of a living space in Mies Van der Roe’s Lafayette Park in Detroit, there are few stones left unturned, yet the map and timeline in the North Gallery proves that so much editing still had to be done. Focusing primarily on the design and architecture, as well as the automotive industry from 1940 – 1970, MI Modern has original and reproductions of some of the most iconic furniture of the period, Herman Miller textiles of Alexander Girard and Ruth Adler – Schnee, advertisements for Steelcase, Herman Miller and others, and newly created and existing models of iconic buildings throughout Michigan. Encompassing most of the state including the U.P., with a symposium (June 13-16) touring iconic buildings in Broomfield Hills, Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan Modern is in many ways a summer blockbuster show, mimicking on a small scale the expansiveness of Documenta, but with everything homegrown. While considering all the Saarinen, Van der Roe, Kahn and Breuer contributions to the design and architectural legacy of Michigan, one sees how (again) much of America’s strength lies in immigration, but even more where unique timing, collaboration, forward thinking, talent and serendipity had a profound and lasting impact on the look and feel of modern America. It is our fortune that so many of these Architectural gems like Lafayette Park, the GM Tech Center, and St. Francis de Sales Church are here in Michigan. It is an exhibition that can keep rewarding the viewer all summer long, able to travel from one building to another at the best time of the year to do so. While they have always been sitting in plain site, MI Modern re emphasizes their importance and in doing so, presents them again to us as new.
Two complementary shows at Cranbrook Art Museum highlight the lasting influence of Cranbrook at this time in MI History. What to Paint and Why: Modern Painters at Cranbrook, 1936 – 1974, curated by Chad Alligood showcases paintings by alumni and faculty of Cranbrook Academy of Art, offering works that are both in line with and counter the prevailing movements of 20th century art. Likewise, A Driving force: Cranbrook and the Car, curated by Shoshana Resnikoff offers a rare look into Cranbrook’s influence in the auto industry, complete with a stunning and unique Rocket cycle car as well as designs by alum Suzanne Vanderbilt.
Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America is organized by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office in association with Cranbrook Art Museum and curated by Monica Ponce de Leon and Gregory Saldaña. On View at Cranbrook Art Museum until October 13, 2013.
Visit Cranbrook Art Museum’s website for more info:
Manystuff is a blog, edited by the mostly anonymous Charlotte Cheetham, that offers a “daily selection” of graphic design. Manystuff has a devout, international following of 5,000+ visitors a day, they regularly organize design exhibitions and recently began publishing a magazine. Manystuff #1 is actually the second issue. Manystuff #0, More Real Than Fiction was released in 2008, but I wasn’t able to get my hands on it, so it remains less real to me.
Manystuff #1, One Possible Catalyst states its case modestly. The objective is to “fix a laboratory of experiments and meditations released from formal and theoretical prejudices.” One Possible Catalyst is not for those seeking a practical treatise about running your own studio or how to do-it-yourself, nor those looking for a barrage of striking images to consume. It comes as a refreshing counterpoint to the glut of design thinking, design within reach, and design sponging that currently abounds. One Possible Catalyst is for serious thinking about Design. Read it when you’re feeling cynical, but not when you’re feeling sleepy.
(Contributors were asked to diverge from the following three themes:)
Less is more
This way of life has become a cliché and/or vice versa. Less is More is an argument for minimal graphic design that features an essay on the public notice by Rob Giampietro, a collection of business cards from Christian Brandt and a historical survey by Olivier Marcellin. Succinctly, “Use of a sans-serif and a uniform background.”
Support Graphic Design
Support Graphic Design is a catalog of structures used to hold posters and other designed objects, including outdoor benches from EventArchitectuur, billboards from Experimental Jetset, and a mobile bookshop from Robin Gadde. I was struck by the beauty and economy of the mobile bookshop, a succession of plywood sheets with rectangle cut outs for shelves.
The headline asks “What about intergenerational relations between designers?” I often wonder if it’s even possible to establish intergenerational relationships outside of an institution. Sometimes I lament that the only way I’ll be able to meet so-and-so is to go to X school or secure another internship with no pay but lots of prestige. Although One Possible Catalyst provides no alternatives, it does offer a series of texts pairing educators with students and employers with interns that contemplate the role of generational exchange within the field.
Manystuff #1, One Possible Catalyst features contributions from Christian Brandt, Lorena Cardenas, Change is good, David Conte, Pinar Demirdag, Neil Donnelly, Laurent Fétis, Kees de Klein, Wayne Daly, Bear Demen, EventArchitectuur, Experimental Jetset, Robin Gadde &team, Rob Giampietro, Hannes Gloor & Stefan Jandl, Catherine Guiral & David Cluzeau, Arnaud Daffos, Vincent Lalanne, Aurélie Guérinet, Rikard Heberling, Hey Ho, Hyoun Youl Joe, Julia, Konst & Teknik, Sacha Leopold, Olivier Marcellin, Fanette Mellier, Pipi Parade, Please Let Me Design, Thibaut Robin, Grégoire Romanet, Mathias Schweizer, Maki Suzuki (Åbäke), Pierre Vanni, Karen Willey, and Ivor Williams.
It is available now at Manystuff.
This is the week the design world heads to Basel, Switzerland for Design Miami/Basel which opened in Basel, Switzerland Tuesday, a day ahead of Art Basel is closer then ever before if your curious about the design worlds activities. This year they are starting their own blog, the cleverly titled Design Miami/Basel Blog.
Posting images, quotes, news and other updates from participants in the fair like designers and gallery owners for fans and journalists alike. They even went as far as publicizing a RSS feed so nice to see someone is listening to the youthful techie in the group since the larger art world seems allergic to RSS feeds on a whole.