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.
March 25, 2011 · Print This Article
Ok, so somehow this week devolved into madness, and here I am, to do a last minuet post for my weekly top 5. Being slightly indisposed at the moment, the top 5 pick is being scrapped this week for a longer list of: “Well, it looks like it has potential…” Enjoy!
LIKE A ROCK: Tony Balko and Olivia Ciummo at ACRE Projects (1913 W 17th St) Reception 6-9pm.
Snowblind: Alex Blau at Firecat Projects (2124 N. Damen) Reception 7-10pm.
Launch of johallaprojects.com/ARTISTS at Johalla Projects (1561 N Milwaukee) Party from 7-10pm.
Drop It Like It’s Not at Murdertown (2351 N. Milwaukeee Apt #2) Reception 6-9pm.
Double Feature: The Art Dump at Post Family (1821 W. Hubbard S. Unit 202) Reception 7-11pm.
Anthotypes: John Opera at Andrew Rafacz Gallery (835 W Washington Blvd) Reception 4-7pm.
BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer) Chicago at Archer Ballroom (3012 S. Archer Ave. Apt #3) Reception 7-10pm.
BLUE GLUE AND OTHER EXPLORATIONS: Mara Baker at Happy Collaborationists Exhibition Space – (1254 N Noble St) Reception 6-10pm.
PSYCHA-BOBBLE: J. Thomas Pallas, Laura Davis, David Leggett and Elisa Harkins at High Concept Laboratories (1401 W. Wabansia) Reception 7pm-midnight.
Nobody to Have Any Fun With: Mac Katter, Dylan Cale Jones and Vanya Schroeder at Så Gallery (2150 S Canalport Ave #4A-10) Reception 7:30-10:30pm.
WORK IN THE WOODS from SCARCITY asks, “IS THIS YOU, WANT?”: G. Vincent Gaulin at Spoke (119 N Peoria St.) Performance 6-8:30pm.
Zombie Apocalypse: Kimberly MacAulay, Anna Vlaminck, and Eric Cronin at Black Cloud Gallery (1909 S. Halsted St) Reception 6-10pm.
Eyeball Witness: Suitable Video Vol. 2 at Roots & Culture (1034 N Milwaukee Ave.) Screening at 7pm. $5.
Guest post by Julia V. Hendrickson
Notes on a Conversation.
With—Nadine Nakanishi & Nick Butcher of Sonnenzimmer
In—the Sonnenzimmer studio, 3605 N. Damen (rear)
Commenced—on Monday, February 14th, 2011, 6:30–7:30pm
“From the fine art world, we’re not fine art enough, and from the design world, we’re too fine art, so we’re always in this in-between of not being enough art, and not being enough design. The beauty of that is that we can say ‘graphic art’ because we like images, and graphic art you have to produce. You produce it in a way that has economic and functional [reasons] behind it, otherwise it wouldn’t be graphic art. Graphic art is creating images under an economic framework that has to do with the process, the tools, the money you have, and what it’s for. We wanted to describe that somehow.”
— Nadine Nakanishi
This past fall I ran into Nadine Nakanishi and Nick Butcher in the hallway outside of the Post Family headquarters on Hubbard Street. Peculiarly, they had with them a chair, an apple, a camera, and a long beam of wood. Mystified then, I was to realize months later that they had just finished the photo shoot for Field Integration, Nadine’s second artist book, which will be released this Friday, February 25th.
I met Nadine and Nick, also known collectively as Sonnenzimmer, a little over a year ago at my first Chicago Printers Guild meeting. From the outset I was struck by the power of Nadine’s passionate conviction, and by Nick’s welcoming, reasoned demeanor. Since then I have followed their tireless creative progress, and I have been astounded time and again by work that is always thoughtful and sincere.
Nadine and Nick are collaborators who exist wholly in a collaborative Chicago print community. The enthusiasm they have for art, typography, and design is contagious, and utilizing that enthusiasm they are able to connect with a wide range of creative talent in the city. Field Integration is a microcosm of such connections, with a preface by Fred Sasaki (associate editor of Poetry magazine) and editorial assistance from Jonathan Messinger (book editor for Time Out Chicago and publisher at Featherproof Books). Scott Thomas (of the Post Family and Designing Obama) hosted the photo shoot in his new office space, and the book itself was offset printed in Chicago at Mission Press, with a screen printed cover and inserts from Sonnenzimmer’s press on the North Side.
Field Integration (2010) is a companion book to Nakanishi’s first publication, Formal Additive Programs (2009). Both artist books were partially funded by the Community Arts Assistance Program (CAAP) grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. After constant rejections from the grant community in her native Switzerland for “not being Swiss enough,” Nadine now has a lot of enthusiasm about the role of the CAAP grant in the city. Her advice when applying is to pay attention to deadlines far in advance (the deadline for 2011 grants was January 31st), and to take advantage of the public grant review sessions that happen in the spring. She also encourages artists to seriously think about the best finance possibilities for creating new work that will extend beyond the project and provide momentum for a career as an artist.
Formal Additive Programs certainly brought Sonnenzimmer’s momentum to the table. The book is a beautifully simple and concise collection of eighteen instructions, simple pieces of advice to follow step-by-step throughout the design process. Field Integration transforms the functional design advice into something more philosophical: a treatise on process and experiment in relation to images, design, and Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging.
The book unfolds in more complexity upon every re-reading. Field Integration is very much an artist book, for the texts and the images could not communicate as powerfully alone. The main essay offers Sonnenzimmer’s thoughts on philosophy and history, exploring the tenets of Ikebana, and focusing on balance in nature as a new way to consider design. There is a beautiful, haunting undercurrent from Fred Sasaki’s appropriated lines on Ikebana and the WWII Heart Mountain Japanese internment camps. It is a part of American history that Nadine notes, “has not really been digested yet.”
Paired with the text are black and white photographic still life arrangements, playful interpretations of the fundamental forms of Ikebana: the point, the line, and the plane. An electrical wire in the background grounds the arrangements, and serves as the balancing horizon line. Informed by the photographs, judiciously restrained splashes of color appear in small painted sketches and in the screenprinted inserts.
I see Sonnenzimmer’s books as manifestos on their unique design and production process, and that alone presents an interesting archival project for the Chicago art community. With Field Integration, Nadine and Nick present a tactile, functional object that includes the how, the why, and the what of their business. It is a practical form of self-promotion, and a holistic way of communicating who they are as creative people. Would that we each could find such a voice.
Sonnenzimmer is holding a book release party for “Field Integration” on Friday, February 25th from 7:30-9:30pm at the Elastic Arts Foundation (2830 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd floor). The release includes readings from contributors Fred Sasaki and Jonathan Messinger; photographic interpretations by Martha Williams and Jeremy Bolen; and music by Geoff Farina. The event is free.
You can watch a short documentary on the making of Field Integration here:
Julia V. Hendrickson is a native of eastern Ohio who lives and works as a visual artist, writer, and curator in Chicago, Illinois. In 2008 she graduated with a B.A. in Studio Art and a minor in English from The College of Wooster (Wooster, Ohio). Julia is currently the gallery manager at Corbett vs. Dempsey, as well as the office manager and design assistant for Ork Posters. She is a teaching assistant at the Marwen Foundation, an active member of the Chicago Printers Guild, and has taught at Spudnik Press. A freelance art critic and writer for Newcity, Julia also keeps a blog called The Enthusiast, a documentation of the daily things that inspire, intrigue, and inform. She is currently exhibiting at Anchor Graphics (Columbia College Chicago) in a solo show titled FANTASTIC STANZAS, on view through March 26th.
Directed by Justine Nagan, Typeface takes a look at the obsolete techniques used to create and print wooden type. The film centers itself on The Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum located in Twin Rivers Wisconsin. Housed in Hamilton’s factory the understaffed museum gives tours, hosts workshops, and attempt to archive the boxes upon boxes of wooden type that are piled about. In the opening scenes we get an overview of the museum while on tour with former Bad at Sports guests the Post Family. Throughout the film we weave in and out of mostly Chicago studios as, printmakers/graphic designers discuss their love for wooden type. The Walker Art Center recently caught up with Nagan and spoke with her about making the film:
W: Why make a film about an obsolete technology?
JN: I became fascinated with exploring the changing importance of analog technologies in our digital age. There is this theory that as we as a society sit at our computers all day, in the off hours, tactile and sensual experiences become all the more important. People are craving things with texture that they can hold in their hands—whether it’s knitting or playing guitar… Then there’s the whole nostalgia factor: LPs vs. ipod, film vs. video, letterpress vs. inkjet.
W: Some obsolete technologies manage to take on a second life by addressing a different need or being adopted by a new (sub)culture in a different context. Do you think a revival or re-interpretation is inherent to any successful preservation movement?
N: I think evolution is key to preservation. Re-imagining and adapting technology, while maintaining the elements that made it interesting in the first place, ensures longevity of the medium. I think the new interest in letterpress and craft is sustainable. The current styles of letterpress may fade, only to be re-invented again by some future generation. Read more