Our thoughts on WCC#2by Corinne Smith on 28/10/2012
On Saturday hundreds of designers, creatives and students filled the beautiful Mercury theatre for an alternative and intimate day showcasing international and local talent. The venue itself created a very different feel than last year’s WCC, and I liked this new approachable atmosphere. For me, it felt very laid back and quintessentially ‘kiwi’. Many of Design Assembly’s contributors attended and a few of us have reviewed the speakers. We’d love to hear what you thought, and who were your personal highs and lows.
Sarah Maxey by Corinne Smith
If you slept in and missed Sarah Maxey, I’m afraid you really missed out. She delivered an articulate presentation and covered a large body of award winning, primarily hand-rendered typographic work that displayed strong discipline to her craft. Her personal discipline has rightly awarded Maxey a Purple Pin for Best of Discipline 2011. This discipline probably results from not believing in ‘natural talent’, noting: “talent plays less of a role than persistence”. Her typographic poster “I did this instead of going out” is “the story of [her] life” with her ideal Saturday night spent drawing. This dedication and love for her craft is inspiring to say the least.
Maxey reiterated the importance in taking a step back from your commercial work / “9-5” – a reoccurring theme for the day. ‘Sentimental Journey’ is one such personal and collaborative project with Kris Sowersby and Kate Camp. Camp chose 20 phrases of two words, split the phrase apart and sent half to Maxey & half to Sowersby. The pair worked independently only revealing them to each other at the end of the project. No changes have been made, despite them wanting to, as per the brief they set themselves.
Maxey’s 10-month sabbatical in London resulted in several interesting personal projects. World Animal is a quirky animal simulacra project worth checking out. You can even contribute!
Some of her biggest influences are artists with intellectual disabilities as their work is completely free of influences and boldly confident. She admires self-taught artists and amateur sign writers who go against ‘the rules’. While Maxey went to design school, her typography is self-taught. She believes “if technique becomes too polished it looses heart”, so she continues with the hand-rendered approach avoiding delving into vector art; further explaining the raw “skip and bleed of nib on paper” gives her work soul.
Nea Machina by Emma Parnell
With four months off, two words and an image to play with they created 10,000 sketches and 1 book. Presenting a homage to experimentation twins Thomas and Martin Poschauko were the pick of the crop for me. Not only did they have the kooky European matching matching card to play but they had new thinking on an old subject.
Getting away from the computer and back in touch with your hands on creative self is not a new message in today’s day and age however what i loved about the boys work was their ability to interweave technology with craft and know which approach was appropriate when and why. The high point for me being their use of the hand crafted approach to illustrate the limitations of the computer – who didn’t love the real life interpretation of the warp tool!
Not only this but they found a way to systemise the madness and communicate it to us mere mortals. The way in which they discussed thier process and visually walked us through their transformations was like getting inside the mind of a creative. We watched them trust in and visualise those tangents we all find ourselves on now and again until our sensible commercial designer self kicks in. The great thing about these guys, in their own words, is that during their 4 months they learnt to trust their gut and not just listen to their head as often happens. All in all an interesting and reasoned argument for experimentation told from a contemporary perspective.
Assembly by Brendon O’Dwyer
The lads from Assembly started their talk by simply stating “Pitching is simply a breakdown in trust”. Right away I was with them and couldn’t agree more. I’m going to be honest, I was pretty unfamiliar with Assembly. I think I’d heard the name once or twice but they’d never caught my attention until now. They spent their time outlining two major briefs for big clients they’d worked for in a playful manner.
The New Zealand Herald had approached them in need of an advert specifically celebrating their 150th year anniversary as a newspaper. In an attempt at bringing the old into the new — they used the Heralds multi-million dollar printing press, and turned it into one very expensive projector. The result was a beautifully executed advert. Possibly never done before, it worked like a charm on the day and well done to them. Something they made clear was that their working process didn’t always become apparent or clear until the last day, of which something could always go wrong.
The second client they’d chosen was for V. The V Motion Project was put together using a number of Microsoft Kinect’s (infrared motion detection cameras), some custom plugins for interfacing directly with them and controlling midi inputs straight into Ableton Live (music production software). If you’re into interactive art or music this is simply amazing. The amount of work that went into developing the UI alone which was then projected onto an outside building at night with three 4k projectors was amazing.
Questions did arise during their talk around the ideas of client morals, as the recent article by the New Zealand Herald stated ‘energy drinks are killing us’. Assembly have a bright future ahead of them indeed, stating they feel like all this work so far is simply training for something bigger, in the near future. Great to see such cutting edge work coming straight out of Auckland. Watch this space!
Jonathan Barnbrook by Emma Parnell
Based on a recent interaction with the design rockstar I walked into WCC with a pretty affected opinion of Jonathan Barnbrook. I knew his would be an opinionated offering that sidestepped the mainstream and I wasn’t disappointed. His message was a strong valid one delivered well, ‘do work that makes you happy and do your bit to change the world with graphic design’ however, for me, there were a few inconsistencies and areas where he perhaps missed the mark.
Barnbrook opened his presentation by plotting various creative occupations on a graph of society with particular focus on the difference in the significance and commercial status of artists and graphic designers. This would have been a great point if Barnbrook wasn’t a design god in his own right and he didn’t go on to showcase a series of non commercial projects developed to comment on society and/or politics. When pressed Barnbrook stated his lack of monetary gain from these projects distanced him from the artists of the world. While there is no direct financial gain (although people do buy typefaces now and again) the approach, by his own admission, is to engage in work you believe in and the projects will find you. Now I’m sure this opinionated creative approach is very attractive to a certain segment of paying customers out there – Damien Hirst for instance.
Negativity aside Barnbrook did deliver an interesting and thought provoking presentation it was just a shame he ran out of time to properly talk through his more commercial work and explain how he actually made money. While the aspiration and desire to change the world and reach design rockstar status was probably quite high amongst the audience it must be assumed there were also a large proportion of students/commercial designers that not only lack the financial capacity to throw it all in for a cause but also quite like the idea of design as a business tool if used and applied in the correct instances.
Rockin Jelly Bean by Corinne Smith
Where to start?! Rockin Jelly Bean came out on the stage wearing an elaborate mask, as he does in all public appearances, along with a female interpreter who would later be faced translating rather awkward comments and answers to gritty questions during the Q&A session.
He started off noting his creative process was hard to describe, so instead he showed us some of his work – inspired by American porn that was “mess and cheap”.
The Japanese artist, who grew up in a strict traditional family, loves the female form, which is obvious in his highly sexualised depiction of large breasted women in compromising positions. His work is explicit and I found myself very conflicted. I really wanted to dislike his work and everything it stood for, particularly after he ironically stated: “I like strong women, and this work celebrates women’s bodies” and his odd comment about believing his work positively contributed to sexual education. Naturally, I strongly disagree, however (and this is where the conflict arises) I couldn’t help but admire his talent. Moral positioning and issues of sexism and objectifying women aside, the man is a talented artist, even down to his performance art of hiding his identity wearing the mask… although I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a way of hiding?
Adbusters by Brendon O’Dwyer
AdBusters — where editorial concepts and design meet. ‘Put yourself in a place you’re uncomfortable — so your work is straight from the gut’, honest words from Pedro at AdBusters, a Vancouver based magazine where all the fundamentals of design just go out the window.
Three speakers presented the famous controversial and very politically charged statements of work over the last 20years by AdBusters; Darren Fleet — Writer of paradigm shifts, the end of rationality, and the need for revolutions. Pedro Inoue, well seasoned Brazilian designer (of whom found fame by working with Jonathan Barnbrook), and Ellen Lee — 25 year old recently graduated Art Director. They make things dirty and rough. What some would consider to be wrong, they flip it around and make it so right. Anti-advertising and culture jamming are recurring threads in their work. The magazine reads more like a short film than a TV show with ad breaks, creating a narrative and carrying a journey through the use of no advertising, just real content. How many magazines have you read with no ads? Their methods of sourcing and running unreferenced artists work is questionable, of which sparked some debate on Twitter moments later. @simantics tweeted: “…really dislike AdBusters’s art sourcing methods. Very uncool to artists, full of excuses and laziness”, which is a fair call. But heck, they have good intentions and use the images to create completely new narratives ultimately rendering the original artists work in a new light. Is creativity about being high and mighty in a walled off castle? Or, sharing and collaborating?
AdBusters are active in designing and partaking in such campaigns like Occupy WallStreet – although they couldn’t run their identity for this due to artists threatening to sue them. Which ended in the movement having multiple faces through design and such, and in a way this was a more provocative result. They have a new book soon to be published in November titled; ‘Meme Wars: The Creative Destruction of Neo-Classical Economics’ of which the limited edition version has sandpaper covers to rub out the surrounding book covers on the shelves. General consensus from these creatives was simple — Don’t follow what is accepted by society, think about the larger picture, question what fuels mass consumption in todays society, and do something about it through design for the masses.
Taika Waititi by Corinne Smith
“I’m not a designer like the people that came up before me. Maybe I should have created my own font. HelveTAIKA anyone?”
Taika’s presentation started off awkwardly and continued on to be a mash-up of his Ted Talk and his talk at SemiPermanent in 2006. Despite seeing his talk six years ago, I still really enjoyed his presentation. Waititi is a likeable down to earth kiwi guy, even taking his shoes off and sitting casually on the couch. He had the audience in hysterics when sharing new material – his ongoing sketches for people who kindly pledged his Kickstarter campaign to get Boy distributed in the USA. Although, I did wonder what the international speakers were thinking during this… as without knowing his full accomplishments (and appreciating the kiwi humour) it could have come across as an awkward ramblings.
Like fellow New Zealander Sarah Maxey, Waititi strongly admires self-taught artists, proudly sharing his father’s work. He loves that his father paints what he wants to without any concern for what others think or outside influences, sharing that his father doesn’t want to sell his painting, preferring to keep them himself so he can continue to appreciate them.
Waititi briefly touched on what he is well known for, and instead focused on his passions as a kid and experiences that led him to where he is today. “Success isn’t money, I think people know that by now but forget sometimes.” – again, another reoccurring theme for the day. He believes “For me success is getting to do projects with my friends,” which is exactly what he has done on his latest project, a self-funding comedic vampire film with Jemaine Clement.
He didn’t know why he was at WCC or what he could teach us. I disagree, and believe his presentation (despite what you thought of how it was delivered) displayed a strong theme of passion and the desire to be in a position to produce self-initiated creative projects that are financially viable, all while ‘being your own boss’.
SuperEverything* by Kaan Hiini
WCC#2 wrapped with SuperEverything*, a new live cinema performance project by British duo Christopher Thomas Allen and Tim Cowie of The Light Surgeons.
Exploring the relationship between identity, ritual and place, the performance started off with a live twitter feed tracking the hashtag #supereverything, before launching into a journey through the cultural landscape of Malaysia, using documentary footage, motion graphics and audio soundscapes.
Utilising multiple projectors and a two screen depth set up, a kaleidoscopic view of the country and it’s culture was provided, by way of split screens and layered visuals, producing an intriguing and often visually stunning aesthetic, that became, at points, overly busy.
It’s an fascinating format, especially for a documentary piece. The traditional talking head shots throughout were juxtaposed with observational footage of the Malaysian landscapes and other visual tricks, and although the visual treatment is punchy at first viewing, the impact is dulled somewhat over the length of the performance.
In any case the performance was engaging and suggests a multitude of visual experiments that could be undertaken in future shows.
Did you attend? What did you think? We would love to hear your thoughts, highs and lows…
Keep an eye out for photos from the day – coming soon by our awesome photographer Kaan Hiini.