I decided to publish all the update emails I’d sent back home during my first year in Ivrea. It’s all there, the sweat and the tears, so if you know how to read french, enjoy.
Archive for October, 2009
Forgive this: a quick and dirty theory that I’ve been working on passively as I read Novecento this weekend lounging in a metal chair in the jardin Luxembourg in Paris and later as I flicked through this month’s Marie-Claire Maison in one of Brixton’s fashionable cafés.
I wonder if design as an activity, a field of practice and an economic lubricant is a way for us to survive. If we assume that desire is a fixed element in society, desire for others first, but then desire for wealth, glory, recognition, happiness, is desire of objects not an intellectual extension of that? Another mirror? Another way to tell a story about the lives we live? Another way to help us achieve the story we want to tell about ourselves?
If I am unable to connect with others in traditional ways and my social reference points are no longer in tribes, villages and local geography, is it not through the Ikea catalogue that I construct a sense of what home should be? In London, you barely get to see people’s houses, the way they live, but you can imagine them through the windows of Habitat. You can decide what your home should look like through the colour choices that Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road made on their second floor for Christmas. “That’s who I should be”, you think to yourself. In the same way, we consume fashion based on what we think is hip or what we want to communicate about ourselves, why shouldn’t it be the same with the objects we surround ourselves with? Psychological survival, the ability to chose who we are through what we show, what we buy, what we desire and what we design. The epitome of that thinking being “design art” that has emerged as its very own field of practice. Art is no longer enough, design and everyday objects need to make statements, call out to us, invite us for me, because we desire more meaning from them than they could initially give us. We long for “the other” whether that is a person or a new pair of curtain rods.
If we didn’t have that desire, if we were perfectly happy with what we had, would we not be empty? And would that be sad In the same way that lack of desire in life is seen as a bad thing and often associated with teenage angst?
Will think about this some more as I don’t think its anything new but it has been said that Pleasure disappoints, possibility never and I think our ability to recognise our dependancy to design, our addiction one might say, might be the key to separating one century’s thinking from the other.
I’ve been thinking for a while about contributing to the latest design craze among my peers: cities. I’m not an architect but I like cities as a user, as a designer, and I thought I’d write very short bursts about what I like about them, having lived for years in some of the best and most beautiful cities: Paris, Montreal, Milan, Amsterdam and now London.
I also think there’s a huge distinction to be made between travelling a lot and relocating often enough. It makes you actually taste the culture, get a model in your head of a city, the experience you have in it and what makes it great, special or horrible. Cities have voices, personalities, habits, just like the people who live in them. Hopefully I’ll write a little about each of those elements, but for this one, I’ll concentrate on graffiti or “tags” as the French would say (funny the flavour that word has now).
My theory is that you can tell how well a city is doing creatively based on its walls. Graffiti sort of end up acting as a “creative industry barometer” of a more realistic sort for me.
Milan for example (and Turin for that matter) has some beautiful paper-based ones. Most of it happens organically as well, with no money involved, anonymous but known artists like Tuboy and Humen just keep popping up and it becomes the city’s signature.
This signature can be so strong, like in the case of Amsterdam-based artist Laser 3.14, that when I saw his work appear in London’s fashionable Shoreditch, I did a double-take and looked around for my bicycle.
Then there’s graffiti as historical tourism. Bruxelles takes advantage of its walls as canvases of communication and uses them to deliberately to showcase its long history and involvement in the comic strips / books industry in Belgium and France in the 60s to late 90s. There’s even a tour you can take in the city to visit all the different “paintings” and this is where the lines get blurry and you have to ask yourself if this even counts as graffiti. Is it still a graffiti if its been commissioned. I’m sure these kids would argue otherwise.
Then you have cities who try to organise creativity on their walls and deem genuine graffiti “dirty”, such as Montreal. Only the occasional building will have a piece of art that someone chose, got a permit for, made in broad daylight. Boring. A manufactured narrative of creativity.
And in the UK, graffiti take on a more political, news-relevant flavour, like an unofficial, slow newspaper. Only the events worthy enough make it onto the walls. Another way to own the city and its narrative. To own what stays and what goes. Manufactured democracy.
So after 5 months of vacation I’ve decided to take up tweeting on my private account again. But this will be different…
- I’ve removed anyone who is too closely associated with work
- I’ve removed anyone who I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing a drunken conversation with
and basically kept anyone who I know wouldn’t mind me being me. I realised that my online presence, other than my Flickr stream is very much about my professional life and I’d quite like some down time and normality somewhere on the internet. Yes, yes that’s what Live Journal is about, but I don’t necessarily have the attention span for that…140 characters of bitching is quite enough :)