Archive for the ‘reading response’ Category

Response 7

December 2, 2009

Forgot to post this…

The System of Collecting was a fun article to read, though I disagree with many of his points on collecting. I have had a different experience with my own collections. Baudrillard starts by saying a refrigerator has a function, so one cannot possess it. I would disagree, I think that because the refrigerator is bought, it is possessed. I would consider my laptop my most valuable possession; it holds my life and is my basis for creating art. Not to mention I paid a pretty penny for it, so even though it functions, I own it.

Baudrillard has a very specific view on collections. He says that it usually starts before puberty, and resurfaces in 40 year old men as filling a sort of sexual desire. He says even the most innocent collections, like of porcelain eggs, are collected and hidden with a guilty aura, making it like a fetish. For me, my collections are totally innocent and on display. My collection of Disney DVDs gives me pleasure, and I want to show them off. They are proudly displayed on a shelf so others can be jealous, which is another facet of collecting that Baudrillard agrees on. This collection started later in life, not at any of the times Baudrillard says collecting starts. My collection of stuffed animals, particularly beanie babies, did start before puberty, though. I still display my favorite stuffed animals prominently on shelves or the bed, even if many of them remain in storage from lack of space. Neither of these collections are secret or guilty, so I think Baudrillard is wrong in this sense. No doubt many collections do fill a sort of sexual desire, as he says, but I don’t see it in mine.

I love dogs, so I don’t disagree with Baudrillard saying they are the perfect pet. But cat lovers would have a hard time with that statement. It’s interesting that he again brings up sexuality with the castration of animals. He calls animals objects, which is strange, but brings to mind robotic dogs. If the dog is so perfect, that would make robotic dogs the most perfect object. But one can’t have the same relationship with a fake dog. Baudrillard says “This is why one invests in objects all that one finds impossible to invest in human relationships.” And a dog is something that can love you back, without all the drama of human relationships, so I agree with the idea that a dog, or any pet, is placed in between persons and objects.
In the section “From Quantity to Quality: The Unique Object,” the collector complains about missing one engraving, even though it isn’t good quality. I can empathize with this, because I want to purchase Pinocchio, not because I like the movie, but because I want to complete my collection. This causes a conundrum of not wanting to waste money, but wanting the movie for my collection. Especially before it goes back into the Disney vault and goes up in price. It was enlightening to have this very desire shown by the article. But Baudrillard says collections are made not to be completed, because it causes passion in life. This is interesting to think about. I will never have to worry about ever completing my collection, because Disney makes so many movies. I am focusing on the animated ones, but have no desire for the terrible sequels. Since I will never be able to say I own all of Disney’s animated films, I will never go “mad,” as he says.

Baudrillard had some very interesting and insightful views on collecting, even if his views are overly sexual. After all, “When all is said and done, one never lends out one’s phallus.”

Response 6

November 9, 2009

Alessi is an apparently very famous Italian design company that I had not previously heard of. This is unfortunate because their products are very unique. They have a toy-like quality, but are much more well designed and solid-looking than cheap children’s toys.

This article, Italian Style, focuses on Alberto Alessi. Alberto says that he studied law as a compromise for economics and architecture. This seemed odd, as I don’t see any connection between law and architecture. Especially at UO, where architecture is part of the allied arts, completely separate from the law school. But according to the article, he ended up in design development, which has an architectural slant. The article says that Alberto is producing wine, which will be a new Alessi product. This sounds strange, as the Alessi brand currently focuses on only home and office items and accessories. Turning towards drinkable products seems like a strange addition. Of course, Alessi does feature many elegantly designed wine glasses and decanters, so they could be marketed together. I could not find Alberto Alessi on the Alessi site list of designers, but the photographs in the article show products that look very whimsical. The smiling white object especially looks like some sort of toy.

I noticed that Ettore Sottsass is on the list of Alessi designers. I was surprised to see his name because he created the Valentine Typewriter, which I am remixing. Sottsass produced a very sleek sugar bowl for Alessi, since it was customary for designers to make things for tea service. One item that looks particularly toy-like is his “salt grinder.” It is made of polished, colored beech-wood with perfect, shiny curves. The shiny, red, black, and yellow wood evokes the feeling of an old fashioned toy. This agrees with my personal research on Sottsass, who tries to use playfulness in his work. Sottsass also believes a product should appeal to the senses, not the intellect.

The home page caught my eye with a new Alessi line, the Banana Family by Stefano Giovannoni, in collaboration with the National Palace Museum of Taiwan. While Taiwain does not generally make me think of monkeys, these monkeys definitely evoke an Asian feel with their anime-esqe squinty eyes and tasseled hats. These Banana monkeys have been made into every product imaginable: place markers, spice holders, caps, salt and pepper shakers, egg cups, napkin rings, bowls, and toothpick holders, to name a few. These monkeys are the most playful and toy-like of all Alessi products. But the interesting part is that they are all fully functional, so a child could enjoy playing with an object that adults also get use out of. My favorite was the Banana Bros salt and pepper set, because these two cheerful monkeys are riding in a banana. This would make a great centerpiece, as well as getting rid of ugly salt and pepper shakers. However, having a kitchen full of banana monkeys seems a bit excessive.

Another playful product that is not in the Taiwan collaboration line is Pirovano Stefano’s Canaglia nail clipper. It looks like a small animal who trims nails with its mouth. The animal has no face, which is slightly creepy. I also found a Merdolino Toilet brush, which is hilarious. The handle of the brush looks like a very simplified plant. It is stored in a blue pot. This is the perfect solution to beautifying a bathroom and getting rid of an ugly toilet brush. There is also a bathtub plug aptly named Mr. Suicide. A small drowning man is attached to the plug. These products are both humorous and functional.

I enjoyed discovering Alessi because their products are so fun and playful. Unfortunately, it gives me the desire to fill my future home with Alessi items, which are quite expensive.

Reading Response 3

October 17, 2009

My Conception of the Bauhaus is written by the founder of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, and goes into detail about how the Bauhaus school worked. This was interesting to me because I remember studying the Bauhaus years ago in Art History, but never in such detail about the students’ training process. The Bauhaus is a four year program, like most colleges, but the experience is much more intense. The students start with a 6-month training period, where they get to train in all different types of handcrafts. Then they train under two masters for three years. I would have loved such an opportunity, to experiment with so many different crafts, and then get direct attention from art masters. I feel a little behind because I jumped straight into drawing and graphic design, and am only now learning things such as lasercutting and vinyl-cutting.

Dieter Rams is an artist who was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus principles. After the in-depth explanation about the Bauhaus training process, I was disappointed that Rams did not talk about his own artistic process. Rams is very short and vague with most of his interview answers, but he did mention that he likes to mix materials. It is interesting to note, though, that he studied architecture for only one year at the Werkkunstschule Wiesbaden, then left to learn carpentry. This is different from Bauhaus students with their six months of preliminary training, and then three years of workshop training. The interview does say Rams graduated college, but it does not specify how long he was in college. In his interview, Rams talks about how he believes form following function, which was a big part of the Bauhaus. This also makes me think of my remix object, the Valentine typewriter, designed by Ettore Sottsass. He wanted to keep the functionality of the typewriter, but make it portable and stylish. It still has the basic typewriter form, but it is much sleeker, and can fold up. The plastic material also makes the Valentine typewriter portable, like a laptop.

One major principal of the Bauhaus is that design is an integral part of life, necessary for everyone in a civilized society. This is very different from Adolf Loos’s view that “no ornament can any longer be made today by anyone who lives on our cultural level.” I agree with the Bauhaus principal over Loos’s view. Even in the simplest and most un-artistic pieces of furniture, there is unavoidably design, which Loos fails to see. Rams believes that design is a culture, but that the word “design” is over-used in society. Another Bauhaus principal was to eliminate “art for art’s sake.” This reminded me of the practices of Irwin, Wortz and Turrell in Seeing is Forgetting, who also didn’t want to just make art, but instead art came out of their research experiments.

Near the beginning of the article, Gropius says the Bauhaus does not have a style. But near the end he says homogeneity was part of all Bauhaus products. This gives all Bauhaus products a similarity, a unity. Their goal was to design things “simply and truthfully in accordance with their intrinsic laws.” One could argue that this is a Bauhaus “style,” even if it is not a visually similar style. By saying that the Bauhaus work is homogeneous, it means that somehow it is recognizable, despite how different the products may be. Rams also talks about style; he says he did not invent the “Braun style,” but he does not deny that it is a style. Part of the Bauhaus goal was to improve industrial goods and buildings. Rams certainly does this with his products and furniture for Braun. Whether or not it is a “style,” Bauhaus principals of design have clearly influenced many artists.

Reading Response 2

October 12, 2009

Foreword to The Herman Miller Collection is about how Herman Miller creates an honest product with furniture that is not designed for the market. This makes their furniture original and innovative. As an artist, I appreciate how they strive to stay true to the designer. Reading this reminded me of the video Merchants of Cool. This movie was all about marketing, and how companies would hold research groups with teenagers to try to figure out what “cool” is. Then they could design their product and advertising around “cool.” This practice caters to the customer, and is the exact opposite of what Herman Miller is doing. Herman Miller is obviously a very successful company, and proves that design can surpass market research. This is encouraging from an artistic standpoint. Usually I don’t notice furniture as art, but I agree with what this article is saying about Herman Miller’s furniture specifically. I found their chairs to be the most striking, notably the Eames chairs. Creative design has definitely been pushed in these chairs, more so than their desks, which are sleek, but very straight-edged. The “Nelson Marshmallow Sofa” is made from many circular cushions, and is very unique.

Ornament and Crime by Loos was highly opinionated and offensive. I gather that Loos has no appreciation for design, and is clearly not an artist. He goes on and on about how ornament is a waste of time, and says that people who find ornaments beautiful are not cultivated. Loos also thinks that a plain cigarette case is better than an ornamented one. I doubt any advertiser would approve of that. Package design is part of what entices consumers to buy the product. For example, with wine there is no real way to tell what’s good and what’s not. So the packaging makes a big impression on the consumer. I love looking at the different wine labels, and don’t think that “slows down the cultural evolution,” as Loos so ineloquently puts it. Loos says art has replaced the ornament, but ornaments have design in them. He complains about ornaments on his shoes, and makes fun of the shoemaker who would want to make him ornamented shoes. But I think Nike designers make art through their shoes, so how can Loos say ornament is not art? Loos also classifies people with tattoos as “degenerate.” This is a view that has been changing over the years. While some people still get tattooed to show how tough they are, others design a personal, artistic symbol to ink on the canvas of their body. This by no means makes them degenerate. Loos also puts down graffiti. True, some graffiti defaces public property and has no artistic value; but graffiti style can also create great works of art. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it bothers me that he writes this essay like his opinion is scientific fact.

I enjoyed Design and Crime because it disagrees with Loos without ever directly saying he is wrong. Foster’s writing style is very different that way. He talks of the values of packaging that I agree with, and that Loos does not understand. Foster says, “Design is also inflated as the package all but replaces the product.” This made me think of the product Aquapod in particular, which is marketed towards children. It’s only bottled water, but they are trying to sell the fact that it’s bottled water in a round water bottle. Bottled water is about as unoriginal as a product can get, but the way Aquapod is marketed, you are supposed to think it will make your life exciting. When Foster says that “the product is no longer thought of as an object to be produced so much as a datum to be manipulated,” that again reminds me of Merchants of Cool. I agree with Foster’s views far more than Loos’s.

Reading Response 1

October 5, 2009

Seeing is Forgetting, though it starts off talking about artists collaborating with major companies, quickly moves on to the collaboration between two artists and a NASA scientist. In school, science and art are taught as completely different subjects. However, Robert Irwin talks at great lengths about the similarities of artists and scientists. While some of it makes sense, some of it I would disagree with.

Irwin, Wortz, and Turrell did many sensory deprivation experiments. I found it interesting that they said they wanted to make art out of these experiments not for the sake of making art, but to “focus their considerations.” This is interesting to me because it is very different from how I work. I try to think of ideas that would make exciting art pieces, with the focus of producing artwork. While I may experiment with different styles and mediums, it is with the specific purpose of making a better finished art piece. It might be helpful to my creative process to try to think like Irwin and Turrell, but I imagine it would be difficult to train my brain to think in such a different fashion.

The most striking part of their sensory deprivation experiments was the artistic result. Most artists are probably more observant of the world in general than non-artists. But after sitting in an anechoic chamber, they became even more attuned to the world’s color and detail. While that makes sense, it is not what first comes to mind when I think sensory deprivation. Instead, I think of it being used as a form of torture. Torture victims probably do not come out of sensory deprivation with a more acute appreciation for vivid color. They would probably be too focused on being free of the nothingness to make artistic observations of the world. That these three men would purposely subject themselves to eight hours of nothingness for the sake of art is remarkable. Talk about suffering for your art.

Irwin compares art and science with a “trial and error” analogy. He says both artists and scientists try different combinations and end with a finished result. I would argue against this; at what point is art ever finished? Taking painting specifically, there is always an area that could be blended more, or roughened up depending on the artist’s preference. Irwin says artists stop when something “feels right.” But some art is finished when the artist has tried so many combinations and still nothing seems right, so the piece is finished. Whenever I look at my old art, I see proportions that could be improved upon, or elements that should be shifted over slightly for a better composition. Maybe a piece of art is never actually finished, but there has to come a point where the artist stops working on it, at least for a long period of time. This is very different from a scientific experiment; for in science the goal is to complete a finished product that can be repeated over and over to achieve the same result. Two pieces of art can never be exactly the same, no matter how hard you try to copy something. Of course, Irwin is right, as well. There can be times a piece of art feels finished. Whether or not that will remain true at a later date is a different story, though.

Irwin also says “All art is experience, yet all experience is not art.” I think this statement is heavily influenced by Irwin’s own creative process. He says the artist “chooses the experience” to share with the viewer. But there is a lot of art out there that is just eye candy, created for the sake of gaining popularity. There is no personal experience or deeper meaning behind it. Is this still an experience for the viewer? Maybe not a very powerful one, if at all. But Irwin, who spends hours on end in sensory deprivation, has a very powerful experience to share.