InBox 001 — Avant Garde Messages

Published:  January 25, 2013
Heath Killen
InBox 001 — Avant Garde Messages

Introducing InBox – a new regular feature that will be dedicated to sharing some of the great stuff that we get sent from all over the world. It’s likely to most often feature books, but you can also expect to see magazines, records, movies, products, and other design ephemera to make an appearance.

If you have something you’d like us to take a look at, please don’t hesitate to post it or email the details to us first.

MoMA: Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde

I’ve only ever visited the MoMA gift store (and very briefly at that) so I am yet to fully experience any of their permanent collections or special exhibitions – however I seem to be amassing quite a library of their publications. Each one has taken up residence on the (prized) top level of my bookshelf and once I finally put this new one down it’ll be retiring there too.

This is a truly fascinating catalogue, curated from a time when post-war Tokyo was undergoing a period of cultural reinvention – exploring connections between its past and future through a range of different disciplines and practices. Some readers may already be familiar with a few of the featured artists, including designer Yokoo Tadanori, but there is much to discover here. The work largely explores the material world and our physical and emotional relationships with it, as well as emerging technology and the changing face of media. Some of it is confronting, some perplexing, but it is all fascinating and frequently beautiful. This is an important document that investigates the new wave of Japanese art that was born during an especially turbulent time in its history, and one that helps provide context for the contemporary landscape of Japanese culture.

Find out more about the exhibition (and buy the book) from here.

The Electric Information Age Album by The Masses

Where to begin? In early 2012,  Jeffrey Schnapp and Adam Michaels published The Electric Information Age Book – which examines the world of Marshall McLuhan, Quentin Fiore, Herman Kahn, and Carl Sagan (among others) and the brief countercultural movement that saw the publication of revolutionary books such as The Medium Is The Massage. In 1967, that particular book was given an audio ’translation’ of sorts – which at the time was billed as a “spoken arts record you can dance to”. Well, The Electric Information Age Album by Schnapps & Michael’s outfit The Masses is effectively a response to that same concept, based on their own book.

It’s almost impossible to do this project justice in such a brief review. You really need to hear it for yourself, and perhaps read this essay by Schnapp as a bit of a primer.

The album is available to download via Bandcamp – however I strongly recommend trying to grab one of the limited edition vinyl releases. Designed by Project Projects, it features black letter-pressed type and full-colour screen-printed graphics on a thick craft cardboard sleeve. It really is a thing of mind-bending beauty.

Warp and Weft: Poster Construction by Sonnenzimmer

Warp and Weft is part monograph, part text-book, part thesis, part instructional manual (in the vein of Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit) and yet entirely its own thing. The result of a successful Kickstarter campaign – this book sees Sonnenzimmer critically examining their own work and sharing some of the stories behind the projects, while at the same time opening up their process, methodology, and even their construction methods, which are often explicitly laid out.

The book is beautiful and engrossing – much the same as the studio’s work. Amazingly, the peek behind the curtains doesn’t negate any of the mystery or majesty of any of the images either. For anyone with even a vague interest in this unique blend of fine art and design, Warp and Weft will provide food for thought and real inspiration for how to think about both the theory and craft of design. Don’t sleep on this one though, as the limited edition book is already close to selling out. Copies are available directly from Sonnenzimmer.

Charles Saatchi – Babble

The reclusive, enigmatic, and undeniably influential Charles Saatchi lays himself quite bare in this collection of essays. Covering a wide array of topics, including the environment, gambling, cartography, wealth, crime, and of course art, the writing is short and conversational. It’s easy to pick up and read a few pages at random, then put down again. Perhaps this is the point.

Filled with anecdotes, facts, opinions (many of which are sure to raise the ire of some readers) and more than a little wisdom, Babble is a tangental and often humorous book. There are many revealing insights into Saatchi’s personal and professional history to be found within, and it certainly does shine some light on his unique worldview. I don’t know if I actually come away from it feeling as though I know or understand the man more than I did before, but I’d gladly invite him out for a drink to hear more stories.

Pie #04 – Failure

From the minds of  Simon Oosterdijk and Markus Hofko in New Zealand, comes the most recent edition of Pie – which this time examines Failure. It’s a celebration of ideas that history has revealed to be wrong, projects that have gone unrealised, and ambition that has gone spectacularly awry.

This is simply a wildy entertaining and highly educational publication. Encyclopediac in scope and featuring a truly energetic approach to editorial design (including diagrams, quotes, illustrations and colour inserts) - this is about as close as you can get to the hypertextual experience of disappearing into a Wiki-rabbit hole – in book form. It also features a great contribution from Daniel Neville, who wrote the opening essay to our December/January.

Buy a copy immediately.



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