Queer In/Visible Academy: some flyers

As I wrote in my portfolio, “Queer Theory poses a fundamental question to image-makers: what in our work is descriptive, what is prescriptive and what is the relationship between these two aspects of visual material?”.

Bearing this in mind, in the last months I have made a few more flyers/posters for the Queer In/Visible Academy. Here they are, with some sketches too :-)

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The Lines Between

Again on the topic of renaming my website.

I had been playing for a while with the concept of a bizzarrorama: a place or an instrument to see weird and obscure things.

(behold a page of my sketchbook after four days of cycling under relentless rain in Bavaria)

I brought it as far as designing this frankly illegible logotype for it, using it as an outlet for my private passion for black rainbows.

I really had to put so much work into it to decide to drop the idea: firstly, although i don’t reject the fetishist/BDSM meaning of the word “bizzarre”, I didn’t want it to be directly associated with my design work. Secondly, I found it really difficult to give the word bizzarrorama a decent typographic presentation: too many doubled consonants. Thirdly, the word is too long and illegible anyway, and one of the reasons I want to move from musicforasteroids.com is because it’s slightly too weird – not necessarily for my taste, but for its usability as a remarkable and catchy URL.

After deciding to drop bizzarrorama, I dedicated two pages of sketchbook to an ongoing one-man-brainstorm, sketching out ideas and logos on them over a couple of weeks.

visual brainstorming

This was quite useful to gather ideas and compare them, try out other visual elements next to the typography and in general have one place to throw things into whenever they casually occurred to me. Interestingly, however, the one idea that I kept from this came from another source, namely the first drafts I wrote for my essay on space. Quoting myself:

In Michel de Certau’s terms, design work could be described as the movement with which a tactic attempts to become a strategy by creating a visible and identifiable object that grants it a unique place within discourse.

and then, emphatically running onto a tangent:

Design is like a plant that grows in the cracks between pavement stones, eventually turning the street into a garden.

I won’t necessarily stand behind this dramatic definition of design work, but I like the idea of design as something happening between the lines, in fact turning the voids between the lines into new “proper” lines. I began to obsessively think about the “the cracks between”, “between the lines” and other similar formulations.

At this point I would like to quote Guy Debord in the 206th thesis of The Society of the Spectacle and appropriate what he calls “the insurrectional style (…) of replacing the subject with the predicate”. This would be slightly dishonest though, because in that particular section of the book I only have a vague understanding of what he is talking about; hence I will only say that my theoretically limited designer brain found it funny and catchy to turn words around (which aren’t even subject or predicate, for all that matters), and create the phrase “the lines between”, laying an accent on that void space full of potential instead of having those stiff lines of predetermined meaning on the foreground.

At present, I am still playing with this title in my mind (and sketching out logos for it occasionally). I think I like it.

the lines between

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Spaces of Production IV: an overview.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time implementing the idea of drawing architectural plans of Ableton Live, eventually losing track of why I was doing it in the first place. Hence the completely pointless level of detail to which I brought my drawings:

(obviously, this is just the wireframe view from Illustrator, the drawing did have colours and proper strokes)

When, after a long time, I finished these drawings, I realised that they were not very useful for the presentation I had in mind. They had helped me explore the concepts I was working on, but not really more than the preliminary sketches, and the way they were organised they wouldn’t help a lot with communicating these concepts.

At this point I decided to re-focus on what I was trying to achieve, and went on to complete the presentation.

The rest of the work is rather banal from the point of view of method: a bunch of  sketches and diagrams accompanied by some writing that was intended to help me both organise the project and explain it. I consider the project closed now but I might review it at some point, since I’m not completely satisfied by the final layout of the presentation material.

I think it is also useful to review the timeline of this project, since its evolution has been kind of unconventional and weird.

I assume that the logical sequence would be brief – drawings – research – development – presentation, maybe having development and research overlap. In retrospect, I think what I did was mainly to start in different directions without having an overall plan of what I was doing, and to always only notice I was on a tangent when I had already wasted a lot of time on it. All this despite the developing phase having begun so much earlier than everything else and actually really being over already at the beginning of the project.

First, I began working on this project before I even knew I was going to do this MA. It originated from my private interest for electronic music and I developed it over a period of a few months. My engagement in it was quite irregular, since I didn’t have any type of external pressure or any looming deadlines. When the brief for Spaces of Production was presented, I thought that I could adapt my work and present it as a response to this project, but I was working on other stuff so it was only months later that I began talking to my tutors about this – as a part-time student, I had the privilege of deciding when I wanted to work on what. After agreeing with the tutors that I could do this, I set out to do some research, thinking that it would be good to be able to collocate my work in relation to existing practices and give it some theoretic background. I hadn’t thought that there is not so much academic literature about modern (?) electronic music, so I ended up learning a lot about Cage and Stockhausen, graphic scores from the 1960s and the early use of computers for music, only to realise, as I have mentioned in a previous post, that all this research was relatively off-topic, and although pleasant and interesting for me, quite irrelevant to the work I was doing (in fact, none of it crops up in the final presentation). After that, I finally began working on the drawings that the brief required me to do, and the rest is briefly summarised at the beginning of this post.

In retrospect, I could have definitely managed my time better. When I started working on fulfilling the brief, the outcome of the project was basically ready and apart from a few minor adjustments to it, my idea was to work backwards to demonstrate how my work was an appropriate response to the brief. I also saw it as a useful opportunity to give a presentable structure to a work I had spent lots of energy on and that had only had some use for myself and my own enjoyment. If breaking down big goals into small intermediate steps is a vital strategy for achieving what we want, it feels a bit embarassing to me that I wasn’t able to do this efficiently on a project in which I had already achieved the final goal before I even started working on it. It was maybe in some way an useful experience to do things the wrong way around, but if I had devised this timeline before doing the project instead of now, I might have finished it much earlier and without losing myself into tangents so much.

On the other hand, I had decided around the beginning of the project that I wanted to have a relatively image-heavy presentation, since I really want to concentrate on illustration more than interface design or whatever you could call my work on SoP. From this point of view, it was a conscious choice to give so much space to one of my tangents. Even so, the illustration work only made sense in as much as it was useful for the presentation, and I feel like the amount of work I put into it was not commensurable to its utility.

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Resuming communication.

Last summer I spent about one month almost completely offline, and upon coming back to the realms of connectivity and extended spatiotemporal reach I had tragically lost the habit of updating this blog. The next few posts will try to reconstruct what has been going on.

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Spaces of Production III: sketches and more sketches

I guess the easiest way to represent a piece of software as a space is to make architectural plans of it. I started to think of Ableton Live as a group of buildings and trying to represent its elements within this metaphor.

I’m not going to go into much detail here about it, I just wanted to upload some of the sketches I’ve been working on lately.

And this is what the current state of my work looks like:

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Schon wieder Zossen? pt.4

pasted posterI finally managed to get a picture of a pasted poster from Berlin.

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Reconstructing the Temporary Autonomous Zone pt.4

It took ages before I actually did the intervention because I wanted to film it and I needed my then flatmate Lily to lend me her camera and help me cut the result. A couple of months passed between the first moment I mentioned this to her until the evening in which we both had the time to do it.

Seeing my colleagues’ presentations, I was a bit skeptical about the way most of them elaborated on the reactions of by-standers. It seemed to me that mostly there would be a couple of people randomly turning up and doing or saying something about the interventions, and the students would then conclude that “the people” reacted in this or that way and draw consequences about their work’s success (or, rarely, failure). What I find questionable about this is that the very limited sample of “people” could in no way be representative of the general public (whatever that means), and that the reading of these people’s reactions didn’t consider any differences among them (such as gender, cultural or personal backgrounds, age, race etc.), which led to the construction of an undifferentiated concept of “people” that has no correspondent in reality. In my opinion, the interpretation of the reactions to the interventions mirrored more the views and expectations of the students-authors than those of their “audience”. I would even go to the extent of saying that the audience’s reactions are completely irrelevant to the success of the projects, in this context. In the rather tiny framework of such a uni-project there is no real way to assess the impact of an intervention on the space it happens into, and I found it at times on the border to mystification that students would draw allegedly solid conclusions from the interpretation of such weak reactions. I’m not saying that anyone did this in a malevolent way, but I was stunned at the naiveté with which my colleagues let this happen.

I actually wanted to try out to what length I could push this and I decided to completely falsify the documentation of my project.

So one evening I grabbed some friends and flatmates and went with them to the south side of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Before we started shooting I explained what the project was about and what was going to happen, and figured out with my actors what everyone of them was going to say or do. Then we realised that between me and Lily we both thought that the other would take the camera. After a first moment of despair we figured out that a few of us had mobile phones and photo cameras, all of them with hardly any battery left or some other minor problem.

Meet the cast:


(from left to right Lily, Tom, El, Aonghus and Chris. behind the camera in this shot is Val. Tom and El both completed their BA in Design at Goldsmiths last year, Val did an MA in curating at Goldsmiths as well.)

The only true and authentic reaction to my work comes from this guy who randomly cycled into our shot while we were doing something else and said “I like these signs”.

(unfortunately there’s no single frame in which you can recognise any of his features)

All in all, I wanted the resulting film to be extreme in a way that people would question its truthfulness, but surprisingly, no one did. I wonder how I am to make sense of that.

(if we want to discuss public reactions, I went to the tunnel the next day to shoot some additional footage and found that all signs but two had been removed. a few weeks later one of them was still there, and now they’re all gone. I had expected some cleaner or guard to make all the signs disappear quite quickly, but the fact that some of them stayed there makes me hope that they were swiftly stolen by people who appreciated my work!)

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