Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

Kehinde Wiley: Ghetto Grandeur

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All image cred: SuperTouch.

Spotted this fresh series by Kehinde Wiley on SuperTouch.

If you live in LA you can catch Wiley’s exhibition, The World Stage – Brazil, at Roberts & Tilton Gallery.

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Wiley got his favela models to recreate the poses of key statues in the city.

In assuming the role the of the western colonizer, they challenge their status as socially invisible – so he explains:

Kehinde Wiley – The World Stage by PGrizzy on YouTube.

I found it strange there were no women in this series, but the artist has a logic:

“By enlarge, the absence of women is the normal state within the history of art. The reasons having to do with misogyny, empire, construction of power – being the sole territory of powerful men.”

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The detail on these paintings is spectacular. Get in up-close on the website and you’ll see how grandiose they are.

As hyperrealism goes, they deliver loud and clear. It’s like the opposite of, and complement to, JR’s industrialised photocopies of black and white photo-portraits.

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Previous favela:

– Diplo’s first feature film: Favela on Blast.

JR’s Women Are Heroes: the other face of ghetto grandeur.

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Craft, England and Codpieces

You need not see what someone is doing

to know if it is his vocation,

you have only to watch his eyes:

a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon

making a primary incision,

a clerk completing a bill of lading,

wear the same rapt expression,

forgetting themselves in a function.

“Sext” (1954) by W.H. Auden.

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Tailored by England murals on Great Eastern St, London.

I think the gentlemen and gentlewomen at Umbro have hit on something. Their new England shirt has certainly garnered attention.

This little island was once a hub of craft and industry. By delivering “The right shirt at the right time”, Umbro have collared an inconvenient truth:

We stopped crafting – and started outsourcing.

That “rapt expression” of which Auden speaks disappeared from the face of the nation. And I couldn’t agree more with Umbro’s strapline – this is the right time to look back, and move forward.

New England Shirt – The Making of by umbro on YouTube.

A few weeks ago two Brits clashed in a game of Layer Tennis (massive props to Coudal Partners, the broadcasters and creators of the event).

What emerged from this riveting rally? For one thing, both Rex Crowle and Simon Cook were obsessed with… things.

We see “things” that are British every day. We use those things too. We may even keep them in our codpiece.

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Layer 6 by Rex Crowle on Layer Tennis.

Somewhere in the twilight of late capitalism, we lost sight of those items on our kitchen table. The necessaries in our chest of drawers.

Cookie does a wonderful job of reviving that joy of craft and “things” at his blog, Made in England by Gentlemen – go check it out.

It was there, to bring this little ramble to an end, that I discovered his apt fondness for the work of Hwa Young Jung.

In her words:

“…if you’re English these are things you might have grown up with & therefore you feel is insignificant. They are new and fascinating to me.”

Fingers crossed, as they say, that fascination can return for English folks too.

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Tetley by hwayoungjung on Flickr.

1k Frames per Second

I don’t make a habit of writing at the weekend.

But this gots to be shared tout de suite:

I-Movix SprintCam v3 NAB 2009 showreel by David Coiffier on Vimeo.

“Mostly 1000FPS shots, made during a recent rugby competition in the Stade de France, Paris.”

The bouncing jelly (around 2:00) + dubstep/ wobbly bassline music =  a very happy accident from my laptop.

Mariah Goes Postmodern

I’m a badge-wearing fan of Wreck & Salvage.

Have they just created the first Mariah Carey meme?

Mariah Carey and Marcel Duchamp by wreckandsalvage on Vimeo.

Mariah Carey and Albert Einstein by wreckandsalvage on Vimeo.

Mariah Carey and Andy Rooney by wreckandsalvage on Vimeo.

Mariah Carey and Orson Welles by wreckandsalvage on Vimeo.

Still three videos to go on this mini series, so keep ’em peeled.

Go to Wreck & Salvage’s blog for the feed on their reality re-ordering.

In their words:

“We are three internet hobos riding the rails of digital refuse, navigating through the brambles, backwoods, and country roads. Adventure! Huddled around this campfire we share stories of our journeys.”

Club Tropicana: Drinks -20%

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Failed Tropicana packaging by Arnell Group via Brand New.

Last week AdAge reported that Tropicana’s sales shrank 20% at the start of the year before rebranded packaging was pulled.

Designs by Arnell Group were kicked before they hit the shelves and heartily jeered on their exit.

Although recession squeeze must have played a role, it doesn’t seem to account for the whole story. Sales of refrigerated orange juice across the board only dipped 5% in the same period – 1 January to 22 February 2009.

Peter Arnell Explains Failed Tropicana Package Design on YouTube.

Unsurprising that Peter Arnell’s looked strained, and unfortunate that the Tropicana debacle followed criticism for his Pepsi rebrand.

Some remiss comments to a Newsweek reporter can’t have helped:

“I can’t believe that for the rest of my life I’m going to be known as Peter ‘Tropicana’ Arnell.” He says Tropicana overreacted to complaints. “I have my own perspective on it. But it’s not my brand. It’s not my company. So what the hell? I got paid a lot of money, and I have 30 other projects. You move on.”

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Old Tropicana packaging by Sterling Brands via Brand New.

So why did he “move on”? What was wrong with the straw-in-an-orange?

Arnell clearly thought it could be improved.

Watch how animated he grows in the press conference [above] once he gets onto the “interesting little squeeze cap” that “implies squeezing ergonomically”.

Was his best insight executed with too much subtlety?

Strange that in the same week Arnell gets cussed all over the blogosphere there’s massive acclaim for another fruit juice packaging design.

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Strawberry fruit juice packaging by Naoto Fukasawa via TheDieline.

Naoto Fukasawa’s inspiration for these lovely designs doesn’t sound so different to the revelation that got Arnell’s eyes glinting:

“I imagined that if the surface of the package imitated the colour and texture of the fruit skin, then the object would reproduce the feeling of the real skin.”

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Banana fruit juice packaging by Naoto Fukasawa via TheDieline.

For me, Fukasawa’s work is a delight. Hope it’s as tactile as it looks.

And either way, the idea behind the skin is eminently clear.

Consumers didn’t find that with Tropicana. They couldn’t even find their rebranded juice in the supermarket. So they didn’t buy it.

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Banana fruit juice packaging by Naoto Fukasawa via Toxel.

Where the Social Bandits Gone?

Some 70 years ago, Michael Curtiz got all the Technicolor cameras in existence to make The Adventures of Robin Hood.

The US had just been hit by a second wave of recession in its Great Depression.

Movies matter in a recession. Stories and big, bold escapes.

The Adventures of Robin Hood Trailer by hollywoodclassics on YouTube.

Whichever version of Robin Hood folklore you follow, two things seem to be broadly accepted:

1. He robbed from the rich and gave to the poor (i.e. he was an outlaw).

2. He was a common man – a regular Joe.

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Cordel literature found in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazilian folklore has its own, more recent Robin Hood.

The most legendary bandit (cangaçeiro) was Lampião. He was shot dead in 1938. The same year The Adventures of Robin Hood came out on general release.

He was not a clear-cut hero. He was often violent and perverse, as accounts in film and literature have shown:

“He used to put a man’s nuts in a drawer, lock it, throw the key out and set fire to the house. Not without first leaving a knife within reach of the wretch. The way I see it, it’s better to burn to death than to lose your nuts.”

Sergeant Getulio (1971) by João Ibaldo Ribeiro.

Lampião in Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (1964) – Dir. Glauber Rocha.

Just as the desperate north eastern climes of Brazil spawned its own Robin Hood, national interest in the tales of Lampião peak during times of economic trouble.

Artists, writers and filmmakers of the 1960s lavished him with attention.

But today?

Today in London there will be riots outside the Bank of England. There’s growing malaise in most corners of the world.

So I ask: where’s the social bandit gone?

The Wire (Season 1): Omar – “It’s all in the game” by hoodpolitics.

You could argue that Omar Little in The Wire represents a new form of fictional Robin Hood.

He robs drug dealers in a city (Baltimore) where 10% of landowners possess 58% of the land value; and the bottom 10% own less than 1%.

Can we call that social banditry?

If not, who are the Robin Hoods in today’s global meltdown?

And who would they even loot?