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robertogreco : softness   4

Austin Kleon — “That airport state of mind.”
[quoting: https://longform.org/posts/longform-podcast-75-george-saunders ]

"You know when you’re saying goodbye to somebody at the airport that you love and you get all soft? You’re like, “Oh my god, I hardly knew ya.” You know, that kind of feeling? What if that’s the truth? That that times ten is the mode that we should exist in all the time? Then another day you’re just yourself. There’s a big gap between those two people.

So, my regret would be how much time did I spend in that regular, old, stupid habitual mindset of taking everything for granted, as opposed to this exalted state of being super-tenderized to the people you care about.

I’m guessing that, you know, if there’s a heaven, it’s that at the airport times ten or twenty or a thousand.

The regret would be that you, like a lunkhead, spent so much time in that normal state. “Oh, I wonder what I’m going to do today? I hope my book is selling! How do I look? Oh, I’m going bald.” That mode is habitual, but we know from the occasional foray into it, that the other mode is possible.

[Congratulations, By The Way] basically says: “Hurry up! Take my advice, hurry up, try to get into that higher state while you can.”

How do you do it? I don’t know I’m stupid. I’m like a latecomer. But there’s these thousands of years of spiritual traditions that wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

A lot of times in our culture there’s this de facto humanist swagger that says, “Oh yeah, Religion. We used to do that shit.” But my advice would be, to anyone who wanted it: reconfigure your understanding of “Religion,” and make it exactly that which will give you that airport state of mind more often. And then go into the existing traditions and cull through them to make it that. Or to try to find the authentic elements of those traditions that are really about that. Cos that’s really what they’re about."
austinkleon  georgesaunders  spirituality  religion  2016  heaven  humanism  truth  softness  love  immediacy 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Propaganda of Pantone: Colour and Subcultural Sublimation — LOKI
"Questions of representation are central to the practice of graphic design. An understanding of who we are speaking for, and who we are speaking to, is the starting point of any design brief. It is through this role of mediation, expressed as aesthetic form, that design enacts its power and responsibility. However, this mediation often happens uncritically, guided by a designer’s intuition, stylistic trends, and the instrumental framework of marketing and PR concerns. A multiplicity of factors, conscious and unconscious, play into a designer’s aesthetic choices of imagery, typography, composition and colour. And as much as some might argue to the contrary, none of these choices are neutral.

In the case of colour, Pantone Inc. holds incredible influence with their increasingly marketed and mediatised Colour of the Year campaigns. Purportedly determined through a prescient reading of the cultural zeitgeist (by a select cabal of colour specialists), it is important to understand that the company, and the industry it serves, have their own specific interests and agendas that drive these selections. Pantone’s choice of “Rose Quartz” and “Serenity” as the 2016 Colour of the Year is the most insidious move by this colour-industrial-complex since “Blue Iris” in 2008. As with “Blue Iris”, Pantone has once again mined the subcultural landscape and used their monopoly within the creative industries to propagate their colour properties to the world.

From IK Blue to Blue Iris

Pantone was on point in 2008, presenting a slightly muted version of the IK Blue (International Klein)/RGB Blue trend that evolved out of the Dutch “default design” approach of the early 2000s. Default design advocated against the smooth surfaces of graphic professionalism, employing low-res imagery, system fonts, crude layouts, and the standard web link hex-colour #0000FF. It incorporated a self-referential criticism into its aesthetic, and the prominent use of RGB Blue became a clear signifier of this. The colour was carried forward with the emergence of a vaguely defined “critical graphic design” aesthetic, shifting between Default, IK, and Reflex Blue, and it was often used monochromatically, in large flat swathes that were both vivid and jarring.

Though IK Blue and RGB Default Blue are not the same, their intense visceral effect is similar, stemming from the colours’ physical/digital materiality; Klein’s blue was unique due to the synthetic resin binder which allowed the pigment to maintain its clarity, whereas Default Blue is as pure a blue as the RGB spectrum can achieve. Referenced in William Gibson’s 2010 novel Zero History, the character Hubertus Bigend has a suit made entirely of material in IK Blue. He states that he wears this because the intensity of the colour makes other people uncomfortable, and because he is amused by the difficulty of reproducing the colour on a computer monitor. Gibson, an astute cultural observer, used this reference to acknowledge its avant-garde popularity while pointing to the inherent subversive quality of the colour.

The mainstreaming of “Blue Iris” by Pantone softened the subversive punch of IK Blue (which by 2008 was already an identifiable commodity in contemporary art and fashion circles), further bolstering its popularity amongst designers and the consumer population at large.

Rose Quartz and Serenity

“Rose Quartz” and “Serenity” (hereafter abbreviated as RQ+S) present a far more nefarious situation. There’s no doubt that Pantone’s trend forecasters/cool hunters are once again on point (much more so than last year’s Marsala), yet anyone who has spent a little too much time on Tumblr over the last few years probably could have seen this coming. The tonal pink and blue palette has been growing exponentially in popularity online since the emergence (circa 2010-11), purported death (circa 2012), and expanding influence of the micro-cultures of Seapunk, and its successor, Vaporwave, as part of a more broadly defined subculture of internet-fuelled art employing what can be described as a Tumblr aesthetic.

The popular use of these colours, and specifically their combined usage, has emerged out of a tumultuously contested subcultural space. Pantone’s conceptual framing of RQ+S is disingenuous at best, and once one digs a little deeper, can be seen to represent a clearly reactionary political force."



"Vaporwave: The Jester in the King’s Court

Vaporwave has been hailed as Seapunk’s successor, though it actually emerged in parallel, with less dolphins, and a more mature theoretical grounding. The dolphins have been replaced by renderings of the assorted detritus of techno-capitalism; anachronistic corporate logos, dead media formats, GUI elements, and perspective grids. Musically, the genre samples and remixes the corporate soundscape; elevator and on-hold music, the piped-in pop of shopping malls and office lobbies, smooth jazz, easy listening and motivational new age harmonies. Vaporwave differentiates itself from Seapunk through its critical self-awareness, and it is far more intentional in how it employs its parodic kitsch aesthetics. It is darkly cynical and sickly sweet, exemplified by artist and label names such as The Pleasure Centre, New Dreams Ltd., Fortune 500, Business Casual or Condo Pets.

Analysis of the genre points to Vaporwave operating within what can be described as an accelerationist framework; expanding, repurposing and exaggerating the technosocial processes of capitalism in order to provoke radical social change. Its saccharine caricature of corporate culture engages whole-heartedly with the alienating nostalgia of the post-authentic, playing the role of the jester in the king’s court, or acting as a hall of mirrors in the funhouse enclosures of capital. Its tactics have abandoned confrontational resistance to instead lubricate the symbolic ground upon which capitalism stands, and offer it a series of gentle, yet insistent, nudges.

In 2015, in a desperate attempt to stay relevant, MTV (a Viacom International Inc. company) rebranded with a full-on Vaporwave aesthetic and the Orwellian tagline “I am my MTV”. Undoubtedly counselled by agency customer-engagement experts it was as transparent as it was blatant. Their VMA campaign promos featured Miley Cyrus gesticulating in front of a green screen, enticing the public to fill in the blank(ness) with their unpaid labour. The crowd-sourced results feel tepid at best, with a significant percentage of the content created by agencies and design studios, most-likely commissioned by MTV. And within all of the internet-y visual chaos, a smooth and uniform surface reappears. In spite of this co-option, or perhaps due to it, the Vaporwave aesthetic continues to evolve and expand, within the not so hidden corners of subreddits, and to mutate and accelerate, parading on the front lines of fashion.

It is not my intention to ascribe any sort of authorial/authoritative origin story to this recombinant aesthetic. Popular style emerges from a confluence of tendencies and cultural currents. The lineage of afro-futurist visual culture and contemporary afro-punk fashion have had a significant influence on the development of this aesthetic. Singular artists such as MIA, with her groundbreaking 2005 album Arular and the entirety of her oeuvre since, also provides a prescient cultural touchstone. Japanese kawaii purikura (photobooths), and their viral app counterparts, exemplify how software tools are often indivisible from the aesthetic culture they create and contribute to. And within graphic design, the trajectory of Metahaven's work (and that of their Werkplaats acolytes), with its disordered and distorted forms, photoshop filters and powerpoint layouts, alongside healthy doses of IK Blue and digital debris, can be read as a palimpsest of the overlapping layers that have come to define the look and feel of these times."



"#aesthetic

Tumblr has proven to be a nurturing (though certainly not safe) space for the circulation of subcultural and counter-cultural interests, and the ideas and imagery of these feminist currents run in parallel, overlap and intersect with the aforementioned micro-cultures on the platform. Of course, the diversity of content posted on Tumblr is inherently limitless, yet nonetheless cohesive aesthetic tendencies emerge, reflecting the interests and aspirations of its most avid users. The term "aesthetic" itself has come to represent a specific genre of imagery on Tumblr that can be easily identified as the subcultural inspiration for RQ+S.

We are presented with a visual landscape of soft pinks and blues, a post-ironic poetics articulated through memes, digital art, selfies, and threaded "ask me anything" conversations. Taken as a whole, there is an undeniable ebullient softness to it, but roiling just beneath the surface is a crystalline anger directed at the way things are, be it gender normativity, the surveillance state, or good old-fashioned capitalist alienation. The emergence of this Tumblr #aesthetic represents the reclamation of symbolic vocabulary from the realm of commodity production, placing it back into the hands of the young, the feminine, the marginal."
aesthetics  art  design  culture  pantone  2016  2015  2008  mtv  webrococo  mia  softness  kawaii  afropunk  metahaven  williamgobson  ikb  internationalkleinblue  blue  seapunk  tumblr  subcultures  gra[hicdesign  graphics  rosequartz  blueiris  vaporwave  rgbdefaultblue  zerohistory  web  online  internet  vma  yvesklein 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Apple and Star Wars together explain why much of the world around you looks the way it does - Quartz
"One of the most effective critiques of the totalizing approach to urban design—the Darth-design of cities, if you will—was architecture critic, activist, and theorist Jane Jacobs. Towards the end of her bestselling 1962 critique of mid-century urban design, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs recounts the number and diversity of the neighbors in the building where she worked. She reports:
“The floor of the building in which this book is being written is occupied also by a health club with a gym, a firm of ecclesiastical decorators, an insurgent Democratic party reform club, a Liberal party political club, a music society, an accordionists’ association, a retired importer who sells maté by mail, a man who sells paper and who also takes care of shipping the maté, a dental laboratory, a studio for watercolor lessons, and a maker of costume jewelry. Among the tenants who were here and gone shortly before I came in, were a man who rented out tuxedos, a union local and a Haitian dance troupe. There is no place for the likes of us in new construction. And the last thing we need is new construction.”

And added, in a forceful footnote: “No, the last thing we need is some paternalist weighing whether we are sufficiently noncontroversial to be admitted to subsidized quarters in a Utopian dream city.”

That there is little room for controversy or discord in the Death Star—amongst its legion of same-suited stormtroopers, say—may go without saying. But what of Apple?

It is clear, first of all, that the company’s success—for all the apparent imperiousness of Jobs—relied, and likely relies still, on discussion, disagreement, and diversity. Jobs himself was famously a stickler for regular “no-holds-barred” meetings in which, while his own leadership had to remain unchallenged, no other presumptions or suppositions were sacred. (Pixar’s irrepressible Alvy Ray Smith would be one of the only employees to challenge Jobs’ control of a whiteboard, part of a duel with Jobs in which dry-erase markers, presumably, stood in for sabers.)

Like the products themselves, however, Apple’s core identity relies on keeping disagreement and discord behind a tightly controlled façade. And sometimes even a tightly controlled interior; one of Jobs’ least successful management interventions on his return to Apple was a short-lived attempt to have all his many thousand employees wear the same, black, custom Issey Miyake clothing. To Jobs’ credit, he quickly withdrew the proposal—but it lived on in the many hundred black turtlenecks Miyake crafted for Jobs’ own, resulting use.

No, if there is something disturbing in the design of Apple’s own apparent Death Star, it is not so much in the company’s clearly successful internal operations, nor in its beautifully singular product range. Rather, it lies in the runaway result of this success; the way in which so many of our interactions with the world, and with each other, are now filtered through the efforts of a single, well-designed and Apple-authored interface.

And beyond well-intentioned, we might even say essential. Particularly given the disorder and predictable unpredictability of complex technological systems, we all crave, and need order. The first Star Wars shoot was so plagued with technical difficulties (and the related derision of the unionized British workforce on the Pinewood Studio lot) that more than one cast member observed that George Lucas appeared far more sympathetic to the authority and order of the Empire than the ragtag Rebel Alliance. Apple has thrived above all in the last two decades by offering the particular beauty that lies in order, organization, and simplicity, and in the predictable delight that results when something technical, unexpectedly, just works."



"We might start inside. A recent profile of Sir Jony Ive in the New Yorker by Ian Parker, “The Shape of Things to Come,” shifts seamlessly from the discussion of consumer objects to that of architecture. Ive, it is suggested, sees himself as an architect too. He finds it, he says, “a curious thing” that in design “we tend to compartmentalize, based on physical scale.” He is reported to assert that he has (in Parker’s words) “taught Foster’s architects something about the geometry of corners,” introducing a seamless, curved detail between wall and floor that now runs throughout the building’s interior.
Yet this detail, and its future life, points to what is in fact one of the main differences between design at the scale of consumer electronics, and that at the scale of architecture and the city.

Apple’s great success as a consumer-focused company is rooted in the one power a consumer has above all: choice. Apple’s products are ubiquitous, above all, because they are far better than what they compete with, a quality that comes precisely from the tight control that Apple exerts on them and their design. But, at the point we don’t like our device, we can—and will—buy a different and better one—from Apple, or from some as-yet-unimaginable competitor.

Yet it is in the nature of architecture that it offers no such choice—the more so the bigger it gets. We can, if we are lucky, sell a house we don’t like. But we can’t sell or dispose of the terrible building across the road. And architecture involves many more people than those who design it, or even pay for it. Myself, I keep thinking of the cleaning staff of the new Apple headquarters; it is for these people, above all, that the usual, clunky detail of wall-meeting-floor exists, with a skirting board to hide the edge of the floor-wax, and catch and disguise the dirt that escapes the polishers. One hopes a special, super-functional polishing device has been designed for them, that will seamlessly clean and feather the floor-wax as it slowly curves into the wall—but one fears that it has not. One thinks as well of Apple’s desk-bound employees, who, so as to preserve the clean lines of the building’s exterior, will not be able to open windows in their offices—despite the Bay Area’s preposterously perfect climate. (“That would just allow people to screw things up,” Jobs apparently declared.)

But here is where the design of products and buildings is most different. The particular conundrum solved by the best teams of architects and city-builders (including all of us as citizens) is how to balance a whole set of competing demands, physical, environmental, and social, against each other—including the demands of the powerful against the needs, and rights, of the powerless.

As we attempt to design 21st-century cities for an increasing landscape of uncertainty, this is an important lesson to remember. Instead of single, grand projects, the staying-power of a city depends on a million connections between its inhabitants, and the natural and technological systems that sustain them. Cities designed tabula rasa, as Jane Jacobs cogently characterized it a generation ago, lack this robust resilience. Instead, their monumental visions of order turn out to hide brittleness, fragility, and frequent catastrophe. Even the most seemingly ordered long-lived city-grid—Manhattan, Barcelona, even San Francisco—simply allows us to better negotiate what is, in reality, a riot of real-world diversity.

It is in this light, perhaps, that one might also examine Apple’s greatest points of corporate difficulty: the interface between the company’s tightly designed and integrated products, and the public software ecosystems it has developed in service of them, the App Store and the Mac App Store. To this architect, these places read a bit like a modernist cityscape; beautiful, elegant, even nice to visit—but very difficult to live in. Like such cities they are also—at least in the case of the Mac App Store—increasingly abandoned, as is usual, by those who can afford to leave.

And yet it is not really Apple that is entirely to blame. The revolution in architecture today—one where the world of screens and devices and the common infrastructure of our cities merge, overlap and combine—is much larger than even the enormous, careful company.

In an awkwardly received, hauntingly prescient diatribe while presenting the Oscar for Best Director in 1979, Francis Ford Coppola declared, “We’re on the eve of something that’s going to make the Industrial Revolution look like a small out-of-town tryout.” What Coppola saw was our world today: “a communications revolution that’s about movies and art and music and digital electronics and satellites, but above all, human talent.”

Steve Jobs’ Apple set out to help create this world—and has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams of the future. George Lucas hired Pixar’s founders, originally, to use technology to make the production of culture easier for himself and a cadre of directors. But Lucas’s digital editing system was quickly eclipsed by Apple’s own, far cheaper, Final Cut Pro—and then, of course, by the iPhones that put high-quality filmmaking and editing into all of our hands. In this, and much else, Apple has helped author a world much like that of Lucas’s far-off galaxy; where all of us are connected, and can tap into vast reserves of invisible power through the device we hold in our hands.

But as Apple’s reach extends into the city and world, into the public sphere as well as the private screen, we should do well to remember these hard-learned lessons of control and openness, hardness and softness, brittleness and resilience. After all, the only thing one can say for certain about a Death Star is that it unexpectedly explodes right before the ending."
apple  starwars  georgelucas  architecture  cities  design  stevejobs  nicholasdemonchaux  history  siliconvalley  filmmaking  urbanism  urbanplanning  control  predicatability  fragility  resilience  unpredicatability  hackers  hackability  jonyive  janejacobs  discussion  disagreement  friction  discord  serendipity  authority  cupertino  pixar  canon  openness  hardness  softness  brittleness  isolation  uncertainty 
december 2015 by robertogreco
An Emphatic Umph: On Soft Architecture, via Lisa Robertson
"We live in spaces and amongst things that are infused — with memory, mood, texture, tone, timbre, resonance. Buildings, roads, bridges: they are not hard and rigid but structured events, experiences lived all the way through, soft. This is soft architecture.

Design offers more than a spine; it offers — no, it is — an algorithm of possible experiences, combinations, folds, and juxtapositions.

Soft architecture is a phrase from writer, Lisa Robertson, with which I am thoroughly enamored. In fact, I'll say it again: soft architecture. I'm smitten with this phrase. Which is, precisely, the nature of the architecture of soft architecture — ideas are mooded invisible spaces.

Soft architecture turns the world inside out. Or, rather, it facilitates a space that dissolves, renders porous, that line that separates private from public, subject from object. As I enjoy a space, make my way through it, it enjoys me, makes its way through me. Together, we move and are moved. A building, a road, a sidewalk draw me to them and I draw them to me. Together, we make this world. Or: together, we are this world.

We don't unite, world and me; we marble. We are marbled."

[See also: http://jacketmagazine.com/14/robertson-lisa.html ]
danielcoffeen  lisarobertson  softarchitecture  architecture  place  mood  texture  tone  memory  time  experience  consciousness  2009  poetry  being  softness 
october 2014 by robertogreco

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