Getting used to the future of technology…

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Most of the big brands out there are undoubtedly shaping their new tech products with an eye on the future. Few brands are going through this process as we speak… I’m looking at you, Apple!

I am reminded of this anecdote that happened to me last week. I was searching for a new laptop to buy. I was really excited to buy this new MacBook pro 2017, I was eager to leave behind my old windows. Excitement didn’t last long: I found out that this new Apple product didn’t have traditional USB ports but newcomers USB type C ports, using Thunderbolt technology.

I was shocked.

This USB anecdote could easily fit into the case-study of french philosopher and anthropologist Bruno Latour who investigates in his essay “The Missing Masses” (1992) how things prescribe behaviour upon us and upon other things. “The design of things of their physical features and functions not only prescribe actions but also ‘moralities, ethics and duties’ (Latour, 1992).

The french philosopher was also interested in the process by which humans delegate action to objects. Latour’s view of technology revolves around the idea of displacing our actions on to technology, and viceversa. “Walls are a nice invention, but if there were no holes in them there would be no way to get in or out. The problem is that if you make holes in the walls, anything and anyone can get in and out. So architects invented the door, miracle of technology.” (Latour, 1992).

In order to keep using my old USB, Apple is essentially both imposing and delegating upon me to buy a Dual USB or adaptor to make it happen…unbelievable, but necessary!?

How can you, Apple, think people not familiar with this new type of USB ports will take this big change? The only answer I can think of is that someone must kick-start the future…and who better than Apple?


 

Latour, B. (1992). Where are the missing masses, sociology of a few mundane artefacts. 1st ed. [ebook] Cambridge: Wiebe Bijker and John Law. Available at: http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/50-MISSING-MASSES-GB.pdf [Accessed 12 Apr. 2017].

Elogio al Futurismo – A praise to Futurism

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This blog entry wants to praise futurism as a revolutionary movement that helped shaping modern culture in Italy and all around the world. This entry doesn’t want to praise, in any way, the negative sides of such movement like its alignment with Fascism.

It is no news that thanks to his eccentric persona, Marinetti made Futurism a worldwide phenomenon. Selena Daly, expert in Futurism at University College Dublin praised Marinetti as a master at advertising and self-promotion. 

Marinetti’s vision of the future was built around high praise for technology and the aesthetics of modernity. Marinetti’s main purpose was to celebrate the power of speed. Indeed, Futurism pretty much kicked after Marinetti’s famous, controversial quote: “We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace. (Marinetti, 1909).

Unfortunately, Futurism became well known at the time also due to its inevitable links to fascism and Benito Mussolini. As Daly explains, “some Futurists distanced themselves from it. But others did not.” After Marinetti’s death “there were surviving Futurists who did try to keep Futurism alive, but there was a reluctance in many circles to really address this movement on its merits because of the shadow of Fascism that was hanging over it.” (Daly, 2017)

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There is no doubt that Futurists did help shape the way others in the 20th century went on to imagine what the future could look like. “BMW recently said they were influenced by the Futurist aesthetic in the design of one of their cars. The Futurist aesthetic still has a very profound influence on the language of advertising.” (Daly, 2017)

So while Marinetti’s controversial vision of the future may have been born out of a specific political moment, it continues to resonate through time.


Daly, S. (2017). How the Italian Futurists shaped the aesthetics of modernity in the 20th century. [online] The conversation. Available at: http://theconversation.com/how-the-italian-futurists-shaped-the-aesthetics-of-modernity-in-the-20th-century-73033 [Accessed 9 Apr. 2017].

The Design Museum – Much ado about nothing (ish)…

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Despite the buzz about the new Design Museum which is all over my Facebook feed and some London based design magazines, the whole experience didn’t exactly live up to my expectations.

The architecture of the venue is beautiful, with a multi purpose staircase, a Guggenheim structure spin with the walkways spiraling upwards. The design however wasn’t that well thought out, a series of photographs on the second floor and a display of 6 designs on the third floor. When you get to the fourth floor you are bombarded with information, you don’t know where to look.

The Design. Maker. User exhibit delivered a rather delightful experience, even if the exhibition suffered due to the problem the entire venue had: small spaces and overcrowding issues.

Reaching the designated floor, audiences are meant to face a large crowd sourced wall that displays what design means to people. Bottle openers, cameras, denim jeans were hanging on the wall, giving us the chance to understand how design is an everyday thing.

Entering the overcrowded “labyrinth”, there was a high-tech section that contained the history of technology and multiple examples of how things are made, like this metal casting mould used to create a £50 pound orange squeezer.

Die-cut logos of famous brands were hanging from the ceiling all around and a Vespa Piaggio was placed above our heads, which I found amusing because they reminded me of a scene taken straight from Harry Potter. The remaining parts of the exhibition were mainly written type on walls, which were difficult to read due to people standing in front of them.

In conclusion, this journey started with a really good first impression with few enjoyable moments, and ended as a bitter-sweet experience…

…much ado about nothing!

Away from constraints – The art of Non-intent

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Sometimes it may happen that an artist wants to express his/her art without any constraint whatsoever and just be guided by his/her own feeling in that moment. In doing so, the artist expresses the desire to lose himself and dive into the unknown just for once. This way of doing things it’s called Non-Intent, something made for pure personal pleasure, without thinking much about the reasons why.

As an artist, is something I prefer doing rather than following a scheme or even being forced to think of a background story when there is NONE. People always use to think that a piece of art is intended for a large public, therefore they think a peace of art should always be crystal clear to the majority of it.

They are wrong.

Barthes’s 1967 critical essay “The Death of the Author” addresses how the work of the artist ends when the piece of art is delivered into the world and how the reader is left to decipher the artist work. The complexity of what the author wanted to express are flattened when it arrives to the reader, the reader has the responsibility to get what the author wants to say. “The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author”, Therefore the reader has the power and the option to more or less ignore the work’s background and focus more on the work itself. This point ultimately leads to Barthes main point: the reader holds more responsibility than the author.

An example could be found in John Cage’s 4’ 33”, a non-intent silent piano song where the artist sits in front of a piano, opens the piano lid and does nothing for four minutes and a half, bows to the public and gets applauses.

In conclusion, going back to Barthes’s essay, it directly links to a question I always ask myself “Why I design?” which I always end up answering bluntly “for myself”, the most important reader of them all.

Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” Art and Interpretation: An Anthology of Readings in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art. Ed. Eric Dayton. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 1998. 383-386. Print.

Lights off! – The Shape Shifting square of Piccadilly Circus

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When talking about billboards and advertisement is impossible not to think of places like Piccadilly Circus (Also called “the mini time square of Europe”) where tourists all over the globe come to see the gigantic LED billboards and be amazed by the mesmerizing vibes. Tying to JP latest CTS about empty billboards, from this month throughout all 2017 the giant billboards that have lit up London’s Piccadilly Circus for more than 100 years have been switched off for renovation.

The six famous screens, which have long been a tourist attraction in the capital, are to be replaced by a single, large curved screen. Vasiliki Arvaniti, Portfolio Manager at Land Securities, which has owned the Lights since the Seventies, said: “This is a huge day for Piccadilly Lights and though it will be a strange feeling to see them go dark, we’re incredibly excited about their future” continues Arvaniti. Will this renovation affect tourism in London? Will this change affects the way tourists will relate to one of the most iconic sightseeing in the UK capital?

To answer the last question, it is necessary to talk about the ongoing changings this gigantic LED billboard has always gone through. Since the late 30’s, this square has always been linked to advertisement and product placement. As WWII started, Piccadilly’s lights went off and they were switched back on in 1949. During the early 50’s the first animated billboards started showing up until they started adopting video billboard back in the 1970’s. No major changes occurred since the 90’s, years where a slight billboard renovation came into place. Since then things did not change much, until now.

As we can see Piccadilly Circus went through different changings over the last fifty years or so, this year renovation is just part of an ongoing enhancement process of one of the top sightseeing in the capital. Go forward London.

1937

1937: Piccadilly Circus at night on New Years Day

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March 1949: The Piccadilly Circus lights were switched back on in 1949 having been off since the Second World War started

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January 1959: Piccadilly Circus is shrouded in fog in the late 1950s, with adverts for Bovril, Schweppes and Coca-Cola visible

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November 1998: Land Securities, which owns the site, was given permission to perform the overhaul by Westminster Council

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July 2006: The normally-lit neon signs are seen switched off at Piccadilly Circus after a power cut hit part of Central London

2014

November 2014: A familiar scene in Central London of Piccadilly Circus – and heavy rain sweeping over the area

Recuperation – A lack of ideas?

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First CTS of term 2 was about Détournement and Recuperation and how this two topics relates to advertisement and art in general. Both were conceptualized by the Situationist International, an international organization of social revolutionaries made up of avant-garde artist rebelling towards a society they didn’t agree with. Both are very significant topics to dive in, but I will choose to case study a rather significant aspect about recuperation.

Speaking of recuperation means giving entirely new meaning to something. It could be an advertisement or a painting; it does not matter as long as the newly produced piace of work will have a complete new meaning or a “parodistic” mean to it, almost mocking the original piece of work. The most famous artist that made recuperation a lifetime signature was Marcel Duchamp, with his famous “Fountain”, a recuperation of a porcelain urinal, that became a proper art masterpiece thanks to its controversial nature.

My question now is: can recuperation be seen as fair? Is it fair to use an already existing idea or object and “make it your own” even if the meaning is completely (or partially) changed? As Tim showed us this morning, many brands have been using this Recuperation process as a way of displaying new ideas through already existing concepts. One of the best examples showed was the Honda Cog advert from 2003 that used exactly the same concept of an already existing Fischli and Weiss’ video from 1987. Even if Honda’s final result was great an maybe even better than the original one, personally I think we are almost talking of an act of plagiarism. Like Honda, many other have been using the recuperation process.

Creativity is endless and anyone can pinch from it, recuperation should not be an excuse to lack of ideas or poor imagination.

On the other hand, the recuperation act could also be seen as a way of expanding the meaning of the original work or even reconsider the original meaning of it.

Overview

Portrait Of Author Susan Sontag

Portrait of American author and critic Susan Sontag (1933 – 2004) smiles broadly as she leans, arms crossed, against a bookshelf in the offices of her publisher, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, New York, January 23, 1978. (Photo by William E. Sauro/New York Times Co./Getty Images)

The work of art itself is also a vibrant, magical, and exemplary object which returns us to the world in some way more open and enriched.

Among all of the different topics we discussed today about Susan Sontag, this was the best line from her way of thinking. It’s always a pleasure when you come across something so powerful and inspiring that re-shapes your way of thinking about that specific topic, or even the whole world around you.

Other people’s perspectives on topics you care about are so important that they could deeply affect your persona, personally and professionally speaking. We could look at this re-shape of the mind as a step-by-step journey in which we will get to know ourselves better or perhaps even change our mindset, habits and ways of seeing things forever.

Something like that happened to me last year.

I casually came across this wonderful “photobook” called Overview (by Benjamin Grant) where the author shows planet earth in an amazingly vibrant, magical never seen before way that got me literally petrified.

It all started by mistake.

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The author himself got this great idea of generating images of planet earth from a satellite point-of-view by mistake. As stated in his book preface, as soon as Grant decided to create a physical book including all his satellite photos he collected so far, he decided to start use a more sofisticated satellite programme to make everything possible.

Many will think that we might already have something that allow us to generate this kind of pictures (via google maps or similar), but still, no one ever came to the conclusion of portraying such detailed and sofisticated images in a dedicated top-notch book.

Vibrant colours and same layout throughout all the book allows the book to be seen as a magical journey through the unseen beauty of our world.