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.

overview

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.

Who is Dan Slatter (or Andrew Friedman)?

A researcher’s background and position will affect what they choose to investigate, the angle of investigation, the methods judged most adequate for this purpose, the findings considered most appropriate, and the framing and communication of conclusions.’

This CTS was with no doubt the best CTS so far, Andrew fully opened his heart and started going through his own personal (and professional!) growth from the starts to his life as a lecturer at LCC. Was such a blast for me and all of us!

As a headstart for his own story of self-discovery in the society he’s living in, Andrew started his CTS with the powerful meaning of the word Reflexivity (the quote at the start of this blog post) from Malterud, K, which I find very on point and also very close to me. I also think that Reflexivity is what gave Andrew the push to tell his story with such freedom and relax! Well done Andrew!

Dan chosed to tell his story via a personal link to the persona of Dan Friedman: a 360° outsider artist that kept experimenting through art his entire life, without never being linked to just one style. Friedman said in 1994:

I have chosen to define my position as that of an artist whose subject affects all aspects of life. […] In whatever area of speciality, I have wilfully maintained the perspective of an outsider. My goal in working in the “margins” has been to find a fresher view into the centre of things’.

Christopher Pullman recently stated as follow:

Dan Friedman exhibited that rare ability to shift seamlessly between the worlds of education, design, art, writing, and social activism.

As writing was a huge part of the life of both Andrew and Dan, the former also introduced us to George Orwell “Why I wrote?” four great motives for writing, which I personally think they can be applied to lots of fields of expertise, including art:

1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood etc..

2. Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement.

3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and to store them up for the use of posterity.

4. Political purpose. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the of the kind of society they should strive after. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

The art of (indirectly) repeating yourself

Is it possible to win an election thanks to social media? YES IT IS.

No one ever thought this was even remotely possible, but it happened. Social media helped Donald Trump winning 2016 elections with a bang!

As Hito Steyerl point out in her “In Defense of the Poor Image”(2012), ‘there are people who care enough about photos to convert them over and over again, to add subtitles, reedit, or upload them’. Millions (billions!) of people will get to see them.

This is basically how Donald Trump won the elections.

People will wonder “ If half of the world still despise him, how Donald Trump won the elections? Why he won thanks to social media?“. The answer is around the corner: people still despise him, that’s the secret. People all over the globe got up one day and started to get conscious of this new freak phenomenon ready to rule America. Even if the vast majority kept sharing negative images (the so called memes) of Donald Trump, this endless sharing brought “brand” awareness to a whole new level and the new president-elected himself to a new glory, in no time he became King of the Web!

We could say that differently from Clinton (which created an entire new brand for her 2016 campaign), in order to get elected Trump didn’t really move a finger, his awareness campaign was already set in motion thanks to social media. Even if social media were a huge part of Trump 2016 Triumph, many people were already familiar with his billionaire (playboy philanthropist?) figure due to his famous luxury hotel business, so perhaps this is also another reason why.

There is (still) apparently no undebatable reason why Trump won, people are still getting their heads around it, and if there is even one, only few lobbies knows.

Will we ever know the real reason behind this nightmarish victory?

The Ulm model – Aftermath

For Germany, the devastation of the war, both architectural and moral, had been so complete that the future could only be thought of as a starting point from an absolute beginning.

The Ulm model was created as a necessity to Re-shape the (undetermined) future after World War II required the world, especially Germany, to make a big step ahead and move on, for good. A more minimalistic approach through aesthetically pleasing, futuristic and modern design was taken into account as a starting point for teacher and students to share the same anti-conformist vision, by which the Ulm academy is mostly well-known for.

1-ulm-school-building

This exhibition visually showed and perfectly described what the aim of Ulm designers was; The exhibition venue was formed of three floors, with no particular attention to the order of things. As the curator pointed out, this decision was made to reflect the uniqueness of the Ulm model with the intention of differentiating Raven Row’s venue itself from other “classic” venues that usually have some sort of order (which I rarely get anyway). Works by Hans Von Klier, Walter Zeischegg, Hans Gugelot and Max Bill were shown throughout the exhibition, again with no particular order, making the exhibition a bit hard to understand and lot less enjoyable than I first thought.

There is no doubt that the Ulm model gave us many cutting edge products (and designer aswell!) that led us to nowadays future: an example could be Hans Gugelot’s Braun first black/chrome shaver (1962), products of this type had previously depended upon the medical association of whites and putty colours. Gugelot’s re-design anticipated the development in 1960s of a new product sector in ‘personal grooming’; Another striking example is the visual re-branding for Lufthansa (1963) from former Ulm student Hans Conrad which, after more than half a century, is still pretty much the same.

Kapos, P. (2016). The Ulm Model. London: Raven Row.