Paulin, Paulin, Paulin – An Artful Design Dialogue

One of the main difficulties in displaying objects of design in an exhibition setting is how out of context they often feel. Taken out of their everyday setting, where they are given meaning through use, and placed in the silent environment of a white gallery objects are unable to tell stories about their purpose and role in the world. Aware of this unexpected muteness, curators of design try to offer contextual clues through descriptions, drawings, photographs, documents, yet objects can often resist theoretical talk in favour of a more tactile, multisensory dialogue. A recent exhibition at Galerie Perrotin attempts to diffuse such complexities by constructing a dialectical relationship between objects of design and works of art.

Titled “Paulin, Paulin, Paulin” the exhibition brings together the work of Pierre Paulin, one of the most significant French designers of the past century, with a series of artworks that share a vision and affinity, or production context and contextual reference with his work. Paulin’s most significant work was produced during the 1960s, in an era signed by technological innovation, creative imagination and liberation from social constraints. His work, marked by an organic, de-structured formal composition, exploited technological innovation in order to display non-conformity towards social rules, while participating in exponential expansion of consumer culture, just like works of pop-art included in the show.

Similarly, “Dune” and “Tapis-Siège” pieces, designed by Paulin in 1970 for Herman Miller, are brought to life through the work by John De Andrea, that shows a hyperrealist figure of a languorous naked woman, sitting on a “Dune,” highlighting its sensuality, as does another figure, lying in the middle of a “Tapis- Siège” which is made half of origami and half oriental carpets. Halfway between fiction and reality, the shows brings together the ironic seriousness of works like Elmgreen & Dragset’s Untitled (Home is the Place You Left) with Paulin’s objects designed for everyday, timeless use. But what is the point of this dialogue? If exhibitions of design put objects out of context, how can their mingling with art contribute to any better understanding of what design is? By placing Pierre Paulin’s innovative work alongside iconic artworks, the curator of the exhibition, Cloé Pitiot, tells us about the cultural and ideological context of their creation, points to possible interpretations of the domestic environment of their use, and shows what is their place in the world today.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of Galerie Perrotin 

The Story of J.Kim – From Korea and Moscow to Paris

J.Kim is a fairly new, yet incredibly savvy, Moscow-based brand founded by the Korean-born designer Jenia Kim. In just five seasons the label has become a fashion favourite, holding its last presentation in Paris this year – a clear mark o fits growing success. Even though this success has happened quit fast, the young designer has experimented a lot before launching the line in order to find her signature style. For Spring/Summer ’16 Jenia Kim has developed some of those strengths and created a collection with innovative silhouettes, a great balance between clean and more eye-catching pieces and focus on the details. Shoulder pads. Marked waists. Ruffles. Embellishments. 3D dimensional flower prints. In J.Kim’s work, crazy creative meets the cool office girl, and who wouldn’t like to be that person?

Even though Jenia Kim has found her design aesthetic, she still believes that the brand is in the making. Learning by doing is a philosophy that every designer should follow, especially in this industry where everything is a constant development and a work in progress. Though, one thing is certain, hard work and a lot of passion are needed to build a brand, and it is obvious that Jenia Kim lives and breaths fashion. She believes in her own ideas and in developing a unique, signature style. J.Kim has probably not reached its final design expression, but it is clear that it has a DNA that makes it stand out among so many other young, ambitious brands. Her design idea is her own and that is probably one of the keys to her success. We are looking forward to seeing her future collections and we are sure they will be as smashing as those embellished, ruffled pants!

Hanna Cronsjö 

Helmut Newton – Pages From the Glossies

Helmut Newton, master of late 20th-century fashion photography, always considered the printed page the most important factor in his work. It was, he explained, in the framework of an editorial or advertising commission, that he found his inspiration and produced his best shots.

Joining the prestigious roster of TASCHEN’s Helmut Newton titles, including Sex & Landscapes, World without Men, and the much coveted Helmut Newton SUMO, this fresh edition of Pages from the Glossies gathers the most eminent and interesting examples of Helmut Newton’s work for magazines across Europe and the United States. Facsimiles of more than 500 original spreads from the likes of Elle, Amica, and, above all, Vogue follow Newton’s ongoing ability to break the boundaries of his genre and explore the interaction of his unique, daring, pictures with typography and layout. In lively personal anecdotes alongside the spreads, Newton talks through the inspirations and informal moments behind some of his most memorable images. We follow him scouting models, setting up a shot with the captain of a nuclear submarine, collaborating with Anna Wintour, and negotiating between different cultural attitudes towards the nude.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of Taschen 

Can Design find Happiness? Sagmeister at MAK

What makes us happy or at least happier? Stefan Sagmeister, the “grand master of graphic design,” embarked on intensive research into personal happiness, omitting no possible means in the process. Meditation, cognitive therapy, mood-altering drugs — Sagmeister tested everything that promised happiness on his own body and then translated his experiments into the exhibition The Happy Show, which has now arrived at MAK in Vienna after previously being on display in North America and Paris. Running until 28 March 2016, STEFAN SAGMEISTER: The Happy Show pervades the MAK with the designer’s captivating search for happiness.

Is it possible to train the mind to be happy? Or at least happier? Can the mind be trained in the same way as the body? These are only some of the core questions in the show, which can be answered with an unequivocal “yes.” The Happy Show demonstrates quite clearly that there are things we can do that will make us happier. It all depends on our attitude, our habits, and our behavior, according to one of Sagmeister’s messages. However, what we expect will make us happier will not always do so. “I normally find definitions rather boring. But happiness is such a huge topic that it is perhaps worth a try,” is Sagmeister’s comment on his own happiness research. In handwritten commentaries on walls, railings, and in the bathrooms of the museum, he explains his ideas and reasons for the projects on display. Social scientific data by the psychologists Daniel Gilbert, Steven Pinker, and Jonathan Haidt, the anthropologist Donald Symons, and important historians, who position his experiments in a broader context, supplement his personal notes. Sagmeister addresses a colorful panoply of parameters for happiness, such as religion, money, marriage, sex, activities like surfing on the internet or reading the newspaper, as well as the relation between the number of sexual partners and levels of satisfaction.

The search for a symbol for happiness will be a collective affair: visitors can push buttons, draw lucky symbols on small strips of paper, draw cards with tasks, and are invited to withdraw money from an ATM while donating 20 cents. A display with silver plates offers visitors Sagmeister’s favorite candies. At the installation How happy are you? visitors can answer with their own “level of happiness” on a scale from 1 to 10 by taking a piece of chewing gum from the respective place. In turn, this action will visualize the collective happiness level of the visitors to the exhibition.

The Blogazine 

Utopian Bodies – Fashion Looks Forward

The latest in a row of great Swedish fashion exhibitions is Utopian Bodies – Fashion Looks Forward. It celebrates creativity at the same time as it shows possible visions for the future and explains how fashion can be part of the solutions rather than focusing on the many problems surrounding the industry. The visitor is then, through eleven different themes such as suitability, change, technology, hand craft and form, solidarity, opposition and society, gender identity and love, supposed to create his or her own opinion and vision for the future. Different rooms are all inspired by utopian ideas- some are finished, others are supposed to let the visitor be a part of that process and come up with their own ideas. Together they are creating a fusion between many different fashion fields, such as tech, social commitments and creativity all with the purpose of showcasing the possibilities that these mixes can bring.

Great designers and collections such as Victor & Rolf’s Spring/Summer collection as well as items from their “Hana Bedtime Story” from 2005, Dior couture from Spring/Summer 2013, Hussein Chalayan’s iconic wooden skirt and Issey Miyake’s innovative King & Queen installation from Spring/Summer 1999 A-POC collection, which was made with ”zero-waste”, are all exhibited. Other highlights from the exhibition are several pieces from one of the world’s biggest collections of Alexander McQueen creations, Prada’s sparkling rainbow look from Spring/Summer 2014 and creations from several other international fashion houses such as KENZO, Gucci, Acne, Dries Van Noten, Sonia Rykiel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Massaro to just name a few. In addition to the pieces from international designers, 16 specially created pieces from some of Sweden’s most well known designers are also being exhibited.

Another interesting theme is the memory room, in which items specially related to certain people or happenings are being showed. Pieces from celebrities such as Lykke Li and Twiggy are exhibited with the purpose of remembering the story behind the clothes. New technology is, as previously mentioned, also one of the exhibition themes, and some of the coolest wearable techniques as well as examples of how fashion is handling the global climate crises are shown. Some of our favourite innovations are Ying Gao’s pieces that react to the viewer’s voice and glance and byBorre’s BBsuit 0.2 that cleans polluted air around you with wearable filter technology.

When seeing all these innovations and creations two things become very obvious: fashion is so much more than just clothes, and we believe it can be apart of the solution to climate crises and actually contribute to making the world to a better place.

Hanna Cronsjö 

How we Imagine Ourselves: Body of Art

How do we decide to show our bodies speaks volumes about our culture, heritage, past and traditions. A recently published tome by Phaidon is the first book to celebrate the beautiful and provocative ways artists have represented, scrutinized and utilized the body over centuries. “Body of Art” chooses to examine art through that most accessible and relatable lens: the human body. Diverse and multi-cultural, it explores the manifestations of the body through time, cultures and media, while also being visually arresting. Featuring over over 400 artists, the works range from 11,000 BC hand stencils in Argentine caves to videos and performances by contemporary artists such as Marina Abramovic, Joan Jonas and Bruce Nauman, showing the power of human body to express much more than its physical limitation.

The Blogazine 

I ♥ JOHN GIORNO at Palais de Tokyo in Paris

“In the early 1960s, I had the good fortune of meeting a lot of artists. Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Trisha Brown and Carolee Schneeman. These artists and painters were the real influence on me, as a poet. Whether it was a performance or a painting, they did what arose in their minds, and made it happen. It occurred to me that poetry was seventy five years behind painting and sculpture and dance and music. I said to myself, if these artists can do it, why can’t I do it for poetry?” This is one of the opening lines that characterizes the new exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, dedicated to the life and work of American poet John Giorno, conceived by his partner, Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone as a work in its own right.

“UGO RONDINONE : I ♥ JOHN GIORNO” is structured in eight chapters, each representing “a layer of Giorno’s multifaceted work”. Taken as a whole, they reflect how he works and help us to understand the dual influences that American culture and Buddhism had on his life and art. Giorno, in fact, is an iconic character in Andy Warhol’s early films who found inspiration in the appropriation of found images by Pop artists and captured the real-life colloquial language of advertisements, television, newspapers and street slang. A leading figure in the lineage of the Beat Generation, he revived the genre of ‘found poetry’ and worked to make poetry accessible to all.

Whether they are recorded on an album, painted on a canvas, delivered on stage or deconstructed in the pages of a book, Giorno considers poems as images that can be endlessly reproduced using different technologies. ‘In the age of sampling, cut and paste, digital manipulation of text, appropriation as art form – which finds its peak in hip-hop and the textual orgy of the World Wide Web – the world is finally catching up with techniques and styles that Giorno pioneered several decades ago.’ Combining poetry, visual arts, music and performance, the exhibition reveals the significant influence of Giorno’s life and work on several generations of artists who have portrayed him, from Andy Warhol’s cinematic masterpiece Sleep (1963) and its remake by Pierre Huyghe, to R.E.M, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Elizabeth Peyton, Françoise Janicot, Verne Dawson, Billy Sullivan and Judith Eisler.

The Blogazine 

N°21 Menswear takes a Leap into Female Wardrobes

N°21 used to be known solely for their cool and contemporary womenswear, but that was before they launched their menswear line. With their expansion, N°21 is dressing urban people around the world and their menswear pieces are as cool as the womenswear we learned to appreciate. They have captured the modern aesthetic that made them famous and developed it in the menswear collection. SS16 has clear references to womenswear, including skirts, layering, short shorts and lace. Pieces from the classic male wardrobe are also included, and redesigned with versions of traditional menswear items such as the coat, shirt and pants coming down the runway.

This is one example of a bigger tendency seen in the current fashion picture. Menswear is, as we have written about before, going through an explorative and exciting new phase were it suddenly becomes the site of exploration after a long time of being quite traditional and ’safe’. Gender is less important today than it historically has been, and the focus is instead put on the individual. Many womenswear designers are taking inspiration from the classic male wardrobe, the suit trend is a current example and menswear is doing the same by exploring traditional female garments. However, with N°21 menswear SS/16 collection, we have seen many transition from womenswear pieces that have shifted the attention towards their expertise with female clothing. On the other hand, their womenswear was fair and almost romantic, not often seen on N°21. When comparing the menswear and womenswear collections it is therefore obvious that even though gender might be playing a less central part of today’s fashion industry, it is obviously still very present.

Hanna Cronsjö 

Doll-Power: Barbie at MUDEC

There is something striking in the word ‘icon’. In its bold shortness, it bears all the power embedded in the objects and people it defines. The MUDEC Museo delle Culture in Milan has recently opened an exhibition called ‘The Icon’. The exhibition is dedicated to the tall, blonde, America’s sweetheart par excellence – Barbie.

Curated by Massimiliano Capella, the exhibition celebrates Barbie’s 56th birthday, crossing the boundaries between space and time; it showcases about 400 different dolls, and is divided in five sections: the first dedicated to the relationship between Barbie and the fashion world; the second centred on the family, the people who compose Barbie’s ‘clique’; the third showcases the professions which Barbie has taken over during her long life; the fourth looks at the traditional costumes from different countries and cultures that Barbie has worn; the fifth and last section is called ‘Regina, Diva and Celebrity’ and addresses to the popularity and the very features of Barbie as an icon. It is interesting to think about why a museum mainly concerned with ethnography and anthropology would organise an exhibition about Barbie. It is not only a celebration of an icon of pop culture, but a reflection on one of the most recognised and immediate ‘material testimonies’ of almost 60 years of global history.

Thinking about material culture, the first questions that come to mind have to do with its impact both as an object with precise characteristics and as a symbol. What is its agency? What is its power? What are the positive and negative consequences in relating to it, as individuals and as politically and culturally defined groups? At a first glance, the exhibition does not seem to offer a completely exhaustive answer to these questions; it doesn’t seem to problematize the matter, serving as a display more than a reflection on controversial hot-topics related to Barbie – for example the discourse around the body or the fixed idea of beauty that the toy proposes. In a way, this feature, generally recognised as negative, is even praised, precisely by presenting the way in which the doll has become an actual muse for fashion designers. Nevertheless, the display is useful to point out some main themes, some main actions of which Barbie is responsible, in her role of icon. First of all education: the section about careers shows the many possible professions that can be taken up by a woman, responding to the cliché that depicts Barbie as an anti-feminist doll; the section about traditional costumes opens up the possibility of teaching diversity, and to open children to different cultures – even though these traditions are applied to a standardised body.

Highly controversial both as an object and as a symbol, Barbie is one of the images of pop culture, and its force resides in its timelessness and in its ability to adapt to changes and to respond rapidly not only to swifts in taste and fashions, but also in culture in the wider sense of the term. Its evolving nature, well addressed by the exhibition, opens up to further analysis of its ‘dark side’ and, in general, its complexity as a cultural product.

Marta Franceschini 

Gianni Berengo Gardin Exposes a New Venice

For more than a couple of decades, life in Venice – perhaps the most charming and preciously conserved city in the world – has been profoundly changing, with an ever growing global flux of tourists showing deeper and more profound problems on which the town was, perhaps, built. A new exhibition in the lagoon city brings together the contradictions of Venice, told through the lens of one of its most well-known photographic masters. The Olivetti showroom – designed by late architect Carlo Scarpa and recently reopened after a renovation by Italian association FAI – hosts a show portraying the daily arrival and departure of cruise ships in the Venetian lagoon.

The exhibition of the photographs is intended to document the landscape of the cruise liners. The implacable black and white of Gianni Berengo Gardin’s photographs has, as always in his work, the purpose of bringing to light, with a sensitive and critical eye, the contrasts implicit in reality, society and the landscape, which are represented without filters or softening, in their raw essence. Gianni Berengo Gardin has never wanted to be called an artist. His mission has always been to document, to be a witness to his own time, and even when faced with the cruise liners – these anomalous, abnormal and extraneous presences set against the Venetian panorama – the photographer has done what he knows how to do best: to communicate through his photographs.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia