Showing posts with label merchant mentality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label merchant mentality. Show all posts

Sunday, January 16, 2011

what is art for? 2 (art in our merchant society)

[continued from previous post]

so if we adopt the utilitarian viewpoint, then clearly art is for the benefit of mankind.

in my not so humble opinion (imnsho): if the dutch political party pvv wants to state that `art is a leftist hobby', they really show to understand so little of what the world needs that they should be disqualified by voters as quickly as possible.

but -and now i'm coming back to education and johannes itten- in the netherlands we have a long tradition of considering education in the arts to be unimportant. this results in a merchant mentality in large parts of society, a mentality which is actually hampering the netherlands in its economic development - try explaining that to someone who cannot think beyond quick profit.

first of all: design is a key element of industrial commerce, so that design in all its aspects is of major importance in developing one's economy. however, the key aspects of design are largely concomitant with the key elements of the visual arts...and nobody, nobody comes close to what visual artists have developed in this respect over the centuries. so take another look at `kunst und farbe' by johannes itten:

kunst der farbe, johannes itten
johannes itten, kunst der farbe (art of colour)

in this book many insights about colour are developed and explained in a very inspiring manner. one could easily call this book a scientific text on the `feel and use' of colour. this also illustrates that the words `art' and `science' are in a way on the same level...since art is also the science of esthetics - as contrasted to esthetics as a branch of philosophy (you should really read this link, if this topic `what is art for?' interests you).

so instead of teaching `dry' economy for three hours a week, four years of secondary school, why not add a module `economic impact of colour'...? that would certainly straighten some not-so-leftist strange ideas about the importance of art...and hopefully also about the importance of art education.

(i simply repeat johannes itten's work from the previous post, since it is about education:)

johannes itten
johannes itten "Education is revelation that affects the individual."--Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, The Education of the Human Race, 1780. From the series Great Ideas of Western Man. (1966, click on the image for an enlargement)

[to be continued]

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

monarchy & vpro continued 3 (art in our merchant society, more digital design)

[oh well, i probably should have added what follows next to the previous post, but it would have become so terribly long.]

one thing certainly strikes me: last year's theme `the monarchy' certainly struck home a lot more than this year's theme `ode to paper'. in fact, looking at the designs which were pitched, the first thing that glares at us is that so many of last year's designs were so negative about our royal family. so let me make a small leap of imagination here.

first of all, last year the vpro chose as winner a non-committal design, bland even, which did not relate a lot to the briefing, but which did have the decided advantage that it would not give negative publicity (one must remember that the royal family still has the support of well over 80% of the population - incredible but true.). looking at the submitted designs, there were obviously enough excellent designs that -if made vpro cover- would have led to a lot of commotion under vpro members, and possibly non-members too.

so could it be that in our merchant society, the vpro hesitates to use covers which are really confrontational, which really touch on the societal issues at hand? i would not be surprised if the vpro was surprised last year by the vehemence of the designs offered. so that might explain the rather bland theme this year: `ode to paper'. no way that there will be controversial designs coming out of that theme!

ok, sorry for bitching, but it still is a fundamental issue: why would the vpro not be happy with the real societal response they had with the theme `monarchy'? is that not truly fantastic, if you can mobilize people's visual creativity around current societal debates? [ongoing, in case of the monarchy, for this great institution costs our society 114 million euros a year...if you can believe that in a time where we are budget-cutting hospitals, care centers, schools etc.].

so once more i hope the vpro will take the stance that controversy is better than blandness. we do not need blandness in this society which is sorely late for some real refurbishing. we do not need more bland television, more entertainment, empty amusement. we need sharp criticism of banking institutions, of greed, corruption, of discrimination etc. etc. IF we are ever to do better than our predecessors who made such a mess of things.


ok, then i still owe you my design for last year:

design frank waaldijk, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2010
design frank waaldijk, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2010 (click on the image for an enlargement)

the design was largely based on the vpro briefing, in which the television series `bernhard, scoundrel of orange' featured prominently. elements in the design: the picture of the st. bernard dog to me is the symbolization of the sanctimonious denial by bernhard of all his missteps, i added the halo for the same effect. the dog is in black and white, visualizing that all this was in the past (bernhard passed away in 2004; original colour photo of the st. bernard by daniel steger, under a creative commons license 2.5, which implies my design is under the same cc 2.5 license, see the original picture on wikipedia)

the orange crown was added, to picture bernhard as saviour of the monarchy. you will see the colours of our national flag in the background. all in keeping with the sanctimonious picture of our royal family as being good for our country.

the added text reads: `bernhard and the monarchy' ... however, i added a little venom, because in dutch this would read `bernhard en de monarchie' but if you look carefully you will see that there is in fact no space between `de' and `monarchie' so it really reads (though unobtrusively so):

`bernhard and demonarchy'


not a very brilliant design perhaps, but it finally gave me the opportunity to vent some of the indignation i felt as an 11 yr old, when bernhard wasn't even prosecuted for his corruption.

oh, i also made a version with lettering (but i could not easily obtain high quality fonts) because i thought it would be nice if the halo passed through the lettering:

design frank waaldijk with logo, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2010
design frank waaldijk with logo, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2010 (click on the image for an enlargement)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

art in our merchant society 2 (more digital design)

[see also previous post! oh well, i'm careening a bit between two subjects (see the ambiguous title), sorry]


marcel klein's design for the vpro cover competition (see previous post, not nominated by the jury - i take it for granted neither marcel nor vpro will mind my putting up this design on my blog, if so just let me know and i will remove it and replace it with just the link).

i like it for a couple of reasons. the somewhat strange composition, which works out lively and elegant. but also the sharp juxtaposition of `old' and `new' technology - paper cut-outs and computer-related cables - in the form of a tree...which is what paper is made of, usually...and what also constitutes a big argument against paper, namely wouldn't we want those trees to serve a better purpose?

moreover, notwithstanding the briefing from the vpro which contained some nostalgia about paper being on its return, as far as i know our paper consumption has not decreased since the ICT revolution, but on the contrary has increased...perhaps because we print out all those emails and memos and reports and all the try-out versions of these products too, i don't know.

so the image also describes this process: a lot of electronic communication ends in physical paper...

therefore: nice! - but not immediately classifiable as an ode to paper, you could say. does that really disqualify this design? i would say on the contrary, it lifts the original commission to a higher level.

(grumpy me: i'm not completely enthusiastic about the colours, and one could also point out that the branching out of one of the electronic-cable-branches is a bit obviously photoshopped, so be it)

anyway, i'm not saying this design should have won or should have been nominated, but in comparison to some of the nominated designs it is clear that the jury looks more to direct visual effect than to possible deeper layers.

it would in my not so humble opinion be a step forward if also designs that consider a more complex message would get serious reconsideration. not only in this competition, but in cover designs overall.


however, in a merchant society, i believe that subtle and/or complex art is bound to suffer. time is money, after all! if i cannot grasp the meaning of something in a few seconds, then i might lose valuable opportunities of course that only the most blatant art will impress my newfound family of rich entrepreneurs who also seek to impress me with their blatant modern art collection...

obviously i speak not in absolutes, but i believe this to be the general prevailing mechanism in modern (or contemporary if you prefer) art. and this is judging by what i see in museums and galleries specializing in the `top' of contemporary art. (but you know my views on quality mechanisms, else search this blog for `quality' (without the single quotes this becomes a funny statement, but perhaps true too...)).

it all boils down to the question:

what is art for?

in a merchant society, you can imagine the most common reply. and this is then subsequently what drives our art market, our art institutions, and if we are very very unlucky our artists as well.

Monday, January 3, 2011

art in our merchant society (more digital design)

every year, the dutch broadcasting corporation vpro holds an open design competition for the cover of its first magazine of the new year.

a very inspiring idea!!

and one should really look at all the designs that people make, they are put on the vpro's website for cover 1. it is very inspiring to see what is being made by young and old, professional and non-professional.

of course, i would'nt be grumpy old me if i wasn't grumpy old me, so i also see quite a number of drawbacks to the way this competition is organized, remains a nice and original idea! for many amateur/semi-amateur designers, where can one find a similar opportunity to create a design with (if you win of course...) national exposure?

which is partly why i like to participate, from time to time. not every year, because i often don't feel much affinity with the selected theme (like this year's theme: `ode to paper' - it just doesn't do much for me, because for me the direction has been predetermined too much. it would have worked better for me if it had been simply: `paper', but even that probably would not really have set me on fire, i suppose, much as i like paper as a medium and also as a material).

so far i have participated twice, with designs that i really like and which naturally failed to draw any attention from the jury...;-) but thankfully i have reached a stage where i understand that drawing attention from a jury is a very subjective affair, and also isn't the only thing that makes a design worthwhile.

but even if i don't participate, i usually take quite some time to look at the designs made by others, because it is really inspiring, like i said. from this i have noticed that my way of looking is rather different than the jury's...if i were to nominate 10 designs, in most years there would be not more than one or two overlaps with the nomination of the jury, and frequently none.


the next will sound arrogant, i know. but to me it sometimes seems as if really intelligent design is at a disadvantage. i have seen some excellent designs going unnoticed [yeah i know you could now laugh at me, but i'm not talking about my own designs ;-)], where the only reason for this that i could think of was that the idea behind the design was subtle, and took more than a short moment's reflection to grasp.

this brings us back (i think i discussed this earlier on this blog, but i'm not sure!) to the discussion on how `popular' art should be. the vpro prides itself on bringing programs that bring real content and culture, a deepening of background shall we say. therefore i think that it is a real sign of the times that even in the vpro-setting `intelligent' design is at a disadvantage.

to me it seems that we dutch are simply not motivated to invest time and effort in building our culture to the point where art, music, literature, poetry, film, etc. are appreciated as a valuable way to determine what values we treasure, what ways we should go and what ways we should not go with our society.

our new government is a very appalling example of the merchant mind which seems to dominate the netherlands. what a poor culture my country really has, is sometimes obscured by the many great painters which were born in the netherlands. but they are really just a strange exception to the dutch rule.

and it is also surprising that with such a merchant mentality, many eminent scientists also came from the netherlands. however, this latter phenomenon cannot persist i believe. whereas the natural talent for painting seems to be indigenous, to maintain a high level of science requires a definite non-merchant mentality. i'm sure we will see the downslide of dutch science in the decades to come. and we deserve it, for being so short-sighted and narrow-minded.

now who will be able to illuminate the blind? traditionally, i would say, it should be the artists (all liberal arts included). but in our merchant society, they are currently being put down as irrelevant (unless commercially successful) and as being basically parasitic on society - i'm NOT joking.

this is what happens when we vote for people who have no real cultural upbringing, no real cultural reflection, no basis for the insight that the arts are about everything that we hold dear. who can only think in terms of success, failure, money, power, fear, control, get the idea.

what does beauty mean to these people? what does colour mean? a song or a poem that brings the tears to one's eyes?

[to be continued]