On Saturday July 26th 2014, Future Tense artist Mark Andrew Webber successfully completed the first experimental prints from his giant-sized typographic linocut map of Berlin. Completed with help from several printmaking experts along with enthusiastic members of the public, the artist used an improvised 500kg sand-filled roller – the 3.4m x 1.8m dimensions make it impossible to print using a commercial press – along with traditional hand-burnishing techniques to produce the prints. Amongst the crowds gathered to witness the event were Berlin-based designer, Erik Spiekermann – renowned typographer and co-founder of Fontshop.
Webber, 28, who has suffered from severe arthritis since childhood, spent a total of 16 months creating the map, including 2 months living in Berlin and 6 months laid on his studio floor carving the linocut. Webber is producing the prints in a makeshift public studio as part of his Wonderlust solo show at the Londonewcastle Project Space in Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, until Sunday August 10th.
Whilst living in Berlin to research the project, Webber spent each day walking through the city, taking notes on key buildings and specific typographic usage within each area, and whilst the map is geographically accurate, Webber considers the work to be more of a design study than an exercise in topography.
A stop-motion video of the entire linocut carving process can be found here.
A full gallery of images from the show and live printing can be found here.
A fantastic BBC News article about the project can be found here.
During the closing weekend of 9/10 August, members of the public are invited to participate in collectively hand-burnishing prints from the linocut – a rare opportunity to both meet the artist and to actively get involved.
To celebrate its selection as a top-5 show for Time Out and Whitechapel Gallery’s August ‘First Thursday’ event, exhibition curator The Future Tense will host a drinks reception at the gallery from 6 – 9pm on Thursday 7th August, supported by Meantime Brewing Company.
Wonderlust is presented in association with Londonewcastle Arts Programme.
The first in a series of six new essays commissioned by The Future Tense as part of Mark Andrew Webber’s FORM series, Steven Poole searches for order out of chaos and finds that, with a little creative thinking, even the strictest and most staid of rules can produce wonders.
In his essay “On Prudence” for The Idler, the great Augustan lexicographer, critic, and wit Samuel Johnson explained why slavishly following rules could never result in something admirable: “Rules may obviate faults, but can never confer beauties,” he wrote. “The world is not amazed with prodigies of excellence, but when wit tramples upon rules, and magnanimity breaks the chains of prudence.” Sage advice. Yet two centuries later, a combination of computer and organic genius found what seems a startling exception.
In 1980, in a basement at Harvard, the French mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot was using a Vax supermini computer to investigate the geometry implied by following the rule of repeating a very simple formula. To his amazement, the screen gradually filled with a tremendously complicated vista of psychedelic curlicues, like seashells or spiral galaxies. Initially he thought that there was something wrong with the computer. But when he zoomed in on a part of the image, it looked the same as the full-sized scene, with ever-tinier curls and tendrils as more and more detail was revealed. It seemed to be an infinitely complex shape. In this way, the celebrated “Mandelbrot set” was discovered. Samuel Johnson could not have anticipated it, but in this case rules did confer beauties.
I remember my own thrill at discovering this story while reading James Gleick’s wonderful book Chaos as a teenager. In a footnote, Gleick gives the formula for the Mandelbrot set. I dug out my old Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer from its cardboard box, and wrote a simple program in BASIC that would iterate the formula, plotting a single pixel on screen each time. I ran the program and left it crunching numbers. Many hours later (for the Spectrum, bless it, was about a million times less powerful than your smartphone), I was amazed to see a real Mandelbrot set — monochrome and low-resolution, but recognisable — on the TV screen. The fact that I had recreated the thing myself at home encouraged the Platonic belief that Mandelbrot did not create the Mandelbrot set but rather it was discovered by him. As the mathematician Roger Penrose wrote: “The Mandelbrot set is not an invention of the human mind: it was a discovery. Like Mount Everest, the Mandelbrot set is just there!”
A rule, then, can imply a whole universe. A rule can be fecund in a seemingly magical way, generating results that are impossible to predict merely by inspecting the rule. Before the Mandelbrot set, mathematicians had also seen such emergent phenomena in action with their investigations of “cellular automata”, such as John Conway’s Game of Life, which can be played out (albeit slowly) on graph paper, with eerily biological-seeming results. More generally, as we know, games of (nearly) all types are founded on rules. But the beauty or excitement of any particular game that is played can never be forecast from a consideration of the rules themselves. The world’s greatest chess players have a Platonic sense, too, of their own rule-bound universe. A top-level chess game might be spoken of as an “exploration” of certain ideas; the players, though adversaries, are also cooperating in an attempt to discover the “truth” of a position.
Vastly more powerful computing systems than that on which Benoît Mandelbrot first explored his fractal cosmos now run rule-based simulations for the entertainment of hundreds of millions of people around the world. I am speaking, of course, of videogames. The rule-set of a modern videogame such as Grand Theft Auto V or Far Cry 2 is enormously more complicated than that of chess. But game designers still seek a set of rules that will allow for emergent behaviours they had not thought of. Thoughtful videogame creators such as Clint Hocking or Warren Spector have written fondly of watching players using tactics they had never expected, prompting behaviour by the game’s artificial characters that they had not explicitly programmed in. Such examples show us that the person who designs a set of rules is thereby designing a set of possible worlds. Like a deity designing the laws of nature that will reign in his cosmos.
So it takes creativity to design fruitful rules in the first place. But even once they are in place, they do not nullify the role of human inspiration. Creative artists throughout history have found that rule-based restrictions have liberated their creativity, whether in the strict rules of harmony and counterpoint in Baroque music, or the poetic forms of sonnet and villanelle, or the exotic rules dreamed up by the French literary group Oulipo in the 20th century, which resulted in, for instance, a great novel — La Disparition, by Georges Perec — written without once using the letter “e”.
Even the Mandelbrot set needed a creative mind first to suspect that an apparently simple formula might conceal hidden depths, and then to understand its significance and draw from such discoveries more general lessons about fractal shapes in disciplines as far afield as physics, linguistics, and finance. So it seems Samuel Johnson needs only a mild updating. Rules by themselves cannot confer beauties; but the right rules, allied with the right mind, can produce wonders.
© Steven Poole, 2014
For more details about FORM or to make a purchase please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The last 3 weeks has seen our biggest production to date take over London’s Shoreditch, at the fantastically flexible Londonewcastle Project Space on Redchurch Street.
As well as debuting the final part of Gérard Rancinan and Caroline Gaudriault’s ‘Trilogy of the Moderns’, we cast members of the public to appear in the very last composition, which is an updated family portrait of the now-iconic Batman Family taken 75 years on. Have they saved the world? Watch this making-of video from the shoot to get some clues!
If you want to see the work in person, there is an unveiling ceremony and panel session from 6.30pm Thursday June 21 at the gallery. Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/329143020496201/ for more details.
Last Saturday, as part of his solo show at The Old Vic Tunnels, Future Tense artist, Joseph Loughborough completed the final work from the series in front of a live public audience. We captured the results so that you can see this fantastically gifted artist at work.
In one week’s time, on Wednesday June 6th, a select group of press and collectors will be the first people in the UK to witness the final installment in Gérard Rancinan and Caroline Gaudriault‘s epic Trilogy of the Moderns. Situated somewhere between comedy and tragedy, this vivid photographic tableau and accompanying texts paints a picture of a confused humanity, groping blindly in the darkness, obsessed with the cult of celebrity and guided only by an absolute desire for generalised, prescribed happiness.
As committed witnesses of this metamorphoses affecting society, photographer, Gérard Rancinan, and writer, Caroline Gaudriault, have engaged in an ongoing dialogue over almost a decade, delivering their dual observations on a generation seeking relentless progress at any cost.
We took a few minutes out ahead of the exhibition to chat with Gérard about his own ideas and experiences that have led to this landmark body of work.
Ed Bartlett: It’s clear from your work that you have a very different approach to most fine art photographers. What was it that led you to become a photographer originally?
Gérard Rancinan: I started quite young, probably around 15 years old. I didn’t particularly enjoy school and my father knew we needed to find something creative and challenging to engage me. I started as an apprentice at a newspaper, and straight away I knew it was for me – always outside, always able to use my imagination. It was exactly what I needed, and still today it’s what I need. I count my blessings every morning.
EB: And what eventually inspired you to make the leap into fine art photography?
GR: When I started my dream was to see my work in the biggest magazines all over the world. After 20 years of hard work and eventually becoming successful, with features and magazine covers, it was still my dream but it reached a stage where I felt restricted – by the magazines, by the PR people, by the people guiding us on location in the war zones – I wanted to start to show people the world through my own filter. Gradually I began to introduce this idea more into my work, which started getting the attention of people like Pierre Cornette de Saint-Cyr (chairman of Palais de Tokyo) and Pierre Cardin, who encouraged me further in this direction and even organized exhibitions with my work in Paris.
EB: When you are conceiving a new composition do you consider the viewer’s eventual reaction from the start?
GR: It’s a mix of everything. It has to be. Working for so many years at the big magazines, I learned a great deal about the importance of making an immediate impact. When you turn the page of a magazine you have two seconds to explain the message to the viewer, otherwise you’ve failed. They shouldn’t need to have to sit there for 10 minutes trying to post-rationalize for themselves what your ‘high concept’ might have been. This is the essence of the work I’m producing today, yet I’m still always talking about contemporary issues. It’s still editorial work.
EB: What would you say defines a Rancinan image?
GR: Strong, simple, efficient but also sensitive and above all, sincere. Always borderline-kitsch, and always a risk!
EB: You’ve photographed a lot of artists and other photographers, and your recent Metamorphoses series was inspired by reimagining famous paintings. Do you take special inspiration from working with artists?
GR: I’m very lucky to meet so many great people, and of course to shoot so many great people, and yes a lot of them are artists. With other photographers it’s always slightly different because of course there is that unspoken competitive aspect, but also a lot of mutual respect. Artists are always great to be around because they tend to have a different view of life, and when I’m shooting a portrait of an artist I try to put them into the scene like a painting.
EB: Do you feel that photography is being taken more seriously by fine art collectors today?
GR: Definitely, but there is still a long way to go. It has always been collected by specialists of course, but photographers like Gursky and La Chapelle really changed the game. With photography I think some collectors worry about the fact it can be reproduced in a way that paintings can’t, so it’s crucial that the quality is always exceptional and that there is strict controls on editioning, but also the collectors themselves need to learn more about photography to understand it better. What’s interesting with photography is, yes there may be an edition of 3, or 5, or 10, but the moment a photo captures is unique. The people, the time, the world all change, but everything in a photo stays the same forever, and that’s a big responsibility.
EB: I guess the ultimate question, then, is whether you consider yourself a photographer or an artist?
GR: I’m a photographer! That’s what I do. I stop time. If other people want to call me an artist, that’s their choice, but I’m a photographer.
Artist or photographer? Come and see for yourself and make up your own mind. The show opens with a public reception on Thursday June 7th, for more details please see here.
Hosted at the Goss-Michael Foundation in Dallas, MTV RE:DEFINE marks the 30th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS and will bring together original works, many specially commissioned for the project, from a bold roster of 30 of the world’s most exciting contemporary artists, photographers and sculptors, including key emerging talents. All 30 pieces will be auctioned, with 100% of the proceeds benefitting the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, which encourages, energizes and empowers young people who are involved in HIV and AIDS awareness, education and prevention campaigns.
Since launching in 1981, MTV has worked with some of the most influential figures in contemporary art including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. For MTV RE:DEFINE, project curators The Future Tense have sourced and commissioned an eclectic selection of original artworks from both established and emerging artists, including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Gérard Rancinan, Shepard Fairey and Katrin Fridriks.
The exhibition will be open to the public from Friday, September 16th and will culminate in a VIP reception on Saturday, September 24th during which all 30 works will feature in a live auction event in support of the Staying Alive Foundation. For those unable to attend the event, absentee bids will also be accepted including via telephone – please visit www.mtvredefine.com for more information on how to bid.
Georgia Arnold, Executive Director of the Staying Alive Foundation said, “MTV has always naturally partnered with cutting edge talent and artists, and I’m delighted that we are doing so on this occasion to support the work of the Staying Alive Foundation. Each one of the 30 pieces of art represents a year since the discovery of AIDS and the proceeds from each work will make a huge contribution to empowering young people engaged in fighting the stigma, spread and threat of the epidemic 30 years on. I want to thank each and every artist for their enormous generosity.”
Ed Bartlett, founder of The Future Tense said, “Our aim with this project was to bring together a body of work that we felt resonated with both the ‘RE:DEFINE’ high concept, but also with our interpretation of the past, present and future ‘MTV Generation’ artists. Throughout the project each artist has truly engaged with these ideals, in many cases commissioning brand new work for the show, and we believe the resulting exhibition will speak for itself.”
The VIP reception will feature a live music performance (talent to be announced soon), and the event will be complemented by a full catalogue production, plus support from a range of premium sponsors, including Moët & Chandon, The Dallas Morning News and Neiman Marcus.
Full details of the event can be found on the official website, www.mtvredefine.com where details of the remaining 25 artists will be revealed in groups of 5 each Monday at midday EST over the next five weeks. Project updates can also be followed in real-time on Twitter via @mtvredefine and Facebook at www.facebook.com/mtvredefine.
This Thursday marks the launch of an exclusive new print by Joseph Loughborough via our own FT Editions label.
Entitled ‘The Enemy’ and based upon the charcoal sketch originally exhibited at The Future Tense group launch show in 2010, the work was developed in collaboration with world-renowned print studio, Thumbprint Editions. Thumbprint is best known for creating etchings and woodcuts with such artists as Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor and Tracey Emin, including her most recent release ‘The Kiss’.
Measuring a generous 100 x 70 cm and limited to a signed edition of 50 + 3 artist proofs, the print uses a traditional Polymer Gravure etching process to fully capture the unique tonal variation typically found in charcoal works on paper. This complex, highly technical process produces prints of unrivalled quality, whilst also creating an attractive embossed frame within the paper due to the extreme pressures on the plate during the printing process.
Pete Kosowicz, master printer and founder of Thumbprint Editions said, “It’s always exciting to work with emerging artists, and Joe is an obvious talent. Charcoal has long been a challenge to replicate successfully in print, but this edition is a perfect example of what is now possible with the Polymer Gravure etching process.”
The Enemy will be available from from midday GMT on Thursday June 16th. We are also offering discounted archival framing on this piece for UK customers. Just quote “mister frameman” when ordering.
As usual, drop us an email at email@example.com
It’s no secret that Quentin Tarantino uses his vast cinematic knowledge to pay homage in many of his films, and the Kill Bill series of films is no exception.
Check out this fantastic video from Robert Grigsby Wilson (www.robgwilson.com) editing together the source with the Tarantino remix.
Is it art? Who cares, it’s pretty damn cool.