Next Thursday, September 6th, our new Ecstatic Surface Collection 2013, Scandal Aqua will be launched at Pilevneli Project in Istanbul. Hereby two images from the collection and our portrait taken by the photographer of the gallery, Isik Kaya, together with our personal video invitation and the text written by the curator of Cobra Museum, Hilde de Bruijn.
We hope to see you with us at 7pm at Pilevneli Project.
Ecstatic Surface Collection 2013
Thrill Seekers Leaked
Collection 2013 is the third Ecstatic Surface Design Collection by Amsterdam-based graphic design duo Pinar&Viola. Their collections are non-commissioned, autonomous projects based on current events in politics, culture and economy, encapsulating the beauty and horror of the contemporary. As the recurring term ‘Ecstatic Surface Design’ indicates, the collections (like Pinar&Viola’s other work) are strongly focused on the aestheticized and commercialized designed surfaces that surround us, and with their design they seek to investigate the latent violence, the power structures, behind these surfaces. In their own words, the 2011 Collection for instance staged oversized credit cards as “toxic pieces of plastic, shown as an all-encompassing metaphor for shattered dreams, disappointment, the changing notion of value and the mutating concept of ‘credit’”.
The 2012 collection consisted of images that belong to “the secret collection of the fictitious persona Scarf_whiz80. Snapshots, carefully manipulated pictures and skilful photomontages, all portraying veiled divas built a critique on societal norms of gender, race, religion and sexuality, including destructions of stereotypes and ideologies.”
The bath towels of the 2013 Collection are lavishly decorated with an overload of symbols, icons, and gadgets taken from popular and vernacular culture. Let me list some of Pinar&Viola’s main ingredients for this project:
Think pop star posters. Think Justin Bieber towels gone wrong. Think Tumblr.
Think Twitter. Think teen girls experiments with blingees.
Think webcam chats. Think Wikileaks. Think sexting.
And now we’re at it anyway: think Berlusconi, and the man whose name was mentioned so often in the press that we now, with an oddly intimate ring to it, refer to him as DSK. Two men whose sexual scandals are too well-known to be repeated here. Think the image of Democratic Congresman David Wu, dressed in a tiger suit with his hands in the air to a female aide. (Wu resigned after being accused of having an ‘unwanted sexual encounter’ with the teenage daughter of a friend.) And last but not least think of Congresman Chris Lee, who photographed himself shirtless in a bathroom mirror and sent the pictures to a woman he supposedly contacted on Craigslist.
The towels directly speak to our senses. In fact, at first, their pink-purplish backgrounds might even have a slightly nauseating effect. On top of that, the abundant amount of kittens, icons from Blackberry’s love theme, blingbling items, and other kitschy elements seem to have little to do with the frame of reference of the average grownup. And personally, I even felt a bit revolted by the idea of pressing the image of that overly self-aware looking, slick middle-aged man with fake smile who is at the heart of each towel’s composition, to my freshly showered body.
Clearly, the intended users of these towels must be the wet-haired teenage Tumblr generation girls, who’s photographs, taken with their smart phones in the private space of their bath rooms, are part of the Collection too. But then what is the relationship between the girls, each wrapped in one of the towels, and this man? There is a photograph of him in his bathroom too, at odds with the carefully controlled image he is presenting with the towels. In the photograph, he is wearing his own personal towel with a distorted pin-stripe pattern, and hashtag sign followed by the word charisma – as if to stress his popularity. Are the girls, all wearing the same necklace with hashtag medallion, admirers or maybe courtesans of this man? Well, possibly, as in the 2013 Collection “dubious moral standards ornament teenage dreams,”
as Pinar&Viola state themselves.
Yet, the pink-purplish towels keep drawing my attention, pulling me off and keeping me hypnotised at the same time. They raise my curiosity, not despite, but because they seem to present an impossible constellation of things which I would like to discuss in more detail. Instead of Justin Bieber, these towels feature our before-mentioned photo-shopped character. It would be safe now to presume that he is a fictitious politician, who upon further inspection is of course also wearing a wedding ring. He finds himself in five different, carefully designed settings, one for each towel: Domestic Affairs, Global Affairs, Sustainable Affairs, International Affairs, and Urban Affairs. In this parody realm, symbols, icons, gadgets, and decorations which would normally together make no particular sense, attain a coherent, symbolic meaning and become embedded in the suggestion of a narrative, a scandal even. Let’s get into detail with one example only, the Domestic Affairs towel:
This particular towel was highly inspired by the Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal. U.S. Congresman Weiner not only send x-rated self-portraits via Twitter but also a picture of kittens accompanied by a suggestive message along the lines of “me playing with kittens”. On the background of Weiner’s picture, a photograph of the presidential family was visible. So upon further investigation, the combination of pictures of cute kittens, empty photo frames (an indication of the empty rhetoric of a happy family life), a webcam and a ‘home’ button in the Domestic Affairs towel suddenly makes perfect twisted sense. We could also further speculate now about the threesome of a ‘home’ button, the password icon, lock and key, and the inclusion of a PC and webcam in this towel – they seem to send a warning message, and tell us that our homes, where we fulfil our need for privacy and recuperate, are not as impenetrable as we like to think. The PC and webcam do not only provide us a window to the world, it brings the world in as well. It is probably no coincidence that in the Domestic Affairs the curtains are open, and the weather outside looks grim.
The Domestic Affairs towel is exemplary for Pinar&Viola’s love for the vernacular, and what they call contemporary digital folk art, as well as for the entire 2013 Collection which is inspired by the political sex scandals that were all over the news last year – although most towels are generally inspired by these and do not illustrate specific examples. With their ‘junk’ ingredients, Pinar&Viola managed to cook-up a nourishing haute cuisine which speaks of politics, media, and strategies of manipulation and diversion, and makes us chew on the question what it actually is that the media are offering us. Are we being occupied with sex scandals instead of the information we really need in order to build well-informed opinions and make decisions as responsible, self-empowered individuals? And if so, is this type of distraction all we really want? Or, alternatively, if politicians and other powerful figures get caught in a sex scandal, shouldn’t we be treating this as serious item generating further research into the dynamics behind power structures, gender roles and class divisions? Or, when it comes to the media involved, shouldn’t we be speaking about the role of social media in the self-image of teenagers, or about the penetration of the public sphere into the private lives of people?
TO CONQUER A VACUUM
Just like Pinar&Viola’s previous two collections this collection pushes the boundaries of graphic design, though not only for its autonomous character, its rich iconography, or the quite overt political message about the mediatisation and spectacularisation of politics.
At the basis of the duo’s aesthetic language lies a philosophical approach that leads to a radical working method, and to designs that are so hyper-detailed and densely pixelated that they gain an almost tactile quality. Pinar&Viola’s ecstatic surface designs in fact testify of a great digital craftsmanship, traditionally relegated to the domestic and feminine sphere of labour, and involving a time-consuming work process that goes against the standardization and democratization of design and it’s software (in which there is no room for ‘hand-crafted’ originality).
What is interesting, is how Pinar&Viola’s strategy of creating incredibly dense surfaces is a balancing act between irony and love, between their critique of populist rhetoric with acknowledgement and acceptance of our irrational desires and needs. In their practice our need for ornamentation for instance, becomes a means through which they reveal the inherent, essential qualities of a subject. It becomes impossible to distinguish form and content, surface and depth, as Pinar&Viola are well aware of, when stating that “decoration is a means by which the inherent essential qualities of a subject are revealed. Decoration is a functional and autonomous facet in our practice, existing as stylistic elements and as a subject matter at the same time.”
Pinar&Viola’s surfaces are in fact so densely ornamented that the classic art historical term ‘horror vacui’ (Latin for ‘fear of empty space’) springs to mind, which means the filling of the entire surface of a space or an artwork with detail. The classic idea is that empty or unfilled spaces are unnatural, that they go against the laws of nature and physics and that hence we feel the need to fill these spaces. Pinar&Viola take the notion of horror vacui ad absurdum; in our visually saturated environment they manage to be even louder – something I would actually not have thought possible. This is horror vacui for the affluent and well-educated consumer, Pinar&Viola’s response to the overload of information that we are surrounded with. Maybe our desire to ‘decorate’ is not caused by fear of empty space but by “a desire to adapt a vacuum, to conquer it, to mark it with one’s presence, (…),” as this is exactly what cultivators and constructors Pinar&Viola seem to do. Moreover, their rich iconography and horror vacui strategy not only conquers white, ‘unfilled’ space on a surface but also conquers empty space in a metaphorical sense: empty (political) rhetoric, superficial journalism, and information that by its sheer abundance becomes meaningless.
Hilde de Bruijn
Amsterdam, August 2012
i All Pinar&viola citations come from email and skype conversations that we had between June 2012 and August 2012
ii See note ii
iii Tumblr is a microblogging platform and social networking website. The service allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog, named a “tumblelog”. The service is most popular with the teen and college-aged user segments with half of Tumblr’s visitor base being under the age of 25.
iv Animated pictures created using the Blingee free online photo editor which provides its users with a hotchpotch of “favorite topics from celebrities to anime, emo, goth, fantasy, vintage, and more!”
v The act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones
vi See note i
vii As suggested by Asger Jorn in Against Functionalism, 1. Talk at the International Congress of Industrial Design (10th Triennale of Industrial Art, Milan), 1954. The text can be found online, for instance here: http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/asger-jorn/functionalism.htm
This entry was written by Art, Decadence, Dematerialization, Digitalization, Ecstatic Surface Design, Exhibition, Glam Chaos, Graphic design, Pinar&Viola, Political glam, Published, Vernissage, Video, Visual ecstasy. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink., posted on August 30, 2012 at 7:38 am, filed under
The Walker Art Center’s summer-long experiment, Open Field, presents the first internet cat video festival Thursday, August 30, 4–10 pm. Chosen by online voting, the winner of the People’s Choice Award, the Golden Kitty, will be announced at the festival and the producer of the winning video will be present. The video will also be broadcast during the season finale of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell on September 8 at 8 pm EST.
An annual competition to find the fastest thumbs in America
Vacation photos taken in the south-west of Turkey. More specifically at Cesme and Fethiye. Holiday pics showing what me and Johnny were busy with during the little time left from my synchronized swimming classes in the the amazing Turkish sea.
Hartjesdagen is an old tradition in Amsterdam. It has existed since the Middle Ages and boasts a history as colorful as its followers. According to local folklore, it was the only day in the medieval calendar when the regular public would hunt wild deer (harts), a sport traditionally reserved for the nobility. The game was then roasted on big barbecues and eaten in the streets. Hartjesdagen developed itself into a type of cross-dressing carnival, where men dressed as women, and women dressed as men. A typical scene was captured in the oil painting entitled Hartjesdag, by the artist Johan Braakensiek in 1926. WWII later interrupted the tradition but it was finally revived in 1997 on the Zeedijk. Hartjesdagen finishes with the crowning of the Queen of Hearts (best cross-dresser).
Mehmet Ali Gökçeoğlu and his future vision (2015) of Cesme, a popular holiday town in Turkey, close to Izmir.
Don’t miss out Greece because of press scare stories, it’s sun is still shining – the Aegean is still blue – people are as friendly as ever – ATM machines are filled <3
Pictues are taken in Thessaloniki and Plomári.
P&V expo at gallery Guns & Butter Amsterdam
In this show you can see Michael Jackson and Piet Mondrian’s work coming together around the idea of creating an utopian ideal of universal harmony, perfection and beauty. Their radical explorations broke down barriers. We made these two mythical figures merge in a pattern absorbing the vertical and the horizontal, the masculine and the feminine, the dynamic and the static. Michael Jackson and Piet Mondriaan are shown in a flat visual surface of a seamless panther pattern, commemoration to two ground breaking iconic artists having a place in the mainstream and consumer culture. We also unveiled our 4eva Love Message Service. During the opening, many of the visitors found their perfect love, that with only two simple mouse clicks…