The exhibition design of OURS operates as a participatory framework, actively shaping and altering visitors’ experiences. Employing dislocative processes and visual form, the design strategy enacts the innate conflict in the democratic process between centralized control and individual choice.
Upon entering the exhibition, visitors are asked to wear an admission sticker resembling a campaign button. While this procedure is familiar from both art museums and political events, visitors have to choose between a red or blue sticker, marking them immediately as members of one of two groups (as well as of the larger group of exhibition-goers). Subsequently, visitors’ rejection and disposal of the stickers may generate detritus in the exhibition space and beyond, thereby undermining the clarity of the exhibition’s presentation and its sense of authoritative graphic identity.
Throughout the exhibition, the dichotomy between the colors red and blue offer the appearance of alternatives. This nod to agency proves to be illusory: color is used arbitrarily to both package identical contents, as well as to suggest choice between incomparable objects. Additionally, a multitude of typefaces are utilized to create the appearance of visual diversity. However, all nineteen typefaces are designs from a single hand—that of canonical Swiss type designer Adrian Frutiger (1928–). Frutiger is best known for designing Univers (1957), a systematized family of typefaces merging Fordist rationalization with a touch of calligraphic humanism.
The OURS design system is totalizing and open-ended, monolithic and chaotic, autocratic and motley. Through these unresolved contradictions, the design acts to extend, question, and comment upon the show’s concept and contents.
—Project Projects, exhibition and graphic designers
Taking its name from Donald Judd’s seminal essay, Specific Object is David Platzker’s aggregation of artists’ books and editions, multiples, unique works of art, literature, audio work, and more, available on view at his Chelsea-based gallery space and online in a cross-indexed database. Specific Object also hosts projects curated by Platzker including recent exhibitions of Marcel Duchamp, Bruce Nauman, Raymond Pettibon, Marcel Broodthaers, Lynda Benglis, Documenta 5, Art & Project Bulletins, and more.
The new website has been custom-built on top of Platzker’s existing database to facilitate easier interactivity and research. An oversized search bar playfully expands to refine searches from the more than 15,000 entries archived.
Organized by Creative Time, “The Plain of Heaven” was a group exhibition in a vacant meatpacking warehouse at the southern terminus of the High Line in Manhattan. Project Projects designed the show’s exhibition graphics, catalog, website, and collateral materials. Anticipating the building’s demolition following the show’s conclusion, the exhibition graphics were spray-painted directly onto its exterior and interior surfaces in a custom-designed stencil typeface. The show’s catalog features the artists’ work and curator’s texts, and includes a hidden photographic narrative by Project Projects on the inside of its french-folded pages.
Project Projects worked with twelve graduate students from Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies to conceptualize and produce this catalog and exhibition. Forty-seven artists and writers responded to the curators’ prompt regarding the relevance of cultural institutions. Visitors to the exhibition, located at Art in General in New York, assembled their own portable exhibition from the provided screenprinted boxes, stacks of cards, and mailing labels.
Speed Limits, an exhibition curated by Jeffrey Schnapp, examined the pivotal role played by speed in art, architecture, urbanism, graphics, economics, and modern life. Focused particularly on material cultures of the industrial and information eras, the exhibition marked the centenary of the foundation of the Italian Futurist movement.
The installation at the Canadian Centre for Architecture was designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture with exhibition graphics by Project Projects. Above the moldings in each of the show’s seven galleries, large-scale historical quotations on the show’s themes were set in Luigi, a typeface designed by Project Projects specifically for this exhibition. Luigi was inspired by the cover of Luigi Russolo’s 1916 L’Arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noises), a Futurist manifesto stating the need for new music responding to intensified levels of noise in urban, industrialized daily life. The limited set of oddly shaped characters on Russolo’s manifesto formed the basis for a full digital alphabet.
1. Autonomous design is at best a myth; at worst, a backwards, solipsistic slide away from responsibility and broader societal engagement. Instead of pursuing separation from external ideas and impetuses, designers ought to embrace the discipline’s communal and contingent nature. Design is embedded in culture and always in dialogue with specific conditions and contexts.
2. History is often mistakenly presented as testament or truth. Today, we have unprecedented access to historical materials and a commensurate ability to archive the present ever more thoroughly. As such, a nuanced perspective acknowledges that history itself is never fixed; it is in continuous flux based on timing and viewpoint. In contemporary design work, it is not enough to simply cite the past. History must be actively and reflexively engaged in order to craft new meanings and synthesize existing knowledge with speculative possibilities.
3. The “ideal” user, reader, visitor, or participant is a simplistic invention of another age. Design should neither seek to impress through pretension nor condescend to a perceived baseline; rather it should use its powers of persuasion to reach new audiences. We advocate for design that translates specialized and complex knowledge into a form that is comprehensible to anyone who might be interested. Rather than vagueness, obfuscation, and visual rhetoric, this requires clarity and precision.
4. There are too many shoddy, unconsidered things in the world already. Given the widespread distribution of today’s digital production tools, it’s remarkably simple to make nearly anything, especially things claiming to critique design through the rejection of formal rigor. Making things well, making them beautifully, making them with craft, making them with an excess of effort, demonstrates a respect for one’s own labor and an expression of love for the world that dissolves perceived categories of work and pleasure.
5. Typically, design helps to further entrench the interests of the powerful. Design work always embodies and advances a political ethos, though all too often a regressive one. A more critical and ethical design must not only acknowledge its relationship to power, but also wield its own strategies of cultural influence—including proximity to networks of production and distribution—to offer alternative glimpses into the near-future. Ruptures and rejection of normative ideas are the basis of progressive design practice.
6. In past eras when “the public” seemed homogenous, design accordingly claimed reduction, uniformity, and purity as its mode. Now, as heterogenous, dispersed, and radically different publics come to the fore, contemporary design work is by necessity a combination of hybrid forms. These new approaches demonstrate that easy consensus is less successful than a hard-won balance of often conflictual desires. Instead of sameness and inbreeding, we propose dispersed ingenuity through dissimilarity and cross-pollination.
7. At its best, design’s cultural value—as opposed to its commercial value—functions as an abundance, a resource to be shared. As design work makes its way through more hands, its overflow leaves something behind to inspire and instigate change. Seen with this focus, design’s basis shifts from the production of forms by its practitioners to the production of actions by its recipients.
How to Get Started, 1989– is a permanent installation at Slought Foundation created in partnership with the John Cage Trust, with exhibition design by Saylor + Sirola and exhibition graphics by Project Projects. The installation builds upon a set of methods employed by John Cage in a 1989 performance, in which he spoke briefly on ten previously determined topics while a sound engineer gradually looped and layered his voice. A visitor to the space can enact a similar performance, booking an appointment with a recording engineer to facilitate.
Print magazine relaunched in January 2011 with an editorial concept focused on collaborating with different contemporary design practices for each issue. Project Projects was invited to initiate this program by guest editing and art directing a special section on the theme of “Collaboration” itself. Running throughout the section, a transcript of a roundtable discussion between a select group of designers, writers, and artists addresses the uses and abuses of collaboration in different disciplines.
Other articles, all commissioned by Project Projects, depart from the magazine’s typical themes in order to reflect on collaborative design practice new ways. The issue includes profiles of Fluxus artist Alison Knowles, the seminal political art collective Group Material, and the filmmaker Jonas Mekas along with contributions about the unique band-like business model of Brooklyn design studio Athletics, the architecture of Artists Space itself, and a lyrical essay on collaboration and time by Raqs Media Collective. Each article’s headline typography is a new or unreleased typeface by a different type designer. In this way, the issue itself becomes a large-scale effort that brings together a host of Project Projects’ collaborators, both past and present.
Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme Luc Boltanski et Eve Chiapello
Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Luc Boltanski et Eve Chiapello
éd. Gallimard, 1999, 843p., 29,80 euros.
Alternatives Economiques Poche n° 021 - novembre 2005
Ou comment le capitalisme est en train de tourner la page du fordisme au profit d’une organisation en réseau, génératrice pour certains d’une plus grande liberté au travail, pour d’autres d’une plus grande précarité, et pour tous d’un asservissement accru à l’entreprise. Un livre épais, mais important.
Depuis une dizaine d’années, Luc Boltanski élabore une “sociologie morale” de l’action, qui étudie les valeurs et la construction des arguments mobilisés par les acteurs au cours d’épreuves ou de conflits, qu’ils soient professionnels ou politiques. Dans Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, et à la suite de Max Weber, Luc Boltanski, avec Eve Chiapello, chercheuse à HEC, montre que ce sont les valeurs dominantes du capitalisme, des années 60 à aujourd’hui, et leur influence sur les décideurs qui ont permis à ce dernier d’assurer constamment sa légitimité auprès de la société, de désarmer les critiques de ses adversaires et de renouveler la nécessaire motivation des cadres.
Les auteurs rappellent les deux formes de critique du capitalisme, depuis ses origines: la critique “sociale” lutte contre la misère et les inégalités dues à l’égoïsme des intérêts particuliers; la critique “artiste” dénonce, quant à elle, l’inauthenticité de la société marchande et l’étouffement des capacités créatives de l’individu. Afin de dépasser les oppositions qui s’étaient développées après mai 68 face au capitalisme monopolistique et bureaucratique, les consultants en management et les dirigeants d’entreprise ont habilement récupéré les thèmes de la critique artiste, et imposé le réseau comme modèle emblématique d’un capitalisme… libertaire.
Le cadre devient de préférence un manager, ou mieux un coach, mobilisant chacun des salariés à tous les niveaux, dans des structures légères et innovantes. L’intuition créatrice est réhabilitée. La carrière devient une succession continue de projets, qui augmentent à chaque fois l’employabilité du salarié. Celui-ci se doit d’être mobile, enthousiaste, flexible, disponible, convivial, charismatique. Les auteurs voient même dans ce modèle de quoi constituer un véritable univers idéologique, un registre d’action en plus des “cités” déjà établies dans La justification: les économies de la grandeur (1991): il s’agit ici de la “cité par projets”.
Celle-ci a pour objectif la création continue de réseaux informels et de profits qui peuvent en être tirés, en s’appuyant sur des investissements essentiellement immatériels (temps, capital social, capital humain personnel). L’externalisation des contrats de travail et des coûts (y compris sociaux), l’intensification des contraintes par la flexibilité et la précarisation généralisée sont les piliers de l’exploitation des “immobiles” (ouvriers, bassins d’emploi, nations) par les “mobiles” (marchés financiers, multinationales, voire consommateurs).
La sociologie de Boltanski et de Chiapello s’inspire à la fois de la tradition compréhensive germano-américaine (Max Weber, Georg Simmel, interactionnisme symbolique…) et de la nouvelle socioéconomie de l’innovation (Michel Callon, Bruno Latour, Laurent Thévenot, etc.). Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme appartient au genre de la “grande théorie” et peut dérouter par l’abstraction et la complexité de ses concepts et de ses analyses. Mais, à trop vouloir se démarquer à la fois de la “sociologie du soupçon” de son ancien compagnon, Pierre Bourdieu, et d’un relativisme dans l’air du temps, Boltanski a tendance à négliger des phénomènes importants tels que la domination ou la violence, symbolique ou non. A ces réserves près, Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme représente une somme particulièrement riche et cohérente.