Sunday, November 27, 2011

reverse grafitti - cleaning up the urban landscape

Is it art? or is it a crime? does it improve the neighborhood? or does it deteriorate the neighborhood? Cleaning graffiti raises many questions, it provokes us to think about who is responsible to keep our neighborhood clean; ourselves, us that live there, do we have a civic responsibility that goes beyond the front-door? Or should the government be held responsible? after all we pay our taxes? In the end the ethical question is; should somebody that cleans the street, even if it's partial, and they leave a statement behind, should they be sentenced or not? after all, they where cleaning. Apparently we still miss legislation in this area.

Meanwhile marketeers have picked up this new area of advertising. There are already verious advertisement agencies that specialize in tagging our pavements using stencils and high pressure cleaners. Is that ok? even if they apparently ask the government for permission, I think it's questionable,  after all, these tags are way bigger than the traditional stickers and they are more permanent and intrusive than flyers. even though you have to admit that it does wear out after time...
Reverse Graffiti, Range Rover Nieuwegein

Something much more witty is this advertisement by the cleaners at Cartesiusweg, (apologies for poor picture quality) they have depicted different cleaners in Russian Avangardistic style, the cleaners are demanding respect and recognition for housekeeping work. It's ironic that it is right on the walls right next to the dumpster station.
schoonmakers graffiti Cartesiusweg

Reverse graffiti can also be used by yourself to brighten up your own pavement, to add a touch of homeliness to the urban landscape. This is a picture of a carpet that can be applied to your front pavement. Makes the neighborhood cozier I would say, invites you to create a homely living room outside and to sit down and have a chat with the neighborhood.
reverse graffiti - pavement carpet

Inducing warmth and conviviality to your local community by a little maybe illegal intervention, I really don't hope this kind of action will be punished any-time soon in the future

Fashions new Value-networks

The fashion system is sick and those of us that have been asking ourselves how it is possible that H&M can sell men's knitted sweaters for 20 euro, know it. Upon the first economic implosion in 2008 the fashion industry suffered, the October shows and sales-rooms where a catastrophe, serious plummeting of orders, read my post on Reshaping Attitudes in Arnhem, where some possible scenarios for change where proposed.

Now some changes are happening for real;  recently I have read about a lot of new "indie" brands that are inter-weaving consumable fashion products with social responsibility and care for the environment. Fashions answer to slumping markets, ethical concerns (outsourcing to 3rd world countries, sweat-shops, modern slavery, child-labor) and environmental concerns (pollution through the whole production and logistics chain)  is to bring the making process closer to home through local value networks. 

Many of these little companies have of course been inspired by American Apparel, who was one of the first to bring production back home. Also Nukohiva by Floortje Dessing was early in starting her sustainable fashion initiative (read my post here). American Apparel and Nukohiva are already big, these new "indie" brands/companies are independent they are not (yet) bought up by any fashion conglomerates, their business-models are different. They just do what they think is right, much of the time for very personal reasons and feelings of injustice.

I-did, slow fashion is a Utrecht fashion company,  so far it's a webshop and it has one real shop in the Pastoe factory in Utrecht. Skilled emigrants work in this craft-shop, either they bring in their foreign diplomas (that are not recognized in NL) or they follow an internal MBO education of half a year to learn the basics. The fashion is quirky and not bound to seasons, there is not a seasonal new arrival, items just stay in the collection for a long time. Each item has a name-tag of the seamstress that made it. It's like the traceability known from food brought into the fashion industry, it adds a personal connection, the idea that a real human being was making this with care and love.
I-did Slow Fashion

MMM, Mode Met een Missie, tagline; everybody deserves a second chance.
is more powered by social injustice, people that have to re-integrate into the labor market can get a chance with them. delinquents, disenfranchised, unsociable people, people with low work ethos and unschooled emigrants alike. Much of the funding for the company comes from the funds that are made available to re-integrate this kind of people. But to get out of the sphere of only being a social reintegration company they have teamed up with Claes Iversen, a young Dutch fashion designer. So social injustice and integration is getting linked to haute couture, quite a bridge to cross. But why not?
Claes Iversen for Ami-a-toi by Mode Met een Missie

Golden Hook, knitted by French grannys
grand-mothers master the art of knitting, we all know that. Golden Hook works together with grand-mothers to create their collection of fashionable knits (ala Wool-and-the-gang) It's a way for the pensioners to earn an extra buck in their old days. For the yarn Golden Hook works with local suppliers like sheep herds wool from Creuse, the cotton is coming from Egypt.
Golden Hook

Gudrun & Gudrun, an Faeroe Island knitting company that makes use of the local population to knit re-interpreted traditional Faeroe sweaters. Both have studied and worked in Denmark and upon their return to Iceland found they had to reinvent themselves to earn a living. They work with local wool and local Faeroe women to do the knitting paying fair salaries. In order to meet demand they have expanded their knitting community to also include women from Jordan and the Baltic countries. Their presentation and style is very fashionable and professional. Once when it became known that Sara Lund from The Killing (Forbrydelsen) was always wearing a Gudrun & Gudrun sweater, then their fame really started to rise.
Sara Lund (the Killing) in her famous Gudrun Gudrun snowflake sweater

Sløjfen, grannys from this Copenhagens activity center help produce fashionable sweaters for Henrik Vibskov and other Danish fashion designers, i.e. Mads Nørregård. The group calls themselves Kaffeslabberasen (coffeedrinking and chatting) and that is also the title of a book that has recently been published. In the book 7 designers have designed knitwear, the 7 grannies have knit it and written the recipes.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bunker Architecture

Architecture is turning inwards with closed facades, no more looking inside. This new kind of architecture certainly is in contrast with the traditional Dutch houses in Utrecht. These houses with closed facades seem to protect their inhabitants from the outside world, locking it out. Maybe the information overload and stress is just too much and then the home, the safe haven is where we choose to isolate ourselves to retreat to refuge. It makes the house a place for introspection and reflection.

The first house here is designed and build by Urbanizer. The facade certainly stands out amongst the very traditional houses in the street. They say themselves that it's an abstraction of the garage that used to be here. I think it has strong resemblense with a Swiss shed with the wood cladding all around and the tapered wood that allows for a bit of light to enter through the front of the house. The wood gives it a warm radiation, so the closed volume doesn't feel hostile.

The next house here is a utility building on the Kanaalweg. This is a completely closed box volume, windows are behind perforations. Whatever is going on inside is completely closed off from the outside. And with the warning sign on the front door, you could think it was dangerous. The windows are distributed in a random kind of pattern and are hidden behind perforations. It's beautiful in it's daring and striking simplicity, particularly if build by the government you will respect such a daring choice.

This is again a residence and clearly one where the facade has gone through a significant metamorphose. You can still sense the old structure of the house behind the cortens-steel cladding. Still it's beautiful and daring. The steel is cut in thin stripes, quietly resembling brick layers.

These interventions are small gestures that refreshes and updates the look of our city-scape. the revolutionary architecture by Herzog & de Meuron have had a lot of influence.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Knitting graffiti

Wild-knitting has been chosen as the Dutch neologism of 2011. It is sometimes also called knitting graffiti or yarn-bombing. What is it that is so special and beautiful about this that makes it worthy of this title?

Wild-knitting is an embellishment of the urban landscape, otherwise boring, dreadful, cold and soul-less urban elements are cheered up by wrapping them in warm and colourful cosiness, pulling them out of anonymity. It makes us smile. it's often also combined with tongue-in-cheek humour which gives us a big smile. It makes us enjoy the city in a new way. As it says on the site of Yarnbombing; "Improving the urban landscape one stitch at a time".  So contrary to original graffiti this is not aggressive or destroying the urban landscape. This is a protest led by "grannies" not by subversive 'gangs'. Though maybe the "grannies" also work in the shadow when they install the work?
Wild-knitting in the center of Utrecht. Photography Inge Noordijk

Wild-knitting by Breiwerkwest at Westergasterrein, Amsterdam

Wild-knitting by Breiwerkwest at Westergasterrein, Amsterdam

The urban interventions domesticates the urban landscape, it makes it more personal , it's claimed back by us, the inhabitants. Is this the awakening of a new sort of outdoor biedermeier?
Urban lampshade, Amsterdam. Photography Jacomine van Veen

Of course the Wildknitting exhibition in Artis helped create awareness about wild-knitting.
Breiwerkwest dressing some cosiness  on the dinosaur

Stitching graffiti is a more recent variation, using empty fences as canvas. I first saw one of these at Bricklane in London.
Lambrate, Milan during design-week

Zeedijk, Utrecht; "we live not according to reason, but according to fashion"

So there is a kind of activism to wild-knitting and stitching graffiti; this has been coined craftivism, protest through craft. Protesting against a cold male world dominated by power, protesting with softness and warmth. Bringing issues to our attention. When it's not about cheering up the urban landscape craftivism can also be a protest against the fashion-system. Protesting against the never-ending production and consumption of shiny new things by making fashion ourselves, knitting our own clothes. In public to make it clear to the world that we are developing a different view on fashion and consumption.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Conversation Pieces

For years couches have grown bigger and bigger, lower and lower. So much that I asked myself at the last Milan Designweek; who on earth has a living room big enough to house one of these, secondly what exactly are people doing on these daybeds; staring lame at their big flatscreens? possibly. Cynicism aside;  the conversational piece is a new interesting development in couches. Sit-up couches, not so deep, and with stiff backs, sitting 2-3 or sometimes many persons, maybe even a crowd. They stimulate conversation, real, analogue, inter-personal talking and relationships. Which besides from being off-line also is something much more active than what the lay-back lounge couch stimulated.

For Shared spaces #3, Witte de With, Chris Kabel proposed an intervention of a  round circle bench for people to sit-on. Clearly stimulating conversation, bringing people together to chat like they would on a village square. One can seek intimacy by sitting on the inside of the circle, or separation by sitting on the outside of the circle.
photography Chris Kabel

This public space installation is the graduation project of Niek van der Heijden. It provokes thoughts about how we organize public space. Most public space sitting is created almost to avoid contact, and who easily starts a conversation with strangers these days? This piece is more like a meeting place it invites people to sit in a circle to have a conversation. There is a symbolic line of conversation that joins all the seats together
Niek van der Heijden, Living Forum, Graduation Galleries, Design Academy 2009

For the living-room there is also clear examples of the new active and conversational sitting;

This is the Ruche couch by Inga Sempe for Ligne Roset. Very straight sitting, the padded cover adds a sense of soft cocooning.
Ruche by Inga Sempe for Ligne Roset

This couch by GamFratesi is not sitting more than 2 people, perfect for an intimate conversation. It has round and soft qualities too, that again emphasize the cocoon, or creates a soft, protecte space for the conversation.
Haiku by GamFratesi

Favn litterally means embrace in Danish. How suiting! The outer works forms a hard shell almost as if to protect people from the harsh outside world. The inside is soft and warm, perfect host for an embrace or the perfect place for a deep, intimate conversation.

Shut-off from the outside world!
Favn by Jaime Hayon for Fritz Hansen
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...