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Berlin’s Ampelmännchen, symbol of ‘Ostalgie,’ is objectively superior to the competition
08.21.2013
08:52 am

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Design
History

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Ampelmännchen
 
In Berlin, the little illuminated red and green fellows who signal the all-clear for pedestrians are a beloved and fiercely protected symbol of the city. The Ampelmännchen (little traffic light man) and his iconic two-dimensional graphic pantomime is one of the few remnants of the former German Democratic Republic that has not only been tolerated since 1989 but has risen to near-universal acceptance—even love.

Perhaps the closest American analogue is “Rich Uncle Pennybags,” otherwise known as the Monopoly Man. From a political perspective, it’s difficult to argue that East Berlin’s more humble everyman, with his stocky gait and functional fedora, isn’t a preferable symbol than the moustachio’d plutocrat—who after all has been known to commit transgressions serious enough to land himself in the clink.

The Ampelmännchen was invented by Karl Peglau, a “traffic psychologist” who sought to create a visual icon that would be appealing and comprehensible to young and elderly Germans alike. For many years East Germany had its Ampelmännchen, while West Germany made do with a sleeker, more generic homunculus. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a lot of West German practices in signage and so forth, many of them endorsed by the EU, began to replace the old East German ways—and even the Ampelmännchen was threatened. The East Germans responded with a fierce public outcry to save the little dude, the force of which in 2005 even led to the adoption of the Ampelmännchen in West Berlin as well.

The widepsread impulse to save the Ampelmännchen became a primary exemplar of Ostalgie, a German portmanteau word combining the words for “nostalgia” and “East.” Another prominent example of Ostalgie is Wolfgang Becker’s engaging and internationally successful 2003 movie Good Bye Lenin!, which focused on the herculean efforts of a young man to create a kind of Potemkin GDR within the confines of the bedroom of his mother, recently awoken from a coma and therefore entirely unaware of the transformations of 1989.

As we move inexorably further from 1989, the Ampelmännchen’s political edge tends to dissipate, as his inherent distinctiveness and cuteness move to the foreground. Commenting on the “comeback” of the Ampelmännchen in 1997, its creator Peglau rather high-mindedly noted, “It is presumably their special, almost indescribable aura of human snugness and warmth, when humans are comfortably touched by this traffic symbol figure and find a piece of honest historical identification, giving the Ampelmännchen the right to represent a positive aspect of a failed social order.”

The latest news is that the Ampelmännchen offers not only cozy feelings of nostalgia—it also boasts superior design, in a purely objective sense. Psychologist Claudia Peschke and her team at Jacobs University in the German city of Bremen recently conducted tests involving both the Ampelmännchen and the traditional, more anodyne figure seen in the rest of Europe, including versions with the “wrong” color imposed. It turns out that people respond more to the shape, or function, of the symbol than they do to the color, and it also emerged that the Ampelmännchen outperformed the regular, svelte figure in terms of identifying whether it’s time to walk or stand still.

As noted, the Ampelmännchen’s status as a beloved totem of nostalgia has also (paradoxically) meant big business, as this nearly wordless video featuring some of the industrial production shows:
 

 
As with any good icon, there are few contexts in which it looks truly out of place. As proof, we offer this reworking of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” in which the Ampelmännchen and his politically correct counterpart, “Ampelfrau” (introduced in 2004), both do that galloping thing that swept the globe last year.
 
“Berlin Ampel Style”:

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Eccentric millionaire professor builds ‘country villa’ on top of 26-story apartment block
08.12.2013
10:42 am

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Amusing
Design

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anihcesuoh.jpg
 
At first glance the compound is reminiscent of ThunderbirdsTracy Island or, the hideaway for a James Bond villain. The villa is situated 26-floors up, atop an apartment block in Beijing’s Haidian district, and was built by a man, known to his neighbors as “Professor Zhang.”

Professor Zhang originally purchased the penthouse apartment, before deciding to extend his property upwards onto the roof. His roof-top country villa includes rockeries, sculptures, trees and gardens, and has taken six-years to build. Its development has caused structural damage, water leakage to the building and considerable inconvenience to its tenants… gives a whole new meaning to the trickle down effect…
 
anihcesuoh2
 
The Beijing Morning News contacted Prof. Zhang, who claimed he was unconcerned what his neighbors thought.

“Since I dare to live here, I am not worried about complaints.”

When questioned about the noise, the eccentric home-owner replied:

“Famous people come to my place and sing. How can you stop them?”

In China, the rich can do as they please, and Professor Zhang is rich enough that he can openly flout any planning regulations. The other residents have asked the building’s management, local urban management officials and even the police to enforce planning regulation against Professor Zhang, but all have refused.
 

 
Via The Independent
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Indefinable Leigh Bowery: Vintage documentary presented by Hugh Laurie
07.16.2013
01:57 pm

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Art
Design
Fashion
Heroes
Queer

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hgielyrewoblalala.jpg
 

“Fashion is a bit of a problem with me, because you have to appeal to too many people, and I like appealing to maybe one-or-two. Then, I like them to be interested in me, but never dare copy me.”

Leigh Bowery admitted he couldn’t tell the difference between a stage and a street. They were both platforms on which to present himself. But if asked he was asked to explain himself, that presented problem that Leigh thought best solved by being thankful he existed.

Well, of course, as Leigh gave much to be thankful for.

Though Leigh Bowery defied facile definition, he is best remembered as a fantastical character whose talent, energy and discipline gave others the chance to be themselves, and thus to be free.

In this episode of the London-centric TV show South of Watford, Hugh Laurie (yes, him off House) trails around with Leigh, and takes a close-up look at all of his different creations: from fashion and dance, to clubs and films. It includes interviews with dancer Michael Clark, director John Maybury and gender illusionist Alana Pellay.
 

 
The rest of Hugh Laurie in search of Leigh Bowery, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
DEVO light switch plate made of LEGO pieces
07.10.2013
08:53 am

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Amusing
Design
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BrickShtick makes these handmade DEVO light switch plates from LEGO pieces and “elements that are either new or gently used.”

I could see this totally working in a child’s bedroom. A cool child.

It’s $36.00 + shipping here.

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Denture jewelry will soon be a ‘thing’
07.09.2013
08:14 am

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Amusing
Design

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Etsy shop Concave Oblivion designs and creates these lovely handmade denture jewelry pieces from dental acrylic which are then hand-polished to a high shine!


 

 
Via Boing Boing

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
THE NATURE OF YOUR OPPRESSION IS THE AESTHETIC OF OUR ANGER: The Art of Crass
06.18.2013
10:18 am

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Design
Music
Punk

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I’m not sure what to make of seeing a young person with the Crass logo painted on the back of their leather jacket. I mean these days. What does it mean to them?

Of course I knew what it meant and what it stood for back in the day. I lived in south London squats in 1983 and 84 and many of my er, squatmates were classic scruffy cliched Crass punks. As a result, I regularly went to see anarcho punk gigs at places like The Ambulance Station on the Old Kent Road. Poison Girls. Chumbawamba. Flux of Pink Indians. Annie Anxiety. Flowers in the Dustbin. Rubella Ballet. I saw a lot of Crass-associated punk bands back then. (When Chumbawamba released “Everything You Know Is Wrong” in 2004, I was chuffed to bits.)

I even saw one of the final Crass gigs, a miner’s strike benefit at the Islington Bingo Hall. Between bands they let me show a little video that I’d cobbled together from particularly gruesome WWII footage set to a soundtrack of Frank Sinatra’s “Polka-dots and Moonbeams.” Although I personally was not a Crass punk per se, I definitely had a foot in that tribe and Crass had a major effect on me and the way I see the world to this very day. Something that I am very grateful for.

When the band was actually together, the idea of what Crass offered was greater than the sum of its parts as well as something, frankly, that was significantly based more on the militant anarchist-vegan-anti-vivisection-pacifist-anti-religious pro-environmental stances they took, than the music itself. Crass were many things—many important things—to many people, but listenable wasn’t really one of them (I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s amusing to think about how many of the Crass punk anarchist squatter types who I knew in Brixton were also into early UB40. Not shitting you. That’s what they listened to, not Stations of The Crass!)

A big part of the appeal, like I say, were the ideas, the leafleting and sloganeering, but there was also Gee Vaucher’s brilliant graphic art and and Dave King’s iconic logo that went along with the Crass mystique. This is what their tribe rallied around. It wasn’t about them as people—most fans probably had no idea what they looked like (I didn’t) and they quite literally shunned the spotlight, performing in near darkness—it was about the fact that because of Crass’s orbit and the gravitational pull of their example and lifestyle that you could meet other people who thought they same way that you did. That aspect of Crass fandom was the glue that held that entire scene together, that you could, as Timothy Leary once said, “Find the Others.”

I think this is why young people today still want to wear the Crass logo across their backs. It may seem somewhat anachronistic—like hippie tie-die does—but the romantic notion of what that scene was all about, is, what I think, motivates kids to sport that symbol in 2013. It will never happen again quite like that, but its a testament to how influential Crass truly were that kids who weren’t even born then continue to be interested in the ideas they espoused, some of which have wormed their way far further into the culture than could have been imagined 30 years ago. Widespread veganism is merely one of the triumphs of Crass that can be seen in today’s landscape and you’d better believe they had a lot to do with it. The concept of veganism seemed so far out in the early 1980s in a way that is almost impossible to convey to someone who wasn’t around back then. People were offended by the very concept of it! Although I was already pretty much already a vegan by 1983, I had never in my life met, until falling into the anarcho punk circles orbiting around Crass’s sun, other people who had the same diet. That was a big deal with me.

Which brings me to the second installment of MOCAtv‘s “The Art of Punk” video series and its exploration of the art and iconography of Crass:

We head up to the Anarchist Book Fair in San Francisco to meet up with Gee Vaucher, and founding Crass member, writer, and activist, Penny Rimbaud. We discuss the art and the lifestyle stemming from the infamous Dial House, where they have lived, worked, and created their own brand of anarchistic beauty, for more than 3 decades. We have a sit down with artist Scott Campbell, at his own New York tattoo shop, and talk about how the art of Crass, and one single t-shirt created a fork in his own road of life. Owen Thornton talks some shit. Finally we hang out with British graphic designer Dave King - the creator of the infamous snake and cross symbol, and discuss post war England, hippies, punk, graphic design, and more, that led him to the creation of the symbol made legendary by Crass.

Next up in this series, The Dead Kennedys. Directed by Bryan Ray Turcotte and Bo Bushnell.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Art of Punk: Watch great new doc on Black Flag and Raymond Pettibon’s iconic collaboration
06.11.2013
10:30 am

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Art
Design
History
Music
Pop Culture
Punk

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Bryan Ray Turcotte, author the classic chronicle of punk rock handbills and posters, Fucked Up + Photocopied, has one of the largest private collections of punk rock-related ephemera in the world—he’s a one-man Smithsonian Institute of the counterculture, truly a maven’s maven.

When I got advance notice that one of the world’s most prominent archivists and historians on the matter of punk rock’s graphic design had made (with Bo Bushnell) a film about Black Flag and Raymond Pettibon , I was expecting something pretty great and… it’s excellent!

It went live this morning. I got the link a little while ago and promptly sat down and watched the whole thing:

On the first episode of “The Art of Punk” we dissect the art of the legendary Black Flag. From the iconic four bars symbols, to the many coveted and collected gig flyers, singles, and band t-shirts, all depicting the distinctive Indian ink drawn image and text by artist Raymond Pettibon. We start off in Los Angeles talking to two founding members, singer Keith Morris and bass player Chuck Dukowski, about what the scene was like in 1976 - setting the stage for the band’s formation, as well as the bands name, and the creation of the iconic four bars symbol. Raymond Pettibon talks with us from his New York art studio. Back in LA we meet with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, about how the art, the music, and that early LA scene impacted his own life and career. To wrap it all up we sit and talk at length, with Henry Rollins, at MOCA Grand Ave in Los Angeles, about all of the above and more.

What’s so compelling about this piece is how filmmakers Turcotte and Bushnell tell you a story that you haven’t already heard a gazillion times before by focusing in on the graphics and how important an iconic logo was back then for outsider kids to rally around, wear on their chests or have etched into their flesh.

In the film, Flea makes, I thought, an especially valuable contribution, because he was young enough then (like Rollins himself was, of course) to have been in the audience and he speaks to how seeing a group like Black Flag could change your direction in life. From what I have heard from a number of people, Flea’s supposed to have an absolutely first rate modern art collection. He’s really inspired when he speaks here.

A production of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. New MOCAtv  episodes exploring the visual identities of Dead Kennedys and Crass will debut soon at the MOCAtv YouTube channel
 

Above, Flea in his Pettibon-festooned bathroom
 

 
Thank you Tim NoPlace!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Lovely vein-shaped wine carafes
06.05.2013
10:41 am

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Art
Design

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Perhaps not for someone who suffers from hemophobia, these lovely vein-shaped carafes by sculptor Etienne Meneau would make an interesting conversation piece at your next dinner party.

I dig ‘em.

You can see more of Meneau’s designs at Strange Carafes.


 

 
Via Boing Boing

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Who needs a Nirvana blanket?
05.29.2013
08:10 am

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Art
Design
Music

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Images of burned Nirvana CD’s (with “art” by Sharpie) printed on an over-sized woven cotton blanket by artist Peter Sutherland.

The longer I ponder this one, the funnier it becomes. The Nirvana Blanket can be yours for $250 at Refinery 29.

Via The World’s Best Ever

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Just Another IKEA Catalog’: IKEA furniture in amateur porn Tumblr (NSFW)
05.28.2013
07:55 am

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Amusing
Design
Sex

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Just Another IKEA Catalog is a refreshing Tumblr dedicated to “Scandinavian modern style furniture and accessories in amateur pornography.”

As you can probably guess by the title, it’s totally NSFW.


 
Via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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