- 27th International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno 2016
BB Can you tell us a bit about the background of The Paint by Number Museum? How did you come up with the idea?
ÉF & FGM We have been sharing an ongoing interest towards amateur practices. The idea to work with paint-by-number came up last summer. We previously worked on a project together which was about us learning a new craft and our personal apprehensions regarding what we were producing (Ceramics with Émilie / Ceramics with François). With the Paint-by-Number Museum, we wanted to take another approach and distance ourselves by involving others in the project. We indeed produced (and designed?) a certain amount of the artifacts that are on display within the show, but the border between found material and designed material is purposely blurred, or at least not specified.
BB Do you see any parallels between paint-by-number and graphic design processes?
ÉF & FGM We think that there are multiple levels of understanding how paint-by-number can/could be related to graphic design. The most straightforward approach would be to talk about Dan Robbins’s work within the Palmer Painting Company. Robbins categorized himself as a freelance commercial artist. This implies that he was in a semi-precarious position (freelancing, like most graphic designers we know of) and also stuck in the ambivalence of a creative practice that explicitly deserves commercial purposes. He had to negotiate between his personal desires and what was expected of him – to come up with a product that would appeal to the largest audience possible. This means concessions. Design-wise, his first tryout, an abstract painting-by-number, was a failure. He had to figure out and play with the archetypes of what was the American middle-class most desired imagery (saturated landscapes and domestic animals per se).
On another level, we’d like to enable connections between the activity of paint-by-number as a hobby and the label applied to contemporary graphic design activities. We talk about a professional community of graphic designers, but could think of us, and others, as vocational designers or even look at graphic design as a hobby.
What is the purpose of a self-initiated project? It’s multiple, we can’t really stress an answer properly. But if we look at the introduction of Amateur Craft, we can recognize a similarity between amateur practices as activities that want to resist traditional definitions of work and labor (in economic terms, as exchange value) and graphic design activities that do not wish to fit within the spectrum of the commissioned work pattern.
BB How does the project you have prepared for the Off Programme fit into the larger context of your practice? Are you working on something related?
ÉF & FGM We are careful about specifying what might define our practices. Are we in an identity crisis? Maybe we’ll figure it out one day, but from what we’ve seen from now, it seems more that the need for labelling is rather requested by current institutions. So let’s just say that we like to play with our identities and form of representations. We hardly see ourselves as professional designers (even if we have a VAT number).
Our current activities are quite vague and our agenda disrupted. Between commissions, part-time jobs and self-initiated projects, we also have ideas of future projects to speculate on. Émilie says ‘you’ll see…’ and François says ’that’s right!’.
BB This edition of the Brno Biennial responds to the metamorphoses and the state of contemporary graphic design; its multitude, variety, vagueness and apparent superficiality. Can you identify some of the basic parameters, current themes or motivations of contemporary graphic design?
ÉF & FGM Do we need a Graphic Design Expert TM for this one? Okay… well… let’s just argue, well… that graphic design is the surface of the content, the varnish of the purpose. A nice, glossy varnish. Nevertheless, we want to be purposeful, but it’s been a long time there hasn’t been any consensus on how to be purposeful (after modernism). What we feel is that designers build up working frameworks according to personal beliefs and ideologies and this is what generates their purposefulness. Since we all have different values, this might explain such a variety of approaches toward graphic design, as the framework influences the shapes of design. But having different approaches doesn’t mean we can’t understand each other, because we share a common ground.
Émilie Ferrat (1992) is a graphic designer. She graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in 2015. She is interested, among others, in how images and stories are constructed, produced and circulate, and in how codes of representation can be appropriated and de-contextualized / re-contextualized. She currently works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Among her collaborators is François Girard-Meunier.
François Girard-Meunier (1990) is a graphic designer. He graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in 2015. He is interested, among others, in visual culture, with an strong interest in the questions of authorship and representation. He was recently invited to the Canadian Center for Architecture in the context of the Call for Captions residency (supported by the Andrew Mellon Fund). He currently works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Among his collaborators is Émilie Ferrat.
Short interviews with collaborators of the 27th Brno Biennial, authors of its exhibitions, jury members and Biennial Talks speakers.
Interviews and graphic design: Radim Peško Radim Peško (1976) is a graphic designer based in London. He works in the field of type design, editorial and exhibition projects. In 2010 he has established his RP Digital Type Foundry that specializes on typefaces that are both formally and conceptually distinctive. His work includes identity for Secession Vienna, typefaces for identities of Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Aspen Art Museum, Fridericianum, Berlin Biennale 8, various work for the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Bedford Press London or a long-term collaboration with artist Kateřina Šedá. He has lectured at many schools including Gerrit Rietveld Academie Amsterdam, ÉCAL Lausanne, HFK Bremen, KISD Cologne, École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Lyon, Sint-Lucas Ghent, University of Seoul. Since 2011 he is part of the curatorial board of the International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno., Tomáš Celizna Tomáš Celizna (1977) is interested in graphic design in connection with new technologies. He is a founding partner of design studio dgú in Prague (2001 to 2005), recipient of J. W. Fulbright Scholarship (2006), and holds MFA in graphic design from Yale University School of Art (2008). He currently lives and works independently in Amsterdam. Collaborations include, among others, OASE Journal for Architecture, Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Since 2011 he is a lecturer in graphic design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, and a member of the curatorial team of the International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno., Adam Macháček Adam Macháček (1980) is a graphic designer. Following studies at the AAAD in Prague, Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and ÉCAL in Lausanne, he co-founded in 2004 studio Welcometo.as in Lausanne and is a member of 201∞ Designers collective. His work includes publications, exhibition catalogues, illustrations and identities. Collaborations include, among others, the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Théâtre de Vevey (seasons 2003–2012), Galerie Rudolfinum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Chronicle Books, Editions Pyramyd, Museum of Czech Literature, Brno House of Arts, California College of the Arts, Airbnb. For Brno Biennial he initiated and organized exhibitions Work from Switzerland (2004) and From Mars (2006, together with Radim Peško). Since 2011 he is a member of the curatorial team of the International Biennial of Graphic Design in Brno. He lives and works in Berkeley.
Translation and copy editing: Alena Benešová, Kateřina Tlachová
Production: Miroslava Pluháčková
Printed by: Tiskárna Helbich s. r. o.
Print run: 2000
Published by the Moravian Gallery in Brno, 2016