- 27th International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno 2016
BB You are active as a curator, art theorist and organizer. What is your relationship to graphic design?
VH I will start with an impression of a romantic nature. From the first catalogue on which I collaborated to this day I have always been repeatedly amazed and somehow fascinated by the moment when the immaterial text becomes a precisely delimited and edged material object. The book is a metaphor for the complete externalisation of the inner world of an object (“…the desert world, inhabited by his sisters, in which he would enjoy infinite freedom of movement …”). Simultaneously it happens that we can use a sum of knowledge to wedge a rocking table or to slit an attacker’s forehead.
What interests me, and naturally not only me, is the relationship between ideological and artistic movements of graphic forms, I am interested in the history of graphic design and its formal, modernist and conceptual line, I am interested in engagement in the fight against oppression, violence and in graphic format as in the case of activist posters from various countries and periods, DIY, etc. In short, there are more aspects.
BB What is your view of the Biennial of graphic design from the position of someone who is familiar with the environment of biennials dedicated to fine art?
VH In contemporary art the situation is rather different as there are dozens of international biennials every year, they are the showcases of the working of the “cultural industry” and as a reason for that sometimes their themes and manifestations are of a superficially declarative nature. Some critics talked a few years ago about a wave of biennial art (contemporary art intended for biennial consumption). Even so some of the biennials stimulate artistic creativity and art reflection. And although graphic design covers our surroundings far more than contemporary art, graphic artists and designers do not have so many opportunities for public comparison as in contemporary art. This is where the Brno Biennial is unique.
BB Does graphic design belong in a gallery?
VH I cannot speak for all galleries, but in the past I worked together a number of times with graphic designers, artists and architects – on various experiments and alternatives so that visitors would not have to look at posters in neatly hung frames. So, they do belong there and I think that graphic design should adopt an active approach to this form of public presentation instead of passively adopting standard museum procedures.
BB How do you explain the relatively little interest on the part of contemporary theory in graphic design and visual communication? Are there more important themes, have we been rendered insensitive by the quantity of images in everyday lives, or has the centre point of discussion moved elsewhere?
VH This is an interesting question and it would be interesting to identify the cause. My explanation is that in a discipline where most of the works of art are commissioned, as in graphic design, such works raise fewer questions than, for example, in contemporary art, where meaning and background are constantly sought after by artists and theory. But on the other hand, I think that graphic design is also written about as part of the broader themes of the history of culture, art history, cultural studies, etc. There it is approached as part of various period movements where it would not make much sense to separate it and assess it in isolation.
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?
VH It seems to me that for an extended period a certain line of graphic design has been a cerebral activity and that in contemporary art we see an exhaustion of retro approaches. So the question to which I would seek an answer in graphic design is how, in the digital environment, post-internet, generative software, game industry, etc., to find a relationship with the problems of people’s lives – ideology, politics, ecology, activism, etc.
Vít Havránek (1971) is a curator and art organiser based in Prague, Czech Republic. Since 2002 he has been working as a director of the initiative for contemporary art tranzit (tranzit.org). He curated and co-curated exhibitions amongst which are: Ján Mančuška First Retrospective, City Gallery Prague, Muzeum Sztuki Łódź, Moravian Gallery in Brno; Report on the Construction of a Spaceship, New Museum HUB, New York; Adaptation, Steirischer Herbst; Encyclopedia of Failure, Jakarta Biennale 2013; Manifesta 8, Spain; Monument to Transformation, Centro Monthermoso; City Gallery Prague; tranzit workshops, Bratislava; tranzit – Auditorium, Stage, Backstage, Frankfurter Kunstverein; I, Secession Wien; Jiří Kovanda, Brno; Otto Piene, City Gallery Prague; action, word, movement, space, City Gallery Prague, and others. Edited and co-edited books and catalogues Eva Koťátková, Pictorial Atlas of a Girl…, H.U. Obrist Czech Files; Atlas to Transformation; Autobiographies; The Need to Document, Lanterna Magika; action, word, movement, space, and has written for contemporary books, catalogues (Green Room, Sterneberg Press, Promesses du passé, Centre Pompidou, Voids: A Retrospective, JRP Ringier), art magazines (Umělec, Springerin, Flash Art, Manifesta Journal, trouble and others). He lectured at the AAAD Prague, North Carolina University Prague Institute and had guest lectures and talks at various occasions (MIT Boston, Amsterdam University, Documenta 12, Museum of Modern Art Warsaw, and others).
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