Category: Art

The Society of the Spectacle

This past weekend my partner Heath wrapped up the Situationist Film Fest as a part of his MFA thesis show. On Friday night, to a packed (!) room at Public Space One here in Iowa City, he debuted his remake of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle from 1973 (a film Debord based on his own book from 1967).

Because he’s great (and perhaps despite my bias), you should head over and read what he has to say about this project. Here’s an excerpt:

In SoS Debord writes of détournement that it is the “flexible language of anti-ideology,” meaning that détournement is necessary and meant to be used to transform meaning with time. It is the only way in which one can resist falling into the trenches of dogmatism. It is a mode of “communication which includes a critique of itself.” Thus in re-stating SoS in 2013, it must be revised and simultaneously plagiarized, and it is in this vain in which I re-introduce this project. As Debord himself says (détourning Lautréamont) “Ideas improve. The meaning of words plays a role in that improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress depends on it. It sticks close to an author’s phrasing, exploits his expressions, deletes a false idea, replaces it with the right one.”

Détournement need not only be a mode of subversion, but can also be a self-critical and open-ended way of thinking and making — one that might also be used by others. I like to think of my project as a piece of research by way of re-making or re-stating; a research project which makes use of Debord’s work not as a quotation but as an appropriation of a collective inheritance in the cultural commons. This is how Debord worked, both with his own work as well as his use of the work from others. For Debord, and I’m inclined to agree, it is the “first step toward a literary communism.”

If you’ve got the time, watch this 2013 version in just under 75 min. I promise it’s way more watchable than the original—and a lot more relevant to contemporary society. Proud, proud, proud.

Title design by yours truly.


Mission Creek Festival

It’s happening again. This year’s Mission Creek Festival will be the first week of April here in Iowa City. Music, literature, comedy, art, food–all at venues within blocks from each other: what more could you ask for? The lineup is still building, but so far includes Grizzly Bear, Deerhoof, Iris DeMent, Tig Notaro, Killer Mike, White Lung, Amber Tamblyn, and many more. Stay up to date with them through their FB page and purchase your all-access tickets here. (Oh, and ps, this girl’s in charge of design again.)

Mission Creek Festival

Around Crab Orchard

I recently designed the packaging along with a poster for Sarah Kanouse’s new film, Around Crab Orchard.

And Sarah’s trailer:


Crab Orchard calls itself “a unique place to experience nature.” As the only wildlife refuge in the United States whose mission includes industry and agriculture alongside conservation and recreation, Crab Orchard claims a harmonious balance between past and present, nature and culture. Assembled from documents, found footage, and conversations with activists, writers, and local residents, “Around Crab Orchard” questions the ideal of natural harmony while meditating on the persistence of history, the creation of knowledge, the limits of representation, and the commonplace of environmental hazard. “Around Crab Orchard” ultimately argues for forms of storytelling, image-making, and action that respond to the full complexity of the social and ecological landscape.


Signal is an idea in formation. It is a response to the myopia of contemporary political culture in the United States, our blindness to most things beyond our national boundaries, and our lack of historical memory. There is no question that art, design, graphics, and culture all play an influential role in the maintenance of the way things are. They have also been important tools for every social movement that has attempted to challenge the status quo. The production of art and culture does not happen in a vacuum, it is not a neutral process. We don’t ask the question of whether culture should be instrumentalized towards political goals, the economic and social conditions we exist under marshall all material culture towards the maintenance of the way things are. The question we need to ask is whether our cultural production is used to uphold the massive levels of inequality that exist across the globe, or to challenge capitalism, statecraft, patriarchy, and all the systems used to produce and reproduce that disparity.


We drove to Toronto a couple months ago with a group of friends so Heath could present a paper at this conference. We also ate dragonfruit at Karine’s in the best food court I’ve ever seen–which I was reminded of when I came across these food drawings from Erin Jang.

(that’s Christopher.)

The Show ‘n Tell Show

The Show ‘n Tell Show will be at my alma mater, University of Illinois in Champaign, this Friday the 25th. If you’re in town, you’d be silly to miss this talk show representing designers, photographers, poster artists, and more.

First of all, check out this amazing video. It’s kind of perfect.

Secondly, here are the Chicago-based guests that will be there this time around:

Jay Ryan
If you’re in Champaign or Chicago and know posters, you know Jay Ryan who runs the bird machine.

Chris Strong
Strong is a photographer with a pretty great, and versatile, portfolio.

Jason Harvey
Harvey is a book designer (among other print work) who does both covers + interiors, including working with Jay Ryan on his book shown below.

Jennifer Beeman
Beeman is a photographer turned fashion designer who started HOUND making be-a-utiful clothing.

Mike Coulter
And finally, Coulter writes for buzz magazine in Champaign with such pieces like this one on e-mail: “It’s like talking, except that we get the impression that other people pay attention to us when we e-mail. They’re effective and easy, yet ultimately kind of unfulfilling. Many people worry that their actual intentions and tone often aren’t being fully communicated, and I totally get that. On the other hand, I’m often afraid my frequent use of sarcasm isn’t being conveyed in the rat bastard way it was intended, so it can bite you in the ass either way.”

More will be added later… but regardless of who it is, if you’re in Champaign you should be at the Link Gallery on Feb. 25th at 7:30pm.

No Layout

No Layout is a digital library for independent publishers, focusing on art books and fashion magazines. It is meant as a support for printed publications, allowing users to flip through full content on any screen without downloads or apps. A promotional and archive tool.

I just came across this project from Daniel Pianetti (with assistance from Bogdan Licar who does the coding, along with the Editor in Chief Jonas Brunschwig), in the past week. If any publisher wants a digital companion to their printed publication, they just need to submit a pdf via email to this crew. While the vast majority of the publications venture a bit too far into hipsterdom for my taste, I’m still loving the concept.

Here’s a few covers/spreads:



Tell mum everything is ok


Ola Rindal, The Beginning


Faund Magazine

Operation Exposure with Just Seeds & IVAW


As a part of November’s Chicago in War series that I mentioned a few weeks ago, Just Seeds and Iraq Veterans Against the War have collaborated on an effort entitled Operation Exposure: War is Trauma. Some really great work by these folks. Here’s an excerpt from their blog post (written by Nicolas Lampert):

“Operation Exposure: War is Trauma” hit the streets of Chicago on Monday November 15th. This collaboration between the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative and veterans and supporters from Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is a direct response to the suicide epidemic and violation of GI’s right to heal within the GI and veteran community. Veterans, artists, and supporters met in Rogers Park in Chicago and split into teams. They divided up posters that Justseeds had designed for IVAW and then wheatpasted the city. Teams hit advertising spaces and boarded up buildings with messages of GI resistance and “Operation Recovery” – a new IVAW campaign aimed to stop the redeployment of traumatized troops and focus public attention towards Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma (MST), and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

“We recognize that we must stop the deployment of all soldiers in order to end these occupations,” writes IVAW. “We see the deployment of soldiers with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and military sexual trauma as particularly cruel, dangerous, and inhumane. Military commanders across all branches are pushing service members far past human limits for the sake of combat readiness. We cannot allow those commanders to ignore the welfare of their troops. From multiple deployments despite PTSD, TBI, and other injuries, to rampant sexual assault within the military, soldiers are consistently being denied their right to heal. This basic right is being denied and we must organize to get it back.”

You can find images on their flickr page, but here a few for those pressed for time:




Visual AIDS

Visual AIDS enables public dialogue and scholarship around AIDS and contemporary art with exhibitions, public events, and publications. Each year we produce and distribute thousands of free, AIDS awareness, artist editions through our Broadsides project. Visual AIDS has successfully produced a variety of open call exhibitions, catalogs, and printed matter. Year-round we collaborate with teachers and students to facilitate research and special projects.

They currently have an exhibition entitled Treat my Words, with curator John Chaich, featuring work where text is integral to the meaning of the piece—from letterforms as objects to ad appropriation. Take a look at their slideshow.

Benjamin Incerti; Untitled, 1991

William Donovan; Eyechart (Dark), 2003

Robert Blanchon; Protection (Detail), 1992

Stephen Andrews; Album (to the Memory), 1995

Frank H. Jump; Dr. Tucker’s 59 For All Pain 1 Brooklyn’s Broadway Elevated Line, 1998

You can read more about the mission and values of Visual AIDS here.

thanks to Social Design Notes for the link.

Ross Evertson

Ross Evertson is an artist and designer from Toronto. One of his projects, Connection, reminds me of Richard Renaldi’s Touching Strangers that I posted a couple months ago. While Renaldi’s questions how we understand our physical relationship to another stranger, Evertson’s focuses on the romantic belief that there’s an intrinsic bond between the artist + subject. In each image, he holds the hand of the individual while he takes their photo, “literalizing the fabled connection.” I love that Evertson’s physical involvement is not always clear in the photo.