BLACK AND WHITE AND READ ALL OVER!

05 March 2008
This weeks feature has been republished from IdN magazine's Black and White Issue, printed in 2007.
This weeks feature has been republished from IdN magazine's Black and White Issue, printed in 2007. It consists of an interview with ten different designers, of which three are included below, looking at the use of black and white in their work. The theme of this feature is an interesting contrast to the theme of Color for the upcoming Design Week in Daegu, Korea.



[Black-and-white issue]


For those colours that you wish to be beautiful, always first prepare a pure white background.
-Leonardo Da Vinci.

The case for and against black and white is by no means black and white. What started out as the only game in town due to technical limitations is now purely a matter of personal choice. There are those who are put off by the very thought of watching a movie, for instance, in b/w. Others however, for whom the combo is the very acme of chic.

‘Black and white’ as a term is, of course, a misnomer, for anything supposedly in b/w will also include varying shades of grey. Furthermore, many of the earliest photographs – which are what we mostly associate with the so-called ‘black-and-white’ era nowadays – were actually produced in sepia, which provided better archival stability and gave a richer, more subtle shading.
 
Inevitably, black and white carries overtones of antiquity, given that everything reproduced visually started out that way – newspapers, magazines, movies, animated cartoons, photography and television. So its deliberate use at the start of the 21st century cannot fail to give rise to accusations of seeking to evoke a spirit of Retro.

This is, in fact, one of the questions we asked the 10 artists featured in the following pages: do they regard their feelings for b/w as nostalgic? Most of them don’t, but they do all love the impact it makes, which some said was ‘timeless’, others going further and claiming that, as a protest against the ubiquity of truer and truer colour reproduction, b/w is actually cutting- edge nowadays.
 
No question that it can be powerful, since there is no contrast in the colour spectrum that is so diametrically opposed. And that is to look at it simply from an aesthetic viewpoint. When it comes to moral implications, they are legion, with black generally adopting the sinister role and white synonymous with purity and all that goes with it.

Our interviewees, who hail from a variety of artistic media, are united in their passion for this most primitive of juxtapositions. They are not seeking to persuade anybody to their predilection, but would like people to know what it is about black and white that has such a hold over them. We think you may start to view the world somewhat differently after reading what they have to say: to realise that the argument of colour versus black and white is full of fascinating shades of grey.





Interview with Grogori Saavedra

Gregori Saavedra was born in 1968 and currently resides in Barcelona, Spain. Once an advertising creative direct or, he is now a multi-media artist, creating animations, wonderfully detailed illustration collages and video. In addition to TV commercials for Nestlé and French cosmetics company Payot, Saavedra has created several sharply edited video accompaniments for music by The Books (Tomlab). His video style could be tagged kinetic, resulting in an almost stop-motion animation effect of rapidly sequenced clips and images. From his commercial work, his love of black-and-white may not be easily traced; on his personal website, he portrays his life as one big amusement park where everything inside it is only in black and white colours.

IdN: Could you tell us something about your earliest influences, how you came to an appreciation of design and how you moved into design as a profession?

GS: I would say that everything, or almost everything, has had an infl uence on me. I was infl uenced by the place where I grew up, a small industrial town, as well as by the art directors I worked with when I was an advertising creative director; the news in the newspapers infl uence me, the music I listen to, the books I read, the films I watch, everything. When you know what my life is really like, you realise that my works are like personal diaries. All my work has an easy-to-follow trail. I’ll give you a very basic example: electricity pylons appear a lot in my illustrations. I am convinced that this fixation is because of my father. He is an industrial engineer and has spent his life designing high-voltage electrical installations. I remember how his plans, full of notes and technical specifications, used to fascinate me.

As for design as a profession, it is something relatively recent. I had never designed anything up until four years ago. I have never studied design. I make design decisions because I was the creative director and as such, had to supervise all phases of a piece of work. But the designer in charge of each project always had the last word. In fact, I feel like a beginner. I see my work as an experience that I can learn from.

IdN: How would you describe your work/style to first-time viewers?

GS: I would describe it as an invitation to complexity. The world seems to be moving towards the extremely simple, the concentrated, towards ‘less is more’. But I think that there is a more comprehensive view of life, one that admits that things can be really complex. This is what surprises you the first time you stop to look at one of my pieces. People do not expect such an elaborate aesthetic approach. I believe firmly in work. I am fascinated by works that hint at the millions of hours of work that went into them. In an era where everything seems to have to be easy, where everything has to have order, I am proposing a detour towards what is difficult, towards disorder.

IdN: When did you start using black-and-white for your work and why?

GS: It all began when I decided to create my website. I was searching for a style that would allow me to clearly convey my numerous forms of being, into which I could mix all my forms of expression – illustration, photography, video, design, writing... At the time I was working very closely with three friends who are designers – David Espulga, Max Tuja and Dani Esteve. They unconsciously guided me towards black-and-white. It was there that I found the perfect terrain to join all the parts together. A world of shadows, of maximum contrast, where everything fits, you need only find it the right place. Black-and-white ensnared me and, frankly, I find it very useful. Thanks to this resource, I can describe imaginary scenes with real elements that I come across every day. Everything can be transformed. Like a shadow play, where simple hands can be a bird, a horse or a rabbit.

IdN: How do you make the achromatic colours black and white interesting?

GS: I always pursue relevant ideas. Black and white are radical colours that leave no doubt. They are like a filter through which only clear, potent and hard forms can pass. My life does not evolve in particularly spectacular environments, but on the other hand these apparently irrelevant elements, in pure black and white, can take on an extreme appearance. That is what I like about this style. I can shatter my world and re-construct it to create a different world. I think that if I lived in more extreme, more dramatic places, I would not need black-and-white, but right now, here, it is my salvation.

IdN: Many see black-and-white as nostalgic. What’s your take on that?

GS: For many people black-and-white belongs to the past. To a world where colour was technically impossible. Many even see it as a sad or extremely formal combination. Maybe it is; I’m not saying that it isn’t. But I also think that colour is often over-used as simply decoration, without any idea, without a message, a mere accessory. Black and white are probably ideal colours for nostalgic people because they send us back to a time of craftsmanship, where details were valuable. When I see an etching by Giuseppe Matelli or a drawing by Michelangelo, I also feel nostalgic. Nostalgic for the days when people were not afraid of giving themselves up to a tremendously laborious project.

IdN: Black-and-white is enjoying a revival. In your opinion, why is that?

GS: There will always be room for black-and-white. It will be a corner to seek solace in the face of such an invasion of colour. However, black-and-white must shake off that retro thing. It need not just take us to the past, to things classic or basic. Evidently, I am happy to be living with this revival because it means that we exist at the right time, but I don’t know to what extent it can be used as a potent graphic tool. Look at Neubau’s illustrations, for example. I see their vector work everywhere, but devoid of relevance. Designers simply use it to finish a project quickly.

IdN: Black-and-white has been featured in every medium. In which one is it most powerful, do you think?

GS: It’s true. It has been applied to a host of disciplines but we are still frightened of using it in certain areas. In the children’s world, it is regarded as a sin. It seems that children are only stimulated by colours. In my opinion, black and white take on their utmost expression when used in circumstances of confrontation. In sports, for example, where there are two sides, two extremes, one against the other. Like the actual colours. White, the symbol of purity, goodness, virginity and black, the dark, occult, evil side. Good against evil. Clean and dirty. Also vacuum as opposed to mystery. Soft against firm. Day against night. The holy versus the forbidden. I think that sport in general could regain values that it lost some time ago. It has become a circus. A show, pure money. If we brought it closer to chess, it would be more serious. It would be more dramatic, a battle, more intelligent, more emotional. Colours nowadays render it banal, infantile, bland, watered down. Isn’t it? A little bit of black-and-white mentality would also help the car industry.

IdN: How?

GS: Before advertising, I worked as engineering assistant for a Ford Motor Company supplier. Before launching every car model, during the development process, we used to spend years and years looking at technical drawings. I loved those drawings. The aesthetic of data. Every line was information. But every project was identically disappointing. When finished, assembled and coloured, it was just another car. Nothing really new, just another one. A pity. So much work. So much time. And colour robbed it of all its strength. In black-and-white, they look so advanced, so perfect, so precise. Look at the space shuttle. Just black. Just white.

An automobile is also a high-tech product. Pure engineering. An object designed by intelligence. That’s what it is. Nothing else. If the car industry wants to escape from its deep crisis, it should be reminded of this. They make cars. Not toys. Not fashion. Not fantasy. Ask an engineer. They imagine cars in black and white. They design cars in black and white. They developed cars in black and white. As black and white as a road, the car’s home.

IdN: Who epitomises black-and-white?

GS: A Dalmatian! Ha, ha. No, it was a joke. How difficult! I am not an expert in black and white. I can tell you who I admire. Who I have admired. Who I have learned from. I still remember the first time I saw a piece by WK Interact. I stood there looking at it for more than two hours. Stunning. I was writhing in anger and pleasure. All at the same time. Banksy’s acidity is great. His work in the Palestine territories was truly brave. The ideal place for his ideals. In particular I love the classical artists. The Renaissance etchings of Claude Châtillon, Inigo Jones. The magnificent drawings of Alberto Durero. The anatomical studies of Leonardo da Vinci. The devils of Collin de Plancy.

IdN: Why did you choose illustration as your design medium?

GS: For several reasons. First, because it allowed me to pour very different disciplines into each piece – concept, drawings, photography, animation. Second, because I love the life it involves. Going out in the morning to hunt for images, to capture ideas. And at night, in front of the computer screen, the metamorphosis comes. This method allows me to remain in contact with the world, but also to be isolated and delve into myself. Perfect. And third, because it does not take up space. I live and work with my wife and two daughters in a tiny apartment. Everything that comes out of my computer is annoying. God bless the digital age!  

IdN: You have said: “I am not a photographer. I am not a copywriter. I am not an illustrator. I am not a designer.” How, then, would you describe your occupation?

GS: I have spent so much time pigeon-holed in a professional occupation that did not allow me to advance further that I have no intention of ever defining myself as something ever again. What’s more, I am capricious; I get tired of doing the same things very quickly. I need to jump from one activity to another. What appeals to me most in life is the ‘surprise’. I love living without knowing what I will have to do tomorrow. Every week someone different calls me with a totally different project. I am something different every day – a writer, a designer, a video-clip director, a photographer, a creative director, a communication consultant, an illustrator. That is priceless. I used to envy other people’s lives. Now I get up in the morning and am amazed at all the lives I can live in one.

IdN: You’re always in pain when you depict yourself in your work. How come?

GS: You are quite right. I think I have the tendency to torture myself. I have several theories on this one. My mother told me that I was a huge baby and that actually giving birth to me was enormously painful for the both of us. But I have more theories. For many artists, the moment of creation is a tremendously painful experience. I think that I express this creative suffering with my body mutilated in a thousand different ways. I also think there is a revenge element here, too. I have always thought that I am one of the luckiest people in the world. My work fascinates me. I love my wife madly. My two daughters are marvellous. And that just doesn’t seem fair. I don’t think I deserve that much luck. Perhaps I punish myself artistically to feel at peace with myself. I don’t know. Or maybe it’s just a way of creating the most dramatic, relevant, powerful, poignant image possible.

IdN: Is the Gregori in your work you, or your alter ego?

GS: Both. I don’t believe in zodiac signs, but I am Gemini. My two mentalities exist, co-exist, argue, fight! Sometimes one of them wins, and sometimes the other. And who am I? Both. Terrible-good, free-captive, beauty-beast, giant-dwarf, positive-negative. Maybe that’s why the black-and-white binomial works so well for me. I was quite worried about this for some time, but then I realised that it was very beneficial for me. At first I felt it sort of split me in two. And it wasn’t so. It duplicates me. It makes me two different beings. Four eyes are always better than two. I have an assistant for free.

IdN: Your work resembles black-and-white photography. Why?

GS: I suppose it is because I pursue a photographic image that I am incapable of finding in my own reality. As it is not within my reach so I create it with illustration, with the collage of hundreds of different photographs. At the age of five I was already helping my father to make copies of his negatives in black-and-white. We used to spend whole mornings and afternoons in the dark room, stunned by each new image that appeared. It was so magical. Life magazine also has a lot to answer for. My parents collected it and those photographs that I didn’t understand, but aroused my curiosity, flooded my head from a very early age.

IdN: Your work tackles serious issues such as the Bush administration and globalisation. Is that what you are really worried about?

GS: In my humble opinion, I don’t think that we are being very smart. As a species, we over-exploit everything. We are doing away with everything. And on we go, foot on the gas, straight to the wall. They are saying that in 15 years’ time the arctic polar icecap will disappear – and what do we do? We are looking for water on Mars. Brilliant. Another place to destroy. Talking about intelligent beings, here we have good George. In the years to come, when our times appear in the history books, I am convinced that the Bush administration will be unanimously acknowledged as one of the worst-prepared and most stupid North American governments of all time. The European politicians aren’t any great shakes either. They, with their experience, history and would-be wisdom, should have stopped that ill-bred upstart, who has never learned to share, in his tracks. But they didn’t. They didn’t do their thing. They didn’t stand up to him. They remained silent. I hope I’m wrong, but I think that sooner or later we will all have to pay for this. And that worries me. For my daughters, mainly. It is inevitable that my ideals mingle with my ideas. What I do is what I think. It is not very useful, but at least I’m being sincere.





Interview with Linda Zacks

After graduating from Brown University, New England, USA and working as the design director of VH1.com for four years, Linda Zacks decided to go solo, working for the likes of Virgin Mobile, eBay and Target. She has never wanted to be labelled as simply an illustrator/artist/designer, claiming that all she wants to do is to ‘show the other side of the world’, or how the world should be. What others regard as trash is, through her eyes, re-invented in a most inspiring fashion, for she also believes that there is nothing that can by truly called ‘worthless’.

IdN: Would you tell us something about your earliest influences, how you came to an appreciation of design and how you moved into design as a profession?

LZ: As a young girl, I was a tomboy. It was never about Barbies for me, but always about colour pens and pencils, little pads and stickers and sports. I made up a book about a land where you could only get around by rollercoaster and tried to get it published when I was about eight. My parents always had a great appreciation for art and design – and took me to see poster-art exhibitions and museums and eye-opening stuff like that. My creativity always sprouted in different ways at school, not necessarily in art class. During college, I landed an amazing internship at the Miami Herald as an artist in its art department. It was then that I realised that this kind of career even existed and I was floored by the possibilities.

IdN: How would you describe your work/style to first-time viewers?

LZ: A fizzy, lifting drink for the eyeballs, thought-provoking and raw.

IdN: When did you start using black-and-white for your work and why?

LZ: I’ve been in love with Xerox machines ever since I can remember, photo strips from old school photo booths, newspaper op/ed power, black ink, white-out. I don’t think it was conscious, I just grab for what I need – grab for black, grab for white, strong, stark, intense. I just like them I guess.

IdN: How do you make the achromatic colours black and white interesting?

LZ: It’s the push-pull, push-pull of black and white, positive and negative, like creative caramel. Lay it on thick, glob it on, then erase, scratch into it, open some white veins in the black goop, layer, mould, paint over, then erode it some more.

IdN: Many see black-and-white as nostalgic. What’s your take on that?

LZ: In the past, black-and-white wasn’t a choice like it is now, so for a lot of people it represents the past, sentimental moments caught in time. But now, with all the wonders of technology and endless possibilities of colours and effects, black-and-white is a choice. Some, I suppose, would use it for its nostalgic value like the feel of a serious/sombre old war film or classy depiction of glamorous old Hollywood, but I see black-and-white as complex, strong, bold and ballsy, soulful, really intense and honest, gritty and raw, and really powerful – the language of now.

IdN: Black-and-white has been featured in every medium. In which one is it most powerful?

LZ: Nature – winter sky with white diamond stars; food – black cake with white icing; photos and movies – too many greats to describe, and TV shows – The Twilight Zone!

IdN: Who epitomises black-and-white?

LZ: My dog, Zebedee, a Boston Terrier – one white paw, three black paws, pure splashes of white and black all over, like he was dipped into an ink vat. Also, salt and pepper and zebras! And humans (race and how we define ourselves) and, of course, Oreo cookies – the perfect union of black-and-white ‘yumminess’.

IdN: Why did you choose illustration as your design medium?

LZ: I definitely didn’t set out to be an illustrator. I just like messing about with words, paints, alphabets, designs, photos, ideas – whatever and however. Illustration is a wonderful place where a lot of these things can intersect and hold hands, so for me it’s a great medium.

IdN: Why do you call the US ‘America the Strange’?

LZ: Because it is. Or maybe it’s just the world in general. Strange and contradictory and violent and tender and scary and inspirational and twisted and loud and quiet and intimidating and narrow and wide and unusual and extraordinary, all at once!

IdN: Your work defies categorisation and covers a wide spectrum. Have you ever felt you’ve dabbled in a niche and could have further explored it?

LZ: Absolutely. People are quick to call themselves an expert in an area – but it takes lifetimes upon lifetimes to really unfold and uncover anything. At this point in my life, all I feel I have done is dabbled. There is always so much more to see and learn. But I have always been a bit impatient, so I have my lifetime to explore as much as possible and as thoroughly as possible.

IdN: The twisting of traditional concepts such as beauty and war is one of your recurring themes. Can you expand on that?

LZ: I like to over-think, re-think and drive over ideas with a two-tonne bulldozer in my head, look at them sideways, mix and match, and hopefully unearth something new. Every day in the media we hear about war and violence and women and beauty and ageing, so these are juicy topics to prey on.

IdN: What made you leave your full-time job as the design director for VH1.com and go freelance in 2004?

LZ: I felt it was my time to take a chance with being a creative free agent – throw it all out there and see what bites.

IdN: Your project ‘It Smells Like Girl’ is centred on women. What is it about females that fascinate you?

LZ: Being female myself, I am always analysing the pulses of energy and magic dust that make us tick. So ‘It Smells Like Girl’ is really an ongoing exploration into woman: part self-portrait, part woman-portrait – a beast unlike any other, fierce, sensual, complex, life-filled, churning with hormones, moody, powerful, powerless. How should we act? How should we look? There’s so much craziness to sink your teeth into and elaborate on.

IdN: Even though black and white are the dominant colours of your works, they are peppered with a lot of bright colours. In the future, would you like to create pure black-and-white works?

LZ: I have a giddy delight in and love for all colours. In the future, I hope to make all kinds of stuff – more pure black-and-white and anything else I can muster up. My biggest challenge is restraint. I see a colour and want to splat it on – but I love the look and feel of a pure black-and-white creation, especially black type on a white page, its simplicity and impact.

IdN: What are your future plans?

LZ: Stay sane, do exercises, eat chocolate, make shit.





Interview with Jakob Kolding

You don’t have to be an architect to plan your ideal city, you just have to have a strong mind and be talented enough to put your thoughts into practice. Jakob kolding, born in 1971, was brought up in albertslund, denmark, and now lives and works in berlin, germany. After getting his education at the royal danish academy of fine arts, he has worked at everything  from street installation to fine art. The core message he wants to express deals with different aspects of space and place. Especially in urban and suburban contact. Jakob questions why people are judged by the places they live in, reasoning that living in a big house doesn’t mean you are a good person, so neither does living in an urban area mean that you are bad person.

IdN: Would you tell us something about your earliest influences, how you came to an appreciation of design and how you moved into design as a profession?

JK: Well, first I have to say that I don’t have design as a profession but art. I’m not that interested in categorisations like that and for me it is important to always work in different contexts, but nevertheless the works have been developed from an art context and I would never think of them as design.

Regarding infl uences, there are many. And from many different fields. Art, architecture, music, comics, football, sociology, politics, films, books, etc. Actually, I did social studies at university before I went to art school and although I liked studying at university; I also felt it a bit limiting that you’d always have to follow certain academic rules when writing on a subject. I mean, I completely understand that it is like that, it was just that for me personally I felt it was a problem. If, for instance, I was working with gentrification in a specific neighbourhood of Copenhagen, I thought it was somewhat limiting that you couldn’t include references to, for instance, different aspects of everyday life that you’d find relevant. A song you’d just heard and which seemed to make sense in that context, a film or a local football game or whatever. At least, you couldn’t include them without writing a whole paper on Lefebvre and everyday life first, you know? And as much as I really like Lefebvre, sometimes I just wanted to quote a song by The Jam. So in a way, the subjects that I am working with haven’t changed dramatically from back
then, but the way that I work has. And I think that, at least to a certain extent, the increased possibility of finding my own approach and my own way of dealing with and presenting the subjects was a very decisive factor for me in working as an artist. From an art point of view, of course, it’s obvious that the work has many references to the whole history of political collage (Russian constructivists, Hanna Höch, John Heartfield, Martha Rosler and so on), but this is just one aspect.

IdN: When did you start using black-and-white for your work and why?

JK: I guess I’ve always used b/w a lot, although not exclusively. However, it was never based on principle or anything like that. I’m using b/w because I think it makes sense within the works. Of course, I like the look of b/w (or I probably wouldn’t have used it so much) and I like the references it brings to the history of political collage that I already mentioned. Also, I like how b/w photocopies are such a cheap and easily accessible way of working.

IdN: Many see black-and-white as nostalgic. What’s your take on that?

JK: I don’t think you can call b/w in itself nostalgic. It really depends on how you use it. In my work I have, as I already mentioned twice, included many references to the whole history of political collage, but that is not all. I really wouldn’t want them to be seen as nostalgic as to me they are very much based in the now and the references to history in them are only because of the relevance I think this has here and now.

IdN: Black-and-white is enjoying a revival. In your opinion, why is that?

JK: I didn’t know it was enjoying a revival. But following on from some of the previous answers, let me again stress that colours, forms, materials, etc. only gain importance for me in how they are used and what for. In itself, I think it is totally irrelevant and uninteresting if something is b/w or pink or yellow or blue or any other colour. Or if it is a poster, a movie, a performance, a house, a magazine or whatever.

IdN: Why did you choose collage as your design medium?

JK: I have to stress that I don’t see my work as design at all. I am only interested in form as an integral part of the content of the work and the subjects I am interested in. And one thing that I really like about collage is how by its very nature it underscores the importance of context and inter-relations in any construction of meaning and how you can always include all sorts of references in the work. Actually, it’s impossible not to and in that sense every small part of the work, every cut-out, opens up the work to something outside it. Instead of trying to close it down as an independent art work. So every single piece opens up to more information and in that sense you can really wear your references on your sleeve and share them with people. And I like that. Another thing I like about collage is that you need no technical skills whatsoever to do it. Anyone can do collage, which means you don’t have to relate to any questions about technical skills needed to produce the work and can solely focus on meaning.

IdN: Why is planning and architecture the dominant theme of your work?

JK: I guess when I started doing art, and before that, I was very interested in a lot of modernist Utopian ideas about planning and architecture. I still am, but from the outset it was a very dominant theme in the works. What is the perfect city? Who is it perfect for? Who is it not perfect for? Who defines ‘perfect’? All those kind of questions. And gradually, I got more and more into thinking about different ideas about space and place in general. How is it planned? Who planned it? Who uses it? For what? Who is excluded from using it? I grew up in a suburb of Copenhagen in Denmark that was built in the 60s. It was very strictly planned and to a high degree based on some of the modernist welfare-state ideals I mentioned above. I loved it as a child, but later as I grew up I also realised that something was missing from the ‘perfect’ plans. Maybe that’s where my interest comes from.

IdN: Why do you juxtapose characters from Star Wars and Batman movies with teenagers and DJs in your collages?

JK: It is important for me to always work with the issues I am interested in, not as isolated subjects, but as inter-relations and contexts. That’s one reason why I like working with collage because, as I just said, it’s a way of always opening up the work and defining it by its references and not by some sort of internal meaning.

It’s also very important to me not to see any subject, for instance planning or architecture or Batman or music, as an isolated subject. To always work simultaneously from different angles and look at parallels, inter-relations, contexts between what might at first seem like rather different subjects. It’s really just that I don’t have a separate world for art, one for music, one for politics, one for football, etc. And I also, in principle, think that it would be very problematic to think of subjects or fields as somewhat isolated. For instance, it very often seems, in both popular and professional discussions about 1960s and 70s modernist housing areas, as if all the social problems that exist in some of these areas arise from the architecture alone. This is, of course, convenient for both politicians and planners as you don’t really have to question general housing policies, unemployment policies, social policies, immigration policies, local, national and international economies, the representation of the area by the media, etc., etc. Factors that in many cases go directly against the stated political intentions for the housing areas. Instead, you can try to ‘liven up’ the area by making colourful murals on the houses and stuff like that. Which can be fine, but will certainly not change any of the underlying, and if you ask me, far more important structures.

So I don’t think you can separate the poli-tics from the architecture from daily life, and Batman and DJs are just two aspects of daily life that I make references to. But of course, there is always some sort of reasoning behind the references I use. They are not random. Perhaps Batman says something that I find fits the subject of the work and I use that, or it could be references to electronic music as a paral-lel way of thinking about form and space.

Also, with these two examples, I guess Batman is a very ‘urban’ superhero and electronic music certainly started out as a very urban phenomenon with huge social potential. Yet another example of reasons to include these references are the similarities in the DJs’ way of working, sampling/cutting and pasting, and collage.

For me, it is extremely important to always work from different viewpoints, different contexts. Partly because I don’t think you can separate the world like that and that it can be very dangerous if you do, but also partly as I believe it can open up discussions a bit if you jump between architects, DJs, Batman, skaters, politi-cians, speculators or whatever. For me, it is vital to include all these aspects of daily life and make parallels between the different areas.

IdN: You have a love/hate relationship with urban planning; if you could alter the city’s landscape, how would you go about it?

JK: I’ve always been interested in what happens from the original planning ideas through to their realisation. Quite often I have found that the plans and the ideas are amazing whereas I have been less impressed when I’ve seen the actual building or area – if it was ever realised. One important part of this interest is the gulf between the good intentions and the outcome. A gulf that obviously can go from pretty narrow to absolutely massive.

I am obviously very interested in art projects as well as architectural projects that are based on the actual construction of new spaces, but it is not something I think I would be able to do and – although who knows – I somehow doubt it will be. I don’t have any secret plans or ideas of what I would like to do if someone suddenly gave me a lot of space and a lot of money to actually go ahead and build something. My work is more about the considerations and the ideas and, of course, to share these considerations and ideas. And not least to share these ideas with people who do actually plan and construct new spaces. Therefore it is also, again, very important to me to work in different contexts. The works change a lot if they are shown in the streets, in an architectural magazine, on a record cover or in an art institution.

That I don’t think that I would be able to work with actual construction of new spaces doesn’t mean, of course, that I do not have a lot of opinions and ideas. And these ideas are obviously central to the works. For instance, as I briefl y touched upon above, the importance of seeing a place as defined by its context and inter-relations and as a process as opposed to just form.

IdN: Football is a symbol of rebellion in your work, yet it is very much a part of popular culture. How does that work?

JK: Well, I really don’t think that it is impossible for popular culture and mainstream culture to have subversive aspects. And I also don’t think that things are necessarily subversive because they are outside the mainstream. For me, this divide in itself is not interesting at all.

There are quite a few references to football in the works partly for the simple reason that I am a huge fan myself, partly because football, of course, has a huge social importance to many, many people. I would say, though, that it differs for the different works. Football, as with any of the other subjects, doesn’t always play the same role in different works. It doesn’t have a stable meaning.

One aspect though, which very much relates to your question, is that I find it interesting to make a football player a spokesperson for, for example, alternative planning strategies. If you see some urban theorist promoting these thoughts, maybe you think you already know what they want to say or at least you have already assigned them a specific role. Making a footballer the spokesperson disrupts this and can maybe make you think twice about what’s being said. I would hope. Apart from that, I guess it is also a small personal dream of mine. The perfect world where I can support my football club and feel good about what it represents instead of, as is the case, seeing the world of football gradually becoming more and more hyper-commercial.

I could go on, since as I said, the footballer does not have a stable meaning in the works. Like everything else, it changes with context. Another example could be the footballer as an image of someone using space in a way you’re not supposed to. I guess the experience of being told that you cannot play football somewhere (because you’d break the windows or destroy the lawn or whatever) is very familiar to a lot of people.

IdN: Other than the skater, can you give me an example of someone using space in a way it isn’t intended to be used?

JK: Too many to mention. Of course, I use the skater a lot in the works as it is such a clear and obvious example of someone using space in a way that wasn’t intended, but you know, it can be so many things. Organising parties, demonstrations, people crossing a lawn using an ‘unauthorised’ path instead of the planned one, squatting, building outside the official planning schemes, graffiti, playing football (or whatever) in the streets as we just talked about... and so on and on. In Hong Kong, the most obvious example that I know of would be the Sunday picnics on the walkways in the centre of the business district. That is amazing.

IdN: What are your future plans? Are you working on any particular projects right now?

JK: I’m working on different projects. Exhibitions and more site-specific projects. At the moment, most of them are in Europe.



Reprinted with permission from IdN, Vol. 14 No. 1 (the Black & while issue). All images remain the property of the designers.