Cover Stories: Blast, Keen On, i Newspaper, Nataal & Vanity Fair
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct)’s weekly analysis of media design — both past and present, print and online — from South Africa and around the world:
- Iconic: Blast became a formative component of early 20th-century modernism in England
- Online: Keen On is an online avant-garde digital art magazine that tackles serious ontological and epistemological subject matter, from posthuman bodies to cyberfeminism
- International/print: I (Informação) Newspaper uses Andy Warhol’s art to parody the historic meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un
- International/print: Nataal seeks to spread knowledge about artistic output stemming from contemporary Africa and the diaspora
- International/print: Vanity Fair plugs “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in the most-elegant and -composed manner
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Nataal (UK), Issue 1, June 2018
Initially an online publication, London-based Nataal introduced its first print edition earlier this year, distributed as a large-format, 340-page biannual magazine. Contemporary African creativity being the focus, the magazine collaborates with artists and designers, drawing from popular narratives about Africa today and seeking to disseminate knowledge about artistic output stemming from the continent. The current edition has been published with two covers. The first features a portrait of Senegalese model, Mame Thiane Camara, shot by Julia Noni in Dakar. The second provides an image taken by Johannesburg-based Kristin-Lee Moolman, visualising prevalent trends such as Afropunk and Afrofuturism which are currently flooding global catwalks, thanks in-part to emerging fashion icons such as model Emmanuel Adjaye portrayed here on the cover. Moolman’s work is reminiscent of fellow South African photographer, Frank Marshall, and his seminal body of work titled Renegades.
The online magazine is as noteworthy as its fledgling print version, with concise galleries and profiles about key designers, writers, fashionistas and other cultural custodians from Africa and the diaspora. The distorted typography gives the site a graphic edge, alongside a consistent use of art directed photography. Encompassing artist interviews, photo essays, and various fashion-related elements, Nataal advocates the ever-evolving, highly pluralistic, landscape of contemporary African creativity, moving away from the occidental gaze towards the future gaze of the perceived other.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I (Informação) Newspaper (Portugal), 12 June 2018
Talk about a historic meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un has been in the air since April this year. A summit initially set for 24 May was canceled by Trump. Pyongyang also looked hesitant to meet, with its apparent rejection of Washington’s precondition of “total, complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation”. In short, the aim of this meeting was to discuss denuclearisation, for both America and North Korea, even though it’s highly unlikely that America will decrease its nuclear arsenal. 12 June saw this historic summit become a reality, hosted in the relatively neutral, central, city of Singapore.
It goes without saying that these two individuals are household names, due in part to the reasons that this summit had to happen. I Newspaper parodied this situation on the cover to its 12 June edition, the day of the summit. Riffing off Andy Warhol’s infamous series of screenprints, which included portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Richard Nixon, and Mao Zedong, to name a few, Portuguese cartoonist Vasco Gargalo positions these two eccentric leaders as pop icons. Apt, given the political environment in which Trump and Kim exist, dictated by social media, reality television, fake news, and the like.
Vanity Fair (US), June 2018
Emilia Clarke, famous for her role as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, graces the cover for this year’s summer issue of Vanity Fair magazine. Aside from photographer Craig McDean’s striking portrait, which effectively captures Clarke’s elegance and composure, the most-compelling element of this cover are the subtle pastel tones, supported by its clever headline, “Solo Flight”. A variety of textbook colour contrasts — warm and cool, light and dark, complimentary and monochromatic — all seamlessly, almost intuitively, combine to make for a pleasing cover with heaps of shelf appeal.
Naturally, all this serves to plug the blockbuster film, “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, wherein Clarke portrays Qi’ra, a childhood friend of Han Solo and his first love.
Keen On (Austria), Issue 6, June 2018
Keen on is an online magazine for digital natives and other internet subcultural tenets that dissects various creative approaches — academic, philosophical, cultural, etc — to the digital arts. Founded by curator, critic and digital strategist, Sabrina Steinek, Keen On endeavors to be an interactive, avant-garde, digital art magazine. Tackling serious ontological and epistemological subject matter, from posthuman bodies to cyberfeminism, #6 approaches the topic of codes and algorithms in a digital aesthetic, arguably anti-aesthetic, reminiscent of retro Web 1.0 graphics, cyberpunk, seapunk, vaporwave, and the like. With its scrambled visuals, clashing, often pixelated, graphics, odd typographic combinations, and CGA-like 16 colour palette, Keen On is idiosyncratic, an anomaly, and surprisingly well designed.
Blast (UK), 1914–1915
Ezra Pound first coined the term “vorticism”, used to describe a British avant-garde collective initially inspired by Italian futurism but which later became an anti-futurist movement. Blast was a literary magazine used to advocate vorticism, a quarterly published by cofounder of the movement, Wyndham Lewis. In a letter to James Joyce, Pound defined the magazine as a new futurist, cubist, imagiste quarterly, mostly comprising painters emulating the Italian avant-garde. Vorticism was initially spurred-on by a seminal series of lectures by Filippo Marinetti, the founder of Italian futurism, who visited London in 1910, squarely placing futurism within the British modernist narrative. Vorticism would come to be an influential avant-garde movement, separate from futurism, after Marinetti increasingly aggravated Lewis due to his arrogant stance and overbearingness, which continually placed futurism as superior to vorticism. At the helm of this contempt towards Marinetti and the futurist vision was Blast, which became a formative component of early 20th-century modernism in England.
Blast had a short but fruitful existence, with only two printed editions. The first edition, published in July 1914, had the word “Blast” emblazoned diagonally across its magenta cover, and contained the vorticist manifesto written by Lewis with Pound’s help (it was essentially a list of ‘blessed’ or ‘blasted’ things). The second edition was published one year later, in July 1915, and included two poems by TS Eliot, Preludes and Rhapsody on a Windy Night and a play by Pound, among other contributions. The magazine attempted to forge a tradition for English modernism. Lewis implemented bold, sans-serif (grotesque) typography, not commonly used at the time, to attract a modernity-savvy audience, undoubtedly influenced by Marinetti’s experiments in concrete poetry, such as Zang Tumb Tumb.
About a month after Blast was first published, World War 1 was declared, which almost brought vorticism to a halt. Most of the movements exponents were killed during the war. Lewis managed to survive the trenches and tried to revive vorticism after the war; he even attempted to publish a third edition of Blast but to no avail. The destruction caused by the first mechanised war, something that the futurists worshipped, caused most remaining vorticists to relinquish their modernist inclinations and return to more-traditional form of representation. By 1920, vorticism had lost all momentum, killing any aspirations to revive Blast.
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) is a designer, writer, and educator currently based in Cape Town, South Africa, working in the fields of communication design and digital media. He works from Gilgamesh, a small design studio, and is a senior lecturer in graphic design at Vega School in Cape Town. Connect on Pinterest and Instagram.
Cover Stories, formerly MagLove, is a regular slot deconstructing media cover design, both past and present.
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