Cover Stories: Art Africa, Cabaret Voltaire, Emergence, ESPN & TIME
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct)’s weekly analysis of media design — both past and present, print and online — from South Africa and around the world:
- Local/print: Art Africa finds a fresh new face depicting contemporary masks using the visual language of emojis
- Iconic: Cabaret Voltaire contributed to experimental tendencies in art during the early 20th century, forming part of the bedrock of modernism, thanks to the invention of dadaism
- Online: Emergence proves that businesses can use visual communication in a tasteful and aesthetically pleasing way
- Miscellaneous: ESPN Body 2018 showcases striking portraits and profiles about some of the world’s most-influential sports women and men
- International/print: TIME highlights the question of ‘truth’ today, believing that democracy will prevail over the forces that work to destroy it
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Art Africa (South Africa), issue 12, June 2018
A few weeks ago, while featuring Adjective magazine, mention was made about the scarcity of any relevant narratives or formal engagements within the South African art world, much of it driven by pure image and various market related factors. The cover to latest issue of Art Africa magazine delivers some optimism in this regard. Themed “Destination Happiness”, the magazine introduces a new artistic name, that of Namibian-based photographer, Toufic Beyhum. His work is fresh for a variety of reasons, notably for its internationalist undertones, global in scope; his ability to migrate across varying fields and trades from commercial art forms to fine art (originally working as an art director for multinational advertising agencies); and the hyperbolic nature of his narrative (a mashup of differing, hybridised cultural signifiers).
The cover image is a work titled “Amoji Mask Grimace with Snake” (2017–2018), taken from his series “Amoji Masks”. In this series, Beyhum appropriates the visual language of emojis and merges it with recycled African (Namibian) subject matter, motivated by traditions surrounding African masks. Thus, the artist confronts his audiences, coercing them to reconsider how they interact with culturally significant constructs, iconography and symbolism. His work may also be interpreted as a metaphor for Africa’s fractured, almost-schizophrenic place in the world, where new forms of representation are being negotiated, new cultural territories are being explored, and new approaches to identity are being constructed.
TIME (US), 23 July 2018
It should go without saying that democracy is important, based on a few very simple ideas such as placing the power to rule in the hands of the people through dynamic negotiations and public debate. The thing is, governments across the globe are increasingly losing sight of notions such as liberty, free thought, human dignity, equality and citizenship among a plethora of other important pillars of democracy, and are swift to make life-altering decisions for the people whom they are meant to serve. Governments must be held accountable to the people but, instead, transparency gives way to corruption, and liberty is replaced by fraternity, and the inverse becomes a reality where governments manipulate the masses.
Today, the foundations of democracy are under attack from contemporary leaders, such as Donald Trump, who are challenging humanism, ‘truth’, and the like at every turn. This is evidenced by the recent separation of migrant children from their parents based on a simple decision that the president of America made without debating the matter. This is perhaps, as last Saturday’s issue of The Guardian’s Review suggests, “the end of truth”. The headline to the latest issue of TIME shares this sentiment: “will it [democracy] prevail”. The illustration, done by Sean Freeman, resembles the iconic pillars of ancient Greek architecture, symbolising the bedrock of democracy, now fractured and seemingly crumbling.
ESPN Body 2018 (US), July 2018
The annual Body Issue of ESPN magazine has become a much-anticipated calendar event. First published in 2009, it’s meant to be a competitor to the annual Swimsuit Edition of Sports Illustrated magazine. The 2018 edition of ESPN Body features 15 athletes in all. Photographed as nude or semi-nude portraits, 10 athletes are showcased on their own individual covers and with all 15 athletes featured on the website — which is surprisingly interactive, has excellent layout, and engaging photographic and video content.
The 10 printed covers are of baseball stars, Dallas Keuchel and Yasiel Puig; basketball stars, Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Karl-Anthony Towns; figure skater, Adam Rippon; American football stars, Saquon Barkley and Jerry Rice; golf legend, Greg Norman; footballers, Crystal Dunn, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Megan Rapinoe; softball player, Lauren Chamberlain; cross-country skier, Jessie Diggins; sprinter, Tori Bowie; and WWE wrestler, Charlotte Flair. The issue is art-directed by Rami Moghadam, with the help of DOP, Karen Frank, and photographed by Marcus Eriksson.
Emergence (US), July 2018
Who said that corporations have no appreciation for great design, and that corporates working for these brands have no sense of taste or aesthetic sensibility? Emergence Capital is a brand that certainly disproves all such assumptions, injecting textbook design into what could so easily be just another stale and sterile website that barely stands up against a PowerPoint presentation. I could go through the entire list of dos and don’ts for great web design but let’s just mention a few in relation to Capital’s website:
- The site has a clear purpose: “We invest in people who change the way the world works”
- Tone of voice, related visual communication and copywriting are accessible, approachable, easy to understand, and palatable
- Typographic parings are excellent, and easy on the eye
- Colours are balanced and in harmony, with a varied swatch and working contrasts
- All images are beautifully illustrated and tastefully executed
- Navigation is clear, simple and intuitive
- Layout and grid usage rivals print, responsive and mobile friendly, working seamlessly across all platforms and devices
- Despite all the above, the site load time is quick
The list could easily go on and on; if only all such brands had the same level of awareness and consideration.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Cabaret Voltaire (Switzerland), 1916
On 5 March 1916, during World War I in neutral Switzerland, a cabaret focused on unorthodox happenings, writing and art was founded by avant-garde writer, Hugo Ball. Based in Zurich, the Cabaret Voltaire, named after the French Enlightenment writer and philosopher, was a collaborative, eclectic and experimental space. During its infancy, to promote the space, Cabaret Voltaire was accompanied by a printed review carrying the same name. The physical space was the site where the first adaist Manifesto was performed by Ball himself. The publication was the earliest Dadaist journal, to be followed by the prolific “Dada” reviews.
As Cabaret Voltaire grew, Ball was accompanied by Tristan Tzara (who would later become the self-proclaimed leader of the Dadaist movement), Hans Arp, Marcel Janco and Richard Huelsenbeck; all would become important Dada exponents, pioneering the avant-garde in Europe during the inter-world-war period. The space was more like a club-come-gallery, with artworks on the walls accompanied by poetry readings and other performances each night. As such, the Cabaret Voltaire crafted a new spirit, a state of mind, that somehow cohered outside mainstream mindsets and revolted against the status quo. Often unprompted and improvised, the Cabaret Voltaire, and Dada which resulted from it, caused an explosion that could neither be contained nor easily categorised, vehemently negating any form of establishment or institutionalisation.
Dadaist content did not dominate Cabaret Voltaire, though; there were also important contributions from futurists such as Filippo Marinetti, and cubists such as Pablo Picasso, among others. This cross-pollination, an early form of modernist internationalism, was a trend that continued in the following issues of Cabaret Voltaire’s successor, the Dada journal. Notably, Filippo Marinetti’s “Parole in Libertà” (words in freedom) featured in Cabaret Voltaire, which experimented with the visual and phonetic qualities of the written word, and would go on to influence Dada phonetic poetry. Other content included collages, prints, and drawings by Janco, Arp, Pablo Picasso, and Amedeo Modigliani, to name a few. The cover to this sole issue was designed by Arp.
The emergence of a new artistic movement, and the foundation of Dadaism, was not Ball’s original intent; he simply wanted to create a creative space with substance that was sorely lacking at the time. Resultantly, Hugo and his artistic counterparts created their own history, invented an authentic literary tradition and avant-garde movement that drew the attention of experimental, even anarchic creative minds across Europe, cementing Dadaism into the bedrock of modernist, and postmodernist, tradition.
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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