Worth the wait?

Well, I’m back in the office for the first time in six months, surrounded by hand sanitisers and risk assessments, one child has returned to school for her final year after in effect six months off, another will be leaving home in a week to start university in a place currently under a local lockdown, so my head’s full of concerns and anxieties I don’t wish to think more about here thank you very much. So let’s put all that to one side and relax with some music.

John Cage, the man behind a much loved piece of nothing, perhaps hadn’t realised how literally some people would take his instruction to play ‘as slow as possible’ when performing one of his compositions. Piano notes eventually fade away, but notes on an organ can be held indefinitely.

A 639-year-long John Cage organ performance has a long-awaited chord change todayClassic FM
Organ2/ASLSP, ‘As Slow as Possible’ is a keyboard work written by John Cage in the mid-1980s. The score consists of eight pages of music, to be played at the piano or organ, well, very, very slowly. […] Up until this time, the most recent note change occurred on 5 October 2013, and the next change will sound on 5 September 2020, with the organ playing a G sharp and an E, until the next scheduled chord change on 5 February 2022.

The concert (installation art performance? sculptural exhibition?) is taking place in Halberstadt, in Germany, thought to be the place where the first modern keyboard organ was built in 1361, 639 years before the turn of the 21st century, hence the duration of this piece.

A 639-year concert, with no intermission for coronavirusThe New York Times
Andreas Henke, the town’s mayor, said that most of Halberstadt’s inhabitants probably didn’t even know about the piece, or, if they did, they referred to it as “that cacophony.” But, he added, “John Cage carries Halberstadt’s name out into the world.”He said the performance raises “philosophical questions about how we confront time.” “We are all so consumed by our daily working lives,” he said. “This forces us to stand back and slow down. It is very special to be a part of an art project that will connect generations and last for generations,” Mr. Henke added. He said that it was “his great hope” that the project would make it to 2640.

Of course it was livestreamed, but see if you can resist the urge not to fast-forward to the chord change moment, three hours and twenty minutes in…

Too subtle a change for me, I think. It’s an interesting idea, though: if you remove the human from the music-making process, you remove the need to constrain time to human scales. But without the human, can we still comprehend it as music? A drone that lasts for years and years just reminds me of my tinnitus.

A rewriting of history too good to be true?

Olympic-sized hoax? ‘Lost’ Krautrock warm-up tapes mysteriously surfaceSPIN
Neither interview includes photographs of Zeichnete, and he doesn’t appear in a series of promotional videos for the release … And the more you listen to the music, the more it begins to sound both too pristine, given the tapes’ alleged age, and too stylistically perfect in its aping of Neu! and Kraftwerk. The resemblance is almost uncanny.

Everything’s okay.

What a little gem of an exhibition. Everything is Going to be OK is an installation by US conceptual artist Allan McCollum, currently on show at the Thomas Schulte gallery in Berlin.

Allan McCollum at Thomas SchulteContemporary Art Daily
From his image archive An Ongoing Collection of Screengrabs with Reassuring Subtitles with currently 1.200 screenshots from American TV series and movies with subtitles such as “It will be ok” or “Don’t worry, Babe,” McCollum has chosen 400 motifs to be printed on canvas, each framed simply in black wood and measuring 26.3 x 43.8 x 4 cm (10.4 x 17.2 x 1.6 in). […]

Allan McCollum began his collection of screenshots in 2015 as a visual essay about the meaning of closeness and comfort in our society. He wants his project to serve as a reminder that it is through the telling and sharing of stories that we perceive the world. It is also a critique of Hollywood and populist rhetoric which both instrumentalize our emotions by promoting the narrative of a hero coming to the rescue, while in reality we depend on being part of a community of family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

Dining out, at a distance

Bars, cafes and restaurants are still closed here, but other countries are cautiously opening them back up, with some fun responses to the challenges they face.

This restaurant in Bangkok uses cartoon dragon dolls as space keepers for social distancingDesign You Trust
These guests look special! They are green, they have wings and they don’t say a word. The dragons are of course not living beings, but figures. The owner of a restaurant in the country of Thailand in Asia has placed them at the tables in his restaurant.

Restaurant finds a genius way to help their customers feel less lonely while social distancing using pandasBored Panda
Maison Saigon placed plush pandas in the restaurant so that people have to sit at a safe distance. Also, if you come to eat alone, you have some company. The rules and regulations are changing rapidly and most of us are confused about what to do and how to be safe, so this idea is a charming and smart way to make sure everyone is being protected from the virus.

Restaurant to reopen with cardboard customers to make diners comfortableSunrise
Five Dock Dining owner Frank Angeletta has placed cardboard customers in empty seats around the venue. He’s also prepared ambient background noise, including chatter and the sounds of clinking cutlery, to play in the background. “We really wanted to add some atmosphere and give diners that realistic dining experience,” he told Sunrise. “The cut outs and background noise are a bit eerie when you first walk in – but once you’re sitting down it’s a bit of fun.”

Cafe in Germany gives customers hats with pool noodles to keep them apartBored Panda
The owner of “Café Rothe Schwerin”, Jacqueline Rothe, went the extra mile and came up with an ingenious idea to make sure the patrons keep their distance—pool noodles! Yup, you read that right. The business is using pool noodles attached to customers’ hats to help them with social distancing! She also clarified that this was a one-time event only for the reopening of the cafe and the guests don’t wear the hats regularly.

Don’t quite know what to make of this, though.

Mask in a restaurant? This one can gobble like Pac-ManReuters
Israeli inventors have developed a coronavirus mask with a remote control mouth that lets diners eat food without taking it off, a device they say could make a visit to a restaurant less risky.

I think I’ll stick to takeaways for now…

Update 05/06/2020

Spotted another.

Burger King debuts ‘social-distance crowns’ in Germany as restaurants test quirky ways to keep customers apartBusiness Insider
“We wanted to reinforce the rules of high safety and hygiene standards that the BK restaurants are following,” a Burger King representative told Business Insider. “The do-it-yourself social-distance crown was a fun and playful way to remind our guests to practice social distancing while they are enjoying food in the restaurants.”

Just a few drinks

What do you get if you cross the scale of Toby Harriman’s block towers and the aerial abstraction of Magali Chesnel’s coastlines with Ursus Wehrli’s art-based neatness?

This.

Thousands of satisfyingly stacked drinks crates or a real life Tetris game waiting to be played?It’s Nice That
“I wanted to capture just a few shots of the crate stacks location,” Bernhard tells It’s Nice That, “But when I looked through the viewfinder and saw how interesting the crate stacks looked, we spontaneously changed the plan and flew over the location several times from different heights and angles to get as many interesting and different motives as possible.” Flying over the stacks, which look more like some kind of digitally rendered bar chart than real life, the photographer captured a little known aspect of the drinks industry.

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It goes to show, no matter how many times Bernhard takes to the air, the stance he returns with never fails to surprise. From the skies, Bernhard presents us viewers with a different way to look at the world. What may seem trivial or unalarmingly ubiquitous in every day life, like a crate for instance, is seen in a totally new light from the way Bernhard twists and turns the camera lens from high above.

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Wonky world

Let’s start in Germany.

A partially submerged train car provides a dramatic entrance to Frankfurt’s Bockenheimer Warte subway station
Subway stations are typically just a means to an end, simple structures that allow a large overflow of commuters to enter and exit at will. It is less common for the design to be a destination in itself, like the popular Bockenheimer Warte subway entrance in Frankfurt, Germany. The station, erected in 1986, was built to look as if an old tram car had crash landed into the sidewalk that surrounds the station.

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Then up to Norway.

The world’s largest undersea restaurant
Located 5m below the sea off the coast of Lindesnes, Norway, Europe’s first underwater restaurant serves fresh seafood with a one-of-a-kind view.

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The world’s largest underwater restaurant in Norway

Then across to Scotland.

Mach 1: Arts & event venue made from a tangle of shipping containers
The shape of the new building takes inspiration from piles of rocks on the Fife coastline, the color of nearby Forth Bridge and the industrial heritage of the area. Once completed, Mach 1 will stand 15 meters (about 49 feet) high and stretch 50 meters (about 164 feet) at its longest point. Inside, visitors will find a coffee bar and double-height exhibition space used to showcase the Edinburgh Park masterplan through drawings, information boards and scale models.

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“Shipping containers are really interesting to me architecturally. They are really honest and are also really familiar to people. They also go all over the world. But this will be different to anything else that has been built of them before, which is what you really want as an artist.”

Just my type

Jesse Simon continues to pay attention to the details of his built environment.

The colours of Berlin: yellow
The colours of Berlin is a new bi-monthly series that will run throughout 2019. Where other posts on this blog have attempted to describe typographic trends and phenomena in Berlin, the entries in this series will focus on a particular colour by presenting a collection of images without additional text. Every city has its full spectrum on display; this is the one that belongs to Berlin.

just-my-type

It’s hard not to feel down about the ugly state of my city, when I compare it with those examples of considered design. So here’s something quirky to lift my mood.

“Something illegible still has something to say”: Eliott Grunewald on his type designs
“I’ve been more interested in display typefaces, for their expressiveness and ‘voices’; like type as an image more than the design of a text typeface,” he tells It’s Nice That. “So I guess, sometimes, it does result in letterings which are formally too intense or even illegible. But something illegible still has something to say, to show or to promote, I don’t feel that even if you cannot read the word, you cannot get anything from it.”

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And, for a full account of what goes into good typeface design, take a look at this.

Why San Francisco
We got our first glimpse of Apple’s new sans-serif typeface, San Francisco, when the Apple Watch was unveiled in September of 2014—a new typeface designed specifically for legibility at small sizes on a tiny, high-resolution screen. Big news for type nerds and Apple fans alike.

It’s very thorough, and I don’t pretend to understand half of it, but it’s nice to see someone paying such close attention to the details.

Don’t believe all you read

Imagine being one of the journalists, editors or fact-checkers at Der Spiegel, the German weekly news magazine, when this article was being produced, having to own up to this catalogue of failure.

Claas Relotius reporter forgery scandal
It has now become clear that Claas Relotius, 33 years old, one of DER SPIEGEL’s best writers, winner of multiple awards and a journalistic idol of his generation, is neither a reporter nor a journalist. Rather, he produces beautifully narrated fiction. Truth and lies are mixed together in his articles and some, at least according to him, were even cleanly reported and free of fabrication. Others, he admits, were embellished with fudged quotes and other made-up facts. Still others were entirely fabricated. During his confession on Thursday, Relotius said, verbatim: “It wasn’t about the next big thing. It was the fear of failure.” And: “The pressure not to fail grew as I became more successful.”

Story after story is dissected, and lies revealed. The consequences and implications for journalism worldwide are already being played out.

Trump ambassador uses Der Spiegel fabrication scandal to take aim at journalists
Grenell also got into a debate with a correspondent for the German public broadcaster ZDF, whom he told to “stop defending fake news and fabricated stories.”

“We do,” the correspondent, Andreas Kynast, wrote back. “Do you?”

Coffee, squared

An entirely appropriate material for the job.

Coffee cups made from old recyclable coffee grounds
Product designer Julian Lechner became obsessed with trying to find a way to reuse coffee grounds to create a new material. After 3 years of experimentation, Kaffeeform was born by creating a new formula that creates new products out of old coffee. Lechner takes recycled coffee grounds and natural glues to create a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to products based on mineral oils. All Kaffeeform cups have the appearance of dark marblewood, smell of coffee, are very light, and finally, are dishwasher-friendly and long-lasting, so they can be used over and over again.

What a great idea. What else could we design in this way? Egg boxes made of egg shells? Edible cutlery?

Words on the street

From Atlas Obscura, an interview with Jesse Simon about his Berlin Typography project.

Celebrating Berlin’s typography, before it vanishes
“I came across a sign for a shop called Betten-König, an exquisite, yellow, cursive neon sign attached to the façade of what otherwise looked to be a fairly modest shop,” Simon recalls. “Something snapped into focus.” He realized that he’d been thinking about Berlin’s civic and commercial signs only in terms of their function. And yet, “this Betten-König sign, which seemed somehow too grand and too glorious for its purpose, was doing something entirely different. It brought a kind of joyous irreverence to the street,” he says.

There are some wonderful examples of street typography here, with a range of styles unlike anything I’ve seen before, I think.

Something else one finds in Berlin (and in most larger German cities) is a kind of creative tension between Western European and traditional German approaches to typography. Although German uses the Latin alphabet now almost exclusively, blackletter or Fraktur scripts were dominant in the previous centuries, and the influence is still present today. German also has its own orthographic traditions and its particular variations on the Latin alphabet, specifically the umlauted letters and the Eszett (ß). Again, this is not unique to Berlin, but is definitely a part of what makes its urban typography so distinctive.

I’ve heard of Blackletter, at least, but Sütterlin? No idea.

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Sütterlin is a form of handwriting that was prevalent in Germany during the first half of the 20th century; it fell out of common use in the second half of the century but, as with Blackletter, is still used in signage to evoke the values of a previous age. The sign here reads ‘Alt-Berliner Wirtshaus’ although this is not immediately apparent. If you stare at it for long enough (or go to the Sütterlin Wikipedia page) it begins to make sense.

The Atlas Obscura interview covers more examples but check out his Berlin Typography website for his extensive, and growing, collection. Long may they last out there, the streets will look poorer without them.