Art Papers  

more from the
Jan/Feb 2015 issue:

– David Reinfurt

Makes the World

– Jesse LeCavalier

Losing Interest
– Shumon Basar

Total Reset
– Karen Kubey

On Vernacular Computing
– Jacob Gaboury

Extrastatecraft by Keller Easterling

– Carson Chan

Amie Siegel: Provenance

– by Rattanamol Singh Johal

Glossary: Curate
– Barry Bergdoll

Robert Wiesenberger

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Robert Wiesenberger

This month, ART PAPERS revives the magazine's decades old tradition of focused architecture and design issues, guest edited - and often conceptually redesigned - by a member of our extended community of contributors and colleagues. This January/February 2015 issue, sub-titled "The Stubbornness of Space," was guest edited by Robert Wiesenberger, a critic in graphic design at the Yale School of Art, and a PhD candidate in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, where he is focused on 20th century architecture, design, and media. He has worked at the design firms MetaDesign and Ammunition, and at MoMA. He is currently the Stefan Engelhorn Curatorial Fellow at the Harvard Art Museums.

With this issue, Wiesenberger set out to examine "space and place, and various attempts to engage or overcome them." To this end, he recruited independent graphic designer and Yale lecturer Julian Bittiner to visualize the commissioned content. Here, Wiesenberger discusses his process, and its results.

ART PAPERS: When our editor invited you to guest edit this special architecture and design issue, what was it that drew you to the project?

Robert Wiesenberger: It seemed like a great opportunity to look at design practices broadly and critically, often at the intersection with art, in a way that mixed journalistic and scholarly models and in a form that was itself a designed object. ART PAPERS has a history of experimentation and iconoclasm, and a way of bridging local and global concerns (it was founded with "Atlanta" in the name of the publication). It also indulged us in doing an issue from scratch in terms of format, typography, etc. We wanted to retain what felt distinctive and recognizable about ART PAPERS, both editorially and visually, while playing with it a little.

AP: Both historically and in the last couple years, ART PAPERS has taken a broadly thematic approach - sometimes adhering very strictly to a given topic or sub-section of contemporary art, and more recently teasing out what we think of as "Zeitgeisty" theses or underlying themes that seem to be permeating cultural production at a given time. Can you talk about how this issue dealt with its own thematic nature?

RW: Design and architecture are often lumped together, and also allied with art; this issue accepts that, based on common issues of form, space, process, authorship and so on. As a loose sub-theme, "The Stubbornness of Space" suggests that even or especially in our hypermediated situation, that technical, social, political and environmental infrastructures matter, and architecture and design have a lot to say on the subject. The question of who designed or "architected" some of these systems, literally or figuratively, and to what end, is vital.

For example, this issue looks into the theory and practice of logistics, with a photo essay inside ART PAPERS' Atlanta neighbor, the logistics giant UPS. We also consider a moment in the history of telepresence and the neoliberal university in the unlikely and utterly forgotten figure of one Sol Cornberg. Another essay looks at social housing for Turkish "guest workers" in 1980s Berlin, through both floor plans and oral history, as designed by both star architects and the residents themselves. We also have previously unpublished archival interviews with legendary Knoll designers, some frank and funny assessments of the state of architecture and curating, and a friendly app you can download named "Multi." Really too much to mention here!

AP: This issue also resonates with ART PAPERS tradition in that its contents took over the material qualities of the magazine as well—in the 1980s, for instance, Atlanta architect Merrill Elam, of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, de-constructed her guest edited issue, presenting its contents in an envelope. What drew you to Julian Bittiner's work for your guest edition? How did you work collaboratively to create a product in which the visual and textual worked together productively?

RW: Julian is a great typographer, in addition to being an accomplished graphic designer. So he is really interested in the letterforms themselves, how they read, and their historical valences—in other words, what the type says, in addition to what it's being used to say. We talked through the content of the issue and its mood a lot, and he created two custom typefaces for it. We also paid close attention to how longer and especially more scholarly pieces were presented, working alongside the authors, with the goal of interrelating text and image in interesting ways.

AP: What do you think these historical investigations have to contribute to present day discourse in architecture, design, and contemporary art?

RW: Amnesia is easy, especially in the new-new-new world of art, and no less in design and architecture, with the market's cycles of fashion and obsolescence. So it's at the very least interesting, and often crucial, to look at precedents. Several contributors to this issue are incisive historians and critics, and of course history is constantly remade. We tried, as ART PAPERS has, to balance new and old, and to break down the presumed boundaries between them. Art and design practice, and even planning and policy initiatives, have a lot to learn from some of these cases.

AP: Can you comment, generally, on the present and future importance of publishing at the intersection of architecture, design, and art?

RW: People are savvier and more critical of design and architecture—as viewers, makers, citizens and consumers—than ever before. We talk explicitly about formerly "invisible" aspects of the world, whether interfaces or infrastructures, networks or manufacturing techniques, and are coming to know more designs and designers as household names, helped by better information and wider access to tools. The art market is also taking great interest in design. Yet it's increasingly nice to read material that's neither a press release nor sales copy. I think everyone's still working to find the right language and disciplinary terms for this material. Hopefully this issue contributes to that, in ways that are both serious and fun.

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