1. What is “taste”?
Taste is an individual or groups observation and organization of disparate artifacts with a sensibility to their gestalt.
2. Does art criticism count as an art form? An art form in the true sense, i.e. not in the sense in which mixing drinks nor designing shoes is nowadays proclaimed to be right up there with panting the Mona Lisa.
If you think of art as being preoccupied with process then criticism is not an art form, as it is about the final piece?—?the narrative document in which the author provides a critique. The primary point of a criticism is to make understood the author’s point and opinion. Unlike art, it is not about the interpretation, nor about the serendipitous dialog between creator and viewer. The reader is meant to make a clear line from the work being talked about, to the criticism, to the reader. Art is meant to take a circuitous route from the artist, to the work, to the viewer. This ambiguity separates the art from the critique.
3. Could you cite emulateable virtues you find in some of your role models?
I am always appreciative of the patience and tenacity of my role models as they create and critique design. Attention to detail as well as exhaustive research are also traits I find very admirable in those I look up to.
4. Whom do you read?—?writers, perhaps unlike you, who in their own way seem exemplary and mean something to you?
I love the fiction of Douglas Coupland; his work often features an interplay between humanity and technology that makes you unsure if humanity is winning. Chuck Palahniuk creates interesting and confusing alternate realities just slightly different than out own; a kind of nihilistic pornography.
5. Cite five works that changed your life and five during your career, that changed the world.
Works that changed me start with (1) Daniel Libeskind’s book Countersign. The is a series of
models, drawings, words and other constructs of a purely theoretical, fanciful kind of architecture unlike anything I had ever seen. This along with (2) Michael Heizer’s Dragged Mass Geometric and (3) Morphosis’s Buildings and Projects got me interested?—?to a fault?—?in Deconstructivist architecture and theory, which was ultimately the downfall of my career as an architect. More than a decade later I saw (4) Bruno Monguzzi’s poster for Fausto Gerevini 1988 and (5) Skolos+Wedell’s poster for Lyceum 2002. These pieces were the first time I saw and understood how a graphic designer could use photography as a way of not just representation, but of authorship and abstract formal creation.
Works that changed the world in my lifetime and career have to start with the (1) World Trade Center twin towers. While I would never call what terrorists did to them on 9/11 a work of art I would say that the buildings themselves are, and their recontextualization that day was clearly profound beyond words. (2) Stephan Sagmesiter’s 1999 poster for his lecture at Cranbrook where he cut the worlds into his body have gone on to influence?—?badly?—?thousands of designers who think that being daring is better than being good. Sometime before November, 2000 a designer laid out (3) the voting ballot for the state of Florida that resulted in George HW Bush being President—a tangible result of bad design decisions. Wolff Olins painfully bad (4) London 2012 Olympic identity brought bad design to a forefront in the design community. (5) Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” Obama Poster was partially responsible for the USA electing the first black President – something I never thought I would see in my lifetime.
6. How is naiveté still the holy grail of artists, given that the current art world is “the apparatus the artist is threaded through?”
The naiveté is what makes art about the process of discovery?—?the artist being naïve enough to try something he does not know the answer to or the result of. The apparatus is more about the product and not about the artists internal conversation with himself about his work, what he knows and more importantly, what he does not know.
7. What are your vices as a critic, writer and educator?
My biggest vice is contrarianism?—?nothing bothers me more than people blindly loving (or hating) something without having a good reason beyond the feelings of their peers. This makes me often default to an opposite view of work, even if I am no more informed than the people I am opposing against, just in the opposite direction. My critique and general criticisms (when not being contrary) are often too nice, lenient and generally not directly critical enough. I find it difficult to really tell someone to their face they have made bad work. I tend to make too many “happy sandwiches” and not enough pointed critique.
8. What do you learn about an artwork you have not seen before in the first two seconds?
If I love it, hate it, lust after it or am just indifferent. Later my feelings may change, but in those first two seconds I know it if works on a primal, guttural level.
9. What questions would you like to ask yourself?
Do you really have something to say that will change how you and others look at and react to design? Exactly what are you thinking about for your thesis work, anyway?
10. Can you think of occasions when your first response to an artwork has been, immediately and overwhelmingly, physical instead of intellectual?
The first time I saw Daniel Libeskind’s theoretical works in the book Countersign?—?my heart skipped a beat and I remember a kind of buzzing in my ears?—?this was work that was so captivating and so interesting that I knew even then I would never, ever understand it. That was one of the very first things that got me interested in deconstructivist theory and poststructuralism.
Written in response to the following reading:
Let’s See. Writings on Art from the New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl