No buzzwords necessary: 2017 Karo Diary.

5 December 2016 — The new 2017 Karo Diary is not about storytelling, sustainability or peeling back the onion. There is no big data involved, no clouds, no benchmarking, no social bookmarks, no responsive design, no thinking outside the box. What the diary does offer however, is it’s classic, unpretentious layout. User-friendly and compact, the new edition contains bold photos of Europe’s northern coastal region of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland.

23rd Edition. The old-school diary. No cables required. 148 x 180 mm, 128 pp., hardcover with exposed, robust, linen-covered spine, and sewn binding, in English and German. CHF 44, Euro 38, US $44 plus shipping costs.

Go Local! Part IV: Belchenflue.

26 November 2016 — The Belchenflue in the township of Eptingen is one of the most popular excursion destinations in canton Baselland. With an altitude of 1099 meters, it is one of the more well-known mountains around Basel. Situated on the ridge of the Jura mountains, it provides magnificent views to the north and east as well as to the south.

Scenic view from Belchenflue with panorama of the Frick valley, Baselland and the Black Forest.

Only the west is partly covered by the somewhat higher Ruchen mountains which reach 1123 meters. On a clear day, the Black Forest in Germany and the Vosges mountains in Alsace, France can be seen to the north, as well as the entire snow-covered Swiss Alps to the south.

> Further excursions on www.baselferien.ch (in German).

Tony, You Rock — A new documentary by Matthias Willi.

Tony played a short set after the premiere of ‘Tony, You Rock’ at the Neue Kino in Kleinbasel.

18 November 2016 — The Lombego Surfers are seasoned veterans of the Basel music scene. Headman Anthony Thomas worked together with photographer Matthias Willi to create a landmark documentary film which was just released last week.

“Tony is the most friendly person on Earth, a non-smoker who doesn’t do drugs and is a gentleman in sneakers, dungarees and a jeans jacket — he’s just the opposite of vanity. The total contrary of a rock star”, says rock reporter Chrigel Fisch about the Lombego Surfers singer. But still, Tony is a true rock star in the eyes and ears of his devoted fans across Europe.

Film stills from ‘Tony, You Rock’.

Now there is even a film about him. Tony, You Rock, is the name of Matthias Willi’s hommage to the 62 year old punk rock veteran musician. The magic of the band has fascinated Matthias Willi for quite some time now, so he went on to join them with his film camera on a tour in the autumn of last year.

Whoever is interested in the Swiss rock scene will have at one time or another met up with the Lombego Surfers. Their voodoo-surf-garage-punk is unmistakeable and they have played shows all over the place in the last 28 years. Except on large stages. They rule small stages. “You arrive in Zwickau, Germany and according to the locals, the Lombegos are the best band of the world”, says Willi.

The passion is pure and Tony and his band have been driving around Europe, covering thousands of kilometers in a packed VW bus. They spend their nights in places a far cry from luxury hotel beds. “This is our crowd and we feel comfortable doing it. It has never about money, it’s more about the enthusiasm and passion of the people”, says Tony.

“I play rock guitar, that’s my job. It's what I do, so I mean, you can't just stop.”

He is 62 years old and has played over 1,000 concerts, but Tony isn’t planning to retire yet. “You don’t get tired of punk rock.” He is predestined to be in a band and along the way, he has made many compromises. When a booker offered them a two-week tour in Germany in 1989, he did’t have to think twice. Or when, on Halloween 1997, he accepted a seven-week European tour proposition which came through on a fax machine. He agreed to do the tour even before asking the rest of his band. “You don’t think about whether it will is okay to take time off your job or if you will even make money. You only get a chance like this once in your lifetime.”

Don’t Need Much is the name of a song which sums up the Lombegos. “It’s basically about Anthony Thomas looking at his fans eye to eye, sharing the primal force of punk rock”, says Chrigel Fisch about the one of a kind guy from Boston. He arrived in Basel to study Renaissance music at the Schola Cantorum, but found his true destiny in rock. “It was my dream to play as much as possible, and actually, it has become a reality.”

> Watch the full version of the film here (in German, Swiss German and English).
> This article originally appeared in 20 Minuten (in German).
> Tony Padrone at Bandcamp.

Children’s art schools — Why are music schools promoted but not the visual arts?
by Katrin Becker

Illustration from the new publication ‘Bauplatz Kreativät’.

4 November 2016 — Many children attend music schools, but only a few go to art school. Sabine Gysin, director of the Basel childrens art school K’Werk, is campaigning for a law that supports the arts and design education of young students.

Red pepper, white pepper, black pepper: In a drawing class at K’Werk, children are taught creative techniques and prepare natural pigments from crushed spices. They draw with pencil, charcoal or ink, on paper, wood and cardboard, in the classroom or out on the street.

A detour towards the goal — Sabine Gysin, one of the founders of the K’Werk Children’s Art School (in German Bildschule), wants to nurture the growth of children’s creativity. “Being creative means learning to go through a process and develop something new. You have to master difficult moments and make changes in your path until you find the solution.” Gysin believes this process is too short during the school day. Since music and art are no longer mandatory after second secondary school, she believes this is a valuable option to offer young students outside of the regular classroom schedule.

Nevertheless, the few — now a total of seven — Children’s Art Schools in the German-speaking region of Switzerland must justify their existence again and again. The Swiss are committed to music schools, but not to art schools. Gysin wants to change this: “The law for musical education has been accepted by people. We at the Swiss Conference of Children’s Art Schools are calling for a similar acceptance of arts and design education. We have to create more schools and, above all, shed light on why we need these schools and their purpose.”

An act of parliament in favour of the schools? — Christoph Eymann, a member of the governing council in Basel welcomes more schools. He is so convinced about the importance of the Children’s Art Schools that he has turned the once privately-run school in Basel into a state-supported institution. K’Werk Children’s Art School is now affiliated with the Basel School of Design, and has become much more affordable for families due to a state-funded reduction in tuition. However, Mr. Eymann considers a separate law to be wrong: “I oppose legal regulations in which the Swiss Confederation (federal republic) could set up on a national level and would be then implemented by individual cantons (or states), on a local level. This would create an interference by the Confederation on cantonal sovereignty, even if the Confederation did not contribute to school funding.”

In his role as president of the Federal Educational Directorate, Christoph Eymann is in close contact with all of Switzerland’s educational directors. He realizes there is an interest to build up these schools, but he is doubtful that all cantons would have enough funding. “I believe it is better if the schools grow from the bottom up, as did the school here in Basel. If necessity becomes reality, I am convinced the schools will succeed in other cantons.”

This is where Sabine Gysin and her co-workers take the stage. With a traveling exhibition and a new, richly illustrated publication entitled Bauplatz Kreativität (Creative Construction Site), they hope to gain even more support — nurturing creativity and for the sake of art.

> Radio SRF 2 Kultur, Kultur kompakt (in German)

New book release — Bauplatz Kreativität (Creative Construction Site)

Inside the book: The teach/learn arrangments, teaching methods at the Swiss art schools for children and young adults.

28 September 2016Bildschulen Schweiz (literally Swiss image school — art schools for children and young adults) has created a book called Bauplatz Kreativität (Creative Construction Site). The textbook contains 160 pages of richly illustrated information on children’s art schools in Switzerland, the classes they offer and the criteria for keeping up their high standards in the country’s educational landscape. The book presents an unprecedented panorama of knowledge and experience, aiming to stimulate a work in progress and promoting the establishment of further art schools for children and young adults.

What is a Swiss children’s art school? What does it mean to be creative? And what exactly is child creativity? What does the future of these schools look like and how can they be implemented?

The publication includes writings and interviews from professionals and is aimed at teachers, parents, designers, artists and other professionals in the field of arts and communication. Published by the Konferenz Bildschulen Schweiz (Swiss Conference of Children’s Art Schools) and Karo Publishing.

Book release party
Friday, 21 October 2016, 6 to 8:30 pm
Vogelsangstrasse 15, 4058 Basel
in the H-Pavillon of the Basel School of Design

With special guests: Denner Clan, the famous spaghetti surf band from Basel

215 x 280 mm, 160 pp., 130 illustrations, hardcover with sewn binding, 1st edition of 1,500.
ISBN 3-9521009-8-6, Price CHF 38, EUR 35 (postage not included).

Kulturbrille — Removing Your ‘Culture Glasses’
by Martin Lindstrom

I Have A Dream mural at the corner of Klybeckstrasse and Altrheinweg in Basel.

9 September 2016 — Many decades ago, the German-American anthropologist Franz Boas coined the phrase Kulturbrille to describe how spending all of our time in a familiar environment blinds us from seeing what’s right in front of us. I thought I’d been aware of my own culture glasses, but I was wrong. Retail expert Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy, recently joined me on a visit to my native Denmark, a place I haven’t lived in for close to 20 years. As we walked on a footpath in Copenhagen, Paco asked me, “Why do people walk so unstructured in Denmark?” While observing people in more than 88 countries, I’ve been careful to keep an objective distance from the worlds I am studying. And yet, this characteristic of my fellow Danes had never crossed my mind. I had been culturally blind. I’d been looking through my own culture glasses.

As smartphones have become the filter through which we encounter our world, yet another cause for cultural blindness has been added. Picture yourself waiting for someone in a café. Do you take this opportunity to observe the people around you? No. You take out your phone – anything to stave off even a moment of boredom. You don’t observe your surroundings and you miss this chance to let your thoughts wander. You could be observing, analyzing and letting your instincts make the counterintuitive combinations that form the cornerstone of understanding people. But instead, you’re fiddling with your stupid smartphone.

The greatest business innovators have always watched, listened and trusted their instincts. Consider Walt Disney, who would join Disneyland guests in line, listen to their conversations and get a sense of their perspective of the park. Or for example the late Michele Ferrero, Italy’s richest man, owner of Nutella, Kinder Surprise, Ferrero Rocher, and Tic Tac — some years ago, the elderly Ferrero was spotted crawling on hands and knees through a retail store, testing whether children could reach his chocolates. He later revealed that this was the secret to his success: living in the minds of his consumers.

The ability to see the world from the consumer’s point-of-view is just as vital today as it was in Disney’s day. But I recently asked a group of 3,000 executives how many of them had spent any time at their customers’ homes. Two hands were raised. I fear that today’s business leaders, with their eyes glued to the computer screen, rarely make the effort to observe the real world, never removing their culture glasses and never allowing instincts to run free.

I won’t deny it, Big Data does reveal a lot about consumers – but cold analytics can only take you so far. Any great marketing campaign starts with a consumer insight, a tiny discovery in the consumer’s home or an unexpected behaviour noticed in the supermarket. Just as a detective might use a strand of hair as a clue, it is possible to make use of what I call emotional DNA. By that, I refer to how we place our shoes in the closet, hang our paintings on the wall, or even hang our toilet paper roll (yes, paper hanging against the wall reveals a myriad of things about the householder).

Small Data provides insights to craft a powerful advertising campaign or launch a brand. They’ve even served to launch successful corporate turnarounds. And the Small Data observations that achieved these results would never have happened if someone hadn’t managed to set aside their culture glasses. Big Data had a lesson for Lego toy company — or so the Lego executives thought: The instant-gratification generation had arrived and today’s kids refused to make time for long hours of building with the plastic bricks. In 2003, Lego changed from the traditional tiny Lego bricks to gigantic building blocks. In the past, constructing a Lego castle would take days; now the journey was reduced to minutes.

Surprisingly, the move had the opposite effect from what was anticipated. By Christmas, Lego’s sales had plummeted by 30%, leaving the entire company on the verge of bankruptcy. Then, just in the nick of time, a team from Lego visited a home in Germany. When they asked an 11-year-old boy what he was proudest of, he pointed out a pair of raggy, worn-out sneakers that he kept displayed on his bedroom shelf. The wear on the side of the sneakers proved to his friends that he was the best skateboarder in town. He had spent countless hours perfecting his skill and the shoes had become his trophy.

The conclusion from this bit of Small Data? Kids haven’t lost their attention spans after all. They’re still willing to devote hundreds of hours to perfecting a skateboard trick or building a fantastic castle, just as long as they’re in control. Lego returned to their traditional tiny bricks, dramatically increased the number of bricks in each box and laid the foundation for a Lego movie. These helped infuse a renewed passion into kids’ activity patterns. Lego quickly recovered and today, ten years later, they are the largest toy manufacturer in the world.

I’m not an opponent of Big Data. It is an important part of business leaders’ tool kits. But the sheer addictive nature of numbers, pouring out in their endless stream, has a devastating tendency to dampen one’s instinct, create insecurity and stick those Kulturbrillen even more firmly across one’s eyes. Focusing so intently on Big Data on their monitors, they lose their common sense. They fail to make the vital observations of Small Data which may define the success or failure of an entire brand. I’m a huge believer in achieving the right balance between correlation and causation, between Big and Small Data. No matter how brilliant the data-based analysts are, the hypotheses they test with enormous masses of data points are still just that – abstract hypotheses.

We should not ignore Big Data but it’s in Small Data that we find the clearest sign of who we are and what we want. If those Lego execs hadn’t been willing to set aside their culture glasses, do you imagine they would have been able to learn from a dirty old pair of Adidas sneakers – and with that bit of Small Data, save their company?

> This article appeared in Brand Quarterly.

Martin Lindstrom is a brand expert – advising global companies how to build future-proof brands. He is recipient of Time Magazine’s Worlds 100 Most Influential People and his latest book Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends was released in February 2016 by St. Martin’s Press in New York City.

Long-awaited: Dorothea Hofmann’s book about Basel’s influence on Graphic Design.

Die Geburt eines Stils (The Birth of a Style) — The influence of the Basel educational model on Swiss Graphic Design

14 August 2016 — In the second half of the 20th century, Swiss succeeded in causing quite a stir beyond national borders. Swiss design and Swiss style had become representative for high quality groundbreaking that would shape an entire era with its focus on precision, objectivity and reduction — and became a popular Swiss export with its innovative works.

The Basel educational model of the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule, later known as Basel School of Design, was an important pioneer that led to the international breakthrough of new Swiss . Strict, yet undogmatic views coupled with a pragmatic attitude towards design issues, experimental audacity and a clear commitment to modernism triggered a broad movement reaching out from Basel to Europe and the Americas.

Table of contents
1. It started with clarification — The origins of drawing class
2. The basis of all arts — The spread and interconnection of creative fundamentals
3. The start of a movement — Swiss at the beginning of the 20th century
4. Far from trivial — Swiss at a crossroads
5. Breakthrough and distinguishing characteristics — Swiss in the 1950s
6. Transcending all borders — The international proliferation of teaching style

Dorothea Hofmann tells the story of Swiss from a new perspective. Starting with a deliberate focus on Basel, she paints a differentiated picture of this national movement, which, in its complexity, overcomes the constraints of the Zurich constructive/concrete direction with which Swiss style has generally been associated until today. The author gives a detailed account of the movement’s origins, which date back to the 19th century, discussing the development of education in Switzerland and coherently describing its breakthrough as an international style.

Former teachers and students of the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule who have contributed decisively to the international reputation of Swiss design with their works are a focal point of this book: Hermann Eidenbenz, Emil Ruder, Armin Hofmann, Karl Gerstner, Gérard Ifert, Nelly Rudin, Pierre Mendell, Wolfgang Weingart, Kenneth Hiebert, Dan Friedman, April Greiman, and many more.

Posters by Hermann Eisenbenz (1933/36)

Cover designs for Typographische Monatsblätter by Emil Ruder (1961) and Hans Ferdinand Egli (1968)

Work by Nelly Rudin (1952/53) and Enzo Roesli for Geigy Studio (1953/55)

Poster design by Wolfgang Weingart (1979) and student work under Herbert Matter (1977)

Dorothea Hofmann trained as a graphic artist at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule in the 1940s and 1950s. She was one of the first students to have passed through the Basel educational model from start to finish and therefore personally knows most renowned protagonists of Swiss and Swiss style. She has undertaken numerous educational trips to Italy, Spain, France, Holland, Mexico, Guatemala, Egypt, India and the USA.

Heinrich Pestalozzi, ‘Dot and line’, ‘Line, angle, rectangle, square…’
and ‘Dividing a rectangle’ exercises (1803)

Typography exercises under Emil Ruder by Dorothea Hofmann, Therese Moll and Werner Ritter (1952—53)

She has taught at the Yale University School of Art, New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, Atlanta College of Art, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca in Mexico and the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India, amongst others. Her work has been shown in national and international exhibitions. Dorothea Hofmann and Armin Hofmann have been married for over 60 years and live in Lucerne.

Die Geburt eines Stils, 190 × 250 mm, 540 pp., approx. 400 plates, hardcover, in German, CHF 68, EUR 65. Book design by Matthias Hofmann. To be released in Oktober November 2016.

> Triest Verlag, Zurich
> Matthias Hofmann

John Maher: Punk rock, VW Beetles and abandoned croft homes.

Playing from 1976 until 1981, John Maher (front) was the original drummer of Buzzcocks.

6 August 2016 — John Maher was part of the punk and new wave music scenes in Manchester, most notably as the drummer with Buzzcocks. The band broke up in 1981 and since retiring from the music industry, he has developed an interest in VW Beetle drag racing and photography. In 2002, John relocated from his hometown of Manchester to the Isle of Harris, where he lives and works today.

Initially photographing in the middle of night, under the light of a full moon, many of John’s night photographs involve lighting the interiors of old buildings, vehicles and boats scattered around the landscape. In several instances he would return during daylight hours to shoot the interiors of abandoned croft houses he had visited the night before.

A family home on the Isle of Lewis, last occupied in the late 80s. The cupboard is still well stocked, despite the fact one of its doors has fallen off.

TV room in an abandoned house on Scalpay of Harris, Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)

This was the beginning of a new way of photographing the islands and John’s images were the catalyst for a project that will transform an empty island property into an eco-friendly demonstration home. The hope is that a successful transformation will encourage investment and bring more of the isles’ abandoned properties — which number an astonishing 1,000 — back into use.

House on the Isle of Ensay

His current exhibition at The Lighthouse in Glasgow shows croft or tenant farmers’ homes which have been abandoned to decay on remote Scottish islands. When the older generations die off there is no one to take over the houses and relatives cannot bear to sell them. The haunting images of properties have been untouched and unchanged since the day the owner died. In some of them many personal belongings have been left behind. Maher has even photographed a house with a suitcase on the bed and letters on the side board that haven’t been opened.

A four poster bed with an old wooden door at the top to protect the occupants’ heads from falling plaster.

A small bedroom overlooking a chapel. Notice the bell-pull on the wall for summoning the servants.

Abandoned croft home with sheep skeleton, an old leather shoe, 12” vinyl records still in the sleeves, Isle of North Uist.

John Maher has a YouTube channel, which includes some great Photoshop tutorials on how he creates his multiple exposure images. If you are in Glasgow, be sure to visit his exhibition which is open until the end of the month.

Nobody’s Home, 22 July–31 August 2016, The Lighthouse, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow, Scotland G1 3NU

> John Maher — The Flying Monk
> John Maher on YT
> John Maher interview on Good Morning Scotland, July 2016
> The Lighthouse, Glasgow
> Living demonstration homes for the Western Isles

Erasmus MMXVI — Celebrating a 500 year old book.

Portrait of Erasmus by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1523 (Kunstmuseum Basel)

1 August 2016Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, originally named Gerhardus Gerhardi and later best known as Erasmus von Rotterdam, was born in on 29 October 1467 * and was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian. He wrote about the study of Christianity and general human interest. By the 1530s, his writings and in particular a very fat book accounted for 10 to 20 percent of all book sales in Europe.

* The year of his birth is uncertain: Erasmus himself did not know exactly what year he was born. In his letters he sets it sometimes higher and sometimes lower, from 1464 to 1467. (Jortin: The Life of Erasmus, London, 1808.)

The humanist analysis of society’s ills was due to ignorance and the solution was education. Erasmus is credited for coining the phrase In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king — a statement which still rings true to this day, underscoring the importance of education. There is a saying, an educated person has the ability to differentiate between right and wrong or good and evil, and that is the foremost responsibility of a society, to educate its people.

The Reformation never would have happened without the work of Erasmus, Froben and Gutenberg.

The exhibition project Erasmus MMXVI marks the 500th anniversary of Erasmus’ translation of the Greek New Testament, which was printed here in Basel in 1516 by Johannes Froben. It is believed that Froben had heard that competitors in Spain were planning to publish a Greek New Testament, which he was convinced would sell very well. So he was quite anxious to release his own version, Novum Instrumentum, Erasmus’ translation.

Herbert Samworth concisely sums up humanism: “When we think of this word, we must not interpret it as equal with the secular humanism of our day because many of the humanists [then] were religious people. Rather, it was an attempt to realize the potential that was in man. It was a time of advancement in the arts and painting, but it was also profoundly influenced by the attempt to reform society. Most people recognized that Western Society was in need of a transformation because of the many societal ills, including the condition of the Church.”

The old Greek and Roman philosophers were known as great teachers who were ultimately interested in ethics or standards of behavior, and the humanists were keen to recover this wisdom from the past — ad fontes, back to the sources.

To prove that Erasmus’ Latin translation was solidly based on the original Greek, Froben’s edition was a Greek–Latin diglot (a bilingual publication). But due to his haste, Novum Instrumentum was poorly edited, contained many typographical errors and omissions, and was called the most poorly edited book ever printed. The printing began on 2 October 1515, and was finished on 1 March 1516, quite a feat for the time.

Nevertheless, as Froben anticipated, Novum Instrumentum was an immediate best seller. Not only was Erasmus the supreme Greek scholar in Europe, he was also a good strategist. He dedicated the book to Pope Leo X and, as a result, the pope prohibited the sale of the Complutensan Polyglot, published by Froben’s competitors, for at least four years. By the time the competitor’s book was released, Novum had already reached its third edition.

Novum Instrumentum became a main source for studying the Greek New Testament in western Europe and was crucial to the Reformation — the split from the Roman Catholic Church initiated by Martin Luther — laying a foundation for future Bible studies. It was also considered to be a milestone in the craft of printing books, as Johannes Froben’s printing and publishing work made Basel the leading center of the Swiss book trade in the 16th century.

Holbein’s studies of Erasmus’ hands, in silverpoint and chalk, ca. 1523 (Louvre)

The exhibition — Basel’s Historical Museum is home to an unparalleled collection of Erasmus’s personal belongings, including a signet ring, an hourglass, a seal, some ancient coins and the medal by which the humanist was identified in 1974, during the second search for his mortal remains. Erasmus MMXVI pays special attention to the aesthetics of Erasmus’ writings and a new font has been designed especially for the exhibition by local er and lettering artist Katharina Wolff.

A cooperation of four Basel institutions, original volumes of Erasmus’ books are on display at the Basel Minster and are an inspiration for calligraphy artists and book designers alike. For those who like their books hands-on, there is a beautiful 1:1 facsimile of Novum Instrumentum, and you can browse at your own speed, to get the feel of what it was like to read this Schinken (German slang for thick book, literally ham).

The stairs in the neighborhood where Johannes Froben once ran his printing shop in Basel.

When the city of Basel was officially reformed in 1529, Erasmus gave up his residency here and settled in the imperial town of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, about 70 kilometers north. According to history books, Erasmus was preparing to move from Freiburg to Brabant, part of modern-day Belgium, and in 1536, during preparations for the move, Erasmus died suddenly from dysentery during a visit to Basel, where he was then buried.

Erasmus’ eloquent reply to Huldrych Zwingli, when the Zurich reformer asked him to accept the citizenship of Zurich: “I wish to be a citizen of the world, to belong to everyone, or rather, to be alien to everyone.”

Basel Historical Museum: Erasmus MMXVI, Lettering as Dynamite/Urban Erasmus Trail, open until 25 September 2016
Minster: A Better Picture of Christ, The 1516 edition of the New Testament, open until 12 November 2016
Pharmacy Museum: Setting Erasmus, A Visit to the Printing Shop of Johannes Froben, open until 25 September 2016
Kunstmuseum: Holy Archaeology, The Image of Christ in the 15th and 16th Century, 10 September–8 January 2017

> Erasmus MMXVI
> Katharina Wolff’s Erasmus font — free download
> Novum Instrumentum
> Herbert Samworth on Novum Instrumentum

Keep Calm and Carry On.

5 July 2016 Keep Calm and Carry On was a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for the Second World War. The poster was intended to raise the morale of the British public, which was threatened with widely predicted mass air attacks on major cities. Although 2.45 million copies of the poster were printed, and the Blitz — the heavy and frequent bombing raids carried out by Germany over Britain in 1940 and 1941 — did in fact take place, the poster was hardly ever publicly displayed.

The poster was designed by the Ministry of Information during the period 27 June to 6 July 1939. It was produced as part of a series of three Home Publicity posters. The others read Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory and Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might. Each poster showed the slogan under a representation of a Tudor Crown (a symbol of the state).

When in the northeast UK, be sure to visit Barter Books in the town of Alnwick,
in an old Victorian railway station dating back to 1887.

The Your Courage and Freedom posters were intended to be distributed in the event of a wartime disaster, such as mass bombing of major cities using high explosives and poison gas, which was widely expected within hours of an outbreak of war. They appeared in shop windows and on railway platforms. The Keep Calm poster was held in reserve and was intended to be used only in times of crisis or invasion and was never officially issued. It remained unseen by the public until a copy turned up more than 50 years later in a secondhand bookshop in northeastern England. The owners had found it in old box of books which they had purchased, framed it and hung it up in their shop. Because it had become so popular with customers, they started selling reproductions. Since then, it has became an iconic image of the 21st century.

Post-Brexit advice from Elizabeth II, Queen of England:
We all live and work in an increasingly complex and demanding world where events can and do take place at remarkable speed, and retaining the ability to stay calm and collected can be hard. As this parliament has successfully demonstrated over the years, one hallmark of leadership in such a fast-moving world is allowing sufficient room for quiet contemplation and reflection which can enable deeper, cooler, consideration about how challenges and opportunities can be best addressed.

In other words, keep calm and carry on. Very British.

> Barter Books
> The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On

Less is less — Japan’s minimalists.
by Thomas Peter

The bathroom of minimalist Fumio Sasaki …

20 June 2016 — Fumio Sasaki’s one-room Tokyo apartment is so stark friends liken it to an interrogation room. He owns three shirts, four pairs of trousers, four pairs of socks and a meagre scattering of various other items. Money isn’t the issue. The 36-year-old editor has made a conscious lifestyle choice, joining a growing number of Japanese deciding that less is more.

Influenced by the spare aesthetic of Japan’s traditional Zen Buddhism, minimalists buck the norm in a fervently consumerist society by dramatically paring back their possessions. Sasaki, once a passionate collector of books, CDs and DVDs, became tired of keeping up with trends two years ago. “I kept thinking about what I did not own, what was missing,” he says. He spent the next year selling possessions or giving them to friends. “Spending less time on cleaning or shopping means I have more time to spend with friends, go out, or travel on my days off. I have become a lot more active,” he says.

… and inside his medicine cabinet. (Photo and video still: Thomas Peter, Reuters)

Others welcome the chance to own only things they truly like — a philosophy also applied by Marie Kondo, a consultant whose KonMari organisational methods have become very popular. “It’s not that I had more things than the average person, but that didn’t mean that I valued or liked everything I owned,” says Katsuya Toyoda, an online publication editor who has only one table and one futon in his 22 square metre apartment. “I became a minimalist so I could let things I truly liked surface in my life.” Inspiration for Japan’s minimalists have also come from prominent public figures, such as Steve Jobs.

Before and after decluttering, after the KonMari method.

Definitions vary, because the goal is not just to declutter, but to re-evaluate what it means to possess things and to gain something else in it’s place – in Sasaki’s case, time to travel. Sasaki and others believe there are thousands of hardcore minimalists, with possibly thousands more interested. Some say minimalism is actually not foreign but a natural outgrowth of Zen Buddhism and its stripped-down world view. “In the west, making a space complete means placing something there,” says Naoki Numahata, 41, a freelance writer. “But with tea ceremonies, or Zen, things are left incomplete on purpose to let the person’s imagination make that space complete.” Minimalists also argue that having fewer possessions is eminently practical in Japan, which is regularly shaken by earthquakes.

In 2011, a 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami killed nearly 20,000 people and led to many re-evaluating possessions, Sasaki said. “Thirty to 50% of earthquake injuries occur through falling objects,” he said, gesturing around his empty apartment. “But in this room, you don’t have that concern.”

> This article appeared in the Guardian.
> Marie Kondo, author and organizing consultant.
> KonMari method of decluttering.
> Photo essay and video by Thomas Peter, a German photographer based in Tokyo.

Ping Pong — Opening night with the Lombegos.

16 June 2016 — This is about as underground it gets in this artsy town of Basel. Thanks for cleaning out our ears, Tony and band.

> Ping Pong
> Lombego Surfers

British exit — Should I stay or should I go now?

Reverse refugees? (Illustration: Igor Kravarik)

15 June 2016 — The UK will hold a referendum on June 23 to decide if it will stay in or leave the European Union. Here is what a few newspaper polls are currently saying (the remaining % are still undecided):

Financial Times: stay 44% — go 47%
Economist: stay 42% — go 44%
Guardian: stay 47% — go 53%
NZZ: stay 43% — go 47%
Frankfurter Allgemeine: stay 49% — go 51%
Spiegel: stay 39% — go 46%

Autumn preview: Bauplatz Kreativität (Creative construction site).

13 June 2016Bauplatz Kreativität is a richly illustrated book about the Bildschulen (art schools) in Switzerland and their diverse range of classes and workshops. These schools are especially designed to support the artistic development of children and young people, comparable to the traditional role of our music schools.

What exactly do these art schools teach? Are utopias tangible? How may a fence transform into a piece of art? How do you cook vegetables in wet clay pots? Bauplatz Kreativität tells the tale of the pioneer spirit in Basel and the daily routine of five other art schools for children and youngsters in Switerland.

The dedicated teams from these schools speak out about their projects and teaching methods. Qualified professionals tell their stories about the joys and constraints of being artistic and examine the specifics on child creativity. They also comment on the working conditions in their own creative professions, as well as the importance of nurturing gifted individuals outside of the classroom.

It’s time to promote the philosophy and practice of Switzerland’s art schools for children and young people, in hopes that readers become interested in solidifying the future of these schools.

The editor of the book, Konferenz Bildschulen Schweiz (Conference of Swiss Art Schools) is an association of school administrators and other professionals involved in the artistic development of youngsters. The book will be released by Karo Publishing in the autumn of this year.

Bauplatz Kreativität — Philosophie und Praxis Bildschulen Schweiz (in German). Creative Construction Site — Philosophy and Practical Application of Switerland’s Art Schools, text and dialog from professionals for teachers, parents, designers and artists, 215 x 280 mm, 160 pp., hard cover with over 100 illustrations.

We are offering the special price of CHF 29 for pre-orders received before 30 June 2016. The regular price is then CHF 38 plus shipping. Please place orders directly to us via email.

> Swiss Art Schools (Bildschulen Schweiz, in German)

Vivian Maier: Nanny and Street Photographer.

3 June 2016 — John Maloof was a young man in Chicago who was pursuing a career in real estate. Through his work, he began to get more involved in his community. He delved heavily into historic preservation and eventually became president of the local historical society on Chicago’s Northwest Side. Given that that part of the city was often ignored, he thought if he wrote a book about the neighborhood, he could work to promote awareness of its often overlooked charm. It was this decision to co-author the book Portage Park that would change his life forever.

The publisher required approximately 220 high-quality vintage photos of the neighborhood for the book. To gather enough images for the project, Mr. Maloof and his co-author, Daniel Pogorzelski, were forced to look everywhere for any old photographs good enough to publish. The result was a nearly year-long scavenger hunt where they followed lead after lead to compile the images. It was during this process that Maloof visited a local auction house to see if by chance they would have any material for the book. Sure enough, he found a box of negatives depicting Chicago in the 60’s. Unable to get a thorough look at its contents, he took a gamble and purchased the box for around $400.

After he and his co-author looked through the negatives, they found nothing relevant for the project so Mr. Maloof put them in a closet. After some time, he revisited the negatives and started to scan them. The images that caught his attention were historic in nature, as he had absolutely no background in photography. Mr. Maloof was inspired to pick up his point-and-shoot camera and began to document the city the way this photographer had done and photography became his new passion.

If we fast forward to about a year later, Maloof’s point-and-shoot camera was long gone and he was on the streets with a Rolleiflex, just like his heroine, Vivian Maier. By that time, he had taken it upon himself to take a crash course on photography to pick up what he could about its history and its masters. Maloof built a darkroom in his attic and set out to learn about processing and printing film. Maloof was ashamed to admit this at first, but he had become obsessed with Vivian’s work, and made it his mission to reconstruct her archive.

Over the course of a year, Maloof managed to save about 90% of her work from the other buyers at the original auction and accumulated a collection of 100,000 to 150,000 negatives, more than 3,000 prints, hundreds of rolls of film, home movies, audio tape interviews, and various other items. Another collector, Jeff Goldstein, managed to salvage the rest.

After creating a blog showing about 100 of her photos that nobody viewed for months, he posted a discussion on Flickr to the group HCSP (Hardcore Street Photography), and the response and traffic was overwhelming. Since then, he’s been on a non-stop schedule of archiving, promoting, and preserving Vivian Maier’s work.

Vivian Maier was born in New York City on February 1, 1926, the daughter of a French mother, Maria Jaussaud Justin, and an Austrian father, Charles (Wilhelm) Maier. Several times during her childhood she moved between the US and France, living with her mother in the Alpine village of Saint-Bonnet-en-Champsaur, near her mother’s family. In 1951 at the age of 25, Maier moved from France to New York City, where she worked in a sweatshop. She then moved to the Chicago area’s North Shore in 1956, where she worked primarily as a nanny for the next 40 years.

On and off the job, Vivian Maier began to venture into the art of photography. Consistently taking photos over the course of five decades, she would ultimately leave over 100,000 negatives, most of them shot in Chicago and New York City. She would further indulge in her passionate devotion to documenting the world around her through homemade films, recordings and collections, assembling one of the most fascinating windows into American life in the second half of the twentieth century. Vivian Maier passed away in Chicago on April 21, 2009 at the age of 83.

If you missed the Vivian Maier exhibition this spring at the Photobastei in Zurich, the exhibition will be returning to Europe again from June 6 to September 10, 2016 at the Fundació Foto Colectania in Barcelona and is highly recommended. Thank you, John!

> Vivian Maier
> Portage Park, by Daniel Pogorzelski and John Maloof
> Fundació Foto Colectania, Barcelona
> Photobastei, Zurich

Go Local! Part III: Basel Buvettes.

The tables are queing up and waiting patiently for summer to arrive.

11 April 2016 — About 15 years ago, when I used to visit friends in Berne, I was always amazed at the summertime social activity in the Marzili District, down by the Aare River. Back then, Basel only had the lawn out in front of the Kaserne, where Krethi & Plethi (everyone and their sister, so to speak) would hang out under the stars during warm summer nights. Slowly but surely, space for the crowd became more and more restricted, first to the Wagenmeister outdoor mini-bar and then finally the Kaserne changed hands and the once great outdoor meeting spot disappeared altogether.

Fast-forward to 2016. The buvette scene in Basel has exploded since around 2010 when Marina, the first Rhineside café/bar in Kleinhüningen opened. In the beginning, there was quite an outrage from locals who did not want portable buvette containers ruining the most beautiful part of town. But before the buvettes, the Rhine promenade was basically dead, except on Sundays when the masses came out from hiding to stroll up and down the river’s edge. However, no one would actually sit down and you certainly wouldn’t be caught dead having a drink or a picnic along the river. The only people who did that were the foreigners further upstream in Kleinbasel along the Wiese River.

Landstelle (Photo: Stefan Bohrer)

Times have changed and I must say for the better. Summertime in Basel along the Rhine has turned into an amazing social convention. It is a huge melting pot of people — locals, secondos, neighbours from France and Germany, tourists, you name it, they congregate. And it is very peaceful to see everyone mingling together, young and old. Some bring their own picnic and take advantage of the free grills (please leave your stinky, portable grills at home), or you can purchase food and drink from the buvettes and kiosks. And when it gets hot, swimmers can jump right out of the river, shower and then dry off and relax in the sun.

Buvette with a view. (Photo: Lea Dettli)

Buvette season has begun, let’s hope for another beautiful summer on the Rhine. There’s no need to go away on holidays, because Basel becomes a paradiso and if you squint your eyes a bit, it feels like you’re on the seashore or maybe even in Marzili.

> Marina-Buvette (East Coast, Kleinhüningen, Uferstrasse 80, with drinks, cake and punk rock)
> Landestelle (East Coast, Kleinhüningen, Uferstrasse 35, with great food & furniture, live music & DJs)
> Oetlinger Buvette (East Coast, Unterer Rheinweg, near Oetlingerstrasse, with electric grill)
> Flora Buvette (East Coast, Unterer Rheinweg, near Florastrasse, with homemade sorbets)
> Buvette Dreirosen (East Coast, Unterer Rheinweg, near Offenburgerstrasse, with DJs)
> Rhyschänzli Buvette (East Coast, Unterer Rheinweg, near Klingentalgraben, with prosecco & panini)
> Saint Louis Buvette (West Coast, St. Johanns-Rheinweg, Rheinschanze, with burgers & fruit pies)
> Buvette am Bollwerk (West Coast inland, Wallstrasse, with various food trucks, sweets & live music)

Why don’t the Swiss ever smile?
by Walter Ryser

20 March 2016 — Montoyo Ubuntu, a native African and a good long-term business client of my mine, recently said to me, “You Swiss are the most remarkable people I’ve ever seen.” And then he asked me, “Why don’t the Swiss ever smile?”

Montoyo is pleasant and friendly, is reliable and a good business associate, but the man still has no clue about us Swiss and the life here, even though he has been a resident for years. He should know by now that life in this country is no bed of roses. Nevertheless, his question irritated me.

For example, let’s take a look at grocery shopping. With the introduction of self-scan checkouts, the major grocery distributors have now further reduced the number of cashiers, even though the population, and thus the number of consumers, in shopping centers is continuously growing. During an ordinary weekday, at 9 am, you end up standing in an endless queue at the checkout. In the queue in front of you is a mother with two whining toddlers, further up you find a retired couple, one with a walker, struggling to pay using a bank card and then behind are two Mediterranean-type women (maybe they agree with each other or maybe they are disagreeing), loudly debating and wildly gesturing. A glance at my watch tells me that the next business meeting is drawing near, even though I just wanted to pick up a salad, some bread and tuna fish for a quick lunch later.

Fortunately, I’m my own boss and can usually choose how to design my working day. But my colleagues and children tell me the most incredible horror stories, sometimes pure torture, from the companies where they work. They tell of bosses who are overworked and in the course, putting employees under constant pressure — or of the work colleagues who fear for their jobs and therefore, with the nastiest of tricks, try to put themselves in the best light. Every man for himself is now the motto of many companies. On top of that, we are forced to tolerate completely outdated infrastructure, including no air conditioning, no free parking, no ergonomic computer keyboards, no adjustable standing desks and no break rooms with TVs.

And in the evening after work, the drama continues — with the team, in the arts commission meeting, not even a quiet beer on the balcony allows our blood pressure to reduce down to normal levels. The neighbor is having a cookout with unappealing guests who must tell the whole neighborhood what a big fish they are, which they go on and on about, with primitive choices of words. At the board meeting in the sports club we are forced to sit next to the smarty-pants bimbo who always knows everything better, can do everything better, has prepared an even better solution for everything, but never finds time to implement all this formulated wisdom into action. And then there is the arts commission’s proposal to conduct a writing competition, which is then brutally annihilated, because it does not meet the socio-economic-philosophical-liberal-historical values of the commission.

In situations as these, not only can a smile vanish, but there is no chance of it ever returning. You know too well, who I am writing this for, and if he has not yet experienced this firsthand to this day, now my African business colleague knows what I am talking about.

Montoyo looked at me in disbelief and said, “You know, where I come from in Africa, no one has a full shopping cart at the grocery store checkout. Hardly anyone knows what it is like to perform on instruction because there is no work for most of us. We don’t even know what an arts commission is, but on Sunday, when we go out to play football, the whole village helps drawing the lines on the field, putting up the goals, setting up benches for the spectators and preparing food for the break. I really do not understand why the Swiss never smile.”

> This article originally appeared in the Zürcher Woche.
> Walter Ryser is a journalist and works at Artext GmbH in Langenthal.

Giving London a face: Edward Johnston, Type Designer.
by Oliver Wainwright

Johnston at his desk. (Photo: Private collection)

11 March 2016 — As ubiquitous as the black cab and the double-decker bus, so omnipresent in the city it is practically invisible, the London Underground typeface celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016. To mark the centenary, a Sussex village, where this most metropolitan of lettering was dreamed up, is putting on an exhibition.

Edward Johnston, who created the typeface in 1916, moved to Ditchling, at the foot of the rolling South Downs, in 1912 at the urgent request of Eric Gill, his friend and former student. Gill had relocated there in the hope of establishing something of an artists’ commune, founded on medieval arts and crafts traditions — a place, as he put it, where “life and work and love and the bringing up of a family and clothes and social virtues and food and houses and games and songs and books should all be in the soup together”.

Ditchling became a vibrant centre for sculptors and muralists, printers and calligraphers, “the place in England that had the greatest vitality of thought and action in craftsmanship”, according to the godfather of studio pottery, Bernard Leach. That creative legacy is now celebrated in the beautiful surrounds of the Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft, which re-opened its doors in 2013, and where the exhibition on Edward Johnston now opens.

Alongside work from Johnston’s early years as a calligrapher — including some exquisitely illuminated letters he produced as a student — the exhibition tells the story of the evolution of the Underground typeface through a fascinating series of working drawings and early prototypes. It reveals Johnston’s quest to distil a crisp new alphabet that had “the bold simplicity of the authentic lettering of the finest periods and yet belonging unmistakably to the 20th century”, as his brief from Underground director Frank Pick demanded.

Edward Johnston’s font was inspired by ancient Rome. (Photo: Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft)

It was a time when the disparate companies and identities that made up the tube network were being united into a single brand – the challenge was to come up with something that wouldn’t be mistaken for advertising. The typeface (which was first designed for printed posters) had to stand out with bold clarity from the visual clutter of Edwardian London, a place plastered with competing commercial slogans emblazoned in ever more elaborate scripts.

As the ultimate purist, Johnston went right back to the source – all the way back to Trajan’s column, the sharply cut letterforms of which he was deeply enamoured. He thought that Roman capital letters “held the supreme place among letters for readableness and beauty”, that they were “the best forms for the grandest and most important inscriptions”. And what grander project than a scheme to link the whole of London with a consistent visual identity?

Edward Johnston’s letterform design, dated 1916, with his original ‘W’. (Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

The resulting typeface, now known as Johnston, took the Roman capital and stripped it right back, creating something that felt at once timeless and radically modern. Earlier versions reveal a more fussy “w”, formed from two intersecting “v”s, a capital-style “q” in the lower-case, and a single-storey “a”, before Johnston settles on something much simpler. The final script retains only the jaunty diamond-shaped dot for the “i”s and “j”s, as a nod back to calligraphic tradition.

Although sans-serif typefaces date back to the 18th century, Johnston’s Underground typeface can be credited with popularising the style. Indeed, it was so influential that it became the typeface from which every 20th-century sans-serif typeface would be measured. As Eric Gill later wrote in admiration, Johnston “redeemed the whole business of sans-serif from its 19th-century corruption”.

Johnston’s original bullseye design for the Tube. (Photo: Crafts Study Centre)

His former student was perhaps driven by the guilt of seeing the success of his own typeface, Gill Sans, which he admitted had been heavily based on Johnston’s work. Promoted and licensed by Monotype, and preloaded into computers, it has become much more widespread than Johnston, which is owned by Transport for London.

“I hope you realise that I take every opportunity of proclaiming the fact that what the Monotype people call Gill Sans owes all its goodness to your Underground letter,” Gill wrote in a letter to Johnston later in life. “It is not altogether my fault that the exaggerated publicity value of my name makes the advertising world keen to call it by the name of Gill.”

Little did it bother Johnston, accidental creator of one of the world’s longest-lasting corporate identities, who was never one for the limelight. When asked to submit a biography for Who’s Who, he was characteristically to the point, listing only three achievements: “Studied pen shapes of letters in early MSS, British Museum, 1898–1899. Teacher of the first classes in formal penmanship and lettering, LCC Central School, 1899–1912. Designed block letters based on classical Roman capital proportions (for London Electric Railways), 1916.” But what influential letters they would turn out to be.

> This article appeared originally in the Guardian, March 2016
> Oliver Wainwright, architecture and design critic
> Underground: 100 Years of Edward Johnston’s Lettering for London, Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft, 12 March–11 September 2016

Sad sight to see: Super size me, Switzerland.

Photo courtesy of Philip Greenspun

1 March 2016 — It is a sad sight to see: the slow but sure deterioration of Switzerland’s eating habits. Why, oh why must we follow the same stupid mistakes of the Americans? First came Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Starbucks and now we have Subway, Domino’s Pizza and heaven forbid, Dunkin’ Donuts.

Why would we want to replace the great Gipfeli and Quattro Stagionis we have here? Why can we not follow the intelligenza of the Italians? A burger and fries from Micky D’s is a rarity in Italy because the Italians know how to cook and do not tolerate inferior cuisine. As an example, any highway service station in Italy serves better caffé than most Swiss high class restaurants.

To all of you locals in Basel who queue up to this trashy American fast food chain, did you know that just one doughnut (this is the proper spelling, not the dumbed-down version donut) contains a whopping 30% of the daily allowance for saturated fat? There is practically no nutritional value in a doughnut.

The Swiss Flag Heart Donut: Is that made with REAL artificial colouring?

The Dumb Donuts Marketing Department came up with a good scheme to attract Swiss customers. The Basel branch is offering Swiss Flag Heart Donuts, a doughnut in the shape of a heart, topped with a badly drawn Swiss cross — the proportions are all wrong.

At least Switzerland makes people pay the price for junk food. One doughnut in Basel costs CHF 3.20  — compared to the mere $0.89 in the USA (89 Rappen) — which is 360% of the American price. Is this how we try to keep obesity under control?

Dumb Donuts has not figured out that the letter ß (the Eszett or sharp S) does not exist in our language. Süßspeise is a word that you would not find in Switzerland, we prefer the word Dessert. Do your homework, dummies!

> Corporate Identity Manual Switzerland (see p. 22)
> Swiss tackle growing child obesity problem

Go Local! Part II: The Basel Minster.

The Gothic carving on the choir seating depicts people, animals, hybrid creatures, plants and coat of arms.

24 February 2016 — You cannot overlook the Basel Minster, the monastery church sitting high on the hill in downtown Basel with it’s prominent spires and colourful roof tiles. The minster was constructed of red sandstone between 1019 and 1500, and was rebuilt after the Great Basel Earthquake of 1356. During the Protestant Reformation, (1517–1648) many valuable pieces of art belonging to the city of Basel and the minster were destroyed, but fortunately some of the greatest treasures were hidden away and survived. These can be seen at the Historical Museum.

When visiting the Münster — if you are in good shape and have no claustrophobic tendencies — be sure to climb the steep, 242-step spiral stairs in the steeples. The old church clock from 1883 is located in Martinsturm, the southern tower. Once you’ve reached the top, the view is overwhelming and you can see the foothills of the Black Forest in Germany and the Jura Mountains over in France. The knee of the Rhine and Basel’s four bridges are in full view, so you get a better understanding of the lay of the land.

If you have read Blanche Merz’s Orte der Kraft in der Schweiz (only available in German), you know quite well there are two very special spots you should not miss when visiting the Basel Münster (see red dots above). The first is the central point of the raised choir which boasts 22,000 Bovis units of energy and no doubt is the reason why the Celts first built their settlement here around 500 BC. Fortunately for us, this area is not only accessible to priests like in the past, and one can stop in and tank up on energy whenever the cathedral is open.

The second spot to catch some positive vibes is at the St. Gallus portal in the north transept, the arm of the church which crosses the nave at right angles at the entrance to the choir. The portal has many 12th century Romanesque stone carvings and is one of the oldest figured doorways in German-speaking Europe. This area, inside as well as outside the minster, measures in with 18,000 Bovis units.

> Basel Münster (in German)
> Freunde Basler Münsterbauhütte (in German)
> Basel Historical Museum
> Bovis scale

Joel-Peter Witkin: See with your soul, not with your eyes.

Joel-Peter Witkin, The Raft of George W. Bush, 2006, toned gelatin silver print.

19 February 2016 — In 1988, I first saw Joel-Peter Witkin in the flesh at his lecture in Boston. I didn’t have the slightest inkling then that his work would become a personal, long-standing companion. Throughout the years, I have rediscovered this master photographer again and again – his imagery has remained thrilling and continues to capture one’s hidden voyeuristic tendencies.

His subject matter has perhaps mellowed with age, but remains iconic. He is a genius storyteller and soothsayer, far ahead of his time, as his noble The Raft of George W. Bush from 2006 strikes a sharp chord with our world’s disasterous‎ state of affairs.

The Guardian recently published an interview by Tom Seymour titled Joel-Peter Witkin’s best photograph. The following is an excerpt from that article, in Mr. Witkin’s own words:

“This was based on Théodore Géricault’s painting The Raft of the Medusa, which recorded a great tragedy in French history. Géricault depicted the aftermath of a terrible act of cowardice by the Medusa’s captain and his officers. They ran the ship aground off the coast of what is now Mauritania in 1816. When they couldn’t set the frigate free, they took all of the small boats and left more than 140 passengers to fend for themselves on a raft. Only 15 survived, having resorted to cannibalism.

“When I saw the painting in the Louvre, I noticed a correlation between that tragedy and the eight years of George W. Bush’s administration. I think Bush would have been a wonderful president of the Baseball Association. But he had no talent for the job of president of my country.

“The photograph took a month to put together. It’s a tableau [from the term tableau vivant, meaning living picture; a scene presented on stage by actors who remain silent and motionless — Ed.] , based on a series of my drawings. I believe in building photographs. I don’t like the unpredictable – I have a clear idea of what I want long before I click the shutter.

“First I needed a double for Bush. I contacted an agency for famous lookalikes in Los Angeles. They had a bunch, but the rates were enormous. This one chap, who looked and sounded exactly like Bush, wanted $20,000. Another guy, who worked in Malibu zoo, only charged $1,000. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so I had to fly him in. My Barbara Bush – George’s mother, who can be seen above him – was a retired nurse. She caught the same flight, though they’d never met before, and I put them both up in a hotel.

“I spent a long time looking at the original painting, but decided to add something: a crown of lights on Bush’s head, to represent his little thoughts. And I had his hand fondling the breast of someone who I thought might be Condoleezza Rice, his secretary of state. Rice was obviously very smart, but a Republican. To me, anyone who is a Republican – it’s a spiritual problem rather than a mental one.

“The other people were all locals. The day before the shoot, I had them gather in my studio. I showed them a reproduction of Géricault’s painting, reiterated my reasons for making the photograph, then told them to try out their places. The next day, I took the photograph with a Linhof 4x5 camera. I printed it myself because that, for me, is the decisive moment: you can change the meaning of a photograph by how you print it. I have to be part of that process.”

Le Radeau de la Méduse, 1818–1819, by French painter and lithographer Théodore Géricault.

Sergey Ponomarev, Refugees arrive by boat near the village of Skala on the island of Lesbos in Greece, 2016.

> Read the full article at The Guardian
> More of Joel-Peter Witkin’s photography at Bruce Silverstein Galleries, NYC
> Sergey Ponomarev, World Press Photo

David Bowie’s ★: The final symbol representing a lifetime.

27 January 2016 — Blackstar, represented by the ★ symbol, was released on 8 January 2016 – David Bowie’s 69th birthday. The musician passed on two days later, and the album has since been interpreted as a poignant farewell and has topped charts worldwide. The cover of the album was designed by his long-time collaborator Jonathan Barnbrook in London.

The er worked directly with Mr Bowie rather than via his management team, discussing ideas via email or Skype. “He always wanted to do something interesting, often to the annoyance of the record company,” Barnbrook said. “He understood the value of the image on a record cover, when other people had forgotten about it.”

Barnbrook’s cover for Bowie’s last record positions a large black star in the centre of a white background. The design is simple, but full of symbolism. “This was a man who was facing his own mortality. The Blackstar symbol [★], rather than writing Blackstar, has as a sort of finality, a darkness, a simplicity, which is a representation of the music.”

“It’s subsided a bit now, but a lot of people said it was a bullshit cover when it came out, that it took five minutes to design,” he added. “But I think there is a misunderstanding about the simplicity.”

The original cover for Heroes and The Next Day artwork by British er Jonathan Barnbrook.

Contact sheet of the boyish David Bowie in 1977, by Masayoshi Sukita.

The use of abstract shapes was developed from Barnbrook’s previous controversial cover for The Next Day album. The design features a white square covering Bowie’s Heroes album cover from 1977, recycled design which was apparently influenced by Constructivist art but even more obvious, can be compared to the readymades of Marcel Duchamp. The black star graphic also carries deeper meanings, one of which, a black hole sucking in everything, the Big Bang, the start of the universe, as if there is an end of the universe.

Album artwork for ★, 2016 — reminding us of a tidied up version of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover, which was based on an image of radio waves.

For the vinyl edition, the star is cut out from the black sleeve so the record inside is visible.
“The fact that you can see the record as a physical thing that degrades, it gets scratched as soon as it comes into being, that is a comment on mortality too,” said Barnbrook.

David Bowie and Jonathan Barnbrook created five album covers together and each design proved controversial with both critics and fans. “I hope they are a fitting tribute to his amazing creative life,” said Barnbrook. “He’s one of the people who most brought the avant garde or intellectualism, or art-school thinking, into the mainstream.”

> Read the full article at Dezeen Magazine
> Barnbrook Studio UK

Go Local! Part I: Ermitage, Arlesheim.

O blessed solitude. O solitary bliss.

25 January 2016 — People travel the world to come to Basel, but have you seen all of these local sights? How often do you visit the quaint little towns right next door? Do you know a particular neck of the woods like the back of your hand, like a true local? We travel the world, but hardly know what’s right at our fingertips.

This is the first in a series focusing on local sites in and around Basel which are worth visiting. You don’t need to bring along your passport and there are no long check-in lines. You can return home at night, catch a good night’s sleep in your own bed and wake up the next day feeling refreshed.

The Ermitage in Arlesheim is a style of landscape garden which emerged in England in the early 18th century. This style spread rapidly across Europe, replacing the more formal, symmetrical French gardens of the 17th century which were modelled after the gardens of Versailles, which had been designed to impress visitors with their size and grandeur.

English gardens usually include a body of water, sweeps of gently rolling lawns set against groves of trees, and recreations of classical temples (or in this case original sacred buildings), ruins, bridges, and other picturesque architecture, designed to create an idyllic pastoral landscape. The Ermitage has all of these and the Japanese would be quite impressed by the quality specimens of VIP moss which cling to rocks and trees in abundance throughout the grounds.

In gratitude to the founder of the Ermitage, an inscription in Latin was chiseled into rock:
Hospes Amice / Guest and friend
Hasce delicias / These delights
Naturae debes / You owe to nature
Debes industriae / You owe to the diligence
Balbina ab Andlau / of Balbina from Andlau
Henrici a Ligertz / Heinrich of Ligertz

Tucked away near the border of the cantons of Baselland and Solothurn, not far from the Goetheanum, the Ermitage is nestled amongst sugary, calcium-coated hills with countless little streams and ponds. The ponds are scattered with blotches of comical blue carp, which glide over to passersby, rolling out their fat lips to the surface of the water, hoping for a snack. Little do they know, there are signs posted nearby: Do not feed the fish.

The Ermitage is the largest English garden in Switzerand and sports an impressive energy level of 75,000 Bovis units. It’s just a few minutes walk from the number 10 tram station Arlesheim Dorf, about 20 minutes from Basel’s main station.

> Ermitage, Gemeinde Arlesheim

Vintage sound, razzle dazzle and vitamin C for 2016.

3 January 2016 — Happy New Year!