Monday, September 30, 2019

Dirty Art Club, Late Adopters & Keiko Matsumoto

Weekly Update 2019-36: Weird, nostalgia-inducing sounds from Dirty Art Club, power in the perspective of late adopters of technology and the intersection of art and craft found in the ceramic works of Keiko Matsumoto.

Keiko Matsumoto's stunning work.

Music: Dirty Art Club
Not sure how this particular duo from North Carolina found its way to my ears, but they're weird and I really dig their style. Dirty Art Club is made up of producers Matt Cagle and Madwreck, sampling all sorts of weird things (I think I heard the theme song of The Shining and a voiceover from a cartoon I just can't place from my early childhood). While their sound journey takes unexpected turns and certainly doesn't shy away from experimentation, they still seem to make some very chilled out beats that are as calming and pleasurable as they are intriguing.

Tell me what samples you can pick out of the song Hexes, but start anywhere after that.

I really made use of my ability to go to the CNE at lunch during work, made possible by the mix of my office location being so closeby and the relaxed work hours. It made for a really nice heart-to-heart with my friends the alpacas in the farm building. They had a slightly larger fanbase this year due to the rise in alpacas as a "cute animal" - people are finally catching on that they're the best.

This is a chicken sandwich with funnel cakes for the buns. It was delicious.

My friend Nadia hosts some excellent homegrown events all over the city, some of them guided walks through specific neighbourhoods in order to understand them better. This past weekend she brought some friends and colleagues together to stroll semi-aimlessly through the Portlands area along Lake Ontario as a chance to make a sort of "before picture" of the scenery before it's overtaken and redeveloped by what will probably be Google's Sidewalk Labs.

We saw some cool things, met a Toronto Biennial artist by chance as he worked on his immersive sculpture piece, and I got some unexpected hangout time with my neighbour who also knows Nadia - she's very well connected!

This week marked the last official Toronto Cruisers bike ride. Bittersweet, but our fearless leader Natalie decided to give it a Hawaiian theme for a brighter mood. Even better, the ride went right past my house on its final leg to rest in Trinity Bellwoods, so I was able to break off and save myself some sleep. Lots to do in the next few days...

This weekend I have to do some mental gymnastics, planning and packing for two trips at once. I'm headed up north for a weekend at an adult overnight camp as Larissa's bachelorette party. It's a cute idea and I'm excited to squeeze the last drops out of summer but I do have to leave for Japan the next day. I'm really trying to pack as little as possible since I'll have a hiking backpack. I hope my back can handle it.

Speaking of which, I also need to make time to hang out with Sara this week to borrow her backpack and get any last Japan tips from her. Her backpack has already been to Japan so it'll know what to do, too.

Random Thought: Late Adopters
In creating experiences for other people, I feel a sense of responsibility as a designer to keep on top of the trends in app design and beyond. How can one be a good designer if they don't know or understand the current experiences of their subjects?

But at the same time, too close a look into trends can be detrimental to the design process. Standing too close to the problem denies us the ability to innovate beyond it, so I wonder if being a late adopter can actually be beneficial and bring a unique perspective to creating solutions to life's problems.

Being able to see the problem from the outside is usually the best way to understand how it works, especially when certain norms are taken for granted by people who have been stuck in their ways for a long time. If true innovation means going off the well-travelled path in search of something new, I think it stands to reason that this could be found equally in an early innovator or a late adopter.

Inspiration: Keiko Matsumoto
I am a sucker for a good ceramicist. I love pottery's juxtaposition of strength and fragility, and the amazing things one can make with it that vary in shape, texture, colour, size and so much more. I hope to see some cool pottery in Japan but for now, I will satisfy myself gazing at the works of Keiko Matsumoto.

I especially love the way she mashes up different tropes within the media - the octopus curling over a Ming-style vase to transfer the classic pattern to the piece feels like a weird remix of something your grandmother might be collecting in her time-capsule apartment.

In a similar way, the above piece fills in the blanks by completing a print of a Japanese pagoda on a plate with a sculpted 3-D pagoda behind it. It's as much optical illusion as it is fine art.

The first time Japanese art was exposed to the West was at the 1873 World Expo in Vienna. This Japanese art mainly consisted  of pottery, craft and ukiyo-e. There wasn’t really any contemporary art in Japan at the time, and in fact there wasn’t even a word for “art” until 1873. After the expo, influences of Western art began to show in Japan, and art was taught at universities there.

Read more about Matsumoto here.

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