11.3.13 – Trip to the V&A and Science Museum

Monday saw another trip to London, and of course, like the last trip it was combined with pretty terrible weather across the south of the UK, with temperatures below freezing, and a severe wind chill that made life unpleasant. Thankfully the snow did not come to much in London, although it did back at Tonbridge, making getting home from Tonbridge Station a real challenge, but that’s another story…

The purpose of the trip was to attend a talk at the V&A regarding artist’s books. I thank the V&A for putting on the talk in the National Art Library, an architectural masterpiece by the way, and allowing us to handle an interesting selection of artist’s books, with relevancy to graphic design, which allowed me to gain a much greater understanding and appreciation of these books.

Normally I would now show a set of images highlighting the details and wonders of these artist’s books. But I can’t, as the V&A operate very strict copyright restrictions to protect themselves and the artists they represent… So I’m going to talk about the main things that caught my eye, and I’ve linked to an external website which had a couple of images of what I want to talk about if you would like to see what I saw, but overall, I was disappointed not to be able to find images of a couple of books I will talk about. 

“A picture is worth a thousand words”

Black dog white bark by Erica van Horn is an artist book that caught my eye because of the way it was put together. The book is a set of illustrations on dark grey/blue textured paper, on which each page features a black dog, with a white ‘bark’ visible. The visibility of the bark lends it a purpose, that although cannot be heard, can be imagined. The sharp contrast between the white and black also create a strong image in the reader’s imagination. This is all the cleverer when you think about how simple the printing process is behind this, only making use of two colours.

RAM mini books by Barbara Nessim is a set of small books featuring her line drawings. How these were apparently created, was the individual could select a flag to start with, and the colour and line drawings were randomly selected by the computer, with the finished result being printed out. The designs are very simple, but have a personality of their own.

Alphabetbuch by Anna Wolf is an amazing book, that sandwiches a set of interconnected paper triangles in between its small square, black, textured covers. The process of opening and closing it reminiscent of an accordion, with the motion being quite spectacular. It gives the book a dynamism that is engaging, and therefore enjoyable. On each page of the book is a letter of the alphabet, hence the name of the book.

From A to Z by Marian Macken was an interesting artist’s book, or should I say books, because they are two of them, in white, making use of thick high quality paper, bound with the aid of string. Both of them contain the same information, but in different formats. One starts with the full text being legible, with it fading out more and more by characters disappearing. The other book is the opposite way. I find it intriguing how the information is seemingly encrypted, so as not to be easy to read!

High Tension by Philip Zimmerman is a book that expresses the symptoms of stress for the first two-thirds, and how it can be overcome from the final third. The inspiring element with this book though is how the paper is bound in different angles with serrated edges, which perfectly characterises the stress and tension which is the subject of the book. It also makes use of what I believe is foil embossing for the front cover, so overall this book was technically pushing what could be done.

What I really learnt from the talk was how books can be expanded to create artwork that is original and unique. While I did not like all of the pieces, and felt some were not really ‘books’ in my opinion, it broadened my horizons, and I did take inspiration from some of the pieces.

After that, I also went to the Science Museum as my tutor had mentioned something about a website exhibition being worth a visit. The Google Web Lab was it, being a set of interactive experiments that showcased the power of the web. Personally, I found it a bit of a sensory overload with the background ‘music’ that is created interactively (listening to it for more than 15 minutes could drive you insane 😛 ) as it was kind of distracting, making me lose interest pretty quickly.

I’ve included some photos from the booklet below so you can see a bit more about what the exhibition entails. Personally, I think the graphic design of the booklet is very successful, with the use of grey, clear, simple, bold type working together with the colourful gradient coloured shapes, which is very Google, and therefore shows the identity is spot on. I also love the fact when you enter the exhibition, you get a unique ‘lab tag’ – with a unique pattern on it.

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However, from what else I had seen walking through the Science Museum to get to the exhibition, I definitely want to go back there another time for a proper look around as many of the subjects (cars, space, climate etc.) are of real interest to me.

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