Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Sounds Like Teen Spirit

This grin-inducing documentary follows four heart-achingly earnest kids on their quest to win the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Find out how to see a special preview screening and Q&A with director Jamie Jay Johnson.

First time feature director Jamie Jay Johnson is a sucker for the lovable loser. His past short films include World Mini Golf `Championship and a film about the slowest ever Olympic swimmer. His fascination with the ultimate geek fest that is the Eurovision Song Contest began while he was stuck at home with two broken legs watching TV, including Lordi- the heavy-metal monster band from Finland winning the 2006 Eurovision.

"I've always enjoyed the spectacle and pantomime of the adult contest,” Says the
The Central Saint Martins graduate and all-round nice guy, “When I heard there was a more homemade kid's one where they wrote their own songs I was like 'why has nobody made a film about this?'"

And so began the research for Sounds Like Teen Spirit, which entailed flying around about 14 countries from Ukraine to Georgia, to Sweden and Portugal to meet all the potential entrants, “then I basically just chose my favourite four that I most wanted to hang out with."

Jamie has kindly given jotta a bunch of fantastic prizes, including tickets to the preview screening, followed by a Q&A with himself and producer, plus one of the limited edition Tatty Devine designed SLTS wristband’s and a copy of the fist-punching soundtrack.

Hand-picked by Jamie, the buoyant soundtrack includes some Eurovision legends like ABBA and Sebastien Tellier – and the added bonus of some crooners and shakers, "We did think of trying to keep it all Eurovision-y, but Roxy Music, Henri Mancini and The Singing Nun worked too well so we broadened it out a bit."

"I've known Harriet from Tatty Devine when we were on Foundation together at Central St Martins.” Jamie says of the collaboration with London pop jewellery favourites, “I've always liked Tatty Devine's work and they've sold a range of single and pairs of odd socks I made once, so when the film was ready I got them into a screening and said I'd love them to do something as a limited edition tie in with it. Luckily they really loved it and came up with the bracelet idea. They're genius's, and I think their spirit of fun and playful pop-ness goes well with the film."

We don't want to give too much away, as this is a film everyone has to see for themselves – a joyride that had me bouncing in my seat along to each song and my heart dropping with each contestants pitfall. Ans we'll save the hard questions for you at the Q&A.

To win a pair of free tickets to the preview screening and Q&A at the Ritzy next Thursday May 7th at 6.30, plus a copy of the soundtrack and one of the special Tatty Devine, 'limited edition, not for sale in the shops' Sounds Like Teen Spirit bracelets, answer this question correctly-

'Teen Band Trust from Belgium feature in the film using a special technique of pouring rice on their drums for a dramatic 'rice explosion' effect... but which country is their rice of choice (Basmati) originally from?"

Send your answer to by Wednesday May 6th to win.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Mysterious Letters is a collaboration between Michael Crowe and Lenka Clayton. United by a shared ambition to post a personal letter to everyone in the world, the pair started their mission in the small village of Cushendall in Northern Ireland.

They spent 2 weeks locating and spying on villagers, finding things personal to them to write about and eventually succeeded to write 467 unique letters to every house in the town, which arrived en masse around April 14th.

Clayton and Crowe crafted each letter so that they were familiar, perky and slightly perplexing. 
Some as simple as, “Just a quick note to say that as I was passing your lovely home recently I noticed a crow land on your roof then take off again after a bit. With very best wishes from lenka + Michael.”

“We hope these beautiful unsolicited letters will prompt neighbourly discussion that will spread across the town, promoting community curiosity." Explains Lenka on her site, "The art work consists solely of the discussion between the recipients about what on Earth these letters are, who sent them and why.”

When compared between neighbours, no two were the same, the art stunt sent ripples of bemused confusion through the sleepy little town. The first chapter of an ongoing project, they hope to write a personal, hand-written letter to every household in the world- no mean feat! I'll be checking my post in hope.


Michael's site

Lenka's site

Marking the end of the Whitechapel Gallery’s year-long series of artists’ commissions, The Street, Fleet: Ice Cream Orchestra performed a specially created six part composition written for the ice cream van horn outside the Street Headquarters on Toynbee Street in London's East End. Six vans from Honours Ice Cream played their solo sections in twinkling harmony.

The unique tinny sound which heralds the arrival of sticky dairy products, recognised by children across the land comes from the Grampian horn bolted to the van’s axel and pointed towards the road to disperse the sound. Pawsey, an art technician from Folkestone, composed and recorded the piece on a twelve-note, toy xylophone from the 1960s called a ‘Pixiphone’, and says his composition was influenced by traditional folk music.

With free Cornish ice cream dished out before and after the performance, there were creamy smiles of glee on the faces of children and nostalgic grown ups.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Daniel Wilson: Funny Ha Ha Not Funny Strange

London filmmaker Daniel Wilson has a killer sense of humour. His two most successful short films, Daddy’s Little Helper and Section 44 are both highly stylised narratives that begin as drama’s then catch you off guard with a sharp twist that leaves you chuckling and wincing simultaneously.

This week the British Film Council fly Wilson out to New York to watch his film Section 44 show at the Tribeca Film Festival. Now considered to be the Sundance of the East Coast, Section 44 is one of two UK short's chosen for this year’s Tribeca.

“I think comedic short films have a harder time getting into film festivals in Europe than in the USA. While Daddy’s Little Helper was in over 40 film festivals’ internationally it’s a sympathetic film- you feel for the characters. Whereas Section 44, depending on your personality type, you might feel a little awkward about laughing at it!”

Section 44: the inspiration

“I have worked on documentaries and programmes filming people who have been interrogated, tortured, raped, and mutilated, from Rwanda to Burma, they have been subject to the most intense suffering. It made me ask the question- how would I deal with a situation like that. I had to admit I probably wouldn’t do very well, if they took away my mobile phone I ‘d probably tell all. I’m very lucky because my own deficiency’s amuse me!”

The style
“I like proper looking films, its slick, dare I say it, “Hollywood.” The opening shot which pans out from the street, if that was a commercial would have cost £28000 but cost me £650, that’s called being resourceful, i.e. being very good at begging and eliciting sympathy from people! I almost called it a blag, beg and borrow production.”

Wilson studied media production at Bournemouth University, specialising in video, but admits at the time he was more interested in having fun and playing in bands.

When did you get serious about filmmaking? Or are you still not serious?

“It’s debatable! I do love filmmaking but there’s a conflict because to make a good looking film just costs so much money. It is the most financially intensive medium.”

“The difference between low budget and big budget filmmaking is like the difference between an astronaut and a cosmonaut- an American astronaut has the gravity defying upside down pen- a Russian cosmonaut has a pencil!”

Ten commandments of short film making according to Daniel Wilson

1. Never cast your friends as actors.
2. Not even if it’s one line of dialogue
2. Once you think you’ve written your script- rewrite it.
3. Every story needs a beginning a middle and end- not necessarily in that order
4. It’s got to have a twist or a punch line.
5. Set a shoot date and live with it
6. Never leave the set till you’ve got the scene.
7. If in doubt do it again.
8. If your sound is rubbish so are your pictures
9. Films are made in pre production so plan your shoot properly
10. When editing, indulge the audience, not yourself


Jocelyn Marchington and Jon Brantschen set up their design studio after graduating from a motion graphics degree at Chelsea College of Art and Design. Joining forces with photographer Joschi Herczeg, they operate between London and Zurich.

“We all wanted to start something up,” Joc explains. “We’d had some experience in agencies and working for other people but wanted to do it ourselves so we had more input in the whole creative process. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do that if we were working in a traditional agency.”

Jon recalls how the seed had been planted long before graduation, with talks that encouraged students to think laterally about life after lectures. “Before the final show, we had our website up. We’d had people like Designers Are Wankers coming in and saying it was a really good time to set up a studio. That was before everything happened.”

While these might not have been the most prescient words of advice, the good old credit crunch hasn’t pummelled this sector of the creative industry as much as you’d think; with the team pooling together their talents in graphics, animation and photography to work on commissions and personal projects that span Europe. When jotta speak to the trio, projects in New York and Taiwan are in the pipeline.

JocJonJosch’s commissions are varied; from designing a show brand and package for Endemol UK and Virgin Radio’s Punch Drunk TV, to album artwork for Australian electro artist Tim Koch. They've produced the graphic identity for a Bratislava based exhibition, The Language of Humour, and photography for European magazines like Bilanz.

When it comes to personal work, the team are in their element. Today's project -which saw them suffer for their art - is an extension of an ongoing series of elongated, manipulated body shots, and a labour of love.

“We decided to film and create photographs in motion,” Jon says. “We put a lot of details in the background, like this anecdote of naked people walking at the very back, or a little stuffed deer. It’s something people should only recognise after a second, it shouldn’t be the main thing.”

Other projects have been equally adventurous. Take their series of figures in natural landscapes sporting balloons for heads. Their luminosity against the subdued background beg the question, have they been Photoshopped?

The answer to which is a resounding no: “We don’t put special effects in as there is this theoretical nature of the happening, of the moment,” explains Jon. “We went to a special balloon shop and they were massive and perfectly round.”

Joc adds, “People value that. There’s something human about it. It’s funny as well as you can imagine people doing it. There’s no romance in thinking of someone on a computer doing some special effects.”

The team are setting up a blog and a Twitter to run alongside their website for avid viewers and design fanatics to get a sneak peek into the preliminary stages of conception. “What we want is somewhere we can have experiments and be a bit free,” says Joc. “The idea is not that we want to make it perfect but cause a bit of discussion." Jon adds, “it gives a personal touch- thoughts on our daily life, that sort of thing.”

It may also prove beneficial to those students and graduates seeking insight into the industry's higher echelons. “We thought it would be a nice record for us and maybe for other people who are starting now to see what we’re actually doing day to day; the highs and the lows basically,” Joc explains.

Other projects in the pipeline include an exhibition at 123 Bethnal Green Road, a vintage shop come gallery in London’s East End, set for September. Two shows in Zurich and Bratislava are to follow, and who knows, by that point the team could have ridden out the recession in style and those visiting lecturers proved resoundingly right.

Visit JocJonJosch’s jotta page or see their website for more information.

Behind The Pale Blue Door

Dinner is set with mismatched crockery on chequered tablecloths sourced from vintage shops; candlelight glows and ashtrays are poised. Toys hide in corners and taxidermy birds loom from the ceiling. Ladders lead to the upper echelons of an almost life-sized doll’s house, where agile guests must pass through small cavities to reach their place settings upon tiny tables and children’s beds.

Everything is slightly off-kilter at The Pale Blue Door; the lilting tones of Nick Drake and Tim Buckley filter through softly and food is served in a friendly, low-key manner. Our host was once a chef before he turned his talents to fashion set design, thus the food is as delectable as the surrounds.

The mood shifts as the music halts and Greek drag queen extraordinaire A Man De Pet slinks into action, providing diners with an eyeful of entertainment. She busts out ‘Tina’ later in the evening, working up a storm to classic track Simply The Best and returns in a handful of other fanciful guises.

Spirited away from the outside world, The Pale Blue Door feels like London’s best-kept secret. Originally intended as a one-off weekend event, its underground success means it will carry on over the next two weekends to cater for those who missed out on the magic.

To make a booking or for more information email

Monday, 20 April 2009

White Chapel Gallery Reopening

London’s art world converged upon the all new Whitechapel Gallery last Saturday for the private view, ahead of their official reopening on Sunday 5th. jotta was there to enjoy the view.

The new building design is quite stunning, with plenty of natural light streaming through into open spaces. The new penthouse rooftop overlooking the city, was bustling with kids making cityscape inspired headwear in the craft workshop, and an elegant archive and library room below combines mid century modern wood furnishings with clever use of the original detailing, stained glass windows and fixtures.

To celebrate the a two-year refurbishment, (that cost almost $20 million), and expanded gallery space, curators took the opportunity to bring the galleries history, which places it as a trailblazer of Modernist art in London as far back as the 1890’s, together with some equally as challenging contemporary artists. The inaugural installation on the first floor, in place for 10 months, saw Turner Prize–nominated artist Goshka Macuga explore the history and movement of Picasso’s Guernica. The painting, which now hangs in Madrid’s Museo de Arte Reina Sofia museum, was brought to the Whitechapel in 1939 as a backdrop for an anti-Fascist rally during the Spanish Civil War, and Macuga wanted to revive that spirit.

Visitors stood bubbly in hand surrounding the large, circular U.N. style conference table, which through the duration of the 10 month residency will be available to book for meetings and discussions, as long as you don’t mind the public being privy to your discussions and the White Chapel recording it.

jotta will be there hosting seminars and interviews over the coming months, which will be filmed for the site!

Ones To Watch: Daisuke Hiraiwa

His fascination for natural organisms is apparent, as is his knack for manipulating light. With degrees in architecture and interior and spatial design under his belt, the Tokyo born, Chelsea College of Art and Design graduate set up his own brand, g.+ and works and exhibits internationally. Long time fans of his striking work, jotta was intrigued to know more.

What first inspired your interest in spatial design / architectural art?
When I used to restore historical Japanese teahouses.

Your work seems heavily influenced by natural organisms; is this intentional?

Yes. I want to embody natural phenomena in 3D objects.

What is it about turning mundane objects like plastic cutlery into works of art that appeals to you?
I think one of my purposes is to change the fixed values in daily life into positive feelings.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’m working as a freelance designer now and showing my new work at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair 2009 in NY next month. The work is lighting design with disposable plastic spoons and toothpicks. I’m also going to deal with transparent plastic blocks like Lego for tables and chairs at 100% Design [a leading interior design festival] this year.

Does your Japanese heritage have an impact on your work?

I found great design elements in it and from world heritage as well. One of my heroes is [the popular 19th century artist] Hokusai. From him, I learned organic expression between art and design.

Equally, does living in London have an effect on it?
London encourages my creativity. It has a wide range of values and in other words, that’s a great opportunity to exchange various cultures.

Check out more of Daisuke's portfolio here.

Objectified Premier

The 700 seat cinema sold out within 40 minutes of the tickets going on sale. Design aficionados, geeks and chic’s were in attendance. And Stephen Fry was sat behind me! In the introduction the film Hustwit requested that no filming, recording or tweeting take place during the screening. Stephen Fry complied and later, when tweeting was allowed had this to report -
“Went with Apple's Jony Ive to a prem of Objectified, a docco about design. Enjoyed it hugely. Jony more or less a god in my universe....”

The film looks at a wide variety of iconic objects, but mostly concentrates on the people behind them. While his first fim, Helvetica - a documentary about the font- was a neat package of a film, covering the designers, the advocates and the opponents (Arial), New Yorker Hustwit describes Objectified as “messy.” With so many people involved it is ambitious, but he manages to cover a lot of ground in 80 minutes, speaking to some of the most pioneering and esteemed industrial designers and firms across the world, probing them on their relationship with design and how they think design should fit into our lives.

Starting with SMART design in the USA. I was pleased to see their most iconic design was same vegetable peeler that sits in my cutlery drawer. Dieter Rams of Braun in Germany was shot pruning his immaculate bonsai garden and spouting design philosophy such as, ”Good design is as little design as possible.”

Jony Ive head designer of Apple was a surprise- very good natured, super buff (he does live in California) and with a quintessential English nature- self deprecating and quietly intelligent- a genius some would say. ”It feels almost undersigned” he says of good design, while showing us the inside of a Mac book and out the minimization of certain parts – where the challenge is to make as few parts in the one machine as possible.

Many of the designers spoke of the best objects having an "undesigned" quality - objects that assimilate seamlessly with our day to day lives.

Bill Goddridge co-founder of IDEO showed Hustwit the first lap top ever - designed by him. A large clunky black metal thing with a small square screen, Goddridge said he was initially chuffed with his design of the object, until he began using it and became instantly absorbed by the interface and the world within the computer- this is when he realized that it was the software which needed designing. And so he promptly coined the term “interaction design” - that which governs the majority of our day to lives, with atm’s, sat nav’s, mobile phones, and blackberries.

Hustwit gathered some charming childhood anecdotes- recollections of when designers first discovered a passion for design. Karim Rashid, New York designer of many pastel coloured objects, describes his first fetishised object- his Braun alarm clock (designed by Dieter Ram), which, as a teen he would look to for soothing when teen angst overcame. A flamboyant man typically dressed in pink Rashid was enthusiastic, while many of the other designers all exude an air of zen calm - as though they are at one with objects and the universe- the visionaries and cultural philosophers of our time!

Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa speaks of haiku's and his childhood obession with potato peeling- as a child, which left carving marks that were dirty and then once washed clean shapely carves.

Marc Newson, the rugged and down to earth Australian, who the brother duo Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec charmingly refer to in their interview when discussing a robust chair which could take the weight of a drunk Australian t which his brother quips- “Are talking about Marc Newson?!” Newson, who has built a mini empire in Paris, with QANTAS planes, bikes, clothing, chairs, and all kinds of objects under his belt, describes his obession with space travel, and the wrist watch his father gave him. Which he promptly smashed open and then proceeded to reassemble within a piece of Perspex plastic! A natural instinct and passion to see how things are put together - and then to try and do it better- motivates Newson.

Paola Antonelli of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, talks about design democracy as en empty slogan- all design is for everyone, so there’s no such thing. She refers to designers as culture generators, London’s conceptual designers Dunne and Raby who have designed robots and other such objects to explore human interaction with objects. Their designs only get shown in galleries and museums and is not for mass production, so they do not have the constraints of mass industrialisation.

After the film is finished, Alice Rawthsorn, Design Editor for the International Herald Tribune, Marc Newson and Jony Ive come down front for a Q&A with Gary Hustwit.

Gary queries Jony’s comment in the film about designers being disconnected from the material- are consumers also disconnected?

“Only because designers do such a lousy job, I’m shocked out how disconnected they are from the actual object- the common thing between Marc and I is our absolute obsession with the thing- consumers are disconnected because what they live with is #D graphic design.- Hey that’s a good pint, I’m going to use that!

Marc- “I was trained as a jeweler, I’ve always felt designer has to know how to build things,

Alice - “From the consumers perspective, because I don’t design I write about and as these two keep telling me it’s much easier! Karim Rashid- most people consider him to be s stylist, and hearing him talk about the soothing effect his Braun alarm clock had on him, while Marc talks about ripping his watch about and distilling it to the fundamental pieces. 99% of what designers produce isn’t great- a lot isn’t even mediocre.”

Marc- "I don’t have a huge amount of faith in the consumers ability to choose, it’s the designers job to design these choices."

What do they think about democratization of the tools of design?

Marc -“I think it will pollute, 3D rapid prototyping is referred to as 3D printing. It’s an egalitarian idea of consumer design their own products in the future- that’s the designers job, to have a view and solve the problems.”

A user experience consultant for Microsoft asks, “With all the going green initiatives around the world does it limit your design?”

Marc- "No, I think the best way to be environmentally responsible is to design nice things that you wont want to throw away, that you can ccreate a bond with and will get better with age."

Jony- "We spend a lot of time trying to make packaging smaller, for instance we stopped the shipping of CRT tube based products, the implications of shipping something so big and so heavy were really significant, and there are non obvious ways in which you can address the issue of sustainability-"

Marc- “Making things really expensive for example!”

I later wished someone had asked Jony Ive why Apple will not design a Mac with which one can keep the hardware and simply replace the shell- why do they keep on updating their products so they people must buy new ones- why must there be built in obsolescence to these products? Obviously technology develops rapidly, but they have full knowledge of this and no doubt they release new products when they already have the next phase ready. Jony finished by saying that the design of a product is to get design out of the way, to understand the hierarchy of the product and enable that.

Marc Newson said his anger and frustration at things that don’t exist or should be better is a motivation, Gary recognized this as his motivation for filmmaking. He reveals that there’s a third design film that he’s currently working on that will book end these two, “and then another 6 or 7 films that I want to see that don’t yet exist.” I certainly look forward to seeing more.