Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On Making Content Glamorous:

'The Dutch make make the rest of us look rather dull. But then, they alway did.' –Ada Louise Huxtable, On Architecture, pp. 278

So proclaims the masterly architectural critic, and so right is she. Many travel journalist tends to write of the Netherlands' tulips, windmills, and cheese; but this country's not really about all that. Well, it is, but it also isn't. Or, perhaps it is about that to an outsider. At this point I am not so sure as to what I see when I look out across or onto a Dutch landscape. What used to once delight and inspire me–wrought iron fences, seventeenth century gables, and tiny brick streets–are now familiarities; cycling past the same buildings, seeing the same streets, living my life within a select few neighborhoods. I'm always a fan of adding more bubbles onto my bubble of the world, so I make it a point to often cycle in different directions on the ways to my destinations, just to shake things up, and I regularly make small adventures for myself that require crossing the city, or something similar. But, for all my time in Amsterdam so far, the longer I live in my tiny slice of it, it becomes ever more clear to me that this really is my home, this is my street, and these are my neighbors–not someone else's, but mine. The Dutch do make everyone else look rather dull, as Ada states above. But it's not that the Dutch are more explosive in their un-dull-ness, either. The Dutch have a certain something that shows only their glamour; the Dutch make liberal use of sprezzatura. I've always considered myself something of a sprezzatura master: dashing off on a never ending quest to communicate spaces, information, and ideals accessibly, visually, and in ways that surprise, and then delight. Let's make it more glamorousI'm great at that.

Recent consciousness of my body has led to my body being a very wonderful clothes hanger of sorts, for very beautiful clothes, which have recently found their way to my wardrobe. That's what's fun about growing up: the ability to design my life. This year the Amsterdam marathon has my name on its registration list, and so, the long runs ahead of me in preparation for this 44K in late October will certainly slim me down beyond my current body's proportions. Hello toothpick arms; I can almost feel them again. But, of course, proper nutrition does make one's body sufficiently restored after a long run. I am totally excited to run this marathon, which will be my second full marathon–alongside many other non-marathon road races. Having such a nimble runner's body only amplifies this desire for beautiful clothes. But I'm always looking for quality, and durability, eh–I ride my bike to work everyday; my clothes have to be that way! They are mostly solid, both literally and figuratively (prints are not my thing), functional, with just a hint of the out-of-the-ordinary (like a cut that's far beyond the everyday), that still sort of fades in when you squint, or when you want to you can see it: that's me in a nutshell. Naturally the fashion I choose to cloth myself silently projects the affiliations of my personality type, to the world. Or so everyone seems to think. In the past two years I've taken to learning my body, how it responds to fabrics and cuts, shoes and hairstyles, and food and exercise (running). I've done a bit of glamorizing to myself these past few years, both internally and externally. I feel as if my outside finally matches my inside, and vice versa. As Jean-Luc Godard has said, 'Style is the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and the inside of the human body–both go together, and they can't be separated.'

For some time now I've become aware of the worlds I interact with, in ways that extend my vision of them far beyond the surface, extending orbitally into others. It's exciting to see other worlds. One door leads to yet another, and everyone you meet could potentially take you to, or show you, a whole new 'world' you never knew of; or, they could potentially play a respectable role in you life in the years ahead. It's difficult to know. But I do know who I want to be, or at least I have an idea in mind. For years I worked on my personality; like all things, personalities too, can be trained. And moving to Amsterdam, and all of my experiences in Europe thus far, have served to strengthen traits and interests of mine in the mannerism and customs of both American and European peoples. That was one phase on my time in this city (see the archives from 2008-09), but I'm far beyond that now, in ways that even I don't think clamor for my attention. My outlook on life in the Netherlands, and within Europe, in relation to the larger world around it has flourished beyond belief. I'm conscious of all that's happening around me, via the internet, and instantaneous access to information. Unlike living in New York, or anywhere in the USA, I feel more connected to the world, living in Europe, given its strategic location between Asia and the Americas, and, naturally, above Africa. The pulse of the world is much easier to feel in Amsterdam than it is in New York, but not in the sense of being 100% part of the world's pulse in a large way that's spread through mass media–that is New York indeed. Rather, Amsterdam takes the backseat, staying mainstream in its quench for world knowledge, yet local enough to evolve and maintain a thriving independent cultural community far-from the mainstream media. Amsterdam creates; it doesn't follow.

Inspired by the lovely square just out front, the Athenaeum Nieuwscentrum's magazines persistently call my name. I'm luckily enough to be able to see the magazines industry, and the content and quality of the physical objects they produce. I'm critical. But that's only because I'm searching for something that goes beyond what I already know. Something that speaks to my soul. It won't be new, as new is hardly ever truly new, and when something is new, the world is often unkind to it. But magazines whose pages speak volumes, both in words and visuals, are something I cant refuse to purchase. I'm addicted to paper. I'll admit. But, I do recycle. I'm also aware that all magazines, or books, that I may buy, have many stories and emotions that fueled their being brought into existence within the world. Resources were used, knowledge was culled, and content was created. Most often, with magazines, production is funded through advertising, which attempts to make emotional-and-instantaneous connections with readers, carefully tucked between editorial spreads. Will the magazine industry model continue thriving? Chance are that won't be the case. The coveted September issue of American Vogue hits newsstands any day now, in the Netherlands at least, and I'm quite excited. Though a book full of advertisements–2/3rd's, to be exact–isn't normally my kind of magazine, but I read Vogue as an object, not literally. It's the complete package that matters most, and everything else inside is just a small component of that. So it's obvious who's on top here.

Lately I have been re-listening to the 'Design Matters' interviews of Dominque Browning and Margaret Roach, both former editors of super-sized magazines fueled by millions–deciphering and decoding their every last word. It's helpful to understand that the fantasies being shown inside the pages of magazines are not real, and they never were, nor never will they ever be. Any photo or text that's been smashed onto a 'roughly' A4 sized paper and bound with others, to make a magazine, has certainly been edited. A magazine is an edited experience. As is a good building, and a great space, and a superb book. The list really goes on and on. When one has an edited experience, the experience one has, has been designed for them. People pay for these types of experiences! That's why people go to amusement parks, and that's why people go to city parks: to escape and experience a break between daily routines. There is a lot to know about editing a magazine, yes–but equally as important is why the magazine is being made, with what content, for whom, and at what price? Business is, unless you attended business school, not something everyone enjoys–some people are producers. That's why a great team, is always composed of more than just one: balancing business with content is key to achieving positive end results, but, not always. I imagine that, no matter which experiences one engages in, one can always edit out non-wanted experiences, from their lives. That must be so. Editing visuals and copy, in order to make something new, takes my mind to new heights. What a concept: putting life on the page, cast in a stillness of spreads using the structure of a helix, mapping and mixing imagery with words.

That visual process, when editing, makes me very happy. While pouring over the pages of an aged AF Quarterly from 1999, art direction by Sam Shahid, I confirmed that editing is totally my thing. Making content glamorous is what I do, and I'm armed with an intellectual determination and I set that allows for this to flourish. I've come to embrace that; this newly fully embraced talent of mine. It might just be my best yet. So I'm going to keep spraying the glamour on everything I touch, making it clear, consistent, and concise in its communication and arrangement, whether that be a space or a page. I am also really coming to have a highly refined eye for graphic design, and I like that; thank you Debbie Millman. So, let's edit. That's all.