Shigeo Fukuda (Japan), Omar Vulpinari (Italy),Seymour Chwast(USA)

On (not) Getting the Knock-knock

Getting a joke is often the most difficult thing in a foreign culture: to understand the humor that comes out of upending graphical, verbal and societal norms requires understanding what is is expected in the first place. Time and place, culture and context are everything. A view into humor from an American, Italian, and Japanese designer included culturally grounded plays on graphic conventions, pictorial codes and verbal expectations. Shigeo Fukuda opened with a presentation describing the migration of graphic ideas across cultures, showing the evolution of historical graphic forms as they have been borrowed across cultures. Seymour Chwast, an American with a history of sophisticated social and political satire dating from the sixties to the present, employs an illustration-based design quoting heavily from the graphic language of American cartoons. Recent work Omar Vulpinari showed from students at Fabrica in Italy, uses a graphical language based contemporary glossy magazines to communicate wordlessly. While employing only images moves the work towards international understanding, interpreting those images becomes even more bound in understanding the context and culture in which they were produced. In one series, a student took portraits of people on the street wearing masks they chose from his collection. Each photo told a rich story that required knowing the mask character and reading the occupation and social status of the person through their surroundings. Mr. Fukuda ended the session with a particularly Japanese inversion of expectations: He produced a bonsai which shocked the audience. And then he proceeded to rip off the branches and offer to the other lecturers, revealing that it was in fact a candy plant. (GW)

Seiko Ito (Japan), Naohiro Ukawa (Japan)

Not knowing what to do

Wonder and shock together can produce comedy: in the space of confusion over not knowing what will happen next because all of your cultural codes have just been so thoroughly violated that you know longer have basis on which to form any expectation, laughter spontaneously arises, taking control of the body in a set of nearly autonomic responses that are as hard to let go of as they are to induce. Like the uncontrollable laughter at an embarrassing situation, it is not always comfortable and almost always has a touch of the forbidden or naughty to it. This session opened with a video about a comedic duo of dwarves from Brooklyn who have made a career of upsetting expectations and cultural norms. In a series of videos, they cause delivery men to bring things to their apartment, and then greet them in the nude with bizarre behaviors, creating situations designed to make the delivery men uncomfortable. As the men struggle with how to handle the situation, the audience as well no longer knows what to expect, suddenly all the rules are gone: the space for action is wide open and suddenly we are doing what every comedian and every graphic designer really want most desperately from their audience: we are paying attention, holding our breath with anticipation about what will happen next. Like in comedy, styles of interaction can become codified quickly into stale techniques that no longer surprise or engage. Ito and Ukawa reinforced their message about the power of impromptu interactions by giving a talk-show style presentation, seated at tables in the center of the room.(GW)

Writer:Kosuke Ikehata/Norimitsu Korekata/Junko Sakamoto/Nobuko Shimuta/Naoko Hasegawa/Osamu Hisanaga/Sakurako Muto/Naho Yoshioka/Helmut Langer/Maggie Hohle/Nicole Rechia/Trysh Wahlig/Gitte Waldman/Robert Zolna
Photographer:Yoshimitsu Asai/Yasuhiko Katsuta/Fumihiko Mizutani