New Ebook Design for White Rabbit Assortment by Toko
Text by Richard Baird.
The White Rabbit Collection is a contemporary art publication showcasing 99 artists from the White Rabbit, a museum, gallery and archive of contemporary art in Sydney. With over 2000 works by 700 artists, the museum has developed into one of the world's most important collections of contemporary Chinese art. With this new publication, designed by the Australian design studio Toko and commissioned by Judith Neilson, the museum wants to show the breadth and depth of its collection.
Inspired by the Little Red Book (quotes from Chairman Mao Tse-tung), the publication is characterized by a bright red clamshell box with a unique typographic gesture and three books, each with 33 artists, each with their own cover. The box and books together form an edition of 2475 individual variations. Each box set is unique and an invitation to discover the social and artistic changes in China in the 21st century.
“The unique history of the development of contemporary art in China is also a sign of its difference. From 1949 until the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, all art was at the service of the revolution. The great Chinese traditions of ink painting and calligraphy had become suspicious and were considered "feudal". The artists were trained in Soviet-style socialist realism and painted heroic soldiers, farmers and factory workers, bumper harvests and belching of power plants. When China began its reform and opening phase after 1978, ideas and artistic influences from the West came in at the same time as foreign investments: artists discovered postmodernity and rediscovered modernity at the same time. After a period of joyful eclecticism, they began to explore how revitalized national art traditions and folk art forms could become part of a contemporary visual vocabulary. Today, artists marry ink painting and porcelain with stop-motion animation, calligraphy with computer games, and use paper cutters to comment on issues of consumption and social control, to name just a few examples of this confident hybridity. Chinese artists weld the latest technologies to know some of the oldest art forms in the world. They reflect the old and modern Chinese history and still position themselves as experienced practitioners in a global art world. Many navigate carefully and tactically through the political landscape; sometimes the need for double coding and allegory makes their work even more fascinating. These artists deal with topics ranging from Chinese history to urbanization, from pollution to gender roles, from spiritual to defiantly secular. They tell a story of today's China. " – White Rabbit.
It is unusual for BP&O to retrieve a quotation directly or in such detail. However, it is important to understand the context of the book and the works it contains. Its graphic immediacy and perhaps somewhat modernist sensitivity will likely view the book as an image that is detached from the context, aestheticized, and deprived of its politics when these images go online. While BP&O recognizes the ability of the aestheticized surface to move an object, especially online and today, it is fully committed to the (cultural and long-term) value of a synergistic relationship between coverage and content and the need to keep it intact.
Chinese art has a rich and multifaceted history. His contemporary art speaks not only of the ideas and crafts of individual artists, but also of the time in which they live, of the stories that have been told to them about the past, and of the current politics in which they are involved or that you want to undermine (open or subtextual). . The individual works contained in the books are collectivized, alphabetized and systematized (there is an irony in the context of Chinese politics), more than the sum of its parts. Toko's work manages to express this with beauty, simplicity and technology. The approach effectively uses every available tool. A confluence of spatial sensitivity, color, materiality, volume, outer and inner surface and digital printing technologies touch important aspects of the presented collection.
The intelligence of the work lies in the use of technology to individualize each boxing set. Unique variations give equal weight to each artist, making the book an inherently political gesture that is a democratic counterpoint to the environment in which the artists were created. Everything else supports this central expression. Synergetize technology and ideas. Also see Unit Edition's work with Universal Everything.
Ambiguity sharpens perception. The beauty of the work also lies in the room for interpretation. With a simple graphic expression, the syntax of the work (structure, grid, font, text, image, space and materiality) is another level that has to be read and interpreted. The unique texts of the cover from the artistic introductions in a neutral sans-serif font, the material volume of the box, but the simplicity of the graphic representation and the outer English and inner Chinese logograms create polarized dots, spaces between two things, in which meaning, as well as Art is an invitation / provocation.
In its most accessible form, the work is a beautiful interface between art, design, materiality and technology. Toko's own approach, one of the ideas that are presented with clarity and ease, works well. However, for those who tend to do so, there is a depth of work that goes beyond its appealing graphical immediacy and which is satisfactory in some considerations. Further works from Toko to BP & O.
Design: Toko. Opinion: Richard Baird. Fonts: TBC.
Support BP & O.
Thank you to everyone who has visited BP & O since the beginning of 2011. As many of you know, BP&O has always been a freely accessible design blog that wants to offer an expanded opinion on brand identity work. An attempt was made to be the opposite of the social media platform, which often untangles form, context and content. Writing articles can take 2 to 4 hours and is carefully researched.
I am passionate about design writing and believe that design discourse promotes spending time writing about work rather than just posting pictures. If you liked this article, you have been on the website from the beginning and want to contribute to the future, you should support the website with a small PayPal donation. This affects the cost of hosting, CDN (so the website can load quickly) and Mailchimp, and covers part of the time it takes to research, write, format, and share posts.