"Fabrik - Ein Bildepos der Technik von Jakob Tuggener, (Factory - a Pictorial Epoch of Technology by Jakob Tuggener, 1943). An unusual sequence contrasts lathes, melting furnaces, turbines and generators with single portraits of workers; the sharp contours of a carved wooden mask or the natural resources of industrial energy such as sluices and waterfalls. These images may be reminiscent of Rodchenko, but they never seem apologetic or nostalgic about technological progress. The book is rich in formal references, while numerous little stories form pictorial narratives. These include, for example, an almost cinematic sequence of a young woman called Berti, who, with blueprints under her arm, rushes along beside a high brick façade before vanishing through a metal door. The camera constantly shifts between Berti's face and the scenes that surround her.
Unlike many of his more politically motivated colleagues such as Paul Senn, who concentrated on the world of workers and farmers, Tuggener took many photographs of the wealthy. During the 40s, with almost post-Modern enjoyment, he joined the rich and beautiful at their balls held in the Hotel Palace in St Moritz, a place where war-profiteers met in the unreal quiet of the Swiss mountains. Tuggener created a series of trance-like photographs, which look like film stills, depicting sparkling crystal glasses, heavy silver cutlery and chandeliers; bare shoulders and low-cut back décolletages juxtaposed with a plate of German sausages shining with grease; the exchange of flirtatious glances and brief hand contacts. He also took superb images of fetishistic details, such as an ornamented room key, ambiguously held by slender fingers in a black velvet glove. It is these minimal details which hint at the complex stories which lie at the heart of Tuggener's oeuvre."
(Hans Rudolf Reust: Translated by Imke Werner, 2000 Issue 53 June-August 2000, Frieze)
"Meshes of the Afternoon is one of the most influential works in American experimental cinema. A non-narrative work, it has been identified as a key example of the 'trance film,' in which a protagonist appears in a dreamlike state, and where the camera conveys his or her subjective focus. The central figure in Meshes of the Afternoon, played by Deren, is attuned to her unconscious mind and caught in a web of dream events that spill over into reality. Symbolic objects, such as a key and a knife, recur throughout the film; events are open-ended and interrupted. Deren explained that she wanted 'to put on film the feeling which a human being experiences about an incident, rather than to record the incident accurately.'
Made by Deren with her husband, cinematographer Alexander Hammid, Meshes of the Afternoon established the independent avant-garde movement in film in the United States, which is known as the New American Cinema. It directly inspired early works by Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, and other major experimental filmmakers. Beautifully shot by Hammid, a leading documentary filmmaker and cameraman in Europe (where he used the surname Hackenschmied) before he moved to New York, the film makes new and startling use of such standard cinematic devices as montage editing and matte shots. Through her extensive writings, lectures, and films, Deren became the preeminent voice of avant-garde cinema in the 1940s and the early 1950s."
The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999.
Maya Deren (1943). "Meshes of the Afternoon", 16mm film, black and white, silent, 14 min. Acquired from the Artist.
Aldo "Van Eyck believed playgrounds should challenge a child's imagination without jarring the adult's aesthetic sensibilities. His abstract, elementary forms - often manufactured out of metal tubes like modernist furniture - were meant to belong in a well-mannered streetscape. During the same period in Britain, however, we were developing a tradition of playground design that was almost diametrically opposed. The first 'junk' playgrounds emerged amid the rubble of the Blitz, and the results were far less polite. Consisting of makeshift structures cobbled together out of roof beams and detritus, they were often designed with the assistance of the children themselves. That essential character survives today in descendants such as Glamis Adventure Playground in Shadwell, east London, a riot of skew-whiff woodwork and clashing colours, and an odd hybrid of post-war austerity and postmodern assemblage.
The junk playground model was created by the Danish architect Carl Theodor Sorensen, who believed playgrounds should reflect the imagination of the child not the architect. In 1943, having observed the creative way children play in construction sites, he developed the prototype junk playground on the Emdrup housing estate in Copenhagen.
The concept was brought to Britain by Lady Allen of Hurtwood, who tested it out on the site of a bombed church in Camberwell and then built dozens of what she called 'adventure playgrounds' - the term 'junk' tended to turn local mothers into nimbys. Not only did Allen feel that ordinary playgrounds were sterile places ('it is little wonder that [children] prefer the dumps of rough wood and piles of bricks and rubbish of the bombed sites'), but she believed in the healing effects of exposing children to the urban scars of warfare. At the same time, having them take part in the post-war reconstruction effort was deemed a good way of shaping model citizens.
Essentially, all playgrounds are designed to do the same thing: to help children develop their abilities, use up excess energy and keep them off the streets. But the ideology of the adventure playground is interesting for several reasons. First, there's the notion of not restricting children to the repetitive motions of the slide or swing, because the sooner you reach the technical limits of the equipment, the sooner you have to stretch those limits - hence all those swings you see coiled around the crossbar. The adventure playground was designed to liberate the wild thing within and, by exposing children to risk, teach them personal responsibility (all forms of play are underpinned by some form of didactism, so it's worth reminding ourselves that this is also simply more fun). Just as crucially, it was intrinsic to the concept that children be involved in designing the playgrounds, dreaming up weird structures and adapting them later by tacking on extra elements. This participatory dimension, managed by volunteer play leaders, is key to the development of their creativity.
It's curious how much the ethos of the adventure playground chimes with the language of a new era of design today: a 'participatory' process, recycled materials, an adaptive product. It doesn't sound like the 1940s. But equally valuable is the zone of exception that the adventure playground represents in the city, one of improvisation and informality that, pace Van Eyck, does not blend in to a polite streetscape.
Today, there are few true adventure playgrounds left, but occasionally another is built that follows all the essential tenets, such as the Kilburn Grange Park playground in north London, designed last year by Erect Architecture and based on the ideas of local kids. Increasingly, though, 'adventure playgrounds' are produced by specialist manufacturers and merely designed to look rustic. You can't adapt them, or at least anyone who tried would be carted off. These are the products of a health and safety culture that watered down adventure playgrounds in the 1980s and 90s. There was a minor revival a few years ago, when the Labour government invested £230m in new play spaces across England, but the coalition government freed that budget up for other uses, so it was short-lived. And now, with the cuts, several adventure playgrounds, including the giant ones in Battersea and Kilburn, face losing the play workers that make such playgrounds what they are.
It's worth remembering just how cheap and yet how luxurious these spaces are. We should let kids loose on this new breed of sanitised playground, to inject a little of the old spirit in them. I hear the builder behind Kilburn Grange Park salvaged the formwork from Zaha Hadid's Olympic diving towers - that could come in handy."
(Justin McGuirk, Tuesday 3 July 2012 15.40 BST, The Guardian)
"During World War II, Disney's provided some political education for Americans at home -- and for soldiers on the front, too. 'Education for Death: The Making of the Nazi' appeared in movie theaters in 1943. The tone of the movie was serious, and it didn't feature the likes of Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse. Instead, it used impressive images to describe how children in Nazi Germany were raised to hate and to participate in the war effort -- and how little blonde Hans' only purpose in life was to die on the front."
(Sven Stillich, 2009)
"In 1943, five years after it was founded and during the height of World War II, Walt Disney Studios put out an organization chart to explain how the company functioned. What's fascinating is how it differs from org charts issued by most corporations. Typically, corporate org charts are hierarchical, with each operating division isolated into 'silos' showing job titles according to reporting chain of command and ultimate authority. The CEO and SVPs get the higher positions and bigger boxes; the little boxes represent the expendable worker 'bees.'
The Disney org chart, on the other hand, is based on process, from the story idea through direction to the final release of the film. All of the staff positions are in the service of supporting this work flow. Perhaps the question now is what should the org chart of the future look like, given the global workforce, telecommuting personnel, virtual employees, outsourced jobs and contract workers who sometimes outnumber salaried staff? In an idea-based, rather than a manufacturing-based, economy, how should a business organize itself? Does the very nature of their assignments imply that designers will always work in an environment like the Disney org chart and clients will always work in a hierarchical structure? And is this difference the crux of the disconnect between how designers and clients look at problems?"
(Delphine Hirasuna, 7 August 2009)