An international cast of creatives choose the biggest moments of 2017
2017, hey? And we thought that 2016 was tough… In a world without Prince and David Bowie it seems that the starting gun we fired has seen us accelerate towards a vast wasteland of geopolitical uncertainty. And Banksy reappeared too.
As review of the year is showing, creativity has continued to thrive in the absence of certainty, and we are seeing a generation of newly politicised designers, empowered and emboldened by what they see as injustice and a death of decency strive to make a mark individually and collectively.
Beyond our ongoing analysis of the year, we asked a number of people from across the world what the biggest or most important creative moments were in the year. The responses range from the political to the whimsical, but together highlight what a perplexing and paradoxical year we have endured.
It was a Wednesday, not unlike any other (or this one, today being a Wednesday) when David Rudnick unleashed his ‘definitive ranking of Non-Primary-Canon pasta shapes in honour of #worldpastaday on twitter. When most news on twitter currently seems to revolve around celebrities shaming themselves, politicians shaming their respective countries or the president of the united states having a good run at covering both bases, it was an unexpected change from the norm and a welcome addition to the day to find Rudnick running through his list of big hitters in the alternative Italian carb scene. Starting with the lowly ‘Croxetti’ through to spoiler ‘Mafaldine’ by way of the excellently named ‘Radiatori’ each pasta type has a four point review ranging from "Longitudinal Ruffling as art’ through to “this is just a disc” and is funny start to finish. An unconfirmed sequel starring various budget packet ramen is currently rumoured to be in the pipeline but at time of writing Rudnick was unavailable for comment.
Back in the heady days of 2015, Detroit record label Third Man Records (founded by Jack White) elected to release noise veterans Wolf Eyes new long player. The label opted to celebrate this by allowing the band to do a takeover of their Instagram account, so far, so boring, but sometimes from the expected, an unexpected star is born. The long and short is Wolf Eyes spam posted meme after meme to Third Mans’ account losing them thousands of followers and infuriating many more. Fast forward to the year of our lord twennysevunteeen and Wolf Eyes (or @wolf_eyes_psychojazz) has been tearing up the world of Instagram with meme upon meme, this might be expected from a knowing contemporary comedian or a racy advertising/PR agency but for what could previously (and essentially still) be regarded as an avant garde noise act to throw caution to the wind and transcend their niche to engage with the wider world through solid gold lols is pretty unheard of, and brilliant, besides, if you don’t laugh like a drain at a picture of an otter holding a toy ukulele reflecting on the feeling of rejection born out of their friend not appreciating their new project, then we’re not pals, OK?
I think the sign of something being good if you are an artist is that it is both inspiring and makes you feel old and out of touch. I’m firmly placed in the central demographic of unacknowledged privilege — I’m a middle-aged, white, straight male with a good education paid for by the state. In many ways that makes me uniquely unqualified to say anything. Still, I feel that 2017 has been a breakthrough year for the rights of LGBTQ people and the issues that affect their lives. It’s one of the biggest civil rights issues in the world and it affects us all. Equality of sexual identity is a cornerstone of a functioning civilisation. And I think there has been a really vibrant upswell in artists expressing this new energy.
One artist that I really really like is Jeffrey Cheung, an illustrator and director of Unity Press. His amazing bold, funny and queer skateboard cartoons and LGBT friendly skate events are a really inspiring synthesis between the naturally youth and outsider outlook of skate culture and the underground and outsider position that LGBTQ people have found themselves in.
So, Jeffrey Cheung and his amazing hand painted skate art, zines and events represent my favourite creative moment of 2017.
For me personally it was the new album of Father John Misty, Pure Comedy and the video of the song Pure Comedy itself drawn by The New Yorker cartoonist Edward Steed. That or the Song Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution. The list goes on. I think it’s just my sense of humour. Besides that 70s soft rock resonates so much with me, the lyrics capture my hysterical laughter about 2017 pretty well. Beauty and satire or cynicism clash so interestingly .
Fredrik Ost – Snask
I think the single most important creative moment of 2017 is the #metoo. It’s something that propels a very tedious and conservative world forward and hopefully with a big change and destruction of sexual harassment, structural gender issues and norm boundaries as a result.
To be honest, I find it hard to put my finger on breakthrough work in our realm of design and communications. I think possibilities like designing DNA and advances in the world of medicine outstrip what feels to me to be a sea of sameness in our world. Nothing like the design of the CND symbol, or the launch of the first Mac has happened this year. Apple design is now distressingly predictable although the new campus building is a clearly a significant moment of creativity.
To be honest I think the most important creative moment during 2017, tragically, was the success of Trump’s campaign. Grotesque as it was and continues to be, I think his triumph, even if it turns out to have been corrupt, was the most significant and most important creative moment during 2017.
Although you didn’t ask me what I thought was the the most vacuous, I think it was the ridiculous and irrelevant nonsense of the British Gas penguin and the pitiful re design of the formerly terrible Addison Lee brand identity. Quite an achievement to take something as inept as it was and to make it worse.
One of the things that influenced me a lot in 2017 was the #metoo / sexual harassment topic. Not that it is a new debate or that it influenced directly the pictures I paint but it highlighted once more the inequality between men and women and made me also think a lot about the position of women in the creative field and art world, and how a lot of disparities are still occurring. It also enabled again the discussion that people tend to separate the art from the artist. I hope we will still be talking about these important topics in 2018 and that de debate will evolve in the future. Art is also an important way of transmitting these kind of messages.
I guess it would have to be the various anti-Trump rallies, in particular the Women March which filled the streets of Manhattan (amongst other cities) at the start of the year. New York as whole has felt like a clenched fist since the election results in 2016. The increasing anxiety, frustration and fury lead to a huge outpouring, not of violence, but of solidarity, understanding and overwhelming creativity. It was powerful and inspiriting to witness. I hope the same energy and determination will continue as battles with the current administration sadly give no sign of abating.
The most significant and inspiring creative moment of 2017 happened during its first month. Hundreds of thousands participated in the Women’s March on Washington to protest the politics and policies of the incoming American administration. The endless profusion of powerful, touching, and sometimes funny handmade signs served as a vivid demonstration of both the imagination of individual citizens and the viral power of modern social networks. And although the event had an official logo, its de facto symbol was the “pussy hat” — knitted caps, crafted by hand one by one, that together created a vast pink sea on the Washington mall that day.
Just like two infamous red buses—the Routemaster and the £365m Brexit-mobile, both of which suffered from the different effects of hot air—the proposed Garden Bridge had Boris Johnson blazoned all over it. And as a campaigner opposed to the project, a pivotal moment of 2017 for me was its collapse. Such a stance on the Garden Bridge seems to ruffle the feathers of many designers, and certainly gets them clucking, as the majority seem to hold romantic ideas of Thomas Heatherwick and his somewhat maverick status in architecture.
And that’s fine. But to focus aim solely at the designer is to widely miss the mark. The proposed design of the Garden Bridge is almost insignificant when it comes to why the cancellation is important for the creative industries and a landmark moment this year. Its significance doesn’t concern creativity, it concerns the way creativity is sought and bought. At a time of increasing concerns over pitching and tenders for projects, the Garden Bridge procurement process was rigged, reckless, and repugnant. Were it to have gone ahead the integrity of the creative industry, and the public perception and value placed on creativity in the UK, would have stood for nothing more than vanity and folly at the expense of a democratic, tax-paying society. And that’s putting the politics aside.
I remember one night, around midnight, a few months ago, I was still up, as usual, drawing at my desk. The podcast I was listing to was playing the song The Partisan. It was a retrospective program dedicated to singer/poet Leonard Cohen, who had died not long before that night.
“Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing
Through the graves the wind is blowing
Freedom soon will come
Then we’ll come from the shadows”
The lyrics were lingering in my mind. The drawing I finished expresses my deepest fear. It eventually got printed among other artists’ art in a special section, curated by art director Alexandra Zsigmond, in The New York Times Sunday Review Section. Two months later, Trump took office and became the president of The United States. During the past 12 months, many of my illustrations were about fear, anger, frustration, and sadness. So were many of my peers’ art, as I observed. In an age of political turmoil, I feel individuals are connected with similar fears and anger even though the world is divided worse and worse with closing borders. One of my friends told me she would love to see the face of an artist who’s at work. She was curious if the artist would have a sad expression on the face if he/she is making a sad piece or vice versa. I had never thought of this question. But I suppose the art shows the way the artist sees and feels the world around him/her. It is as authentic as all that is going on that we feel unreal.
My defining moment is witnessing, the emergence of new artists exhibiting there work and getting more recognition. For example the other art fair has really grown to develop new artists. (I loved the Basquiat exhibition too).
Maybe not the most creative moment in 2017 but something that made me smile… the queen’s European hat It was was great to see her using her wardrobe as a Trojan horse and political tool. That was bold and made me smile in such dark Brexit times…
During 2017 I have been thinking on how Instagram as a medium has changed the way of how photographers make pictures. To get as much attention as possible the photograph itself must be nowadays easy "to read“, should have clear composition stand out through colors or bw contrast and it may be also funny in a way to work on a small smartphone display. And how far my own photography has changed during the last year due to this phenomenon.
The amount of photography awards grows like mushrooms after rain and becomes and own industry. Usually they cost pretty much money and attract participants not only with prices, but also with portfolio reviews, publications and even discount for the next years edition. A colleague told me some days ago, that he invests approx 1000 euros per year into participation fees. The exaggerated peak of the worldwide photoaward madness was the fact, that one of the winning photographers was unmasked as the organiser himself at the same time.
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About the Author
Owen joined It’s Nice That as Editor in November of 2015 leading and overseeing all editorial content across online, print and the events programme, before leaving in early 2018.