The UK snap election and the world of Weirdcore: a look back at June 2017
June was the month where political tensions in the UK ran high as Theresa May held a snap election, and lost the Conservative party their majority in the process. Elsewhere things weren’t much better. The Trump administration withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, hundreds were arrested at anti-corruption protests in Russia and the displaced population globally exceeded 65 million, the highest figure in decades.
But June wasn’t all bad. It was the month that same sex marriage was made legal in Germany at long last, and also the month that It’s Nice That took over the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington for Here London, our annual symposium of creativity. The one-day event saw ten of the most exciting creative talents from the UK and abroad deliver inspiring and entertaining talks exploring creative processes and ideas. Animator Anna Ginsburg, graphic designer David Heasty, artist Noma Bar, fashion designer Christopher Raeburn, graphic designer George Hardie, photographer Juno Calyso, artist Marguerite Humeau, graphic designer Astrid Stavro, graphic artist James Jarvis and artist Ryan Gander took to the stage to talk the audience through some of their most exciting projects to date.
In other news…
Bloomberg Businessweek magazine relaunched, revealing a starkly different design to its previously “wacky” aesthetic spearheaded by Richard Turley. “Everyone who works in media knows that you have to evolve or die,” the magazine’s creative director Rob Vargas told It’s Nice That. “The more you settle into a way of doing things the more likely you are to fall behind. For us, seven years is a pretty good point to hit the reset button. That meant keeping a lot of the typography and architecture that was already in place, and adjusting it based on the lessons we learned from making hundreds of issues of the magazine. We set out to present stories and information in a way that would serve us, the editors, and readers better than we did before. Clarity was a priority. We wanted to showcase stories and photography in a way that let them breath while eliminating graphic devices that started to feel like space fillers and distractions.”
Elsewhere, Annie Leibovitz photographed a gloriously pregnant Serena Williams for the cover of Vanity Fair. The shoot was titled A Star is Born. The cover image featured the very pregnant tennis player naked apart from a body chain, while more demure inside shoots showed Serena laughing with her husband Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
Photographer David Brandon Geeting took us on a “neighbourhood stroll”
“About once a month I will go on a long walk around my neighbourhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and pull as many photos out of thin air as I can,” photographer David Brandon Geeting told us back in June. “I will then edit these down and make mass posts on my Instagram account, ranging anywhere from 15 to 45 photos at one time.”
A result was Neighbourhood Stroll, an ongoing photographic sketchbook which demands constant, close attention from David as he goes about his daily life, transforming everyday strolls into meditative experiences. “I do it this way because I think it best replicates the experience of discovery I have while walking around and shooting,” David told us. “I consider this work to be as valid as the rest of my studio practice, it doubles as a sketchbook for my ideas, as a lot of them come from taking walks and looking around”.
Six months on, we caught up with David once more to round up his top five sites from his neighbourhood strolls from the last year.
"The coffee lid is so innocent, but it looks so sinister floating in this puddle."David Brandon Geeting
“This is one of the darkest images in the series, and I think that’s why it’s a standout. I love how the puddle looks like blood, though it’s actually just reflecting the red house behind it. The coffee lid is so innocent, but it looks so sinister floating in this puddle.”
“Sometimes I feel like I go out of my way to make stuff look “weird,” but this is an example of a really standard subject not doing anything special but looking totally gorgeous. This type of light is something I always try to attain in my studio, but I don’t know if I could ever fully replicate it.”
“I hardly take any horizontal photos, so that already makes this a rarity. This is a really tactile image for me. I can really feel the plastic sticking to the fruit, which is uncomfortable and satisfying at the same time.”
“I like this photo for a few reasons. It looks like a painting to me (probably because of the brush strokes on the wall), and I couldn’t have picked a better colour scheme if I tried. The hanging cross automatically gives it religious connotations, which I always equate with a kind of otherworldliness.”
“This is the cutest vandalism I’ve ever seen. Honestly, I would be stoked if someone did this at my apartment. What a nice little face.”
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It’s Nice That got a bit political
Back in 2015, the general election turnout was 66.1% — the highest since Tony Blair’s 2007 Labour landslide victory — but in the lead up to June’s snap general election, political commentators anticipated a turnout at least as low as 2001’s 59%. The lowest turnout among voters was predicted to be from young people — in 2015, 48% of 18-24 year olds voted, in comparison with 78% of people 65 or older — so, in a bid to get our young UK-based readers to the polling stations, we asked 12 creatives based around the UK for their help.
For four consecutive days leading up to polling day, we published posters commissioned for It’s Nice That by some of our brilliant creative network who we handed a simple brief: voting matters. Kelly Anna, Cecilia Serafini, Sam Bailey, Joel Antoine-Wilkinson, Joey Yu, Marlena Synchyshyn, Gaurab Thakali, Dominic Kesterton, Shaz Madani, Osheyi Adebayo, Lucy Sherston and Joy Miessi contributed posters urging the power of using your voice.
The Conservative party clung on, and six months of political turbulence ensued. But what of our creatives? We caught up with three of them to find out exactly what they’ve been up to.
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The general election result was disappointing, the government is a shambles. But I’m happy to see the beginning of a change coming and hope that the new generation will help turn the tide soon.
Since June, I’ve been working hard, having a son and trying to not think about politics. I have recently completed a new book for photographer Giles Duley, I can only tell you what my eyes can see. The book is a document of the refugee crisis across Europe and the Middle East. As with all of Giles’ work the photographs are deeply moving and put a human face to issues that we can so often feel disconnected from.
Another nice project that came out this year was a kids activity book for Thames and Hudson Think and Make Like an Artist, designed to encourage sophisticated thinking and give young budding artists a chance to develop their imaginations in a whimsical, colourful, and fun package. It just won an award for Best Children’s Trade Age 9-16 at the 2017 British Book Design & Production Awards, which is brilliant!
I have also been working with wonderful folk at Erased Tapes on the artwork for some of their new vinyl releases, including the latest Daniel Brandt EP “Eternal Something” and their annual compilation Collection VIII, and we have a new issue of Riposte out now so keep an eye out!
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Shaz Madani: I can only tell you what my eyes can see
I was extremely happy and inevitably a bit OTT in terms of optimism when I first heard the results of the general election. Since then I think we all thought Theresa May was hanging on by a thread but I think it’s become apparent that there is a disconnect between the perceived ‘win’ from Jeremy Corbyn and the reality that the Tories are still the ones behind negotiations in Europe and that social care is still being dismantled around us. Despite this though I think we’ve gotten to a point where the Conservatives can no longer disguise austerity as a political decision anymore, putting the rest of us in a position to scrutinise every policy.
Recently it’s been equal parts appalling and empowering to hear women’s accounts of sexual harassment within parliament, with their stories becoming part of the narrative of the changing way we are viewing sexual assault. Amidst the shambolic state of our government in the UK and elsewhere, in this regard at least, it feels like there is some progress being made.
On a more personal note, I co-run a Risograph studio in South London called Friends in the Dungeon, since June we’ve been moving into our new studio space, setting up our new A3 Riso and really been working to launch the publishing side of the studio. Our first release was a series of prints from artist Joey Yu which did super well. We’re now working on our next collaboration with a very cool secret artist. We really want to work with creatives who haven’t necessarily used riso before and create an interesting network of artists from different disciplines, have a look at our website and feel free to get in touch.
I also just published my first comic, it’s called Ringo’s House. Ringo is a mouse who lives out in the sandy marshes, she is unburdened by social pressures and personality complexes and does whatever she likes. The comic gives you a brief insight into her world through a late afternoon visit to her house. I had the best time making it, you can get it at Gosh Comics in London or from my online store!
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At the time of the general election, I wasn’t allowed to vote as I hadn’t applied for my UK citizenship, I was still aware of the campaigns as the result would affect me as well as the eligible voters. I wasn’t surprised by the results at all. I think some positives came out of it though, as a lot more young people voted which shows they have the confidence to believe they can make a difference.
In April I had the opportunity to illustrate an article about one of my favourite musicians, Sonny Rollins. He’s one of the most prolific saxophonists working since the 1940s to this day and a legend of New York. In the 50s he spent about two years practicing on the Williamsburg Bridge and locals created a petition to rename the bridge in Rollin’s name. The New Yorker wrote an amazing article about this story and asked me to provide the illustration.
Since June, I’ve had a solo exhibition in collaboration with Beach London and Camden Town Brewery, I’ve worked on a bunch of editorials with The New Yorker, Bloomberg Businessweek and The Vinyl factory, and I also just came back from a one month trip to Nepal to visit my family, which was great as I haven’t been there in two years.
I’ve got a few projects coming up, mostly within the music industry such as vinyl artwork and some for a series of specially curated gigs for next year. I feel grateful that I get to work so closely with another art form I love. These will be coming out soon so keep an eye on my social media for updates.
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Uinverso is a collaboration between Nadiuska and Priscila Furtado, based in Brazil. The pair are multidisciplinary designers with experience in editorial and graphic design, and their main output is illustrations and ceramics. We talked to the design duo about creating “colourful folk art” through simply-formed ceramic characters.
Chau Luong is a communication designer, but one who won’t be limited to one singular form of output. The result? Projects such as Superstitious Mangaka, a poster series “that deals with east Asian superstitions my mom used to tell me in a sarcastic way,” she explains.
Jiri Mocek came to graphic design through his love of music and club culture. We found much pleasure in perusing the designer’s portfolio, which is a cacophony of monochrome work spattered with colour, spanning poster work, invitations, books, catalogues and identities. Rather than focusing on a particular style, Jiri pays special attention to typography in his projects.
Interviews, profiles and more…
For cultural institution the Barbican, the summer meant a journey Into The Unknown. The blockbuster exhibition orbited the world of science fiction, and we teamed up with the Barbican to ask Billie Muraben to walk us through the finer points of what promised to be a vast offering. We commissioned Sophy Hollington to craft some linocuts which were truly out of this world.
’Things just happen, as things do’: the world through the eyes of William Eggleston. “I never know if I’m coming to the end of everything I want to know about the world, or just the beginning,” pondered William Eggleston in this feature for It’s Nice That. “I have a personal discipline of taking one picture of one thing and that is it. One image is quite enough I think,” he explained. “If something doesn’t turn out, it just doesn’t. I don’t worry about it.” The same probably cannot be said for Jody Rogac, who bravely photographed Eggleston for the feature.
Attending an Aphex Twin show is to experience sensory overload. But who is the person behind them? Staff writer Lucy Bourton and photographer Jane Stockdale set out to find out at Field Day, where they headed to meet and capture the work of Weirdcore, Aphex Twin’s similarly shadowy collaborator.
The genius team at The New York Times Magazine embarked on a comic strip New York issue in which they commissioned illustrators such as Bill Bragg, Tom Gauld and Andrew Rae to illustrate stories over the past 15 years in their own styles and imaginations. Naturally, we caught up with editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein to hear more about the issue’s development and final outcome.
Post Grenfell, Seetal Solanki told us why materials matter more than ever
Material conservationist Seetal Solanki started 2017 as one of our Ones To Watch, and she has contributed much to the site throughout the year. One of Seetal’s most memorable and poignant contributions was an opinion piece on why materials matter in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in west London. In June, a 24-storey tower block erupted into flames in the deadliest fire in Britain for over a century killing 71 people. The controversial use of the “sandwich panel” cladding which encased Grenfell Tower was at the heart of media coverage, and Seetal, founder of material research consultancy Ma-tt-er explained why, in the aftermath of the tragedy, it is more important than ever that we understand the materials from which we construct our livelihoods.
June in film!
On Friday 9 June, 700 people from across the creative industry joined It’s Nice That at London’s Royal Geographical Society for Here 2017. Our sixth annual symposium celebrated creativity in myriad forms, from the inspiring talks to the fun activities, and left us – and hopefully everyone else – excited and full of ideas. Here’s everything we learnt at Here, 2017
Filmmaker David Lewandowski released Time for Sushi, a five-minute short inspired not by fishy snacks but instead “by an obsessive passion for nonsense”. In it, David uses floppy, nude, CGI bodies to galavant around different cities.
Moscow-based animator and illustrator Dasha Chukhrova impressed the good people over at Vimeo who awarded her video a Staff Pick for its absurdity. The final animation sees the animator build a digital resort of variable interiors. “Each room has its unique atmosphere and theme. For example, the “birdy room” has various types of birds in it such as paper, a statue, a portrait and a real one; the main inspiration behind the “unstable room” is a Rube Goldberg machine – a complex construction that is made out of objects/devices in order to create a domino effect.”
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About the Author
Bryony joined It's Nice That as Deputy Editor in August 2016, following roles at Mother, Secret Cinema, LAW, Rollacoaster and Wonderland. She later became Acting Editor at It's Nice That, before leaving in late 2018.