Issue 156: The Fiction Issue

For this special Fiction Issue of frieze, nine writers and artists consider how narrative will change as technology advances. Featuring: Fatima Al Qadiri, James Bridle, Ian ChengOrit Gat, Lev Manovich, Christiane Paul, Alexander ProvanTimotheus Vermeulen and Holly Willis. 

Plus, Katie Kitamura looks at how art can visualize political realities through the artifice of fiction; Laura Pawson asks whether it’s an artist’s duty to bear witness to suffering; and Ben Lerner reflects on whether objects are more real than words.

More highlights include: Dan Fox talks to artist David Levine; Questionnaire with Dayanita Singh;Rajeev Balasubramanyam on national identity and ‘global fiction’; film director Pablo Larraindiscusses the merging of fact and fiction with Rob White; and an extract from Lynne Tillman’s novel-in progress ‘Men and Apparitions’.

In our regular columns: Tom Morton considers the changing face of graduate exhibitions; Kaelen Wilson-Goldie looks at prisoners of conscious and creative acts; and Jason Farago signs up to De Appel’s new course in art dealing.

Also: 37 reviews from 29 cities in 17 countries, including: ‘Umhlaba 1913-2013’, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; and ‘Sharjah Biennial 11’, various venues, UAE.

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Who Do You Think You Are?/Don’t You Know Who I Am?

HAND IN DATE: Wednesday 24 April 2013 by 4pm.

Please read carefully…

You need to be as creative as you can with the way this essay is presented. You do not have to stick to the conventional A4 layout. You could make it double sided/double spread. You could male it A1/2/3/5 if you wish. It could look like magazine. Be creative in the way you lay out the images. Think about their relationships to the text. Use all your design intelligence to create a publication design that reflects its contents.


Emigre 19 
Starting From Zero (1991)

You will hand in a hard copy to the Student Office in E-Block

AND email me a single PDF file to


Here is a reminder of the brief…

For this written text you will become the interviewer/storyteller/narrator of a fictional event. You will create a scenario where the person from the 19th/early 20th centuries that you have already been assigned to research/become will meet a “post-modernist” designer/artist/thinker and if you so wish one or two other characters of your own choice.

You will be assigned a producer or critic of post-modern culture to begin with. You will then be able to choose another person from a list of people from the later modernist period and/or someone of your own choosing, who you may already know something about or are a fan of theirs and their work. They could be a; musician, fashion designer, artist, filmmaker, poet, etc.

This brief is about being able to ask the right questions when writing a text. These questions will have to be based on extensive research of your characters and the worlds they inhabit(ed). Without high quality research your questions will lack the depth for you to elicit quality answers. (You will of course be answering your questions on the behave of your characters.)

The first thing you will need to decide if you are going to stick with a three way correspondence/conversation or go for the more complicated but possibly more rewarding four or five way debate.


So the options are:

1. You + Your Person from Modernity + Your Given Post-modernist.

= 3 people in the conversation.

2. You + Your Person from Modernity + Your Given Post-modernist + A Modernist from the given list OR and person of your choice.

= 4 people in the conversation.

3. You + Your Person from Modernity + Your Given Post-modernist + A Modernist from the given list AND and person of your choice.

= 5 people in the conversation.


Once you have decided on which option you want to pursue, you then have to think about a scenario where they might all might meet up or correspond with each other. This will be a fictional event or process and it is much more than likely that they never met in real life. Will you invent a machine that sends you back in time and collect all your characters for a Radio/TV special on their lives? Will it be a ‘This is Your Life’ type event? You may wish to have them casually bump into each other in a coffee shop/bar/swimming pool and start up a conversation. You may want to do all the correspondence between your characters by post-card/letter/e-mail/twitter/SMS. You could create a fictitious play where they all appear in. You can be as creative as you wish with this element and take them to Mars if you fancy….

You will be the person you initiates the first questions to your characters and you will have to introduce them to each other. From then onwards you will be the narrator/interviewer and they will also want to speak to each other. This might then start a debate about the merits of modernism/post-modernism or any other issue the may have a bee in their bonnet or issue with.

You must start investigating and researching into your characters straight away, as this will be what you will base your questions on and will help you create and exciting and dynamic story. It is a flight of fantasy and is not real but will be based of the facts, works and words of your characters lives. You will create an extensive bibliography, which will be attached to this written text, as you WILL look for as many books/websites/films/journals articles about your characters and their lives and the worlds they lived in.

You MUST include in text referencing in this work. So you would say: (YOU) Dear Marcel Duchamp many thanks for being here today in is a great honour and pleasure. My first question is that, according to your friend and writer, Pierre Cabanne (1987) in his fascinating book Dialogues With Marcel Duchamp he asks you what your greatest regret was? Can you remember what you said” (MD) Yes of course I can remember as if it was yesterday day, I said, ‘I don’t have any. I’ve missed nothing.’ (Cabanne 1987 p15)

You must find a way of incorporating as many images of your characters work as possible into your chosen scenario and therefore the written text. If you are sending postcards for instance, send them images of your own work and they will then send you and each other images of their work. If in a café/bar they may have their portfolio/smart phone with them and they can introduce themselves through their work. They and you can then critique this work and a heated debate might arise. These images also must be referenced in full in a list, which can go wherever you like in this text. Your scenario might end up in an argument and one of your characters flouncing out in a huff.

 The elements of this text will be:

1. A title. It should be a hook and make the reader want to read your story.

2. An Introduction by yourself to the scenario you have imaginatively chosen for you people to come together and converse and a short introduction to these people and their lives.

3. The main text written as a continuous narrated dialogue between you are your characters and between each other, whether in the form of a script, letters, novel dialogue. As the narrator you are the questioner/interviewer/referee and the person who describes what is happening.

4. A conclusion where you sum up what happened and your thoughts on the events that have just ensued. A good ending is always important.

5. A list of illustrations which tells the reader exactly who took/made the image the date it was made where you got it from and when you accessed it, if in was from and on-line source.

6. A bibliography, which has FULL references for each source of information, you have used or looked at during your research. You MUST not just include an URL, there should be an author, date, title, site, URL, when access information included.

If in doubt look at: Guide to the Harvard System of Referencing

You will be graded using the Undergraduate Marking Criteria Matrix:

HAND IN DATE: Wednesday 24 April 2013 by 12.05pm.

You will hand in a hard copy to the Student Office in E-Block AND email me a single PDF file to


Graphic Design as Political Practice:

A Conversation With Metahaven [Part 1]

Published on February 14th, 2013


Written by: Kyle Chayka


Installation view of “Metahaven: Islands in the Cloud” at MoMA PS1 (Photo: Matthew Septimus)

Metahaven is an Amsterdam-based design studio made up of its two members and founders, Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden. Yet to describe them simply as a design studio seems misleading. The pair uses graphic design, identity branding, and product development as weapons, harnessing the power of the image in the internet age to design concepts that both signal label and propel political and social change.

Following their fascination with strange political gambits, obscure corners of the internet, and the power of the cloud, Kruk and van der Velden have written essays for e-flux, rebranded the micronation of Sealand, and created salable products for Wikileaks as the organization was just hitting the global scene. On the occasion of their current exhibition at MoMA PS1, I sat down with Metahaven to discuss their history as a studio, the process of working with Julian Assange, and the aesthetics of the dot-com boom. The second part of the interview will be published tomorrow.


Metahaven infographic from “Captives of the Cloud” (Image via
Kyle Chayka: How did Metahaven first get started?

Vinca Kruk: We started to collaborate on the Sealand Identity Project, which was to conceive a national identity for the Principality of Sealand, which is a self-proclaimed nation on a former war platform near the coast of the UK. We didn’t stop working on that project, but wanted to keep going with it. That’s what our practice emerged out of. Quite naturally, it wasn’t a formal decision.

Daniel van der Velden: I agree.

KC: How did you first hear about Sealand or start thinking about it?

DV: Towards the end of the dot-com boom at the time I was co-designing a magazine called Archis, which is now called Volume, an architecture journal, and we had a special issue about islands. Sealand emerged in an editorial meeting as an example and then actually the idea came about to think about an identity for this kind of really weird place that no one can actually visit, that’s only accessible through the internet.

Sealand was trying to have its own dot-com business model at the time. So it was really a combination of this idea of sovereignty, self-proclaimed nationhood, in combination with this flawed entrepreneurial dream of starting an offshore business onboard Sealand. I think we were both interested in working on a lyrical aspect of visual identity, something that had to do a lot with heraldry, opulence — something not so minimal. Sealand was a really good launch platform for that. We also had an interest in theory, so it was also a great projection screen for all kinds of theoretical notions of identity and state.

VK: Explorations of theory, nationhood, and statehood, the combination of anarchy and monarchy, and all the contradictions that you find in Sealand as a kind of self-proclaimed state. There’s a strange, almost totalitarian thinking behind it, but it is so lo-fi. People hanging out with beer on a platform like “playing state” in their backyard.

DV: It’s interesting because Roy Bates, the founder of Sealand, recently passed away. The whole idea of Sealand was basically a gift to his wife. So it was his wife Joan, and he was obviously very much in love with her. He gave her this title “princess.” Which is a super-poetic and at the same time totally meaningless title. She doesn’t get any special perks from that other than some sort of fame. It’s interesting that it was done in a pre-internet age so obviously he wouldn’t have done it for, like, followers.

It was an inherently genuine act. That’s what’s great about Sealand.



Installation view of “Metahaven: Islands in the Cloud” at MoMA PS1 (Photo: Matthew Septimus)

KC: Can you describe what kind of identity you made for Sealand? How did it evolve visually and what was the end product?

VK: What we found interesting about Sealand that it had all the very traditional objects of statehood, like stamps and passports, to prove that Sealand was very legitimate and real. There were also fake Sealand passports circulating. We were interested in creating coins of stamps that wouldn’t really materialize, but would exist virtually. An endless flow of heraldic images that keep going and keep adding to them.

DV: There are the old fixed icons like coins and stamps, but they are charged with stuff that’s actually really unstable, like everything that you find through Google Images. Everything you find about Sealand through Google would be legit to use in the identity for that reason.

So, for example, the landlord of the murderer of Gianni Versace had a fake Sealand passport. So that’s a little chain of events, and because of that link we could use the Versace iconography in the brand. If you Google “Sealand” now, you also get results for “Seal and Heidi Klum,” because Google has changed its algorithms accordingly. So you get lots of images of Seal and Heidi Klum together. Had that had been around at the time, we would have certainly used that.


“Jewelbox” of Sealand branding (Image via
KC: What’s the current state of Sealand?

VK: There was a fire on Sealand a few years ago, so it’s in a bad shape.

DV: People also know that their idea of turning Sealand into a data haven is not working. The P2P file sharing platform,the Pirate Bay, tried to buy Sealand a couple of years back because it still is this kind of internet anarchy symbol. But it’s not working, and I think we predicted that in our essay ‘The Network Ruin.”

KC: Totally, the ruins of the failed utopia are a visual archetype. Through Metahaven, you’re taking on projects that are niche but remain very relevant. How did you develop and run the studio practice.

DV: We are interested in ideas and concepts that require not just visualization but also research. I think that when we decided to we wanted to collaborate further on these things we also were struggling with how to set up a studio. I gave up another practice that I had at the time, which had many clients, in order to completely focus on Metahaven, so we started form scratch — we had nothing. We also had to find clients to sustain this practice. You can’t run your practice on something like Sealand alone. So the first few years were spent on getting that model together, of having commissioned work, combined with longer and shorter term research projects.

VK: I think working on Sealand as a topic was very important because there were so many themes in there that we have continued working on since, in different projects. We started to write much more, we organized conferences. We started working issues like the use of totalitarian architecture in Europe, and how such buildings were re-appropriated as symbols in capitalism. Still architecture, and identity were things we were working on.

KC: It’s interesting that on one hand, there is the commercial need to survive and take on projects and clients, but you also have a split between client work and research projects. How do you guys feel about Metahaven as kind of a business entity?

VK: We don’t really separate it — it’s not like we work on a commission for a client and the next day we do a research project. It very much overlaps, and also the way we talk with clients about commissions is very much how we talk in the studio about how to continue a research project.

DV: I think the notion of proactivity is really important, the notion that you can initiate stuff yourself. It can actually be a project that involves a client. There is the old notion of “pro-bono” work, which is the supposedly ethical counterpart to commercial practice, but in our case you could say that we dedicate a certain amount of research and resources to a potential client or partner that we feel could benefit from that.

That’s how we approached WikiLeaks, for example. Just before their global notoriety, so they were actually still approachable at that time.


Installation view of “Metahaven: Islands in the Cloud” at MoMA PS1 featuring Wikileaks scarves (Photo: Matthew Septimus)

KC: Wikileaks blew up pretty quickly in terms of global notoriety. Do you mean working on topics that have more real-world impact?

DV: Nobody could have foreseen what happened to WikiLeaks, and the events that unfolded. Of course, it’s impossible for an identity to keep track of all this, so that’s also why we had to change the central question of the project, moving into something that was much more about products, merchandising — because what they needed most was money. Then of course we solved that in a completely non-straightforward way. We did stuff that obviously was very different form what they had in mind originally.

KC: What kind of things did Wikileaks have in mind for themselves?

DV: The sort of stuff you see in their official merchandising store.

KC: Instead, you made some more upscale items for them, like a Chanel-style scarf. What’s the story behind that?

DV: The notion of the scarf talks about opacity and transparency, which is exactly what they are about.

VK: Something that’s kind of glamorous, and you could wear it both as a luxury item, but also use it to cover your face.

DV: There’s also the cheapness of glamour. There is something about WikiLeaks that echoes cheap, fake imports—like a revolt of the means of production over the brand image. That’s why we had that Louis Vuitton play with the “WL” logo in one of the earlier scarves. WikiLeaks is about a notion of democratic access to value. This is something that we wanted to bring out a little bit.



A Wikileaks scarf by Metahaven, featuring their logo (Image courtesy Metahaven, photo Meinke Klein)

KC: How difficult was it to actually communicate with Wikileaks, given their secrecy? Did you have any contact with Julian Assange himself?

VK: It basically started with us sending them an email in mid-2010 saying, “Hey, we would like to work on your identity, would you be up for it?” We got a reply back two hours later. The email said, “Great, we have a shortage of such things.” The e-mail was signed with “JA.” So that was enough for us to get started because they opened up the possibility to do something.

Then they started releasing the cables, and communication became very difficult. It took some time to get back touch with them, which eventually happened. We met with them and showed what we had done.

DV: Then, in that meeting, what we had been doing was sort of brushed aside, which was completely predictable. Some of the stuff we did which was brushed aside is in the show.

KC: Which parts?

DV: The identity part basically. Then we decided that pursuing tee shirts and mugs was really the way to go. We had a dialogue over the specific designs later on that was very productive.

VK: What we really understood during that meeting was that they have a problem surviving financially because of a blockade by MasterCard, VISA and PayPal. Selling merchandising is an important way for WikiLeaks to raise money, so basically that was the only thing they felt they needed designed.

DV: There’s a lot of criticism about this. They seem so focused on money sometimes that you feel it’s actually not benefiting the people who care for Wikileaks. These are not necessarily people who have lots of money. So if you force someone to support an organization by buying a mug you’re basically molding that person into a consumer role.

We found that the leaks are to WikiLeaks what tour dates are to a band, so basically our t-shirts present different important leaks, one per t-shirt.

Part two of Hyperallergic’s interview with Metahaven was published on Friday, February 15, 2013, “Graphic Design as Political Practice: A Conversation with Metahaven [Part 2].”

Metahaven: Islands in the Cloud runs at MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City) through April 1.


All Eyes on View
Jan 2nd, 2013 @ 01:55 am › Steven Heller


You may have seen View magazine before. It is not one of the forgotten ones. It is a legendary one that is always interesting to revisit. It was edited by John Henri Ford, a surrealist poet from Mississippi. View included writing and art by Paul Bowles, Philip Lamantia, Harold Rosenberg, Aaron Copland, and Marcel Duchamp, among others. The issue below with Duchamp’s cover is devoted to the artist who designed the collage pages inside. The Morris Hirshfield primitive covers an issue on “The Macabre.” And look at the advertisement below for The New School art classes—some great teachers made the grade.

The following text is excerpted from my book Merz to Emigre and Beyond: Avant Garde Magazine Design of the Twentieth Century:

View: Through the Eyes of Poet’s New York’s first Surrealist journal appeared in September 1940 as a six-page tabloid. Edited by poet Charles Henri Ford, the former American editor for the London Bulletin, the British surrealist revue published by the London Gallery between 1938 and 1940, View’s mission for its seven year duration (36 numbers in 32 issues) was to fill the void of European avant garde periodicals that ceased with the war. Ford positioned his publication between the “little magazine” transition (the vanguard journal edited in Paris by Eugene Jolas and Elliot Paul between 1927 and 1938) and Minotaure. After View’s 1941 “Surrealist issue” edited by Nicolas Calas it became the most important American surrealist publication, featuring text and visual contributions from all the principles in the circle.



By 1943 View shifted from the tabloid to a more standard magazine format printed on slick paper with full color covers and the occasional gatefold. This increased the financial burden of production that the maximum 3000 paid circulation did not cover, so to maintain a regular quarterly publishing schedule Ford accepted relatively expensive advertisements for fashions and perfumes, among those already for books, periodicals, and other cultural events. Associate editor, Parker Tyler was in charge of View’s typography and graphic design and produced a highly sophisticated graphic persona on a par with Minotaure and yet unique to View. The covers created by Surrealist standard bearers, Andre Masson, Man Ray, Kurt Seligmann, and Marcel Duchamp, as well as other modern artists, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger, and Georgia O’Keeffe, were the most adventuresome of any American magazine. Moreover, these were not paintings arbitrarily placed on the covers but images designed especially for this venue. Occasionally, the common View masthead (set in a Bodoni typeface) was designed by the cover artist: Isamu Noguchi’s 1946 cover is a superb example of this transformation: Here the letters of View are sculptural elements reading diagonally down the page and bracketing the sculpture is the centerpiece of the cover.

View covered the Dada experience and introduced the key surrealists to New York. Andre Breton’s first American interview was published here. An entire issue (1942) was devoted to Max Ernst with article on him by Breton; and a spectacular issue (1945) featured Duchamp, complete with layouts designed by the artist — this being the first monograph ever published of his work. An essay by Peter Lindamood describes the technical machinations involved in, and thereby demystifies, the creation of Duchamp’s View cover, a montage of a smoking wine bottle. He explained how this master of “art-plumbing expediency” rigged up a smoke pipe under the bottle and then manipulated the various halftone layers to achieve the desired effect. In this and other articles View gave Surrealist art a human context that was curiously absent in the pseudo-scientific and hyper analytic writing found in the earlier European journals.

Coverage of the European vanguard was only a part of the editorial menu. Ford felt a duty to bridge the transatlantic gap by bringing Americans into the Surrealist fold and in 1943 View was the first to publish Joseph Cornell’s earliest “found art” compositions (“The Crystal Cage: Portrait of Berenice”). It gave outlet to the emerging American vanguard writers and artist-writers, including Henry Miller, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, Alexander Calder, and others. But Ford also published the naïve and self-taught Surrealists, notably the African-American artist Paul Childs. Morris Hirshfield, whose beguilingly detailed and folk paintings were discovered by Sidney Janis in the thirties, was also part of the View community. Hirshfield’s 1945 cover intricately rendered cover of a cleverly veiled nude was surrealism at its most slyly innocent.



View celebrated the artist as visionary and Surrealism as a wellspring of artistic eccentricity. In its role as avant garde seer the magazine overstepped the bounds of propriety, and therefore in 1944 was banned by the U.S. Postal Service presumably for publishing nudes by Picasso and Michelangelo. However, despite its confrontational stance and the debates about Marxism, Communism, and Trotskyism that were carried on in European Surrealist circles, View did not advocate ideological political activity, but rather supported the right of individual artistic freedom – and eclecticism. “View’s editors thought it delusional to believe that art could ever serve any cause other than its own,” wrote Catrina Neiman in View: Parade of the Avant-Garde (Thunder Mouth Press, New York, 1991), who further notes while certain poets of the day urged opposition to the inevitable world war, “View printed no editorials denouncing the war.” Though it did maintain a pacifist stance that supported conscientious objection.

View caused its share of acrimony among the skirmishing groups who sought dominance for their respective art forms. Surrealism was not universally admired, and The Partisan Review, a left-leaning intellectual journal, declared that Surrealism was both decadent and dead, endorsed abstract art as the new avant garde art. This was no mere preferential disagreement but a contest for what genre and which artists would dominate the museums, galleries, and private collections. View tried to preserve Surrealism’s importance and so ignored competing arts. Yet this advocacy was not so much militancy over an ideological cause, but a campaign for the hegemony of style.

View was a significant outlet for Surrealism it was also uncommitted to the movement as a “party,” and thus became an instrument for popularizing the avant garde. Surrealism as a style was, no pun intended, ready-made as an advertising trope. “Ford did not disdain commercial avenues of support,” states Catrina Neiman, “…on the contrary, he knew not only how to navigate capitalism but hoe to appreciate (appropriate) its imagery, namely through the lens of camp, a ‘view’ that converged with surrealism then and with Pop Art twenty years later.” Despite the paid advertising, however, View ceased publishing in 1949.

For more Steven Heller, check out The Education of an Art Director—one of the many Heller titles available at

Categories: Daily Heller, Steven Heller
Tags: Daily Heller, Steven Heller, View magazine

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