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iamamiwhoami (A commentary on Jonna Lee’s audiovisual project BLUE)

Jonna Lee is a Swedish artist who created the audiovisual project BLUE under the name iamamiwhoami. BLUE features ten music tracks that are accompanied by oceanic visuals in the forms of music videos and single covers. To begin with, Jonna Lee submitted the videos to her project on YouTube before she released them as singles and then finally, an album. Each video follows a loose, abstract story that seems to center around the ocean, Jonna, and mysterious men in black. If you can follow the story, Jonna is a being from the ocean that the men in black want to capture. (And by “men in black”, I mean they’re literally covered from head-to-toe in a black leotard.) The story doesn’t make much sense, but Jonna Lee is successful in creating her own aesthetic for the BLUE project. Each video features a distinct oceanic or arctic-oceanic landscape with Jonna dancing around in a skintight white leotard. It’s simple, but effective because it’s beautiful. The music itself is distinctly Europop but does conjure up images of the ocean with it’s airy vocals and leads. Overall, I believe the BLUE project was successful in bringing something new to the Europop scene, even if it appears to be strangely abstract.

You Belong at AIGA

Why should you join AIGA? AIGA, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, is the oldest and largest professional organization for design. It is a community and network of artists, designers, and creative people. This is the place where design leaders are—people who influence the profession of design. However, you don’t have to be a pro. AIGA doesn’t discriminate. They accept all levels of experience and people of all backgrounds. By joining AIGA you are a part of a national community of more than 22,000 professionals who are passionate about the things you are.

This nationwide network has local chapters. The closest one to Mason is the student-led AIGA Mason group associated with the Washington D.C. Chapter. If you are a student you can join AIGA to help transition into the professional world of design. AIGA Mason has meetings and events with design related activities that encourage students to learn, get inspired, and make new friends. AIGA DC has local events that are opportunities to create relationships with other creatives. It is a great way to get involved and the investment is well worth the cost. It is only $50 for one year, that’s less than five dollars a month.

It doesn’t cost much to take part in a thriving community that offers great benefits like, exposure on the AIGA member gallery, exclusive design job posts, webinars, business resources, salary surveys, and discounts on design related products like Apple, Adobe, Moo, and Lynda. If you are a student designer, have little exposure, or just want to be more active in the design community, you need to join.

she music (Japanese without actually being Japanese? A commentary on she’s art and music)

she music is a project started by Lain Trzaska of Poland in 2003. For over ten years, this musical project remained and mystery. Many assumed the artist was a Japanese female due to the audiovisual content. But why? It’s the aesthetics, of course. When one visits she’s website, they can peruse through all of she’s audiovisual content thus far. A potent example of the Japanese aesthetic comes from the audiovisual project “days”. The gallery for “days” features artwork of a distinctly Asian female character that has been glitched and placed into the vaguely cyberpunk setting of an abandoned factory. You can read snippets from this girl’s diary as she becomes apart of a scientific experiment and eventually seems to become one with the Internet. The whole thing reads like it was inspired by the famous cyberpunk anime Serial Experiments Lain. And I think it’s safe to say that it was influenced by Lain because the glitchy, chiptune music (a favorite style of music in Japan, by the way), actually does incorporate samples from the Lain show. The rest of she’s audiovisual projects have similar themes. The thing about she though, is all the artwork and music he’s made is entirely self-produced. The only thing he borrows is samples from animes. With his project’s aesthetics, it’s no wonder people thought he was a petite Japanese schoolgirl.

Vaporwave (80s/90s design trash becomes art)

Vaporwave is an artform that I’ve been fascinated with since I found it what it is. If you scroll through my Tumblr, it’s vaporwave post after vaporwave post. But what is vaporwave? (Besides for a musical meme, of course.) Vaporwave was originally a commentary on the consumer culture of the 80s and 90s with some Japanese and Roman aesthetic thrown in. Think malls of the 80s. A proper vaporwave artwork will incorporate anything from the following list: Roman statues, Fiji water bottles, bright colors, tropical trees, plants in general, sunsets, terrible 90s website graphics, arcades, skulls, 2000s Powerpoint clipart and text, Japanese scenery, anime, and poorly translated Japanese or Arabic text. This mashup of ideas sounds like it would make for some awful design and it does. But that’s the thing, vaporwave art is so terribly done that it’s become cool and chic. It’s an aesthetic all it’s own, entirely born from the Internet, reminiscing about an age before the “Internet”. And almost anything can become vaporwave if done correctly. Recent popular posts I’ve seen have incorporated the Nike logo, the television show Steven Universe, and those zig-zag arcade rugs from the 90s. I enjoy making vaporwave artwork myself because it gives me a chance to be a terrible 90s designer – just for fun. Vaporwave is dead, long live vaporwave.

EnigmaticLIA 3 (An excellent cover design)

EnigmaticLIA 3 is a Japanese hardcore techno album by the singer LIA that debuted in 2009. It’s pristine sonic vibes entered my mind in 8th grade and became a crystallized memory that I have enjoyed revisiting ever since. One thing that I’ve always admired about the EnigmaticLIA series is the cover designs. EnigmaticLIA 3 remains the best cover and for a good reason.  The series only employed domestic Japanese remixers until the third album (the one I’m reviewing). By EnigmaticLIA 3, LIA’s label turned their eye on the world’s finest hardcore techno artists and created EnigmaticLIA 3 with the concept of a “worldwide collection”. When you look at the cover, you’re first greeted by an explosion of blue, pink, and yellow hues. The cover’s colors reach out and grab you to throw you into the musical vortex that is LIA’s hardcore techno. Superimposed onto the background is a simple world map, which helps indicate this is a worldwide release from Japan. Pink and yellow lasers zig-zag around the cover, barely containing themselves as they represent the musical chaos within the CD. I think the only thing that could be changed about this cover is the placement of some of the font as it’s lopsided. Overall, this is still one of the finest CD covers I’ve seen within the Japanese music realm because of how perfectly it represents the contents.

[Listen to “new moon (AI Storm Remix)”. Do it.]

what’s your favorite color & why?

I recently discovered that Milan has a design week (design newbie, I know), and the aesthetics are AH-mazing. This year, designers found a very common trend through this year’s furniture designs…PINK – and no, not Victoria Secret’s line but the actual color pink. Millennial pink is what they’re calling it, but I knew it first as dusty pink. Ooh-aahh. This has to be one of my favorite colors because it gives me a feeling of calmness and hospitality, kind of like: black & white, beige, and pewter. Clearly people have began feeling a similar attraction from this color because it being used for things in their homes! During Milan Design Week, a few of my favorite pieces were the 88 Secrets collection and Stay Daybed by Nika Zupanc. Adding the golden accents gives the furniture a super clean and minimalistic look which I absolutely adore.  But seriously, if you’re into dusty pink *raises brows* or furniture design at all – definitely check out the exhibitions!

Musings on Anjunabeats’ Single Covers

I did a project this semester on redesigning my favorite Trance label’s (Anjunabeats) logo.I wished to delve into their single covers but was told that it was too broad of a scope to cover. Which I do understand. However, I still can’t stop thinking about Anjunabeats’ and their outdated single covers. They started in 1999 with a simple cover design that features their logo. The color changes for each single release and has been that way ever since. However, in recent years their music has begun to have a shift in style, yet they still keep the same cover designs. This has become a problem because they’ve evidently run out of colors and have begun adding a stripe at the top of each release to attempt a quick-fix. It doesn’t help, Anjunabeats. At first my idea was that they could have personalized artwork for each release, but I was told that would take too much time and the artist(s) wouldn’t be able to keep up with the release schedule. Now my thinking is that they can just change the single cover designs just a little bit, make it more modern, and do what they did before with the different colors.  Fix it, Anjunabeats, fix it.

[Amazing recent release, but what the heck is this cover design?]

Dream Techno: A Dream Come True (Amazon CD-R service review)

[A review of Amazon’s CD-R service for out-of-print, rare music releases. CD-R being reviewed: Dream Techno’s Trance of House.]

I just want to preface this review by saying that people who hate on CD-R’s are not thinking of the whole picture. Dream Techno’s Trance of House was never popular enough in his native Korea or America (where I live) to warrant the manufacturing of thousands of CDs. However, there’s still people like me who enjoy his work and collect physical CDs. So, when I read Amazon had obtained the rights to Trance of House and would manufacture my own personal, physical copy for me, I immediately decided to go for it. I do admit, I was a little bit worried after reading so many negative reviews of CD-R’s manufactured on demand, but I’m not disappointed. The CD arrived awhile ago and it looks professional. There’s a jewel case with the the track-listing, a booklet (that has palm trees, yay, I love palm trees), and the CD itself has very nice, professionally printed artwork. The CD contents play just fine in my car and sounded great when I imported them into my iTunes library. The only thing I’d nitpick is that the cover is a wee bit blurry, but it’s nothing too noticeable. Guys, don’t hate on Amazon’s CD-R’s. This is a great option for music that’s not popular enough for mass produced CDs and it’s also great for out-of-print releases that are hard to find.

[The cover to Trance of House.]

Suburbia Becomes Art

The suburbs can be anywhere in the United States and will look the same. I know because I’ve lived in the suburbs my entire life, in several different states. These neighborhoods are cleanly designed with the appearance of everything being the same. They’re supposed to be boring, right? But what if I told you their designs can be art too? Well, meet artist Ross Racine. This artist takes the boring right out of the suburbs and turns these clean-cut neighborhoods into twisting labyrinths that may not seem like much at first. Until you delve into the artwork, that is. Roads that lead to nowhere, spiral houses, pools in the middle of nowhere – these are the suburbs of Racine’s imagination. His work comes across as M.C. Escher-like and he’s got the skills to back that up. Each one of these meticulously designed neighborhoods is done by him digitally… free-hand. There are no cheats in this body of work, they come right from Racine’s noggin free-hand. And each impossible neighborhood has got a funny name too: Goldenwood Shores, Hickoryglen Estates, Sweetwind Junction, Stonywater Cove. It just goes to show that inspiration can come from anywhere and anything can be made into spectacular artwork.

Japan’s Fascination With Foreigners in Art

In many images from Japan, we can see the Japanese fascination with foreigners appearances. That’s why ancient artists created prints of foreigners, because they looked so different from the native Japanese that they had to document it. Japan has always been a homogeneous country so the fascination with foreigners continues even into modern day. As a foreigner, when you walk around Japan, especially the countryside, little children will point to you and cry out “gaijin”. (Gaijin is term for an outsider, one who is not Japanese.) Many people will want to talk with you as well because you’re clearly foreign and many will try out their English on you. Even if you’re, let’s say, French and don’t know English! This is amped up even further if you’re a foreigner whose African or Muslim (ie woman with a hijab). How can we still see this fascination with the foreigner? Just turn to Japanese pop culture. In dramas and animes, foreigners are always seem to be depicted with white-as-snow skin and long blonde hair or light brown hair. Or with a “hood” accent and large afro. Japan is still cut off from the outside world, not because they can’t access us, but because they choose not to. Hence the reason they design us foreigners with ridiculous caricatures in their media.

Screencap from Azumanga Daioh