Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lux Et Veritas

Yale Graphic Design MFA Exhibition 2009

I had the opportunity to visit the exhibition last Friday – the final day of the show. I was intrigued enough by the presentation of the work that I scrawled some notes that I thought I’d share.

Upon entering the exhibit, I encountered two shelves that were suspended from the ceiling and ran parallel to each other. These held the 16 thesis books that are required for the granting of the degree. Having seen quite a number of these over the years, I noticed a few things. The first is that services like Lulu and Blurb have enabled students to design and print copies of books with bindings that look as though they were professionally published. There were a few unique bindings. One, I recall, was an ordinary saddle-stitched pamphlet-bound book, but the pages had not been folded, so the spine was a big smooth curve. Nice. The overall impression of the book designs I had was a heavy Bruce Mau and Irma Boom influence. They had that S,M,L,XL or Life Style look about their interiors. I’ll be honest, I did not have time to deeply investigate the content of the books. It would have been nice to have a short, easily available abstract for each thesis.

The next room contained a single wall-sized video projection of the class working together on a production of sorts. Nicely done and again reinforced the collaborative or unified feeling of the exhibition. I think when you pass through this space again while leaving the show, it becomes a reinforcement of the collective nature of the endeavor.

Before entering the final and largest room in the show, you were advised to pick up a catalog at the top of the stairs. This last room is a large space that has a double height ceiling. It was filled with about 15 or so video projections running simultaneously. The projectors were hung in stacks from the ceiling and projected onto all four walls of the space. Each projection had a number beside it that corresponded to the catalog listings of works. There were soundtracks that overlapped and faded in and out, but this only added to and complemented the whole effect, rather than creating an overwhelming cacophony.

About half or more of the projections were shots of hands turning pages on book design projects. There were close up details of designs interspersed with hands on books turning pages. The book videos were shot upon a black background, which gave the projections an intriguing “knocked-out” or silhouette look. Several other projections had videos of monitors with screen-based or interactive works and several had people hanging posters or large format designs and then taking them away. The last few projections in the mix had live videos or motion graphics examples. The overall effect was mesmerizing. I sat on the floor for some time, so that I could just relax and take it all in. I was not inspired to go digging through the booklet to try and figure out who did what, however.

And this is where the exhibit became even more interesting to me. It was very hard to distinguish between one person’s work and another’s – from the moment you enter to the moment you exit. Actually, it becomes no easier with the catalog of thumbnails as a cheat sheet. The exhibition has an anonymous feel about it. It could easily be mistaken for an exhibition of the work from a NY or LA design firm, but I don’t think this is negative. Here’s why: Sixteen freshly minted designers came together to create an exhibition showcasing their work and instead of staking out the best wall or shelf space, they cooperated and collaborated at a level strangely beyond ego. I’m sure their meetings behind the scenes were stressful and difficult at times, but what comes across is a group of individuals that can put their needs aside from the needs of the group. Very impressive.

Yale Graphic Design MFA Exhibition Archive