Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Apologies for not posting anything for a while; the project is progressing rapidly, and the final text will be submitted in just over two weeks time. I enjoyed an interesting conversation with Ben Katchor in New York City a few weeks ago, and after some time and space to think about the project (while piloting a white Mustang convertible around the American mid-west) it’s now time to get my head down and finish writing the damn thing.

I’ll bring you more news of the hard slog in the coming days. I’m now back in Sheffield and starting my courses here for the sixth and final year of my architectural education. It’s good to be back, but after all this time, the freshers look even younger than ever. I must be becoming part of the furniture.

I don’t believe that the omens are good for my career as an interviewer. As you may know by now, I was involved in a car crash en route to interview Joost Swarte and Henk Döll in the Netherlands. While I haven’t been involved in any road traffic accidents getting here, to New York City where I’ll be interviewing Ben Katchor later this week, I have lost all my luggage. My one piece of checked baggage disappeared somewhere in Philadelphia International Airport, never to be seen again. Unfortunately all my research notes and dissertation papers were inside my bag, as well as two well thumbed copies of Katchor’s books Julius Knipl Real Estate Photographer.

On the one hand, this is extremely frustrating, not least because I’ve now been wearing the same clothes for 48 hours, and it’s extremely hot and humid here in Manhattan. On the other hand, it’s a worthwhile vindication of this blog, which has acted as a digital backup of virtually all my work up to this point. If the hit counter starts to spin in the coming weeks, it’s probably not because the blog is becoming more popular, simply that I am using it more in my own research to retrace my steps through my research.

I’m hoping to meet Ben Katchor towards the end of this week. Part of the interview might appear as a forthcoming podcast, and excerpts will also emerge here in due course.

Despite some initial difficulties getting to London Waterloo station on Saturday morning, I spent the weekend in the Netherlands visiting the towns of Haarlem, Hilversum and Rotterdam. I was in Haarlem to meet the cartoonist Joost Swarte, and Rotterdam to meet the architect Henk Döll. The two men collaborated on the design of the Haarlem Toneelschuur Theatre which, as regular readers will recall, has become an interesting case study for this project. After our interview, Joost even took me for a stroll through the bustling streets of Haarlem to see the theatre, and also the neighbouring Johanes Enschede Hof social housing project, the design of which he was also involved in.

In Rotterdam on Monday morning, Henk Döll explained how he had been approached the design the theatre with Joost, and what engaging with a non-architect had meant for the creative process.

Both interviews were recorded, and I’m going to be up late most nights this week transcribing them for the project. Excerpts will appear here; the entirity of the texts may appear in a publication shortly, and the audio recording of my walk through Haarlem with Joost will be released as episode five of the ontheroad podcast later this week. Click here to subscribe via iTunes.

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Further to the other recent announcements about forthcoming interviews, I’m very pleased to confirm that while in the Netherlands and in addition to meeting the cartoonist and illustrator Joost Swarte, I will be meeting the architect Henk Döll. Döll was the project architect at Mecanoo Architecten who worked with Swarte to build the Haarlem Toneelschuur. Döll now has his own practice in Rotterdam, who provide this useful biography.

Henk Döll (born 1956) graduated in 1984 from the Department of Architecture at the Technical University of Delft. As a result of winning and realising the ‘Kruisplein’ housing competition in Rotterdam (1980-1985), he was already working during his studies as an independent architect in the firm of Döll-Houben-Steenhuis. In 1983 this cooperative firm was changed into the Delft-based office of Mecanoo, in which he was partner until mid-2003. Within Mecanoo Henk Döll was responsible as leading architect for more than 120 projects and was also closely involved in many of the office’s other works. A large number of his projects, such as the Park Haagseweg residential area in Amsterdam, the Almelo Public Library, the multi-functional Rochussenstraat building in Rotterdam, and the Toneelschuur in Haarlem, are key projects in the history of Dutch architecture.

At Mecanoo he received various prizes and distinctions, such as the Rotterdam-Maaskant Prize for Young Architects in 1987, “for his innovative contribution to housing architecture”. His work has been shown at numerous exhibitions in the Netherlands and abroad and is often published in Dutch and international magazines and books.

Henk Döll regularly gives guest lectures and presentations and he teaches at various architectural schools, both at home and abroad. His appointments have included a guest professorship at the Institüt für Städtebau, Raumplanung und Raumordnung of the Technische Universität Wien (1995) and the Eliel Saarinen chair at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning of the University of Michigan (2000/2001). He has served on numerous competition juries and is currently a board member of the Genootschap Architectura et Amicitia and of the Atelier HSL Foundation.

Is a comic artist and illustrator without any formal architectural training necessarily a better or equally capable designer of buildings than a professional architect? By meeting both Joost Swarte (the comic artist) and Henk Döll (his partner in the Toneelschuur project), I look forward to finding out two very valuable opinions.

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In addition to this week’s news that I will be travelling to the Netherlands in August to meet and talk with the comic artist and illustrator Joost Swarte, I can also now confirm that I will be in New York City in September to interview the artist Ben Katchor. This trip has also been supported by the Stephenson Travelling Studentship awarded to this project by the University of Sheffield. Katchor’s sophisticated evocation of nostalgia, memory in urban narratives are of particular personal interest to me, and I’m looking forward to discussing the techniques employed by Katchor in his popular serialised comics Julius Knipl Real Estate Photographer and The Jew of New York.

I’m also going to be celebrating a birthday in New York City, before perhaps taking off for a mini road trip and vacation in the mid-west, so excerpts and highlights of the interview will probably appear online in late September or early October.

If any interested readers are going to be in New York City between 11 and 16 September or Chicago between 17 and 27 September, drop me a line, and I’d be delighted to say hello.

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Following last month’s happy news that this project has been awarded a travelling studentship by the University of Sheffield, I am now able to confirm that I will be travelling to the Netherlands in August to meet the Dutch cartoonist and illustrator Joost Swarte. Swarte is one of the most important artists being studied as part of this project, principally because of his ground breaking role as the principal designer and architect of the Haarlem Toneelschuur.

In addition to informing my final dissertation, excerpts of the interview will be online some time in late August or early September.

If any interested readers of the blog are going to be in Brussels, Haarlem, Amsterdam, or Rotterdam between 18 and 20 August please drop me a line, and I’d be delighted to say hello. Ik zou ook het genoegen hebben om om het even welke Nederlandse lezers te ontmoeten, op voorwaarde dat zij me voor het spreken van hun taal niet vergeven!

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The trustees of the Sir H. K. Stephenson Travelling Studentship in Architecture have announced that they will be awarding this research project the maximum possible amount allowed by the fund.

The Studentships are open to men and women of British Nationality who have gained admission to the Final Year for either a Degree or Masters in Architecture at the University of Sheffield. Two Studentships are offered every year to the value of £300 each.  They are to be used wholly to meet the costs of travel and study in Britain and abroad undertaken during the long vacation prior to the commencement of the Final year of study and related to the subject of the candidate’s thesis.

The financial support provided by this generous studentship will allow me to travel to the Netherlands and the USA to undertake at least two interviews and original research leading to the final dissertation. I hope to thank the trustees of the fund personally in due course, but until then I use this message to offer my sincere gratitude for their interest and faith in this project; I am honoured to have been chosen to receive this support.

Details will follow soon about the people I’m going to be meeting and interviewing.

Youtube discovery of the week is this trailer for an ‘upcoming’ (someone smack the director with a dictionary) film, including an interview with Ben Katchor, author of Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer and Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District.

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Big news folks… “no words no action” (i.e. myself, wearing my dissertation hat) will be coming to the United States of America in September to conduct some primary research and to do an interview or two. I don’t want to go into the specifics, but all will be revealed here in due course. I’m both honoured and excited to have the chance to meet the people I’ll be meeting.

Meanwhile, if you’re going to be around in either of the following cities, please drop me a line…

10 – 16 September 2007: New York City, NY

17 – 28 September 2007: Chicago, IL

My special thanks go to: L.N. in NYC and A.M. in Chicago for graciously offering to accommodate me; the US Government for maintaining such a bankrupt US dollar; and US Airways for continuing to price trans-Atlantic flights in dollars, thereby allowing me nab an absolute bargain for my flights with my British credit card…

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Greetings from a quiet little village just outside Stuttgart, where I’m spending Easter with long lost friends. After a fine meal, everyone has settled down to tonight’s feature film on TV, the second installment of the Lord of the Rings saga. I would join them but a) it seems all foreign programming on German TV is dubbed rather than subtitled; b) I don’t speak German; and c) I really got bored of the Lord of the Rings about half way through the first film. So I’ve peeled off to ruminate on some of the reading I’ve been doing over the weekend at home in Strasbourg and on the train ride here.

In addition to the chunky monthly print edition of the magazine, subscribers to The Comics Journal also get exclusive online access to a small but growing archive of previously published material. While entire issues are now being loaded onto the website soon after publication, a handful of earlier articles have also been put onto the Subscribers’ Area of the website, including Gary Groth’s December 1997 interview with Chris Ware. This was originally published in issue number 200 of the Comics Journal, a fantastically popular issue of which all back issues have now been sold. Examples of TCJ # 200 now trade for several times their original cover value on eBay, so it’s been good news to find this article online. There is (unsurprisingly for a Comics Journal interview) a lot of interesting material in this massive and largely unedited article, which came out on more than fifty A4 pages when I printed it off on Saturday for more leisurely reading. With this in mind, I’m probably going to come back to this one over the next week or two as thoughts bubble to the surface.

(Note: because I’ve retrieved the text of this interview from a web page, I don’t have any page number references from the printed magazine. Short of advising you to print out your own copy in 10pt Arial Narrow on A4 paper, there’s not much I can do to help about this…)

Something that has struck me from the first reading of this interview is, however, an interesting explanation from Ware about the difference he finds between “real drawing” and “cartooning”.

I think drawing is “about” – or at least good drawing is about – trying to see. It’s more about detail and looking. Whereas cartooning is making a story happen with symbols … cartoon drawings are -just by nature of how they’re used as symbols – in a lot of ways not really drawings because the information that they have is so rudimentary, or conceptual.

Chris Ware, interviewed by Gary Groth
The Comics Journal # 200, December 1997

Ware seems to make this distinction quite clear: a comic strip is not a series of drawings of people or places, but a series of drawings of symbols that represent people, places, emotions. Ware has already made his thoughts clear on the use of words in comics (see this earlier post), so we interpret these symbols to mean words, pictures and any other visual device that he employs in his strips.

But Ware’s comics are not just about symbols. Far from it, their notably measured rhythm is generated in no small part by the use of both “real drawings”and “cartoons”.

…I try to use “real” drawing occasionally, or sort of a looser drawing, as a waz of anchoring a sense of place or feeling. By either floating it below or above the story it seems to take on this sort of tonal quality, like a long note held…

Chris Ware, interviewed by Gary Groth
The Comics Journal # 200, December 1997

Ah yes, the musical references once more. Ware dismisses his own musical capability during the interview…

At one point I played piano in front of around 600 people at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha and it was such a traumatic experience I don’t even remember if it went well or not. But I have a feeling it went quite badly. Nevertheless I decided at that point, “maybe this isn’t what I should do.”

Chris Ware, interviewed by Gary Groth
The Comics Journal # 200, December 1997

It is quite apparent that Warehas a masterful appreciation of the quality of muscial rhythm. This certainly is not the first time that he has made a reference from comics to music (again, see my earlier post on Daniel Raeburn’s introduction to Chris Ware) and the inclusion of these panels of “real drawing” is a noticeable feature of his longer stories. Open up Jimmy Corrigan pretty much wherever you please, and you’ll find the occasional ‘wide’ shot of a place where the events in the rest of the page are taking place. The effect of a larger single panel without dialogue is indeed notably effective at creating “a long note held”.

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The use of gently falling snow in this example (from Jimmy Corrigan) heightens the delicateness of this pause at the end of a comparatively ‘busy’ page. If a single “real” drawing anchors the story to a place or inserts a moment of rest in the larger scheme of the story, it can so with an almost audible silence. These page compositions had lead me to believe that Ware was a phenomenal ‘architect’ of the page, laying out individual pages with a careful eye for the rhythm of the story, often inserting a moment of silence at the end of complex sequences. But it seems I might have been mistaken.

GROTH: Let me ask you about the mechanics of designing a page. You do approximately one page a week:

WARE: Uh… yeah. Two pages of the story a week … One on top of each other.

GROTH: So when you start to compose a page, do you rough out the whole page and then just move toward the lower right-hand corner?

WARE: Work down. Yes … Sometimes I might rough out a few panels with just shapes of where the characters are going to be. But a lot of times I go back and change that. For the most part it’s panel by panel, and I’ve met a lot of people who are surprised when I saz that, but I don’t think there’s any other approach I could use that would allow for the sort of detail that accrues. I might measure out a few panels, or I have an idea of how I might try to fit things in, but I might also end up completely changing that.

GROTH: Do you run into situations, for example, where you only have so much space left in the last panel, and it’s the wrong amount of space?

WARE: I do a lot of subdividing.

Chris Ware, interviewed by Gary Groth
The Comics Journal # 200, December 1997

Much more to come on this interview, which I hope to blog in the next week or so.

 

Just a few kilometers away from here, on the other side of Strasbourg, are the headquarters of Arte television, which must be unique in the world as a entirely dual language arts and culture TV channel. The channel broadcasts two feeds with the same programming, one in German and one in French, to France, Germany and Switzerland.

This episode of the Arte documentary programme Comix (directed by Cités Obscures artist Benoit Peeters) on Chris Ware was broadcast in 2005, and by means that are probably not entirely legal, has found its way onto YouTube. Nothing ground breakingly revelatory, but an interesting insight nonetheless, and a very tastefully edited and directed film. The introduction is in French, but the rest of the programme is in English with French subtitles.

Part one is here:

Part two is here:

Part three is here:




  • ABOUT THE PROJECT

    "no words no action" was an experiment in academic blogging. The blog recorded the progress of reading, research and investigations that lead to a Masters in Architecture dissertation at the University of Sheffield in autumn 2007. You can find out more about the author's interest in blogging here.

    To find out more about the thesis, download the original dissertation proposal (pdf format) from February 2007 or the semi-formal first chapter (pdf format) from April 2007.

    Further research projects are in the works, and their dependence on human interaction and networking suggests more blogging will be inevitable when the time comes.


  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    At the time that this blog was created, James Benedict Brown was a fifth year Masters of Architecture student at the University of Sheffield. James' personal blog is here.

    James graduated in 2008 and now lives and works in Glasgow.


  • ABOUT THE TUTOR

    This project was supervised by Renata Tyszczuk at the University of Sheffield


  • ABOUT YOU

    If you want to correct me on something, offer an opinion on a particular artist or building, or if you'd like to recommend someone or something to find out about, please feel free to leave a comment. Just click on 'Comments' under the headline of the relevant post...


  • BOOKSHELF

    Click here to browse James' bookshelf, and to purchase books being used in this project.


  • CONFERENCE DIARY

    I've managed to miss almost half a dozen compelling conferences around the world so far this year, simply because I have no (more) money to travel and no time to escape my studies in Strasbourg and Sheffield. However, if I had a magic plane ticket and plenty of time, here's my selection of essential conferences to attend. Hopefully I'll be there for more of them next year... click here for the diary (updated every time I miss another one).


  • NOTE

    All images are used for illustrative purposes only, and the copyright remains with the artist and/or creator. Please contact me if I have misappropriated an image or incorrectly credited it. Thanks... JBB


  • SOME RIGHTS RESERVED

    Creative Commons License
    The content of this blog is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.


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