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DDDA: EDASI OLEVIKKU (WE SHIFT GEAR INTO PRESENT TENSE)

An exhibition of objects that originally appeared as illustrations in Dot Dot Dot

Kaleri Tartu Mnt 43
Kreuzwaldi 24
Tallinn
Estonia

2–9 April 2005 18:00-21:00
Opening 1 April 18:00
Walk-through with the editors 2 April 18:00

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INTERVIEW WITH KRISTJAN MAANDMA FOR A LOCAL NEWSPAPER


Q: What is important in design?

That's such an abstract question that i can only give an abstract response and my immediate one is just: communication. if you're talking about graphic design in particular, and i suppose you are, then we seem to have arrived at some sort of conclusion through making the magazine that graphic design as a discipline in and about itself is not important at all. By that i mean, for example, a poster without content, made only for the sake of making a poster; or a piece of writing about the way a certain designer's work looks. For us graphic design is only important, worthwhile, interesting, when it connects with the world in an intelligent, articulate way; when it has some sort of genuine social aspect. We've described graphic design as being a kind of 'ghost' subject — it doesn't really exist. it's a paranoid discipline that's always justifying itself into existence. we prefer to think of graphic design is a point — a dot if you like — that only exists when other lines cross to make an intersection. for example: a record cover as a point where music, art and advertising meet. the definition of graphic design seems to get in the way too, which is why we've sort of abandoned it - the magazine is about almost everything except graphic design now. it's about art, music, film etc. and the only thing that remains particularly graphic design about DDD is that it's two editors have 'graphic designer' written on their passports. i suppose right now this is what we are trying to communicate; a public working out of what we find interesting and rigorous; real stories which suggest ways forward, which connect with and maybe enhance life. this is the closest we can get to 'important', which seems the wrong word.


Q: Why are you doing this? What makes a designer's life worthwhile?

To answer the first part, it's a way of working things out, which i suppose is 'designing' too. we're lucky enough to have found ourselves into a position where we're able to work things out in public, which has its good and bad sides, but ultimately we also feel it's worthwhile for a wider audience or we wouldn't do it, and people wouldn't buy it. so it's like an ongoing conversation with ourselves and with other people interested in the same things as ourselves. we are also doing it because as working designers there are very few things that we generally want to work on — design, edit — for other people. interesting and convincing subject matter, not to mention trust, is so rare to find. once you do it's difficult to go back to something that people usually describe as being 'more commercial'. so we are making this magazine because no other publisher is giving us the opportunity to make more or equally interesting work. as to part two, how can I answer this? i don't even know what makes MY life worthwhile, never mind speaking for anyone else. but accepting it's an impossible question, personally i'd say making work that is interesting to work on and live by.


Q: You started the magazine with counting all the known design magazines. There were hundreds. Yet, right there you picked out Emigre and Eye as the only two interesting ones. How is that possible? (how come all the other magazines won't do?).

It's not such a difficult choice. the vast majority of the others are usually immediately compromised by the mechanics of how they come into being, which is usually because of a third-party reason, such as being funded by a larger mother company, an institution such as a school or type foundry, or they are foremost businesses where the nature and amount of editorial is directly related to the nature and amount of advertising. for all these reasons you usually get what you expect, so they usually have a hidden agenda, which is not necessarily evil, just dull. the content is generally pretty watered down and journalistic — our biased euphemism for being boring, or at least bound to cliches. we were always far more influenced by avant garde journals, usually with small print runs and markedly independent. Emigre and Eye, at least at the beginning of their lives, were very much out of step and sort of electrically-charged because of that, and for attractively opposite reasons. Emigre was like the wild adolescent young kid, and Eye the smart intellectual older brother.


Q: You are quite ambiguous about the criteria and ... of the contents of DDD. You say if it is very dot, it is good. Could you elaborate and explain it better?

I think that's a bit backwards: we just say that our only criteria for including things is whether or not they seem to be 'very Dot Dot Dot'. it's a way of saying that there are no conscious boundaries other than us both agreeing that it's the sort of thing we should include. it's snake-eating-it's-own-tail answer, an elliptical answer, but it's also a backwards answer because we've also started talking about including things because we can't imagine where else they would go. we're a kind of orphanage, but we have the most fantastic kids.


Q: How has the magazine been received in different countries? Meaning how is your approach to design positioned in the world? Is there a thin red thread running through certain centres or what?

It's very difficult to tell. different countries for different reasons, I think. and it's very much a word-of-mouth kind of project anyway. we run the whole thing more like a band, or an independent record label than a magazine or publishing house. so we have concentrations of readers in Holland because that's we lived until now — we could carry boxes easily to bookstores; and in London and New York because we have a lot of friends there, often influential ones — particularly in the schools. Regarding everywhere else, It's very diffuse. we're not sure, and we kind of like the not-knowing. we prefer to work in the margins anyway, and the idea with the exhibitions is to concentrate on those more idiosyncratic, lucky connections we have in out-of-the-way places, which this year at least, means Tallinn and Warsaw and Bratislava.


Q: You have said that the first issues were trial and error stuff. One thing that has remained in the past is the fighting aspect — fighting for better design, truth, etc. Why and how and where did it go? Is there no need for fighting any more?

I don't think it's gone. many pieces in the latest issue, number 9, deal very particularly with the idea of truth. again, it's just not discussed directly in terms of graphic design, which is what you seem to be looking for — it's shown in articles about literature or poetry or music. but the ideas are there. Again, this is why the discipline is not important: all these things represent IDEAS, ways of living, ways of working. in an article in number 5 a piece about the process of making John Berger's classic WAYS OF SEEING, I talk about the idea of how overprinting ink, and jump-cutting in film, or a band all stopping at the same time seem to describe the truth of a process, as opposed to Photoshop layering, cross-fading in film, or fading out a song. the content of DDD all share some sort of qualities of integrity. Maybe we're just more passive-aggressive now.



Posted 31 March 2011 18:51:59

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