You Say tomato, I say TOMATO

Saturday, October 3, 2009

(Feet! Dylan Kendle & John Warwicker)

A chat with Karl Hyde, a Brian Eno lecture, and now a TOMATO lecture all within a two month span. Something in the cosmos has aligned to have these influential entities cross in such a short window or time. Definitely a departure from the sheer disappointment of Underworld being canceled back in early August. TOMATO have been my guiding influence and a malign presence for visual language and design philosophy for almost ten years. Now the opportunity to hear them rant had surfaced out of thin air. Sign me up!

After an overload of Korean tofu in Little Tokyo, Karen and I made our way to the Independent Theater where my brother-in-law was hustling AIGA memberships to big spenders. Standing there out front, I was haphazardly asked to shoot the event (really wasn't prepared with the right gear). From there we got a quick group pic of Dylan Kendle & John Warwicker with all the culprits who helped put on the event.

Down to business, John explains the lecture will flow with a slide show of different projects with a brief Q & A session in between each project. He also mentions this is the first public TOMATO lecture in the U.S. in which the audience were on hand to appreciate and acknowledge their work. For John, the Punk Rock movement and its deep roots in ideologies saturated with deviating fundamentals, had a significant role in shaping his views towards non-traditional conventions of art & design. They fire up a quick retrospective that flashes a montage video of their portfolio to the tune of Glam Bucket - glimpses of Underworld, Trainspotting, commercials, motion design, and static images establish the mood instantly. Warwicker then moves into his first slide and begins to discuss the Tokyo Art Jam and how the jam at it's apex had more people watching it than Orbital's <---(he meant The Orb) performance in the hall (cell) next door.

Questions begin to fly after the segment ends at which point an answer relating to aesthetics sparks John to reply "forget about style, it will only box you in. Thought = Form". This totally reminds of a Sagmeister quote "Style = Fart" hmmm... sounds like they're coming from similar schools of thought? Though, it is fun to note that both designers use very unorthodox practices and often find themselves being anomalies in their own rite. Dylan begins his talk for the next segment of work, the Expo Zaragoza installation, a piece commissioned by the government of Spain.

"Based on humanity and it's relationship to water, the exhibit explores our biological, chemical and emotional connections to this fundamental building block of life". It was intriguing to hear the concept blossom from paper, to Maya, a small scale model, and with much labor eventually erected to life size only to be torn down within three months. Dylan begins the next project- a video installation commissioned by a museum in Italy. The premise behind this piece had been taken from an old wind-up music box which generated the theme of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star overlaid with a gentle Underworld like ambient beat. Sadly, This is one of many pieces I could not devote my entire attention span towards because, of constant theater traversing. Visually I believe the video was suppose to be mimicking the note patterns of the tune while morphing in 3D.

-Next project presented by John, "TV Ashai a complete re-branding of Japan's second largest TV network."
  • The logo is completely dynamic - it reacts to sound - it is never presented the same way twice.
  • The identity reacts to the sound of visitors at the TV Ashai piazza.
  • Awareness of TV ASAHI increases by 300%

A Sony network campaign is next on the list. This particular project had an open invite/submission to many of the top global design and ad studios. TOMATO were quick to note that the brief provided by Sony was in fact worded incorrectly and were not shy about calling it out to their attention. Sony then flew Warwicker & Co. out to Tokyo to discuss the matter and a potential solution. If in fact TOMATO were correct about their theory, the job would be theirs for the taking. This took almost close to eight hours to accomplish, in a back and forth dialogue which John admits probably everyone in the meeting mentally tuned out for periods at a time.

alberto ASPESI STORE, MILAN- Dylan speaks on behalf of Dirk Van Doren as this was his brain child project.

Trainspotting - I think this one speaks for itself.

Ukiyo-e - The Floating World, a book that John has spent nearly 30 years making. He speaks about the close relationship with his grandfather, a very successful mathematician who opened a world of intrigue and curiosity to Warwicker. "My grandfather was the type of person who would be in a three piece suit at the beach, like the picture here in Brighton". Looking though his grandfather's notes of assorted numbers, John hones in on the curvaceous characters next to the complex equations... his interest in typography & graphic design is born. He then goes off on a tangent about how computers have consumed and sometimes distorted peoples perception. The urgency to get back in touch with analog and raw materials is greater than ever... "If you don't draw, start now"

And last but, not least UNDERWORLD. John recites how he crossed paths with Karl and how the idea for TOMATO surfaced from a discussion about music, particularly Karftwerk. "We had just met each other and started talking about music..." This is a very similar explanation found in this interview-

The mmm... sky skyscraper i love you project was a contrasting parallel with the
dubno album, both John and Karl followed people around New York and eavesdropped on conversations, writing down notes frantically. These nuggets of dialogue became the inner workings of both lyrics and typography pieces. The session finishes up with a few more key pieces of insight... "Don't be boxed in" - "Get on with it, move on"

In a very selfish act, I decided to take the event promo poster off a nearby wall and had John sign the back. Can you read his scribble?


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