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While emphasizing the multiple correspondences between collectives and groups like Arte Povera, Archizoom, Superstudio, and figures such as Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini, The Italian Avant-Garde: 1968-1976 also highlights previously overlooked spaces, works, and performances generated by Zoo, Gruppo 9999, and Cavart. Newly commissioned interviews and essays by historians and curators shed light on the era, while contemporary practitioners discuss its complex legacy continue

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Issue 3 of the Japanese magazine Animestyle ( read earlier posts for Issue 1 and Issue 2 ), the contents include articles on anime Tamago Market, MS Gundam UC, interviews with director Akiyuki Shinbo, Yoshinari Yo, and more.

(above & below) Some character sheets from the anime Little Witch Academia that has been getting quite a bit of attention as of late. I’ve seen only snippets but the quality of animation is fantastic.

(above) Genga from Studio 4C’s 3rd Berserk animated film. 2 artbooks here & here have been released for the film, but I’ve not had the chance yet to check out their contents. (below) A short article on the Kickstarter anime project Kick Heart. Read more here.

“Animestyle Magazine Issue 3 “ details :

Dimensions – 10.1 x 7.2 x 0.6 inches
Soft cover, 185 pages.
Color, B&W sketches, in Japanese

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  3. Kikan S Illustration Magazine No. 36 Book Review

  4. Geijutsu Shincho Magazine – Otomo Special Book Review

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This is a pretty rare one – a book dedicated to just the layout boards from Mamoru Oshii’s highly acclaimed animated film Patlabor II The Movie. The book (published in 1994) has been out of print for a long time and only used copies are found on Amazon Japan.

This book is probably targeted at more dedicated fans and people studying layout in animation – the semantics used in the captions accompanying each board are pretty esoteric and technical in nature. (below) Some locations in Tokyo used as references in the film – those slum-like structures on stilts are probably not around anymore I think – Tokyoites correct me if I’m wrong.

I bought this book because I’m so in love with Patlabor ( both the feature films and the TV series ). Even if you aren’t particularly familiar with how layout works in Japanese animation – those boards still look pretty cool.

“Methods – Layouts from Patlabor The Movie 2″ art book details :

Dimensions – 0.2 x 22 x 1.4 cm
Soft cover, 178 pages
Mostly in B&W with select colored pages, in Japanese

There is also a similar book for Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost In The Shell : Innocence film. Now this one I’ve never seen in stores or even 2nd hand bookstores like BookOff; must be really rare. You can get a used copy from Amazon too – the link can be found below.

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  5. Patlabor Artbook – The Labor Industry
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World War 2 might be the last war any Western nation fought that came with a simple, obvious moral certitude. Fighting against Nazi Germany and Japan, both aggressors, amounted to fighting for the ideals that at the end of the war made it into universally agreed principles. You can't easily say that about the various wars we have seen ever since. World War 2 also deeply transformed Europe, the continent. Europe started to unite into an often ill-defined, yet oddly effective superstructure that now, after the inevitable fall of the Soviet-Union, encompasses almost the entire continent. This might explain our ongoing fascination with World War 2, as the generation that fought the war (or what was left of it afterwards) is slowly and steadily dying. That generation is the only connection left to both the experience of the war and to the world before it. (more)

Martin Roemers's The Eyes of War makes that connection explicit, throwing in, however, what one might want to call a cruel twist: The eyes in the book are unable to see anything any longer. The women and men portrayed in the book are blind. They stopped seeing things around the time the world around them transformed.

As it turns out, there is a very large number of people blinded by or right after the war, soldiers, of course, but also many children whose playgrounds were riddled with unexploded, live ammunition. When you're a child, the world is your playground, and what could be more exciting than dealing with all that strange stuff and all those strange people around you? "The war was an exciting adventure," says Peter Witteveen (born in 1938), "and I still have good memories of it. But then I was still able to see." Witteveen lost his eyesight when he tried to pry open some ammunition his sister had found, causing it to explode.

In what one might perhaps consider part of the true new European spirit, The Eyes of War does not make any distinctions between nationalities. In the book, the blind are the blind, regardless what side they happened to be on, regardless of whether they were fighting or merely playing or maybe just being in the wrong spot at the wrong time. War seems to be a lot about just that: Trying to stay in the right spot, away from where things (or people) get blown up. Each of the people in the book get the chance to tell their story, regardless of what it might be. For each person you only get to see the face, ravaged by war and time.

It is to be hoped that books like The Eyes of War will now also be made for the wars we either brush aside or ignore or simply pretend they didn't even happen. The Europeans seem to have learned a lot from the war that destroyed almost their entire continent and left many millions dead. The ultimate price of war always is human suffering, and to make us less eager to support a war - or maybe more eager to speak out against one - we need to hear about that suffering. Martin Roemers has given us an opportunity to do just that.

The Eyes of War, photography by Martin Roemers, essay by Cees Nooteboom, 128 pages, Hatje Cantz, 2012

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It seems safe to guess that many people will just hate the 2011 reissue of Karyudo (A Hunter) by Daido Moriyama. Instead of opting for the original layout the publisher, one of Japan's largest and - as a Japanese student of mine told me - well known for its manga comics, produced a small book, with full-bleed images across the gutter (if its any consolation, the reissue of Japan: A Photo Theater even cuts up at least one image and produces two spreads out of it). I haven't seen the original book (a quick Ebay search taught me I could either buy a copy or pay rent for half a year), but I'm absolutely loving this new version. (more)

Of course, I'm no expert on Japanese photographer. I'm also not a purist. I believe that for a photobook to work, all the different elements have to come together well. In this case, they really do. First of all, the book is relatively small, around the size of, surprise, surprise, a manga comic book. And it's printed like a manga comic book, which, however, has the effect that in terms of the look and feel, the book is pretty similar to photobooks printed decades ago: The matte paper in combination with the way the blacks work gets very close to old b/w photobooks. Right now, I'm sounding like the purist I claim not to be. But if you've ever seen a reissue of an old b/w photobook on semi-glossy or even glossy paper you'll realize what is lost.

The full bleed, across the gutter format works very, very well with these often aggressive, visceral photographs. I do think that treating these images are too sacred, claiming that they must not run across the gutter, does them a disservice: Their off-kilter compositions, often verging on almost falling apart, is truly reflected in this new format. It's right in your face, it's very dynamic. It might just breathe new life into a body of work that has so often been seen, a body of work that reissued in a most conservative way could have easily lost whatever life might have been left. Instead, with the manga format, looking through Karyudo (A Hunter) feels a bit like reading a James Ellroy novel - something created in the present, yet very much evoking the spirit of the past it is portraying. It's a real page turner.

Highly recommended.

Karyudo (A Hunter) [reissue], photographs by Daido Moriyama, 192 pages, Kodansha, 2011

See my video presentation of the book here

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Germans aren't so eager to go to war any longer. Here's the irony: The very same countries that after World War 2 set out to exorcise German militarism are now complaining about the country's unwillingness to fight wars. There are German soldiers ("troops") in various locations, though. German warships are fighting pirates off the coast of Somalia, and there are German soldiers in Afghanistan. (more)

To get crucial votes in the German parliament (the constitution requires parliamentary consent to all military actions on a regular basis - the German chancellor can't just start a war) politicians came up with all kinds of justifications. When German soldiers for the very first time since World War 2 participated in a war again - NATO's campaign against Serbia - the foreign minister invoked Auschwitz and the specter of death camps. To get a majority for Afghanistan the defense secretary said that civilization was being defended at the Hindu Kush (I am not making this up). Politics can be so similar to the art world: When you don't have any real argument, ludicrous hyperbole will do.

Politics aside, there are other repercussions of the post World War 2 exorcism. Germany has become a thoroughly demilitarized country. For example, it would be unthinkable for a German chancellor to use soldiers and/or tanks or other military equipment as a backdrop for a major speech. As a matter of fact, the visual culture around the German military is very different from the visual culture around the US military. Germans know their history very well, so everybody is careful to avoid creating something that looks like it was out of the past. This is part of the reason why Der Tod kommt später, vielleicht ("Death will come later, maybe") by Jörg Gläscher is such an interesting book.

Most of the photographs in the book were taken in Germany, some in actual deployment zones. For the most part, the landscape provides clues where the photographs were taken, but that's a bit besides the point. What I find really interesting here is the way German soldiers are portrayed going about their business. There is none of the heroism that makes so much of what I see usually coming from places like Afghanistan. Gläscher does not seem interested in portraying war (or war games) as something that might be heroic.

There is a portrait of a grubby looking soldier, who is resting against shot-up car, balancing something like a sniper rifle on his boot. It is a very matter-of-factly photograph. Even though the soldier appears to be somewhat in charge of things (he's aiming for a bit of a tough-guy look in his face) it is the rifle that seems to be bearing down on the man. Who really is in charge here? And what does that mean? What does this tell us about war?

Crucially, wouldn't getting a somewhat more critical and less overtly heroic depiction of US soldiers in the media open up all kinds of possibilities? Possibilities that would allow understanding both the nature of war and of what it does to people?

Der Tod kommt später, vielleicht is a book that demonstrates that photography can play a very interesting role investigating war. Editorial photographs of the military do not have to look like they are straight out of the military's PR material. Given we are now constantly at war (with some wars, such as the drone war in Yemen not even being openly declared any longer) we need to be talking about war and what it does to people.

For a while now, Germans were said to be the people who got out of their military obligations by providing money (for example, Germany did not participate in the first Gulf war). But is that so different from what we all are doing? The extent of our involvement in all the various wars is to pay our taxes and to call soldiers "heroes" (unless those very soldiers are brothers or sisters or sons or daughters). For a while, we used to stick ribbons to our cars. We don't seem to be doing that much any longer - what do you know, those ribbons are magnetic, so they come right off. How convenient! We shop, while they fight our wars.

Der Tod kommt später, vielleicht; photographs by Jörg Gläscher; essays by Holger Witzel, Ingo Schulze, Jochen Missfeldt, Kathrin Schmidt, Peter Bialobrzeski, Tanja Dückers, Wolfgang Prosinger; 136 pages; Kehrer; 2011 - unfortunately, there appears to be only a German-language edition of this book

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There is nowhere else in the world quite like Chungking Mansions, a dilapidated seventeen-story commercial and residential structure in the heart of Hong Kong's tourist district. A remarkably motley group of people call the building home; Pakistani phone stall operators, Chinese guesthouse workers, Nepalese heroin addicts, Indonesian sex workers, and traders and asylum seekers from all over Asia and Africa live and work there--even backpacking tourists rent rooms. In short, it is possibly the most globalized spot on the planet continue

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"Our ability to generate information now far exceeds our capacity to understand it. Finding patterns and making meaningful connections inside complex data networks has emerged as one of the biggest challenges of the twenty-first century. In recent years, designers, researchers, and scientists have begun employing an innovative mix of colors, symbols, graphics, algorithms, and interactivity to clarify, and often beautify, the clutter." And look! Even Jeremy Deller's been invited to the party continue

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There is the official story of German photography, which comprises the usual suspects (Sander, the Bechers, Gursky, ...). No need to repeat it here. There are a few things that are very interesting about that story. First of all, it's woefully incomplete. But that's not so interesting (it's actually more propaganda than anything). But second, there is the fact that most of those usual suspects might be German photographers, but their work is not necessarily quintessentially German. Maybe their approach to work is (here we are again in the not-so-interesting territory), but the work itself isn't. Andreas Gursky basically has become the inofficial photographer of globalization (sans its ugly underbelly). The Bechers documented industrial structures in many different countries. August Sander aimed at producing a truthful portraits of the Germans. But I'm happy to argue that the reason why so many people love that work is because it actually is more about the human condition than anything. And as I've argued before, most German photographers after the war (excluding the younger generation which has not yet been canonized) have been extremely careful to avoid dealing with German history. Which brings me to Michael Schmidt (also see this page). (more)

Schmidt is well-known amongst photographers. Schmidt was instrumental in bringing a lot of American photographers to Germany, actually Berlin, many years ago. But whenever you see the official story of German photography, chances are you won't find his name. With large parts of his work centered on Berlin, Schmidt also produced work that deals with the German past and especially its consequences. If you wanted to look at photography that was produced in Germany and that gave you a good impression of the country (that might be a good definition of German photography?), Schmidt should be your first stop.

I was reminded of this fact during a recent visit to Berlin (where, as an added bonus, I also had the chance to talk to the artist). Riding around on my bike, I felt as if I was surrounded by Michael Schmidt photographs. I don't mean this in a superficial sense - it could be easily seen as that. Whatever Schmidt does, or however he does it, his often (seemingly) very unassuming photographs capture the mood in ways that are very hard to describe.

We could take 89/90 as an excellent example. Released at the occasion of a major Michael Schmidt retrospective at Munich's Haus der Kunst (curated by Thomas Weski), the book contains previously unreleased photographs that Schmidt took in 1989/90 in Berlin when the Wall was coming down or had just come down. Don't expect to see a lot of the Wall. Don't expect to see people chiseling (or whatever other visual cliches there might be). If you had the chance to visit Berlin when the Wall was still up you'll remember that it clearly defined the atmosphere in the city. You'd notice its presence even when you didn't see it. That atmosphere you see portrayed in 89/90, in often striking ways.

My favourite image might be the one that shows an East German army jacket, made to hang on a pole that supports a couple of young trees (using an actual coat hanger, no less). In the background, one of the many rather nondescript, generic Berlin buildings is visible, with what might or might not be parts of the Wall (who knows?). It's such a mundane, yet poignant photograph. It's beautiful. What else is there to say?

As a book, 89/90 is an unassuming affair. It's a rather small book, but I think the size works extremely well. Schmidt also employs repetitions in the book, where you get to see the same image more than once. In fact, the book ends with the same image shown three times. That might sound weird, but it works. You have to see it to believe it.


89/90, photographs by Michael Schmidt, essay by Chris Dercon, 100 pages, Snoeck Verlagsgesellschaft Mbh, 2010

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