About the Studio for Visual Pop.Culture

ABOUT MARK MULDER

Studio1 for Visual Pop.2Culture designs3 & researches4 identity5, media6 and representation7.

  1. Studio ~ Between the ‘artist space’ and the ‘office’ there is the studio; a ‘work-room’ where autonomous creation is applied to contemporary society. A space where reflection meets action, where learning meets doing, where theory meets practice and where thinking meets making. 
    The word ‘studio’ derives from the Latin word ‘studium’, which means "study, application," originally "eagerness," and and is the first-person singular of the verb ‘studere’, which is “to be diligent”. This etymology gives direction to our attitude: it is a work place where we can manifest our curiosity and give shape to our desire to not only understand the world around us, but also change it a little bit.
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  3. Pop.~ short for popular. It is associated with popmusic, low culture, folklore, vernacular and non-elite. For us, pop. means everything that shows itself in everyday life and contemporary society, on- and off-line. Pop. is everything that is made by the people (professional or amateur) and that has a bottom-up approach. Pop. is where ‘intent’ turns into its own reality. Pop. is everything that is out there, all that exists. 
    “The important point about […] [British] Pop artists’ approach to popular culture or mass media is that their propose was not satirical or in any way antagonistic. […] They were looking at the world in which they lived, the great city, and examining the objects and images that surrounded them with an intensity and penetration which frequently made one conscious of that reality for the first time.”(Arnason, 1988, p.449).
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  5. Design (verb) ~ act of construction made visual. Design is all about aesthetics made with intent. Design is a visual language that everybody can read but only a view can speak. Therefore it is a tool with great power. Through design ideologies can be propagated, the incomprehensible can be shown as simple and bad can be presented as good. Via design the intricate systems can be unraveled, subliminal messages can be shown and a unimagined futures can be imagined.
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  7. Design Research ~ gaining knowledge or insight through the act of design. This means the focus is on knowledge and less on the ‘emotional experience’. It also defines a paradigm shift: from a profession that used to be product focussed to a practice that is process driven. Design Research uses the (visual) language, tools and methods of design to show a new perspective on reality. By the way; curiosity is a basic criteria for a researcher.
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  9. Identity ~ With a background in graphic design and visual communication, the studio works in the field of visual identity. Identity -in this sense- means, first of all, that the studio has the visual and conceptual tools and knowledges to create identity for corporations and institutions. Besides that, the studio has an interest in how identities are constructed and how this process of construction works. We are engaged in the concept of ‘cultural identity’; socially driven behaviour of having things in common; of wanting to belong to a group or of labelling individuals into groups. Within this cultural identity, we need symbols, events and people that play a crucial role in manifesting this identity. Consequentially, we want te deconstruct the way how identity is used to create or affirm power structures. On the one hand, how social groups can identify themselves and, on the other hand, how groups labelled by others. So, from corporate to cultural and from cultural to political, we are involved in matters of identity and how identity matters. 
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  11. Media ~ Since the Studio is in the business of communication, media are the means to work with. This is what we use to voice the message we are sending. We conceptualise ideas through the choice of media and strategy. We also approach the role of media critically. We are very aware that media are a source of power and that we must use them responsively. Especially in an age of democratisation of media we should rethink how we use them and what messages we send out.
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  13. Representation ~ The relation between ‘things’, concepts and signs lies at the heart of the production of meaning in language. The process which links these three elements together is what we call ‘representation’.
    “It is participants in a culture who give meaning to people, objects and events. Things 'in themselves' rarely if ever have any, one, single, fixed and unchanging meaning. […] Its is by our use of things, and what we say think and feel about them -how we represent them- that we give them a meaning.” (Hall, 1997).
    Remember the idiom: “a picture is worth a thousand words”. This saying actually shows us that images are a very intricate and complex language system which speaks on a different, more intuitive, fluid, subjective and subliminal level than words. Images do not only depict but also symbolise. They stand for something, but what they stand for depends on the context and the people who use it. For the studio this shows the power of image. It shows that the visual realm they have all these different meanings, such a enormous range of narratives. Images can be given so many new meanings and can be used as rhetoric, as propaganda and as a dialogue, That power is not only beautiful, but also threatening. We use images but the image also uses us. We think we control it, but perhaps it controls us. 

The constuction of identity, media as a powerful strategy and reality and the ‘system of representation’ (Hall, 1997) together make up the realm in which the Studio for Visual pop.Culture works. This is our gaze on the world.

Studio for Visual Pop.Culture. Make it Pop.!