The Poster Remediated – installation shots and press

Design as Critique, Design Exhibition, Design/Critique, Graphic Design

These installation shots in Poster Museum at Wilanów were provided by Podpunkt, the excellent studio which designed the show and the accompanying book. They were photographed by Michał Drabik.

Podpunkt did much more than design the show: they worked closely with me to shape its conceptualisation. Much of the intellectual drive of the show comes from Podpunkt’s design.

The show was controversial. Some designers felt that it undermines the tradition of the Polish poster – perhaps it does. My intention was not to treat posters as works of art (in the traditional sense) but to explore the relationship of this historic form to other media – to cinema, television, print media and of course the Internet. Some of the most striking works in the show are by unknown designers.  So in this sense, the highly artistic and authorial tradition of the poster was abandoned, at least for the duration of the show.

A large number of critics also wrote a letter to the Minister of Culture, Piotr Gliński, demanding the reinstatement of the traditional Biennale competition (an open call for designers to submit posters – whether they were commissioned works or simply propositions for posters) and describing the decision to change the format and appoint me  a ‘scandal’. You can hear the arguments being rehearsed on Polish radio here. During the opening of the show, there was a protest against the concept of the exhibition. Ten or maybe twelve painted posters were hung in the courtyard which divides the two pavilions housing the show. Here are two of them – you can judge their merits.

If you read Polish, there are some thoughtful reviews and previews in Polityka, dwutygodnik (a typically excellent and critical piece by Karol Sienkiewicz), Gazeta Wyborcza and Rzeczpospolita. The last(!) print issue of 2+3D magazine also includes an interview with me, an editorial on the Biennale and a feature on the work of Jordan Seiler and Vermibus, two artist who feature in the show. There is also an image-led piece the summer 2016 issue of Eye.

An Essay on Decay

Design/Critique, Photography

This article appeared in the first issue of Disegno in 2011.

Earlier this year the mummified body of a Hollywood actress was found in a dilapidated Beverley Hills villa. Yvette Vickers had made a career in the movies by playing pneumatic blonds in b-movies like ‘Attack of the Giant Leaches’ and ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Woman’ in the 1950s before becoming a Playboy centrefold. Believing that she was being stalked, Vickers had become a recluse late in life. She’d not been seen for a year and had probably been dead for as long. A (misplaced) sense of celebrity had overwhelmed her. She died with the lights on and surrounded by movie magazines, fan mail, wigs and her wardrobe. Her discoverers had to fight their way through piles of Hollywood junk to find the ‘compressed’ body and what the coroner’s office described as ‘dried skin, leathery’. It is perhaps not surprising that some commentators drew a poignant connection between the debris of celebrity and her mummified body. A product of an industry which trades on on-screen novelty, she’d become a kind of forgotten scrap, literally.

Decay ought to be a matter of interest to architects and designers as well as to forensic scientists and coroners. How things die – or, more precisely, how the materials from which they have been fashioned decompose – is one of the troubling questions of the age. We often talk about the ‘life cycle’ of products but some things just refuse to leave this world. The image of the rubbish dump strewn with indestructible products, belching invisible greenhouse gases is the visual symbol of our present anxieties, just as the mushroom cloud was for our parents and grandparents. Manufacturing high quality biodegradable plastics has, for instance, been a kind of twenty-first century grail. The challenge is to provide materials which look and behave like their everlasting counterparts but then disappear without a trace. When we have been encouraged to value the stable, smooth and infinitely malleable qualities of our synthetic materials, it is difficult to imagine an alternative language for plastic.

Studio Formafantasma, ‘Botanica’

When Studio Formafantasma, young Italian designers, set themselves this task, they turned to the early science of Botany to find prehistoric plastics. The ‘Botanica’ collection shown in Milan earlier this year exploits materials and techniques generated in early experiment with resins, polymers and natural rubber. Their simple vessels and lamps have irregular shapes and uneven surfaces, often bearing the rough texture of the aggregates used to stiffen the resins. Worked by hand with heat or pressed in moulds, these forms can be reshaped too. The forms seem as archaic as the techniques used to make them. But of course with the post-oil condition approaching rapidly, the future of plastic may be more like its past than we once imagined. Coloured in subdued tones and with their origins in plants, blood and even insect excrement, Studio Formafantasma’s experiments ask not only that reset our taste but also our expectations about the mutability of things. Undeniably beautiful and enigmatic these sketches for domestic products look impermanent, as if on the cusp of decay – a little too soft or too brittle, a little too damp or a little too dry.

There have, of course, been good reasons why designers and manufacturers have fought decay. ‘Durable’ is a good selling tag. Moreover, we are hardwired to avoid decay, an evolutionary response to the threat of polluted materials and rotting food. It accompanies a category of abject things which exist on the borders of the living and the dead. Yet, at the same time, we seem to be attracted by abjection, fascinated by the way in which dying things can change their appearance before our eyes. Mould can grow in miraculous sprays of colour and rotting matter can smell sickly-sweet.

Chalayan’s ‘The Tangent Flows’, 1993

Famously, in 1993 Hussein Chalayan caused a stir with his graduate collection – entitled ‘The Tangent Flows’ – featuring dresses he had buried with iron filings in the garden of the north London vicarage where he was living as a student. Clearly, the young designer had things to say about vanitas – the tradition in Renaissance art of using images of cut flowers, tables burgeoning with over-ripe food and snuffed-out candles to meditate on the provisional nature and ultimate emptiness of human existence. Chalayan was making a point about the dead-eyed world of fashion in which he was about to become a star. Yet the appeal of his decomposing dresses was not just a matter of lofty ideas: the rusty surface of the frayed lace and braised silk was strangely and unexpectedly beautiful.


The Aesthetics of Decay

Decay may have been brought to the catwalk by Chalayan but it was hardly a new aesthetic. Two hundred years ago, Romantics poets and painters drew melancholic pleasure from ruins. The image of an abandoned and cracked building yielding to weeds seemed to offer lessons about the inevitable fall of overblown civilizations and the ultimate power of nature. Decay and ruination has valued in the Romantic imagination because they can remind us of the age of things. In this view of the past, a cracked and broken monument is more resonant than a pristine one.

Neues Museum

This understanding shaped David Chipperfield Architects’ much celebrated restoration of the Neues Museum in Berlin. A ruin after the Second World War with its windows broken and roof missing, this nineteenth century neoclassical landmark had to wait until the end for Berlin to become the German capital again to be revived. Chipperfield eschewed imitation, trying to salvage what he could of the historic fabric whilst introducing unsentimental and avowedly new elements where the past could not be reclaimed. Like strata in an archaeological dig, fragments of nineteenth century decorative schemes float on rough plaster and new wall surfaces frame old brickwork. The result is not only ethereal but it makes the Neues Museum a chronometer of Berlin’s troubled history.

The poetics of decay should not, however be confused with decay itself. For the last few months Chalayan’s decomposing dress has been on display at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, almost twenty years since it was disinterred from the ground. A garment which once spoke about the ephemerality of fashion, has been preserved in the low light and temperature-controlled glass cases of the Museum. It looks like an artefact from a lost civilization (c. Britain in AD 1993). Similarly, the Neues Museum is beautifully arrested and stabilized. The building seems to be saying ‘History stops here’.

Francesc Torres, an image in the ‘Memory Remains’ series

The debris from the site of World Trade Centre in New York stored in a hangar at JFK Airport confronts the paradoxes of preserving decay. Produced in the course of terrible few hours, it has been kept there for a decade, awaiting its future deployment in the form of memorials across the USA and elsewhere. Recorded by Francesc Torres in photographs exhibited in London’s Imperial War Museum under the title ‘Memory Remains’, some of these relics – including a crushed yellow taxi-cab and a broken fire engine – are easily identified. Others are not. The vertical collapse of 110 stories pulverized metal, glass and concrete into strange, extra-terrestrial objects. Buckled and scorched, the things in the hanger have been subject to the careful attention of white-gloved conservators. Loose flakes of paint are glued back in place when they drop from the shattered objects in the hangar. Writing the London Review of Books, art critic Hal Foster has puzzled over this: ‘Is that the right response to a thing whose value is in part its index of time?’ This is a question about the differences between decay as a look and as a process.

One of Auger and Loizeau’s ‘Carnivorous Domestic Entertainment Robots’ (2009)

We only have to look around us to understand decay as a natural and inevitable process. It plays a key role in the cycle of life. Cells which are not renewed, degenerate. And, once dead, life forms decompose into simpler forms, supporting micro-organisms and bacteria. The fertile soil from which we are sustained is, of course, the organic product of these cycles of growth and decay. The idea of the life-cycle is explored in James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau’s ‘Carnivorous Domestic Entertainment Robots’ (2009), a series of experimental projects exploring the form and purpose of the future robot. A family of devices performing modest domestic tasks, the ‘Lampshade Robot’, the ‘Flypaper Robotic Clock’ and the ‘Mouse Trap Coffee-table Robot’ are each equipped with microbial fuel cells that can turn organic matter into electricity. When mice and insects – attracted by light or crumbs – are trapped and delivered to the cell, the chemical energy released as they decompose is converted into the electrical energy needed by the robots to function. In Auger and Loizeau’s designs, the cycle of life and death promises to revolve ad infinitum. And with the operation of the microbial fuel cell fully visible, the owner is a witness to a struggle of (artificial) life and death.

A New Nature

Image from the Wilsons’ ‘Atomgrad. Nature Abhors a Vacuum’ series

The strange beauty of decay is evident when looking at the eight large format photographic images produced by artists Jane and Louise Wilson in the town of Pripyat in the Ukraine. Close to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Pripyat was largely abandoned in 1986 when an explosion spewed large clouds of radioactive material into the atmosphere. The artists revisited the city to produce the ‘Atomgrad (Nature Abhors a Vacuum)’ series. Abandoned interiors – the original purpose of which seems no longer clear – have succumbed to nature. Mould grows on walls in dark ominous swirls; damp has caused the parquet to convulse, making the floor looks like a strange geometric landscape. It is a terrible beauty. Signs of occupation – like the ordinary possessions of the people who once lived in Pripyat – have already disappeared. Soon, all that will be left is the steel and concrete.

The Wilsons’ photographs tap into to a potent fantasy, namely the idea of the Earth without human life. It is expressed in Bible in the form of the Garden Eden, the blessed state from which mankind was banished. It has, in recent years, been a staple theme of science fiction films and futurology. The History Channel’s hit ‘documentary’ series, Life After People, for instance, bore the tagline ‘Welcome to Earth … Population: Zero.’

Still from ‘Life After People’

In the programme some unexplained and comprehensive disaster has befallen mankind and the planet returns rapidly to a natural condition. The programme’s CGI animators took evident pleasure in predicting the fate of a number of icons of modern architecture including Foster Associate’s Swiss Re HQ in the city of London, Pierre Koenig’s steel and glass Stahl House perched in the hills above Los Angeles and Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House. Without maintenance, what Foster likes to call ‘London’s first ecological tall building’ will exist for three-hundred years as a vertical jungle – a truly green building – before its topples. With the reasons of the disaster unclear, the viewer is left to infer that the event which removed people from the planet is man-made.

Tuur van Balen’s ‘Pigeon D’Or’

Decay is a natural process but we live in an age when it is no longer clear what is ‘natural’, at least in traditional terms. Global warming, developments in biotechnology and genetics mean that we cannot maintain a neat divide between the natural and the man-made. Often, understanding of this fact is forced on us by events. The woods and fields around Chernobyl were, apparently, superabundant in the years after the disaster. In the light of the explosion in the nuclear reactor, reports of mammoth mushrooms and apples cannot be distinguished from other troubling accounts of mutant fish and birds. But for a young generation of designers who see a future for their skills in the applications of biotechnology, new nature is a world of opportunities. The processes of decay are not, for them, something to be eschewed but to be harnessed. Tuur van Balen – a graduate of the Design Interactions Programme at the Royal College of Art – has made interventions into the field of synthetic biology to speculate on our possible futures. His ‘Pigeon D’Or’ project – developed with biochemist James Chappell – speculates on how pigeons might be further ‘redesigned’ (after all, they have been bred for racing for years). If fed with a special harmless bacteria, the metabolism of these urban ‘pests’ could be modified. Pigeon droppings could become a detergent, cleaning the streets and car windows on which it lands. A ‘waste’ which harbours disease and damages stone and brickwork could become a useful substance. A speculative and much exhibited project, van Balen’s ‘Pigeon D’Or’ contains a truly provocative proposition. It is not that we need to change our attitudes to decay but that we can change decay itself.

Two books on Polish graphic design …

Design/Critique, Eastern Europe, Graphic Design

Against All Odds. Polish Graphic Design 1919-1949 (also published in Polish as Nie gęsi. Polskie projektowanie graficzne 1919–1949) by Piotr Rypson. (Karakter, Kraków, 2011)

Projekt: The Polish journal of visual art and design (Unit 05) edited by Adrian Shaughnessy (with essays by Charlotte West and Edgar Bąk) (Unit Editions, London, 2011)

The cover of the second issue of Projekt, 1956

The Polish Poster School of the 1950s and 1960s casts a long shadow over graphic design. Employing surrealist collage techniques and hand-drawn illustration, figures like Henryk Tomaszewski and Roman Cieślewicz are celebrated for their idiosyncratic approach to image-making. They are credited with resisting the intellectual poverty of communist ideology with individualism and artistry. Forty years later, young designers in the country still have to step out of their deep shadows to make their own careers. This monumental reputation also works retrospectively: the history of graphic design seems to have only one Polish story, the post-war poster.

Piotr Rypson’s new book Against All Odds. Polish Graphic Design 1919-1949 is a rich repository of alternative histories. Playing down the poster in favour of a much wider range of printed objects including avant-garde programmes and popular magazines, postage stamps and letterheads, Rypson examines the difference faces of modernism in Poland from the revival of the nation at the end of the First World War to imposition of Stalinism in the late 1940s. He is an expert guide, supplying fast-paced narratives about the commercial, state and political clients for whom graphic designers worked. He moves between avant-garde manifestos like Władysław Strzemiński’s ‘Functional Printing’ of 1935 and anonymous ephemera, tracing how the austere principles associated with die neue Typographie found their way onto the pages of magazines and trade union booklets. These histories are not, however, the major achievement of the book. This lies in the extraordinary range of illustrative examples which have been gathered between its boards. I doubt whether 10% of them have been republished before. And the effect is truly enlightening. The diverse expression and widespread adoption of photomontage stands out: Mieczysław Berman’s steely posters for left-wing parties seem follow blueprints drawn in Weimar Germany and Soviet Russia whereas Janusz Maria Brzeski’s photomontages for Tajny Detektyw (Secret Detective) magazine in the early 1930s have a kind of élan which combines Dada with Hollywood.

Cover of Obrona Warszawy

The decision to cover the 1940s is a good one. Most design histories follow the chronology of world events or the simple metres of decades. Rypson is making a point: the Second World War did not mark the end of free publishing or imaginative design but that the formation of a one-party state at Moscow’s behest in 1949 did. There are some poignant wartime stories here. Maria Jarema produced truly extraordinary hand-drawn abstract covers for a hand-written book of verse by experimental poet Julian Przyboś in 1943. Produced in an edition of just ten copies, these books asserted the power of the human imagination in the face of occupation, censorship and destruction. I am also struck by the tragic and unintended irony of the cover of a booklet entitled Obrona Warszawy (The Defence of Warsaw) produced by Polish Jewish socialists in 1942 in New York. Designed by Teresa Żarnowerówna, a one-time constructivist living in the city as a refugee, the book announces the fate of Warsaw, her hometown, in the hands of the Germans. It is a bitter irony that Żarnowerówna, like many constructivist and avant-garde artists in the 1920s – had seized the fragment as a both kind of metaphor for modernity and as a revolutionary device to hasten the modern world into being. Tradition was to be dismantled with the dynamism of montage. But by 1942, the fragment, in the form of broken bodies and shattered buildings on the photomontage cover of Obrona Warszawy, was a tragic demonstration of the destructive power of modernity.

For Rypson 1949 marks a kind of fault-line. By then, many of the figures who feature in his book were victims of the Second World War; dead or forced, like Żarnowerówna, to flee the country. The onset of Stalinism was by no means the end of modernist graphic design in Poland as a modest book recently published by Unit Editions, Projekt: The Polish journal of visual art and design, shows. Reviewing the activities and appearance of a very animated art and design magazine first published in 1956 after the dark years of Stalinism, this book gathers covers and spreads by a new generation of designers and artists most of whom made their careers in the People’s Republic.

Published in three languages, Projekt was a major vehicle for the promotion of the Polish poster abroad and, in fact, eschewing cover-lines, portraits and the other conventions of commercial publishing, the magazine’s covers functioned as diminutive posters. Charlotte West‘s well-informed introductory essay places less emphasis on interpreting these designs than in examining the relative freedom of the editors to shape its content in the face of censorship. By steering clear of politics, they ensured that the cultural apparatchiks left the magazine and its editors alone. As a result, Projekt became a remarkable champion of modernist graphic design on both sides of the East-West divide during the 1960s and 1970s. In the early 1980s when the authorities imposed Martial Law on the country in an attempt to suppress the Solidarity anti-communist opposition, this strategy became untenable. Projekt’s editors attempted to report the visual language of protest and, facing censure, announced their collective resignation.

A spectre haunts the world and it is the spectre of migration

Design Exhibition, Design/Critique, Modernism, Uncategorized

This review appears in Frieze, November 2011.

In recent years Studio Formafantasma – Italian designers, Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin – have made a number of journeys into the past to excavate the meanings which traditional and even ‘lost’ materials and techniques can possess. Their ‘Botanica’ (2011) series of lamps and vessels, for instance, revisits early attempts to make ‘natural’ plastic from plant extracts, resins, blood and even insect excrement. They were led to these materials by early studies of Botany. ‘Botanica’ was not simply an exercise in technological antiquarianism. At the end of oil, another time without it might have things to offer.

Work from the ‘Botanica’ collection See

Studio Formafantasma’s show at Libby Sellers gallery – featuring two groups of works – brings a more explicitly critical perspective to this interest in the past. ‘Moulding Tradition’ (2009) is a series of ceramic vessels bearing photographic portraits of an unidentified black man and tagged with scraps of data about the migrant labourers who work illegally in Italy. The unglazed lidded bowls and flasks are strung with ‘framed’ photographs, inscribed loops and labels – additions which seem to reinforce their status as mobile objects. The wine flasks and bowls were made in Caltagirone in Sicily, a traditional centre of ceramic production. With their portraits, Studio Formafantasma’s vessels refer to ‘Teste di Moro’ (‘Moorish heads’), vases which have been made there for centuries. Often grotesque and sometimes comic, these three-dimensional portraits in clay are distant reminders of the fact that not only was Sicily once an Arab island but also that Majolica came to Europe from the Muslim world.

Formafantasma, works in the ‘Moulding Tradition’ series, 2009

That people and things have always travelled between the Maghreb and Europe is, of course, a platitude for historians. But in light of Italy’s ambiguous and often hostile relationship with North Africa, Studio Formafantasma’s vessels clearly engage with a more recent past too. In 2008 Colonel Gaddafi signed a deal with Italian president Berlusconi to repatriate African immigrants caught trying to cross the Mediterranean in their overloaded and unseaworthy vessels. This was a controversial agreement. Denied opportunities to claim asylum, the human rights of migrants were threatened. In fact, the same deal, the Italians committed to invest in Libya. Gaddafi could represent Rome’s Euros as reparations for Italian colonialism in the 1930s and, at the same time, Berlusconi could look tough on immigration.

FIAT Tagliero building Asmara designed by Giuseppe Pettazzi photographed by 10b Travelling / Flickr reproduced under a creative commons license.

‘Colony’ (2011), a second series of works by Studio Formafantasma on show, addresses these themes in a direct fashion. Three mohair blankets identify Libya, Eritrea and Ethiopia, former imperial possession of Italy in the 1930 and 1940s. Italy’s expansion into North Africa was claimed by Mussolini as ‘the reappearance of the empire on the fateful hills of Rome after fifteen centuries’. The imperial adventure was an opportunity for artists and architects too. The new city of Asmara in Eritrea was taken by Italian modernists as an opportunity to fulfill all their rationalist preoccupations. Taking the form of monumental postcards, each blanket features an architectural drawing of a building over an Italian plan for an African city. Asmara is overlaid with a line drawing of Giuseppe Pettazzi’s famous FIAT Tagliero office in the city (1938), a building which came close realizing the futurist aeropittura fantasy of flying architecture. In another, Tripoli’s ‘Colonial Home’, a modernist villa from the early 1930s, is accompanied by ‘Accord 19’ of 2009 which commissioned Italian businesses ‘with the necessary technological skills’ to design a system of land border controls in Gaddafi’s Libya. Design – the field in which Trimarchi and Farresin were trained and with which they identify – is identified with repression.

Formafantasma, ‘Asmara’, a woven blanket in the ‘Colony’ series, 2011

Despite the poetry of the Studio’s name (which Trimarchi and Farresin translate as ‘ghost shape’), there is a strain of didactism in its ‘Italian’ projects. It is not heavy-handed or indifferent to aesthetics, but it is there. In their interest in migration, we might detect an echo of Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt’s influential text, Empire (‘A specter haunts the world and it is the specter of migration’). This said, there is little of these writers’ euphoric view of the ways in which nomadism and méttisage can contest the containment of nation or of race.

Formafantasma were exhibiting at the Libby Sellers Gallery, London, 19 September – 8 October 2011

Any colour .. as long as it’s black

Design as Critique, Design Exhibition, Design/Critique, Uncategorized

Warsaw’s Museum of Modern Art – in its temporary location of a socmodernist furniture store – is, appropriately enough, hosting an exhibition by German designer Konstantin Gricic. The works on display do not come from the drawing boards of his Munich studio: Grcic here takes on the role of curator.

Like his Serpentine Gallery show in London in 2009, Grcic’s Warsaw exhibition is an exploration of the forms of the modern world. Gathering a diverse range of objects for a long corridor-like gallery, he has adopted Henry Ford’s famous prohibition – ‘Any colour … as long as its black’. Entitled ‘Black2’ (‘Black Squared’), Grcic seems to be interested in how a motif (like a ‘black-letter’) or a phrase (such as ‘black box’) becomes a thing.

Most of the exhibits are mass produced objects – books, ashtrays, plastic pallets and electric guitars. Exhibited without captions or any other kind of textual support, Grcic’s black objects seem to have no history. They are also stripped of the cables which might animate them with electricity (no glowing stand-by lights here) or the handles which could be grasped by users. The viewer enters into the world that Rilke, another occasional Bavarian with an interest in dinglichkeit, called ‘indifferent things’:

Even for our grandparents, a ‘House’, a ‘Well’, a familiar tower, their very dress, their cloak, was infinitely more, infinitely more intimate: almost everything a vessel in which they found and stored humanity. Now there come crowding over from America empty, indifferent things, pseudo-things, DUMMY-LIFE … The animated, experienced things that SHARE OUR LIVES are coming to an end can cannot be replaced.
Rilke in a letter to von Hulewicz, November 1925.

The point is to make us think less about the role that these products of industrial culture play in our lives and more about the black skins in which they are sheathed. The exhibition opens with a set of heavy tomes in a vitrine which discuss the Kaaba at Mecca, Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ (1915) and Kubrick’s Black Monolith in ‘2001AD: A Space Odyssey’ (1968). These are the eternal blacks of the deep cosmos. One could easily extend this monochromatic range: ‘Black dirties’ says Wittgenstein; ‘black is the death of colour by colour’ according to Briony Fer writing on Ewa Hesse; and the black tulip is the historic symbol of hubris .. But let’s not leave the exhibition too far behind. Grcic’s exhibits are rather more mundane. A pair of black boxing gloves rest close to a black Amex card in another vitrine to tell us something uncertain about power. A uncertain black object – probably an ashtray – sits on a shelf next to a copy of The Bible. Ashes to ashes, perhaps. Often funny and sometimes poignant, Grcic’s products seem to be a modest gathering of things in light of the deep reserves of meaning that can be dressed in black.

‘Black2’ opened at Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej on October 2nd 2011.

Boiling the City

Design Exhibition, Design Exhibitions, Design/Critique, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

At the Łódź Design Festival last weekend, I saw this exercise in data visualisation and sonification. Culling data pulled from one of the major Hungarian news sites –, Kitchen Budapest’s animation tells you something you already know, that the capital dominates the country. One in four Hungarians live in the Budapest metropolitan area. At 30 frames per second, each frame represents a single day. One month flashes by in a second. And the animation covers the period from December 1998 until October 2010. Every time a Hungarian town or city is mentioned on the pages of, this digital map of the country pulses. The country bulges to accommodate the waves of news. At the same time the sound – a buzzing harmonic drone – echoes the visual effects.

Undeniably mesmerising, like so many of these attempts to animate data, one is left wondering what it all means. This visualisation boils in two ways – the line flickers in the manner that animators call boiling and the surface of the country bubbles with geothermal energy. There is another,  far less appealing association too: Budapest seems to be constantly erupting like some kind of malignant ulcer. It would be easy to read or misread this project as a kind of objection to the megalopolis. Surely this is not Kitchen Budapest’s intention?