Will Tweet For Toffieby Kate Desmarais / 15.04.2011
The day before the Toffie Pop Culture Festival I charged my blackberry and rested my thumbs in preparation for the information onslaught I was about to endure. Luckily, the quality of this year’s speakers made my job easy as one-by-one they imparted pitch perfect soundbites that I translated into 140-character gems of knowledge to unleash on the Twitter-verse.
Invariably there were exceptions to the rule. Most memorable being South African artist Francis Burger. Self-described as “anti-intention”, I felt her talk was perfectly summed up when she explained her creative process as being “led by confusion as opposed to logic”. Which makes me think the whole thing may just have been one elaborate performance art piece.
Day 1 began with small talks. As a self-diagnosed internet addict I was interested to hear how local designer Jordan Metcalf had made a conscious decision to stop looking at the internet for inspiration. And although that would make this the perfect platform for me to say something mean about him, I have to say his theory was captivating. Take the time you’d spend looking for references online and use it to create something unique and original instead.
Andrew Putter was the first official speaker, but all I can really remember from that talk was the photograph of Paul Ward dressed as a Dutch settler, amongst many other beautifully styled modern historical portraits.
Kobus van der Merwe is a chef from Paternoster who uses indigenous plants and ingredients to push the boundaries of local cuisine. He draws his inspiration from nature, so where we see granite rock he sees grape sorbet with basil.
The first day concluded with Conn Bertish. The best part about Bertish is that he seemed genuinely grateful for being a creative. He even credits it for saving his life, saying it was his playful thinking that helped him survive the brain tumour he was diagnosed with a few years ago.
The talk also revealed that it was Bertish who was behind all the random, handwritten street pole posters that have been entertaining Capetonians for the past couple of months. Advertising everything from breast milk to secret clubs to axes, the posters were exhibited at the festival, along with the series of strange phone calls the ads received, played in the background.
Day 2 kicked off with South African artist and designer Frauke Stegmann speaking about how her admiration for nature and her desire to create awareness and accountability inspired her latest project “I need time to think about wildlife”.
The green theme continued with architects Sean Mahoney and Pierre Swanepoel of studioMAS, an architectural firm that believes in allowing nature into your design instead of trying to keep it out. Their work also challenges the “instant gratification” mindset of their clients by delivering a product that looks its absolute worst on the day it is handed over.
The first international speaker was Swedish designer Jürg Lehni. Creator of Vectorama.org and Scriptographer.org, Lehni deals with the nuances between technology, tools and the human condition. He wowed the audience with Hektor, Viktor and Rita, his insane art making contraptions controlled by algorithms. It’s all very complicated and impressive.
And then came Richard De Jager. My thumbs couldn’t move fast enough to tweet the gems pouring out of this man’s mouth. From “rugby chic”, “garbage chic”, “robbery chic”,“telephone chic”… the list goes on. De Jager had the crowd in stitches as he spoke about the absurd nature of what it is he does. It was obvious that De Jager doesn’t take himself or the industry too seriously, as illustrated by the name of his latest collection: Wie gaan hierdie kak dra? But at the same time De Jager creates work which is cutting edge and innovative. Even if it is just a toasted sandwich on a rock star’s head.
Javier Lourenco, Creative Director of visual studio Flamboyant Paradise showed us his short film “The Blindness of the Woods”. Themes included: love, betrayal and bestiality. All performed by puppets. Or humans dressed as puppets. Or humans dressed as puppets that look like humans. Whatever it was, it was awesome.
Saturday morning featured the mindfuck that was Francis Burger, followed by South African musician Smiso Zwane of Dirty Parrafin who played us some of his videos from YouTube. His talk confirmed what I already knew, which is that black people are cooler than white people because they can video tape themselves dancing alone in their rooms and not be considered lame.
The final talks of the festival were delivered by a TRIFECTA of international design superstars: Jonathan Puckey, Alex Trochut and Daito Watanabe.
Jonathan Puckey taught us that “the process is the product” (I’ve quoted this at least 10 times since the conference). It’s not about what you design, but how you design it. But I guess it kind of is about what you design because everything he designs is really good. Go figure. Other highlights from his work included his Delaunay Raster Tool (google it) and One Frame of Fame project.
Where Jonathan and Jürg were all about the tools, Alex Trochut was all about the soul that goes into design. His talk started on a personal note as he shared the design and typography work of his grandfather Joan Trochut with the audience. He then moved onto his own work, taking us through his thorough process shots, allowing us a sneak peek into how great design is made.
The final speaker was Daito Manabe. Artist, designer and researcher, Manabe explores the combination of the body with computers and computer programming. Famous projects include the Nike “Musical Shoes” and his face dancing experiment in which he attaches a series of electrodes attached to his face causing the muscles to twitch.
Overall, Toffie was a festival that not only celebrated people who have original ideas, but people who have enough balls to pull them off.