Residents: Inside the Iconic Barbican Estate

As both a professional photographer and resident of the Barbican Estate resident, Anton Rodriguez has combined his passions to make the excellent Residents: Inside the Iconic Barbican Estate. The book explores the interiors and inhabitants of 22 flats; a sun-drenched blend of iconic modernist furniture and personal stories. There's also an essay by Katie Treggiden, looking at the history of the site and exploring why there is such an interest in peeking behind those curtains. It's a wonderful book about a wonderful place – probably the closest you'll get to actually living their yourself. 


Neil Gaiman on cities

"For now cities sleep. But there are rumblings. Things change. And what if, tomorrow, cities woke, and went walking? If Tokyo engulfed your town? If Vienna came striding over the hill toward you? If the city you inhabit today just upped and left, and you woke tomorrow wrapped in a thin blanket on an empty plain, where Detroit once stood, or Sydney, or Moscow? Don't ever take a city for granted. After all, it is bigger than you are; it is older; and it has learned how to wait …"

— Neil Gaiman, Cities are not people (found in the SimCity 2000 library)


Since reopening last year, York Art Gallery has become one of the finest galleries in the country, with some fantastic permanent and temporary collections. A great example of this is Flesh, a major exhibition looking at how artists represent flesh (often in rather unpleasant ways – the show could easily have been called Meat). The word gets bandied about a lot and is almost meaningless these days, but this is curation at its finest, with work from the likes of Bacon, Jen Davis, Degas, Sarah Lucas, Steve McQueen, Bruce Nauman, Rubens and John Stezaker all skillfully selected, arranged and juxtaposed. Catch it while you can – it only runs until 19 March.



"Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come."

— Matt Groening, Life in Hell

Alexay Kondakov

I keep seeing Alexay Kondakov pictures all over the web at the moment (although ironically, not in the real world), so I thought I'd pick out a few of my favourites. To those not familair with his work: he basically places characters from classical paintings into contemporary urban settings, imbuing the figures with a new seediness and violence. As well as some deft Photoshoppery, the real beauty of these is in the well-observed pairing of painting, location and lighting. I particularly like the comic shop one – those looks of indifferent superiority are absolutely spot on.


Black & Chrome

The black and white  – sorry, black and chrome – version of Mad Max: Fury Road is finally coming to the big screen this April (a good excuse to appreciate Changethethought's wonderful heavy-type poster). It may seem like a trivial adjustment, but going black and white can change a film in unexpected ways. For example, Frank Darabont's superior cut of The Mist feels more like a particularly excellent episode of The Outer Limits. And if you watch Saving Private Ryan or Raiders of the Lost Ark with the colour turned right down, it somehow seems more realistic, closer to the imagery of the era that we're most familiar with. Anyway, this is apparently George Miller's preferred version of the film, so it'll be interesting to see how it differs. It looks wonderfully, appropriately oily.

Mummy Brown

In the latest episode of fabulous design podcast North v South, there's a big discussion about how designers use colour. There's some mention of the origin of pigments, pre-Pantone, and one particularly gruesome bit of trivia is mentioned. Mummy Brown, a rich brown pigment popular amongst the Pre-Raphaelites, was made by literally grinding up Egyptian mummies. It's impossible to tell which specific paintings it appears in, but it's believed that Martin Drolling's L’interieur d’une cuisine is a particularly good example of it in use. Here's what Wikipedia has to say on the matter:

Mummy brown was originally made in the 16th and 17th centuries from white pitch, myrrh, and the ground-up remains of Egyptian mummies, both human and feline. As it had good transparency, it could be used for glazes, shadows, flesh tones and shading. However, in addition to its tendency to crack, it was extremely variable in its composition and quality, and since it contained ammonia and particles of fat, was likely to affect other colours with which it was used. It fell from popularity during the 19th century when its composition became more generally known to artists. The Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones was reported to have ceremonially buried his tube of Mummy Brown in his garden when he discovered its true origins. By 1915, one London colourman claimed that he could satisfy the demands of his customers for twenty years from one Egyptian mummy. 

Mummy Brown eventually ceased being produced in the mid-20th century when the supply of available mummies was exhausted … what a strange sentence to type. Anyway, for more on the history of pigments and cat-grinding, check out The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair.

Michael Crichton on writing/editing

“In my experience of writing, you generally start out with some overall idea that you can see fairly clearly, as if you were standing on a dock and looking at a ship on the ocean. At first you can see the entire ship, but then as you begin work you’re in the boiler room and you can’t see the ship anymore. All you can see are the pipes and the grease and the fittings of the boiler room and, you have to assume, the ship’s exterior. What you really want in an editor is someone who’s still on the dock, who can say, Hi, I’m looking at your ship, and it’s missing a bow, the front mast is crooked, and it looks to me as if your propellers are going to have to be fixed.”

— Michael Crichton, The Art of Editing

Tickets please

Fans of ephemera design will be excited to learn that Shelf Heroes (splendid indie film magazine) have started a new collection on twitter: cinema tickets. Old and new, they're wonderful little fragments of culture interpreted as awkward, functional design. It seems unlikely that cinema tickets – or cinemas – will exist for much longer, so this collection is rather poignant. Follow @tkts_plz for more.

The Force Awakens

I Am Shark have just announced a 2xLP collector’s edition release of John Williams' Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens score, with four gatefold sleeves illustrated by the consistently splendid Dan Mumford. And dear crikey, they're beautiful. Only 500 copies will be available of each design – all of which will have sold out by the time I've decided which one I want. Decisions decisions …