A Detailed Documentary Traces the Process of Making Artistic Manhole Covers in Japan
There are myriad structures and objects in the built environment that many of us rarely give a second thought to, like the materials that make sidewalks and streets, the pipe systems below the pavement, or the manhole covers that keep those networks secure and provide essential access. In Japan, though, form follows function in a recent tradition of creating manhole covers that feature bold and colorful designs.
Video creators Process X visited the Hinode factory to document the manufacture of the ubiquitous lids from start to finish. Workers first melt metal and stamp the molten material into a form that produces a distinctive raised outline. The covers are then cooled and transported to a station where others hand-paint the details, heat the pigments to create a durable finish, and ready them for installation.
Japan’s aesthetic solution to an otherwise banal infrastructural object is thought to have originated back in the mid-1980s when municipalities were invited to design their own manhole covers, making costly sewerage updates more palatable. Following a handful of local contests and documentation by photographers and publications, the phenomenon continues to add vivid, unexpected designs to everyday surfaces.
Process X documents a wide range of manufacturing systems around Japan and publishes videos regularly on YouTube. (via Kottke)
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Framing Pattern and Symmetry, Unintended Beauty Explores Intricacies of Industrial Spaces
It’s well understood that producing a single book is an arduous task, making it even more impressive that British photographer Alastair Philip Wiper is offering three distinct versions of his newly released work, Unintended Beauty. The monograph is available in three covers—an orange or blue option with architectural and machine focuses and a black one with hanging sausages—created by the design firm, IRONFLAG.
The Copenhagen-based artist has an eye for spotting the sublime complexities inside warehouses, factories, and shipyards of global institutions like Adidas, Boeing, The European Space Agency, and the Swiss research laboratory CERN, where he captured the pattern and symmetry of the industrial spaces. “We create systems, structures and machines that allow us to provide for our lives and answer our questions about the universe. Machines tell the story of our needs and desires, our hopes and follies, our visions for the future,” Wiper said in a statement.
Something I want to do is challenge what people think of as beautiful, because there are a lot of things that you can say are ugly and beautiful at the same time. The title of the book ‘Unintended Beauty’ is meant to be a bit provocative. A lot of beautiful things should have a bit of ugliness to them.
Including a foreward written by theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser and an interview with the artist conducted by Ian Chillag, the 208-page book features 90 full-color images and is printed on Galerie Art Silk paper with a cover of Italian Manifattura del Seveso cotton textile. Unintended Beauty is now available from Hatje Cantz, although each edition has a limited number of copies.
Two exhibitions for the project will open this year, one on February 26 at RIBA, London and another on April 2 at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Bordeaux. Until then, you can keep up with Wiper’s exploration of technical intricacies by following him on Instagram. (via Creative Boom)
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A Sharp Look at the Surprisingly Complex Process of Pencil Manufacturing by Photographer Christopher Payne
Photographer Christopher Payne (previously) spent several years building a relationship with the owners of General Pencil Company in Jersey City, New Jersey, one of the last remaining pencil factories in the United States. His dedication to working with the factory paid off, and between fall 2015 and summer 2017 Payne was granted access to the production floor for photo-documentation more than thirty times.
The photographer, renowned for his cinematic images that show the architectural grace of manufacturing spaces, shares that he has held a lifelong fascination with design, assembly, and industrial processes. “The pencil is so simple and ubiquitous that we take it for granted,” Payne tells Colossal. “But making one is a surprisingly complex process, and when I saw all the steps involved, many of which are done by hand, I knew it would make for a compelling visual narrative.”
Payne received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture, though he has long focused on photography in his professional life. He has published three books and exhibited his work widely, most recently at the Wellcome Collection in London, U.K. and the Museum of the City of New York. You can see more of his work on Facebook and Instagram.
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A Photographic Celebration of America’s Vibrant Textile Industry by Christopher Payne
Typically focusing on obsolete or decrepit architectural structures, photographer Chris Payne‘s most recent project, Textiles, documents the aesthetics of the colorfully-hued American textile industry. His photographs showcase the bright runs of yarn and thread as the materials make their way through the hyper-organized machinery, appearing digitally altered in their extreme hot pinks, vibrant reds, and electric blues.
Payne began photographing the factories and mills in America’s Northeast in 2010. The images are not just snapshots of the industry, but photographs that sometimes took months to catch. Due to the machinery’s continuous run and his inability to halt production, Payne had to wait until the perfect moment when the right color would appear, or the parts of the machinery would perfectly align. Payne also features the workers within his documentation of the diminishing domestic industry, explaining that their inclusion is proof that labor and craftsmanship is still valued in our current economy.
“Over the past five years, I have gained access to an industry that continues to thrive, albeit on a much smaller scale, and for the most part, out of public view,” said Payne. “Many mills are doing quite well, having modernized to stay competitive, while others have survived by catering to niche markets that value the ‘genuine article’ produced on the original, vintage equipment. I view my work as a celebration of American manufacturing—not a eulogy.
Trained as an architect, Payne typically shoots architectural structures using large format documentation to capture America’s industrial landscape. Past projects have included exploring America’s asylums and an uninhabited island named North Brother Island in New York City’s East River. Payne’s Asylum series will appear at Benrubi Gallery on February 11, 2016, and run through March 26, 2016.
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