Thursday, 4:13pm
28 June 2012

A graphic haven in the heart of Berlin [extract]

Grafic Europe

Berlin, 14–16 October 2004

As one would expect of an international business venture, Grafic Europe’s second conference created a haven in the heart of troubled Berlin, flushed with warmth and humour and success. This detachment from the real ‘Berlin experience’ (you have to be a resident to know it) is significant, since location and dislocation were central themes of the conference.

Organiser Alice Twemlow put together a programme of speakers who not only had ‘star value’ but also who had the potential to address their relationship to place as well as the second theme which was craft. The implicit link was that both locality and craft are under threat from technology and the sameness brought about by cultural and commercial globalisation, both actually and metaphorically.

Presentations from more than 30 international speakers covered a panoramic, inspirational collection of work and ranged in delivery from humble, mumbly, apologetic and stern, to the cocky, passionate, witty and evangelical. ‘Locality and craft’ came and went in waves, present enough to be interesting, but not seriously engaging to the extent that one could say issues were explored in any connected way, and in spite of the evident compering skills of Aidan Walker, the breathless tempo of the programme allowed only a token gesture towards delegate participation. Perhaps this classic gala style conference format is not conducive to serious theoretical debate.

Rick Poynor (Twickenham), somewhat caricaturing a ‘pro-technology’ position, lamented the losses brought about by these networked and technological times. Pointing out that there is no substitute for a real sense of place and moment he welcomed the return of the hand-made gesture in design. [...]