Commissioned in 2019, the original visual identity for Rehearsing Hospitalities was designed by Elina Holley, a designer and creative strategist based in Helsinki. The identity concept emphasised upon ideas of connectedness, variations and moving parts–a reflection of the curatorial concept.
I joined Frame in August 2021 in the role of Communications Officer. I thought this to be a good opportunity for the Rehearsing Hospitalities identity to evolve and sought to refresh it in tandem with the curatorial steps. Every year since its inception the curators have sought to expand the conversation, in 2019, by questioning epistemic hospitalities, looking into access to knowledge and its production in 2020, and by examining entanglements in hospitality, care, safety and security in 2021. In 2022, the programme further explored ways of redistribution of power and resources, and finally in 2023, leading up to the critical position of re-turning to and diffracting from [Karen Barad] the questions previously raised.
Considering the needs and usage of the identity, and through conversation with the curators, one could see a potential for dynamism, and possible transfiguration, as in ‘change in form’. Not only does the evolving curatorial approach warrant this transfiguration, but the targeted, niche audiences are also able to follow the changing identity without the event losing out on any value or memorability. Considering the channels and audiences, we were almost always talking to people who already follow us, and are already interested in our events. Rather than being coercive, the identity became more of a message carrier since those who participate in the event are more likely to be interested in the artworks presented or the themes being discussed.
Broadly, Contemporary Art, site/time-specific or not, has to reckon with its commodification to a certain extent. It is caught within the demands of the post-modern attention economy and is unable to disengage itself from digital platforms and the subsequent implications of platform capitalism. It is, in a sense, competing with the plethora of visual information we are bombarded with. Removing ourselves entirely from this competitiveness would result in less visibility, less proliferation, and eventually a near-complete disappearance. A big part of the public in ‘public programme’ exists on said platforms and distancing ourselves from them would reinforce the bubble within which Western contemporary art already resides.
This contradiction brought me to the transfiguration – trying to balance dynamism and change with familiarity and recognisability. Certain aspects of the original identity were transfigured, while other elements were unchanged.
I started playing with the identity, when I joined Frame, 2 years into the RH programme. My intention was to initiate the evolution process with small changes that adapted the identity to the curatorial concept. In 2021, Rehearsing Hospitalities bridged hospitality and access with matters of security and safety, stating that “[...] Hospitality, care, safety and security are matters intrinsically entangled [...] these are foundational aspects of the work of curating.”
The curatorial intent of the programme was reflected mostly through typographical changes from the point of view of accessibility. The spaces between letters, words and lines were expanded, giving more breathing room and improving legibility. A change in background colours, from the original stark white to a soft peach in spring and a barely-grey in autumn, softened the contrasts which furthered the sense of comfort and thus safety and security.
In 2022, the programme focused on practices that deal with the redistribution of power, wealth, and resources within the art field and society at large. The dynamics of power between hosts and guests were brought into question to a certain extent. To mirror this in the identity, I tried to quite literally break apart and ‘redistribute’ the graphic elements which formed the larger pattern. Breaking the pattern into smaller units represented a ‘breaking of hegemonies’. The fragmented elements were then distributed around the visual space in an equal-ish way. They were made to look skeletal and transparent, to highlight the structural-ness being examined through the curatorial approach. The typography changed to all-caps in an attempt to draw attention to the urgency inherent in the topics and artworks presented.
In fall 2022, along with the curators and production design team at UniArts Helsinki, I also took upon the design of the exhibition space, panel discussion stages and furniture styling. The main space had to be multi-functional, with three screens and a panel to accommodate upto 12 people. Working with stage manager Marja Zilcher at the theatre academy, and the production team at Frame, we managed to design a space where the diagonally oriented audiences could have almost 270 degrees of visibility and were able to view the panelists, their presentations as well as live mind-maps by Yvonne Billimore.
For the furniture, we were given access to the store rooms of the Theatre Academy which were a huge repository of old furniture, lighting, carpets and other antiques which added character and tied together the look of the indoor as well as outdoor spaces of the venue.
The space design also involved designing the tech production, the placement and communication between various screens, speakers, projectors and other equipment. Further, it involved continuous AV content management, i.e. planning, supervising and casting the content across all locations at the venue along with livestreams.
The final year of the programme saw a realignment of roles, with Frame becoming more of a collaborator and sharing/redistributing its hosting responsibilities among various partners. The programme was split across three cities, London, New York and Oslo. The visual identity needed the capacity to merge with more diverse styles of visuals, emerging from collaborators and contributors. Acting upon the problematicness of hosting, it had the possibility to take a larger step away from its original look and feel, to reflect the new partnerships and a critical re-examination of Frame’s own position in the contemporary art context. The three-way programme split gave rise to the need for three sub-identities, that are connected but distinct, reminiscent of the previous editions but also showcasing a significant change, especially taking into account the new partnerships.
As the programme curators Yvonne Billimore and Jussi Koitela say, “The 2023 programme revisits some of the central threads explored in the past years including ways of knowing, questions of access and security, and the hostility of hospitality. It presents practices that correspond with these matters, turning in new directions”
Taking a lead from the curatorial intent, the visual transformation is based on the concept of ‘re-turning’ and ‘diffracting’ which are explained by Karen Barad –“not [by] returning as in reflecting on or going back to a past that was, but re-turning as in turning it over and over again – iteratively intra-acting, re-diffracting, diffracting anew [...] Diffraction is not a set pattern, but rather an iterative (re)configuring of patterns of differentiating-entangling.”
Instagram carousel with grand statistics about the programme:
Some photos from gathering in fall 2022, shot by Sheung Yiu –