Book Review #51
(cover) Zero To Five by Akatre 17 x 24 cm
"Libération, 2012" Photograph, "Retromania" by Akatre. From Zero to Five, Copyright Gestalten 2012"
"Sunshine 2012" by Akatre. From Zero to Five, Copyright Gestalten 2012"
"Sphère, 2012" by Akatre. From Zero to Five, Copyright Gestalten 2012"
"Libre art bitre, 2010" Typeface, "Without Face" by Akatre. From Zero to Five, Copyright Gestalten 2012"
"TU Nantes, 2011-2012" Visual Identity, Season 3 by Akatre. From Zero to Five, Copyright Gestalten 2012"
"Mains d'Œuvres, 2009-2010" Visual Identity, Season 3 by Akatre. From Zero to Five, Copyright Gestalten 2012"
I have a theory: we are moving into a post-literate society. As the digital age descends, we usher in a new vocabulary of visual iconography, photographs, typefaces, books, films, posters, and installations all instantly available around the globe, transcending language barriers. That the photograph may speak a thousand words is secondary to the fact that it speaks in all languages at the same time, thus heightening our ability communicate ideas without the use words, thus, slowly rendering them into obsolescence.
History begins with the written word but for more time than not, we lived in a pre-literate societies. All great powers have long known this, using the image to convey meaning, emotion, and propaganda used to reinforce itself. Then came the written word and we held to it as the great equalizer, that which could level the playing field. And it did, until it didn’t and first world cultures began to shift away from verbal literacy with the rise of the Internet. Today we rely on image as never before. No one understands this better than those whose business it is to craft the message, to use image to set the tone, convey the mood, and express a collective sentiment that becomes the purveyor for our fears, wishes, and fantasies.
Akatre was founded in Paris in 2007 by Valentin Abad, Julien Dhivert, and Sébastien Riveron. They work mainly in art, culture, music, fashion and luxury fields and take on projects that require an involved and all-encompassing design approach. Because Akatre does typography, layout, photography, and video themselves, their work requires strong personal and emotional involvement, thereby turning each project into a personal exploration and a part of the studio’s evolution.
Akatre have just published their first book, Zero to Five (Die Gestalten Verlag). In a beautifully designed volume that allows the images to speak on their own, we are given a tour through a collection of work that is at once as classic as it is avant garde. Using the basic frame of a simple and solid composition, the images use content and color as a way to provoke reaction. Consider the seal layered in swaths of auburn hair, at once as glamorous as anything you might find in any fashion magazine. This image was created for the visual identity of season five for Mains d’Oeuvres, an independent art space designed to use art as a catalyst for original thought and community building. Considered within this context, this image holds its rightful place, being equally compelling and absurd, questioning our assumptions by making us unsure of just what it is we think we know in the first place.
In that same vein, we are privy to another image constructed for the visual identity of season 3, a man in a hooded sweatshirt, holding a boombox to his chest, fingers turning a knob, while in place of his head there are leaves sprouting straight out of the sweatshirt. We are invited to create meaning, should we feel it necessary to do so, or to simply enjoy a classically composed portrait lacking the one thing a portrait promises: the face itself. Our assumptions about portraiture, about style, and youth, all o these things are pushed to the side for the joy of opening a new door. We know and do not know at the exact same time and this is what makes the work of Akatre so profound; it subverts meaning by removing meaning from experience itself.
By using upon the power of color and the simplicity of form, Akatre manipulates our experience on purely aesthetic terms. We do not need to “know”, we are simply offered the opportunity to enjoy something as simple as a wall of gumdrops spilling out into the clean white box of the gallery world. This image was constructed for Mood magazine 08, and it gives us pause to consider the purity of visual expression over the content itself.
This is the future of images in a post-literate world: the creation of a brand new space in which we can go beyond meaning itself in search of a new experience that can only be created when aesthetics takes precedence over everything else. Consider the visual identity for La Galerie des galleries, a statue on a pedestal overlaid with a message in blue wire: “Space for Fantasy.” Akatre knows this space well.