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Bruce Mau: Life Style Hardcover – January 11, 2000
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Each day, the average Western citizen sees, assimilates, and recognizes 16,000 logos. Chances are that Bruce Mau has been involved in the creation, evolution, and/or devolution of many of them. But calling Bruce Mau a graphic designer would be akin to calling Mae West a playwright--technically correct, but oh-so-limiting.
This mammoth catalogue raisonné of Mau's graphic work (which only Phaidon Press has the resources, and the patience, to produce) is the much-anticipated follow-up to the 1995 sensation S, M, L, XL that Mau coauthored with renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. Nearly as big, but much more colorful, Life Style offers a compendium of thoughts on the conflicts and conundrums that so perplex concerned aesthetes in Western civilization, including suburban sprawl, ecological threats, the implications of identity creation, and the role of the graphic arts in architecture and design.
Trying to pin down this huge undertaking to only a few highlights would be a disservice to a man who counts such luminaries as Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, John Cage, Michael Snow, Meg Stuart, and Chris Marker as friends and colleagues. The center section alone, which recounts and reprints the celebrated spreads from his publishing venture Zone Books, would be worth the price: "The times were extraordinary--the middle 1980s, the height of American yuppie culture gorging itself on wealth. The Macintosh computer had only just been introduced and was making itself felt in the world of typography by virtue of its capacity to distort fonts. It would eventually transform the field of design, disseminating expertise and clustering capacities vertically. Faxes and FedEx were making possible a new level of international collaboration that would soon put a Toronto designer at the center of a transatlantic project. That project was Zone."
The collaboration at Zone Books enabled some of the most provocative book projects ever seen, and they are reproduced faithfully in Life Style (although one might need a magnifying glass to get the most out of them). Zone was the first and most satisfying of Mau's team projects, and the pleasure of its success is apparent in the book. But readers will find much more of interest documented here, including his revolutionary stint at I.D. Magazine; his brilliant realization of a book version of the underground, classic sci-fi thriller "La Jetée"; and his ideas for information interchange at several major architectural projects, including right here in Seattle, working with his friend Koolhaas in building the controversial new Seattle Public Library.
All things considered, this major book will leave some readers furious at Bruce Mau's audacity and others aghast at his cross-disciplinary influences. I doubt that there's anyone working in design today who has had quite his impact. This book is a beautifully realized celebration of that impact, and very much worth the wait.
By the way, Phaidon has produced this book with eight different and gorgeous fabric covers. Yours might differ from our rather inadequate representation on the site. As with S, M, L, XL, I predict that some day all of them will be (ahem) "coollectors'" items. --Charles Decker
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Bruce Mau's Life Style is an imaginative survey of how the world is being transformed under the inexorable impetus of global capitalism. It is not a dispassionate account: basically Mau is trying to show us how he is dealing with a very fundamental existential dilemma. Because, as a successful designer, Mau is part of the system - developing and spreading the lingua franca of a global economy. At the same time he is rebelling against the pervasive homogenisation of our image culture: "We should not forget that the com after the dot is short for commercial. Must we define every gesture and possibility within this envelope? Is it not our role to imagine new futures more rich and complex and wild in their style than any single framework can accomodate?"
Yhe book is a captivating mix of artwork and short insightful essays. Sanford Kwinter's introductory three-page essay alone is worth the price of the book. I gather this book will be very influential in the years to come.
We're exposed and there's no shelter. If we want to survive sanely, we better learn to differentiate between the sublime and the ridiculous.
What BMD does, is serious. They know what they're doing and, most probably, they are among the very best in visual/conceptual design in the world. This book is a huge pleasure to go through, just peeping at the pages. But then, once you start reading, it becomes clear that this is not Disney or any sort of escapism - rather, it's anti-consumer, in the sense that the text URGES you to reconsider your comfortable stance of the by-looker and go out and get real about the stuff that goes into your head by way of your eyes.
We have to become active in creating a more responsible graphic/architectural/sensual surrounding; otherwise we'll all be homoequals soon.
Thank you, Bruce - and team, of course, for an insightful tome of words and pictures and simply great design which I'll never forget.
One thing. On my visit to a design book store, I realized that this book has several versions of cover. One is light blue, but there are atleast beige, red, pink, black, and also there seems to be variations in the pattern. The contents are all the same, and I don't know if there's any way of specifying the ones that you want, but it'll be better if you can.
Buy it anyway. It's got too much good work inside to ignore, but keep some salt handy.
(p.s. indigo.ca was allowing people to choose their cover; they may still be doing that)
The inspirational tome (or semi-manifesto) is a beautiful object on par with the Tolleson book (Soak Wash Rinse Spin) and leagues beyond Cahan's I Am Almost Always Hungry.
In all, this is an overhyped, well-made product, worth seeing/having as an object of production.
Just like the other "S,M,L,XL" with the also overrated work of the overrated "modern" architect Rem Koolhaas, this is just a beautiful object. But hey, I wanted a book!