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Now by Marian Bantjes
I’m admittedly a latecomer to the cult of the beloved Bantjes but all the praise is well-deserved. Her projects are generous, personal and brazenly beautiful. Her now-annual Valentines—of which Jen was a recipient and IMed: “I basically felt anointed when she added me to the list of the lucky ducks who receive her valentines”— bear the intricacy, reverence and intelligence that she’s known for. It’s clear that no task she undertakes gets less than her full attention—even though she’s in high-demand—so it’s no wonder that this edition has been in the works since January.
True to form, Bantjes took the project and 20x200’s model and made it her own. As you can see in the column to the left here, Now unfolds and grows with every edition size. At 10”x8”, N-O-W runs from top to bottom, partially, deliberately disguised as pattern. At 14”x11”, the text is most legible but evidence of the game at hand leaks into the edges. As the image continues to grow with the print size, NOW is slowly swallowed again, deftly woven into an ornamental tapestry that glows—dizzyingly, seductively, rainbow-bright. While the details in the smaller prints are delicious, splurging on a larger print is duly rewarded.
I asked Marian why she chose “Now” and she replied, cryptically, of course, “[it] can be interpreted by people in different ways…” I’ll take some liberties to guess what it may mean, to me, at least. There are hints, I think, in her hot-off-the presses book, I Wonder, (which is really, truly an object to behold and is available in bookstores and on Amazon) and inspiring TED talk (which you should watch asap). Amongst the table of contents, acknowledgments, dedications and intros, including one by the venerable Stefan Sagmeister, there lies these words from John Ruskin in The Seven Lamps of Architecture: “For we are not sent into this world to do any thing into which we cannot put our hearts.”
To neatly link this quote with “now” is insufficient but still, the idea is this: whatever you’re doing right now, every day, with all your time (or the majority of it at least) should be something that you feel strongly, passionately about, and to be doing anything less, is a waste. Yes, I’m aware of how idealistic, and maybe a little naive, this sounds, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. As Marian confronts, it’s something that’s especially hard to swallow for those of us who do things that have results that are difficult to measure. Unlike, doctors who can count lives saved; teachers who can number students helped, bettered, changed; unlike politicians, scientists and national leaders who can literally see worlds altered by their work, the benefit of the work of artists and designers isn’t always calculable, which makes it easy to dismiss—as individuals and as a society as a whole. Marian continues in her TED talk:
It’s very common for designers and people in the visual arts to feel like we’re not contributing enough. Or worse, that all we’re doing is contributing to landfill. Here I am showing you some pretty visuals and talking about aesthetics but I’ve come to believe that truly imaginative visual work is extremely important in society. Just in the way that I’m inspired by books and magazines of all kinds, conversations I have, movies, so I also think, when I put visual work out there, into the mass media, work that is interesting, unusual, intriguing, work that maybe opens up that sense of inquiry in the mind, that I’m seeding the imagination of the populous, and you just never know who is going to take something from that and turn it into something else. Because inspiration is cross-pollinating… I want as many people as possible to see my work. I actually really feel that it’s worthwhile to spend my valuable and limited time on this earth in this way.