“Disrepresentation Now!”- Experimental Jetset

Click here to read Experimental Jetset’s “Disrepresentation Now” Manifesto

Experimental Jetset is a small, independent, Amsterdam-based graphic design studio, founded in 1997, focusing on printed matter and site-specific installations, and describing their methodology as “turning language into objects”. In the early 19th century, Experimental Jetset produced a manifesto titled “Disrepresentation Now” and was written to function within a very specific context.

Experimental Jetset were invited to deliver a lecture at the first AIGA “Voice” convention which was scheduled to take place towards the end of 2001 in Washington DC.  Rather than a lecture, Experimental Jetset planned to do a series of “handouts sessions” distributing sticker sheets which were printed in red blue and black. Wearing these sticker sheets would form different “political parties”, inspired by Washington DC. The created Manifesto was printed on the back of the sticker sheet; its purpose was to clarify their views on Graphic Design. Due to the 9/11 attacks, the conference was cancelled, but the sticker sheets had been printed. Most of the sticker sheets were distributed, but not all; fortunately a German magazine “Perspektive” published the Disrepresentation Now manifesto.

I was familiar with Experimental Jetset beforehand, however discovered their manifesto through a website called “It’s nice that”. I constantly use this to find inspiration, “Championing creativity across the art and design world”. As I was reading the manifesto, I couldn’t help think the meaning was similar to “First things First” by Ken Garland, more so, the 2000 version.  This is because, like First things First, Disrepresentation Now, explores advertising design stating that “advertising is a phenomenon that constantly dissolves its own physical appearance, in order to describe and represent appearances other than itself.”; Whereas “presentative graphic design seems to underline its own physical appearance, even when it is referring to subjects other than itself.”

In the fourth paragraph, the manifesto mentions the 2000 version of First things first, this surprised me. Although this manifesto reminded me of First things first, Experimental Jetset explained “we like to point out that our criticism of advertising is fundamentally different than the criticism expressed in the 2000 First Things First manifesto. Other than the signatories to that manifesto, we see no structural difference between social, cultural and commercial graphic design”.  Experimental Jet believed that design is “tendentious, representative, and thus reactionary, whether it deals with corporate interests or social causes”. The difference between the meanings of this manifesto to the first things first manifesto, is that whatever kind of design it is there is no structural difference, on a fundamental level both aspects are completely alike.

I must admit before the manifesto pointed out the difference in criticism with the First things first manifesto, I would have thought its meaning was generally the same, but in different context.  Experimental Jetset stated that “Re–reading the manifesto now, we fully realize the manifesto would sooner confuse our ideas than clarify them.” They also stated how their ideas had changed since they first created the manifesto such as wishing the title was “Non-Representation” rather than Disrepresentation” and how their work has been moralistic. However, they still feel “connected to their manifesto” in terms of design, and are still interested in design that refers to its own material context.  There work to this day doesn’t include commercial design therefore their views haven’t changed too much.

This manifesto will be used as inspiration for creating my own manifesto because I feel as though it helps show what to do, as well as what not to do.  I personally misinterpreted the concept of the manifesto until it itself stated that it has different views to the First things First manifesto.  Initially it reminded me of Ken Garlands manifesto but I simply assumed it was because I was previously researching him.  However for Experimental Jetset to point how the different views they had in comparison to Ken Garland, in their own manifesto, made me think that I didn’t misinterpret it quite so much.  By researching into this, I found out that since writing the manifesto Experimental Jetset disagree with some of the content and would never use certain words now, such as “functionality” and “amoralism”.  This made me question the content of a manifesto. Since I will be writing my own, I wondered if the same thing will happen to me.  People’s views can change greatly over time. If my views change that I only assume it will be interesting to look back on.