…Imagine This is a Review. Thoughts on: ‘Style First’ by Mieke Gerritzen
In her paperback Style First, graphic artist Mieke Gerritzen directly addresses and confuses the reader by stating that ‘…this book provides no final definition of what style is about.’ Containing articles written by media theorists as well as designers such as Lev Manovich, Hendrik-Jan Grievink and Ned Rossiter, this book provides the reader with different visions within the current discourse on style. The paperback itself is in fact the catalogue of the exhibition ‘Style First’ by Mieke Gerritzen that ran from October 2007 till February 2008 at the MUDAC-Musée de design et d’arts appliqués contemporains.
Although Gerritzen has only included one article written by herself in her book, she is still omnipresent through her design of the lay-out of the articles. This form or style of the catalogue is actually a conversation about style in the contemporary society in itself. One striking division in style can for example be found in the different styles of the three languages in which this book is written. These three parts of the book contain the same articles and therefore share the same content. But while the content of the first -Dutch- part is placed in textboxes with arrows randomly pointing at them, the same content of the second -German- is placed on a background of Asian buildings, posters and pictures. And here we already find the core argument of the book; namely that style is content. The choice of the first Dutch style places the articles in a new media context, while the second German lay-out situates the articles in the context of a rising Asia. Style is a choice one makes and therefore creates meaning. On the page ‘style-making’ we find another example of this concept of style as a choice. While displaying thirty different kinds of toothpastes, the top of the page reads; ‘Style for all! Your choice is your style!’ In his article ‘Style’s cruelty’ Peter Lunenfelt even describes this possession of style as a way to establish hierarchy and as another kind of power.
Although the articles in ‘Style First’ display some interesting ideas and thoughts on the current concept of style, they don’t provide any real answers or any real insight into this matter. The articles challenge the reader to rethink the idea of style and to link ongoing changes in for example Asia to this idea of style. But they do not offer more than that. The articles do not provide any answers or any suggestions to the question which direction this discourse of style is heading or what way it should be heading. On the first page of ‘Style First’ Gerritzen tells us to imagine this catalogue is a magazine and indeed it is. It has the articles, pictures, lay-out and even some interesting content. Personally I would have hoped to gain some more in depth information about this interesting subject, but Gerritzen is right – it is just a magazine.
Gerritzen, Mieke. Style First. Birkhäuser Basel: 2007