In a near future world after the neo-liberal collapse of the west, a conversation between a journalist and an executive from a leading Chinese Software company discuss what the future means for marginalised groups in a world of artificial intelligence informed by accrued biased historical data.
Currently in development is a film based art project written and directed by Michael Salu, that explores through a speculative narrative what happens to marginalised groups in the near future with artificial intelligence built and informed by inherently biased data.
For more info contact us here
Diverse Voices, New Directions
Remember Godard? How thoughts and monologues would float through conversations and moments of silence. How a political manifesto would be delivered through conversations happening over coffee or through the elusive smoke of a cigarette?
We took the essence of this approach with a short series of videos for a recent promotional exercise commissioned by the British Council in Germany to promote their literature seminar. Words from writers contributing to the seminar, such as Hari Kunzu and Sharon Dodua Otoo were put together with a series of images of interesting characters and faces from around the city of Berlin.
Language is everywhere.
A man alone with the night.
Commissioned specially for Piano Day 2016, Nocturnes is a film exploring intimacy and the procreative power of insomnia.
Piano Day is a worldwide celebration of the Piano founded by Nils Frahm.
The City of London is undergoing rapid transformation. The sand sacks that occur in large numbers on the streets of the city are overlooked by-products of the monumental building works currently reshaping London. This ‘objet trouve’, almost worthless but containing multiple ambiguous meanings is the centre of this work.
Artist and academic Rut Blees Luxemburg, working together with the writer and artist Michael Salu, instigates a series of ‘bill boards’ that feature the ubiquitous sacks.
Continuing our collaborative work, process Blees Luxemburg and I explored the semantic data inherent within our urban landscapes and wondering whether an ephemeral deployment of the most rudimentary but ubiquitous linguistic form [in text and image], can itself be subverted to instead draw attention to the lost intangibles that must survive these city spaces as they evolve and consume without pause.
The Golden Sack exhibition was part of Urban Photo Fest 2016.
Exhibition photos © Stefano Carnell
A compendium of propagated semantics from around the city of Berlin.
Taking advantage of the semantic language of the juxtaposition of text and image, #GraphicGrotesque uses just the existing tools of instagram, text, image and geolocation to produce a portrait of propagation that helps define our urban landscapes. An instagram only art project.
A special commission for Vinyl Me Please “The best damn record club out there” and Nils Frahm for a special limited edition of his already classic album ‘Spaces’.
Nils Frahm uniquely merges classical melodic forms and an underlying modular geometry, which is something these algorithmic images set to echo. Each are generative works that use simple formulas of repetition to create densely layered aesthetics, rather like Nil’s work itself which always appear perfectly formed. Nature has an inherent algorithmic structure whether that be the composition of a plant or that of a sound.
Spaces also led to thinking about the use of negative space, or space being as important to a work be that sound or image.
The artworks are also available as limited edition fine art prints via our new store
Before 'Post truth' and 'fake news' became common vocabulary, in late 2015 Michael Salu gave a talk on The Economy of Deception.
Our lives are massively bombarded by images. Should we celebrate that fact or dread its consequences? As a creator of images, Michael Salu is interested in deception they provoke and how each one of use is able to utilise the language of propaganda.
Can communication through images and our advancement with digital experiences actually help us reach a greater level of empathy for each other, or are we doomed to being controlled through obfuscation?
We have launched a refreshed digital content strategy for Granta Magazine to reinvigorate the leading literary magazine.
A new look for the website is supported with a new app, as the new digital home for the entire Granta Magazine archive.
The design of the site is inspired by the classic formal arrangement and style of information on early twentieth-century british newspapers and Granta Magazine’s own printed magazine. The focus here was to ensure a classic visual arrangement worked well with a fluid, responsive UI that makes for a successful website today. The font style is also based on Granta’s long running print typography driven by Plantin, for a reading first website.
Creative and digital direction for the Abraaj Group Art Prize. This featured a complete identity including a bespoke typeface and a web app we installed within the exhibition that featured works from Anup Mathew Thomas, Bouchra Khalili, Basim Magdy, Abbas Akhavan and Kamrooz Aram.
Everything you see was created from the same single indo-islamic architectural grid, from the bespoke typography, to the interface for the web app and more.
Cinematography by Jacob Robinson.
“One may say that the Negro in America does not really exist, except in the darkness of our minds.”
Shot in a single unscripted take, Yesterday is personal reflection on the hypersexualised and lucrative commodity of the black male image. Globally, yet most explicitly in America, the image or representation of the black male forms many of the building blocks of the economic infrastructure and gains of today’s consumer class. From a privatised penitentiary system, right through to corporate conglomerates such as Apple, the image and the narrative of the black male is that of an indefatigable commodity within the American dream. This is probably most explicitly witnessed within the evolution of Hip Hop over the last twenty years from street-level oratory urgency and anger to becoming the defacto, benign middle class corporatised ‘urbanity’. High fashion's appropriation of said urbanity and even the proliferation of ‘ebonics’ within internet vernacular also adds to this discourse of a perpetually prolific commodification.
Yet, but no different to ‘yesterday’, the black male image is almost completely disconnected from its lucrative economic value, increasingly so today given the top heavy trickle down from the large corporations buying up the language of the street and reselling their own voices back to them at a 500% mark up. Brilliantly re-affirming the unattainability of the American Dream.
The sheen of high fashion markets the parallel tropes of fear and desire of the black image back to us, the broader consumer market led principally by white male patriarchy allow us to consume this image, adopt its stance and its language, without ever really thinking about its restricted social or economic position within our globalised consumer society. The ‘Thug Life’ meme phenomena is an acute observation of this reality.
The sheen of high production and inevitable inherently politicised sexuality also masks the core experience within this film. We do not see this male’s real experiences beyond the mediatised (desired or demonised) version of him. We do not see him vulnerable, or lonely, or even just having a haircut. Even the hair that is being cut comes with an inherent mystery still prevalent in conversation as why try to understand what dreadlocks are.
The film could only be really made once, as such a ritual would take another ten years or so to reproduce organically calling into question the relevance of materiality or authenticity. The ritual itself takes a flagellatory stance, questioning the codes of representation and ultimately the futility of chasing a visual representation of identity within an image culture the black male has little control of.
Asked within the film through its length, subject and static frame, is whether socio-economic position of blackness is escapable? Can there ever be a psychological reprieve from something systematically part of the foundations of how our modern world was built? Can you sit with this film through its banal duration and maybe also reflect on that which is inescapable from the black male who can not click away or close the browser window, as witnessed in the lives of many and those we’ve seen through the mediatised filter witness their own end through this hegemony. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Trayvon Martin. They were clearly not cut in on the deal and nor could they just look away.
significant part of our new digital strategy for Granta was thinking about how we could make real use of Granta’s unrivalled literary archive.
Granta has much of the best writing and photography from the last 30 years, an archive that traces the modern course of literature as a whole. To refresh this content and bring it to a new audience, we devised a new cross platform app to house the entire archive accessible via a one of subscription sign up. It the first iteration which we hope will grow and expand.
We work closely with editor and writer John Freeman to art direct and art edit his new literary journal Freeman's. From developing a strong cover style, to poetic promotional films, we'll be helping Freeman's establish their position as the freshest and most urgent voice in literary publishing.
Design for the paperback and hardback editions of Ben Lerner's 10:04.
We create a distinct brand identity and digital strategy for new a new lifestyle and travel brand bring to the fore how to have an exapnsive and rich experience of the real progressive Africa.
A selection of 3d sculptures and concepts by Michael Salu inspired by the poetry of Ben Lerner.
We created special artwork based on Return of the Prodigal Son, by Batoni, Pompeo Girolamo for this very contemporary novel by first time author Greg Jackson about a listless decadent generation.
“People are bullets, fired,” the narrator declares in one of the wild, searching stories that make up Greg Jackson's Prodigals. A filmmaker escapes New York, accompanied by a woman who may be his therapist, as a violent storm bears down. A lawyer in the throes of divorce seeks refuge at her seaside cottage only to find a vagrant girl living in it. A dilettantish banker sees his ambitions laid bare when he comes under the influence of two strange sisters. A group of friends gathers in the California desert for one last bacchanal, and a journalist finds his visit to the French country home of a former tennis star taking a deeply unnerving turn.
Strivers, misfits, and children of privilege, the restless, sympathetic characters in Jackson's astonishing debut hew to passion and perversity through life's tempests. Theirs is a quest for meaning and authenticity in lives spoiled by self-knowledge and haunted by spiritual longing. Lyrical and unflinching, cerebral and surreal, Prodigals maps the degradations of contemporary life with insight and grace, from the comedy of our foibles, to the granular dignity of experience, to the pathos of our yearning for home.
We wondered if it was possible to reinvent the ‘author photo’. Could we push them intro the realm of art with timeless portraits? For Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists, we asked the inimitable Nadav Kander these same questions and to our delight he was up for the challenge.
The end result is a beautiful collaboration, Granta Magazine were able to use as their writers were touring the globe. The project was also featured in the New York Times. We’re very proud of this work and still grateful to Nadav.
We devised a marketing campaign for Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists announcement, which only commences once every ten years. The campaign need an image, one that was celebratory, yet tongue-in-cheek and could be deployed across all the marketing activities. the imagery was consequently used across the world for for the whole of 2013/2014 by Granta and the British Council, as they took the eclectic group of writers to speak to the masses. Photography by Bruno Drummond. Concept and art direction by Michael Salu.
We also devised a bespoke portrait campaign shot by Nadav Kander,
Bill poster concept proposal for Maclehose Press.
Original collages created in house.
Concept and artwork for Ben Lerner's brilliant 'Leaving the Atocha Station'. The artwork was all created from manually mutating details of The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch (not that it needed it).
Some sculptural concept work around climate change for Oliver Morton.
We’re true film lovers and the Curzon square brackets came from us looking for a signification of ‘a secondary meaning’ which you see amidst the countless metaphors, and allegories in Curzon’s thought provoking cinema and events. The Curzon brand playful brand language started here.
We began with creating a flexible, coherent identity for the brand. Curzon is a creative business with a diverse range of content and events and consequently required a flexible but coherent identity and brand structure for the business.
We’ve helped evolve the brand over the years to ensure it fits the rapidly changing way we enjoy and share content, from creating the widely distributed CURZON Magazine, to consulting on how the core values of the Curzon brand is expressed across the business to both customer and industry on and offline. From digital to interiors, we have provided guidance and ideas to enable to brand to grow endless as Curzon expands its cinemas and content across the country and the world beyond.
Our initial brand identity was featured in Brand Identity Essentials published by Rockport.
A series of animations created to launch the Granta Magazine Feminism issue. Creative direction was provided by michael Salu devising a way of bringing short form literature to a wider audience.
Based on a short story by Roberto Bolano in Granta Magazine's Horror issue, this HTML5 graphic novel project was created to draw more attention to the short story.
The allegorical nature of Roberto Bolaño’s story in Granta 117: Horror, which follows a ‘zombie’ B movie as seen late at night by the narrator, led us to think about societal metaphors of infection and revolution. Which in turn made audible whispers from a voice with much to say on these matters, the late Gil Scott-Heron:
As Wall Street goes, so goes the nation. And here’s a look at the closing numbers – racism’s up, human rights are down, peace is shaky, war items are hot – the House claims all ties. Jobs are down, money is scarce – and common sense is at an all-time low with heavy trading. Movies were looking better than ever and now no one is looking because, we’re starring in a ‘B’ movie.
Lyric excerpted from ‘B Movie’ from the album Reflections by Gil Scott Heron.
D&ad award winning art direction by Michael Salu.
A recording of a miniature psychosomatic digital world created by Michael Salu and inspired by stories from Granta 110: The Sex Issue. These film vignettes riff on the published short stories and become brief narratives in themselves. Created to remind us that literature still provides the greatest source of visual inspiration, it was launched in conjunction with the print edition of Granta
Created in collaboration with director's Luke Seomore & Joseph Bull and developer Theo Tillberg.
Art Direction and series design for the work of Fred D'Aguair.
Illustrations by Santtu Mustonen
Whilst thinking about art directing this issue, we thought about why women need to subscribe to the formulaic representations of femininity. This is of course a very broad discourse but within that we rarely talk about the magazine cover formula.
Concept and art direction: Michael Salu
Concept and creative direction by Michael Salu of a promotional animation for Cruel Britannia by Ian Cobain. We wanted to explore how to deal with very serious high level political exposes of torture and rendition without sensationalisation.
Curated for the 'Britain' issue of Granta Magazine in 2012, Michael Salu invited 20 different artists to submit a single piece of work responding to the notion of British Identity. Featuring works from the likes of Yinka Shonibare (MBE), Ian Teh, Mishka Henner and Edmund Clark alongside a number of younger and emerging artists. A rhetorical exercise, but seemingly prescient given the now seismic changes in the country and the questions being asked by all.
"Each of us gamely hacked away at the stationary ball, trying to will it across the swamp-like quagmire that once resembled a football pitch. Whilst berating my teammate for straying offside and ruining my goal-scoring moment, I heard our coach shouting from the sidelines. Same voice, but very different tone from the pull-your-finger-out-or-you’re-running-laps-after-the-match thundering that we were used to and mostly ignored. This was different. There was an urgency and anxiety I hadn’t heard before. The sheets of rain and my mud-filled ears made what was being said difficult to decipher, but the coach’s gesticulations and the sight of both teams leaving the field made me realize something serious was afoot."
Extract from 'Home' an essay about the project by Michael Salu
Further information about the project can be found here
Great cinema is all about ideas. Universal ideas and themes that an individual can engage with. We were approached by SODA Pictures to help evolve the company’s overall brand presence to encompass its ever expanding catalogue of film and artistic endeavours at the commemoration of their ten year anniversary.
The impressive range of world and independent cinema offered by Soda Pictures is its immediate selling point. The content, created to inspire, invoke conversation and provoke thought is what we wanted to echo in the Soda Pictures identity.
An ongoing 3D digital art project by Michael Salu. Watch as we gradually build an intravenous world.
A digital sculpture. Some concept work, focusing on a constantly shifting continent.
A little commentary of modern warfare [which never ends] for Granta Magazine. Concept and art direction by Michael Salu, set design and photography by Bruno Drummond.
A series of work by Michael Salu exploring the language of surveillance and interchangeable digital identity.
Cover art created for Granta's Travel issue by Michael Salu 2013.
An editorial commission, illustrating a short story.
Available as a limited edition screenprint. Contact us for info.
Generative artwork by Michael Salu. Produced from one single circle.
Fictitious album covers by Michael Salu for a feature in collaboration with Brantly Martin for Grey Magazine.
Typographic solution by Michael Salu for the Cees Nooteboom collection. A day and night series for print and ebook.
Concept and art direction for Katherine Faw Morris' debut novel. Photography by Bruno Drummond.
Creative direction and art editing for the Britain issue of Granta by Michael Salu. Curated for the issue was a feature through which he invited twenty different artists to respond to what British identity meant to them. The cover was created in collaboration with Sir Paul Smith. Featured in Varoom Magazine.
Blood and Milk should never mix. Right?
Photography by Frederic Fontenoy
Art direction by Michael Salu.
Inspired by the meeting of the waters (a part of the Amazon river).
Art direction and illustration: Michael Salu
A collage created from found vernacular photography. Riffing on the title of this issue of Granta Magazine, the collage was inspired by Dante's Inferno. Art direction and design by Michael Salu.
A collaboration with St Bride Print Library. How to really capture what we used to use to capture memories. Concept and Art Direction by Michael Salu.
Illustrations for Grey Magazine 2012.
Michael Salu commissioned a unique piece of art from the Chapman Brothers for the Horror issue of Granta Magazine. Delivered on an antiquated parchment was an exquisitely drawn visceral mass of 'otherness'. The issue was art directed and art edited all the way through with a full story contribution from Kanitta Meechubot and a number of illustrations from the likes of Oat Montien and even Michael Salu. The issue was covered in both the Design Observer and in a self-penned article for Granta Magazine and another in Varoom Magazine.
Grey Magazine is published biannually as an oversized hardcover, printed in Italy.
A series style created for novelist Donald Antrim. Creative direction by Michael Salu and illustrations by Matthew Green.
Collage illustration created for the cover of the Granta issue themed 'Aliens' which explore displacement and identity back in 2011. Printed on silver foil, for added ethereality.
Original images created for the cover of the Granta Medicine issue by Michael Salu. Combining illustration with projection and photography. Photos by Nadage Meriau.
A series style designed by Michael Salu for Chris Adrian with paintings courtesy of artist James Jean.