NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 34

Design Today-II

Teschner / The Fragmented Intricacy

Vanina Pinter

The work of Frédéric Teschner has emerged in France, patiently, almost against the mainstream. His resumé is both impeccable and typical of his generation. After graduating from The Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Graphiques, he earned his first stripes in Pierre di Scullio’s studio, and later in Grapus co-founder Pierre Bernard’s Atelier de Création graphique. At the end of 2002, Frédéric Teschner created his own studio, developing a subdued graphic style which addressed French society through its cultural institutions.
Teschner is not a minion of cultur e or a f ollower of contemporary art. He uses his work to challenge new territory, be it a suburb or any other domain. This territorial anchorage also appears in the way he designs artists’ monographes, so as to expose the intentions of his subjects, the challenges they face, the strategies they use to confront society (Cf. Bertille Bak, Evariste Richer, and recently his editorial and graphic approach of Cécile Paris’ work). The distinction is important, shifting focus as it does upon authorial graphic work within public cultural institutions. These institutions are only one option for the graphic designer–albeit one to which French economic circumstances and history have given special prominence – and he could work in a diff erent environment, witness the signage he created for a suburban Police Station near Paris (Plaine Saint-Denis, 2006). Culture is not a business sector, it is an attitude, the depth vouchsafed to a project.
Frédéric Teschner’s work is not easy to apprehend: the reliability and elegance of his graphic language mask its intrinsic complexity. The 2012 Le Havre polyptych is a good example of this intricacy. The five-poster set makes for fragmented reading ; the eye is attracted to minute details at the same time as it vainly seeks a global point of view. To the discontinuity of vision, is added the instability of any posture. The eye of the subject has to shift from his own perspective in the exhibition room to the perspective inside the polyptych. Viewers must resign themselves to losing a form of power upon the object, even to lose the object itself. Any graphic production is ephemeral at best. A visual identity, the design of a website, are doomed to obsolescence. All Frédéric Teschner’s works suggest – in various ways – vulnerable zones, as witnessed in the irregular, distorted typography used in the Force de l’Art 01 catalogue, or his project for Passerelle, Art Center in Brest.
It is impossible to wholly grasp any of his work without considering the circumstances of its commission and reception. To reconstruct the past and the environment requires imagination. The spectators must recreate the abandoned streets of Ivry-sur-Seine as they become immersed in the four enigmatic HQAC posters (High Quality of Art and C ulture) designed for the city. Or they have to decipher the solar sheen of the Midi Festival posters (a music festival in the South of France), to understand how urban « poeture » questions the surface of visible, of everyday things.
Even the title of Teschner’s 2010 poster, « Of Nothing ness as a thing of splendor » e vidences the tensions between the magnificence and instability of graphic art, between the traces of history and the constant recourse to memory during creation. Focusing on posters as potential museum pieces raises the risk of ignoring the importance and pertinence of the booklets, papers, and other free ephemera industriously designed by the artis t for theatres (Gennevilliers), art centers (Chelles, D.C.A), or the townhall of P aris Third Arrondissement).

Let us return to our original description of a work running counter to the mainstream and why we believe it encapsulates Teschner’s work. To recreate the visible, Teschner chooses to stand back. He remains at a distance, imposes a remote point of view, disentangles himself from materialty. The pixel dot becomes the molecular building-block of creation. As he ponders a universe dissolving into digital data, Teschner uses the flow of images from the internet in an endless loop. Contemporary images (and imagination) are both structured by and broken into pixels, a fact the graphic designer uses to build a visual language around the key concept of low resolution. He spreads his vision for the small structures in the heart of the city. The bitmap rendering of the pictures (mostly screenshots) is effected in a minor key. « I could draw a parallel with the minor mode used in music, which suggests a darker, more confused, complex and incomplete feeling of mystery in opposition to the major mode, more assured, cheerful and serene. » The graphist leads the spectator into an ambiguous relationship with the picture. He neither wants to dazzle or curry favor, but rather create a sense of incompleteness, or raise more questions. The assumption of frailty – of our perception of the world and of the r ole of a graphic designer involved in his times – allows him to remain in a state of deliberate uncertainty.
A regular guest of exhibitions, Teschner constantly invents new ways to think of sceno graphy, new ways of staging his work, often in collaboration with his long-time accomplice, architect Pierre-Jorge Gonzalez. He questions graphic design as a critical area. The graphist invites curators, writers to broaden its reflection of his discipline field.
For the past few months (since Sept . 2014), Teschner’s posters for the Nanterre Theatre house – a Parisian stage tucked away behind La Défense – have been iluminating passageways in the underground railway. The posters are a synthesis of the «vision éclatée» (fragmented vision) elaborated by the graphist. The French word « éclat » both means « fragment form a shattered body » and « intensit y of a bright , dazzling light ». To illuminate is to shar e ideas – in this case the production of a living arts scene – and at the same time to break up constraints or expose flaws. Like a stage curtain, the posters warn us of the unsettling lights on a contemporary stage.

Translation from French by Ann Owens

Vanina Pinter

teaches history and critical studies of graphic design at Le Havre School of Art and Design (ESADHaR). She takes part in Une Saison Graphique — annual festival of graphic design— as co-organizator and co-curator of the event. Vanina has co-signed various contemporary exhibitions of graphic design for Une Saison Graphique such as Lieux Commun/Jocelyn Cottencin (2010), Julian House (with Jean-Michel Géridan, 2013), Pangramme/Fanette Mellier (with Yann Owens, 2014), Occur Books/Frédéric Tacer (2015). And Impressions Françaises (Chaumont, 2007) and Graphisme et architecture (Lille, 2010) along with Etienne Hervy. Former co-editor in chief of Étapes : magazine, Vanina currently writes about contemporary graphic design, with texts such as Architecture en noir et blanc, Ludovic Balland and Double Face/Laurent Fétis for étapes :, Barnbrook for Galerie Anatome, Across the grid, Frédéric Teschner for Fransciscopolis Editions, Signalétiques for Graphisme en France,… and more recently, various texts for the french online review

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