NO NEWS NEWS #8
EX LIBRIS
APRIL 4, 2021
ALIKE BUT DIFFERENT

Seeing double? Welcome to the club. We’ve been eyeing doppelgängers, look-alikes and twins for the past few weeks. All in preparation for this issue. But rather than serving you straight-up like-for-like fodder, we decided to get a different grip on the subject. That’s why this issue of No News News features the very singular Jamaican producer, musician and artist Lee “Scratch” Perry, as well as an interview with the world’s biggest collector of rare vintage Helmut Lang – among others. Plus: We’ve partnered up with LA-based art and fashion magazine Autre for our first foray into print.

No News News #8 featuring: Christian Werner, Kaitlyn Veronica, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Louise Bourgeois, Maya & Nona, Michael Kardamakis, Olive Duran, Philipp Hindahl, Sina Lesnik, @whos____who

 
 

EDITORIALBY HANS BUSSERT

TWO’S A CROWD, THREE’S A PARTY

When we started working on this issue, I found myself coming back to a portrait that my friend Bruno gave me some years ago. In it, a baseball player in half profile, with his head tilted slightly upwards, raises his gloved left hand in anticipation of a ball he is about to catch. Add to that an ’80s-style baseball hat and a nicely worn-in jacket. Most striking (!) to everyone who knows me though, were his facial features: nose, cheekbones, chin, even his eye sockets look like mine. Plus he seems to be grooming his moustache just like I do – not too much, that is.

My friend couldn’t tell me who the guy was, but his jacket gave him away as a player for the Baltimore Orioles. A couple of emails with the Major League team’s PR later, and I learned that the player in question was a right-handed pitcher named Mark Williamson – but I was also kinda disappointed: It’s really just this one picture, taken from this one angle, that frames us as doppelgängers.

Even weirder is the fact that this isn’t the first time this has happened to me – maybe I just have one of those faces. Not so long ago, I came across another double in a black and white image by Rüdiger Trautsch. The photographer was the de facto resident snapper at Front, Hamburg’s legendary gay club and the first German venue to play House music in the ’80s. The picture in question is equally hedonistic: a pelvis-to-pelvis conga line of three – the two topless dudes “sandwiching” their female friend – all smiles, leather chaps and suspenders. I’m the guy on the right. Or so everyone who I show this picture to agrees. It’s not really me, of course – I was born in 1982.

Mother nature is a joker – or why would she allow for unrelated look-alikes?

What I’m trying to say is, we’re all fascinated by doppelgängers, whether they are meant to be our own or someone else’s. Each of these examples is a testament to the fact that mother nature is a joker – or why would she allow for unrelated look-alikes? In the past, the idea of the doppelgänger was closely linked to the paranormal, with “double-walkers” sometimes seen as harbingers of bad luck.

This preoccupation with what lies above, and the spiritual, is echoed in our profile of Lee “Scratch” Perry, the inventor of dub, reggae’s electronic sibling: “The dub version is the spectral double of a song, and this ghost is conjured by technology,” writes Philipp Hindahl, who interviewed the artist via WhatsApp. Perry himself has a rather disillusioned take on this aspect of artificiality: “Technology is a robber who take what is not his.” And yet we’ve just entered an era in which digital look-alikes – deepfakes – are capable of resembling us in moving 3D images.

As it happens, the raison d’étre for this issue of No News News is rather analog, as it was developed in conjunction with Autre Magazine’s upcoming Doppelgänger issue. Distributed with every copy of the LA-based art and fashion journal, our poster of two sisters with a poem that ‘doppelgängs’ just as hard, marks our first foray into print. Print = scarcity. So should you, dear reader, find yourself gasping for a copy of this dispatch’s DIN A2 companion, then let us know... Mark Williamson, the mystery man from Front and I will be happy to help.

Sincerely,
Hans Bussert

 
 

PROFILEBY PHILIPP HINDAHL

“TECHNOLOGY IS A THIEF. SPIRITUALLY GOD IS PERFECT”

I am the rain. My name is Rain. And there’s nothing rain can’t do. Rain make flood, rain make blood. Rain plant trees. And trees grow. Everything the rain do is prosperous. Everything that the devil do is not prosperous. The devil is a copycat. And God is the creator. God is the rain. God is rain forever. Rainford Hugh Perry. That is my name.

Like Noah after the flood, Lee “Scratch” Perry found himself on a mountain, albeit one by the small town of Einsiedeln in the Swiss Alps, a little south of Lake Zürich, the new center of his creative endeavors. Here, the Jamaican producer, musician and artist lives in a house overlooking the valley.

Scratch has gone through many incarnations: a musician and songwriter in the ’60s, he also became famous as a producer from the ’70s on, adding his touch to artists including Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Murvin, Ari Up from the Slits and the Beastie Boys. Born Rainford Hugh Perry in 1936 in Kendal, Jamaica, Perry endured poverty as a child, but in 1961 left for Kingston to work in the music industry. Back then, people in the Jamaican capital would listen to the distant signals of radio stations broadcasting from the Southern United States. Sometimes the songs arrived ‘chopped’ by static interference, and legend has it that this is how calypso turned into ska, with its choppy off-beat guitars. And so began a culture of competing DJs who sophisticatedly curated music which morphed into slower, bass-heavy and danceable strains.

The dub version is the spectral double of a song, and this ghost is conjured by technology.

The sounds Perry created in the early ’70s were at the origin of a new style which became known as dub. The origin of the term is unclear, but some look for its etymology in the Patois word duppy, meaning “ghost” or “spirit.” The legend of those spirits is rooted in Obeah, an Afro-Jamaican religion that believes a person has two souls, one of which ascends to heaven while the other languishes on Earth. The dub version is the spectral double of a song, and this ghost is conjured by technology. “Spiritual means God,” replies Perry when I ask him via WhatsApp about this connection between spirituality and technology, “and God is holy and clean. Technology is a robber who take what is not his. Technology is a thief. Spiritually, God is perfect.”

Spirituality and technology play important roles in Perry’s music. One balmy night around the end of the ’60s, Perry walked home after a few beers and passed a church on the outskirts of town. “And me catch the vibration,” he told his biographer David Katz. What he heard was the midnight service of a Pocomania church, an Afro-Jamaican religion combining aspects of Christianity and another Afro-Jamaican religion called Myalism. Its name has Spanish roots, a “little madness.” Worshippers would dance until entranced to the rhythm of drums. Perry picked up the signal, and started producing music that was percussive and melodic, complex and with pop appeal. Doubling layers upon layers of sounds and even developing cut-up techniques that predated the use of samples, Perry created drum sounds that dally around the bass, propelling their songs and veering off to explore their own rhythms. Sounds disappear and emerge from a thicket of guitars, vocals, electronic effects. The voices fade in and out, as if heard from a passing vehicle at night.

1 Lee Scratch Perry in the studio Einsiedeln, Summer 2020. Courtesy the artist and suns.works / 2 Lee Scratch Perry and Dachshund Lego in Einsiedeln, Christmas 2020. Courtesy suns.works / 3 Lee Scratch Perry – Untitled (God Bless LSD), 2019 - 2020. Collage and mixed media on canvas 140 x 100 cm. Courtesy the artist and suns.works / 4 Lee Scratch Perry – I.M.F. Perry Attack, 2020. Courtesy the artist suns.works / 5 Unknown (screenshot). LSP Swiss francs facsimile

Dub is reggae’s bare bones, its skeleton. Subtraction creates these hollowed-out doubles, allowing the echos to resonate in space. The studio, notes music theorist Kodwo Eshun, becomes a machine life form in the process. Perry emphasizes the organic aspect: “The studio must be like a living thing, a life itself,” he told Eshun in the journalist’s 1998 book, More Brilliant Than The Sun. “The machine must be life and intelligent.” Legend has it that Perry buried recordings in the garden of his famous Black Ark studio in Washington, Jamaica, perhaps because he believed the tapes would sprout, or maybe because he wanted to accelerate their decay.

“Magic. Miracle, science, Obeah,” he replies even more erratically.

A picture from the ’70s shows Perry behind the controls of his Black Ark studio: teeth clenched, arms thrown up, eyes shocked staring ahead, as if whatever is going on is out of his reach, as if a spirit has been unleashed. I ask him about the transformational experience of being in the studio: “Well, the studio is my echo chamber. And in my echo chamber I change voices with echo. I change harmony with echo changer. In my magic chamber.” Whatever it is that Perry does when producing, it releases a lot of energy: In 1979 the Black Ark, Perry’s legendary studio in Jamaica, caught fire and burned down completely. The exact circumstances remain unclear, but Perry has alluded to causing the fire, saying he had to make a sacrifice as the energy of the place had become intolerable. After the incident, Perry moved to London before settling in Switzerland.

Scratch’s universe these days is populated not only by sonic spirits: As early as the late ’70s, he started bridging into the visual, scribbling incantations and protective spells on the walls of his studio – perhaps sensing its imminent destruction. Informed observers will note a lot of cultural specificity to Perry’s drawings, collages and sculptures, a 2019 exhibition at Switzerland’s Haus zur Liebe displaying works permeated by aspects of Obeah.

Perry’s art has also been on show in New York, and he is scheduled to participate in the São Paulo Biennial in fall. And yet, the notoriously snobby institutional art world still considers career-changers like Perry outsiders, the notion of singularly-gifted geniuses remaining persistent. With that in mind, I ask Perry about his understanding of multi-talented artists switching between music and visual art. “Magic. Miracle, science, Obeah,” he replies even more erratically. That, of course, begs the final question: Does he always always end up where he needs to be? “I end up where I was meant to be. For what is to be must be. What’s not to be cannot be. Who is to be must be. Who shall not be cannot be. And I was meant to be a bee and make honey. I end up where I start. Where I start? I start in my dream.”

Philipp Hindahl displayed some real stamina when chasing Lee “Scratch” Perry for quotes. After weeks of searching, the Berlin-based writer and editor discovered Perry had temporarily relocated back to Jamaica at the beginning of 2021 after years of living in Switzerland. But for Hindahl, it was all worth the hassle. Ever since he heard Perry sampled in a ’90s dance track, the producer’s music has been echoing in his head.

 

FULL DISLOTHESUREBY SINA LESNIK

IN WORSHIP OF YOU I WORSHIP ME

Everyone who has siblings knows that, even when they’re not monozygotic twins, one can suffer from a mild case of “syndrome of subjective doubles” – as psychiatrists label the delusion that one has a doppelgänger who is leading a life of its own. Cue Maya and Nona, two sisters who at 18 and 21 are just beginning to live their own lives. Having finished school last year, Maya is modeling and studying architecture, while her older sister Nona has aspirations in fashion management. Together, they recently founded their own brand, Moné, which focuses on handmade tracksuits that the siblings tailor themselves – something they learned from their parents. Intimately captured by Sina Lesnik and styled by Olive Duran, the two sisters really seem to embody the process of “disfiguring every fibre” while also “restructuring once separated,” as the accompanying poem Word Sisters by Australian artist Kaitlyn Veronica suggests. But see and read for yourself:

we could see our souls
Dual

feel me tear you apart
Duel

dig deeper into this soil
Assimilate

persona dissolve to chrysalis
Acidulate

exposed and yearning
Intimate

at the nape of the neck, fear
Intimidate

this known migration we are born of
Natural

an obligate dance I truce with you
Neutral

words you spoke to me forgotten
Amnesia

the back bent down for blood
Anaemia

feel me tear you apart
Wreak

what will happen to our heart
Wreck

the known for me disintegrated
Sense

smoke rising from a car window
Scent

you can have what I have left
Which

occult in wanting to keep you
Witch

without you I am still
Idle

in worship of you I worship me
Idol

disfigure every fibre
Alter

kneel upon the pyre
Altar

begging in the solace of a bed
Prays

creeping from the fog hash
Preys

separated we restructure
Distance

words you meant, haphazard
Dissonance

the path that I have worn
Wood

the life I could have had
Would

Photographer: Sina Lesnik; Styling: Olive Duran; Models: Maya & Nona; Special Thanks: Kyra Wilhelmseder; Poem: Kaitlyn Veronica; Look #2 sandals: UGG

 
 

QUOTE UNQUOTEENDYMA’S MICHAEL KARDAMAKIS

HELPING BRANDS TO STAY UNIQUELY WEIRD (BY COPYING HELMUT LANG)
© Christian Werner

Fashion thrives on the notion of individuality. But as much as uniqueness might be sought after (if it really is), for most it’s hard to achieve – especially since we’re all searching for it in the same places. One way to find it – apart from designing your own clothing – is to look to the past. For example, scoring a rare vintage piece by Helmut Lang, when he was still designing for his namesake label, has long been the holy grail for fashion fans. And someone who knows all about this is Michael Kardamakis. In 2011 he founded ENDYMA, a fashion archive that he began in Athens and last year moved to Berlin, home to the biggest collection of original Helmut Lang and other influential ’90s and ’00s designers. Originally a reseller before becoming a collector, Kardamakis’ pieces were often bought by fashion brands. That’s when he realized that his product was more appealing to the industry than to individuals. So now most of his business comes through designers making appointments to look through his archive, or renting out pieces to fashion houses seeking inspiration from the past.

Do you know whether some of the pieces you have in your archive are the last of their kind – and therefore unique?

It’s hard to say. Helmut Lang was a mass-produced brand, so they made quite a few pieces of one style. Of course, ‘Helmut Lang,’ the brand as it was founded by the designer himself, doesn’t exist anymore. And the pieces that were produced back then inherently get old. People wear them. So whenever we find something like a perfect raw denim jacket that has never been worn, that’s a keeper that goes into the archive. But we do have many garments that are one-offs. Especially things that were produced for their showroom as showpieces because they were deemed too expensive to be produced, or too weird. These pieces are definitely unique.

Have there been pieces where you at first thought that they were one of a kind, but a few years down the line you came across another?

Sure. As you progress in collecting, the first time you see something you go, “Wow, I haven't seen this before.” Then as years go by and you acquire more and more objects, it’s very difficult to still be surprised. I have to go deeper and deeper. And at one point I will have everything. Already, I feel my Helmut Lang collection is almost complete. There’s always going to be more stuff to get but I feel like there is a bit of everything in the archive and one gets a very rounded overview of his work. It’s just down to finding more versions of one idea now. But the core ideas are all there.

© Chris Kontos

It’s an open secret that designers consult archives like yours for inspiration.

Nowadays, my main point of income with this project is through rentals to fashion houses. Helmut Lang, in many ways, forms the backbone of many designer brands right now – in terms of philosophy and aesthetic. High concept, but also a bit unpredictable. Not too pristine, with a bit of punk in there. This eclectic approach, you see a lot in many contemporary leading fashion brands.

But would you go as far as saying that those labels are just ripping off Helmut Lang?

No. Because I think that fashion is too unforgiving to make a simulacrum. When you just make a simulacrum, you get roasted. There are designers like that, of course, but I don't think that approach is working anymore. A total rip-off is not enough. Let me show you this – as a fun example [Kardamakis brings up pictures of two blousons on his iPhone, one from the current collection of a luxury fashion house, the other a vintage Burberry]. This is a Burberry jacket from the ’80s. And this one here is its doppelgänger. The likeness is blatant. House X sometimes works like this. It’s a way to keep things interesting. Like why is that thing there? How does that fit within the collection? It doesn’t but that’s why it’s there. That’s how globalized brands in 2021 work. They want to maintain unpredictability at all times. In fact, they work very hard at trying to stay weird.

When No News News met with Michael Kardamakis during Berlin’s mostly virtual Reference Festival back in January, photographer Christian Werner took a series of portraits in what felt like five minutes. He’s just that quick. No wonder, then, that his months-long search for a new apartment in Berlin must feel like a drag. Should you be in a position to help, Werner and his family are still looking for a new place, just slide into his DMs.

 

ARCHIVES OF THE INTERNET@WHOS____WHO

CAN ART PEOPLE TAKE A JOKE? (IT DEPENDS)

The artworld is full of artists inspired by other artists: re-appropriations of other people’s work and straight up copies, too. That’s why a lot of art people enjoy @whos____who. The 55k-follower-strong Instagram account collects artworks – and occasionally also artists – that look more or less alike – all on the hush, of course. The person behind the account is very secretive and all questions aimed at extracting a bit of background information (“Where are you based? And what’s your profession?”) simply go unanswered. Whoever they are, all they had to say when we got in touch was: “It’s just for fun. It’s supposed to be a game.” And why not? After all, that’s how original works come into the world. They emerge incrementally, developed from what already exists until they no longer resemble the old but something new. This is a sentiment that @whos____who seems to share: “I am not so interested in saying someone is ripping off another artist.” And yet, some self-perceived geniuses prove to be rather vulnerable when it comes to questions of originality: “Recently I had an artist respond negatively to their work being featured,” they continue, “other times I am solicited to post an artist’s work – it’s weird.” Turns out that in the art business, like every other industry, being linked to someone else is only bad when they are as good as you.

 
 

FURTHER READINGWANTED FOR EERINESS

CROSSING THE UNCANNY VALLEY ONE IDENTIKIT PICTURE AT A TIME

Facial composites have a tendency to make us feel uneasy. That has to do with context, of course – they usually depict suspects wanted for serious crimes – but also because, in most cases, the portraits are put together from different sources. In the initial stage of composition, the witness is asked to select individual facial features one at a time from a large database. Evoking an eerie feeling that can even border on revulsion, the resulting composites and their distorted features share the same fate as humanoids – stuck deep down in what’s become known as the “uncanny valley.” Testament to this are the monumental-sized passport-style portraits of artist Thomas Ruff, whose Another Portrait series, for which he used a Minolta Montage Unit, which look unsettling because of their uncanniness, as well as their scale and intensity.

Conversely, coming from a law enforcement background is Rainer Wortmann. He works with the federal police agency of Baden-Württemberg, where up until the early ’90s, analog systems like Minolta’s were the norm. Wortmann has published an exhaustive tome on the subject, the aptly titled Phantombilder (the German word for composites).

These images are derived from rather Frankenstein-y virtual compositions, due to privacy protection.

This oeuvre really covers all the bases, from describing what it’s like to have the dream gig of being a police sketch artist, to giving advice on how people faced with describing a suspect can do a better job. We’re especially fond of a series of exercises intended to create a composite resembling a person “well known from TV and film.” The result is a young Kirsten Stewart put together from facial shape 541, eyes 754, mouth 841, nose 1032 and hair 2983 – not the first person you’d imagine in a lineup.

Adding to the uncanniness is the fact that facial features used to create these images are derived from rather Frankenstein-y virtual compositions, due to privacy protection. Contrast that with facial recognition software manufacturers plundering social media for data – platforms, where basically every portrait ever posted is up for grabs. It’s not hard to imagine a time in the not-too-distant future where we’ll be longing for the comparative innocence of the familiarly-unfamiliar eeriness of facial composites.

 

PROCUREMENTINNOVATIVE IMITATION

ORIGINAL PIRATE MATERIAL

Fake watches, counterfeit sneakers, designer bootlegs: Today, online and offline markets are brimming with merchandise that’s pretending to be the real thing. But what happens when copies become innovations in their own right? Right. So instead of looking at some plain ol’ knock-offs, we came up with a list of items that became originals by emulating.

MARTIN MARGIELA REPLICA SNEAKER

Before Vetements and other brands started to endlessly re-appropriate the designs of everyday brands, there was Martin Margiela. As early as 1998, the fashion house took on what had become a footwear staple of Berlin’s burgeoning art scene: the standard issue sneaker for soldiers of the German Bundeswehr, available through the city’s many surplus stores. And while it’s hard to spot the original anymore, Martin Margiela’s designer version is still going strong, especially with mid-career artists who can now afford to shell out the required funds.

SOFT CELL’S TAINTED LOVE

Third time’s a charm, only in the case of “Tainted Love,” Gloria Jones let someone else reap the rewards. The Motown singer twice failed to make the song a hit, in 1965 and 1976 respectively. It was then up to electro-duo Soft Cell to take their 1981 version of “Tainted Love” to number one in 17 countries. Anything but tainted, their fans’ love propelled them to fame. One minute they were “living in a council flat,” the next “flying Concorde to New York,” as singer Marc Almond once recalled.

GDR MICKEY

One remnant of the Cold War is this figurine from the GDR. Resembling a certain US cartoon character, it maintains a distinct charm – kind of. (The raised arm is certainly “provocative” in Germany where such gestures are now thankfully illegal.) But maybe that was intentional? Whatever the case, it’s a fact that GDR Mickey never held the same sway over children’s hearts as the East German of version of Sandmännchen, which became hugely popular in all of Germany after the Wall came down.

FAKE FOOD

Makes you want to dig in, right? All those glistening bento boxes, crispy pizzas and frothing beers. In Japan, diners sometimes order by gesturing to sampuru, waxy ‘sample’ food sculptures. Nowadays, the motif of chopsticks holding some noodles is a classic. Moreover, these colorful installations might offer a much-needed counterpoint to pretentious Western foodie culture. Personally, we’d much rather order silently like this than listen to fellow guests question the provenance of the restaurant’s radishes.

LOUIS VUITTON BAG BY ORA-ÏTO

He’s the original brand hacker: When Ito Morabito stepped on the scene with his CGI visualization of a non-existent Louis Vuitton bag in the late ’90s, everyone was raving about it. Especially the 2000 or so would-be customers who immediately flooded the brand with their orders. An official collaboration was never realized due to the newly-christened Ora-Ïto publicly criticizing LV. Still, the bag saw the light of the day thanks to some entrepreneurial spirits in China. But can you really call such items “counterfeit” if the brand wasn’t clever enough to produce it themselves?

 

Every issue of No News News features a dedicated book plate. These ex libris, as they are also called, are commissioned works of art traditionally used to indicate ownership of one’s books. Here we see The Reticent Child by Louise Bourgeois who must have balked at the idea of a “mini-me” not wanting to leave her body:

 

EXLIBRIS.BERLIN

Editor: Hans Bussert (V.i.S.d.P.)
Art Director: Enver Hadzijaj
Copy Editor: Huw Nesbitt
Proofreader: Redfern Jon Barrett
Web Development: Bruno Meilick

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