Original Interview: August 2016

Professor. Tucker Neel

We have a NEW CATEGORY guys! LECTURERS! First up is a educator from L.A. in Communication Arts at Otis College of Art and Design – Prof. Tucker Neel. Tucker tells us when he first came to realise the importance design could have on society, also a slightly different passion project that involved traveling and postcards.

What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?
While I have many childhood memories of sculpting horrific busts of my elementary school teachers’ heads in ceramics class, I think the earliest memories that got me thinking about the power of design are from when I was in an undergraduate at Occidental College, making protest posters and banners against things like police brutality, the Iraq war, and the stolen 2000 election. That’s when I really began to think about how design shapes ideology.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.
I maintain a practice entwining fine art, design, curating, and writing, but most of my time and effort goes into my work as an educator teaching graphic design, illustration, and a variety of critical theory, art history, and cultural studies courses in the Communication Arts, MFA Graphic Design, and Liberal Arts & Sciences departments at Otis College of Art & Design in Los Angeles.

Who are your top five design crushes right now?
1. I’ve been in love with Tom of Finland’s work for years. I’m constantly amazed by how his drawings of happy, hairy, homos resonate through masculine visual culture, both gay and straight. And yet they can still shock people. Tom now. Tom forever.

2. I’m constantly thinking about how much I want to live in a CalEarth house. After seeing Nader Khalili’s beautiful, shockingly affordable, and extremely sustainable dome abodes for desert living, I can’t in good conscious imagine buying a hulking, wasteful, half-million dollar home (as if i could find a half-mill. house in L.A.!!).

3. My good friend Jason Gottlieb’s EatYourself.org project about self-cannibalism and religion is super intelligent and fun. I bet you’ll like it too.

4. I love Matthias Picard’s illustrated books because they are so intoxicatingly experimental, using optics, texture, and pure play to transport you to far, far away worlds.

5. I was recently blown away by Manuel Bürger & Jan-Peter’s design work for Christopher Kulendran Thomas’ New Eelam project for the 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. The work was devastatingly critical, taking to heart Walter Benjamin’s clarion call to politicize aesthetics. Everything in New Eelam’s promotional materials eviscerates contemporary design predilections so ubiquitous today. In the process they unveil the mechanisms of exploitation underpinning so much of the newest manifestation of neoliberal capitalism, from the warm and fuzzy branding of “sharing economies” to the cold calculated posturing of bespoke hipster home furnishings. My jaw is still dragging on the ground.

Any passion projects you would like to share?
I just completed a project where I left strange postcards in dozens of places in various cities across Europe. I asked people to send me content for postcards and to tell me where to leave them on my journey. It was an engrossing experiment inverting the typical way one behaves as a tourist, someone who gathers postcards to send to distant contacts. Instead, my trip was deeply impacted by things other people wanted me to experience, and mementos left behind instead of collected and brought home. In the end, most of my social media postings from my trip from Rome to London consistedof other people’s cards held up in front of disparate locations, from The Eiffel tower to a public urinal. Plus, the postcards were simply awesome.

What advice would you give students starting out?
Practice compassion and kindness because you never know who you’re going to work with (or for) in the future.

2016 for you in a sentence.
Donald Trump loses.

Website: tuckerneel.com
Website: 323projects.com
Tumblr: otiscomartsdepartment.tumblr.com