‘en’ radiant

by Noriko Kawakami, journalist

Vibrant color and an overall impression of strength. This was the effect of the Spiral 25th Anniversary campaign flag, raised on the Spiral building in autumn 2009, conveying a symbolic energy which resonated throughout the year.


In September, the month immediately preceding the start of the Anniversary year, I had the opportunity to once again interview thonik’s Thomas Widdershoven, who worked on the integrated campaign and new identity. His answers could not have been more lucid.

When I visited Spiral with my partner Nikki Gonnissen in January of 2009, I first understood Spiral’s three types of activity. First creating a number of projects related to the Arts, then function­ing as a space for developing artistic activities, and thirdly externally directed activities to promote these results. This is why what was important was not what design was to be presented but rather “the extent to which this was a space of activity” needed to be explored, through a common image. Widdershoven and Gonnissen had astutely grasped the potential of Spiral’s coherence of attitude and energy of place. And from this understanding they had searched for the most Spiral­-appropriate activities of this consistent ‘integration of art and life’ from its birth in 1985 to the present day. 

The first phase of preparation for the ‘en’ campaign which then developed, was to imagine a new identity logo for this anniversary year based on the beloved original graphic identity by Masatoshi Navajo. The key to the thonik proposal was ‘en’ (= circle). Obviously, the circle is a form deeply related to the Spiral concept, but fascinatingly their point of departure was to take the logo clasp af fixed to the exterior of the building. For this year, themed on the ‘en’ concept, they first sought to re­-envision this familiar and important fixture, intuitively re­investing our daily encounters with it. Spiral’s spirit, its 25 years of accomplishments, and therefore its continuing potential… each were multiplied in this gesture.

Then, in October of 2009, the ‘en’ campaign began: a formation of the circle, and of another ‘en’, that of relationships. ‘Towards the “next” unpredictable design’ was how thonik phrased it. In their native Dutch language, the conjunction ‘and’ is ‘en’. The campaign itself is a way of thinking, of generating new breadth and possibility.

And then there was another surprising development. I refer to the December 2009 thonik exhibition ‘en’, with its flags hung throughout Spiral’s interior, each a visualization of the various Chinese readings of the homonym ‘en’ (garden, party, charm, flame, per­formance, monkey, etc.). Only later did one realize the many recurrences of monkeys in those graphics. And they chose a monkey for their image character.


Monkeys’ relation to humans supersedes all cultural difference.

They are beloved by all peoples. The graphic images by thonik are rich in expressions in which we come to see ourselves as we gaze at them. Yet the potential of these ‘en’, of destiny (‘en’), of the circle (‘en’) as something which through the monkeys (‘en’) reappear in the graphics, and the thrill that their dynamic movement would produce, was surely anticipated by neither Spiral nor thonik. Another important example to note would be the bold use of space within the thonik exhibition ‘en’, the program extending to include both the gallery space and cafe, converting the Spiral Garden space into a cafe and the cafe area into an exhibition space. This was yet another opportunity to con rm that this ambitious spirit, of Spiral addressing the experimental, remains unchanged throughout its 25 years of operation.

Precisely because its activities are built on a rock­ solid foundation clear in attitude and concept that such bold experimentation is possible. Such dyna­mism is Spiral’s life force. It was fascinating to see the spirit of connection in the talk series, in the breadth of selection, with both the established and the fresh young in equal measure.

A place is created. People meet, and their imagin­ings are realized. Movement is created. New rela­tions expand, to encourage a variety of new thoughts and associations. Creating the passion to explore the coming age. This past year at Spiral was a time to revisit the fact that dynamism and enthusiasm is essential to creative activity.

Feel the rush of tremendous energy in the splashing ‘en’ seeds. You can see that there are many developments which we can not predict yet to emerge. Filled with gratitude for the many experiences of the past year, and overcome with enthusiasm about the many encounters to come!

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