Creative futures | Monocle

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The Culture section’s crystal ball’s in perfect working order, thank you, but still, we thought we’d consult five people who we believe are going to enjoy a stellar 2012 themselves about what’s in their diary.

Talking to a fascinating artist like Cory Arcangel always makes you wish you’d thought of that – the young New Yorker’s ideas for his “digital apocalypse” got a cheer here. Eiji Aonuma, one of Nintendo’s premier gaming pioneers, is a good man to go to when you’re wondering if all successful tech companies have to be po-faced, worthy and Californian.

In the area of print and broadcast, Jonas Bonnier, scion of the Swedish fourth-estate, is happily bullish about making all corners of his burgeoning empire fizz. Geling Yan, meanwhile, is a Chinese novelist with a spin on the world rather than a home-turf bone to pick. And Oh Land is a wonderful Danish export. Though decamped to New York, her ­indigenous Copenhagen music scene is an elegant conveyor-belt, supplying the most perfectly-skewed in music you’ll hear all year. Take it away!

01 - Oh Land


Like all good things from Denmark, Nanna Øland Fabricius, the musician otherwise known as Oh Land, is a perfectly designed and considered take on the blonde pop starlet. The Copenhagen-raised, fauna-obsessed Brooklynite has had a successful 2011, with arena tours following the release of her second album. Next year she’ll be showing that pop and art are still growing naturally side-by-side.

“In the past year my life has definitely changed a lot. Looking into the next one, I can already see my daily routines are very, very different from a year ago. I’ve been touring constantly since January and on 23 December I’ll finish. So the chance to spend a Christmas with my family and friends is actually really exciting.

In April next year I’ll be playing Copenhagen’s Koncerthuset venue for three shows with a symphonic orchestra. I’ve already started doing the scores for it with two classical arrangers and there will be an art installation by Eske Kath. I love his work and he’s designed a lot of my album artwork and stage design. His paintings have a sort of post-apocalyptic feel. Like if you go to old ruins and they’re covered by nature. I find it very inspiring to think that our civilization will one day be taken over by the elements because at the moment it certainly doesn’t look that way.

Anything that’s a contradiction or a dilemma triggers something in me and makes me write songs. For example I also love a photographer called Jamie Martinez. He’s from Mexico City. He does really fun, magical photography but in a strangely realistic way. I might not believe it, but I can use it.

I’m really into an act from Toronto called The Weeknd. I think he’ll have a good 2012. He’s sort of indie R’n’B, if there is such a thing. I think it’s exciting how R’n’B is changing now from something that was strictly yummy and delicious like cream and chocolate, into something organic, almost wooden and forest-like.

Nature is probably my biggest inspiration. When I’m in a natural place that’s when I feel happiest.

Otherwise, I just like rediscovering classics. At the moment I’m only listening to The Smiths and The Beatles. I don’t listen to Morrissey so much on his own. Some people might call this really blasphemous, but I think for modern times, someone like Lily Allen fills that Morrissey role. She’ll say something that a lot of people think themselves but never find out how to say in a refined way. What gets me excited is when the artist tells me something that seems very logical but I would never have done it that way myself.”

02 - Eiji Aonuma

Game designer

An admired game designer with a boyish demeanour and ready laugh, no Nintendo game goes unplayed without first having passed through Aonuma-san’s console.

“I started off as a designer at art school where I was focusing on moving puppets. Then I met Mr Miyamoto [Nintendo’s game chief] who invited me to create games together with him. This is how we kind of entered the world of games and game design. I haven’t changed since I was a student, when I liked to fiddle around with games, but now I have a wider audience.

Nintendo will be launching some new hardware, the WiiYou in 2012. We are constantly thinking, ‘OK, we have this new tool, what can we do with it?’ We’ve had the Wii Motion Plus and we really went very deep and put a lot of work into it, asking what can we do with this new hardware? This is what we’re working on now, looking at this new console and seeing what we can do with that new environment.

And it’s great because a small idea I have can turn into something 100 times more fascinating and better by getting the creative input of the rest of our team.

There’s a lot of testing first, of course. We have the ‘Super Mario Club’, which is the quality assurance department that we work with before we launch any game. Mr Miyamoto will also play the game and this is insightful for us because he takes a very natural point-of-view. He says what a lot of players will usually say later on.

I’m interested in holograms and I’m watching how that scene develops. Thinking about our Nintendo 3DS and stereoscopic 3D, I dream that we will have the Star Wars monster chess in real 3D – you know what they play in the film? This is something that I think would be brilliant. And I think it’s possible; I’m optimistic that we will see something like this in the near future. 3D without glasses was unthinkable a while ago and we did that. And as for Zelda and our storylines? I think princesses need to be rescued over and over again – as many times as is necessary!”

03 - Jonas Bonnier


Jonas Bonnier is CEO of Stockholm publishers, Bonnier, and has written and published six novels.

“I think 2012 is going to be the best year ever in the history of media, and of Bonnier. It’s a general feeling I have. Around the world, politicians will realise that we need leadership and vision; they will rise to the occasion and show the way.

The western world needs to deal with its debts, and everyone agrees on that. Doing that together will create a positive vibe, and the general worry will start to wane. When it comes to digital media, the situation has long felt confused and worried. But in the past six months, most players in the print media industry have begun to agree on the way forward. We’re on our way to a model, where we start creating subscriptions on brands. Not products. You will have a subscription to Dagens Nyheter or The New York Times, and it will include paper products, websites, mobile applications, seminar tickets.

For a long time, people have been walking around and talking about “content”. In my opinion, if you’re a person that speaks about content, you haven’t understood anything about journalism or storytelling. You think that words are like earth that you can shovel and pour somewhere. Producing a magazine today is not very expensive. You can do the research on Google, the layout in inDesign and distribution on the internet. You can do it as a private person. As a media firm, there’s only one thing you can compete with, and that is quality. For 15 years, we’ve been searching for a business model that could unite our paper products with the digital reality. Now, we’ve almost reached a consensus on that. We might have been fishing for too large volumes of customers and lowered our demands on quality. Next year, we’ll be turning that around.”

04 - Geling Yan


The Flowers of War, Geling Yan’s third novel to appear in English, comes out in January along with a film adaptation that the Chinese hope will pick up the country’s first Oscar. She also scripted a Chinese version of Dangerous Liaisons, expected to premiere at Cannes. She lives in Berlin with her husband, a US diplomat.

“The film based on my novel is coming out and will be China’s submission for the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2012. The director is Zhang Yimou – he directed Raise the Red Lantern and the 2008 Olympic Games opening ceremony – and it stars Christian Bale. I also wrote the script for a remake of Dangerous Liaisons by Korean director Heo Jin-ho, starring Zhang Ziyi and set in Shanghai in the 1930s.

China will be in the spotlight at the 2012 London Book Fair. There are some very good books and Wang Anyi’s book Tianxiang (Scents of Heaven) is one of them. It’s set in Shanghai during the Ming Dynasty. It’s exquisite; the language is so good. But I don’t have much optimism about literature because people don’t have the patience for it .

In 2012, I’m looking forward to moving to a different country. I love Berlin but we will move to Belgium or some other country. We move every three years; it’s exciting, the diplomatic life. I always look forward to the uncertainty.

Every different culture reminds me of Chinese culture. A person is not aware of their own culture until they draw a parallel with another. When I lived in Abuja, Nigeria, I saw misery everywhere and corrupt government. I passionately hated it. That passion reminded me of the misery in the countryside of China. I came up with a novella called The Ninth Widow and stories about corruption such as The Uninvited. Never before had I found the passion to write that much, that well.”

05 - Cory Arcangel


Arcangel is a world-renowned multi- disciplinary artist whose work inspects reality, image reproduction and pop culture’s links to fine art. While much of his work is virtual, he clearly fears for digital longevity.

“My theme for 2012 is taking a break, but that’s creative in its own way; getting organised isn’t as boring as it sounds. I’m especially bad at seeing the wood for the trees because I’m always making new stuff and moving forward. It’s helpful to work with a curator so there’ll be a show at the Carnegie Museum, a survey show – a bunch of old works. Curators often pick works that you didn’t like so much and you see things differently.

I’ll be going through my hard drive – 20 years of files. I’m a digital anorak but everything’s disorganised – images, Word documents, pieces of code, screengrabs from cool things I was surfing. It’s a big audit but I’m fascinated by the idea of archiving stuff that could fall apart because it’s on hard drives. It’ll definitely become something.

On eBay I just bought some guy’s whole collection of 1,000 trance records from the 1990s and I’m going to do an audit, a collection assessment using one of the major library systems to properly archive this essentially valueless collection. I’m interested in putting as much effort into something that has no value as for something that has great value. It’s cataloguing to the nth degree; it’s barn-burning stuff, you know?

When someone buys your work as an artist they’re basically keeping track of it and preserving it. There are interesting ideas. I want to print everything out. I wanted to put all my digital work onto tape; I want it all physical. I had an idea to put all my videos onto film and make a sculpture of all these tapes. As I organise my hard drive my work will become about the meta-organising of hard drives. I’m like one of those people that are gonna move to Arizona and live in a hut – I can be a real alarmist.

I’m looking forward to getting rid of my MP3s and buying just 20 great records on vinyl – that’s when you know what you like; that’s a lifetime of responsibility you have there. I want to do some books, too. Diagrams and a book of codes – I want to get everything into books. A lot of my work is virtual but it’s weighing me down because I’m fretting about its destruction. You could say that 2012 is my digital apocalypse year."

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