One size fits all: HOHO CO CO’s Janice Lee talks buying into a lifestyle to launch our Martin Kohout x AQNB ‘A Nice Cap’ collaboration
“Thinking back, it’s a bit too silly,” writes Janice Lee about the Romanised Chinese name for her clothing brand called HOHO CO CO—taken from a partially Cantonese phrasing of what would ultimately translate to “A Very Good Company” in English. The independent label based in Los Angeles is currently trading exclusively in embroidered baseball caps, where the parlance of a particular cultural zeitgeist, like ‘Famous Actor’, ‘Internet Art’, ‘Non-Fungible Tokens’, is recontextualized through a wearable commodity. “The brand manifested as conceptual commentary on social consumerism, and I wanted the phrases to provoke thought through very simple, everyday objects.”
As it turns out, that simple gesture is profoundly resonant and relatively popular. There are more socially-specific phrases like ‘Green Card Wedding’, ‘Certified Life Coach’ and ‘USPS vs. DMV’, which would chime more with people familiar with the way the United States and California operate their services sector. Celebrity Hailey Bieber herself was captured sporting a ‘Star Maps Guide’ number, while Katy Perry is apparently the proud owner of ‘Huge Fan’ and ‘Come to Brazil’. As for AQNB, Lee facilitated the production of our A Nice Cap Limited Edition hat design collaboration with long-time peer and AQNB Productions alum Martin Kohout, for sale in support of the site and its running costs from May 5.
An entrepreneur of sorts, Lee first enrolled in Integrated Design at New York’s Parsons School of Design before transferring to London’s Central Saint Martins to study Fashion Communication with Promotion. There, the Hong Kong-born-and-raised creative explored marketing and psychology, with a particular interest in the development of a globalized consumer culture and its relationship to luxury products. Lee’s final degree piece is a sleek CGI video called ‘Ruxury‘ that examines identity construction across cultures and high-end items as symbols of power and success. It’s a fascination that Lee carried over to her professional life in Los Angeles, where she works in cannabis and trades in baseball caps. “I was brainstorming an idea about the cliches of living in LA—parking, celebrities, restaurants, etcetera,” she writes, about how she came upon the ‘Star Maps Guide’ theme of TMZ tours—an iconic Hollywood trope. “The funniest part is when I found an image of Hailey Bieber wearing that around LA, it kind of completed the circle.”
**Tell me something about your interest in branding and where it started because it goes further than just selling products?
Janice Lee: It started when I was in university interning at different places. I was especially interested in the perspective storytelling goes in advertising, and how language and imagery can change one’s perception of a product— whether it is $10 or $100. I started noticing peoples’ approaches towards labels and prices, and it made me realize that branding is really about building a personality/character for your company, and using imagery to persuade a consumer of a lifestyle you can buy into.
**There’s this line in the ‘Ruxury’ video, where the avatar repeats in Mandarin, “I bought a story too. I too bought a Gucci”. It feels resonant in quite a simple, subtle way, and I’m interested in what you’re doing with that?
JL: I find it interesting that brands play a huge role in defining people’s lifestyles. A 24-year-old wearing a Gucci purse with her vintage leather jacket and Nike Air Max walking down Los Feliz might carry a different meaning than a 24-year-old wearing the same purse walking down a mall in Mainland China. The phrases sounding so similarly can be defined so drastically in different cultural contexts.
**There’s also not only an interest in the notion of fakes and authenticity in that video and others, but a fetish for form. I think that’s reflective of the impulse of branding and design in general, is that something you think about?
JL: I think authenticity is carried through the persona of a person. It almost just comes from confidence. It could be a cool thing for someone to carry a fake Gucci but can also have the opposite effect in certain people who are self-conscious in their own authenticity.
**You’re originally from Hong Kong, then moved to London to study and now you live in Los Angeles. What are the cultural differences you’ve noticed across those cities in terms of consumerism specifically and how has it shaped and shifted your outlook and practice?
JL: There is definitely a difference between the cities and how consumerism works. I feel like in a lot of Asian cultures, maximizing consumerism is always considered a luxury (probably, other than certain Japanese practices). More is more, rather than less is more. Commodities that have a resounding brand image creates a huge attraction, almost as if it’s a shortcut to tell others ‘hey, I’m rich’. Vintage or secondhand items are less of a hit in these cities, as opposed to London and Los Angeles, for example, where they’re considered cooler and more exotic than a brand new expensive product.
**Your interests feel very responsive, research-based and contextual, like your work in London was concerned with consumer products, and particularly its interpretation and semiotic shifts across cultures (East versus West), while in Los Angeles it’s more about popular culture and weed. Would you agree?
JL: I think I have a wide range of interests, and each of my practices becomes a personal dialogue with culture and what’s happening at these different times and places in relevance to pop culture. I stumbled upon working in the weed industry several years ago because I felt like what was then an up-and-coming industry was an open canvas. I saw that there were a lot of potential to deviate from its preexisting style.
**With that in mind, do you think a hat brand like HO CO CO would have worked as successfully as it has in Los Angeles?
JL: The hat idea originated when I first moved here and wanted to make merch promoting bootleg movie sites, like VideoWeed and 123Movies—advertising online sites that don’t advertise themselves. I thought hats were a great vehicle, since its a one size fits all deal and anyone in LA can use a hat. And yes, I believe a lot of my ideas came out of living in LA!**
The Martin Kohout x AQNB—A Nice Cap Limited Edition hat collaboration is available for purchase online from May 5, 2021.
“Understanding our times.” Qway launches issue 2 of Glimmergate at Marsèlleria, May 3
An overflowing emptiness: Documenting Swimming Pool’s States of Flux
The States of Flux four-part exhibition hosted by Sofia’s Swimming Pool, ran from August 27 until October 16, 2016, where the press release asked you to:
Imagine an empty pool. Then imagine smashing everything into it – a totality that eventually overflows the centre, the periphery, the whole thing.
Curated by Viktoria Draganova and Gergana Todorova, the roaming show included work by Florian Auer, Max Brand, Sebastian Burger, Stanimir Genov, Tiril Hasselknippe, Martin Kohout, Hanne Lippard, Luci Lippard, Michele Di Menna, Shana Moulton, Pakui Hardware, Kalina Terzieva, Tore Wallert, Anna Zacharoff and Dardan Zhegrova.
The events took place at various locations in “semi-public places [that formed] the spine of an imaginary geography of flux”:
The Sunniest Beach was a weekend of interventions (from August 27 to 28, 2016) at a hotel in the tourist resort Sunny Beach on the Black Sea where “we face a capitalism of excess, manifested by booze and trinketization.” Flowing with money, bodies, things and thoughts, reality “wobbles in desire and exhaustion until it finds itself stifled in an odd surface.”
After the Splash on the rooftop of Sofia’s Swimming Pool (September 2 to October 16, 216) presented an exhibition both romantic and dystopian, “immersed in a world haunted by the unruly effects of repressed selves.”
The Sanguine was a walk through a forest and to a hot spring near Zheleznitsa (on September 3, 2016) in an attempt to share thoughts “of pleasure and relaxation.”
The Token was a one-day intervention (on October 6, 2016) that took place in a Frankfurt self-service laundromat that asked “with such fictions governing our reality, how can we claim our vulnerable presence?”
Lock Up International in Tokyo, Sep 26 – Oct 16
Lock Up International is presenting the next iteration of its nomadic project space in Tokyo, with locations TBA, opening September 26 and running to October 16.
Started by Lewis Teague Wright, the series — which has already appeared in Mexico City, Istanbul, London and Los Angeles — uses storage spaces worldwide as exhibition venues. They usually work as three-weeklong solo show in each location it chooses, with personally guided viewings arranged by appointment. AQNB reviewed a recent exhibition of Nevine Mahmoud’s Three Isolated Effects in LA and Menna Comminetti and Sophie Lee presented Boy, ’12 in London.
The Tokyo series will present work by Yuri Pattison (September 26 – October 2), Martin Kohout (October 3 – 9), and Russell Maurice (October 10 – 16). The first show was initiated by Pattison’s interest in collector marts in the Akihabara and Nakano Broadway stations, small stores in malls that rent out glass lockers.
The project continues to act as a way to bypass the gallery, art dealer, and collector, opting to go directly to the object’s end point, stored safely and hidden from view.
See the Lock Up International website for more details.**share news item
AFA 2 (2) @ Art-O-Rama 2016, Aug 26 – 28
The AFA 2 (2) group show is a Guest Project on at Marseille’s Art-O-Rama 2016 opening August 26 and running to the 28.
The show, led by nomadic ‘art project staircase’ 63rd-77th STEPS, will feature works by ÅYR, Jesse Darling, Louisa Gagliardi, Gregory Kalliche, Martin Kohout, Hannah Lees, Kareem Lotfy, Daniele Milvio, Yuri Pattison, Fabio Santacroce, Anna Solal, Diamond Stingily, Philipp Timischl, Zoe Williams and Bruno Zhu among many others.
AFA is an Italian term for ‘mugginess’ ; a reference to the exhausting weather condition and the title of the first instalment that happened in a deserted bank over three days in Italy’s Bari in 2014, and the second, AFA 2, on a public beach in 2014. The press release for AFA 2 (2) explains its used as “a metaphor of our social, political and artistic scenario, and turned by the artists into black & white artworks, digitally printed on microfiber.”
To support the exhibition program, beach towels designed by the artists will be on sale.
See the FB event page for details.**share news item
Survival Guides for Ballroom Dancers… @ Vleeshaal, Jul 2 – Sep 11
The Survival Guides for Ballroom Dancers, Renovators, Softball Moms, Working Parents and Troubled Folk in General group exhibition is on at Middelberg’s Vleeshaal, opening July 2 and running to September 11.
The exhibition is curated by Roos Gortzak in collaboration with Julia Mullie and Sophie Oxenbridge, and features artists whose work the press release describes as “process-based, sincere, and often amusing”. Those include Moyra Davey, Martin Kohout, Katja Novitskova, Laure Prouvost and Jay Tan, working within the “slippery terrain between truth and fiction, private and public, and intimacy and perversion.”
The exhibition is diaristic and cathartic in nature, and structured according to the five artists’ often absurd internal logic; strategies for survival in an environment of dispersed and networked relationships as a characteristic of a screen-based culture. With that comes a need for “private rituals, secret semiotic systems, and personalised forms of communication.”
See the FB event page for details.**
Header image: Laure Prouvost, ‘Stong Sory (Cake)’ (2005). Video still. Courtesy the artist + MOT International, London + Brussels.share news item
Пикник на обочине (Piknik na obochine) @ Exo, May 12 – 19
The Пикник на обочине (Piknik na obochine) group show is on at Paris’ Exo, opening May 12 through May 19.
The exhibition —the title of which translates to ‘Roadside Picnic’ in English —includes work by the likes of Viktor Timofeev, Jason Benson, Martin Kohout, and Hannah Lees, each of whom have contributed a lot to the art world’s conversation on human self-comprehension and the related speculation around the existence of the ‘natural’ world during “The Time of The Anthropocene”, to quote philosopher Bruno Latour, who’s words are echoed in the press release.
The show borrows its title from 1970s Russian science fiction novel of the same name about an extraterrestrial occurrence called ‘The Visitation’, that happened for two days across six sites simultaneously, unbeknownst to the local people. The book compares the event to a picnic, while the exhibition’s press release also includes a paragraph from Annihilation (2014) by Jeff Vandermeer that describes a picture of the discovery of left-over rusted equipment and tents that were “little more than husks” in an aftermath of an expedition made by humans gone long before.
Other artists in Пикник на обочине (Piknik na obochine) are Eric Veit, Mia Goyette and frequent collaborators, Anne De Boer and Eloise Bonneviot, whose solo show of performances O Super (hu/wo-) man is currently on at London’s Green Ray, running May 16.
See the FB event for more details.**
General Fine Arts + Asta Meldal Lynge publication launch, March 8
General Fine Arts and artist Asta Meldal Lynge are having a joint publication launch at London’s All Hallows Church’s a.m. London on March 8.
e-publication General Fine Arts introduces the first issue of their second volume, ‘Values’, which is guest-edited by Tom Clark, while Asta Meldal Lynge will introduce ‘Real state’.
There will be a video reading by manuel arturo abreu and a presentation by Anna Zett at 8pm.
‘Values’ contributors include audio, text and image-based work by the above, as well as William Kherbek, Imran Perretta, Marina Vishmidt, Martin Kohout and Eleanor Ivory Weber whose text will also feature in visual essay ‘Real state’.
See the FB event for further information on the two publications.**
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Martin Kohout @ Kunst Raum Riehen, Jan 21 – Feb 28
Martin Kohout‘s Jokes About Machines Make Humans: 2nd infusion solo exhibition is on at Riehen, Switzerland’s Kunst Raum Riehen, opening January 21 and running to February 28.
There is little information available on the show itself but the Berlin-based artist’s practice has long been concerned with humans, labour and machines under capitalism and their mutual exploitation within the complex and often opaque economic, social and, importantly, corporate systems that compel them.
As a publisher, producer and visual artist working primarily with video, sculpture and installation, Kohout’s extensive catalogue is built on what he once called in an interview with aqnb and Video in Common his fascination with “the object that [that object] represents”.
See the Kunst Raum Reihen website for (limited) details.**
Jenna Sutela + Martin Kohout @ Landsarkivet, Dec 1
A lecture by Jenna Sutela and a video screening by Martin Kohout is taking place at Gothenburg’s Landsarkivet in Sweden on December 1.
As part of the Communicating the Archive: Inscription lecture series, curated by Gluey-c, Sutela’s Skype talk ‘The Hum of Machines, Chumma, Chumma, Chumma’, explores similarities between biological viruses and the human language; as ones that alter or mutate by themselves (or by other).
A screening of Kohout’s ‘Sjezd‘ (2014) video will follow, featuring the violent sound of friction between technology and nature.
See the FB event page for details.**
Return of the Object + The Disorder of Things @ Kvalitar, Sep 10 – Nov 6
Prague’s Kvalitar gallery is opening two new exhibitions curated by Václav Janoščík this month, with Marisa Olson‘s Return of the Object and the group exhibition The Disorder of Things, both opening September 10 and running until November 6.
The introduction of the two simultaneous exhibitions is Janoščík’s response to the “renewed interest in the object” brought about by the advent of the internet and its various modes of interaction. New York-based German artist Olson opens her solo show, addressing the shift of the virtual from novel or “unreal” to intimate and very real with her notion of post-internet.
The second exhibition, The Disorder of Things, brings together 16 different artists, working independently to create diverse and distinctive perspectives on the being of an object. Among the participating artists are Iain Ball, Constant Dullaart, Martin Kohout, and Nik Timková.
See the joint exhibition page for details. **
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Unthinkable w J.G. Biberkopf September 4 mix
Lithuanian producer J.G. Biberkopf’s Unthinkable segment, which airs at midnight on a Friday of every month on London’s NTS Radio, represents the work of both sound and visual art with pure sonics. It’s an approach to public broadcast that goes beyond just an hour of listening to deeper contemplation of ideas and theories that merit closer examination across platforms.
For that reason, aqnb has partnered with Biberkopf to accompany each show with a short text. This month’s mix features contributions from T⚾LE and Malibu, alongside additions from Biberkopf himself. T⚾LE is the aural fruition of Berlin-based artist Martin Kohout’s work, concerned with a move away from a “symbolic” idea of artefacts. At the same time, London-based Malibu reconstructs elements of dancehall, breaking down familiarity with a blissful representation of her own understanding.
On the whole, the show resonates with interrelated concern for perspective (T⚾LE’s ‘Thirst’ is informed by the sounds captured by action cameras and, in particular, how such soundscapes differ from typical field recordings in as much as they’re contained in action) and intimacy (not only as an affectionate personal relationship with another, but as a detailed understanding of place, subject, etcetera) and also includes tracks from Colin Stetson, EVOL, and Why Be.
Listen to the mix and read the text below:
Unthinkable – 4th September 2015 by Nts Radio on Mixcloud
Beyond the intuitive recognition of its properties, supplying an object’s psychological or aesthetic attributes with power or energy initiates greater areas of the brain than those required for recognition. Without thinking, the “first person perspective” on our imaged environment is held up by the human anatomy, enabling us to frame the flow of stimuli while isolating and making sense of events. This capacity is a property of the subject — as opposed to the object — of the encounter and, as people, we possess an awareness of this capacity and are able to access and utilise it.
Objective characteristics are recognised by the brain, where impressionable areas acknowledge encounters with light, movement, and so on. Still, to afford a personal understanding, to react to stimuli deeply — as affected by emotion — involves other systems, bodies, and processes. In such a way, lights and cameras are arbitrary, while action is essential. To step on stable land, for example, in place of an escalator or a ship tossed by waves, disturbs the perspective with a trembling agitation. At this moment, without cognition, indicators from within the ear form cognisant senses.
In the cinema of the mind, actors reveal themselves to those in attendance. Particular audience members perceive the piece in a particular manner. All the while, behind the camera, a hidden, unconscious dramatist exerts command over the actors and the public eye. While contextualising the setting of the performance or event, they put into context more abstruse features, such as the social and emotional. The dramatist can be thought of in an interactive sense, represented by the extensive parts played in daily life by the inner voice and outward speech. **
T⚾LE – ‘Thirst’ mix
(0:00 – 9:59)
Colin Stetson – From No Part Of Me Could I Summon A Voice
Robert Ashley – The Jaguar
Nils Frahm – Says
EVOL – Hyperobject 1
Quinton Tarver – Everybody’s Free
Belbury Poly – The Willows
Blanck Mass – Sifted Gold
Why Be – Blasting Voice Thing (Han River Special)
Malibu – ‘Te Deseo’ mix
(30:22 – 59:44)
Malibu – Malaconducta
Malibu – Keep On (Organ Tapes)
Malibu – 2Late (Ana Caprix X Jojo) X Heaven
Ssaliva – Oxy
Malibu – Te Deseo
Malibu – Slow Drift (X Organ Tapes)
Malibu – Quiero Ayudarte
Vybz Kartel World Boss – Ignite The World
Malibu – Sudor
Malibu – Ck1
Sky H1 X Uli-K – Itami
Yayoyanoh For Malibu – Bdd (Blu Dmt Dreams)
Malibu – Wining (X Organ Tapes)
Alkaline – Ride On Me
J.G. Biberkopf’s Unthinkable radio show airs at midnight on a Friday each month at London’s NTS Radio. This latest one aired September 4, and featured London-based producer Malibu and Berlin-based producer T⚾LE.
See here for more ‘Unthinkable’ mixes.share news item