Coca-Cola Pop Art Gallery: Micha Klein, Pioneer of the Digital Image Culture

Micha Klein graduated from the Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam, in 1989 as the first artist to receive a BA in computer graphics. The same year, Klein started exhibiting his gigantic photographic panels in prestigious galleries around the world.

Klein was already known as a successful VJ and experienced a breakthrough on the international club scene before he made it as an artist. Pioneer of the VJ-scene, Micha Klein introduced his rhythmic editing of computer graphics and video images at the first Acid house parties in 1988. In the nineties, he introduced the VJ concept in Ibiza, where he held a residency in legendary club Pacha. The rest of the world would follow fast. Over the years, Klein has seen how things have technically evolved and how the VJ-scene has boomed: “The new equipment and software create new possibilities. We live in a multimedia age, so we can’t live on music alone anymore. Visuals will become an integral part of electronic culture, and in the future DJ’s will become Media Jockey’s” (note: with this 90’s quote, Micha proved to be a real visionary – anno 2008, the age of the Media Jockey has begun with tools as the Pioneer SVM 1000).

In 1998, the Groninger Museum honored him with a retrospective dedicated to 10 years of his graphic production and videos. In 2003, Klein was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the international VJ scene during the AVIT UK summit.

Klein’s artworks are a significant crossover between art, multimedia, video art, VJing, marketing and advertising. They attract attention for their digital approach, surrealistic shapes & objects and bright colors and tell stories of a world that revisits pop art and culture. Klein doesn’t portray reality; he likes to create his own reality.
With his computer manipulated images and psychedelic computer palette, Klein explores the media based culture of our time. He mixes music, club culture, fashion, beauty and mass media to create a wondrous universe somewhere between dream and reality.

The people and landscapes in his artworks are just too beautiful & perfect. They appear unreal, even unearthly. In his series ‘Artificial Beauty’ (1998), Klein generated a new fictitious generation of beautiful young people, taking over the top the all too perfect beings and settings we encounter in advertisements.
By doing so, Klein also shows that today’s photography has no more to do with reality than other types of images. Even the most stunning models are given a Photoshop make-over. The end result is highly artificial, and comments on the aspects of society that Klein finds fascinating yet problematic such as artificial beauty and plastic surgery.

The aesthetics of advertising and elements of everyday and popular culture have always been an integrated element Klein’s art, and he brings everything that is usable over from this world. In true pop art tradition, Micha Klein is a big but critical fan of the techniques and concepts of advertising. Just like Damien Hirst, Klein believes that art must compete with commercial and spectacular expressions: “My work must be as seductive as advertising and entertainment. If not, it loses its visibility in a culture saturated by media, constantly bombarding us with commercial messages. Since these messages have become part of the mainstream culture, it is vital that artists especially can infiltrate this culture with their subversive ideas.”

Over the last years, Micha Klein has worked in clubs around the world and collaborated with superstar DJ Tiësto on visuals for his live-sets and created background projections for Eminem’s concert tour, based on his notorious character Pillman. Klein also did all the artworks for the Dutch dance festival Mysteryland, designed the animations for Jacky Chan’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ movie and did commercial work for companies and brands as Swatch, Philips, Endemol, KPN, Mustang Jeans, Heineken, Hugo Boss and Samsung.

For his first Coca-Cola commercial, Micha Klein managed to put in a girl in a ‘Make Love, Not War’ T-shirt (just before the 2nd Gulf war), a boy wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt the war and girls licking each others faces. The video with music by Monte La Rue, introducing Coca-Cola’s new visual identity by Desgrippes Gobé, was sold to 25 Coca-Cola markets, a lot in Central and South America.

Klein’s commercial jobs and his works of art have a number of parallels in form & content: “It’s fun to stretch the image of a company in directions they never would imagine, to sort of pile your own layer of meaning on top of theirs, to inject some of my own ideas”.
Klein always tries to inject some of his own ideas in his commercial work. “I try to talk to the client and tell them they should transform their strategy to become a ‘good company’, to be closer to their consumers and do community projects. Give back to the people… I think in the future companies will be judged on that”.
By doing commercial assignments, Klein can finance his own art, and is not dependent on government subsidies, which gives him more freedom.

The music & club culture is still a key component in Klein’s work; at times he prefers the unceremonious gathering at clubs to the seriousness of galleries or museums.
For the Coca-Cola commercial “Bubble Dream Girl”, Klein could combine his passion for dance floors and advertising. The clip was shot in Malaga on 35mm, with a 50 people crew and 80 extras. Graphics & special effects were added in post production and his friend Tiësto did the soundtrack.

Last year (2007), ‘Speeding on the Virtual Highway’, a documentary about Micha Klein’s life & work was shown at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Director Corinne van Egeraat follows Klein as he works on his his new art series. This unique time document shows us how fast digital developments go and how quickly the times they are a-changin’, especially in the case of Klein’s creative way of living.

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Coca-Cola Retro Lounge: The Art of Chillin’

With the “Coke Side of Life campaign, Coca-Cola proves once again to be in tune with the world’s most current trends in visual arts, design, motion graphics, lifestyle, music & nightlife. Thanks to the company’s amazing efforts (bar & club activations, venue branding, VJ-sets, the limited aluminum Coke M5 & WE8 bottles series, …), Coca-Cola is now an important ingredient in nightlife all over the world.

In nightlife, it’s all about the vibes, about being a trendsetter amongst the cool, about being seen in the limelight. Dress, dance, dare – go wild! But sometimes, it’s cool just to “chill”.
Since the late ‘90s, long working hours and hectic lifestyles have generated a huge boom in lounge & chill places: trendy bars, clubs or restaurants with a relaxed atmosphere, glamorous and luxurious interior design and a large selection of food & drinks.

Another cool aspect of the lounge trend is the diversity of the music. Lounge tunes have the soul of jazz, the sexiness of funk, elements of early house music, all mixed with today’s electronic symphony of sounds. Successful lounge cd-series as Hotel Costes, Buddha Bar, Sinners Lounge, Cafe Del Mar, Supperclub, Hed Kandi Chilled, Cafe Ibiza or Bargroove have sold million of copies. And the trend is far from being over. Every week, there’s another grand opening somewhere of a fabulous lounge bar, club or restaurant – the last one even more spectacular than the one before.

Actually, there is nothing really new here. The term “lounge” dates back to the 16th century (in the sense of “a place of relaxation”) and in the 19th century ‘lounging’ became very popular. Ok, the places weren’t exactly designed by Stephane Dupoux or Karim Rashid but they served hot tea, poured some cool drinks and there was some nice music, too. The type of music played in this kind of waiting rooms and cocktail bars was the lounge music of those days, oldies-but-goldies piano tunes – often with a touch of Swing.
Prohibition forced the consumption of alcohol into private clubs and gave birth to an entirely new culture of secret underground lounges.

The late Fifties and the swinging Sixties were the golden age of “lounging”. People wanted a break from their 9-to-5 stress and the gastronomical wasteland of the TV dinner, so they escaped to their favorite lounge and lead an imagined glamorous & libertine lifestyle in their oasis of choice, even if it was only for a couple of hours.
While some of the lounge music was truly slow, there was lot of uptempo too: music from movies or TV shows, and various exotic genres such as Bossa Nova, Cha-Cha-Cha & Mambo. Lounges became popular sites for socializing and spending a lazy afternoon or evening out.

In the late 1980’s, a lounge revival takes off. US bars & clubs are decorated with tiki masks, fish nets, palms & other kitsch & camp goodies. TV’s are stacked on top of each other like modern totem poles, each screen silently showing fifties lounge heroes as Sinatra (Frank or Nancy), Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Sam Butera, Wayne Newton & Co. Las Vegas classics flow smoothly through jazz standards & exotic grooves.

Halfway the Nineties, Europe took over and set new trends. The current way of bundling music with design can be traced back to Paris, with the debuts of the original Buddha Bar and Hôtel Costes. The rest of the world would follow fast…

Lounges have changed a lot from the Fifties to the present. Every lounge is different, but every lounge creates its own sense of lounge-ness. To cite marketing expert Shane Keller: “It’s a way of being. It is about flowing through life just like the music flows and floats into our feelings and emotions. It is about being with your friends and sharing moments of pleasure”.

The artworks to illustrate this post are “Nightlife Remixes” by “Coke Art Gallery” of vintage Coca-Cola advertising (1920-1960).
All Rights Reserved. © The Coca-Cola Company.

Coca-Cola Side of Berlin

Photography by Captain Kidd

Since East & West Berlin were reunited in the late eighties, the streets are once again abuzz with a creative energy and style that is uniquely Berlin. Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, this once-divided city of 3.5 million people has successfully reinvented itself as a single entity that embraces its turbulent history.

The vivid art scene and exciting nightlife makes the city especially appealing to young people from all over the world. They set new trends and, with their individualized lifestyles, are a part of the creative atmosphere Berlin generates.

Here you can see parts of a Coca-Cola ad as shown on a vending machine at Potsdamer Platz. The image combines the Coke bottle with some landmarks of the city: the television tower on Alexanderplatz and the Brandenburg Gate.

Photography by Lihayward

A lot of cities have huge Coca-Cola signs, but this cut-out billboard is extra stylish because the eighties logo is so cool. Love it!

Photography by Ethel Kidd

The bear is the symbol of Berlin. If you walk around in the city, you can see hundreds of Berlin Art Bears, decorated by local and international artists. This red & white Coca-Cola bear is tagged with words as ‘contemporary’, ‘delicious’, ‘connection’, ‘real’, ‘uplifting’ and ‘original’ to describe Coke’s brand values.

Photography by Emilette

After decades of playing the poor stepsister to the more dazzling West Berlin, it’s the old East Berlin that’s now the edgiest, hippest side of town with all the new galleries, cafes, lounges, shops and restaurants. East’s Mitte district is my favorite part of town, and I can spend hours strolling & shopping around in the cd or book stores, or just have a drink with some nice locals.

Photography by Marcel Korstian

Photography by Drt Schulz

The Coke Side of Berlin. It’s really a bustling city that deserves to be discovered. Watch how East and West mix, mingle and collide. Walk through the Brandenburg Gate, see where the Berlin Wall used to be and check out Checkpoint Charlie. Enjoy Berlin!