It’s strange to think about art without also thinking about design. Architecture has as much to do with the clothes we wear and the cars we drive as it does the homes we live in and the type of churches people build to worhsip their gods.
Hate him or love him, Kanye West is the face for design in the music world. Whether it’s literally projecting his face on buildings across the globe for the premiere of “New Slaves” or designing custom wardrobes for the “Watch the Throne” tour alongside Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, West’s creative vision has never been singular.
Perhaps, then, it’s of no surprise that in a New York Times interview leading up to the Yeezus release, West claims that his inspiration for the project stems from modern architecture, specifically the work of Le Corbusier.
“You know, this one Corbusier lamp was like, my greatest inspiration,” West says. “I lived in Paris in this loft space and recorded in my living room, and it just had the worst acoustics possible, but also the songs had to be super simple, because if you turned up some complicated sound and a track with too much bass, it’s not going to work in that space.”
Corbusier is also said to be both the father of modern architecture and modern minimalism. “Minimalism” has also been a framework many have used in describing Kanye West’s recent muses, be it the Yeezus album to his summer collab with ready-to-wear brand APC.
Corbusier viewed the home as a “machine for living,” needing to be both beautiful and functional. Although he died in 1965, some of his work is still considered to exhibit forward design, as perhaps they manage to do the impossible: making what people want the same as what they need. West recalls going to see some of these Corbusier designed homes in person, and with the Yeezus your still making its way across the country, it’s interesting to see exactly how “the creative genius” integrates these inspirations into his tour design.
Many people found the The DONDA conceived promo art for the tour laughable, dramatic beyond its ability to be taken seriously, much like his recent “Bound 2″ music video. However, in looking at it from the perspective of a modern architect, there might be a way to argue for something more. Corbusier has been quoted saying that “light renders texture, illuminates surface, and provides sparkle and life.” West almost seems to be coming to life in the promo, and the countless interviews he’s done over the past 4 months seem to indicate that he’s doing just that,
Many were concerned that Wests minimalistic art direction would result in a dull stage visuals, hopeful that the same guy who did the legendary Glow In the Dark Tour would somehow go 2 for 2. But now that most of us have either seen pictures/footage from the show or have had the pleasure of attending one in person, it seems that West’s design technique combines Corbusier’s seamless approach to architecture, furniture and light design with his own finish.
The photo above illustrates the mountain on which West performs at certain points during his set, with a sinking screen flashing visuals above him. Given the reach of modern technology, we can only assume that the two-dimensional, sketchbook style of the mountain is intentional. This is the guy who used a blank CD as his album artwork, after all.
West seems to be taking Corbusier’s philosophy of minimalism as organic and interpreting that into basic, almost elementary design. We never think of it this way as consumers, but everything from the outfit you’re wearing to the last hotel you stayed in began as a sketch, perhaps as a purer version of itself. The stage design seems less interested with using as many dope visuals as possible than with giving every piece a function – which sounds simplistic, but when you’re a self-proclaimed creative genius, it can render something amazing.
The problem with most Hip-Hop shows isn’t that they’re visually underwhelming (well, this is a problem), but more so the set designs don’t properly fit the artist. For example, when more intimate artists are surrounded by a bunch of lights and pyrotechnics that consume them rather than compliment their music. Corbusier set out to correct this mistake about our homes and our everyday environment, and in his own way, Kanye West is right behind him.