A conversation with Bas Mantel


    We spoke with artist & designer Bas Mantel about artificial intelligence, breaking his arm, palmistry and the mechanics of memory.

    In a split second, fragments of images, texts, sounds, meanings and feelings will fall into its place into the context of the moment, of the now.


    Julien Fernandez

    Your career is twofold – you work for the agency Kades-Kaden as well as your small independent label, Rev. Laboratories. What’s the correlation between these two? Can you illustrate this flow of creative effort in a chart or graph?

    Bas Mantel

    The relationship between Kades-Kaden and Rev. Laboratories mainly concerns their output and connection to art, film, music and text. The expressions of Kades-Kaden often come from projects I initiate myself and assignments from the cultural sector. Rev. Laboratories is the component in which the relation between music and graphic design/typography/collages is found.


    Aagoo Records is another strong connection between these two practices. It’s run by my friend, the visual artist Alec Dartley. Alec provides me with all kinds of assignments, including sleeve design, advertorials and stop-motion clips. And my record label finds its output and releases in the Rev. Lab series, which is often a collaboration with Aagoo. It’s a series in which I curate and design, investigating the relation between graphic design, music, tone and sound.



    Can you describe how your memory works? How do your deep-set and recent memories interact with each other?

    I’m not a scientist in this field, but I usually look at the environment that surrounds me from a semantic viewpoint. Texts and typography give me mental meaning and cause an associative process – impulses that produce continuous activity in my brain. It’s a continuous flow.

    My memory is often fragmented into bits and pieces. It’s organic. It’s not complete and clear all at once. In a split second, fragments of images, texts, sounds, meanings and feelings will fall into its place into the context of the moment, of the now.


    We’re deeply interested in the minutiae of day-to-day life. Can you make a timeline of a typical day for you – from waking to going to sleep?

    This is what July 3, 2017 looked like at the Mantel/Kades-Kaden/Rev. Laboratories HQ.


    8 7:00 AM

    8 7:10 AM
    Wake up and shower.

    8 7:20 AM
    Wake up our two sons, have breakfast and all the other rituals before taking them to school.

    8  8:30 AM
    Take the boys to school.

    8 8:50 AM
    Cycle to my studio, which takes approximately ten minutes.

    8 9:00 AM
    Studio, coffee and talks with my friend, studiomate (and often Kades-Kaden collaborator) Martijn Couwenhoven.

    8 9:15 AM
    Answer emails and do some administration where needed.

    8 9:45-10:00 AM
    My first work project of the day, and more coffee.


    8 12:00 PM
    Work project number two.

    8 1:30 PM
    Lunch break. Mostly behind my computer.

    8 2:00 PM
    Project one, two or three.

    8 4:00 PM
    Call it a day at the studio. Commute via bicycle to school.

    8 4:15 PM
    Collecting my sons from school.

    8 4:25 PM
    Home, relaxing, playing, cooking, drawing, having fun – just being with my sons.

    Evening & Night

    8 6:00 PM
    Dinner time.

    8 6:30 PM
    Family time.

    8 8:00 PM
    Kids in bed.

    8 8:30 PM
    Work a bit at home. Graphic design, painting, researching, reading and planning the next day.

    8 11:00/11:30 PM
    TV, Netflix, Mubi or YouTube, usually to watch a film or documentary.

    8 12:30 AM

    Style is about having an attitude, the ability to come close to yourself and to dare to allow intuition.


    What’s your personal definition of style? Do you have it – or concern yourself with having it?

    My personal definition of style is about having an attitude, the ability to come close to yourself and to dare to allow intuition. To me, these are important conditions for my design process. Basically, it does not matter which specific tools I use to create and design. It can be anything that most closely corresponds to what I want to convey, want to communicate. My graphic style is often described as raw, punk, “scissors and glue,” monochrome, dadaist and industrial. Personally, I never think of labeling and naming my work in order to have a style because it is personal and variable in its aesthetics.


    Have you broken any bone in your body? If so, how did it happen? Would you say this part of your body is stronger or weaker for having it broken?

    I broke my left arm when I was six. I was on holiday with my parents and sister. I tripped with a big chair under my arm over a rope that was stretched low over the ground. It did not seem like a major accident, but the pain was unbearable. At the hospital, they cut my T-shirt open and put my arm in plaster.

    I do not think my left arm is weaker than it was before.


    Can you describe a single point in your personal timeline that led to where you are now? What series of consequences was set off by a lone event?

    At the age of twelve or thirteen I bought the album In Visible Silence (1986) by The Art Of Noise. The sleeve design was by John Pasche. I was blown away by the typographic concept of this cover, which exposes the idea that there are hidden messages in shapes everywhere around us. In visible silence! My interest in graphic design, music and art was even more encouraged than it already was.


    After high school, I continued my studies at the Art Academy of Utrecht, majoring in graphic design with a focus on visual typography. After I graduated, I worked as a graphic designer for the Dutch music magazine Oor. Then, I began to publish my own music magazine called Epilogue – in which I interpreted music visually, in graphic music compositions.

    At this time, the Amsterdam-based DVD label REEL23 asked me to create graphic interpretations and DVD sleeves for films by David Cronenberg, Mika Taanila and more. The graphic output for REEL23 connected me with contemporary composers like Marcus Fjellström and Philippe Petit. It was Philippe who introduced me to Alec from Aagoo. Once I was embraced by the Aagoo family, I designed many cover designs, posters, books, and papers for them. I also started to exhibit my visual work in New York and Austin TX. Finally, Alec encouraged me to start my own graphic-music label Rev. Lab in 2013.

    One hand, with almost uncountable lines. I am curious as to what this would mean for mankind’s future.


    Can you tell us about your knowledge of palmistry? Have you ever had your palm read? Can our futures actually be foretold by something that superficial?

    I think it’s a fascinating idea that you could read your inner world from the palm of your hand. That you could find out what direction your life will go in.

    However, I’m not familiar with reading palms or having my own read. Maybe I’m too down to earth for that. But what if we could scan all the palms available in the world and store them in a computer database controlled by artificial intelligence? It could use these palm scans to come to a conclusion about humanity. One hand, with almost uncountable lines – I am curious as to what this could mean for humanity’s future.


    Can you take some hi-resolution photos of your studio for us? What was the last event that took place there?

    I recently finished eight typographic black and white paintings on canvas for an exhibition and part of a future Rev. Lab release.

    Bas Mantel's studio. Detail.
    Bas Mantel's studio. Detail.
    Bas Mantel's studio. Detail.
    Bas Mantel's studio. Detail.
    Bas Mantel's studio. Detail.
    Bas Mantel's studio. Detail.

    Thank you.


    Conversation: 11
    Curated by: Julien Fernandez
    Conducted by: Email
    Published: July 12, 2017
    Total questions: 8
    Word count: 1203
    Reading time: Four minutes
    Hyperlinks: 10
    Imagery: 7


    Alarm: 7 AM
    Arms broken: 1
    Typographic black and white paintings: 8
    Palm reading: Dubious


    About the subject

    Bas Mantel is a graphic designer and the founder of REV. LAB. Records.

    About the curator

    Julien Fernandez was born in Mayenne, France in 1976. He currently lives and works in Pescara, Italy with his wife, two kids and a dog, Lenny. He is captivated by structural relations between objects, animal behavior, contagion and magic, and is currently working on a mechanism that would classify mental images in the physical world. He also designs and envisions the day-to-day architecture of North of the Internet.

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