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Suddenly September

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I’ve moved into my new studio at NEW INC and Counterpractice is real. And it feels different. Overnight, how I work has changed. I’m in a huge studio space filled with creative people and we’re all stretching into new territory. Working here is public and social. The stimulation is infectious. I haven’t felt this motivated in a long while.

And just off of the quiet of Portlander, I’ve landed in a September frenzy. A good frenzy though. Printed Web No. 2 is about to launch and a nice series of talks and exhibitions is coming up. Here’s what’s happening:

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Counterpractice

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I’m happy to announce that I’m moving my studio to the Bowery this summer. As of August 1, Counterpractice will be open for business within NEW Inc., the New Museum‘s art/design/tech incubator. This is the first of its kind: the museum is setting up a non-profit, collaborative work space at 231 Bowery, next door to the museum. They’ve hired SO-IL/Gensler to build it out with desk space, work shops, class rooms and a kitchen. We got a walk-through a few weeks ago and it’s beautiful; Rhizome and Studio X are our studiomates. The mission is impressive—develop a place where artists, designers and entrepreneurs can experiment, influence each other and benefit from in-person, cross-studio stimulation. A brave move by an arts institution to create a new kind of ecosystem.

After I gave the Resistance talk at Build I struggled with next steps. I kept making and teaching but none of it was sustainable and I didn’t know what to do. It took a good six months to understand that I should use that talk as the basis for a new kind of studio—one that’s wide enough to include projects like Printed Web and Portland Bill but selective enough to take on meaningful client work at the same time. So, Counterpractice was born. And it needs to live in a collaborative place.

I don’t have an elaborate description or a Counterpractice manifesto. Simply, Counterpractice questions the red-hot center, and looks for magic in the margins. The studio favors longevity over right now, thingness over ephemerality and agility over perfection. Above all, radical curiosity drives the work. That’s it. The rest will come as I do more work.

I didn’t mention stretching, but opening up to uncertainty is a big part of this (or rather, allowed this to happen). So, I built Counterpractice.com by hand. For anyone familiar with front-end web development, this is almost laughable—it’s a dumb one-pager of minimal text and images. For me, it was a big deal. During the last couple of weeks I used Codecademy to teach myself HTML and CSS and I made it work (Krate stepped in to clean up the code, thankfully). It was the first time that I didn’t hire someone else to build a site for me, and it’s my first Counterpractice project (similarly, an early version of Soulellis.com was the first project I did as Soulellis Studio, back in 2001—using Dreamweaver! it was also the last site that I ever built myself). Counterpractice.com is pretty bare bones: images are hosted in an Amazon S3 bucket and the site sits within my Dropbox account. Still, it’s a start.

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Counterstudio

I just applied to the New Museum‘s NEW INC program, “a shared workspace and professional development program designed to support creative practitioners working in the areas of art, technology, and design.” I’m planning to reboot my design studio in the coming months, and while I think this would be an incredible platform for a new kind of “counterstudio,” if this doesn’t happen, something else will. Currently looking for new ideas, opportunities and scenarios.

NEW INC asked five questions as part of the application. Here are all of my responses, merged into one essay.

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LaRossa Mix

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Here’s what I’m doing for Brian LaRossa‘s Undefined by Design show at Lorimoto Gallery in Brooklyn next month.

I’m experimenting with several themes that I’ve worked with before, like chance, web-to-print, found material and print-on-demand. This is the first time that these particular techniques come together in one piece (LaRossa Mix).

For the show, I decided to create a score for a chance-generated web-to-print publication. I started with a set of instructions that draws from eight types of web archive material (Google images, maps, earth and street view, wikipedia, twitter, Project Gutenberg and Getty Images). Using random.org, I determined that there should be ten content objects in a particular stepped order. The process is based (very loosely) on John Cage’s Williams Mix (1951–53).

Then I chance determined a single word using random.org (the number 14 yielded the letter N) and dictionary.com (“non-equalizing”). From there, a series of numbers, coordinates, words and other search terms worked in jumping chain reaction to generate all of the content. The whole series is embedded in the design of the piece.

For Step 8 I got to Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story “Providence and the Guitar” (1878) in Project Gutenberg (after this tweet [Step 6] took me to “Foxy Lady” in Providence, RI in Google street view [Step 7]). The entire public domain text is set in default cut-and-paste text (9/10.8 Times New Roman), which also determined the size of the piece (broadsheet, 8 pages).

I will print 150 on newsprint and 100 will be placed in a pile in the gallery show, to be taken. The opening is April 12 at 7pm.

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#11

#11

The New Yorker’s Photo Booth blog says my Las Meninas project is one of their twelve reasons to visit the NY Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 this weekend. Happy and honored to be mentioned in good company with Elisabeth Tonnard, Erik van der Wejde, Gordon Matta-ClarkRobert Mapplethorpe and others.

Come find me at table #Q47! Or purchase Las Meninas right here. Half of the edition has already sold.

Friday, September 20, 12–7pm
Saturday, September 21, 11–9pm
Sunday, September 22, 11–7pm (I will only be there from 11–2pm on Sunday)

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39 movements

front with cover wrap

inside cover

18 Hafrún.

9 Fiskísupa + 11 Eínbui.

32 Old friendship ties + 34 Self.

18 Hafrún.

15 Earth + 16 Just in front of me.

This book is finished. I’m giving most of the edition of 50 away to people in Skagaströnd this week. It feels so good to hand the object over, to pass it on, to be able to leave it behind.

The experience is similar to what happened with Weymouths, but 530 is different for a few reasons. I created this work on-site, in and around the chance encounters with people in town, so there’s already a familiarity with the work (and me), and certain expectations.

Also, 530 is much more accessible. The entire work is embodied in a single book, and easily communicated. The power of the object. With Weymouths, I could only give away parts. And the mass and expense of the project—12 books in a custom-made box—meant that very few people were able to fully encounter Weymouths. Of course, Weymouths wasn’t really about that total experience—it was more about the value of the ephemeral encounter, conversations, fragments, a glimpse.

530 is a complete poetic work. A place-based book work that serves as a particular expression of my experience with this place. It works as a solid brick of connected encounters that can be recreated or re-imagined by the reader, or not, in any number of ways. Framed like this, I can easily hand over the object-based work and leave the rest up to the recipient, and this feels very satisfying.

The final 39 movement-parts of 530 (Sá veldur sem á heldur), written as a score and ordered by chance:

1 Navigation. 2 Depths. 3 Take three, three cards. 4 1815. 5 Bank sea hermit. 6 The box is a battery. 7 Quota. 8 Light. 9 Fiskisúpa. 10 Island. 11 Einbúi. 12 Outlaws. 13 ____________________. 14 Yeah, we are just. 15 Earth. 16 Just in front of me. 17 Mayor. 18 Hafrún. 19 Mirror. 20 Town. 21 Water. 22 Back to God’s Country. 23 We have our families. 24 Fjords, on the sea. 25 Scientist. 26 Bensín. 27 We have our connections. 28 Those transparencies. 29 1964. 30 Horse. 31 Strong. 32 Old friendship ties. 33 Þórdís. 34 Self. 35 530. 36 There’s one bird. 37 Mountain. 38 Rabbarbarabaka. 39 Grandfather.

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Las Meninas

LAS MENINAS

LAS MENINAS

LAS MENINAS

LAS MENINAS

I developed this collection of photographs earlier this year and struggled with the publication format. The images are interior views from Google Street View and depict the photographer and/or the camera’s reflection in mirror or glass. I ordered print-on-demand books from Blurb in several formats, trying different sizes and papers, but nothing felt right.

Finally, I’m self-publishing the 17 images as Las Meninas, a 32-page newsprint tabloid publication, nesting pages (edition of 50). Printed by Newspaper Club. I’m satisfied with the results. The format seems to fit the material perfectly.

Las Meninas will be available for purchase at Printed Matter’s 2013 NY Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 (19–22 September). Look for me at the ABC/Library of the Printed Web table.

Las Meninas
32 pages
Digital newsprint (print-on-demand)
Edition of 50
Nesting folio
Tabloid (289 mm x 380 mm)

View the entire publication on Flickr.

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Venice

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I’ll present Library of the Printed Web at The Book Affair, at the opening of the 55th Venice Biennale, 29–31 May. I’ll have (most of) the collection with me in a specially constructed wood box (my mobile device), and a small selection of items will be available for purchase. I’ve designed a print-on-demand catalogue of the entire inventory and this will be also be available for purchase at the fair, as well as online (coming soon).

A talk is planned for Thursday 30 May, 12pm.

The presentation will include over 50 book works (and zines, postcards, etc.) by 30+ artists, including Penelope Umbrico, Joachim Schmid, David Horvitz, Fraser ClarkMishka Henner, Guthrie Lonergan, Lauren Thorson, Clement Valla, Elisabeth Tonnard, Karolis KosasBenjamin Shaykin, Jason Huff, Silvio Lorusso, Stephanie Syjuco, Federico Antonini, Jonathan Lewis, Andreas Schmidt, Doug Rickard, Heidi Neilson, John Zissovici and many others.

As Library of the Printed Web grows, I intend to keep the collection focused on self-published works. Many items coming to Venice are rare or one-of-a-kind.

The Book Affair
Biblioteca Castello
S. Lorenzo-Castello 5065
Venice, Italy
29–31 May 2013

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The importance of being Iceland

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Today I read “Iceland,” an essay by Eileen Myles. It functions as a sort of introduction to The Importance of Being Iceland, her collection of essays organized into seven sections—Art Essays, People, Talks, Travel, Body, Moving Pictures and Blogs.

I’m not so familiar with Myles, who is a poet. I owe my discovery to Kenneth Goldsmith, who tweeted this.

That was enough for me to find out more about Eileen Myles.

Her writing feels familiar. It’s smart, which she describes this way—

[…] For all these reasons (i.e., sentimental attachments to the past) working class intellectuals like big words and their sentence formation is excessively ornate. It’s what they think of as “smart.” Pomposity. It’s an embarrassing condition of being unsophisticated and not knowing what is truly smart which is simplicity and modernism; certainly it was twenty years ago when I learned to write.

Her “Iceland” voice is like this: conversational, simple, modern, but packed. I was immediately inspired. Reading Eileen Myles’ “Iceland” today was the start of something for me. A trigger. She writes about two trips to Iceland and hooks ideas and places and people together through small anecdotes, from Roni Horn to lesbian community to melancholy to waterfalls to epic poetry singing. I listened in on her thoughts in real time, one fragment leading to another.

[…] I’m not sure if I’m telling a story or unveiling my mania.

All in the space of 36 pages, plus one photograph. All the while, the stories framing Iceland. Or rather, Iceland as her frame. Iceland as an idea, to get at other things. Poetry, language, voice.

I don’t know what the importance of being Iceland is yet. I’ll finish the book. All of this in preparation for my own travel to Iceland. I’m going there this summer for 2.5 months.

I’ll be with several other artists at Nes, a small artist’s residency in the tiny seaside village of Skagaströnd, in northern Iceland, from July 1 through mid-September. Continuous daylight! For the residency, which is part of a special “Summer We Go Public” initiative of performance/public art in the town, I’ve proposed a book project.

I’m calling this performative book project Skagabók. The boundaries are loose. I’ve defined only two parameters. Wikipedia says that the fishing village of Skagaströnd has 530 inhabitants, so my book will have 530 pages. For two months I’ll make the book, which will be about the place. A flat-topped mountain, Spákonufell, is the backdrop for the town. It’s featured in a 10th-century Icelandic saga as a place where Þórdís, a soothsayer, walked every day, combing her hair. She left a treasure on the mountain, it seems.

In the last two weeks of the residency (early September) I’ll somehow install the 530 pages of Skagabók in the town, and give them all away. The work will be absorbed back into the place.

More about Skagabók later.


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Experimental Book

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I’m really excited to be teaching an experimental book studio this fall at Purchase College.

Experimental Book traces the development of the artist’s book through the twentieth-century and beyond. This interdisciplinary Art + Design studio course asks highly motivated students to consider the future of the book and expand the boundaries of the traditional codex through provocative studio exercises and projects.

The class will benefit from critical readings, site visits to important book collections, notable guest critics and a collaborative, hands-on studio atmosphere.

Students will help shape the book’s radical trajectory into the twenty-first century by producing their own book works. Of particular interest will be the physicality of the book as it evolves in the digital space, including print-on-demand, publish-on-demand, book scanning, book videos and books-in-browsers.

Working with noted artist and creative director Paul Soulellis, the studio will engage in thematic exercises to explore narrative structure, form, chance, word and image, digital vs. print technologies, photography, typography and production, as well as audience and performance.

Each student will develop a final book project and participate in a collaboratively-designed studio exhibition.

Paul Soulellis (Soulellis.com) is a New York-based artist and creative director, maintaining his studio in Long Island City. His book works explore place, image and identity.

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