It’s August and I’m already looking at the end of my time at NEW INC. I’ll move out of 231 Bowery by the end of this month. It’s been an intense year, a very good one, for lots of reasons. This studio space here and the incredible community in the New Museum’s incubator helped me focus on writing, teaching and special publishing projects — as Counterpractice. It’s the first time that I’ve opened up my studio to a wider range of non-client work, in a more formalized way (please, no more “side-projects”). The balance was never perfect but I’ve learned to stay alert for unexpected alignments and frictions. I’m learning from all of it. In May I was asked to be a contributing editor at Rhizome, so I now have another outlet for writing and developing special projects and extending my experimental publishing research.
After the launch of Printed Web 3 at Offprint London (and on Rhizome) at the end of May, I headed to Germany. I’d been invited by Olia Lialina to teach a one-week Library of the Printed Web workshop at Merz Akademie in Stuttgart, which was just coming to the end of asparagus season.
The students were excellent and we presented a mini collection of zines, postcards and printed matter to Olia for the school’s library.
This was my first LotPW workshop and creating a site-specific collection of materials in real-time is a beautiful format. I’ll use it again.
While I was there I gave my “Performing Publishing” talk at Stadtsbibliothek Stuttgart (the city’s new public library that feels like a set from the Matrix). This library knows how to make speakers feel welcome. No, this is not a rendering.
And then I was Paris-bound, where I had been invited by Fondation Galeries Lafayette to deliver a talk (“Making Public”) and conduct a two-day workshop for an awesome mix of artists, media critics, designers and curators (including Alessandro Ludovico, Raphael Bastide, Oliver Laric, Neil Cummings from Wolff Olins, Joachim Hamou and Nicolas Delaforge, a semantic web engineer). The scenario was to imagine how the new OMA-designed art institution opening in 2018 would treat the artifacts of artistic production, from archiving to publishing.
Making public became a kind of mantra for me while I spent the week in the Marais writing the talk and posing questions around posting, multiple publics, memory, temporality, poor media and physical space. I’d love to develop this talk into a broader text about the role of publishing for artists and art institutions.
In September I’m back at RISD. I’ll be full-time on a year-long term appointment, teaching the core design studio for graphic design juniors as well as Experimental Publishing Studio (this time as an undergrad elective). I’ll try to spend more time in Providence, which might be easier now without the need to rush back to my studio on the Bowery. I’ll be writing and designing and putting my fall projects together from Rhode Island, as much as I can.
— Paul Soulellis (@soulellis) July 26, 2015
In September I’ll participate in Yami-Ichi Internet Black Market at the Knockdown Center in Queens, and then you’ll find me in the zine tent at the NY Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 (Sept 18–20).
All issues of Printed Web (1–3) will be available at both of these events (except the Chinatown Edition, which is sold out), as well as the first of my new Printed Web Editions — one-off artist project zines.
Also this fall — I’m developing the next issue of Printed Web, which will be a special commission for the International Center of Photography. This will be for the museum’s inaugural exhibition in their new location on the Bowery in early 2016. And in February, I’ll be back in Paris for the opening of L’image Inframince at xpo gallery, a show I’m curating around the current condition of the image on the network and in physical space.
Meanwhile, Library of the Printed Web continues to grow. Please direct all web-to-print projects my way for consideration! Someday, I’ll properly conserve these artifacts and develop a proper home for this collection. The works deserve to be treated better than my sorry bookcases at home.
Earlier this year, I announced an open call for the third issue of Printed Web, a semi-annual publication dedicated to web-to-print discourse. I received a stunning array of files from recognized artists like Olia Lialina, Kim Asendorf, and Clement Valla, but the real beauty of the open call was connecting with a new group of people working with material found or created on the web — 147 contributors in all. A particularly diverse view of networked culture formed on my desktop through an accumulation of notes, attachments, tweets, and downloads. Gathering this community around Printed Web was immensely satisfying for me, and I wanted to include every submission in the issue — but having received hundreds of PDFs, JPGs, PNGs, and GIFs, the logistical challenges to this have been considerable.
My intention had always been to publish all of the files in a single print edition, but as submissions poured in, I decided that “scattering” the material across different networked versions would allow the project to occupy multiple positions in a way that suited its multiplicitous content.
A cheap, black-and-white, print-on-demand paperback book becomes just one of the physical artifacts of Printed Web 3. All of the artists’ files come together in this Index/Reader as a “defense of poor media,” prioritizing accessibility and circulation over craft and polish. Potent texts by Alexander Galloway (an interview) and Silvio Lorusso (a manifesto), grabbed from the web, provide some context and framing.
A collection of 10 print-on-demand zines focuses the material into curated groupings. A tight selection of 10 images printed onto neoprene fabric slows some of the work down even further, wrapping PDFs around books like insulating skin.
If the books, zines, and skins are a meager attempt to fix some stability into the work as printout matter, the files are also offered for download in several different formats, allowing “readers” of Printed Web 3 to perform their own versions of the material. A 147-page-frame GIF compresses all the material into a single loop, while all 329 files submitted to the open call are organized into artist folders as an archive (in the order that I received them). These files, available via Dropbox or a server directory on rhizome.org, may be browsed, downloaded, printed, posted, and circulated.
When I launched Counterpractice in September, before I knew what it really was, I heard from people who said they were looking forward to seeing what would come out of it. I wondered, too. Even though I didn’t have any kind of plan, I knew that it was the right time to reboot and redefine my practice, after a few years of drifting from client work to residencies to teaching.
However vague, I had a few ideas. Counterpractice would need to embody a spirit of resistance, research and radical curiosity that I’d been building during the last few years. It would be home-grown, small and DIY. Less a service, client-based business and more “ideas laboratory.”
Tomorrow, the New Museum is hosting “demo day,” where 20 select members of NEW INC will present what they’ve been working on here. From what I can see, it’s a chance for the museum to showcase the program and the products that members are developing here.
I’m not presenting, and I have mixed feelings about this.
I’m focused on building my practice right now. Not by growing my client list or launching a product but by synthesizing what I do — what I previously thought of as side-projects or interests — into a single, articulated studio practice.
Much of this is “invisible” work. Defining how I work, balancing what I do and deciding which risks to take. This is a difficult agenda to quantify.
I don’t even see Printed Web as “product” but as an ongoing idea, with the magazine being just one way to articulate my thoughts around independent publishing, artistic practice and network culture. Teaching at RISD and events like Theorizing the Web and Interrupt (at Brown) are good venues for me to expose these ideas (I’m presenting at both)…but packaging them into a five-minute slide show to New Museum media and trustees feels “off.”
So I’m trying to shape (and sharpen) my overall practice and be selective about how and where to expose myself.
All of this has happened since I arrived at NEW INC just a few months ago, where the conditions have been ideal. A super-stimulating community and ample institutional support are excellent motivators; I had lacked both of these for a long while. Plus, a studio space like ours — open, shared and collaborative — means we’re constantly “working in public,” which can create a heightened sense of productivity.
Maybe these ingredients — community, institution and exposure — have given me a kind of permission, too. Sometime between September and now, it occurred to me that my studio is four connected parts. And for the first time, I’m giving equal weight to each:
4 Client work
Even though this looks like an obvious list, the first three components are totally new for me. They weren’t part of Soulellis Studio from 2001–10, or my career before. For twenty years, I had been solely focused on client work. So I look at this list and I see a new way of working.
What’s critical for me right now is being fully devoted to each of the four. And working hard to integrate them. My syllabus for Experimental Publishing Studio (a new graduate studies course I’m about to start teaching at RISD) contains readings and ideas that come straight out of my own research, which come out of (and fuel) my Printed Web projects. And I’m constantly looking for ways to bring this openness and these kinds of connections into the work I’m hired to do for clients.
So, this is Counterpractice right now.
Since I started Library of the Printed Web last year, and launched the first two issues of Printed Web this year, the project has gained a good amount of international attention from design students, artists, curators, critics, collectors, librarians and others interested in the so-called post-internet moment, appropriation, collecting, photography and technology. And from the talks, panel discussions and feedback that I’ve received, I’ve started to develop a more critical stance regarding the value of digital work in the context of the printed page.
Why is printing the web so compelling? How does it relate to larger conversations about materiality, circulation and the new ease of independent publishing?
When I first started to articulate my thoughts about this (Search, compile, publish), I focused on the more obvious aspects of web-to-print — like the tactility of the printed page (its thingness), speed of consumption and the basic techniques being used by artists working in this space, like hunting, grabbing, scraping and performing.
I always suspected I could go further, but that’s only come with a bit of time and a lot of dialogue. So I’ve written a text that tries to get at it — to position this moment in a more critical fashion, especially as it relates to independent publishing and the artist’s practice in a networked context.
I’m continuing to work on it, so it’s still a draft, but in the spirit of continuous, ongoing publishing (and working in public) — read the full text here.
ABCEUM will be featured at Offprint Paris this weekend. ABCEUM is a collaborative bookwork created by 16 of us at ABC [Artists’ Books Cooperative]. I’ll be there with several members of ABC to represent the project, which was recently shown at the Brighton Photo Biennial.
Our own individual works will also be featured at the ABC table and I’ll have both issues of Printed Web available for purchase.
14–16 Nov 2014
Beaux-arts de Paris, l’école nationale supérieure
14 Rue Bonaparte 75006 Paris
And on Saturday at 2pm, I’ll moderate a discussion about printing the web with
Mathieu Cénac and David Desrimais [Jean Boîte Éditions]
Tarek Issaoui [Rrose Editions]
Yannick Bouillis [Offprint Projects]