The Odd Couple: An Interview with Little Paper Planes
Blonde Art Books had the opportunity to speak with Little Paper Planes founder Kelly Lynn Jones and curator Sarah Hotchkiss about their recent collaboration; an online exhibition and accompanying catalog Disparate Futures. The following interview discusses the intention, consequences, and curiosity of Little Paper Planes‘ presentation model which exhibits artwork online while publishing a printed catalog.
BABS: What do you think of the relationship between the Little Paper Planes publishing a book along side an online exhibition given the themes of the current exhibition, Disparate Futures, which, as the press release states, includes the notion of “thinking of the future in fantastical rather than practical terms” and that “individualistic and wildly different versions of the future can and should coexist”?
SH: I’m a big fan of the Little Paper Planes online exhibitions. It’s a great way to give artists time, space, and exposure to a wider audience without the overhead of an actual gallery. LPP exhibitions are everywhere at once. Here in San Francisco, at least, we have a number of amazing art spaces that are open for very limited hours (sometimes only one day a week). Coordinating your schedule with those rare viewing windows can be a struggle. Conversely, LPP exhibitions provide constant access to interesting art.
At the same time, immediate vision and touch is so much a part of understanding art that we expect a tangible element from exhibitions. The LPP publications are a perfect solution. And instead of replicating the online exhibition — which remains on view in perpetuity — the publications provide an additional space for artists to test out their ideas, play with text, and showcase other work.
I gave the Disparate Futures artists until the last minute to submit their contributions to me, so I’m not sure if anyone’s going to deviate too much from their online work, but it’s important to me that the show will be captured on paper. My vision of the future rarely involves the digital realm (I leave that to more advanced people like Kelly). Despite hearing constant declarations of “print is dead!” I don’t think this is the case. The most potent ideas exist on multiple platforms at the same time. We can have individual conversations about the future, group discussions, lectures, “clubs,” art projects, digital exhibitions, and print publications. The more dissemination, the better.
While I selected the specific works in Disparate Futures, in the publication I will completely cede control to the artists. This, I hope, will yield even more fantastical, individualistic, and wildly different versions of the future than we’ve already seen in the online show. In other words: the future of the publication is in their hands!
Kelly, is this what you intended for the publications?
LPP: My intentions for the online exhibitions was to really look at an exhibition in a new way or to be in line with our current mode of experiencing communication and information, the Internet. I don’t know if I have it all figured out yet on how to successfully create an experience without physically being in a place. I am still exploring various options on how to translate art online and encourage some form of engagement with the viewers and the work. This is where the future is still uncertain. Could there actually be a way to “feel” like I am in a space when really all I am doing is looking at a monitor? When I think of the possibility of continuously pushing to the next level of experience through the Internet, I am both excited yet hesitant. Our modern technologies have allowed so many possibilities that were not even imaginable 10 years ago, but that is what is a bit suspect for me about the future. We are moving at such a fast pace, there is no time to reflect as we evolve. Having the publication as an extension of the online exhibitions is my way of holding onto something of the past or even our present. It is a way to for us to engage with the work in our hands, slowly flipping the pages and creating a connection with a tangible object that the Internet can never reproduce. When sitting with a book, we become present with ourselves, focused and more aware of that moment. For me and many others, the Internet provides so much information that it becomes too much and it becomes a challenge to concentrate on one thing. There is always another link to take you to a new page and so forth.
BABS: A book that is published on the occasion of an exhibition often carries a sense of memory and recollection for the viewer. It is something you can hold in your hands and take away with you. It becomes an object that you own and revisit. There is an end to the experience of the space but the book may act as a document of the event. With online exhibitions the possibility of missing the event is no longer an issue. An online archive can be accessed indefinitely.
It is interesting to think about the attempt of online exhibiting to, as you say, recreate a feeling of a physical exhibition space. What does this experience for an event that never actually happened in a space outside of the Internet look (sound, feel, smell, move) like? And, how may this effect the curation of the exhibitions? Is it that in order for there to be this coexistence between multiple platforms there also needs to be a possibility for the uncanny? Rather than try to mimic a specific experience, can we think of online exhibition presentation with an accompanying published book as an attempt to propose something of an ‘other’ experience that has not been realized before? What do you think are the consequences to these extemporaneous and curious forms of discussion and presentation?
SH: Curating Disparate Futures as on online exhibition rather than a gallery exhibition was a liberating premise. I was able to include works by artists outside the immediate region without fear of shipping costs or size limitations. I was able to include works with no physical presence, in the case of Nick Almquist and Torreya Cummings’ pieces. There is no way to fully capture the experience of viewing Nick’s gif in a publication. His printed images will be something else entirely — static graphic design rather than the flashcard-like animation he created for the show.
Torreya’s piece is an unrealized proposal and therefore perhaps more suited to the printed form. But the audio elements of her proposal, gathered and ready to go, cannot be included in the book. The space between the Little Paper Planes exhibition and the publication is, as you’ve said, another space, unlike one created between a traditional physical exhibition and its printed documentation.
I thought more about how these works would exist online than how they would exist in a printed form, in part because I wanted the artists to exert control over the publication’s contents. As a group of very talented individuals, I expect they’ll take full advantage of this shift in media.
As of now, I’m only know what a few of the artists are planning for their parts in the publication, so I cannot assume more than I already have. I will say that in specific regards to the ideas in this exhibition — various futures — it doesn’t hurt to cover as many bases as possible. With the combined forces of the internet and printed matter, at least we’ve covered our bases in terms of preserving these works and ideas for some semblance of perpetuity.
LPP: With all moments in life, we experience. We experience in all scopes of space and/or place. The internet platform is no different, it just acts as another kind of space. This is a space you cannot reach your arms into and touch, but it is something you can visit at any moment wherever internet access is possible. The key word is access. Physical gallery exhibitions present restrictions on when one can experience what they have. Both pose some sort of limitation, just in different forms. Online exhibitions, like Sarah said creates opportunities that a physical gallery cannot. There is this freedom to propose ideas that have not yet been realized, accessing artists from other parts of the country or world without the shipping costs and working with artists who are specifically addressing the internet in their work. As artists and curators, we must look, investigate, discuss and dissect all new forms of display and exhibiting. I think we must look at the internet in all aspects including forms of exhibiting, since for most people we are constantly mediating our lives through these screens. In some ways, using the internet as an exhibiting tool, is in part speaking about the social ramifications of how the internet is affecting the way we interact as humans on all levels, experiencing art is just one of them. The accompanying book with the exhibition is a way to reconnect to the physical realm. Looking through the book creates a stillness of the mind that is almost impossible when looking at the internet. The internet creates a dichotomy of having access to so much, however due to the endless amount of information to sort through, it becomes impossible to view something with a clear mind. A book allows one to focus ones attention solely to that moment and action of flipping each page. It slows one down.
July 18 – August 24, 2012
Disparate Futures gathers work in the spirit of the Young Astronaut Club, a fledgling organization dedicated to being curious, looking up more often, and thinking about the future in fantastical rather than practical terms. The Young Astronaut Club believes individualistic and wildly different versions of the future can and should coexist. The artists included in Disparate Futures address the invisible, utilitarian objects, impossible shapes, and language systems, broadcasting their practices into the unknown.
In his Pulled Parts series, Justin Amrhein renders complicated segments of machinery on mylar with intricate precision. It is only upon closer inspection, reading titles such as “Gilzit Tibler,” that the viewer realizes these parts are not from an engineer’s manual, but have sprung completely from the artist’s imagination. Amrhein presents the colorful parts separate from their larger functions, challenging the viewer to imagine possible uses for “Recharging System Q7.”
In work created specifically for Disparate Futures, Nick Almquist invents signal flags for space travel. These 26 graphic patterns communicate such messages as “changing course: galactic south,” and “life support failing,” to be used between astronautical ships. He captures both the real-life dangers of space travel and the romantic ideals of space exploration.
Addressing a different (more Earthly) mode of communication, Torreya Cummings’s project, Love Songs for Radio Hell, proposes to fill a space of dead airwaves she refers to as “Radio Hell.” According to Cummings, the radio format provides a unique opportunity for discovery, “New things can be found without knowing to look for them: strange music, secret messages, a path out of the familiar into a world of different possibilities.” LSFRH gathers sound from artists, curators, and engineers to create a playlist for eventual guerrilla broadcast from Lone Mountain, Nevada. This bundled collection of sounds remains unrealized, poised to exist as a sliver of unexpected programming amidst miles of static.
Seth Curcio’s Seeing in the Dark is a set of manipulated sonar images picturing deep sea locations. Sparse lines and grids provide information inaccessible to the human eye, but also contain an ominous underlying question: what does the sonar seek and will it remain unfound? Curcio’s Virtual Landscapes work from an opposite direction: using the fictional to reference the factual. Collages sourced from first person video games resemble early California landscape photographs, likening imagery from 19th-century exploration to the unknown vistas of the 21st century.
The final collection in Disparate Futures is a series of impossible shapes. Leah Wolff’s sculptures and works on paper represent two-dimensional figures that are initially interpreted as three-dimensional shapes. They are, however, impossible. They cannot exist in real space. These confounding, dissonant, and ultimately beautiful images open up a series of thought experiments. Central to Wolff’s Impossible Shapes and the Young Astronaut Club’s goals is the question: how do we go about realizing the impossible?
Young Astronaut Club
In 1984, the White House founded the “Young Astronaut Council,” a non-profit organization promoting math, science and technology in elementary and high schools. Today, there is no trace of the Council. The Young Astronaut Club hopes to supersede this mysterious gap in our social fabric. The Young Astronaut Club is interested in more than just space travel. Inductees promise to uphold certain ideals in exchange for membership. These include, but are not limited to: being curious, looking up more often, and thinking about the future in fantastical rather than practical terms. The Young Astronaut Club was founded by San Francisco artist Sarah Hotchkiss.
Kelly Lynn Jones is an artist and curator from Los Angeles and living in Oakland, California. She received her MFA in May 2010 from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Jones has shown her work all over the US and Europe.
Jones created Little Paper Planes in 2004. After graduating from art school, Jones wanted to create an online platform where she and her friends could sell the pieces they were making to help support their individual art careers. LPP was one of the first online stores offering artist editions.