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Layers of Dialogue: Designer-in-Residence Koen Slothouber

Organized with Sonnenzimmer

Last May, London-based designer Koen Slothouber came to Chicago for a Design Residency with Sonnenzimmer and The Green Lantern Press / Sector 2337. During that time, Slothouber tackled a number of GLP/Sector projects that are just starting to surface including a new issue of Sector’s inhouse newspaper, a poster for an upcoming Green Lantern Press exhibition, and design for a debut comic coming out from Radiator Comics (by yours truly). In the following interview I talk to Koen about his working process.

Caroline Picard: How did you end up working with Sonnenzimmer?

Koen Slothouber: I met Nick [Butcher] and Nadine [Nakanishi] in London, in September of last year [2014]. I was working at the London Art Book Fair, where they had a stand. Over the course of the two days we talked a few times and realized we had similar interests in print, design and music. Besides their unique style, I was really interested in the way Sonnenzimmer set up as a design studio where they often screen print their own work as well. So I contacted them a week later to let them know I would be really interested to work with/for them for a while if they ever could use some help. They then set up a great Design Residency program with Sector2337, which was more than I could have asked for.

CP: You worked on four projects while you were here. Can you talk a bit about what those projects entailed? Did each one require a different type of strategic thinking?

KS: The first project I worked on was the comic The Chronicles of Fortune (Radiator Comics). I feel that this was the most challenging project, but probably also the most rewarding. In order to design the cover and chapter heads I had to really immerse myself into the style of the comic, but also adapt my own style of working to that of Sonnenzimmer. I think that that project set the tone for the rest of the six weeks, and set us up for a great collaboration on the imperceptibly and slowly opening poster. The Sector newspaper project felt most natural to me. A lot of my work involves some form publication design, and together with printmaking this is where my passion lies.

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CP: For the imperceptibly and slowly opening poster, you worked collaboratively and intuitively with Sonnenzimmer. What was that process like? What were the steps and how did they come about?

KS: One of my wishes when coming to work with Sonnenzimmer was that we could do a screen printing project; I really love the intricate screen printed work they do. The great thing about the poster collaboration was that I got to see up close how Nick and Nadine work through the design process — how an early concept grows and starts to lead it’s own life through critical iteration, and forms a beautiful end result that you might not have expected to see from the start. That was also the starting point for our concept. Because imperceptibly and slowly opening is about plant life creeping up on us, we decided to improvise each layer of the poster and print it straight after designing it. That way there was no way of going back, and it would feel like the poster was slowly creeping up on us as well, towards a finished outcome. For me the experimentation we did was also a really important element to get to grips with the screen printing process.

CP: What did the process entail?

KS: For the first two layers of the poster we collected some plants and first under and then over-exposed them on two screens. The under exposure created a general silhouette, while the over exposed screen shows a lot more details because of the way the plant’s cell structures in the veins and leaves lets through light. For the third layer/screen we gave away all the control we had; we had the idea to let “the elements” make the artwork. We ended up tying a bag of ink to a tree branch. The bag had several small holes in the bottom and would leak ink onto a large sheet of white paper on the ground whenever the wind moved the branch and bag.

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CP: How did you translate that layer back onto the poster?

KS: We simply exposed the paper with drops onto a screen and added the word imperceptibly right across the centre of the image in large faded letters. Then Nadine had the great (and maybe slightly wacky) idea to print this layer in a colour that is very close to the colour of the paper. By doing that it really moves to the background in most places on the poster, only the leaf in the bottom left corner is clearly effected. In hindsight it reminds me a bit of acid rain drops, eating away at the geometric shapes in the leaf.

CP: That’s awesome.

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KS: My favorite experiment was what we did with the sixth layer, for which we decided to print with bleach. First we had to make the stencil by hand with screen filler, because the normal emulsion would deteriorate quickly. We sprayed bleach onto the open parts of the screen and then printed a varnish layer to push the bleach through the screen and onto the paper. The bleach would then slowly (in about a minute or so), change the paper’s color, and we ended up with the beautiful spotted diagonal lines in the hexagon. Because we sprayed the bleach by hand, and over time the bleach started to mix in with the varnish, each print looks unique.

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CP: Isn’t there also an indentation in the poster? 

KS: For the eight layer we decided to do a blind emboss rather than print, to enhance the feeling of things growing between all the layers, something we also tried to show by overprinting a big dark mask in the fifth layer.

CP: It’s funny, I’ve spent a lot of time with the posters you all made, but never parsed all those layers.

KS: What I really like about the poster is that there are a lot of details to be discovered when you see it up close, whilst it serves a purpose from afar. I also like how the natural and geometric (man-made) elements are juxtaposed and start to have a conversation. I think that fits the exhibition well.

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CP: What was it like coming to work in Chicago? 

KS: Chicago has completely won me over. In all honesty I never really thought about Chicago that much, it was just another city to me, and I really just came here for the work experience. But as soon as I arrived I fell in love. The people are so friendly and welcoming. The city’s pace feels quite relaxed and even though everyone I’ve met seems to work a lot, they are not stressed. I also love that the city is so creative (everyone seems to be artistic or play at least one musical instrument) and buzzing. There is constantly something going on, whether it is a street festival, a live music performance in the botanical gardens, or a Critical Mass/Naked bike ride. And all the small independent galleries like Sector2337, Comfort Station, Elastic Arts, are so inspiring.

Besides that I have to mention that having a bike really helped me out. The freedom I felt being able to bike everywhere in close to no time at all was simply amazing and the best way to see the city!

You can purchase the imperceptibly & slowly opening poster here.

 

 

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Inhouse Newspaper Sector No 2 Now Available

Designed by Designer-in-Residence Koen Slothouber

Designed by Sonnenzimmer/Sector 2337 Design Resident Koen Slothouber during his Design Residency last May, this publication features writing and artwork by Joel Craig, Alexandria Eregbu, Magalie Guérin, Jessi Haley, Roberto Harrison, Leon Andrew Hensley, Ernest Hogan, Kuras and MacKenzie, Esau McGhee, Caroline Picard, Josh Rios and Anthony Romero, Amina Ross, Ellen Rothenberg, and Stephen Williams.

Last year we spent a lot of time talking to Sonnenzimmer about how to create newspaper that captured the first ten years of Green Lantern’s history. We came up with this newspaper — what many of you have likely seen if you came by the space last year or bought a book from our online store. After living with that publication for so long, we decided to continue with same concept, incorporating the work of multiple authors and artists while announcing our own upcoming events, and reflecting on specific Sector events. The result is this second edition, available for free at the gallery. As is customary, we also include a complimentary copy with any online book purchases.

Some highlights in this issue include “A calaca in a spacesuit: Confessions of a sci-fi chicano artist” by Ernest Hogan! A Homeric Hymn by Stephen Williams! A poem by Roberto Harrison! Fiction by Jessi Haley! An excerpt from Magalie Guérin’s studio journal (soon to be published in its entirety by The Green Lantern Press)! Another poem by Joel Craig, typeset by the poet himself! A curatorial essay by the extraordinary Alexandria Eregbu on the subject of her upcoming Sector show, Tertiary Dimensions! And much much more….

LaHoule

An Interview with Publishers in Residence: La Houle

June 20-June 25

La Houle (Jef Caro and Marie Lécrivain)  will be publishers in residence at Sector for one week (June 20-June 25). During that time they will install a collection of their publications, works in progress, and a curated lending library with additional books that help contextualize their own publishing projects. On June 24th La Houle will present some of their work in conversation with a few parallel Chicago publishers. For the moment, I had the opportunity to interview them about their press.

Caroline Picard: How did La Houle begin? What drew you both to collaborate in print?

La Houle: La Houle started as an idea in 2011, out of a will of associating our backgrounds in books. Jef had worked for a while in a publishing house and as a literary translator, while Marie was a trained graphic designer with an interest in editorial practices and already collaborating in artist’s book projects, as well as working as a bookseller. We launched our first publication in 2012, in collaboration with artists and authors we already knew, Adam Biles, Manon Rousseau and Béatrice Lortet. We started working only in print, but are interested in every format.

CP: Can you talk about the trajectory of you publications? Did certain projects demand different publishing strategies?

LH: Each project is taken separately in terms of design, conception, diffusion and distribution. The economic factor is also an influence that can shape the publication. We always try to find a solution of making publication possible with the quality required in relation to the artist or writer work but also which are affordable and collectable, without being only limited or signed editions. The idea is to always play with the contemporary modes of production available and to reflect on the status of each publication (artist’s book, multiple, mail art, documents, poetry collection). Diffusion is varied – it may be self-evident, but a short story like The Deep was more likely to draw attention in literature-oriented bookstores, while other projects were mainly diffused through art book or print fairs, like Objets Minces. At the moment, we work with a small network of European art spaces and bookshops, but we’d like to develop this aspect further.

CP: I understand that you’ll be traveling with (and installing) a mini-library of publications on loan. I’m immediately struck by how heavy your suitcases must be! And something of the way that bringing more books would make your traveling life more complicated: to that end it seems like a rather significant choice. Can you talk a bit about this curated collection of books, if there are particular books in that selection that you are excited about and how the presence of these loaned editions would reflect on La Houle publications also on view?

LH: We’re leaving for Chicago in two days, and we still have to figure how much this is going to weigh, but an extra piece of luggage won’t tarnish our enthusiasm! The idea of bringing a selection from Brussels can be traced back to 2012’s Catalogue de la Houle. In addition of gathering our current and upcoming publications, it was also a journal of sorts, featuring various conversations and written pieces, as well as a section entitled “Further Reading” that was a commented, bibliographical selection of artist’s books. In a sense, this materialized library we’re showing in Sector 2337 is another manifestation of the interest we have in publishing in the sense of a transmission and dissemination. The printed matter was collected among people we feel related to, who submitted their choices to us: artists we have published, as well as individuals, publishers and structures we have worked with at some point. We’re not showing a selection of influences, as a large portion of these publications appeared during the last two years. We’re rather displaying what happens next to us our around us, as a kind of context. A lot of our projects have been initiated through exchanges, discussions with the artists and writers. In a way, taking their printed works with us in Chicago continues our collaboration. Showing books is one manner to illustrate the fact that our work is a part of an entire dynamic, and we hope it will generate unexpected links inside the reading room and with our own publications.

CP: How do you approach font usage? 

LH: Typography is one of the main catalysts of a book. It may be a concept-driven structure or a visual element that creates the links and sometimes the tensions between the laid-out content on the page, the spread and the book as a whole. For artist’s books, typefaces are chosen in relation to the context and the type of book it is inscribed in (photography book, manual, community, series, etc.), whereas for literary books, the comfort of reading seems to be the most important factor in choosing the shape of the font. We usually also take care of the history of typefaces, their functionality and their quality in relation to the project. The typeface is part of the clues given to the reader but it should not become an overwhelming presence in relation to the content itself, so the balance is crucial. Our books all use different typefaces, except for the Objets Minces series, where the Méridien typeface actually provides continuity between the various folders.

2015 Spring in Review

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“As for the sea, it isolates the detail of an attractable ache” from Nathanaël’s new book Asclepis The Milkweeds (Nightboat, 2015)

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“The English language will endure this poem” John Beer

Terri Kapsalis, Anne Elizabeth Moore, & Tim

Terri Kapsalis, Anne Elizabeth Moore, & Tim Schwartz perform their response to our Not to be Taken performance series

Mark Booth & Becky Grajeda's Saturday Not to be Taken performance.

Mark Booth & Becky Grajeda’s Saturday Not to be Taken performance. Photo by Jesse Eisenberg.

"I know that I am getting fantastically corsetted for the Finale. / When the Finale is over I might find my own killer in the ruin porn. " Joahannes Goransson reads from his new book, Sugar Book

“I know that I am getting fantastically corsetted for the Finale. / When the Finale is over I might find my own killer in the ruin porn. ” Joahannes Goransson, Sugar Book (Tarpalin Sky Press)

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“Parakeets make the best erasure poems by shitting on the newspaper at the bottom of their cage” Nikki Wallschlaeger

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“Let me take you to your favorite store & refuse to buy you anything” Sade Murphy reads from her debut book, Dream Machine

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“We liked the idea that Ellen had offered up her own working archive.” Hannah B Higgins, Shawn Michelle Smith, & Ellen Rothenberg in conversation

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“All you need to do is lean something against the wall and then you have architecture” Ellen Rothenberg in conversation with Hannah B. Higgins & Shawn Michelle Smith

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Doa Nyugen, performs for the Not to be Taken Saturday performance series.

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Patient Sounds + Patient Press Release Party with Sammi Skolmoski & Elizabeth Bertch

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Patient Sounds + Patient Press Release Party with Paula Nacif.

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Patient Sounds + Patient Press Release Party with The Variable Why

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“Let others claim a higher love / We’ve got the bread. We’ve got the knife” Devin Johnston reads from “Far-Fetched” (FS&G)

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“Nothing says animal soul like the microbial proteins in tears” Ted Mathys reads from Null Set (Coffee House Press)

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“She wrote nothing all summer. / The book grew.” Lisa Fishman reading with The Chicago Review

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“They are aphorisms not poetry” #acknowledgments @willy0smart

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“People in sports uniforms engage in cos-play” James T Green

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Alexandria Eregbu leads a reenactment of Simone Forti’s “Huddle” for our Saturday performance series, Not to be Taken. Photo by Deanna Ledezma

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Becoming Your Meaning (Connie West and Kaleigh Moynihan) : A sculptural, fabric, live performance exploring visual and physical communication human/cuttlefish. (During Psychoecologies: A BioSemiotic Salon)

"I saw a cloud and it said, cloud" Jeff Sherfey celebrates the release of his book #SwimmingPools from PolyploidPress

“I saw a cloud and it said, cloud” Jeff Sherfey celebrates the release of his book #SwimmingPools from PolyploidPress

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“In January you’re glad for the gold you see in people’s molars” Leila Wilson

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Waveforms

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Waveforms

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“Add a cartoon sometimes. People need cartoons to function” Josh Rios & Anthony Romeros

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“I thought there was a general evaluation that it had been a disaster” Fo Wilson & Ira S Murfin perform “Our Theatrical Futures”

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“Your mind is your house and you are just living in the kitchen” Fo Wilson quotes Akiko Bush

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“I once believed that having gone mad as a young woman would protect me from the inevitable. Now I know I was naive—” polyvocal reading for Suzanne Scanlon’s book, “Her 37th Year” (Noemi Press)

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“I want to be messy, to be here. Where I am, which is a mess, feels honest.” from polyvocal reading of Suzanne Scanlon’s “Her 37th Year: An Index”

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“How the rain regrets nothing, / each window is a breath / I offer. A prayer is nobody else’s moon.” Brent Armendinger, “The Ghos in Us was Multiplying” (Noemi Press, 2015)

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“Find an alternative structure. Look for entrances” To celebrate their book, Didactics, Sonnenzimmer invited musicians to employ improvisational prompts for poster design.

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“The inner logic of the book will not bend to our desire” Jack Henrie Fisher reads at Sonnenzimmer’s book release!

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Nick Butcher of Sonnenzimmer

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Nadine Nakanishi of Sonnenzimmer

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Please Don't Bury Me Alive! Part Two: Installation View

Josh Rios & Anthony Romero, "Please Don't Bury Me Alive! Part Two", Installation view, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.

Josh Rios & Anthony Romero, “Please Don’t Bury Me Alive! Part Two”, Installation view, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.

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Josh Rios & Anthony Romero. “Please, Don’t Bury Me Alive! Part Two.” Installation view, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.

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Josh Rios & Anthony Romero. “Please, Don’t Bury Me Alive! Part Two” with installation of works by Ernest Hogan, “Confessions of a Sci-Fi Space Chicano Artist.” Installation view, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.

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Josh Rios & Anthony Romero. “Please, Don’t Bury Me Alive! Part Two.” Installation view, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.

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Josh Rios & Anthony Romero. “Please, Don’t Bury Me Alive! Part Two.” Installation view, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.

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Josh Rios & Anthony Romero. “Please, Don’t Bury Me Alive! Part Two.” Installation view, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.

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Josh Rios & Anthony Romero. “Please, Don’t Bury Me Alive! Part Two.” Installation view, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.