Lily: I think it’s good that you’ve set this up where every weekend you are talking w/ somebody and kind of fleshing out your ideas, i think it’s very important
Rahul: Ya, definitely and I also felt like I was just getting to a point where, or I guess I feel like one of the most recent realizations that really hit me, was that I think the model that I have been using for building out my conceptual practice has always been, because it’s the only thing I’ve known, based around the way academia informs conceptual practice. The way I’m treating this, is almost identical to the way, I treated both of the Overview of a Work in Progress projects that we did, and that realization was a little bit frustrating because I think one of the assumptions that drove the structure of those projects, was the fact it was just an alternative classroom space, for a group of people that I felt like, were interested in a similar enough set of ideas to be working together. and, While that was great…
Lily: It’s like a bubble within a bubble, but it’s an interesting concept also in relation to the idea, of, well I guess, when I think of your practice, or at least part of your practice, has to do with bringing people together, in a way that’s a little bit removed from the institution, and MICA, or the roles of just being a designer or just being a developer, and teaching in a way that’s not forcibly imposing anything, just kind of the act of bringing people together.
Rahul: I think there is a, i don’t know, an inherent intimacy that is necessary for this type of work because it’s like, the more I do it, the more I realize how incredibly niche it is. and there really isn’t, or, I can’t have this conversation with a huge percentage of the people that I meet, because there are certain assumptions that presuppose the actual concepts, that it’s impossible to communicate that at a certain point
Lily: Do you find that frustrating? Or, do you want to change that?
Rahul: Well I think it’s only frustrating in that it’s very isolating at times, I find myself, um, like I can obviously get satisfaction from the mental gymnastics that I put myself through when working but it feels rather empty when it’s not connected to a community.
Lily: Yah, and you feel like that community is still, you are still yet to find it, or like slowly growing?
Rahul: Yah, it’s definitely slowly growing, The more I, the more I put myself out there, the easier it’s getting to find, like finding Lukas, was a really big deal for me, because he was one of the first people I met (out of college), that I met out of the blue and instantly could talk about work with.
Lily: interesting, I mean, the group of people that come to mind, I mean, there are a lot of people, that at least have some touch points, maybe not all of them at once, Ok, so walk me through these projects a little bit.
Rahul: Basically the next project and set of projects that I want to be working on is essentially going to take the form of a lecture series, of sorts, or it is modeled after a this idea of a lecture, and I really like that title: “Everything I know” because I think it’s a really humbling way of framing a very concise and considered statement, whether it be fact or fiction.
Lily: Yah and it’s kind of like, the way you have been thinking about these projects, putting every phase of them on the table, and having the archive.
Buckminster Fuller: "Everything I Know"
Rahul: yah, so basically, the references and notes. all it is, is screenshots from a series of lectures, there is also at the very bottom, Brana had shown me this, it’s like this sci-fi tv show from serbia, and I just loved the set design.
Lily: Have you started to think about specifics with it? Like setting, whose talking? Are you talking (laughs)?
Rahul: Yah, so that’s what this is (sketches). This is what I kind of got to, last night. And this sketch specifically, at the bottom, I think what I’m going to do is, I want to build one of those levitating tops, where you have a cylindrical magnet that you position underneath, and then you have a magnet with the opposite pole on top.
Lily: levitating, yah. They have the bonsai trees that do that.
Rahul: What I was thinking of doing with this sketch was. I would take a video of that (levitating top) that would be in the foreground. And position my face, further behind that, so it’s just my face looking at a screen that is in front, in the foreground, and then speaking, and then have two lines of text, subtitles, that aren’t reproducing the same content, but probably a short story. Running forwards, and then inverted backwards on the bottom of the screen.
Lily: Is this also tied into like, you mentioned fact and fiction? Being tied to everything, you have the polarity of the magnets. The text running, forward and backwards, Everything is like a mirror image of itself.
Rahul: I had done this piece for Isabel Lederman, I don’t know if you follow that @windows_16 project that’s going on instagram rn,
Rahul: May had done one, for her as well, but basically, what Isabel has been doing, she’s curating these gallery shows by taking screen grabs from (other) galleries press releases, of artists that she would want to show, curating a show, and then getting a designer to create a mock window, display. Um, and so, here I can show you, So basically she publishes the designers rendering, and then, this is the one i did, and at the time I was really into this idea of the digital mirror, and i was really interested in simulating physical/visual properties of space and light in a digital space where everything is completely calculated. It kind of devolves into a matrix transformation as opposed to an actual refraction / reflection of light. which I’m not entirely sure how to place as an idea within my work, but it’s been something that keeps coming up, and there was the piece that I did senior year, and I don’t think I did anything special to show it but this was like one of the pieces that I felt was really effective compared to the huge volume of work that I generated that had very limited success.
Lily: I can’t quite read it, what does it say? Some Uncertainty is
Rahul: Ok. I think it is kind of like what, that Idea of fact and, not fiction but control, so like fact and control, everything you see is the reality that is being presented to you because it exists, but it’s not necessarily of your making at that point in time.
Lily: Not of your making? When you are viewing? When it is outside of yourself?
Rahul: Yah so a simulated reality is just as real as “reality” the only difference is you are kind of giving up agency in the production of that reality to someone else. At that point you are just letting yourself participate.
Some Uncertainty is Ok (2016)
Lily: Have you been to the Whitney Biennial? I haven’t actually been but, a piece comes to mind, that’s simulation where you are not in control, Jordan Wolfson? You’re just a bystander, you put on this oculus and then watch the artist beat somebody to death, and it’s extremely graphic. So I think I’m kind of understanding that.I don’t think I get yet the link to the backwards text at the bottom and but i think the mirror idea comes through, did you say in this scene you would be looking at a digital mirror kinda positioned here, with the magnet or a real mirror?
Jordan Wolfson "Real Violence" @ Whitney Bienniel
Photo by: Therese Öhrvall
Rahul: I think it would be a real mirror, um, however i do think, doing something to digitally manipulate that image, maybe cropping out the section with the magnet in it and making it slo-mo, and do something with the lighting that way there would be a seamless break. So basically it would be like, the main video and then the image of the reflection of the top is down here. But that part is keyed out, and then slowed down so that the image jitters.
Lily: and then the lecture itself, what were you planning on talking about.
Rahul: So that, that section notes from SS16, I just have a lot of text content, there are two stories in there that I was re-reading and found myself quite drawn to one from 06.09 and then there was one other piece of text that’s just about interfacing with internet/digital art. so i was thinking about speaking the text about interfacing, and having one of the two stories be the subtitles. Just to embed both, as if it’s like: “here is what’s going on as it’s happening.” It’s both an explanation and a performance of the same concept.
Lily: So in that sense, would you break down all those topics into chapters or like separate videos or a scenes list to reference what you are talking about?
Rahul: I was thinking of starting with a one off, just this video, and use it to get myself to a spot for a physical iteration of the performance. I like the idea of having “Everything I know” start as a 2-5min presentation and then expand to a 30 minute presentation and then cap it there, and then move on to whatever the residual of moving the content through this process becomes. But I really want to… Like the other project that’s on the site rn, graphic design = terrorism, Which was, Vijay and I did a rebrand taking selections from Al Qaedas propaganda magazine, which was published up until like 2011? And that was such a dense project, it’s like 20 chapters, each page is custom styled,
Lily: There’s this artist, i’m gunna look her up, she had a lecture, I didn’t get to go, her practice was — everything was reduced to color fields and at first glance looks like a web page but it’s based on pdfs. Do you know her?
Rahul: No I don’t. So I got to the end of that project, and we tried to get it some press, and we still are, but it kind of felt like, what I was trying to say was really simple with that project, to say that “Anybody that participates as a graphic designer is inherently committing an act of terror,” and that should be the way we rationalize and discuss the effectiveness of graphic design, is it’s induction of fear into the market, which, obviously its a pointed and maybe skewed vision of capitalism, and comes from a personal critique of capitalism, but it think it draws from maybe relevant evolutions of american advertising and trends, and the way graphic design has allowed itself to remain complicit.
Woah… these are sick, damn
Navine G. Khan-Dossos
Photo by: Bresadola+Freese/drama-berlin.de
But yah, i think the whole point of explaining all that was to say that, this project, I want to make a move similar to the mirror piece (Some Uncertainty is Ok) like a really quick, digestible gesture.
Lily: something understandable and immediate, a gestural move I think is a good goal.
Rahul: Totally, I also, I have the body of work for it, but I don’t think I have enough of a context to validate a viewer traversing through the depths of it. Not to say i need to make shallow work. But I think i can be a bit abrasive which is not a good thing while also simultaneously being interested in building a community around it.
Lily: Do you think in this lecture it will be, just a question answer format, I know it’s not q and a here but it reminded me how it’s kind of helpful to have like question that you then address, and guiding someone through to avoid meandering without any context.
Rahul: Totally, yah, i think that’s something, i did, all the lectures or presentations that I did senior year, I would preface them all with this initial slide, “This is a presentation about” with 3 points and build the presentation around hitting those three points. And so Idk, thats something that might…
Lily: I think the benefit of introducing a pointed question is that it can have that aggressiveness ur talking about without it coming off as idk, you speaking. But you could address it at length. With the question you could distill what you want to talk about into a really easy gesture. What about, I never really heard you talk about this symbol of the x with the bar on top.
Rahul: Yah, I had this, i was really frustrated with print design, and kind of how, especially when I was at MICA every poster in the hallway, you could draw a diagonal top left to bottom right and that would determine the heirarchy of the poster both typographically and also layout, so i spent the initial part of senior year when i was starting up or-maybe, making these four frame comics, doing these reading paths. So there is this whole string of logos that I use and interchange but that was the strongest outside of its initial context, that’s where that came from,
Lily: and the comics they were digital comics?
Rahul: Yah they were digital, similar to the sketches.
Lily: It’s funny that you say it’s one line, but the top extends out a little bit. I see so often on sites, fixed content at the top, like about contact etc on the top line.
Rahul: Idk one of my favorite parts of websites, is their directionality and how they presuppose a scroll. And then the difference between fixed vs floating content.
Lily: Sometimes tho I’ve found myself on sites with a huge image and it takes me a second to realize i should scroll and i’m clicking around and then later remember, cus it is obvious but there is that line.
Rahul: I think i need to decrease the margin on the homepage. I also think I need a link that scrolls you down to all the projects.
Lily: It’s not that much scrolling, to get to the working directory.
Rahul: Yah but I guess, I’m always thinking about, Brockett would always say to me “Who’s going to read all this”, and I guess I don’t know, I’m always worried about that.
Lily: Well I guess, that’s a question, but maybe you just make the reading experience really enjoyable, paying special attention to the typography, i think it’s subjective, but i like larger text. Since we’ve been talking I’ve been looking at the site at it’s smallest scale, and there’s something nice about that. The site becomes a little overwhelming at full scale. So maybe, keep the text size from mobile, and keep that column of text with a short line length, and keep the most recent projects to the right of that. I’m thinking of how on mobile, when you scroll down all the circles are in a line. I think there is something missing for me, where, I don’t want to be clicking into a new page when I look at the projects, I was looking at one of graybits projects, for anton kern, and all the projects expand inline there. but you can have the option to close it up again, when you get to the years etc… That was just my main thing when i came to this, it is like you are creating little worlds which I know you’ve done in your previous sites, but for me it invites less exploration, having to go back too often.
Rahul: So do you think at the bottom of each project there is a repeated list of the working directory? Or next project / previous project?
Lily: um, That could help, I think I, something isn’t quite sitting right, ur putting the projects and the studio text on the same level. You’re fronting with text about the studio, the projects seem like they are really important but they’re not inviting as much attention or, i think they should either be part of that linear scroll, or fronted more visibly and like push the inviting quality to be clicked. Like right now it’s not quite, like i don’t know what i’m clicking into when I see “eik sketches” or “eik notes” They seem like they are two very separate things. I guess its just not clear to me what the difference between the sketches and notes is.
Rahul: That’s def the next step for the studio itself. I wanted it to parallel the same experience as going to visit somebody’s physical studio and direct it that way. Like, “we can click in here and we find this project” But at the same time you are saying, this is a website and it has certain tools and functionalities that allow it to have a more implicit hierarchy without doing too much more visually. I totally agree with you. There is something flat about the experience of the website after you get into the projects unless there is already strong visual content in there.
Lily: Yah i think that’s a good point to start investigating what it means to look through a studio digitally. Why do you want that to be the experience though, that’s the first question. Is it because you enjoy the experience, of visiting someones studio and asking them about a book on there table? or asking about a certain project they are working on? Why that connection?
Rahul: Primarily to facilitate this. This conversation becomes easier to facilitate when there is a physical model to parallel. Like the physical studio visit is a way we can have an interactions about conceptual work, that manifests itself physically, and we’ve seen it before, and experienced it before because we both have an arts education, but at the same time the context that both of us are producing, is not directly in line with the model of the physical studio. And even though you do produce physical work, it’s not so much a studio practice in the classical sense, and so something like this is more realistic for the two of us. More realistic than you being like, “Hey rahul, come to this space that I rented.” because you don’t actually have that space rented. So that’s the impetus, for having a “Digital Studio”, but I don’t ever want to have that limit…
Lily: …what the experience is for that…
Rahul: Yah exactly, because, I’ve always thought it’s ridiculous that most digital systems have been made with physical assumptions and the only reason I found myself going back to the physical studio was because I literally have no idea what else to use as a model for understanding how to communicate and have informed conversations about my work. But now that I’ve taken a first pass at it, I’m ready for it to evolve and grow.
Lily: Another thing that comes to mind, that I’m going to send you. It’s this studio practice that was around in (I think) the late 90s. It’s this set of manuals. It’s really simple, but you do get to sort of, peruse very independently and it’s not trying to guide you through a narrative. You just click around and read about these projects through these points that they hit on, with the intention that you could potentially produce the same piece. And then at the bottom it has, “Back to Menu”, “Back to Home”
Instead of guiding you to the next project. I like how self contained it is, the sketches, research, and product are all in one zone. It’s a little matter of fact but it’s nice.
Rahul: Maybe if there was to subdivide the projects further? Or provide more context initially? Do you think that’s it? Or is it a purely navigational issue?
Lily: I think, right now I’m not sure about, maybe it’s the naming? Or the naming and the circles? It’s kind of like, I want a little more information upfront. Like the M55 example, I look at this list, and each project starts with “Manual for” so I can skip that part, and then look for words that interest me or things that catch my attention.
Rahul: Totally, having pre-fixes, maybe like “Project: Graphic Design = Terrorism” “Project: art essays”, and then sketches and notes can have different prefixes?
Lily: There is also this disconnect where you have these headers “Working Directory” and “Past Iterations” And I wonder why aren’t those all one?
Rahul: Hmm, well I guess I wanted to have, like an “Archive” archive (Past Iterations) where it’s like, this is what the studio looked like, between these dates, and then an in process archive: this is what’s being made and here are completed projects that are being used contextually to continue to produce work, but is yet to be contained. I was thinking about it like the difference between your external hard drive and your computers hard drive. Like my external hard drive never changes, it just gets backups added which are these static screenshots of the computers hard drive. But then my computers hard drive is constantly in flux.
Lily: It seems like it should be there but not really visible. Like, there for people to click on but not forefront with that circle and the same type. Right now it fells like, it’s a project In and of itself you know. It’s not really clear. But I like that, it’s a good metaphor. But I really do keep my external hard drive like tucked away.
Rahul: Yah (laughs). Same, mine is disconnected in this red bubblewrap and sits on my shelf. And then comes out every week for a backup.
Lily: Every week you backup??
Lily: I haven’t backed up in 2 years.
Rahul: (Laughs) I’m paranoid, I just get really worried, especially with photo work, cus it eats up space really quickly and it’s a lot of hours.
Lily: Yah, i’m really excited about the lecture idea. I think it’s going to be really cool.
Rahul: Yah, I’m really excited, I think before next week, my goal is to make a rough draft and just take, the tutorial video for the top, and use that, and just reflect a video of it, and mock up the video right here. And then do something more involved a couple weeks from now.
Lily: This has also helped me parse what I’m thinking about a little bit. I think you should really keep up all of the writing that you’ve been doing, even if Brockett says nobodies going to read it.
Lily: I think it’s good for figuring out what it is you are trying to communicate.
Rahul: Definitely. I’ve also noticed I’ll write something, and then a couple months later I’ll be trying to articulate a thought and I’ll look back through my notes and all of a sudden it’s there, and it’s clear even in it’s un-edited format, it’s already so close. And I can just take it and refine it slightly. Like right when I got home during the summer, that’s when I did all the writing I have now. For a period of four weeks I just wrote every night for like 30min to and hour, and idk, there is a lot of bullshit in there, but in between all that there is some solid, like a lot of what I want to say right now.
Lily: I think it’s a good reminder that, the first idea, or, when you start to think about a project, often I find, the first thoughts that I have about it are the most inline with what it should be but then I go through this whole loop just to end up right back there.
Rahul: Yah, it’s almost as if you expect it to be more complicated than it actually is. And I wonder what that means, like what fault I have, it’s probably vanity (laughs).
Lily: To make it more complicated. We should Skype again soon, I wanna have a studio visit.
Rahul: yah yah yah let’s do it. And come visit Philly sometime, I think you would really like it. This was fucking awesome, thank you so much.
Lily: Yah, bye Rahul,Talk soon!