Interview with Claudia de la Torre about her work and backbonebooks by Amelie gr. Darrelmann

Amelie/KubaParis
Last year we presented your work „Farbnamenlexikon“ (2011). The starting point for this installation was the book „Farbnamenlexikon von A bis Z“ by Georg Seuffert, published in 1950. You selected 50 color-descriptions and paired them to images which were taken from your personal archive. These descriptions were read out loud and recorded in a narrative way, so the viewer could listen to the description and decide for an image individually. In 2013 you turned an exhibition room of the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden into a library – „The Questions Library“ presented shelves with books that had one thing in common: A question as a title. The volumes were all collected or donated by you or the visitors.
How would you describe your working process as an artist in relation to the medium book?

Claudia de la Torre
My artistic work with the medium book developed with time in a very organic way. The process of accumulation, the (re-) ordering of information as well as the relation between language, word and image appeared to be major subjects since the beginning of my artistic practice. Therefore, I kept/started thinking about the book as the „ideal form“, which serves as a physical and conceptual container, opening an imaginary space. Sequenced in pages, chapters or volumes, the chosen form opens multiple possibilities to structuralize what should be contained – I feel totally free to (re-) invent forms and spaces which allow to order, connect or deconstruct information. Being able to exist at the same time in different rooms – as part of an installation, as well as outside of an artistic context, is a challenging and inspiring aspect of this medium for me. As one can see, books turned to play an important roll regarding to my artistic process for developing concepts to work with. It is either the starting point of a piece (as in Farbnamenlexikon), or an ongoing process (as in The Questions Library), where every time the collection is shown, a new volume is published, and a new order is given. My work is always in constant growth, a creation, presenting new constructions of meaning which hopefully question knowledge paradigms within their activation.

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Georg Suffert Book, © Claudia de la Torre

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Farbnamenlexikon, © Claudia de la Torre

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The questions library catalogue vol2, © Valentin Hennig

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The questions library catalogue vol2, © Valentin Hennig

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The questions library catalogue vol2, © Claudia de la Torre

Amelie/KubaParis
The viewer has always an important roll in your installations. What do you expect out of this form of communication?

Claudia de la Torre
Believing that a work of art exists within the physical or mental activation through an individual, I see books as objects that demand an active user rather than a passive observer. My productions are not meant as the end point of an artistic process – they can serve as a vehicle which hopefully leads to an unexpected path, a point of asking questions and forming new perspectives. Hereby it is not only about the activation of the work in a given situation: I consider a physical or mental engagement of the created object with an individual already in a very early stage of production. I am conscious that there will be a user before I even start to work, weather as conceptual artist or publisher. There is always space between an idea to be realized, an upcoming communication and a function or relevance in the future.

Amelie/KubaParis
In 2011 you established the publishing house backbonebooks. You are publishing your own artistic works, but you are also collaborating with other artists of versatile disciplines in a remarkable way. Samantha Bohatsch told us, that you motivated her a lot before you published the work „Zieglergasse 26/19“ in an edition of 50 in december 2014. Backbonebooks is a great commitment and an important platform for young artists who want to work with the medium book in an interdisciplinary process of production. How did u come to the idea of establishing a publishing house? How are you financing the project and what means the collaboration with other artists for you?

Claudia de la Torre
Well, I guess I didn’t want to wait for other publishing houses to present my work, so therefore I created my own. It became evident to me that having a name (backbonebooks) would also allow me to develop my artistic process two spheres – as an artist and as a publisher. These two spheres are interconnected but still have their own ways of operating. Books are as a democratic medium, accessible through many different channels such as book fairs, libraries, shops, museums or galleries. Therefore they reach a wide audience. The second stage was proposing to other artists I wanted to work with. I was really excited to to generate something by being sensible to others work, rethinking constantly what a book can be. Collaboration means, to elaborate something together that eventually will result in a coherent piece, responds to the artists interests in question – it turned out to be really effective: The true interest in other artists work offers great opportunities to build an engagement during the process of production based on confidence that can bring something new for all participators. Each project is a new challenge which demands to start with the same disposition and openness. Through backbonebooks I have been able to work with painters, sculpture makers, installation artists as well as with poets and photography interested artists. Right now, with the beginning of 2016, backbonebooks is in a special development: I have a new partner who is expanding the publishing house with me. Her name is Anna Wlach, she is art-historian with curatorial experience, writer and a close friend of mine. Even though we have a different background, coming from diverse spheres of producing art, we share a lot of mind-melting moments. After years of working next to each other, we naturally became a „hybrid of conceptual art and curating“ – and decided to move the publishing house in new directions. We started to think about all the fundamental aspects of backbonebooks relating to the structure, the concept, future projects and the financial part. The financial part is never easy – every project has production costs and takes its time. We are trying to solve that every time in relation to what we (backbonenooks and the co-working artist) have to give and want to realize – but of course, we are always searching for sponsorships.

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„Zieglergasse 26/19“ © Valentin Hennig

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„Zieglergasse 26/19“ © Valentin Hennig

Amelie/KubaParis
In december 2015, backbonebooks was invited to the „Friends with Books“ art book fair which took place Hamburger Bahnhof – museum for contemporary art for the first time. We showed a picture of your table on our page. What did you show and how did you feel about presenting backbonebooks?

Claudia de la Torre
We were really happy to be invited to fair again! The exchange and the direct feedback are always very rewarding, especially this time. It was a great chance to present backbonebooks with it’s „new“ identity and the expanded concept we worked on before. We wanted to work with the given table as an exhibition space, reducing what should be shown to a concept-based installation. Therefore we decided only for a few books and one piece of our recent edition which would accompany the wall behind us with our concept hand-outs perfectly. The edition, which derives from the installation l life, only certain creatures have skins”, presents one cloth of books that have been skinned as if it were an archeological object. We also launched the book “Small Comfort” – a small edition of 30 and the result of Claudia’s three months residency in France. During the fair we had the chance to explain our way of working together to the public – inside and outside the art scene – emerging what we want to deliver to the public. Backbonebooks is more than a usual publishing house: It is a platform, producing artistbooks and editions as well as realizing exhibitions in collaboration with artists, institutions and other platforms. Anna and me are willing to open an individual „translating field“ for every project and it’s variables – creating an object in relation to the medium book in a conceptual and physical process of production.

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As in real life book, © Valentin Hennig

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As in real life book, © Valentin Hennig

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As in real life installation, © Claudia de la Torre

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As in real life installation, © Claudia de la Torre

22/12/2015- Valence - drome - france - ART 3 galerie residence d'artistes - Exposition Small Comfort de Claudia de la Torre - Photo Thiery Chassepoux

22/12/2015- Valence – drome – france – ART 3 galerie residence d’artistes – Exposition Small Comfort de Claudia de la Torre, © Thiery Chassepoux

22/12/2015- Valence - drome - france - ART 3 galerie residence d'artistes - Exposition Small Comfort de Claudia de la Torre - Photo Thiery Chassepoux

22/12/2015- Valence – drome – france – ART 3 galerie residence d’artistes – Exposition Small Comfort de Claudia de la Torre, © Thiery Chassepoux

Amelie/KubaParis
What are your plans for 2016?

Claudia de la Torre
Well, in a few weeks our website www.backbonebooks.net will be finally online. And there will not only be an online store: Presenting news about our activities as well as the artists we work with, all our publications and the concept of the publishing house to the public establishes hopefully many, many interesting opportunities to realize future projects. We will be working with the gallery Marso (México) and Carla Fernández in the production of an edition for and with the turkish artist Emre Hüner. Georg Rutishauser, editor of Edition Fink (a publishing house based in Zürich), will re-edit a compilation of the three Questions Library as part of his “Fink Twice Series”. We will also start with the second publication of our series backbonebooks recommends, and…. – we know this year will hold exciting collaborations and growth!

backbonebooks video © Valentin Hennig

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Claudia and Anna, © Dennis Zorn