Sylvana D’angelo is an artist, curator and designer based in Vancouver. Her upcoming gallery exhibition, How To Induce a Lucid Dream will be taking place this weekend, from August 13-15 at Shudder Gallery (433 Columbia Street). She is also a founding member of Zine Club, an international round robin of print distribution. As a collective their aim is to promote cross pollination of creative ideas between designers living and working in many different countries. She is working on an upcoming publication with Project Space as well as members of Zine Club to be released for the Vancouver Art Book Fair. We grabbed a coffee to discuss these upcoming projects.
PS: Can you tell us a little bit about what it is that you are working on for Shudder Gallery, as well as the publication you are planning with us for the Vancouver Art Book Fair?
SD: Well maybe I’ll start by talking about Zine Club. I went to a summer school program in Europe two years ago, in 2013, and I met a bunch of people there, and you know, like summer school, we became the best friends in the whole world. And we decided to start this club where we send each other mail once a month, and that way we would all stay in contact, and it would force us to create work as well. There were a range of individuals in the program, some people were 21, and all the way up to myself, at 35. Some people were in school, some people were not, and we thought this would be a good way to share across countries. And it’s done pretty well. We’ve been doing that for two years, and now we’re trying to move away from just being friends sending work to each other, to working on something more cohesive together, to conceptualize a single idea.
That’s what the publication that we are working on is. It’s going to be the first project where we are all working on a singular theme or idea. We’re doing something that we commit six months to, rather than work on a one month deadline.
PS: So you do work with deadlines normally? It’s not just a mail correspondence?
SD: Oh yes there are deadlines. I very professionally email everyone three or four times a month, just to make sure it happens. Because organizing twelve artists in twelve different countries is a challenge, and I’m just an email. So if I don’t constantly bug people about it, then nobody does anything. But, whenever I’ve taken a break and stepped back, I get others saying “Come on let’s do it again!”
A lot of people have started expressing how the internet has been a vital part of our community, and we’ve only ever done print stuff. So we thought we need to somehow move to or involve the internet. So we’re going to be launching a site that is going to be a little paranormal, and weird, we just thought that print and the web go together under this umbrella idea of paranormal activity.
PS: You’ve always been working in print, which you’ve mailed back and forth through the post. But the group’s organized communication is mainly over email?
SD: Yeah. 100%. Occasionally, I’ve been able to nail people down for Skypes, but really, nobody wants to do that. Everybody just wants to respond at their own pace. And that’s fine. One of the rules was that you could create whatever you wanted. So most people have different collections. For instance I’ll make something different for everyone that I’m sending it out to. And whereas that is fine, it doesn’t create much of a cohesive group.
PS: So where does all the print end up? Is there documentation of it at all?
SD: I’ve been doing a tumblr. We have a pretty big collection of documentation. And obviously I document everything that I have. And I think I have the biggest collection. Because I’ve been doing the administration, nobody doesn’t want to send to me. Often if someone has a new publication outside of Zine Club, they will also mail it to me so that I can include it. Which I really like, because who doesn’t like free stuff!
PS: Is the website going to mainly be a hosting platform for that type of documentation, or is it going to take on a different aspect as well?
SD: It is going to be completely new thing in itself. I’m going to be working with Quinn Keaveney, who is a big web geek, and he’s got some pretty cool ideas. So we’re going to be working together to transform these print project into a web project. Some of the designers really embraced it. But others didn’t. They really wanted to keep it print based. That’s fine, for them, I’ve been asked if I can reinterpret their work for the site.
PS: OK, back up for a minute. Tell me a little more about the zines, is it a lot of text work? Is it graphic design based? Is it more image or graphic novel format?
SD: I’d say primarily it’s all design. We all went to school to study design. One of the early members is a doctoral candidate in Scotland, I think, and he was studying social media, and he would submit some really good essays. But he only stayed in the club for a bout a year, he doesn’t submit anymore. So pretty much everybody else is design. Sometimes image based, but it’s all graphic design essentially.
Broadly, everybody would have a .div container, and then when you scroll over that .div, there would be some sort of action. So some people have expressed interest in having something simple, like their zine flip pages. Some people want to do an animated .gif which would be connected to other work. So what it would look like is sort of a map of our works, and my role is more to pull it all together. I don’t really like telling people what to do. I like to see what I get, as a designer, I don’t want to worry too much about their works, I just want to find a way to fit them together in the best possible way, while still creating something interesting as a whole.
PS: So when you throw in the concept of paranormal activity, what is that going to look like?
SD: The blanket of paranormal activity is a tool. The best way to describe it, is that it almost has nothing to do with our previous works. It’s a new way of us moving forward with a specifc idea. What I’m hoping is that after this is finished, that one of the other designers will take up a Zine Club project, and they can do a publication in their own way, and I’ll sort of be more of just a participant. Because it is quite a bit of work administratively. And I’d also like to see it distributed in another town.
PS: So do you see the online forum in itself as a little uncanny or weird in terms of the theme of paranormal activity? Do you translate it differently? The other meaning that I thought of was something that happens outside of your normal practice.
SD: In a way, I feel like I want this to be my normal practice. I like the idea of paranormal activity and the web because both things have an element of uncertainty. Perhaps you can see something on the internet that looked real because it was functioning in a specific way. For one moment you can see it as possibly under the influence of another being. And then as a collection, I see the website as being something like a gallery space. As a site specific place to curate works. I don’t want to give it too much heavy weight, I don’t want it to be too serious. I mean, we’re all really serious about our practice, but in this project, we are more playing around as designers.
PS: So you’re working with Quinn on the actual website, is your role going to be more curatorial?
SD: Yes and some of the programming as well. I find often that in my commercial work I’m unsatisfied with just graphic design of websites, I’m interested in using structure on a site as a form of art, so I’m going to be coding the site as well, in hopes that I can move my practice more into an interactive media area. This last year I really wanted to try some new things, I’m definitely in a point in my career where I’m trying to explore things right now.
PS: Is the Shudder Gallery show going to be your work? Or is it something you’re curating.
SD: It’s going to be original work from myself, and also another Zine Club Member, Larissa Monteiro who has been working with interactive media for quite a while. She’s a Brazilian designer who has now moved to Rotterdam. We teamed up because she has a really strong perspective, and I thought it would be easy for me to work with someone on something new for me who was coming from a really strong place. The show at Shudder Gallery is just going to be the weekend, August 13-15, and it is going to be evening showings. Larissa is really interested in Carl Jung, she really feels that psychological thing. And since I have an interest in the paranormal, or I guess more an interest in altered states, it’s really easy for us to take those two areas and put them together. It’s allowing us to express this very vague notion of wonder. Right from inception, the idea was kind of from left field.
Quinn is doing a print element to it, and he wanted to bring a sense of terror to the project. It has made me really excited. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out. And that is what has been exciting about Zine Club, is that it has been a place to experiment. That’s the beauty of zines, I never feel like I have to be 100% committed.
PS: Are there any examples of paranormal activity in narratives that you’re particularly excited about?
SD: It’s mostly images for me. I’m really excited about the instagram takeover, because I’ve been building up a collection of images that I feel have paranormal elements or represent instances of activity that can’t be explained. Not in a science fiction or narrative based way, but just in an image.
PS: Are you working with the image as a kind of potential documentary evidence?
SD: Yeah. And I think that the element that I haven’t stressed enough here is the tongue-in-cheek nature of it. Even if you can tell from the image that something for instance is just a reflection, it’s suggesting a mystery. Which is the interesting thing for me. If you take a moment to potentially extrapolate on the image, it could get weird. So some visuals coming out of the instagram takeover are introducing these ideas.
PS: Within the tongue-in-cheek nature, is there an element of satire to the project? To me, paranormal activity is kind of a ridiculous subject. It’s often heralded by weirdos in the middle of nowhere who think they’ve seen something weird happen. Is there some sort of social commentary on what is considered a ridiculous belief in there as well?
SD: Absolutely. I think that defines one of the things that I am most interested in as an artist. My work always has this element of superstition. I’m very interested in what Canadians specifically find superstitious. And oftentimes you have to go to small towns to find this. I’m collecting stories from places about that, and it comes out in my work often. It’s ridiculous, but also kind of wondrous.
Images courtesy of Sylvana D’angelo.