The ILSSA Reference Reports, a component of the ILSSA Quarterly, are an ever-growing and collaboratively generated annotated list of resources relevant to ILSSA members. The group's founders call the Reports “our analogue Internet.”
Impractical who? Speculative what? What is she on about? If you love bookbinding, zines, letterpress printing, type writers, old Polaroid cameras, and any and all things that have to do with obsolete technology, you will love this project. Impractical Labor in the Service of the Speculative Arts was started by Bridget Elmer and Emily Larned, two artists who are letterpress printers and bookmakers that I greatly admire. It was Emily who suggested I intern at Booklyn, a Brooklyn-based book artists alliance, my first internship in New York. I also worked in Emily’s studio all through college, binding books, scoring and folding CD covers, and sorting type, in exchange for the use of her beautiful Vandercook press and lovingly homemade lunches. It was this kind of impractical labor, and Emily’s inspiring example of how to do it, that made me think very carefully and clearly about what it meant to be an artist and how one builds an artist’s life and balances their life and work.
Set letterpress type for the ILSSA leaflet, What is craft and why does it matter?, included as part of an ILSSA Research Quarterly.
Bridget and Emily’s project/organization is a membership organization that borrows from ideas of a labor union and a research institute and a performance project all rolled into one. I was very flattered to interview them for NYFA Current and I hope you will read the full interview here about their activities.
I was so thrilled when Jason, the filmmaker behind the webseries “All New York’s a Venue” approached Corita about featuring us in his project. His videos feature indie bands playing songs in atypical locations, often quite unfit for a musical performance. The best part about the videos, I think, is that they are not music videos per se. They are not overly staged. They are just a live performance in an unconventional location.
My band Corita posed a challenge, however. We can’t play acoustic. I don’t want to sound snobby, but our songs rely on reverb, delay and a little bit of distortion (see, we’re a bit shoegaze). This does not work on an acoustic guitar, so playing on the subway or down by the Gowanus canal (our favorite NYC polluted waterway) was not an option. We needed somewhere to plug in.
Then I came up with an idea. My workplace is incredibly supportive of artists. That’s our business. We also have an airy, light-filled loft in DUMBO. Considering we had a feminist tea party come and set up shop in the office for a week I thought, well, why not a band? The organization was only too happy to agree, as long as we did it on a Saturday when the office was empty and kept the noise to a minimum.
It was really funny, and strange, to load all our gear into my office and play our songs about disenchantment, growing older, and looking at the sky in the middle of the file boxes and computers I see everyday. But that is part of the fun of the project. The incongruous nature of the music and the location. I hope you enjoy watching the results!