Interview with Pamela Medina on Some Other Matter

P:   Hello Irfan!
My name is Pamela. I hope you are doing fine with all the current situation :)

I am writing to you because I would like to ask you some questions about your work. In particular the brick/books.

I discovered your work through a Singaporean friend, and I think it would fit perfectly as an example in my Master thesis (Curatorial Studies at Aalto University). I am writing about the book as a space and the potentialities for curating the book, and inside of it, in the digital era...

Due to the difficulty of going to the library, I am expanding my sources to digital platforms, and I loved how much documentation you have about your work. :)

IH:   Hi Pamela, 

Please tell me more about the book as a space. I'm curious about it :). I conceived the exhibition as an ode to my publication printing industry in my city, that is changing in this digital age. Before, many still speculated that the rise of the digital age wouldn't replace the physical need for communication with prints. Like the invention of the computer in the 70s was supposed to replace our need to communicate through prints, but with the invention of a smaller printer, the demand for paper skyrocketed. Even with the advancement of design software in the '90s and '00s, it liberated people to create their own thing, raising prints' demand. It pushed the development of printing technology each year, but it stopped suddenly in late 2000, and a few years after, many print publications closed down. The thing I wonder the most is the potential of what the halted printing technology could have become. It is just like an abandoned building site that won't be seen of its fullest potential. 

P:   I found an article (So Chic) where it is mention that it was challenging to create the book/bricks. How did you manage to bind the pages in the end (if no machine could do it)?  

IH:   Yes, it is not a simple process, especially in dealing with mass-production. The brick books were mimicking the real brick, so it needed to be in the same size. I couldn't find anyone with the machine that could bind more than 2 inches thickness. It is somehow doesn't exist, or if it exists, it is not a wise investment because of the low demand for it, especially now in the digital era. So, I and the printing factory I'm working with develop a manual technique that replicates the machine's process.

P:   How did you choose the pictures of the plants reproduced in the book? How many different types of plants where there?

IH:    The plants in the book are types of weeds that typically grow in South East Asia. They can grow out of brick and cement during abandonment. Out of the photos I collected, I picked the most common 23 plants for the book and repeated the images. 

P:   Could the vistors take those “books” with them? 

IH:   Yes, they can touch any artworks, take the prints and the books. The idea is similar to an abandoned building site in South East Asia, except for Singapore, as people usually build houses in parts. So when there is a family matter or mismanagement of money, the building project is halted and, most of the time, abandoned. So during that abandonment, other people nearby usually take the material, transform it into their own need or just let nature takes over. 

P:   And overall, did many people actually took things?  

IH:   Yes, many took and transformed the stacks.

P:   In general about your practice, do you print in your own studio?

IH:   Yes, for low quantity production and processing screenprint, risograph and binding, I use my own studio. But for more industrial print, mainly offset lithography, I work with many printers from my city (Bandung). I started practicing design and print for artists, photographers, and galleries ten years ago, producing posters, catalogs, and books; and introducing myself into the art world during the process.   

P:   What is your perception of paper now?  

IH:   I think that my perception of paper is the same as with any other material today. IKEA has popularized the use of their 'engineered wood' and plastic veneer that looks like wood but has different properties than the real wood. Over time we have started to accept the cheaper substitute the same as the real one and have become unable to differentiate them; we are losing the intrinsic opportunity to learn and experience these materials ourselves. So I always look at paper merely as a material that has many usages and different values. Throughout history, people have used it for many purposes, not only as material to be printed and written on but for durable clothes, window screens that directly expose us to outside elements, or air filters that protect machines. I think that many people tend to perceive paper with the type of paper they use almost everyday, office paper, that is very thin and delicate. Who knows, in a decade when we don't use office paper anymore, we may be more familiar with paper as in hard and durable packaging material that keeps rising in demand because of e-commerce. 

P:   I am also interested in the corrugated steel panels. Could you tell me a little bit more about this work?  

IH:   The exhibition's idea was to re-grow the missing material I reclaimed from abandoned sites with paper, the paper used as a tool of containing and spreading information. There was reclaimed wood used to create a sawhorse and scaffolding, I re-grew the missing and broken parts with paper to see the lost potential of the material, what people want to achieve before they abandoned it. The corrugated steel is playing around with a similar idea, growing the missing parts of the reclaimed material with paper. Corrugated fences are usually put up around abandon sites as barriers to safe keep the land and the material stored within, and many paste posters and graffiti on them. I collected publications from several houses, including my own, that they always keep in the cupboard and library to be shared with others or read again in the future. The publications mainly contain architectural, interior design and home decoration, inspiration on how we are potentially going to build the site. Others are books on hobby, novel, and comics; the one I collected from my late mother was the one that gave me the idea for this artwork. From her collection, I discovered another side of her I had never known before; it is a gateway to get to know a person just from an object.  

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