The artist Loulou João was the first resident to spend two weeks at the Impossible Library. At Indiecon 2020, we talked to her about the work Pink Palace of Reflection, which she created during her residency. Here the digital character Polly Focket roams through different rooms of a palace and reflects her doubts and uncertainties.
IL: Maybe you could start by telling us what you did in the last two weeks in the library?
Loulou João: First of all, when I came into the Impossible Library, I was very attracted to the multiple stacks of publications on top of each other. They really invite you to pick them up, browse through them and just research, enjoy, experiment, take a look. So that’s what I did for two or three days, while I was browsing. Most publications are in German. I was too lazy to really try and understand and read it. Anyway, I like looking at pictures more.
I focused on the images that were featured in these publications and while I was making my selection of images, I realized that this narration was forming in my head already. That narration was actually more a reflection of the past couple of months, regarding Black Lives Matter and how that relates to me as an artist from Afro-Belgian descent and also in the industry: Getting more commissions because of the political climate. So that’s what it was all about.
IL: What is the work you did all about? How does Polly Focket fit in? What’s happening within the work?
LJ: So in this reflection, I tried to visualize it into a form where Polly Focket could really be confronted face-on with her own doubts and questions about herself and her work and I did this by creating Polly Focket’s Pink Palace of Reflection. This castle is where she can roam around and every room is a 3D digital space of one or multiple feelings and questions.
IL: Can you name some of these feelings and reflections? I mean the questions that you set yourself: You said Polly Focket was going to roam through the Library and maybe also excavate what is there and maybe also what isn’t there? If you could share some of these insights it would be eye-opening.
LJ: The feelings that are more specifically featured within these works and within the rooms are about guilt, self-doubt, excitement as well as being more in the public eye. Suddenly, I was being viewed as an influencer. I was not sure about what that even means, or how that even correlates to her as a person. There was not necessarily a connection to representation within these publications. I did feel like maybe some publications which were more “urban” or “Hip Hop” had this sort of connection, but the other ones rather not. Except for this one cover —with the two Black men— I was just attracted to that publication for the cover alone. This cover is amazing and what I want to make my work about. This kind of representation about being your true self and showing it, unapologetically, that was kind of one of the publications that spoke to me cover-alone. I did not even care what was in it. And I did not have to search for it. So that was very special: To have one of these publications where the cover in itself really is speaking to me, speaking to my world.
IL: Can you maybe also tell us a little bit how you prepared for the work in the library? Did it turn out as planned or did you change your methods during the work?
LJ: Once there is a narrative that I want to present, I try to make a storyboard. First, I start with some key-notes. What are the stories? What are these rooms? What am I trying to do? I put a white paper in the publications I chose. I used the printer to make a copy of the images that spoke to me. Then, I made this visual storyboard by hanging them up on the wall in an order that would make the narrative and then I tried to work in chronological order. Sometimes, I also switch when I am planning this piece. What I really tried to do was create fast. When I first arrived my goal was to make ten which was setting the bar too high. Eventually, I made six. I used a lot of the pieces and 3D object that I have in my library but I made a lot of new pieces too. One of the last ones, the mirror with the tear-drops, those are new pieces. I was in this flow.
IL: Do you feel like your definition of what Impossible or what the Impossible Library is has changed? What does the Impossible Library mean to you now at the end of your residency?
LJ: I think from the beginning till the end I kind of had the same expectation. It is this space for experimentation, and for creating new things. I create things that are kind of impossible. This digital space is creating the impossible.
IL: This is something that was also very interesting for us, as the Impossible Library team, when we saw your application. Obviously, the aesthetics speak for themselves but also this idea of transforming physical space – with magazines that you can touch and browse in – into a digital sphere. I really like this about your work and also in this specific case, to make this connection, to expand the library into a digital world.
LJ: Indeed, sometimes you wonder if physical publications that you can touch are still relevant, right now in the age that we are living, where everything is digital. I think these things can go into conversation with digital media. Especially for a person like me that is a digital artist, publications can still have a very important purpose. In this case, it was a very important inspiration to create the narrative. The rooms in particular for the Pink Palace of Reflection that I created, they are all derived from the pieces and publications that I browsed through. From that, the new pieces were created in digital realms.
IL: Do you have any advice for us at the Impossible Library? How we can continue or how we can evolve?
LJ: Expand the library even more. I think it is very important to go into dialogue with artists. Just like you did with Claudia de la Torre, have smaller residencies. Have a lot of conversations, that there is life in the library. Keep up the good work!
IL: We are really happy with what happened during these 2 weeks and thank you. One more question, can you tell us a little bit more about these pink balloons that are being deflated?
LJ: Its actually one of the first pieces that I created, during the residency, and it has this dual-meaning: On the one hand, it has this meaning of getting things going, something going through your head. At the same time, being like “What am I even doing?“ Am I good enough to partake in this business with these companies? Am I being too cocky already if I am feeling confident, or not? It’s this feeling of cockiness-confidence but not really.
Find out more about the publications used by Loulou João in her Reader
Find out more about Loulou João on Page: Interview
The Interview was conducted by Nina Prader and Torben Körschkes in joint editorial work and conception with Ina Römling and Urs Spindler.