Aug 8, 2020

“It’s a place of encounter”

Claudia de la Torre runs the Berlin based publishing house backbonebooks. During her visit at the Impossible Library, she extracted a mural from the stacks. Librarians Nina Prader and Torben Körschkes asked her about her method Color Topologies and the idea of translating text into a visual form.

Nina Prader: Claudia, welcome! We are going to ask you a few questions. You’ve spent the last week in the Impossible Library working on a mural. And maybe you could start by telling us: What are Color Topologies in your own words.

Claudia de la Torre: Well, Color Topologies are murals that have as a pretext books that are already existing. And I translate what I find in books – and in this case magazines – into visual layers. So it’s a translation.

N: And in your Color Topologies, what role does the content of the book take?

C: It is all about the content of the book. Basically, the mural is just a pretext for words or texts. So the texts and the words that I find are actually more important than the mural itself. In a way, the mural cannot exist without the content. So the content exists, then I select and then I try to make it into a visual form.

I try to show what’s already there and try to put it into context in my own way.

Torben Körschkes: And can you tell us why it is important to develop other narratives from publications? Because this is what you do, right?

C: Yes, I think it’s interesting to show another side of what’s already existing. In any case, when we look at books or magazines, we always take into consideration what’s important for us. So, to me it is important to try to find out what exactly interests me. So I try to show what’s already there and try to put it into context in my own way.

T: You said this a little bit, but maybe you can tell us a little bit more about how you weave these narratives. And how are these other narratives accessible?

C: In this case, the first step was already there, which is to find the material. The moment I stepped into the Impossible Library what I tried to do is to go through it and to select the publications that I thought could be the source of material that I wanted to work with. So the first step was already there, which is finding the material I want to work with. About the second part, how to make it accessible to the public: The work does not intend to be didactic, so it can be that the public does not really understand at the first moment what is the connection between the visual and the text. But I offer a possibility to find out if you want to find out.

The reader of magazines that has been transformed into the mural.

N: What are some key take-aways or learnings from the Impossible Library or inventory you found?

C: You know, in the Impossible Library you can find very different types of magazines. They all focus on very different things. So I was ending up selecting those magazines that have texts and narratives as their base. I stumbled upon a really great magazine, Kajet, I didn’t know it and I ended up reading it all. The issue I selected was about utopias. And I found the idea of utopias, of things that could be, a new possibility of things that maybe don’t exist, really thrilling. So this magazines really great to find. Also Edit magazine, a great selection of text. I was really surprised by the content, something you do not find so often.

It’s a place of encounter. It’s a place where you can get lost, and then maybe find things you were not expecting to find.

N: And at this point, what would you say is the Impossible Library?

C: It’s a place of encounter. It’s a place where you can get lost, and then maybe find things you were not expecting to find. I like the idea that it’s called “impossible”, in a way that it’s something that is growing, something that is there but is not complete. So when you invite someone like me, it is somehow like to try to make it possible. Make something possible within the impossible. I find this very appealing.

T: Can you elaborate a little bit more about the relation between the Impossible Library and your work? You normally work with single publications, now you came to an archive with more than 1000 publications. How was this different, how did it affect your work.

C: It was really different, because I usually work with books, let’s say novels or science fiction. And magazines are something different in a way that they are published more than once. So it’s a series of issues. And I stumbled upon a challenge, because actually the Color Topologies only take into consideration just one book. But when I was here I thought I cannot only concentrate on one single magazine. I would like to take more. So it was challenging because I did not know which shape the mural would take. It was a process of first selecting, how am I going to translate this into the wall. And then how am I going to integrate the text into the mural. So I decided I would concentrate on one A4 page. And when I filled in this A4 page with text, the work is done. So I had to set myself limits.

N: Maybe tell us about some of the conclusions you have come to with your mural.

C: I think, actually this will take me to further ways of thinking about my work. I’m also curious to see if people can then find their own ways of reading through my reading. And I’m happy to expand the way I see my Color Topologies.

Listen to the mural

books of poems lost in our laps
And a white page
We search out anything we can find
Sometimes it’s hard to know
what we are looking at
colours have faded
bright sky blue.

In the sixties you had geometry, in the seventies whatever

in many shades of yellow
parallel universe
the way one goes
what might be

pinks and corals
folded in a certain way to create a shape

positioned and pinned

The act of making it.
The act of making it. Yeah.
The ‘why’ of it - it’s the wrong question.

Eigentlich braucht man keine Pläne.
Ich habe keinen Plan.
Ich hatte nie einen Plan, fällt mir da auf.

the German word Glanz has three meanings: principally, it implies a shine or a shimme, a brilliance reflected upon an object, it also means glamour, and finally its cognate in English, clance - the fleeting contact with an object's exterior.66 The figure now looks perfect, beautiful in its elaborate shape.

This act of decontextualising

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