L'ombre d'une ville: The design of Physics and Twelve scenes from 12 am is very important for the way the reader can approach and apprehend them. How did you conceive these two books? Was it a collective work?
Gaye Chan: At the time, Lisa and I were working/playing on a number of other collaborations. Susan Schultz might have asked if Lisa wanted to give TinFish something to publish and she offered Physics and 12 scenes . Since we were already collaborating, it seemed to make sense that I did the design, instead of finding another designer. Both the writings dealt with journeys, so we agreed to create the chapbooks as maps. And separate maps instead of both on the same.
Lisa Asagi: Twelve Scenes from 12 a.m. was conceived as a conceptual project originally, and so I think it found a great fit with the collaboration with Gaye to turn it into a chapbook in the form of a fold out map. Original conception: I was on a trip back home to Hawaii for 12 nights and gave myself an assignment to write a postcard condensed piece at midnight every night. So you see, it’s title is an accurate description of it’s structure.
As a writer, I feel very blessed when I am able to collaborate with artists based in other mediums. Visual artists, film and video artists, live artists, music composers. This is because inherent yet unassumed facets always emerge. When Gaye first showed me the proofs for the books, it struck me how she found a way with the text to portray a map of not just space but also of time. To me they are maps of time and moment.
This also with Physics. Though here it is a mapping not so much of time but of the emotional landscape of memory that is secret but can only be conveyed through something as public as language. Just as our most intimate nature, our bodies and the ecology we are a part of, can only so far be talked about in terms of the scientific.
OV: When we read the two books, we had the feeling that you worked simultaneously on their shape because text and design seem to be perfectly connected. So, Gaye, your intervention was on a text already written: how did you work with the text and what did you think or feel about it when you first read it ?
Gaye Chan: Lisa often uses scientific language and terminology to explain things not quantifiable. She makes me feel like I am eavesdropping on notes she took for herself. A set of instructions, recipe… Cartography seems a ‘logical’ form of representation to map these terrains. Measurements and legends that aren’t quite reliable but tease you into thinking otherwise.
I designed the two books at the same time. There are many elements that are identical in both; size, folding format, the border on the pages/maps, font, etc. – and the differences reflect simply the different rhythm of the words.
The pages are big. A little too big even if you stretch out your arms. So big that you can’t see the whole thing at once. This kind of mirrors those funny pauses in Lisa’s words. Periods all over the place. Like her breath is short.