Volume Three / October 2004 / Copenhagen
Interview with S.Ehlers
M.L.: Sune, you participated in the third volume of "The One Weekend Book Series". Tell me about it. How was it?
S.E.: It was a grand experience, Iíve heard a billion clichés in the past about communication through drawings and blah blah blah. But the fact about the "The One Weekend Book Series", in this case anyway, is that this is exactly what I felt we did, communicate. I had never met my two team-players before, only talked via email. Our session was, for me at least, a visual conversation. Crouched over the pens and papers we reacted to silly doodles and a weird kind of language took form and took over. It was a thrill.
M.L.: You made up a very interesting term, the "visual conversation". I think that is a brilliant definition of what happened there. What do you think are the circumstances needed to make such a conversation possible?
S.E.: Focusing on process and not on result is evident to me. Besides all my other graphic work, I have a project going with sketchbooks in which I send 12 sketchbooks back and forth between me and 12 different people around the world. When I started the project out I focused a lot on getting the things "right". But I quickly realized that I should switch my focus to the energy living in the drawings themselves. Also not to think too much about where I was heading but focus more on having a good time doing it. My drawings tend to be much more energetic and strong when I let my hand wander, when I set it all free, free myself from rules and fear. In doing this, especially during collaborations, the result is always a complete surprise and something I learn a lot from.
I think the prime difficulty in this is the disease too many artists have, the fear that someone else might steal their ideas, expressions etc. The more you focus on this, the more boring the result becomes. The visual conversation is a "talk" free of fear, an action-reaction thing. Just as you donít know what a person will answer you when you improvise verbally, an equally surprising visual answer is to be expected when you draw freely and focused on process. Don't be afraid of others, they will only make you stronger. Focus on process, focus on having a good time while drawing [conversing] and the results will come to you...
M.L.: This describes pretty much the atmosphere we were working in, but there was something else as well. A certain excitement and productive anxiety, we did not know each other that well, then there was this time pressure and we wanted to create something great. On the other hand I could see that you were very confident, you seemed to have a lot of fun, which made me enjoy that weekend even more.
Let me come back once more to the terms you used, "communication" and "conversation". The words "communication" and "conversation" are regularly connected to the written or spoken word and rarely stand in connection with visual media. You made up the term "visual conversation", which connects both. I donít think that the visual language transports the same kind of information the spoken or written language does, but it is difficult to really define the differences. Words like emotional and rational do not describe them properly, as both visual and verbal media can be emotional or rational. I was wondering what your thoughts are on "visual conversation". Can the differences between verbal and visual expression, to an extent, be found in the information that is being transferred or exchanged? In what way do you read the volumes of "The One Weekend Book Series"?
S.E.: I believe that drawn statements generally hold all the information a verbal statement holds, AND more. Somehow the restraint that what you have in your head and try to put to paper cannot be 100 percent achieved adds a lot to both the "sender" and the "receiver". What I mean to say is that very few people can translate the images they have in their head to the exact same image on paper. Drawing is not an exact science, there's no formula so to speak. We try to get our images out and achieve it to more or less perfection, and itís this lack of correctness, some might call it our unconscious, where the real communication takes place. It's this extra bit of information that makes a painting, a drawing or a doodle special. Something takes over and you cannot control it, this is difficult to explain verbally, itís just right somehow. The One Weekend Book Series has an extra element attached to it, when three peopleís "extra bits of information" collide, you end up with something magical, unexplainable, something vibrant.
Martin, for me a fascinating aspect of Towbs was checking out what my co-drivers were doing next to me. What went through your mind as you witnessed us, me and Kasper, gluing stuff all over the place; disbelief, skepticism, fear?
M.L.: Ha, Ha, yes, disbelief, but in the sense of amazement. We progressed very fast. It was one of the volumes that could have actually been done in only one day. We were able to compile the illustrations to series in a very early stage. I knew your duudle.dk work and was very surprised when you started experimenting. At the end, when I brought the pages into a final order it were these pages that connected some series of images. They were actually that what you called the three peopleís "extra bits of information" making something new, unexplainable. That is always the most fascinating moment during the creation of "The One Weekend Book Series". It was very exciting, because everybody left their familiar territory and tried something new. At these moments I never know whether if what we are creating is good or not, but I neither care, it doesnít seem important.