Frankfurt – On 13 October, visitors to The Arts+ at the Frankfurt Book Fair can participate in an interactive photography session with St-W x Thomas Brown.
Combining photographer Thomas Brown’s interactive Volume of Light installation with a bookstand of design titles by St-W and a café area, the space in Hall 4.1 will be open throughout the duration of the fair. Volume of Light invites participants to adopt an image and give it a title, exploring traditional notions of authorship and ownership, collaboration and assigned meaning. Thomas Brown tells us more.
Why did you choose paper as a medium?
THOMAS BROWN: Paper is the ultimate carte blanche. It is elementary, familiar and ready for creativity. Paper is also synonymous with the medium of photography: a two-dimensional surface ready to represent the three dimensional.
What do the scrunched-up papers represent to you personally?
Today, they represent potentiality. But in 2011, when the project was in its infancy, I was seeing meteors.
The more I photographed the objects, the more I realized how little control I had over how other people understood them, and that became the crux of the project. I wanted to know what others saw as a way to reaffirm my existence.
But by giving value and identity to what is normally considered trash, are you trying to devalue words, information, and stories which are written on paper?
No, quite the opposite. The given titles become inseparable from the images, and as soon as the object is given a title the paper ball in transformed into a face, a country, or a defrosting chicken, and you have to really force yourself to see anything else.
Tell us what you will be doing at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
People can visit the stand in Hall 4.1 at The Arts+ to adopt an image in person. Of course you can adopt an image anytime from the website volumeoflight.com, but at the St-W x Thomas Brown space, I will have all the images on display in a giant grid, it’s going to look amazing! All adoptions will include a copy of the Buchmesse directory, a poster, and a signed A4 print of their image and title, which will be an exclusive edition of one.
I’m also doing an event on Friday the 13th – guests are invited to create their own Volume of Light sculptures, which we will then photograph together for them to title.
Do you hope to achieve something different with Volume of Light at The Arts+, compared to previous iterations of this project?
When we do a live event, the audience is different every time, and that’s what makes it special. Everyone brings their individual ideas and perceptions in response to the sculptures. Also there’s a café in the space so people can get zingy, which might inspire some interesting results! Then there’s the special photography session on Friday evening.
In your recent interview with St-W for our 20th anniversary issue, you said that Volume of Light represents how authorship is becoming collaborative. But since there’s still one person naming or deciding what each image represents, haven’t you simply displaced authorship, given it up for auction? Is it possible to achieve true, open collaboration: with everyone in an audience deciding what each image means to them?
I understand ‘collaboration’ to be between two or more people and ‘authorship’ to belong to the creator of something. Therefore if I'm the author of the image and the guest is the author of the title, we’ve achieved a collaboration of authorship. The titles are key to interpreting the meaning of the images, so the finished work (which consists of image and text) would not exist without both parties contributing to its creation.
It’s true that an alternative would have been to create one image and then ask for infinite perceptions of that work, or to include multiple titles for each image; but neither of these routes seem satisfactory. I consciously wanted to democratize the project as much as possible, and each of the 469 images is essentially identical: a paper object and light. It is the subtle variations in colour, shape, and form that have inspired the different reactions and titles. I doubt anyone would have the patience to go through the whole collection offering names for each one, I certainly wouldn’t.
I think charging an adoption fee requires a level of commitment from the participant as a collaborator. A value has been put on their choice and on their given title. I feel that it has made people take the decision personally, seriously, and thoughtfully.
Guests will have an opportunity to create their own Volume of Light sculptures and photograph them together with Thomas Brown on .