I had the opportunity to talk with Chris Duncan about his publishing endeavor “Land and Sea” which he does with his wife Maria Otero, in Oakland CA. Land and Sea is a unique project focusing on editions that works within multiple facets of print, sound, and happenings that encourages progressive thinking and making. It is one of my favorite artist run projects in the Bay Area and I have been slowly accumulating Land and Sea editions over time. Chris Duncan is also an amazing artist currently finishing his MFA at Stanford University. His work is incredible and if you haven’t had the opportunity to see his work you can visit Eli Ridgway Gallery’s website here. Enjoy.
-Interviewed by Gregory Ito
Chris, tell us some history about yourself and introduce the editions you are currently producing.
I came to the bay area via the East coast in 1995. I spent my first months in Tahoe and eventually ended up sharing a room in the Lower Haight with my friend Bryan Chu. I spent most of my time skateboarding and going to music shows, I also began to paint and draw. Eventually I got my BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts. At the end of 2009 my wife and I began a small press/record label called LAND AND SEA. Maggie had spent a lot of time at Adobe books, curating shows and doing some PR for the gallery. She took a break from art organizing and got heavily involved in the food culture of the bay area. After awhile she began to miss being in the art mix. That coincided with the end of a project that I helped publish for about 7 years. So one night towards the end of 2009 we decided we would make editions and organize gatherings under the moniker LAND AND SEA. Currently I am enrolled in a masters program at Stanford University and working with Maggie on LAND AND SEA projects.
So “Land and Sea” is a collaboration with your wife, correct? That’s pretty rad that you two are making stuff together. For people who don’t know, Land and Sea shifts their format each edition that’s released. Can you talk about the breath of editions produced and the various ways they operate?
Yes LAND AND SEA is very much a collaborative effort. It feels pretty great to share this outlet with maggie, and in turn, the artists we work with. Though we have meager means, I feel we have a lot to offer. In regards to the breath of our output- we respond to each artist, situation or opportunity differently. We are both fascinated with, and take inspiration from, the look and feel of 60’s-70’s artist ephemera(show flyers, small editions etc..) as well as the aspect of a “gathering” or “happening” that said ephemera is often a bi-product of. Old hardcore/punk flyers and 7″ vinyl records are not far from influence either. I see the gatherings we organize as editions themselves-though we have not numbered them. That said we work with artists to make books or records, and in turn create events to celebrate our recent efforts and our community of makers. We have made books of photography, drawings, collections, a flip book of a performance, a flip book of two films, poetry, experimental sound records, and a cd. We also make limited artist editions of each release that get deluxe treatment. We let each artist come up with their content. We are as present or absent as the artist we are working with needs us to be, with one stipulation: the book cover or somewhere in the packaging of whatever the edition is needs to have repeated text. This has become our overall aesthetic and somewhat of our signature.
Can you talk about how you select the artist’s you choose to work with? What is the process like when deciding the next project, and how far ahead to do you plan each edition?
Maggie and I have a very organic selection process. We do not have a firm schedule and the deadlines we set are our own unless we are making something to coincide with a show or book fair. This allows us to think on our feet and stay open and responsive to what we see and hear. We seem to have projects that are quick responses to opportunities, or projects that feel like years in the making. We tend to work with people we have relationships with so there is a foundation of trust and respect already in place. If we are interested in working with someone we will feel it out and see if they are interested, and move forward at what ever pace is necessary. Though we have produced a lot of editions since we started, we are not in a rush to do things. We have a long list of folks we will eventually make books or records with.
When I last visited your studio you spoke about your motives to create editions/multiples that are more easily obtainable by the average art enthusiast, rather than create high end art objects for the elevated and exclusive group of collectors. Can you talk more about your views to accessibility vs exclusivity?
At their core books and records are meant to be accessible. In a broad view, they are made to communicate a message or idea to the masses. It seems contradictory to us to treat them strictly as high brow art objects. That said, we do make limited edition versions of each release. We rely on the sale of these artist editions to make the regular edition affordable. So we offer both easily obtainable editions and more exclusive editions. One feeds the other.
Through trial and error, this is the model that we found works best for us: We make an edition of 50 or 100, 5 of those become limited artist editions. These have been worked on specially by the artist and are signed and numbered. We sell these for $500 and split the sale with the artist. This way the artist actually gets paid for doing a project with us and we can get a good percentage of our production costs taken care of. Then we can keep the costs lower for the regular edition. Maggie and I feel like we have struck a good balance between both accessibility and exclusivity.
Can you talk more about the gatherings/happenings you organized? There is an emphasis of sound that these events. Can you expand on the kind of sounds projects you have executed?
The gatherings/happenings/releases/shows we organize are an extenuation of our intentions and aesthetics in real time. We approach organizing much like we approach publishing. It needs to be organic and it can not be forced. In our experience, the moment we veer from staying open to the possibilities is the moment we are in for a rough time.
In regards to the types of events we curate or host, they are generally a combination of the worlds Maggie and I are interested in: sound, visual and literary, amongst others. The books we make are steeped in visual communication. Sound performances/experiments, as well as the written word, are logical companions to a moment created to celebrate something visual. Respectfully, we see sound, visuals and writing as one in the same, and we enjoy facilitating them all. We try and create challenging and captivating moments. We see opportunity and physical space as a luxury that is not something to be squandered. That said, Maggie and I, along with our collaborators, attempt to offer as many layers as we can to accentuate the edition being celebrated, or the idea being illustrated. We try to provide different perspectives. What this means is we bring many makers(artists, musicians, poets, etc..,) together to create interesting and multifaceted events. The creative forces of the bay area and beyond are strong and varied. When we can, we enjoy creating a platform in which these different factions can gather and communicate.
We see our gatherings as a call and response. The “call” could be an edition we make and the “response” is a celebratory event that we organize or vice versa. An opportunity to organize an event often leads to a new project. A good example of this is the SUN AND MOON series we did with Berkeley Art Museum, which was four events: two day time(THE SUN) and two night time (THE MOON). Prior to Collin Mckelvey’s amazing performance at the museum in response to Paul Kos’ piece: The Sound Of Ice Melting, we did not have the intention to release a record of his. Once was all was said and done, it seemed foolish to not put a record out by Collin. We are very proud of his edition.
LAND AND SEA has also released a small run CD from Believer (a side project from bay area musicians Trevor Montgomery and Danny Paul Grody), a SUN record(experimental, collaborative sound project) and two records from Colter Jacobsen and Tomo Yasuda’s band Coconut. All of these releases were the results of, or resulted in performances.
Our most recent effort occurred in LA at a project space called Public Fiction. We collaborated with our dear friend and artist/musician Rob Barber(High Places) on a four day sound gathering called UNISOUND. The premise was to begin to bridge the gap between bay area and southern California art/sound makers. By no means was this a definitive gathering of all that is happening in these regions, it was merely our perspective. So Rob got LA people together and we got bay area people together for four nights of sound and visuals of very varied but open scenes. It was pretty great.
What can we look forward to at Land and Sea? Where can we find Land and Sea editions?
We are working on a book with Ajit Chauhan and two projects with Paul Clipson. It’s a little too early to go into detail about them, as well as some of the other artists we are in conversation with, however I can say they will be amazing and will provide great opportunities to get folks together. We will also have a residency early next year at Little Paper Planes’ new store front which we are thrilled about. You can get Land and Sea editions directly from us, at Needles and Pens in San Francisco and at Printed Matter in New York City. Thank you very much for the opportunity to share our things.
For more information on Land and Sea visit here.
Below is a list of the various editions released by Land and Sea.
LAND AND SEA #1- DEFAULT STATE NETWORK. edition of 100. catalog for exhibition curated by Ryan Wallace.
LAND AND SEA #2: COCONUT 7″. edition of 100. cover art by Jessie Schlesinger
LAND AND SEA #3: SEEING booklet and button. edition of 100. includes essays by Whitney Chadwick, Max Goldberg, Larry Rinder, Miranda Mellis, Lindsey White, Matthew Zapruder and more..
LAND AND SEA #4: BELIEVER cd. Edition of 50. silkscreen and sewn by hand.
LAND AND SEA #5: THE SUN LP. Edition of 30. hand sewn and letterpressed covers. yellow vinyl
LAND AND SEA#6: OMEGA by ryan wallace. signed and numbered edition of 100.
LAND AND SEA #7: SEAN MCFARLAND-PICTURES OF THE EARTH. edition of 100
LAND AND SEA #8: RYAN TRAVIS CHRISTIAN. edition of 50. graphite smudged covers in plastic sleeve.
LAND AND SEA #9: KELLY ORDING-PATHS AND WAYS. edition of 50. artist edition of 5 comes signed and numbered with original drawings bound into each book.
LAND AND SEA #10: EQUAL NIGHT- a poem by Matthew Zapruder with images by David Wilson. edition of 100. created in celebration of SUN AND MOON at Berkeley Art Museum.
LAND AND SEA #11: earthearthearth-Colter Jacobsen. edition of 100. comes with postcard and found object. artist edition comes with original drawing and packed by Jacobsen.
LAND AND SEA #12: COCONUT LP. multi-colored vinyl in edition of 100.
LAND AND SEA #13: SOUND OF PAPER double LP. Chris Duncan. edition of 12.
LAND AND SEA #15: EMPIRE/OLD FAITHFUL- GREG STIMAC. edition of 50. artist edition of 5 signed and numbered comes in film real canister.
LAND AND SEA #16: THE HUMAN DAM- REUBEN LORCH-MILLER. edition of 50. artist edition of 5 comes signed and numbered in a hand-built case by Reuben, with a cd soundtrack and candle.
LAND AND SEA #17: WORDS-Chris Duncan- edition of 50. artist edition of 5 comes signed and numbered in acrylic case with hand altered pages.
LAND AND SEA #18: LIFES A BEACH- EDDIE MARTINEZ. edition of 100. artist edition of 5 comes signed and numbered wrapped in a beach towel with original drawing in book.
LAND AND SEA #19: COLLIN MCKELVEY- CANTI FOR PAUL KOS 7″ record. edition of 100. clear vinyl and letter pressed covers with an essay by Aaron Harbour. artist edition of 5 comes signed and numbered in resin case built by Mckelvey.