Dorothée Perrett & Oscar Tuazon on their paths to publishing and doing-it-yourself, together
+
Interview
1,465 words
2020

Dorothée Perret (1972, Rillieux-la-Pape, France) is an independent editor and publisher. She runs DoPe, “a press for artists.” Oscar Tuazon (1975, Seattle, Washington, USA) is an artist “at the juncture of architecture, sculpture and performance.” They live and work in Los Angeles.

Dorothée and Oscar invite you to read:

Robert Morris LevineOscar, who is Dorothée Perret?

Oscar TuazonShe’s the love of my life.

Dorothée PerrettThis is supposed to be professional [laughs].

OTOh, sorry. Dorothée is a lifelong collaborator and a publisher of many different things. We’ve worked on several books together. She is a great editor and designer and thinker about books.

RMLAnd Dorothée, who is Oscar?

DPI’ll stay professional. Oscar is an artist. We met fifteen years ago and our lives kept getting tangled. Living with Oscar and learning from his practice has influenced my practice, even if our work is mostly separate.

RMLWhat is the first book you read together?

DPWhen I first met Oscar he had a library full of books, pamphlets, and ephemera about West Coast do-it-yourself architecture. Those publications introduced me to a fringe of culture that, being from Paris, I only had a vague and glamorous idea about.

OTWe’ve returned time and time again to Dome Cookbook, Steve Baer’s mid-century zine about geodesic domes and off-the-grid living. It inspired the design and sensibility of our most recent book, Water School.

RMLDorothée, your path to publishing was circuitous, beginning in Paris ateliers.

TPI know, right. My education is in fashion design. I entered the Parisian fashion world in my twenties and for the next decade worked in several small studios: Martin Margiela, Martine Sitbon, Maison Guy Laroche. That was an interesting time, the nineties—the beginning of the end of fashion as we knew it. In the late-seventies and early-eighties, it was possible to exist as an independent designer outside of couture houses and mainstream collections. I moved away from fashion as the independent scene was being swallowed by big, corporate luxury brands. Plus, over time I found fashion too limiting. It stays on the surface; it is only aesthetic.

By the early aughts, the fashion world and art worlds were eternal lovers and I was able to move between them. I started at Purple Magazine in 2003 and stayed until 2007. Those were my formative years in publishing. Soon enough, I moved away from Purple too. That’s the moment I met Oscar. He gave me the confidence to embark on my own little adventure with DoPe Press. I launched the magazine Paris LA and then began making books.

RMLDoPe is, simply, "a press for artists." Why is this distinction so important?

DPThat’s correct. Artists are central. Our mission is just to accompany them through the process. We bring the tools but the ideas and creativity are the artists’ alone. DoPe is, in a sense, a self-publishing service for artists.

RMLDid you take anything from cut and sew that you now use when making artists' books?

DPTotally! It was natural to transition from making clothes, choosing fabrics, and cutting patterns to making books. I love to work with paper. It reminds me of my original love of fashion: fabric, volume, form.

RMLYou, Oscar, were raised in a bookbindery. What was it like growing up in this “hippie operation”?

OTIt was great. It was hands-on, improvised, a family business. We produced blank books that we distributed to independent bookstores, publishers, poets, and authors across the West Coast. It introduced me to the rich and storied craft of bookmaking. It helped me understand the book as an object, not just a container. I was most taken by the materiality: choosing the cloth, selecting the marbled paper, assembling all the pieces by hand.

RMLYou now work at architectural scale. Filial rebellion, perhaps?

OTPerhaps. That said, architecture is a paper practice for much of its life. It is about drawings; it is about how to annotate form onto a blank page. What intrigued me about books then is what attracts me to architecture now: it is a way of collaborating and being with other people.

RMLTo publish is, after all, to make public.

OTPrecisely.

RMLWater School, the series of community centers you’ve built for informal learning about local water and land rights, "is a physical space created to connect people through the medium of water." In his 1975 manifesto "The New Art of Making Books," Ulises Carrión declared that "a book is a sequence of spaces." Do you conceive of the book as a physical space?

OTI do, actually. I hope that the book supports and reinforces the building. It is a symbiotic process. The book introduces the building and brings people in and generates the process of this long term architectural project. There is an internal logic of the book in general, and certain architectural spaces and experiences are only possible in book form, where the audience may be more important than the author. Earlier forms of Land Art or performance art used publication this way to generate mystical space around works of art, and now it seems we are at a moment when these spaces can be created and maintained collaboratively.

RMLWater School houses an extensive library, including, in its latest iteration at the MSU Broad, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings, Alexander Vasudevan’s The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting, and A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Are you the librarian?

OTIt is an open-source library. You can see the outlines of my history, interests, and obsessions with water, but I accept and solicit recommendations from everyone who is involved in the project. It is important that it grows in public. It is so interesting the way it grows. The library becomes a fractal. One book connects to another.

DPI remember that when you were installing, people on the crew would bring their own books.

OTRight. The group from Los Angeles had a lot of input. Likewise, the group in Chicago. As I organize talks with people, I ask them what’s missing. The library is always building.

RMLRecalling the books you made in your parents’ bindery, you say, "It is this aspect that I actually find most interesting, the idea of producing a book not as a form of distribution or communication, but as an object." Are you making books for yourself?

OTI must admit, yes. The experience of consuming a book is a solitary one. That’s the irony of it: this public form that ends up being a private experience. Even if you go back through my history to some of the far out forms of craft binding were so solipsistic. I find that really interesting. Of course, it relates back to the illuminated manuscript. It’s this amazing labor and construction of meaning that is on a page. Most of the time that page is closed and inaccessible. It has this deep sense of privacy.

RMLDorothée, you edited Water School. Poet stephanie roberts says that "editing is like using your fingers to untangle the hair of someone you love." Does this feel right?

DPNo. Editing is a conversation. It has very little to do with me. I just listen to the artists, hear what they have to say, and assist as I can. For instance, Oscar most of the time knows what he wants, though he’s not always direct in expressing it. I may work on something for a week and when it is time to share it with him, he’ll ask “What if we did it this way?” He had that in mind from the get-go but the path I took to get there wasn’t so direct. Editing is the art of listening—and the patience to get lost on the eventual route to the point.

DPNo. Editing is a conversation. It has very little to do with me. I just listen to the artists, hear what they have to say, and assist as I can. For instance, Oscar most of the time knows what he wants, though he’s not always direct in expressing it. I may work on something for a week and when it is time to share it with him, he’ll ask “What if we did it this way?” He had that in mind from the get-go but the path I took to get there wasn’t so direct. Editing is the art of listening—and the patience to get lost on the eventual route to the point.

RMLOscar is one of the seven artists you have published with DoPe. What artists' practices best translate to the book?

DPOur catalog is so eclectic. I haven’t developed a thread or a theme or medium. There is no rubric. I entered publishing not through formal education but as an autodidact. I still approach it like this. Simply, I publish work that I am interested in by people that I am interested in. Publishing has always been about that human experience for me.