I am fascinated by how various cultural influences mix and overlap through the internet. In the book Once Upon Many Times, I investigate a new way to tell a story through the children’s classic ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. The tale is reduced to a list of keywords like ‘sweet little girl’, ‘wolf’, ‘deceit’, or ‘triumph’. Each spread of the book is illustrated by the results of a Google image search for these words. The images reveal a rich collage of multiple cultural narratives that create a distinctive storyline based on associative interpretations rather than rational ones.
The following is the result of an interview, made for The Creators Project by VICE Magazine. Here is the link to the original article.
What was your inspiration for this project? And how did you get to it?
I was fascinated by how cultural influences mix and overlap through the internet and how it influences our visual culture and communication. You have popular culture and subculture, local and foreign, old and new, modern and rural, classic and trash, private and public you name it…all one mouse click away without any difference in value. Yet if they are curated like through an image search, they can transport one narrative no matter how different they are.
I saw a chance to tell stories through this based on associative interpretations, rather then rational ones. So I was searching for content I can play around with.
Fairytales are interesting because they constantly keep on changing through time and cultural background. The origins of little red riding hood for example can be followed back until the middle ages. Similar forms of the story can be even found in China or Egypt.
Yet fairytales are always emotional, and are playing with basic human emotions so that everyone can understand and share them. In this way it was the perfect tool to start with.
What kind of message do you want to deliver by creating this book?
Information and stories are always passed on with an intention. To educate you, to entertain you, or for example to trick you.
Yet through our excess to big amounts of information, the truth they are trying to transport becomes relative. What stays, is the essence, the lowest common factor that every information regarding one topic is sharing.
This becomes an information by itself.
It can be as simple as: "a wolf is scary".
Plus: our all day culture is extremely visual. Spoken or written information becomes less important and less profound, sometimes even misleading. But instead of bedevilling this fact I wanted to show a broader picture and try to see if pure imagery can become some kind of language by itself.
Those two factors I pulled together to see if they can bring a new dimension to a common story.
How did you design and develop the little red riding hood book?
I reduced the tale of the little red riding hood to a list of keywords like: "little girl", "wolf", "deceit", or "triumph" to get a basic framework. Each spread of the book is illustrated by the results of a Google image search for these words. I edited the pictures in a way that they illustrate as many as possible cultural connotations for each term.
The design is kept very simple, so that nothing distracts the reader from the imagery.
The picture collections are put on the spreads with a bleed to give a notion of infinity.
When the book is closed, it nearly looks like a modern hard drive only the bleeds give an idea of the materiality and of what a vast amount of imagery the book contains.
What is the current state on publishing the little red riding hood book and maybe other ones?
At the moment I am working on an editorial to put the book into context for neutral viewers and to make it more interesting for publishers.
Although I have no concrete offers yet, I think the idea has great potential, both as an art-book edition or in shape of a very accessible news paper like format.
But in general I am still experimenting with the idea.
For example I am working on a children's version for the Dutch Design Week in October, where the project will be presented.
Or think of presenting daily news in this way or telling the story of the bible or explaining scientific theories…the possibilities are rich.