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Cole Caswell and Bryan Graf, creators of Swamp Thing and Relics

I had a brief email exchange with Cole Caswell and Bryan Graf, creators of Swamp Thing and Relics (both on view at SPACE). In this interview, Cole and Bryan talk about the work in the exhibitions, their collaboration and their future plans.

I would like you to tell us a little about yourself. How did you start in art and what do you think was the most influential part of your education? Was there a specific person who you like to mention that made a huge difference in your career?

For us as a printing collaboration, Sun System Press started around 2011. It began as a way for us (Bryan, Cole, CJ) to share ideas and collaborate on projects where our work cross-pollinated. Specifically in an area known as The Dismal Swamp in New Jersey. We would all be photographing and gathering materials in the swamp together and it happened pretty organically where we thought making zines, posters, prints, etc. together would be a lot of fun. We kept the momentum going and started to think of our collaborations as being all under one umbrella project. Aphex Twin, Wu-Tang Clan and Barefoot Jerry influenced us a lot, both structurally and in how they were able to form a sense of space and place sonically. We were (are) interested in doing that through images and installations.

You have two different installations at SPACE: Relics, the window installation, which is a collaboration between you two, (Bryan Graf and Cole Caswell).The second installation is Swamp Thing which is an exhibition by Sun System Press (Bryan Graf, Cole Caswelland CJ Heyliger). Where and how did your collaboration start? How has this collaboration affected your work?

This collaboration has affected our individual practices dramatically. We feed off of each other creatively and are a family… which I guess means we fight a lot but can still stand each other because we have to. None of us would be making the work we are making individually without the constant back and forth and influencing of one another’s work.

Could you speak more about the role of photography in Swamp Thing. How do your
medium, large-scale photographs, and wallpaper, serve your concept?

When we were approached about doing the Swamp Thing installation at SPACE it was important that we did something which riffed on the New England Art Book Fair. Since we’re a publishing collaboration it was very exciting for us to think about using materials that touch on the materiality of printed matter (books, zines, posters, etc). For example, all of the large-scale images sized at 42×52 inches are printed on a cotton-linen fabric that resembles book cloth. The Cyanotype murals were arranged in a way that mimicked a stack of paper you are flipping through. All of the images in the exhibition were in our Publications / Posters that we had for sale at our Sun System Press table at the NEABF. The wallpaper is a repeated and paneled image that is the cover of one of our books. We thought it would create an interesting backdrop for the fair and we also loved the idea of thinking about a 14×18 foot wall being one side of a book cover.

What is the status of the audience in Swamp Thing and Relic? What kind of
conversation or impact would you like to have within these installations?

It’s associative for the viewer, an offering of sorts. The lasting content comes from conversations sparked between people and the images, as the walk though the gallery and people talking about it amongst themselves. We favor leaving it open for associative experiences, rather than dictating a particular path to follow.

What is next in your practice? As an individual and as collaborators.

We’re working on a lot of new books and have an installation planned in the desert of Lake Los Angeles this summer. Individually, we’re all focused on keeping our energy towards expanding our publishing collaboration.

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