Reread your favorite book from fifth grade. Make an educational public plaque…These are just a few of the assignments given in the book Learning to Love You More, created by Miranda July of Me and You and Everyone We Know fame and PSU’s own fine arts professor, Harrell Fletcher.
Reread your favorite book from fifth grade. Make an educational public plaque. Ask your family to describe what you do. Give advice to yourself in the past. Braid someone’s hair. These are just a few of the assignments given in the book Learning to Love You More, created by Miranda July of Me and You and Everyone We Know fame and PSU’s own fine arts professor, Harrell Fletcher.
Fletcher and July, both artists of some renown on their own, have combined their considerable creative resources to create something great.
The book is the result of their web based public art project, www.learningtoloveyoumore.com, and it’s fantastic. In a vein similar to the popular Post Secret books, Learning to Love you More is a collection of the website submissions in their various formats: photographs, written word, drawings, etc.
Unlike those other books though, this is one does not just entertain or horrify–it motivates. The assignments given are accessible to any lifestyle. Everybody can participate on some level. Each piece is representative of the project as a whole, and they cover a broad range, from the silly to the informative, melancholy, hopeful, and inspiring. Somehow the website and consequently the book, has moved people to actually leave their desks and explore the world around them.
Fresh from Brazil, and exhausted from 30 hours of traveling, Fletcher was still willing to answer a few questions about the project through e-mail. Here’s what he had to say:
How did you and Miranda July meet?
Miranda and I met when I was in grad school in Oakland. I was doing a gallery project in the neighborhood where her parents lived and Miranda would come by and talk with me when I was sitting the gallery.
What was it like working with another artist on this type of endeavor?
I’ve collaborated with lots of artists, so it is very normal to me. Miranda and I had already collaborated on a bunch of earlier projects, too. I shot one of her films, she helped me with a project in Minnesota, etc., so we were used to collaborating, and we liked it.
Is there any kind of censorship involved in what gets posted on the site?
We don’t put up reports that don’t follow the instructions, but there are degrees that we can tolerate. We wanted everyone to follow the instructions the way that a yoga instructor shows everyone how to do a pose, but still everyone’s downward dog is their own.
Was there a specific criteria for the submissions that made it into the book?
Just ones we liked, but we also wanted to show a range, so for instance, reports from other countries were appealing.
How was the actual construction and arrangement of the book decided?
Miranda and I worked with a designer in San Francisco named Brian Scott. I’d worked with him before on a lot of printed projects. We all met a few times and went over things, and then the rest was done by sending PDFs and talking on the phone and sending emails.
How do you feel about the book?
I’m happy with it. There were a lot of things we had to leave out because we couldn’t track the contributor down for permission or because a lot of the images were too low-res, so that was disappointing.
Were there any frustrations or moments of elation during the publication process?
Working with the publisher had some frustrations, they didn’t want the older kissing parents on the cover, they wanted the image that is on the inside flap of a young woman, so we had to argue that out and in the end the compromise was having the text big on the front (it started out very small) so that the image wasn’t so dominant. I think it was a case of ageism. There were various frustrations, but that is to be expected when so many different people and interests are involved.
How about the assignments, how did you decide which ones to choose?
[It was] intuitive. There aren’t any rules. I guess hoping that they would be interesting and engaging for people to do.
Were there any assignments you were not really a fan of?
Yeah, but sometimes you have to try them out and see what happens. I like that there are a variety of different assignments, something for everyone maybe, even if not all of them are my favorites.
Were there any that stood out for you, or you felt were truly inspired?
I like the life story one. Miranda was skeptical about that one, she thought people wouldn’t do it, but as it turned out that is a very popular one and there are some amazing life stories that have been written that probably otherwise never would have been. I like the parents kissing one too, because that’s something you don’t often see, so I think it is adding something to the culture, but there are lots of good ones.
Do you have any new works on the horizon?
Always. Yes, and one new participatory web project that will be coming out sometime in the next six months.
Harrell Fletcher can be contacted at:[email protected]