The Time Project, by Lazy Gramophone: An Interview
by Musa Okwonga
A few months ago, I was approached by the London arts collective Lazy Gramophone to contribute to an intriguing book project, “Time”; I had worked with them a couple of times over the years, and have found them to be one of the most innovative groups of creative people in the city. I sat down with one of their founders, Sam Rawlings, for an interview about their latest piece of work.
Q: Why time? Why did you feel this issue, among all others, was the right subject for this book?
Sam: There are a lot of reasons why we focused on time. For me personally, I began this project not long after my 30th birthday and so the nature of time was definitely something I was putting a lot of thought into. Also, due to the amount of people who wanted to be involved, I knew this was going to be a vast project and therefore we needed an issue with a lot of scope. The project was always going to take years to develop and so the theme needed to be as universal and as timeless as possible – everything considered, nothing seemed more universal nor timeless than time itself.
Q. What was the thinking behind the structure of the book?
Sam: Time is an anthology of entwining works that have been structured around a Central Story. Initially, this project was inspired by a discussion on gamebooks. I was looking to start a second collaborative project and it struck me immediately that, alongside the theme of time, a gamebook structure would allow us to create an anthology with a real sense of narrative. The theme of time offers a natural ‘beginning, middle and end’ structure, as represented by the book’s three sections: ‘Childhood’, ‘Adolescence – Adulthood’, and ‘Old Age’; while the Central Story and its Cross-Point Events (all of the stories in the book must reference these events in their own narrative) help to knit everything together, so ensuring that each of the book’s stories contribute towards the larger whole. This project is very much about collaboration and so hopefully by structuring the book in this way I have embedded that ethos within its pages. I also wanted to emphasise the way human actions and events echo through time, how so many of the actions we commit now are replications of what has happened in the past, of what will happen again in the future. Sometimes the context of our actions may be different but like the Cross-Point Events in this book, still those echoes of similarity remain.
Q. How did you select the collaborators, and get the illustrators and writers to work together?
Sam: All of the writers and artists included in Time are either a part of, or have been associated with, Lazy Gramophone in some way during the past ten years. Some have been with us since the beginning and others only joined a few months before the project began. This being a non-profit collaborative project, the most important criteria for involvement was that we chose people who supported the ethos of the project and who were prepared to help out where they could.
The central story was the most pivotal element of this project and so a lot of thought went into who should create it and how. In the end the task was given to Tom Hirons and Rima Staines. Writer/artist partnerships were based around personal relationships as well as the style and content of each piece of work. In most of the partnerships the stories or poems were created first, with the images coming after. However, there were a few instances where the images inspired the text. I’ll let you guess which ones are which.
Q. The book features a great deal of poetry. What, if anything, do you feel that this genre offers that is unique?
Sam: With the structure of the book planned so carefully, I had to think long and hard about why exactly I wanted to include poetry. In the end, I felt poems would play an important part in establishing the tone of each section. Also, certain periods of our lives can often be characterised by pauses, pockets of reflection, moments of realisation. I think then, that the poems in our book help to offer an insight into the various ways we might experience time.
Q. What plans does Lazy Gramophone have in the years to come?
Sam: Our priority now is to begin moving towards the digital realm. We don’t believe books will ever be replaced but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be excited about the prospect of digital publishing, especially when there’s such opportunity in uniting the two mediums.
Q. Where can people get hold of this new book?
Sam: Time can be found in all the usual places; however, the best way to get hold of our book is here: http://time.lazygramophone.com that way you are ordering direct from us. Retailers can order it from our distributor Central Books.
Q. Finally, our readers will want to know, so I have to ask: your arts collective is called Lazy Gramophone. Where did the name come from?
Sam: Lazy Gramophone has four co-founders: me, Danny Chidgey, Dan Prescott and Phil Levine. All of us would give you a different answer to that question, but still, we do agree that wherever it came from, the name is a good representation of what we do. At Lazy Gramophone we are very hands on, we like to craft everything ourselves. We like to use old techniques and tools. We do not do things quickly or in bulk, we prefer to take our time over each creation, to enjoy the collaborative process, to think each element through and revise our work until we are happy that things are exactly as they should be… I haven’t answered your question directly, but hopefully that gives you an idea of what the name alludes to and what we are all about.