STRT Kit is a platform that provides support for visual artists living and/or working in Antwerp. “It’s like a residency program, where young artists have the time and space to work intensively on their artistic practice,” explains graphic designer Ines Cox. It aims to be a source of inspiration, a meeting point and a production house and, every year hosts a small group of five or six artists under the age of 30.
The artists work in a collaborative workspace, complete a week-long project abroad, host a group exhibition and upon completing their year produce a publication. At the end of Ode de Kort, Maika Garnica, Jim Campers, Mountaincutters and Timo Van Grinsven’s residencies, Ines was approached to co-curate and design their publication.
As the previous edition had performed on a very archival level, Ines worked with the artists to develop a new format. “We decided on a method focused on the artists’ practice rather than the story of the institution itself,” the Antwerp-based designer tells It’s Nice That. The simple decision of creating five individual publications, instead of one, emerged as the most fitting solution.
In order to create a visual unity between the five books, Ines established a series of parameters. “Each publication had the be the same size, printed on the same paper and have the same typeface used” she recalls, “next to that I proposed a line drawing to each artist that, for me, represented the content of the publication.” The use of black and white imagery, with interjections of silver ink, allows the artists’ work to be individually represented but also reflects the relationships formed by their shared residency.
Finally, the publications are wrapped in a plastic cover which features the institution’s credo in order to physically unite everything but also function as an introduction. This unconventional use of a plastic bag is both functional and visually unique, enveloping the individual chapters in a makeshift cover.
As a means of establishing her approach to each artist’s work, Ines first had conversations with them to “distil the content they wanted to put forward and the story they wanted to tell.” While some artists were open to the look and subject matter of their publication, others proposed very fixed ideas. Ode de Kort for instance conceptualised a dot that makes a jump and transforms through different stages of the journey. “We were thinking about how the different phases of this movement could be shown on a still medium such as a printed publication. We came up with a storyboard of 250 steps, numbered and almost designed like a comic book,” Ines explains. Ode’s line drawing, pictured on the cover, represents the dot’s complete journey but Ines also tweaked the typeface for the accompanying text so that the “o” transforms as well.
This playfulness is reflected throughout the other artist’s books. For example, Jim Campers’ was actually the result of a misunderstanding, “he thought he had to design the publication himself and so sent me a finished pdf one day," Ines explains. Therefore she placed Jim’s design within the framework of her own design, making it slightly smaller on the page to reveal the crop marks and other small details. In between said pages, Ines inserted exhibition shots of Jim’s work, printed with silver ink, to break the rhythm but also emphasise the concept of “a book within a book”.
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