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Work / Publication

Props Paper surveys the parallels between artists and scientists, designers and lawyers

Architect, Lucy Siyao Liu and designer, Matthew Bohne first collaborated as undergraduates at Rhode Island School of Design, working on books, posters and various graphic ephemera. Now both based in New York, their collaboration has continued and expanded to include their experimental weekly paper Props. A two-sided broadsheet newspaper, Props Paper aims to “connect creatives from disparate fields in arts and sciences, allowing them to discover new connections via our publication,” the pair tell It’s Nice That.

With 30 issues behind them, connecting relevant topics of art and design with the scientific world, while introducing advances in scientific imaging to artists is at the heart of Props. While studying, Lucy and Matthew noticed that existing art and design journals tended to be formal institutional endeavours: annual publications aimed at those already working within specific disciplines, often thematised. “We were interested in the ad-hoc nature of contemporary practices that slip between categories,” they explain. “The fearlessly collaged practices of animators mapping the brain, artists sampling lichens, graphic designers hacking scanners, historians becoming filmmakers.”

Props Paper provides a space to provoke dialogue on imaging tools, techniques and methods across disciplinary boundaries to “promote the acquisition of visual knowledge”. Each issue of Props focusses on one individual, asking them “What is the role of images in your work?” These individuals range from artists and designers to scientists and curators who share three to five images of their own work or images that inspire them, often producing fascinating outcomes. In issue 17, Lucy and Matthew featured the work of lawyer, Elizabeth Porter. “The image she chose was evidence from a court case that changed the legal discourse on recognising images as legal documents at all,” they explain.

“For many issues, it is the first time that [our contributors] are asked to write about the method of their image-making practice in a direct way,” Lucy and Matthew comment. In the case that their main output is writing – lawyers or curators, for example – all the writing is original and in each issue, the graphics are created by Props founders.

By reaching out to such a broad range of contributors, Props manages to offer an alternative discussion in regards to visual communication. Although it’s easy to find many a graphic designer or visual artist discussing their processes, the significance of images to a lawyer or scientist is much less readily available, yet equally as relevant. With its broad output of visual matter, varying in both content and aesthetics, Props offers a place where the connections between seemingly disparate worlds can come together. Lucy and Matthew describe this unique perspective as a “survey of processes by image-makers, image collectors and accidental image connoisseurs.”

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