Bad Paper

Design meets Art (Part II)

Photos: Karl Rogers

Cape Town. Originally, it should have just been a special artist’s book which Rodan Kane Hart had wanted to create jointly with Ben Johnson and launch on the occasion of his participation at the Venice Biennale 2017 in the bookshops there. But then, this book resulted in an idea to be born. The idea of establishing an innovative young publishing company for art editions …. Bad Paper.

Ben Johnson is a book and graphic designer. Rodan Kane Hart is a fine artist. Within a short space of only one and a half years the two succeeded in publishing twelve editions which rapidly became a must-have for collectors.

There is no shop. But, besides their exhibiting at fairs, now and then a pop up appearance, such as currently in the AKJP concept store on Kloof Street. In addition to clothing and merchandise of a total of 21 local designers, the currently available Bad Paper range is also on show. It is a media crossover: Artist’s books, sculptures, LPs, videos, prints, bags, merchandise or combination of everything…. each individual object an eye catcher.

The size of the editions vary, and so does the price – between 25 and 800 euro. Well known names like Zander Bloom, Brett Murray or, of course, Rodan Kane Hart, are joined by those of newcomers.

When you pick up and leaf through the artist’s books, things become really exciting. The book by the artist Musa N. Nxumalo, for instance, contains 81 parts of a photograph, which can be taken out and, following the enclosed instructions, can be put together in large format.

The already mentioned artist’s book by Rodan is a combination of a book and a sculpture. A folded-up sculpture is combined with the cover, which can be pulled out and then raised into a three-dimensional form.

All of the books, which contain imaginative, playful elements, invite the reader/collector for exploration and interaction. Often, the most diverse objects are combined with books.

I want to find out more about the development of this unusual mix of design and art. Rodan starts by explaining the underlying concept.

Rodan: The whole thing started when we realised how much time and money we had spent on the production of my book. We looked for ways to recuperate at least the production costs. So we thought of publishing the book in various versions, to limit it, and thus make it rare and interesting to collectors. Our plan paid off. We then began to wonder whether this model might be interesting essentially to artists and collectors like A4 [please read the article on A4 in this respect], we found that everybody was not only immediately excited about it, but also assured us of their support. We were therefore able to produce the first edition and promote Bad Paper last year for the first time at the Cape Town Art Fair.

Ben: Very important: For us, it is not so much about the securing of our own rights to the sales, but about the cooperation of the parties involved in the art scene. The results are so much better when the respective resources are coupled. Neither does our idea compete with the galleries, which primarily sell a unique piece, but rather complement their programme with our editions.

What is special about your editions is, though, that a unique item in one way or another is, in fact, always involved.

Ben: Yes, that is correct. Each piece of an edition is newly produced by the artist, and insofar it is one of a kind. But we are on a completely different price level from an art gallery. We address ourselves mainly to young collectors. We want to make it possible to acquire good art at low cost.

Are you planning to open your own shop at some stage?

Rodan: No. We want to stay independent, not be put under pressure. We prefer to present our range on art fairs, create a crazy stand, put on a show and have fun. We then succeed in attracting a certain amount of interest from the collectors. As our range is only presented there or at events, it is only available for a short time. It becomes something special We are therefore often quickly sold out.

Where do you discover your artists?

Rodan: Most of them we simply know from our social environment. But because we travel a lot, we continuously extend our network. This means: We do not focus exclusively on artists from South Africa.

What does your cooperation look like? Is it not difficult to combine the approaches to design with those of fine arts?

Ben: We do indeed look at things completely differently. Particularly, when we develop artist’s books together it is very productive in the end. Even if there is always lots and lots of discussion……

Rodan: Correct. But the reason for this is simply that we take the task we have set ourselves with Bad Paper very seriously – despite all the fun. We simply want to achieve good results.

When can your latest editions be viewed?

Rodan: We will again be at the Cape Town Art Fair, from February 15 to 17. And also at the Joburg Art Fair, from September 13 to 15.

More Information

… about Bad Paper: https://badpaper.co.za