The following text is based on Will Holder’s interview for The Magazine (Paju: G-Colon Book, 2013). The original text has been slightly amended both by the author and the editors.
[About the background of F. R. David]
The journal was seen as part of the visual identity of De Appel Arts Centre, its publisher. When Ann Demeester took over as director, I began to produce the Centre’s communication. Besides wishing to represent Ann’s affinity between literature and the arts, and the idea of the artist as singular author-genius, the identity (simply: “A is for apple”—or the “perpetuum mobile” between image/text that produces an ongoing, infinite adjustment of meaning and value) hoped to indicate that the writing produced around artworks (including press releases, administration, journalism etc.) were an equally “designed” part of the “identity” of an institution—yet usually not in the hands of the “graphic” designer. The best one can do is aim to set up a programme that fosters and distributes a sensitivity to reading and writing. My aim was to broaden the potential of that writing, by example. Though De Appel has supported me in this, I don’t think it had much real resonance with their own—written and read—identity. This was and is my idealism, I suppose.
[About the designing and editing]
From the point of view of design, though not unimportant, a simple set of typographic rules were set up from the start, and followed in detail until today, enabling more time for involvement with the editorial. Many of the details are an extension of De Appel’s old* identity, such as the covers being printed in the apple’s red, green and black, on the matte side of a two-sided postcard stock (alluding to images usually being printed on the glossy side, text on matte side). The play between image and text still plays out in the varying use of the traditional “initial” at the beginning of a chapter—most successful when text (short poems) becomes an image. This also plays out on the cover: each issue has a letter on the spine, spelling out F.R.DAVID WORDS DON’T COME EASY (currently at the “D” of “WORDS”). Each letter is represented on the cover, in the hope that if one sees the spine-letter in the bookcase, a mental image of the cover may be produced (e.g., “R” is for “Do we suppose that all she knows is that a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” of the four covers for the Spring 2013 issue). One thing that still pleases me is the contents on the bookmark (I should patent this!).
Editorially: the most important aspect is a responsibility to reproduce the conditions of reading, and the effect that a certain text produced in me, the editor. The sequence and ordering of writings is an important factor in setting this up (i.e., managing the conditions of reading). Besides that it is difficult to say how I choose certain works, and usually an issue’s “theme” doesn’t surface until I’m far into reading as much material as I can. Usually, I go to the British Library with a few books waiting for me. These lead to others, and I can sit there for days enjoying reading. Besides reproducing this pleasure, I am conscious of a set of very human ideas, which, like reading may be universally understood. Again—there is a very fine line between typesetting and writing, for me—this is an expression of design: i.e., how those ideas are formed towards a shared understanding. The design lies in their textual expression. Language is a material that not only artists and designers, but those from all walks of life produce for the same means and ends: we all read, write, speak and listen to maintain the interdependency of our various occupations. My work is to set up conditions for reading/ learning/ exchange/ publishing that enable something like a “craft” of a linguistic exchange to develop, and pragmatically play out between those who co-produce the work of others.
[About the process of making]
Following a definition of typography as “the organisation of language,” F. R. David enables me to practice the management and design of reading and writing—without this becoming an academic or hypothetical pursuit. What this means is that the journal is a demonstration of how ideas adapt and evolve as they are exchanged. These ideas do not follow a fixed protocol—as academic writing might, for example. In this sense, my calling it a “journal” has more in common with it being a record of what I read, from day to day, in an attempt at transferring an increasingly refined understanding of reading and writing (sometimes I worry that people who only come to F. R. David now, will be lost without the slow build-up in the past six years). “From day to day” means that this takes place in all kinds of situations, but at all times—not just the library, of course—and the transformation of an idea from a library book to a recipe for bread to a pop song (F. R. David’s motto, “Words, Don’t come easy,” is from the eighties hit) to a piece of furniture back to a poem, is all part of life. F. R. David is a record of the liveliness of ideas.
*I must stress that I have not been the designer at De Appel for more than two years, and my “A” has been pushed aside for a more spectacular, image-driven form of communication.