We had the good fortune of connecting with Lara Schoorl and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lara, every day, we learn about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Close Distance is an online international poetics journal of and about work in process and has a limited print edition of 50 designed by a different graphic designer and/or book maker. Each issue typically features seven (pairs or groups of) contributors and an introduction, and all languages are welcome. The journal came about through a confluence of thoughts, events and people in 2018; and the desire to create a publication was rooted in the idea of influence and perhaps more practically collaboration. In a translation seminar taught by Ellen Rothenberg I accidentally said “close distance” while trying to indicate the proximity between two objects; it was a mistranslation of the Dutch words “dichtbij zijn”—Dutch is my mother tongue. Unsure whether this was a grammatically correct phrase in English, my seminar collaborator willy smart assured me I could use it if I wanted to. The words lingered, I liked how the “d” at the beginning of “distance” almost turned “close” into “closed” through their proximity, but did not. I began to think of them in the context of process, something not yet—and perhaps never—finished. Around the same, on the day of her passing, I learned of C.D. Wright’s poetry, and I became completely mesmerized with her work. Coincidentally, her initials are the same as Close Distance and so all these thoughts about process, language and influence started to cohere. Reading her poetry was what gave me the courage to begin a small publication, something in her words that gave me confidence to act. For the first issue, aside from the overall concept of a journal that publishes work in or about process, I proposed a subtheme of influence. I wrote a letter to writers and artists I admired and who had influenced me and asked if they were interested in contributing. My friend David Hall who helped putting the first issue together pointed me in the direction of Rebecca Elliot of Meekling Press, who came to design and make the first print issue. And Sam Yi Yao Chao, a friend and former colleague, became the online editor and made the website. The journal grew out of personal thoughts, conversations, and a curiosity for sharing ideas and receiving other people’s interpretations of those ideas. Conceptually, I wanted to form a place with other people where unfinished work could live. Although the journal is founded in the concept of process and each issue has a loose theme, those are always formulated so that can be interpreted by the contributors within their own practices. Similarly, I share the concept and theme with the graphic designer as well as the journal’s content, but leave the format of the print edition completely up to them—leading to a collaboration between the graphic designer and the contributors. Although, I have curated the first three issues myself I would like to invite guest editors as well as have open calls in the future.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Sometimes I feel like I am ever beginning. I moved to the United States from the Netherlands in 2014, first to Chicago and then to Los Angeles in 2016. I was on a student visa and somewhat restricted where or to what extend I could work. Although tricky at times, when applying for residence, I am in hindsight thankful for the myriad of experiences I have had at various places because of those circumstances. It encouraged me to reach out to people and organizations and be assertive in my choices, and it showed me a lot of generosity especially from small independent places and individuals. Since moving here–to the US–I have worked at various places; the Roger Brown Study Collection, Sector 2337, Hat & Beard Press, The Museum of Jurassic Technology and Cirrus Gallery & Cirrus Editions, Ltd among others. All of these places are run by smaller staffs and everyone wears many hats which allows for and in a way requires creativity. All of these places have helped me shape ideas of how an organization can be run, from very practical knowledge learning how to use tools, to not carry more than one work of art at the same time, safety over time, to “the art” of emailing and communication, to the importance of lunch and dividing time between individual and collaborative work, and of financial compensation. It showed me that spaces and platforms are made by the people who inhabit them, be it as staff, contributors or visitors; they all add to their presence. The idea of a plural and expanding identity excites me and I hope that as Close Distance continues to grow as a result of the various voices that inspire it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would love to take them to Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA) and meet with Hailey Loman, attend a reading at the Poetic Research Bureau and visit Hamza Walker at LAXART (making sure to check out the facade of the building as well and the books spread out on the table in the back). But also the Museum of Jurassic Technology and have tea with Tula and Nana, and listen to David play. We could drive up the coast towards Malibu to find beach access, and on another day maybe pack an overnight bag if there is time and spend the night in the desert or Los Angeles National Forest. We’d run or hike Strawberry Peak, or the trails behind JPL. Or with less time, I like to hang out in Elysian Park and bring some drinks and snacks and sit until the sun goes down. As per food, some close by favorites are shrimp cocktails at Mariscos El Jato and pastries at La Mascota, carnitas tacos on Saturday on Imperial and 15th Street, try out Chifa LA for the first time, have pita bread at Bavel, and wine at 1642. But, most likely I’d set up a table on the stoop out front of our home or inside in the studio and have more friends over for dinner (in a covid-safe world). If Maia Asshaq, of DittoDitto Books, still lived here we’d visit her for a martini and books. And I’d like to go back to Small World Books in Venice, and of course Oof Books. Many friends love to dance, if it were possible again I’d love to see Mia Carucci play in person.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many! April Martin, Nadia de Vries, Mayra A Rodriguez Castro, Svenja Wichmann, Maia Asshaq, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Timo Fahler. There are so many people I feel encouraged by in seeing what they do and make, and how they navigate in this world. If I had to highlight one person at this time it is Zeenat Nagree. Zeenat is a writer, art historian and curator who lives between Mumbai and Montreal. She asked me to curate an exhibition with her while were in school in Chicago, at Above the Picture Framing Shop, apartment gallery ran by Ange Ong. It was the first exhibition I curated and also the first time I collaborated professionally with someone outside of an academic context. Over the two years we lived in Chicago together, we organized a few more exhibitions together and a reading. We have not lived in the same country or seen each other since the spring of 2016, but we are always in conversation and are slowly trying to work out some of the ideas we have for a new curatorial project.
Instagram: @closedistancepress; @loglara