FREE PAPER / NOMADESK
I set out to publish a newspaper from scratch in less than a month through a pop-up office in downtown Toronto and a nomadic residency. I embarked on this mission out of personal frustration with the subjects of time, money, possessions, and garbage, alongside a love for print. I made my questions direct and posted them in the window of my tiny office, complete with desk, copier, and bookshelves.
I asked: Do you get along better with people or objects? or, What would you hold if your hands were not tied? I treated the space as a sort of ephemeral residency and for three weeks I ran creative writing workshops, facilitated public conversations, and hosted a reading group. I invited people to fill out a “Life-of-Quality” survey that asked more questions like: What is the most valuable thing in the world? or, What do you buy that always makes you feel guilty? These results were compiled into an infographic.
I built the “Nomadesk” from a desk, a wheelchair, and a typewriter, and used it as an outreach-reporting tool. I invited writers-in-residence to contemplate my questions and report back while I literally pushed them from behind. The “Nomadesk” is an attempt to bring the private and static act of authorship and writing into public spaces and give it fluid motion. Residents described the feeling of the surface texture of the road change, the shifting smells in the market, the silence of empty streets, the noise of daily hustle, and the shadow play on their writing paper.
With the goal of a newsprint object by the end of the month I met lots of people that were interested in writing but struggled to distill their own ideas. As Editor-in-Chief I set deadlines, word counts, helped authors shape their stories, and ultimately edited the whole project into a twenty-page newspaper. Being a one-man show, I designed the entire thing over sleepless days. Two thousand copies were made and distributed paper-boy style on the streets, to cafes, libraries, bookstores, and schools. Everyone who walked into the office helped me to better understand why people work so hard for things they don’t need and how we might slow down our lives to appreciate what we’ve already got. In the tradition of lemonade-stand pop-psychiatry, “Free Paper” and the “Nomadesk” turned publishing into performance and created a document that acted as a thermometer for the collective awareness of its community.