With one foot in comics and the other in contemporary art, Aidan Koch is definitely a polymorphic artist who draws, sculpts, works on fabric, publishes littles books and makes installations. In every one of her projects, she works with fragile things, connects fragments, suggests impressions -- building with every stroke a narrative that is both elegant and cristalline.
Xavier Guilbert : It’s alway difficult to think of the right question to kick off an interview. Do you consider yourself as a comic book author, or would you say more that you are an artist who sometimes does comics ?
Aidan Koch : I usually say — when I have to like, write bios or something, I usually say I’m a comic artist. It’s usually like “I do installations and sculptures and comics.” (laugh) But then, I’m like just an artist who does those things. So not really specifying any one in particular.
Xavier Guilbert : Your work is difficult to put in boxes. Even when you do installations, comics are involved — and if not comics… does a comics page printed on a t-shirt stops being comics ? It becomes different, but if it’s part of an installation, in relation with other drawings and other objects…
Aidan Koch : Yeah… I try to avoid getting into definitions. Which I think is hard, because that’s — I mean, people are automatically confused by my work, or like confused by figuring out where comics fit in these other areas. So I think rather than using language to do it, it’s easier to just do it.
Xavier Guilbert : What would you say is your culture in terms of comics ? Did you use to read, are you a big reader ? Or is that something that you came into later on ?
Aidan Koch : Yeah, I mean, technically, I read — you know, like funnies as a kid. And I read a lot of manga when I was younger. But then I didn’t read anything for years. Basically I didn’t start reading until I started making them, which was like seven or eight years ago. And then I feel like I kind of went to this phase of “oh, I should educate myself on this”. (laugh) Because I’m making them, and now I’m like suddenly part of this community. So I definitely read a lot for a couple of years, but now it’s like — I don’t know, I haven’t been reading anything very much.
Xavier Guilbert : When you were reading, weren’t you afraid to contaminate what you were doing ?
Aidan Koch : No, because I just knew — I mean, it’s just different. Yeah. I was just curious about what was out there. I mean, I think I did learn things from it, which are useful. But… I don’t think it ever really changed what I was doing. And because I found people right away who were also experimental, so it was more like keeping up that conversation with them, whose work was very different from — like, main alternative stuff. Yeah, I think that’s more…
Xavier Guilbert : “Main alternative stuff”…
Aidan Koch : Yeah, I know… (laugh)
Xavier Guilbert : Your work does present an unusual use of the traditional comic book grammar. There’s a couple speech balloons, a couple of panels, but they’re used in a very loose sense. The text is sometimes under the drawings, like you’d put the title for an illustration…
Aidan Koch : I mean, that was — I realized that I was reading more. Like : “Oh, this might be fun to use.” But yeah, changing the way that I — I mean, I didn’t do word bubbles for a long time. But then I — I think they’re fun (laugh). So now I feel like it’s — I don’t know. I’ve like almost just appropriated it, rather than using it the way a comic creator would. I don’t know.
Xavier Guilbert : I looked into what you’ve put out, and there are some more traditional elements. For instance, the word balloons are present in The Blonde Woman, and then they disappear for a while. They eventually reappear in Impressions, in the piece you did for The Paris Review. There’s a lot of things that you did, either in the short works you did in relation to Art — the reinterpretations of the Degas’ painting you did for kus, or the Elements of Painting, which I find really interesting, since you’re looking at paintings and isolating elements and recomposing with them a narrative.
Aidan Koch : Exactly. I mean, that idea was just a way for me to exercise and play, I guess. And just like, I mean, to show people that you can start with anything. Because I’ve ended up using that in these workshops, a little bit, because I feel like when I talk to artists who don’t do comics but are curious about it, they’re like : “I don’t know where to start”, or like : “I don’t know, I don’t have a story, I don’t know what I’m doing…”. And they are too scared. And so I feel like that project was like : “oh, you can literally do anything with any information.” If you have an image, you can just pull things out of it, and suddenly you’re created a new story. And I thought it was fun, to play with the idea of that strip. I think, like getting — I don’t know, the comics language that is built in into history is pretty cool and it’s fun to go back and look at that and go : “oh, I could do something with that.” Kind of continuing this communication between both sides.
Xavier Guilbert : Seeing comics in art, and bringing comics to art.
Aidan Koch : Yeah, kind of going back and forth, and learning from it as I go.
Xavier Guilbert : Indeed, and it’s not a surprise seeing you participating in something like PFC. There’s a lot of constraints in your work, and I don’t know if it was part of a workshop or something. I’m thinking of In which…, which reminded me of some Japanese haikus, with the limited space of the strip, and the text starting with “In which”. There’s a lot of incertainty and room for interpretation there.
Aidan Koch : Yeah. Those were just things that I make up to — I mean, to get myself to work, and to see what are the ways I can play with it. Because it is fun. And it’s the same with the Configurations strips, because those are all the same — I just drew a bunch of those boxes and then rearranged them.
Xavier Guilbert : You did what, 19 strips out of 8 or 9 different boxes ? I felt the whole thing was about giving titles, because the associations were fairly abstract. I get the impression that the idea of juxtaposing things, and trying to see what kind of meaning comes from them is something that is very present in your work, be it your comics or in your installations.
Aidan Koch : Because a lot of it is seeing — seeing how people interpret different information, depending on how much you give or don’t give, I guess. So kind of testing the limits of the audience, in a way. You could do a whole installation that’s just drawings, and you could present it as an installation of drawings, or you say : it’s a narrative. And people go in with a completely different view of it. I mean, with paintings too, I feel like — there’s so many of like, a lot of painters that did series or they did the same painting multiple times, and you can look at it like single images, but it’s also, you know, it’s representative of this larger story of their process, of the actual shifting of various images and colors. You know, it’s all perspective-based. So the minute you tell someone to look at it narratively, they like — do.
Xavier Guilbert : I’ve got the impression that the Art world frowned upon that for a long time. They didn’t see the point in showing those sequences. Monet did a lot of the Rouen cathedral, or just a heap of hay throughout the day — but those are often shown as studies, and not presented as a fully accomplished work of art. Accepting that there might be something like a narrative in those series, that wasn’t something that the Art world was ready to accept. Whereas it was completely normal in comics.
From what I’ve seen of your exhibitions, I have the impression you’re building a network, a very personal network, sharing something that is intimate and inviting people to enter it. I’ve written down the notion of “a woman entering a maze”, which really reasonated in an interesting way with what you’re doing.
Aidan Koch : With that exhibit in there, it was funny, I kind of — I mean, it was semi-random, the things that I brought, but then, after I was looking at it, I ended up writing a text to go with. I wrote it on the wall. And so that suddenly gives that complete context to all pieces that are in it. To me, that’s exciting, and to mix it — usually, like referencing a character or like… I do these text flags, that are just a piece of text on silk. And again, that’s like — it’s literary, but it’s art, but it’s whatever. Just taking apart every construct and seeing how it can build the idea of a story.
Xavier Guilbert : Getting back to your printed work — your use of text, and the way you leave a lot of the drawings unfinished, gives me the impression of some kind of an internal monologue, akin to the way memory functions. We don’t remember scenes in their entirety, or if we do, it’s always in a fragmentary or in a non-sequential manner. Your mind keeps jumping from association to association. And that’s something that I find in your work — like in the Blonde Woman, the way she’s combing her hair, suddenly everything disappears except for her hand on her hair. Or there’s a character who’s only shown through her gown. There are also empty pages with only text… there’s really this kind of subjective narration.
Aidan Koch : Yeah, it definitely plays with, like — I guess perspective, and kind of various levels of consciousness. Like you’re saying, it’s kind of like focusing. It jumps around between what characters are seeing, and then like kind of the overall… It comes out a lot in Impressions, just because it’s about her thinking about her identity, and so it has like three versions of her that are repeated. Sometimes it’s just her hair that’s painted in, sometimes it’s like a fully-rendered face. And other times it’s all completely painted, as though it’s kind of this idea of what other people are seeing, which is the fully-rendered version : it’s like a human being. And then her own idea of herself which is just changing all the time. So sometimes she sees herself, sometimes she’s confused and doesn’t really know why she exists and what she’s doing, and she kind of disappears. It just goes through that play. And with the text too — I think… I mean, like you were saying, through the word balloons, and also having boxes and also putting it under, I kind of learn to use that in a way where it is representing different internal monologue versus speech versus kind of something that is happening out of time in a way ? It can be like thinking back on something. And trying to figuring out different ways to — like different characters, even. Like one character’s text will only be on one side, and one will be on the other. Just ways to represent these ideas without showing more. Because I feel a lot of times you don’t need to show more, people figure it out (laugh). Like, okay, there are two characters talking, and you have two sets of columns or whatever — you don’t have show both of those people every time. You just have to let them know like : this person’s this side, this one’s that side, done. So yes, trying to leave most of it up to the reader to figure out what’s going on, but giving them hints the whole time.
Xavier Guilbert : How do you work on that ? Do you have an idea of a story, work on it and then try to erase stuff, or is it just the process of trying to work with as little as possible ?
Aidan Koch : It has really developped super naturally, so I think — because my stories, I don’t plan out very well ahead of time. The most I’ll have, maybe, is dialog written down. Or I’ll have like : this happens in the first half, this happens in the second half. So a lot of it is as I go, figuring out what — if I have drawn someone, maybe I don’t really have to draw him or her again. Like, oh, she’s there. If you show this one line and you just repeat that, it just gives you the context. So it’s kind of like going in and out of figuring out what is enough and what’s too much. But usually there’s never too much (laugh).
Xavier Guilbert : The longest thing you’ve put out so far is The Whale, though Impressions was 72 pages, so it’s close. Do you see that like this kind of maximum limit of what you are able to do ? And this is not criticism — the things you focus on are those little, fragile moments. And how much can you experiment around that ? Is that something you’re looking forward to doing, or are you happy to doing those little things ?
Aidan Koch : I think when I — I mean, I do have ideas for different stories, and I’m always thinking about them. But yeah, I don’t think I’m interested in a long plot. I feel like the type of tone or action that I’m intrigued by, all can happen pretty succinctly. I mean, even like — I don’t know if anyone ever notices, but I don’t give any of my characters names. And I definitely don’t — I don’t even want to do a story that’s so long that I have to start specifying those types of things. I don’t want to anything too epic, I want to just keep it really like — so that you’re just left with this mood. But the Heavenly Seas story, I am going to make longer. Which I don’t know how long it will be in the end, but that’s kind of part of this story. There’s like this overall story I’ve been wanting to do…
Xavier Guilbert : But even when you’re working on longer stories, they are broken down into chapters. There’s definitly some kind of a comfort zone about — the Blonde Woman has four chapters, so that’d make it around 10 to 12 pages…
Aidan Koch : I think that is kind of this other weird — like a game, in a way. Since I don’t have a big plan and I don’t do sketches or thumbnails or anything, I think I usually set a number of pages and that helps me. Because I’m like : okay, I know what I want to have happening, so I don’t just lose track or get tired of it or lose confidence. “This thing needs to happen, here are ten pages, just make it happen in that chunk of time.” And that’s kind of been how I’ve done all of it.
Xavier Guilbert : I feel it also makes each chapter stand on its own. Especially when you work with things that are as fragile as the things you choose to work with, if you try to extend them, at some point, they are going to snap. And the whole thing will fall apart. Having chapters let you build up things that you can then connect together.
Aidan Koch : Yeah, and I think it leaves it more open to — adaptability. In that I have moved whole chapters around when I’ve been working, just because I’m re-reading it over and over and over, and everytime I do a new page, I’m seeing how that connects to the overall flow of things. So I’ve definitely switched huge chunks of story just because of how the scenes are kind of playing out. Maybe I want something to jump in time, and that actually will then relate to that other thing at the end… yeah, I think that by doing it in chunks it is easier to mentally keep it stable. And I like the idea of scenes. I think it does help to have like a moment of breath in between, and then it allows you to be like : okay, now we’re here. Or now, we’re with someone else, or going somewhere else… I think it’s just a cool sequential tool to have to just like slow things down and start things up.
Xavier Guilbert : There’s also the use of color — we discussed a little about the composition, but it’s interesting to see that color is very separate from the line work. I’ve evoked your unusual use of the grammar of comics, but this is another example of you picking up elements and using them in new ways. Color and line work and the way they interact and play… The whole thing feels very fresh and very irrespectful of some rules, but it still works in the way you put it down on the page.
Aidan Koch : Yeah, I think it really started making sense with the Blonde Woman, where — I guess that yeah, that was my first long color piece, even. But the idea of building multiple levels of language. There’s obviously the written language to it, but throughout there are symbols that carry through, there’s like the funny little drawings that are symbols. I feel they are just kind of like — keeping you in it, like : “oh, there’s that guy again.” The repetition, I think, is useful when the imagery changes so much. But same with color — I mean, figuring out how to use color as a symbol. In the Blonde Woman it’s obvious it’s her hair, and so — it’s that thing that once you’ve established she has blond hair, and there’s a sequence with that, anytime you show yellow it makes you think about her, or it’s representative of her. It’s this really easy tool to keep from drawing her every time but just let people know : she’s here now, you can tell, because I scribbled yellow.
Yeah, and picking up on those things as symbols — I think that in Impressions too, there’s the blue dot… it’s interesting because people had different ideas about what that was specifically. In my brain, the blue dot with the like is her focal point, because when you’re modelling you just sit there and you stare at one spot. To me, the dot was the spot, but then other people thought it was her eye, her iris.
Xavier Guilbert : I wondered if it was the stare of the painter, because at some point it just moves on. As if the painter was maybe not drawing but pretending to be… there are a lot of possible interpretations there.
Aidan Koch : Yeah, it’s cool because I’m fine with it being different things, because I think the repetition does the trick. Things are still ; she’s sitting still, he’s like doing that or something, it gives the sense of stillness, because it doesn’t move. Or like when she looks up, then it moves. So having that, it’s — what it symbolizes can change and vary, but it works as a tool for this one sense of time.
Xavier Guilbert : You definitely work with very limited means. Do you sometimes feel that you’ve paired things down too much so that it ends up becoming difficult to understand ?
Aidan Koch : It’s hard, because I don’t hear that much back from people, maybe ? I guess I do a little bit, but I do sometimes forget that no one knows what I know when I’m drawing, and the way that I’m putting together stories. So I’m sure there’s times where it’s too little, but no one’s told me (laugh).
Xavier Guilbert : You’ve mentioned the thing with the blue dot — were you surprised by the interpretations that some people were making of your work ? Because I firmly believe that the book that the author puts out, and the book that the reader discovers are two books that can have very little in common. As a reader, you end up bringing as much into the book to understand it as you take from it. The reading process is definitely an active one. And the more you pair it down, there’s this risk that people might walk away with a lot of things that are not exactly the ones you intended in the first place.
Aidan Koch : I’m excited about that. Like I was excited when people said they thought it was like the eye. I think because — as anyone who’s gone through literature classes, you’ve written some paper on some small aspect of a Tostoïevsky book or something, where you’re like : “this meant this and this is why”, but in your brain you’re always : “no, I’m sure he didn’t mean that… that’s pretty far-fetched…” But the whole point is that — you’re figuring out how that relates to the overall story or tone, how that supported information in the book that is more tangible, I guess ? And so I think it’s just a natural part of narrative function, and how it should be treated or talked about. Because we’ve been doing that with literature for ever, and sometimes it’s fairly obvious, like The Scarlet Letter or something, but other times you feel like you’re pulling it out of your ass. But there’s a right and a wrong, still —
Xavier Guilbert : There’s some kind of a tug of war between people who advocate that basically, the truth lies in what the author intended in the first place, whereas some people would argue that what is important is what you take from the book.
Aidan Koch : Yeah. Because the whole point is that it’s — you know, you’re making it for yourself, but you’re making it for an audience. And it’s more interesting what they can get out of it, and how they can relate it specifically to themselves with their own ideas. I mean, that’s one of the reasons why I feel like a lot of comics, it seems like they have too much information. And so, your point of view is narrowed by that, and it’s less — so it’s harder to engage with it, and really feel impacted by it sometimes ? Whereas leaving it open, I’ve had a lot of people who have had genuine emotional responses, because it’s — even by not having names or something, it’s more representations of ideas and feelings and tones. And I think that that is easier for people to engage with. And to me, that’s really exciting.
Xavier Guilbert : You graduated from art school — how were comics seen there ? Was it something that was acceptable or frown upon ?
Aidan Koch : I did illustration there, and every person in illustration basically did comics also. And they started a club or a collective. From that perspective, it was just natural that everyone in that program basically did comics too. Which is kind of why I started, because I was surrounded by people doing it. I was just like : “oh, I’ll just take my drawings and I’ll put text by them and I put them in a book — sure, I can do that.” But I don’t really know overall… Just because I think illustration is one of those departments that’s really kept separate from everything else, like illustration design or the commercial trades. I mean, other than printmaking classes, I didn’t have that many with other students. Oh, I did animation too, but again, that’s kind of similar students. But my school is pretty generous, there is a lot of people there who really pushed a lot of ideas. It never felt like there was any real constraints. Which is great (laugh).
Xavier Guilbert : Which comics creators would you feel close to ? Are they any ?
Aidan Koch : The funny thing is that I have a very specific group, I guess, of comic friends, whom I’ve known since I started, and who are doing really alternative experimental work. But I think what’s exciting is that all of their work is so different. It’d be hard to call us like — I don’t know, it’d be hard to specify it as its own genre, because each one of us is so different still, but doing stuff that’s also so different from everything else. Which I feel like — every one will kind of become impactful in their own way and there’ll be people that are more like one, and more like another. It diversifies. My first comic friends were Austin English, Blaise Larmee, Jason Overby… People like Ward Zwart — who else do I talk to a lot ? Jaako Pallasvuo, who just started making comics again… I don’t know, there’s a lot of people I talked to when I first started that I’m still very much in touch with, and who are doing cool work.
Xavier Guilbert : Are you familiar with the work of Warren Craghead ?
Aidan Koch : Yes.
Xavier Guilbert : And Oliver East, and those people who are working a lot around the idea of poetry and comics. Reading your work, that’s the kind of reference that make to my mind, also with the way Warren Craghead evolved and moved away from the more traditional narrative.
Aidan Koch : Which is interesting — I mean yes, I would think that he is someone who is in that sub-sub-group of very alternative ideas. But it’s funny to be in that group and be like : but our work looks so different, and our stories are so different. But still part of the mentality, I guess, of pushing — pushing all the traditional boundaries.
Xavier Guilbert : Talking about traditional boundaries, I was really surprised to see how much of your stuff is available online. So it seems you’ve been trying various different outlets — not wanting to be pinned down to a specific definition…
Aidan Koch : Yeah, I’m pretty good at that (laugh).
Xavier Guilbert : Do you see printed material as something special ? Does the book form still mean something ?
Aidan Koch : Oh yeah, that’s my ideal, most of the time. I mean, for any comics stuff I want it printed. I just can’t always get it together. But yeah, I’m trying to get this new book out that’s 48 pages — it was something I was working on for fun, and then there’s a bookfair coming up and now I’m like : “I want it done for that !” So I’m just going to print it myself, which is — because I want it. I don’t want to wait for a publisher. I don’t really feel like bother anybody with that, I guess, but I just want to have this book (laugh).
Xavier Guilbert : Again, it’s going away from the usual process : not looking for a publisher, just getting things done…
Aidan Koch : … yeah, and done as fast as possible. I like control over my projects. I do, I have very specific design and book aesthetics, which probably plays into — doing more fine art is very much about being in control of the tangible quality of things. So it’s nice — I mean, I like putting things out myself, and I feel like I’ve developed enough of an audience that — you know, it’s helpful to have someone else for distribution, but it also doesn’t necessarily matter. I’ve seen the rate at which I can sell things on my own, and I do enough fairs that — I may get my money back, sooner than later, probably (laugh).
Xavier Guilbert : When you do exhibitions, do you also bring your books ? Or is it more difficult to get them, because the locations might not be used to having that ?
Aidan Koch : It hasn’t really happened yet totally… I think just because galleries aren’t necessarily set up to sell anything at the time. They’re just there with their laptops, and that’s it.
Xavier Guilbert : Well, it’s good to avoid definitions and being put in a box, but the world sometimes doesn’t agree with you in that regard, and require definitions.
Aidan Koch : I mean, I did this show a few months ago that one of the pieces that I made for it was a ‘zine, and I presented it on a little nice shelf. And I gave them copies of it and they sold a couple, but — I liked that. Yeah, the piece was like my art piece for the show, but it was also a ‘zine that was selling for $20. So it’s accessible, but in an habitat that basically that is not.
Xavier Guilbert : How do you like it at PFC ?
Aidan Koch : It’s been good (laugh). It’s been really interesting. I mean, I feel like everyone’s going through lots of moodswings and creative swings. But for me, it’s definitely been nice, in that like — I always draw for a reason, or for something very specific, and this is making me draw for fun. That’s nice. And also the pressure of like — either you ruining someone else’s work, or the potential for them to do something weird to your work. Having it just be all pressure off is good.
Xavier Guilbert : Did you know what to expect when you came here ?
Aidan Koch : No… I mean — I guess it is what I thought. It’s just a week of… collaborating. I knew about the actual association, a little bit. When I was in Angoulême, Matt Madden is very into the OuBaPo, and he talked about it a lot. I think specifically he talked about this… gathering.
Xavier Guilbert : Well, I think it’s because Etienne Lecroart, who’s one of the founding members of the OuBaPo, designed the constraint that was used in the very first edition of PFC. He didn’t attend the residency, but did participate in getting things moving. I think that he and Matt did recently something like an “OuBaPo show”, some performance… but yes, I can well imagine Matt being very keen on that. Did you work on that kind of collaboration when you were in Angoulême, or is that really the first time you’ve experienced something like that ?
Aidan Koch : That was — yeah, the first I’ve heard of it. I mean, I guess I knew about the literary version. And then, I didn’t know there was the comics one, and that there is — I mean, it seems like a really strong group that’s involved in that.
Xavier Guilbert : They have a group, and then there’s PFC which is more experimental. It’s also very open to suggestion…
Aidan Koch : Yeah. Because it seems that OuBaPo was very much like — very strict kind of constraints. Or like series of…
Xavier Guilbert : There was a lot of theory going into the literary version, and I think that in the beginning the OuBaPo tried to adapt that. They put out a book very recently, the OuPus number 6, where it’s basically an inventory of everything that’s been done, categorizing it with different processes. They’re really kind of mapping the terrain, which is interesting, but if you’re trying to experiment…
Aidan Koch : It takes away the experiment. Yeah, definitely, when Matt described it I remember kind of thinking that. Of like, okay, it’s good because you’re breaking out of what you traditionnally do, but then you’re still like stuck in constraints. Whereas this is funny, because everyone is like : “wooo, what about this ? and this ?” and it’s like making it open.
Xavier Guilbert : Where you expecting to do so much work ?
Aidan Koch : Yeah… I mean, yeah. I don’t know what else we would be doing, because we’re working all the time. But it’s good. I mean, that’s what I assume what everyone does anyways. So…
Xavier Guilbert : Do you work in a studio with other artists, or are you usually by yourself ?
Aidan Koch : I’m usually by myself. I mean, I have a studio that’s like, in my house, in my basement, and my other roommates have also studios down there, but we don’t share like a common space for working. Yeah, so this is funny, it reminds me of being in school.
Xavier Guilbert : With the big table and everybody can walk around and look over the shoulder of everybody…
Aidan Koch : Yeah, it’s really sweet, that way (laugh).
Xavier Guilbert : How much adaptation did it require from you ?
Aidan Koch : I mean, the first day I really hated every drawing I did. So — I’m adapting, to try and be more satisfied with my own work (laugh). Because especially I don’t draw from my imagination much. And like, I don’t usually — I don’t know, like having the set boxes is kind of hard. So thinking more — I’m trying to think more compositionnally how to use that, and also trying to do drawings that I like. But… I mean, it’s fun because a lot of it I’ve just been like taking from what other people are doing. I mean, that’s me, to like, take their character and then redraw it the way they kind of do, but then change it a little. You know, like adapting everyone else’s work. Because that is — I mean, ’cause I draw from reference a lot, so now it’s kind of like, using their work as reference.
Xavier Guilbert : What about this residency ? How did it compare to how June had presented it to you ?
Aidan Koch : I think it’s — yeah, it’s kinda what I thought. I mean I guess there’s still like a whole day to see (laugh). I don’t know, I’m just curious because there’s so — we’ve done so much work, and… does something happen to it ? or not ? or where does it go ? or like — I don’t know, still.
Xavier Guilbert : On another topic, you’ve got a book coming up very soon ?
Aidan Koch : Yeah, for the New York Art Book Fair.
Xavier Guilbert : And after that, any plans ? I’m kind of wondering, the way you work seems to be, maybe not impulsive, but like : you get an idea, you get it done, and then you move on to something else… is that the way you work ?
Aidan Koch : Yeah, totally (laugh). It’s kind of like “when I have time for what”. So — I mean, this book is happening now, and then I am in an art show the week after, a gallery show — or two, actually. So that’s kind of : this book is done, now I have to work on these shows, and then I’m sure something else will come up. So it’s priorities based on what comes up when.
Xavier Guilbert : In the coming weeks, and not anything more long-term ?
Aidan Koch : Yeah (laugh). I feel like, especially since I moved to New York, I never really know where I’m getting money from, or where I’m going to be. So I’ve been kind of taking everything as it comes. Oh yeah, I guess I’m going to — I’m doing a festival and show in Belgium in November. So I know my timeframe up to then.
Xavier Guilbert : Sounds like a long time away…
Aidan Koch : Yeah. That’s where my schedule is like now, so I’m pretty booked. And then after that, we’ll see. I guess there’s something coming out — oh no ! The Blonde Woman is being reprinted, that might be out in time for Comic Arts Brooklyn. And then Koyama‘s printing a collection of older stories [After Nothing Come], and I think that’s set for Spring 2016…
Xavier Guilbert : What got you to go with Koyama ?
Aidan Koch : I mean, she’s so wonderful. I’ve been talking to her since — since The Blonde Woman, she was almost going to print it. And then I got the Xeric to do it, so — her and I have been in communication for a long time, and actually Bill Kartalopoulos and I have been planning this collection, and he was going to do it with Rebus, but I think it’s kind of slowed down on that. So Koyama had an opening in her printing schedule, and got me and Bill on this. So — I think it’ll be neat. I don’t really like looking back on my own stories, but I can also see where it’d be nice to have it out there. To kind of fill in the timeline of what I’ve been working on for… however long. And with all these other things too, I think it’s nice. So things will actually be available again. Since The Whale‘s gone, The Blonde Woman‘s gone… most of my ‘zines are gone. I mean, I don’t have copies of a lot of things (laugh). So…
Xavier Guilbert : How do you look back on that ?
Aidan Koch : Hmm… I try not to think of — I try and look at it really objectively. But I’m like : “oh, people liked that work — sure, let them have it.” I don’t really need to see it again. But it does show how things have changed, and that’s kind of cool. Because Bill and I were talking about it, and I was like — every single story I’ve done had been pretty different, like visually, and this gives you kind of a look of how that has developed.
Xavier Guilbert : Everything has been either part of a self-contained book, or part of an anthology with the work of other people around it. How do you feel about having everything together in the same place ? How did you organize it ?
Aidan Koch : It’s chronological, yeah. But I definitely vetoed a lot of stories that I just can’t… I don’t want to see that ever again, there’s a reason it’s gone or that I didn’t reprint it. So yeah, it’s curated as to the one set I like more and that I think are more representative of how I want to keep working, or part of that, the lineage that I use, I guess. The things that I learned from and enjoyed and liked.
Xavier Guilbert : So it’s not so much an accepted timeline but at least something that corresponds to your project and how it has coalesced over time.
Aidan Koch : Yeah…
Xavier Guilbert : Do you also see this dynamic that we’ve discussed about building an network of things ?
Aidan Koch : When I think — I don’t always think about it, but when I do look through everything, there’s very specific themes and tones and types of characters. I think it’s good to recognize that. And even just to be like : “oh, that’s the type of story I like.” Just a self-reflection, of understanding — you know, my identity as a narrative artist. I think it’s just worth understanding that. Or even to like not repeat myself, maybe…
[Interview conducted on August 6th, 2015 in Minneapolis, during PFC#5]