Saulo Madrid and Ryan Yoon had no idea of what to expect when people walked into THE GROUND COLLECTIVE on Tuesday evening, and that’s what made them so excited about unveiling their new exhibit. It’s an experiment in recreating a print magazine in a physical space, they told me as Madrid settled onto the only chair in the empty photo studio and Yoon sat himself on a pile of cardboard.

The two men are very patient as well as extremely creative, I learned over the next hour as they paused for me to catch up with their explanations on how they approached such an ambitious project. Madrid has an Art History degree from Harvard University and creates art installations for people like Alexander Wang while Yoon is editor-in-chief of The GROUND magazine, the gorgeous multi-discipline publication that serves as the creative backbone for THE GROUND COLLECTIVE and features contributors such as artist John Baldessari and photographer Robert Polidori. Here is our heavily condensed conversation where Madrid and Yoon describe how their exhibit came together, minus about a half hour of me breathing through my mouth.

Milk Made: How did this project begin?

Ryan Yoon: I run the magazine The Ground. And it started not as a magazine but us doing what we liked to do; my partners and my friends are artists, like a photographer and art director and graphic designer. That’s how we started. So this event is thinking back to that standpoint. If this is just a regular magazine then this would just be a launching party but we were thinking of something more.

Basically we are starting a startup company so I wanted to get the best exposure so naturally I thought of Milk Gallery. So I was planning this and wondering if I could make this digital and l got a sponsorship from Samsung and luckily they understand what we’re trying to do.

The idea that I had at the beginning was to bring the physical magazine to the physical space. So you’re experiencing the magazine by looking, reading and motion-interaction — and understanding the message delivery process.

MM: So Saulo, when you came on board was this something where you immediately said, ”I get this, I want to be a part of this”?

Saulo Madrid: I’m an editor at What’s Contemporary, which is where our common friend Christopher [Michaels] put us in contact to do a 12-page spread. And I loved the magazine when I saw it and we started Skyping and [Ryan] told me he was doing this project and he sent me the elements basically of what he wanted to create in terms of a physical event and really more of an exhibition.

Basically what I do is exhibitions and when I saw his thoughts I was like “ah!” — this is so intuitively part and par with what I want to do. There are the elements of color and interconnectivity, which is why the exhibit is called a phenomenological exhibition. There is a kind of complicated way of explaining it but the very easy way to synthesize it is that it is, to me, the phenomenon of a magazine. A phenomenon being: What is that element? What is that thing?

Another reason I found his approach interesting was that he was really looking for the essence of what a magazine is. I see it in two ways: To me, The Ground is more of a dissemination platform through which you talk through and Milk is a platform where you actually create things. And so when I worked with him it was to look for what is the essence of the magazine and how do you transfer it to the physical space.

RY: One thing I was really excited about with this exhibition and working with Saulo was simply how when we talk about moving the magazine to the physical space, a lot of people think of it just as a second-dimensional thought. But when I came up with the theme of this exhibition, which was interaction and connection — we were playing with a lot of colors and the connection where the ideas come from.

The colors start from my connection to [The GROUND] contributors, which is black and white. And then later on we put in colors which show how people are connected to each other among the contributors. Suddenly these connections are happening inside the magazine without my guidance — of course I direct — but that is how I see a magazine grows, not that the magazine becomes famous.

MM: Do you have an expectation of what people will be thinking about when they walk away from your exhibit?

SM: I think it’s hard to tell. I think it’s important to understand that there are two very different publics. If there is a message that we can hope that they get from it is to look at things as just objects or just print. And the way the exhibition is designed is to create a certain kind of poetic value to things.

For example, the phenomenon such as time and color, there is a sound design that encompasses the entire installation, and the sound is designed with the vibration of each color because each color has a vibration electronically. So when the entire room is modulated red, they’re going to hear red. And then certain televisions, however they’re positioned, will be displaying a certain color and at one point everything gets synced except for the television and so there is a macro way of looking at it. Certain tablets will modulate colors and the entire mood basically and then that color gets reflected back onto a phone.

Some people call it an interactive installation but to us it’s prescribed — we’re modulating it and creating an experience for people to get their own idea. So everyone will come out with their own completely different experience because it’s subjective. I think the one thing that I would personally like is for them to have a moment to kind of detach themselves and think about what time means and what light means while actually looking at all these objects.

RY: If you just ask how I expect people to respond to this, I would say, “Actually I want to participate, this is more like an experiment.” It’s like what Saul said about the color red. It’s visual, but how do you listen to the color red? That is the experiment. And at the same time I can easily explain print and physical expression the same way because you listen to red and you can see red. So experimenting with the magazine and experimenting with the same message in the physical space is different but we don’t know how people are going to react. So if you ask the question “How do you expect people to react?” — I’m actually really curious. And at the same time I want them to be curious too.

Photos by Masha Maltsava

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