Quality Drop 04: Everything Is a Self-Portrait
A stunning print collaboration between a Japan-based photographer and LA-based poet
In March, Metalabel received a message about an intriguing project. Called Everything Is a Self-Portrait, the project was a collaboration between two artists, a book offering “an exploration of the relationship between self and other.”
After a video call and series of emails with the two people behind the work — Francis Kanai, a Japan-based photographer, and Malaya Malandro, a LA-based poet and artist — we were deeply moved by the project and began discussing how we could publish the book together.
Eight weeks later, we’re extremely proud to present the debut of a meaningful, beautiful, and prescient 300-page hardcover, cloth-bound book printed in Japan, with a limited First Edition run of just 200 copies, 50 available through Metalabel.
The book combines striking pairings of Kanai’s beautiful black-and-white photography with Malandro’s casual and affecting poetry to create a mesmerizing meditation on the notion of self and the aimless internal ennui of our age. Or, as Francis put it in an interview with us, “a hint at the idea that whatever may capture one's attention (the good and the bad) is a kind of reflection, a hint of our unending self.”
Metalabel and FKMM (the name for Francis and Malaya’s collaborations) have come together to release Everything Is a Self-Portrait as an onchain record containing one of 50 physical editions of the book, as well as five digital vignettes composed using their photography and poetry. These limited editions are available for .05 ETH/$90 USD.
In conversation: Malaya Malandro and Francis Kanai
In preparing for this Quality Drop, we sent some questions to Francis and Malaya about their collaboration. They responded from Japan while they were picking up the final versions of the physical book for the first time. An excerpt from that conversation:
What is Everything Is a Self-Portrait?
Francis Kanai: It's the title of a book we made, a book of photos and poetry. It's also a hint at the idea that whatever may capture one's attention (the good and the bad) is a kind of reflection, a hint of our unending self.
What do you mean by the title of the book?
Malaya Malandro: We arrived at the book's title through our conversations... We found that our work serves as a means to not only see ourselves in others but also in moments and seemingly mundane things that exist outside of our bodies. By directing our attention towards these things, they begin to reflect us and form a sort of self-portrait. Hopefully each person who places their attention into the book will also see themselves reflected in the reading and viewing of the book, either directly or indirectly.
What inspired you to collaborate?
MM: Our collaborative process determined the outcome of the book. It was like a discipline that was a practice in itself: how to water and care for the garden of your friendships, especially one that would bear creative fruit to share with others.
What did you discover when you brought your work together?
MM: I was able to observe a tension between looking for meaning vs. acting on a creative urge on a desire to make something, then honing that desire into something worthwhile for your own self outside of external factors. Beyond validation or monetary wins or impressing/getting revenge on some grand headless faceless entity, there is so much freedom. Together we were able to get out of our heads of “What does it mean / why is it important / what is it going to be?!” A bird doesn’t sit on an egg and wonder those things before the egg is hatched. In the same way with less worry you can play more, be more intentional but in a very present way.
Where can we find more of your work online?
MM: Part of the lesson is sharing all the shit stored away without feeling like you’re pimping yourself out or being just baseline embarrassed or ashamed like “oh god please am I being desperate right now?” The work is made (the hardest part) and you’re telling me now I should share? What if it's stupid and every person I’ve thought was cool hates me bc how dare I share? How dare I share, when there’s so much else to be done that needs attention: dishes, paying bills, staying off bodily entropy, being a good neighbor etc. But because we both can be like this it helps because it's like we’re in those emotions together! Like oh well I feel good sharing and working on this and that honest urge and discipline behind it is enough of a reason (maybe).
Quality Drops are creative releases made by collaborating artists, cultural producers, and metalabels. Each Quality Drop is handpicked and supported by Metalabel as an embodiment of creative collaboration.
Quality Drops so far:
A piece by Austin on “Six research collectives and collaborative reports” that surveys the work of Water & Music, K-Hole, The Royal Society, Other Internet, Metagov, and Radar. [Public Record]
Metalabel IRL! In the past three weeks we threw a karaoke party with Songcamp, hosted a spectacular talk by the artists Operator, and an artist talk with Neesh Chaudhary and Friends With Benefits at our spot in NYC.
Metalabel is an operating system for groups of creators to release work, collaborate, and support one another. Learn more about metalabels here.