An Interview with Anouk Wirtz: October's MAI + t Collaborator
Introduction and Interview by Billy Zhao
Anouk Wirtz, the mastermind behind the Tumblr theleoisallinthemind, has been curating her Tumblr since 2012, creating a mesmerizing color flow composed of hundreds of images. theleoisallinthemind is one of the most impressive collections on this platform; with the blog's fluid transitions, visitors can scroll effortlessly through a cascade of duo-toned images that incorporate the human body, nature, and design. Initial discussions with Wirtz sparked the idea that she would draw inspiration for this month’s curation from Marina Abramovic's Looking at the Colors exercise:
LOOKING AT THE COLORS
Sitting on a chair,
Looking at one of the primary colors —
yellow, blue or red.
1 hour each
Throughout the month, Wirtz will present images on our Tumblr that explore themes of deconstruction, fluidity, transformation, and perception.
BILLY ZHAO: You had mentioned you were traveling last week. Where did you go?
ANOUK WIRTZ: I was in Paris just for two days. I never get a chance to really see something of Paris because it’s very hectic and you’re just running around the whole day and trying to meet deadlines.
BILLY ZHAO: It must be crazy. You’re in the Netherlands, correct?
ANOUK WIRTZ: Yes, Amsterdam. I was born and raised in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, but I’ve lived in quite a lot of places. I lived in Belgium, Spain, Germany, and Sweden.
BILLY ZHAO: And you studied fashion? How did you get into that?
ANOUK WIRTZ: Well, the funny part is that I don’t know if I would have wound up in fashion if not by coincidence. I always knew I wanted to do something visual and creative through which I could create a certain mood artistically. I stumbled into fashion, but I think I could have easily gone into photography or another visual form.
BILLY ZHAO: You seem to still do a little bit of everything. I was looking at your website. You create collections, photographs, and books.
ANOUK WIRTZ: I’m mainly focused on design now. In school, I was not only studying fashion design. I also studied photography, book-making, and illustration. I would really like to bring that back into what I’m doing at the moment but for now, I'm focused on design and the aesthetics surrounding it.
BILLY ZHAO: How did you get started on Tumblr?
ANOUK WIRTZ: I’m so sensitive to imagery and I’ve always been collecting — not just images but also, for example, a cup from the flea market or an old book that has interesting letters. Or an old leaf that I find in Autumn on the street. I have always been visual. One day, a friend of mine said to me, "Maybe you should start a Blogspot." This eventually became a Tumblr. Initially, it was just for my own visual inspiration. I never started it with the goal of gaining a lot of followers — it was just my own little visual bubble.
BILLY ZHAO: It is all immaterial too! Rather than a collection of physical objects, this collection is digital and put together on one website.
ANOUK WIRTZ: Yes! It’s nice that it’s all there. Wherever you are, you can scroll back. I sometimes do that when I create mood boards for work. I know that all the images I like are already on my Tumblr, so I scroll back and find the ones that I want to use.
BILLY ZHAO: I think that’s exactly what I hoped our Tumblr project would be — a mood board that visitors and collaborators can scroll through for inspiration. We bring in individuals with different voices to interpret our mission, and it’s a great platform for that. What is your blogging routine like?
ANOUK WIRTZ: It depends. Even when I’m very busy, blogging is a relaxing moment in my day. It sounds a bit weird but sometimes when I come home from work really tired, I collect images and put them on my Tumblr. [Laughs.] Some people just watch TV.
BILLY ZHAO: You like come home to that wonderful feeling of being on your dashboard. [Laughs.]
Even when I’m very busy, blogging is a relaxing moment in my day.
ANOUK WIRTZ: Yeah, exactly. I don’t do it everyday, but I do it quite regularly. I mean, it depends on whether I am traveling a lot — then it doesn’t really happen. But it’s not a burden. It’s something that I really like to do.
BILLY ZHAO: I’m so interested in how you move between colors on your blog. How do you choose what comes next? Is it all based on what feels right?
ANOUK WIRTZ: I definitely select images by instinct. I scroll and I instantly know what I like. It’s done by feeling. How the color flow develops on the Tumblr is actually quite natural. If I have a certain number of images from a specific color, I think, "Okay, I’m going to flow to the next one." I don’t think about it like, "It should be red, yellow, then green." The content is just what I gather naturally.
BILLY ZHAO: Do you often source your inspiration from the outside world?
ANOUK WIRTZ: Yes. That happens a lot when, for instance, I go to an exhibition and I get inspired by something I read by an artist or a photographer or an architect. My process is definitely not just internal to Tumblr. It can be based on a magazine or newspaper or a documentary, or even music. I have many sources of inspiration.
BILLY ZHAO: Do you attend many performances?
ANOUK WIRTZ: Well, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t really had the time. I do have a lot of friends that are in the creative scene, so I go to some openings. I also love watching independent films. There’s an exhibition here in Amsterdam by Marlene Dumas — the artist that does the watercolor paintings — and I love what she does. There’s a really great museum for photography here and I often get inspired by visits there.
BILLY ZHAO: Have you ever attended a long durational performance?
My process is definitely not just internal to Tumblr. It can be based on a magazine or newspaper or a documentary, or even music. I have many sources of inspiration.
ANOUK WIRTZ: I don’t think we have had many here — at least, not since I’ve been back. One that I vividly remember was an exhibition I saw in Berlin by Olafur Eliasson. I love his work, so those are pieces that I always remember now. He has an exhibition now in Copenhagen and I would love to see it but since I’m also very busy, it’s quite hard to find the time to go to all these things.
BILLY ZHAO: His works are all living forms. They’re so incredible. Do you have any blogs that you are particularly fond of and look at regularly?
ANOUK WIRTZ: I use a feed reader for blogs that I find interesting. Years ago, I was really searching for blogs. Nowadays, I come across them but I don’t have any favorites. I pick and choose from many different blogs, gathering the things I absolutely love.
BILLY ZHAO: For this month’s curation, we talked about working with the Looking at the Colors exercise. Can you tell me about any initial thoughts or plans for how you’re going to approach this?
ANOUK WIRTZ: When I look at my Tumblr, there are some words that I would use to describe it. So, let’s see, I have written down, "deformation, deconstruction, imperfection, androgynous, anonymous, provocation, unreachable, hide-and-seek, known and unknown, devoted, isolation, and honesty." It’s definitely important to keep the colors, thematically, because that’s what makes the whole Tumblr.
BILLY ZHAO: I love the theme of hide-and-seek. It’s very true to your blog because, at first glance, you see a unified color block but when you really look closely, there are beautiful images tucked in there.
ANOUK WIRTZ: When you go to the blog's archive, you really see the whole color flow.
BILLY ZHAO: I love the recent posts you did with chrome colors that look like light hitting foil and making a rainbow. This makes me want to go back to your archives now. Do you often find yourself scrolling back within your blog?
ANOUK WIRTZ: When I decide on a new color, I sometimes go back. When I do research and make certain mood boards, I often go back to look for certain pictures. I have a very visual memory. I don’t think I hardly ever post the same pictures because I remember nearly all the pictures I search for.
BILLY ZHAO: I have a friend who has synesthesia and I really want to show him your blog.
ANOUK WIRTZ: What is that, synesthesia?
BILLY ZHAO: It’s when the senses get mixed up a bit so when he hears a certain sound, he sees a color. I’d be so curious as to what he might experience going through your blog. Maybe seeing something like your blog would evoke another sense beside vision for him.
ANOUK WIRTZ: Now I am curious too. You have to let me know.
BILLY ZHAO: I’ll do the experiment with him and we’ll see what happens. Have you found that since you started blogging your Tumblr has changed in any way?
ANOUK WIRTZ: Well, I didn’t really start the Tumblr with the intention to have the color flow. The very beginning was a bit more messy color-wise, but I would say that the style and the aesthetic of the images hasn’t really changed. I have a certain taste and I don’t think it changes much. I gathered a lot of black and white images before and now I find it much more interesting to look at color. I also have the two-column layout because if you see certain images together, it can create a completely different story than when you see, for instance, just one picture on a blog. Some pictures I find are from totally different sources and they’re not really linked but when you see them next to each other, it creates a whole new story. I think that’s very interesting.
BILLY ZHAO: Have you used that type of layout for a while? Have you experimented with other layouts as well?
ANOUK WIRTZ: No. I like it very minimalistic, very clean and simple. Text and color and whiteness around it. I don’t think I will change that.
BILLY ZHAO: Have you ever repeated colors?
ANOUK WIRTZ: Yes. If you do this for two years, there are a lot of reds and a lot of blues.
BILLY ZHAO: Do you do a similar thing on Instagram?
Some pictures I find are from totally different sources and they’re not really linked but when you see them next to each other, it creates a whole new story.
ANOUK WIRTZ: No, actually. I thought about creating an Instagram for my blog but I’m too busy. I created Instagram for my friends but then, when I go through it, I think I do always create a certain aesthetic in photos.
BILLY ZHAO: Your blog would be such a different experience on Instagram. I think it works really well on Tumblr.
ANOUK WIRTZ: Yeah, the two platforms really don't work the same way. On Instagram, you just have one image and there’s almost no art to it.
BILLY ZHAO: It goes back to when you were talking about the value of the layout and how you control it through the juxtaposition of two images at a time.
ANOUK WIRTZ: Yes. With this layout, you can also create a three or four rows, but I specifically chose two so the pictures are still quite big and they meet each other. This is really the perfect layout for what I do.
BILLY ZHAO: Have you ever collaborated with people outside of the arts before?
ANOUK WIRTZ: I did some visual research for Patternity, the London based studio. I was planning to do this collaboration for a well-known forecasting agency but, at that time, I was also too busy with work. I'm still definitely open to collaborations because I would love to make this into a profession or make this into something where I collaborate with whoever finds my Tumblr interesting. I think it is very cool to work with other people.
BILLY ZHAO: We first heard of Patternity because our June Tumblr collaborators, Scandebergs, also do visual research for them.
ANOUK WIRTZ: Oh, that’s funny. I did that for a while but, of course, this was also just on the side and very time-consuming.
BILLY ZHAO: I’m making a habit to ask our collaborators this: how did you come up with your Tumblr name?
ANOUK WIRTZ: It was very random. Years ago when I started my first Blogspot, I didn’t know what name I should give it. I have this tattoo on my arm. It says “It’s all in the mind,” and that kind of describes my life. My zodiac sign is a Leo and my middle name is Leonore which also starts with L, E, O, so I thought, "I’ll combine these and bring something of myself to the blog." The whole title doesn’t actually make sense — it’s just a mismatch.