When I first interviewed Yanyun Chen and Jeremy Fernando of Delere Press in 2014, I was motivated by a certain intrigue and a desire to make sense of the esoteric. They stood out from the rest of the local presses as their curation eschewed geographical boundaries, resisting the trappings of locality. They had a steadfast dedication to making a home for work that might otherwise never see the light of day. I was also taken by their attention to intertextual relations between word and image — only apt, considering the work in writing and art production that they each undertake.
Five years later this intrigue remains, and so via the magic of the internet, I sit with Jeremy in virtual time to find out more about how Delere Press has evolved.
Both you and Yanyun are artists and writers in your own right. How do your own individual practices feed into your process of creating books under Delere Press?
In many ways, I see my writing, reading, thought, work, and teaching, as inseparable from each other. They contribute to each other, build on and respond to each other, whilst still remaining wholly other from each other, seeing how they are different media that occur in individual modus. I see a book as a universe onto itself: in that sense, it doesn’t have any necessary relationship with the world. I don’t think that all is political, instead, it brings forth a world in itself. Only in the moment of being read that it enters into the world: not that a work has any responsibility towards the world even as it is always responding to something, someone. The only responsibility that a work has – a book has – is to itself as book, as work.
Even as writing is my primary mode of expression, first and foremost, I see myself as a reader; reading being understood as the relation to an ‘other’, prior to any attempt at assimilating what is being read to the one who reads — an encounter. One of the lines from in fidelity best captures my approach to making works:
« It has taken me years to admit — perhaps only to myself — that I don’t care about writing something important, something significant. That my only hope, wish — dream even — is to write something beautiful … »
Does the increasing attention towards aesthetics and politics affect what Delere publishes? Particularly since the relationship between the two has become a zeitgeist in academia, and has overflowed into popular culture and media as well.
Mmm no… ;)
I can’t, and won’t, speak for Yanyun here, but as far as I’m concerned, what others are doing has never affected what I’ve been interested in, do, or make. This is not to say I’m uninterested, but only in their work as itself… When it comes to making work, my hero has always been Pontius Pilate: quod scripsi, scripsi.
How do you think Delere has evolved over the last five years, and what do you see in the future for the press?
I think the press has grown rather organically. We’ve always know that we were interested in the relationship between — in the conversation of — the written and the visual text, and we’ve remained fairly consistently faithful to that. I do think that it has taken us a couple of years to be comfortable with the fact that we’re fairly uninterested in what other presses, publishers, are doing, even less with what’s in fashion or what’s not.
Which is not to say that we’re closed: far from it. We love, I certainly love, being inspired, but I do think that inspiration comes from unknowns, from this whisper into your ear (where or who it comes from remains unknown, perhaps always unknowable); your role is to practise your craft as best as you can, see, read, think, and when this whisper comes, hopefully you hear it. Even then, you’ll never really know if it were the daemon or merely voices in your head.
As for the future, I’d hope to be able to keep doing what we’re doing, but as the wind says, que sera sera …
Sara Chong, ‘yy & jf’,
Sara Lau is emogirl95, makcik bawang, southeast asianist, wayward child, writer. In a love-hate relationship with art and anthropology. working on The Dust Beneath Our Feet. She tweets at @saralje and her writings can be found at Sara Writes.