Whatever Floats Your Boat
These curators challenge the conventions of gallery space and design blogs
Story by Lauren Drell / Photography by Michael Todd
Hunched over a Saul Steinberg book, Folkert Gorter and Atley Kasky analyze various components of the images before them — line, composition, color, etc. They discuss whether it jibes with their sensibilities, and they ask themselves one simple question: does it float?
Whether something floats refers to its ability to rise to the top, thus forming the argument for an image’s longevity and relevance. This query filters the good from the bad and determines which images Folkert and Atley will post to their design blog, butdoesitfloat.com. The blog runs on Cargo, one of Folkert’s side projects, which is being developed as a Twitter-like social network and publishing platform for creative people.
“We have an idea about how blogs should work and we’re sort of allergic to the standard blog format,” says Folkert, 33. So their site, a hybrid of a Tumblr and a digital art gallery, plays out as a visual conversation. It is a museum located at a URL where visitors peruse inspiring images hanging on a white wall. It is a stripped down blog with no commentary and no links. “We’re using the methods of physical, real-world galleries and applying them to the Internet,” Folkert explains.
Working together at L.A.’s GOOD Magazine, a progressive publication that promotes doing good with new art, ideas, and social projects, Atley and Folkert began to bounce ideas off one another. Folkert says he and Atley “realized soon that we had very similar sensibilities in terms of what we enjoyed visually.”
But they weren’t finding it on the Web, and the art-blogging community was lacking. “It wasn’t exactly what I wanted. There’s image aggregators and image Tumblrs, but they weren’t helping me find the good stuff,” says Atley, 26. So two GOOD men decided to find good design and curate an art gallery within the fiber optic cables of the World Wide Web. The Internet provides the most accessible, plentiful, and affordable way for Atley and Folkert to share inspiring images. It’s also the best way to ensure an image’s permanence, as they will never swap out an image for a new exhibit.
Since the blog’s inception in February, Atley and Folkert have created “a loose but endless narrative.” It’s sharing art as much as it’s creating art. Images fade in as you scroll down, headlined with titles that hint at the underlying theme of the narrative. Folkert says each post is inspired by the preceding one, connected by an artistic detail, a genre, or a subject. What results is a visual conversation, an exhibit of their passion for design. As designers, Folkert and Atley sift through dozens of design blogs, art sites, and books. The way they see it, if they’re going to spend time behind the scenes browsing for incredible images, they ought to team up and share it in a public domain.
Folkert sees butdoesitfloat as a filter to help people discover and enjoy design. “Really amazing stuff is hard to find,” he says. “The Internet has made available such vast quantities of images and only in the last couple of years have people started aggregating images like we do.”
Many of the blog images are found by linking from one site to the next, until they find images buried deep in the Web that are begging for resurrection. “That’s really the goal, for you to see stuff…and open the conversation,” Atley says.
The L.A.-based duo is far removed from New York’s intimate art and freelance world, which lends them a “renegade perspective.” L.A.’s newer and widespread design scene forces them to look harder and go farther. Detached from the art world, their sensibilities are not tainted or swayed by big names or trends, which enables a free-flowing collection of fresh images. The blog is a perfect example of two heads outdoing one. Folkert, a Dutchman, and Atley, a California native, constantly challenge each other. Though they work in different mediums, their sensibilities juxtapose nicely. They try to post images daily and alternate curating to maintain contrast and dynamism in the dialogue.
“[Folkert’s] really into generative art and the new media and I’m really into mid-century, abstract color explorations,” says Atley. But when you start to examine various media, he says, their distinct sensibilities “weirdly overlap.” The pair disagree about an image’s floatability only about 10% of the time, and they’re acutely aware when a post is being forced. Valuing quality over quantity, the curators are looking to maintain the integrity of butdoesitfloat in an ever-changing digital and design environment.
“We’re in the wild wild west of information and media — everything’s changing, things are moving a lot faster,” says Atley. “It’s an information revolution, culturally in the same capacity as the Industrial Revolution.” When asked how they’ll keep pace in this new age, Atley smiles. “We have plans.”
But will they float?