Based in the idyllic Spanish island of Mallorca, Flipboku is a publishing house specialising in unique flipbooks. Designer-animator-filmmaker Jossie Malis and film music composer Julie Reier aim to reinvent the limits of thumb-powered pocket cinema, creating interactive and traditional flipbooks for all ages. ACMI Shop manager Leaona Cusick spoke to Jossie about the unexpected origins of the project, its joys and challenges, and how it's influenced by the "culture of the rectangle"
Leaona Cusick: Tell us about your creative practice, what motivates and inspires you?
Jossie Malis: What motivates me most creatively is to observe and be aware of everything that surrounds me. My background involves graphic design, film and animation, which makes me live in a constant compilation of notes, thoughts, colours, references and stories of all kinds that pile up in countless notebooks and files. For me, it is a creative process that has always been there and works naturally. Inspiration is always around us, you just have to be attentive to the details and the wackiness that surrounds us.
LC: Is there a favourite project you’ve worked on? What made it so special?
JM: I think to some extent all projects are favourites as long as one is dedicated to them. Over time you tend to love one or the other more or less, and in that sense I think my animation series Bendito Machine is the one that has given me more joy and to which I have dedicated more time. What makes it special is that it is a very personal project that took shape as it grew and without any planning. It was simply an improvised animation series that advanced without ties, to become a series of short films that try to reflect and laugh at our humanoid existences.
On the other hand, our publishing project Flipboku that I am carrying out together with my wife and partner in crime, Julie Reier, is one of the latest projects that has given us the most joy in recent years, both for the challenges it implies and because of people’s reactions whenever they hold one of our flipbooks in their hands.
LC: How did this project originate and why flipbooks?
JM: Everything happened unexpectedly. About five years ago, thanks to a Portuguese animator and colleague, we got the opportunity to create our first flipbook as a reward for the crowdfunding campaign of our Bendito Machine series. The outcome and feedback was so positive that it made us want to create further editions, and somehow, we challenged ourselves to reimagine the flipbook format – working with a neat design, multiple sequences and unique mechanical and interactive features. Little by little (and not without some difficulties) we gave shape to the project, creating a catalog that kept growing, along with a large number of followers around the world who gave us confidence and support. Being able to combine two passions like design and animation while bringing small treasures to life in a physical format is a truly inspiring concept that has become a passion and infinite source of new ideas over the last few years.
LC: What are some of the sources of inspiration that you draw from when creating?
JM: I have a deep affinity with all things space related. Ironically, I think it's what connects me the most to earth. And clearly the movies, series, comics, art in general, food, science fiction literature, our history as humans... in the end, inspiration comes from our own perceptions, which are transformed over and over again.
LC: How does the world of screen culture influence your work?
JM: I am from the generation of '76, so I grew up in a time where the screens were those of cinema and television, and it was undoubtedly an inspiration that filled my head with joy from a very young age. I think that humans are not really fully aware that it is not only about screens, but rather about rectangles and how our brains need to limit the spaces to visualise certain things.
What is defined as the culture of the screen, for me, is rather the culture of the rectangle. It comes from the moment we look at a painting hanging on the wall, a book, a picture or through a window. A good part of life is about enjoying looking at anything through a rectangle.
LC: Is there a favourite exhibition you remember impacting your work? Is there an exhibition you’ll like to see curated in the future?
JM: Many have made an impact on me, but I remember Metamorphosis with special affection, about the work of Starewitch, Svankmajer and the Quay brothers, one about the complete work of Stanley Kubrick and another about the work of designer Shigeo Fukuda that brought me great joy. In the future – and to choose shamelessly – I would like to see an exhibition of Saul Bass and Taro Okamoto.
LC: What are you currently watching, playing, streaming?
JM: I recently discovered a wonderful new youtube channel, Magnetic Games, it's all about experiments with magnets and it's really addictive. As for series, I recently finished watching Raised by Wolf with some mixed feelings. Lately, I also really enjoy Seinfeld, which I had never seen before. It's interesting to watch a sitcom from 30 years ago and discover how we have changed so much in so little time.