The Accidental Fold


During an interview with a globe trotting fashion model, a commonly asked question is: ‘what’s the one thing that you’ll never travel without?’ Responses typically range from miracle-working eye creams to favorite airplane pillows, but fashion model Saskia de Brauw’s essential item is the most unusual one we had heard: She doesn’t travel without her trusty document scanner. Since the start of her modeling career in 2010, she’s gone to nearly every casting, shoot, and show toting nothing but a small scanner, a computer, and a pair of heels. Her reason d’être is simple enough: “I wanted to scan things that I found. It might have been something that I found in a bathroom or someone’s shoe. It started like that.” The scanner came in handy because rather than stowing away her findings, she tries to leave each item exactly where she found it. What started out as a hobby turned into the makings of a special project.

In January, Saskia de Brauw is introducing that special project to the world—her self-published book The Accidental Fold is comprised of an artfully pieced-together collection of her scans and observations over time. It’s been done in collaboration with design expert Erik Haberfeld who lent his unique eye as creative director for brands like Lacoste and Van Cleef & Arpels. This marks their second collaboration; Haberfeld partnered with de Brauw for an exhibition that she presented at Scotland’s Edinburgh National Museum in 2014.

Saskia receieved a degree in fine arts in 2008, but rather than becoming your typical drawer or painter, she’s successfully turned her love of collecting into a true form of art. “I don’t draw. I write and I collect things, so I have scrapbooks with a lot of stuff in them alongside writings on loose paper,” she explains. “It was a way of recording itineraries, my travels, and my visits to different places. Some of the objects are the proof of some kind of meetings, in a way.”

After six years and several travel destinations later, Saskia had built up a sizable archive of her unique “collectibles.” “I’ll pick up things that I don’t think are beautiful,” she says. “To some people, they [found objects] might seem disgusting. It all depends on the moment. One day you might pick something up and another day you wouldn’t choose to pick up that same thing. Another thing about these items that interests me is the way they decay or change shape. Sometimes you can sense the way someone had been holding it in their pocket or in their hand. Sometimes the object has been trampled upon. I have quite a large collection of playing cards because for some reason you can find playing cards in so many places.” Her projection is that within the next few years she’ll finally have a full deck.

Most of the other objects that she’s selected—“broken pieces of a rear light,” “a piece of a fake dollar bill,” “two dried gingko leaves thought to bring good fortune”—can rightly be called trivial or trash, but the pages of The Accidental Fold point out the shocking beauty in each. Despite this collection of works being a road map of the places her exciting career has taken her, de Brauw does not attribute the words “memories” or “nostalgia” to the project. “I’m not sure that it’s nostalgia because it’s quite dry. These items take on value for the sole reason that we choose to pick them up,” de Brauw says. As mentioned before, most of the items have been left behind and she’s detached from their physicality or the notion that they may have value of any kind.

Haberfeld’s layouts help transform Saskia’s archives into dynamic works of modern art. Along with literal translations of each item, other text comes in the form of poetic passages written by Saskia. They are not directly related to the objects shown and have no relationship to one another, but each stems from one of her observations. Her writings suggest an eerie depiction of herself as the lonely traveler who doesn’t speak the language. She writes, “I feel clumsy, trying to stay quiet. I watch how the women around me at the big wooden table delicately eat their rice and salad. There is a reserved concentration in each movement they make and I am unable to copy that. When I walk outside I am relieved to see a young couple burst out in ecstatic laughter.” We envision a Japanese restaurant full of patrons with excellent table manners. She doesn’t say what she found that day, but we recall Saskia’s account of one of her largest scannable items: a no-longer functioning umbrella left behind on the street in Tokyo. She looked around to make sure that it didn’t belong to anyone. Abandoned items are a rare find in a city like Tokyo where it’s not uncommon to find that even piles of garbage are neatly arranged.

If one saying could best apply to both worlds of modeling and art, it’s that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Is Saskia’s collection of trash-turned treasures bleak or beautiful? Or both? It’s for the viewer to decide. One thing is certain though—you’ll never look at a broken tail light in the same way.

“The Accidental Fold” will be released on January 28, 2016 at the Yvon Lambert Bookshop on 108 Rue Vieille du Temple in Paris.


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