Graham Kolbeins' Future Shipwreck
An art, design and culture blog with gravitas
In the world of the internet, blogs are often seen as examples of highly subjective and self-referential forms of writing and exploration. In the same vein, art is often considered to be a highly subjective, self-referential form of exploration. So what happens when those worlds – aided by a queer catalyst – meet up? You get Future Shipwreck.
Future Shipwreck is an art blog by Los Angeles-based artist and curator Graham Kolbeins. A collection of interviews, art criticism and personal anecdotes all wrapped up in a cute and queer bow, Future Shipwreck is a synthesis of contemporary internet culture: a mishmash of personally curated objects, images and stories. When asked about the title of his site, Graham explains, “I guess it means I’m a pirate, my blog is a pirate ship, the internet is an infinite ocean of JPEGs, and one day we’ll all be dead. But I like the idea that someone might come along and discover my pile of most-treasured JPEGs.”
Born in Vancouver, Kolbeins was raised in Philadelphia until moving to California at the age of 12. At 17, he moved to Los Angeles to attend the California Institute of the Arts, or CalArts, but dropped out and ended up acting and working as a personal assistant to Paul Thomas Anderson. He also wrote for the production blog of Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. Since then, Kolbeins has written and produced video content for The Advocate and New American Paintings. He is currently working on video content for a Google TV series.
Future Shipwreck started out in 2006, with Kolbeins sharing things he found all over the internet. “Ever since breaking ground on my Simpsons fan page in the 4th grade (Geocities for life), I’ve been a fan of cyber-communing via shared cultural experience,” says the site’s "About" page. When asked about this, Graham notes, “There’s a lot of noise on the internet, so it feels rewarding when you discover something that really strikes a chord with you. I like being able to provide other people with that feeling.”
Those things he likes to share? They include everything from fashion to design to stories about people and events in his home base of Los Angeles. Future Shipwreck is also appended by a Tumblr site, with its content being more free-form than the original blog. It is, like most Tumblrs, a collection of images, links and videos, with the main site affording Kolbeins more room to do his own interviews and videos on and about various artists. One of those artists is Christopher Schulz, creator and publisher of Pinups magazine, as well as the now infamous Seth zine, and the Mopping Is Stealing Tumblr blog. “It seems that a large portion of the web exposure to my work can be traced back to Future Shipwreck,” he says. “It was one of the first interviews I gave. When I do a Google search of my name, it ranks as the fifth link.” But Schulz isn’t just a fan of FS because of the attention it has brought to his work. “It has really evolved over the years to an exciting source of information about the work of emerging artists relative to each other.”
Kolbeins is no stranger to the art of curating and collecting artists. His resumé also includes time as a curator at a Los Angeles gallery called Mastodon Mesa. For him, curating art is just another facet of what he loves to do: share things he finds to be beautiful or engaging. When asked if he prefers to produce or curate art, he says that “the process of curating is enjoyable because there’s less at stake. The amazing object already exists; my role is just to make people aware of it.”
Even with the curatorial edges and the interviews, FS is still a personal blog. But unlike other sites that include self-referential images and posts about individual experiences, Kolbeins uses his own art as a mean of expressing and demonstrating his world. Recent posts on his website include what he calls an “experimental documentary” about a recent trip he took. The video is not just a personal diary, but also a glimpse into the zeitgeist of contemporary culture, from queer boys in Portland to environmental activism.
That doesn’t mean Graham doesn’t take his own work as seriously as he does the posts about others’ oeuvres. “Creating original work is stressful to me, because at any point there’s the looming threat that you’ll fuck it all up and this idea that seemed great within the privacy of your brain will enter the world stillborn,” he says. “But there’s nothing like that feeling of satisfaction that arises from successfully completing a video or taking a photo you love or writing the last sentence of a story.”