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Personal report from the NY Art Book Fair/Contemporary Artists' Book Conference/ The Classroom

My weekend began at noon on Friday: Upon arriving,  I immediately ran in to an undergraduate college friend whom I've seen just twice in the last 22 years. We met in the pouring rain as we entered the dome, which became an instrument of the rain.  I almost felt like I was back in Athens, Ohio, listening to rain patter on a tin roof. All apropos: Lindsey Reynold's session was Sound and Text: Experiments in Transmedia Object Making, a discussion between James Hoff (of Primary Information) and Robert Peterson. They discussed their mutual exploration of sound and text as artistic mediums. Transmedia objects invite participation.

My first purchase at the Fair itself was at the table for OMMU, a bookstore in Athens, Greece. I noticed they had the book Collage Culture, and when I commented on it, they told me they had a zine by Brian Roettinger, one of the contributors (and the book designer). I've been looking for the Roettinger zine for over a year; it's always sold out at my usual suspects. Immediate success! This chat set the tone for the entire weekend. Everyone seemed far friendlier than usual, and I experienced and witnessed many warm meetings.

Earlier this year I read an article by Teal Triggs about a newish design periodical called The National Grid (in the vein of the late great Dot Dot Dot), and I'd emailed the editor a bit. TNG people were at the Fair, all the way from New Zealand.  I had a great chat with Matthew Galloway and picked up issue #1 of Points of Departure: Effects of Remoteness/How to Travel. I talked with Jeff Khonsary from the Canadian journal Fillip, and he gave me a tote that seemed familiar. It wasn't until a day later that I realized the illustration on the tote--a few white ripples on blue water--is a version of a tattoo I have (which is black, except for a few blue ripples under a bridge). Fun! I grabbed a cut-up zine, "Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat" made by Otto Free Press (London). The zine borrows from Bruegel, Thomas Grey, and Blake. Also on Friday I picked up (free) what turned out to be one of my favorite books of the weekend: Publishing as (part-time) Practice: The Swedish Graphic Designers Edition. It includes 3 essays, largely about design authorship.

A quick visit to the zine tent: I picked up issue #1 of The Unified Field, a music multiple (literary and art magazine that fits in a 10" album sleeve. Package includes a 4-song 10" vinyl album). This was the most expensive thing I bought, but proceeds go to Dave Eggers 826  tutoring project, so worth it.

I ran in to one of my favorite art people: Marshall Weber from Booklyn Artists Alliance, and as usual he was buzzing around introducing people to each other. He introduced me to a woman from Spector Books, whose publications I usually can't read (German). They also make an object-like magazine, Spector Cut + Paste (German and English). Spector was selling Bauhaus mag (issues 1-3 out now), which I regret not picking up.  

Also at the Artists' Book Conference on Friday: "Pecha Kucha" panel and the Paul Chan keynote lecture, "Publish to Perish." The form of a book is effective for telling how to live, he said, but the question remains: "what is a book?" Chan talked about Badlands Unlimited, his publishing venture. The crowd was wowed by new and forthcoming Badlands publications (whatever the form) including On Democracy by Saddam Hussein, co-published by Deste Foundation; e-book editions of Made in USA, magazines produced by Bernadette Corporation in 1999-2001; Holiday by Chan, published in an edition of one on a stone slab; and Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews by Calvin Tomkins.

On Saturday I ended up in The Classroom for an artist's talk by Diane Borsato, whose work I didn't know. Diane's presentation was hilarious, poignant, and brainy, as her work appears to be. This talk was a real highlight of the weekend for me, and I thank Larissa Beringer for turning me on to the event. I ended up buying Borsato's new monograph (Diane Borsato, Art Gallery of York University, 2012). David Senior did such an amazing job with The Classroom programming, but I made it to only two Classroom events, both stellar (see Sunday).

I ran into artist Robin Cameron in the hallway outside the Classroom: she was performing "Heavy Heart Meteorite" with a meteorite the same weight as a human heart.  A  meteorite is a meteoroid that has fallen to the earth, a meteor is a person or object that moves with spectacular speed,  or it's an atmospheric phenomenon.  Holding the meteorite, it was all of these things.

On Saturday, I attended Tony White's Conference session "Furthering the Critical Dialogue," an art critical response to Paul Chan's multidisciplinary publication "What is a Book?" I particularly enjoyed Nancy Princenthal's presentation.

On Sunday I saw an exhilarating performance and film by Project Projects people in the dome (part of The Classroom program): PP designed and authored The Electric Information Age Book (Princeton Architectural Press), a paperback about pop media paperbacks of the late 60's and early 70's, such as McLuhan's The Medium is the Message (1967), designed by Quentin Fiore. As Columbia Records issused an LP "version" of TMITM in 1967, Inventory Records has released an LP extension of the new paperback. Every book exists to end up on a turntable! or so I heard and saw.

I returned for some serious Book Fair action: At the LAND AND SEA table I met the Bay Area artist Chris Duncan.  I own one of his paintings (purchased in 2007?), and it was a thrill to meet him. He told me about The Sound of Paper,  a new edition he made at the University of Kansas's Wide Awake Editions press.

I ran in to an acquaintance from my days at Pratt Institute: the amazing book artist and writer Jen Bervin and her friend Emily Larned, who told me about her IMPRACTICAL LABOR IN SERVICE OF THE SPECULATIVE ARTS (ILSSA) project, a membership organization-as-art-project for those who make experimental or conceptual work with obsolete technology. I chatted with the cool Pratt grads who started one of my favorite art periodicals, Kingsboro Press; and I also saw the J&L Press, also founded by Pratt grads.

At Art in General I had a great talk about the book Queen of the Artists' Studios: The Story of Audrey Munson, by Andrea Geyer. I own the poster map that accompanies the book and have taught with it a few times in zine talks.  The map documents all the public sculptures for which Munson was the model. I enjoyed the moment when someone else purchased the book while I was standing there.

I went back and forth to Pork Salad Press, trying to decide whether or not I should buy the music multiple, Purple & Orange Memorial Record, a 12' vinyl record with songs by Sun Foot and various paper inserts, signed by Chris Johanson. It's "a creative press kit and album about the public campaign to save the life Troy Davis who was convicted of murdering a police officer and maintained his innocence until his execution in September 2011" (from Arts.Observor blog, Sept. 29, 2012). Ultimately, I bought it.

A ran in to several friends and acquaintances throughout the weekend including Larissa Beringer of Emily Carr Institute Library and her lovely husband, the artist Samuel Roy-Bois. I chatted with Jill Luedke (Pratt grad), art librarian at Temple University; and  Holly Wilson, Cheryl Costello, and Maggie Portis from Pratt.  Maggie gave a great Pecha Kucha talk on Saturday--she talked about teaching with the artists' book collection at Pratt Institute and actively developing with some focus on architecure subjects. I spent time with my friend Lindsey Reynolds (we also saw Corin Tucker Band at Mercury Lounge Thursday night, pre-Fair!).

Other notables at the Fair included Primary Information, Ooga Booga, Siglio, Triple Canopy, Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), Sternberg Press, and the magazines and projects Mousse032c, 'Sup, Bidoun, mono.kultur, & Girls Like Us. Exhausted, dehydrated, happy, and poorer than before, I wrapped it up and went home.

Posted by Susan E. Thomas on 10/3/12 | tags: artists' books Book Arts art publishers

Art Zines panel at Contemporary Artists' Book Conference

I'll be on a panel with Jenna Freedman, Alycia Sellie, and Eleanor Whitney Saturday Oct. 3, at the ARLIS/NY Contemporary Artists' Books  Conference in NYC Oct. 3. The Conference is in conjunction with Printed Matter's Art Book Fair. The Conference is at PS-1 in Queens.

Posted by Susan E. Thomas on 8/29/09

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