In February this year Melbourne hosted the biggest photobook event ever in this country. Called Photobook Melbourne the event brought together exponents, collectors and critics from around the world as well as from around Australia and New Zealand. Hundreds of books were handled, read and appraised in the many galleries and venues that came on board to support the event.
Martin Parr and Gerry Badger in their second volume of The Photobook: A History (2006), recognised artists who worked with photographs in a specific chapter entitled Appropriating Photography: The Artist’s Photobook.
Participants in the artists’ book discipline have been active indie, DIY publishers worldwide for sixty years or more and many of them use photography in their books. They have well established networks, events activities, awards, critical debate and collectors both private and public.
At a time such as Photobook Melbourne where all things photobook are celebrated and discussed it may be worthwhile to consider what concurrence may exist today between the artists’ book and the photobook. How do artists consider their use of photography and the photograph in their books? Is there any sympatico between the photobook and the artists’ book.
To address these and many more questions I was supported by the Photobook Melbourne organisers Heidi Romano and Daniel Boetker-Smith, to convene a forum to bring the voice of the artists’ book into the photobook conversation. The participants in the forum were; Dr Lyn Ashby, Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, Peter Lyssiotis, Des Cowley and Dr Victoria Cooper (who was co-opted as Georgia Hutchison withdrew due to personal reasons in the final days).
The proceedings of the forum, with the support of the participants, have now been formed into a PDF booklet that can be downloaded FREE from this site. To provide a taste of the presentations I present the following quotes from the texts:
DOWNLOAD HERE: PM-OTHER PB-BOOK
I make books. With few exceptions, these are hand-made, limited-edition books that would generally be considered to be “artist’s books” using the standard codex form. These are not photographic books. That is, the photograph is rarely the core of the meaning or purpose of the book. But I often use components or aspects of photographs and composite these with graphics, texts, drawings and painting etc, all of which feed into the overall material on each page.
Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison
For those of you who we have yet to meet, we are besotted with paper for its adaptable, foldable, cut-able, concealable, and revealing nature. In our artists’ books, prints, zines, drawings, and collages, we use play, humour, and perhaps the poetic, to lure you closer. And sometimes this will incorporate photography. For us, it is not the medium that is always of greatest import, but the message. And so, we use found photographs in our artists’ books and zines not because they are photos, but because of what they can enable us to say, and what we hope you might feel.
History of the Book Manager, Collection Development & Discovery, State Library Victoria
One of the challenges for libraries and collecting institutions is to build representative collections of contemporary books and ephemeral works created by artists, photographers, and zinemakers. Artists books, photobooks, and zines generally circulate outside mainstream distribution channels – publishers, general bookshops, distributors – and are effectively off-radar for many libraries. It is therefore incumbent upon staff in these institutions to build networks and relationships with the communities creating this work in order to be informed about what is being produced, and to ensure this material is acquired and preserved for future researchers.
I had a friend who lived in Belgium. He died a while back. Before he did, though, he painted a pipe on a canvas and underneath it he wrote “This is not a pipe”.
To continue my friend’s mission I say “This is not a book”.
The artists’ book is rather a workshop, a garage; a space where a time-honored craft is practised: it is here that the world gets repaired, reconditioned, reassembled.
The digital cutting, dissecting, layering and suturing of the photographic quotations is an absorbing process through which the visual story emerges. I then materialize this virtual image of the narrative as a physical book in many forms: scroll, concertina or codex. Rather than images on a gallery wall, the narrative space of the book offers for me an endless potential for interplay of the corporeal and the imagination through the idiosyncratic experience of reading.
DOWNLOAD THE BOOK HERE: PM-OTHER PB-BOOK
For many years Queensland had a diversity of artists book activities: the bi-ennial Artspace Mackay Artists Book Forums and Libris Awards, the once yearly Noosa Artists Book Events and the Southern Cross University Acquisitive Artists Book Awards. Also contributing to this fertile artists book environment the State Library of Queensland’s Australian Library of Art which included the SLQ’s Siganto Foundation fellowships, ‘white glove’ presentations and events. Added to this were exhibitions and artists book fairs coordinated by Grahame Galleries and other shows at scattered venues. With the recent demise of the Mackay, Noosa and Southern Cross events their absence was felt by the artists book community. Now a new event has emerged to add to the SLQ and Grahame Galleries support of the art – the Artists Book Brisbane Event (ABBE). Over July 16, 17 and 18 ABBE featured a triptych of activities; a conference, an exhibition of books, an artists book fair and allied exhibition events at the State Library of Queensland, Grahame Galleries, The Studio West End, the IMA and Impress Printmakers Gallery.
The conference sought to address 3 main themes relating to the artists book:
- post literacy
- materiality/the haptic
- the nature of reading artists books.
Three keynote presenters lead the program:
- Sarah Bodman – Senior Research Fellow for Artists Books, CFPR editor of the Blue Notebook
- Brad Freeman – Founder and editor in chief of the Journal of Artist’s Books
- Dr Lyn Ashby – Australian artist and scholar making books
SARAH BODMAN (Abstract)– ARTISTS’ BOOKS AS A PHYSICAL SITE OF PRACTICE
If a post-Literate society might also encompass new ways of thinking about reading, we could think of contemporary artists’ books as a site of practice beyond that of McLuhan’s sign posting of the invention of moveable type as fundamentally responsible for how the Western world physically reads: “along the straight Lines of the printed page.”
We seem to have already moved from Linear to non-linear reading; we are used to flitting through digital screen-based texts, and losing our attention through a multitude of online multi-tasking. Physical engagement with artists’ books provides us with spaceto breathe, a slower rhythm of ingesting information and time to reflect, so what about the artists who are making them? How are artists engaging with the physical book now?
These examples focus on celebrating the book as a physical container used by artists to: re-present language, offer performative reading, view how reading is perceived, appropriate text from novels and instructional manuals into new works, or to transform information from the virtual into the physical.
BRAD FREEMAN (Abstract) – JOURNAL OF ARTISTS’ BOOKS
Brad Freeman’s Lecture focussed on JAB, the Journal of Artists’ Books, that supports critical inquiry into artists’ books. Since 1994 JAB has published interviews with contemporary artists whose primary medium is the artist book, reviews of artists’ books, and essays about historical issues and contemporary artists and their work. JAB has a two pronged approach to culture creation via publication arts; an educational approach with critical writing and documentation of current activity; and second, a creative approach with publication art-exploring the creative potential of print and the book by commissioning artists’ covers (letterpress and offset), artist designed pages, and artists’ books made especially for insertion into JAB.
LYN ASHBY (Abstract) – POSTLITERACY AND ARTISTSBOOKS: Coming to our senses with a modern mythic form
This presentation is a speculation on the idea that contemporary artistsbooks may be the laboratory for a new literacy, and that in honor of the quietly evolutionary nature of this new literacy, we might call it “postliteracy”.
As background, it explores how our centuries of standard literacy and its attendant conventions of pictorial space and chronological, narrative time, have privileged a specific code in the representations of our language systems (both image and text) and their operations across the page and through the book. The prescriptions of these conventions and the domination of the line and the grid onto the look of language have come to minimise the participation (and uncertainty) of the senses in the direct process of apprehending meaning with language forms.
But the pages of artistsbooks are often filled with the explorations of other ways that language forms can activate a lively, sensory involvement with the page space, or how meaning can be formulated beyond the limitations of chronology.
Some of these experiments involve the invocation of pre literate, oral language structures that work more by the devices and grammars of music, song and myth than the usual strategies of standard literacy. in this way, the contemporary artistsbook may be the hardcopy home of a modern, mythic form.
Presenting/Participating at the conference
- Lyn Ashby
- Sarah Bodman
- Sara Bowen
- Deidre Brollo
- Helen Cole
- Victoria Cooper
- Marian Crawford
- Daniel Della-Bosca
- Fiona Dempster
- Caren Florance
- Jenny Fraser
- Brad Freeman
- Angela Gardner
- Noreen Grahame
- Bridget Hillebrand
- Joel Lardner
- Marian Macken
- Tim Mosely
- Adele Outteridge
- Mikhail Pogarsky
- Doug Spowart
- Kym Tabulo
- Wim de Vos
- Gabriella Wilson
The ‘books by artists’ exhibitors
- Isaac Brown
- Penny Carey-Wells
- Victoria Cooper
- Caroline Craig
- Fiona Dempster
- Hesam Fetrati Angela Gardner
- Annique Goldenberg
- Alannah Gunter
- Institute of Modern Art Cassandra Lehman-Schultz
- Alison Mackay
- Judy Macklin
- Heather Matthew
- Tess Mehonoshen
- Christine Mellor
- Tim Mosely
- night ladder collective
- Naomi O’Reilly
- Adele Outteridge
- Mona Ryder
- Rose Rigley
- Glen Skien
- Doug Spowart
- Wim de Vos
THE ABBE ARTISTS BOOK FAIR
Artists Book Fair stallholders
Sara Bowen (no image taken)
Centre for Regional Arts Practice (Cooper+Spowart) (no image taken)
Robyn Foster (no image taken)
Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research (no image taken)
QCA Gold Coast (no image taken)
ABBE participants also visited Grahame Galleries, The Studio West End and the State Library of Queensland
ABBE was an initiative of the Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research and was coordinated by Dr Tim Mosely and Dr Lynden Stone.
All photographs © 2015 Doug Spowart
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
The Siganto Artists’ Books Seminar 2015
On June 20+21 the 2015 The Siganto Artists’ Books Seminar took place at the State Library of Queensland. Attendees were presented with a one–day series of lectures, performances and a forum addressing the diversity of the artists’ book and importantly visual and creative research being undertaken by Fellowships supported by the Siganto Foundation.
The State Librarian Jeanette, introduced by MC Christene Drewe, spoke of the Library’s Artists’ Book Collection. This was followed by Dr Marie Siganto from the Siganto Foundation who spoke enthusiastically about the Foundation’s support of the Artists’ Book Collection.
A significant theme of this years’ event was based around the idea of artists’ books as performance. Brazilian artist, performer and academic Amir Brito Cadôr’s presented his keynote address The Book as Performance – he also performed a book reading of Momento Vital by Brazilian artist Vera Chaves Barcellos.
In the morning session 2015 Siganto Foundation Artists’ Books Fellows Clyde McGill and Julie Barratt presented progress reports on their research projects. Jan Davis discussed her 2014 Creative Fellowship and presented the completed artists’ book to the Library. The book was entitled Drawing on the ground and referenced the historical aspects of work and toil on Queensland farms. Reference material for Jan’s book came from diaries, books and documents held by the Library. Her artists’ book features text fragments and line sketches – the book was bound by Fred Pohlman and the cover was styled to resemble an old station journal.
As the 2014 Siganto Artists’ Books Research Fellow I presented an illustrated lecture on my experiences as a researcher of the Australian Library of Art, a selection of the range of books I encountered that employed photography from very minor references in text to conceptual pieces based on photographs. This list included:
Anne Wilson in, Tock 01-01-2000, 2000
Codex Event: Darren Bryant .. [et al.], Wild Cherry Tin Mine, 2006.
Vince Dziekian, Blooms Books, 1993-4.
Barbara Davidson, Different moods of the Opera House, 2001.
Peter Kingston, The Blue Mountains, 1987.
Michael Buhler, Oblique Lines, 19-.
William Copley Notes on a Project for a Dictionary of Rediculous Images, 1972.
Adam Broomberg + Oliver Chanarin, Holy Bible, 2013.
Judy Barrass, Eden-Monaro in Summer, 2001.
Juli Haas, The oyster book of lessons from the memory room, 2007.
Jihad Muhammad aka John Armstrong, Ten menhirs at Plouharnel, Carnac, Morbihan, Bretagne, France, 1982.
Angela Callanan, 7 Signs of Absence, 2010.
Susan King, Photo bio, 2011.
Malcolm Enright, Western Wisdom, 1998.
Pierre Cavalan, Artists Book, 1998.
Compiled by Kay Faulkner Indulge, 2006.
Debra Gibson, Kamikaze, 2004.
Dick Jewell, Found Photos, 1977.
Julie Barratt, Collateral damage, 2008.
Alison Knowles, Bread and Water, 2004.
David King, Raw deal, 1997.
Valerie Keenan HY1, 2001.
Tim Johnson, Fittings, 1972.
Christian Boltanski, Scratch, 2002.
Amanda Watson-Will, Judy and the Jacaranda, 2010.
Phillip Zimmerman, High tension, 1993.
Jan Davis, Solomon, 1995.
I then disclosed the principal research product the paper: The artists’ book, the photobook and the photo-a spectral approach, as well as recommendations to the Library for photobooks to be relocated from the General collection into places that reflected the significance of these books in the history of photography and the photobook. I also supplied Photobook Publishers and Info URLs that could be used by anyone wanting to keep up with new photobook releases an purchasing opportunities. I particularly noted that the Library held no Trent Parke books and provided, as an example, his book Dream Life that could have been purchased in 2000 for around $60 is now sold for $1,000+. Highlighting the need for the SLQ to be pro-active in purchasing contemporary book for modest outlay – rather than waiting until they are nearly unaffordable. I also highlighted the need for institutions to engage with and maintain links with artists’ book and photobook self-publishers as they exist outside of the usual publishing structures. I quoted Des Cowley, the State Library of Victoria’s History of the Book Manager from a statement made by him in his presentation at the ‘Other Photobook’ forum at Photobook Melbourne. He said:
… It is therefore incumbent upon staff in these institutions to build networks and relationships with the communities creating this work in order to be informed about what is being produced, and to ensure this material is acquired and preserved for future researchers.
My presentation concluded with two quotes from book artist and mail art aficionado Ulises Carrion that I felt related to the contemporary artists’ book and photobook. Carrion states:
I include books in the category of
living creatures … : they grow, reproduce, change colour, become ill and finally die.
At this moment we are witnessing the final stage of this process.
… if books are to survive they have to change. And [artists’] bookworks is the real possibility that books have for survival.
Schraenen, G. (1992). Ulises Carrion : We have won! Haven’t we?
HERE IS THE SLQ VIDEO OF THE SIGANTO FELLOW’S PRESENTATIONS
Other artists’ book performances included: Virginia and Julie Barratt’s The Morning After, one by Clyde McGill and a performance by QUT drama students of the three-part book Robert Bringhurst’s artist’s book New World Suite number three: a poem in four movements for three voices. The performers were Thomas Yaxley, Emily Weir and Meghan Clarke and was directed by QUT lecturer Floyd Kennedy.
The afternoon concluded with a forum moderated by Louise Martin-Chew on the topic of collaboration. The forum participants were Clyde McGill, Julie Barratt and Doug Spowart. Each participant discussed a project that involved collaboration and questions were posed by Louise to bring out important points from each panelist. The most interesting aspect of this forum was when questions from the floor created heated debate around the idea of the physical book and its experience verses the virtual online experience.
On Sunday many local and interstate stallholders presented their work for an Artists’ Book Fair in the Knowledge Walk at the SLQ. Tours of selected artists’ books from State Library’s Artists’ Book Collection were well attended and provide rare access to special books from the Australian Library of Art Collection. The two-day event was significant for the opportunity for artists’ book aficiandos, makers, collectors and readers to engage with the physicality of not only the books but also to touch with the extensive community of the book. Our thanks must go to the SLQ, particularly Christene Drewe and Helen Cole, and to the Dr Marie Siganto and the Siganto Foundation for their continued support of the artists’ book collection of the Australian Library of Art and events such as these. Doug Spowart
What follows are a range of images from the Seminar and Artists’ Book Fair
Presented by SLQ with the generous support of the Siganto Foundation. All photos and text ©2015 Doug Spowart
A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Looking for photos in the Australian Library of Art
As the inaugural Siganto Artists’ Book Research Fellow I have had an opportunity to access the State Library of Queensland’s resources including the significant artists’ book collection held in the Australian Library of Art. During the Fellowship I have engaged in specific research related to my proposal and in doing so it has enabled the creation of a much-needed critique on photography and the artists’ book. It has enhanced my understanding of the photography and artists’ book creative products and has placed me in a position of knowledge of these disciplines, the nature of these creative works, their collection and description.
In this research my particular interest is in the intersection of photography and the artists’ book. Over a four-month period from October to January in 2014-5 I worked in the Fellows Room and in the Repository at the SLQ. During this time I engaged in a variety of activities that related to my proposed research activities. These included:
- A review of artists’ books in the Australian Library of Art collection looking for the presence of photography
- Creating and using a spreadsheet in which the review was logged
- Documentation of books containing photography
- Selected books were considered for critical evaluation
I was also interested in books that have emerged as being significant in the newly documented history of the photobook and also the ALA’s acquisition of contemporary photobooks. I found in the library’s general collection many key seminal photobooks like Robert Capa’s 1947 Slightly out of focus: [the story of a war photographer], Henri Cartier-Bresson’s 1952 The decisive moment, and Richard Avedon’s 1976 Portraits. While some of these books are difficult to find, expensive to buy, and have been re-released in modern printings the original book is an important touchstone for those interested in photographic history. The ALA collection also revealed surprises with my discovery of a Japanese ‘Provoke era’ book from the 1960s and Broomberg and Chanarin’s ‘The Holy Bible’ from 2013 – both books representative of key approaches to the photobook and the use of photographs in creative book publishing.
I attended the library usually 4-5 days per week. After an initial settling-in and establishment of my methodology for work I began near-daily research in the Repository. I usually worked on a 3-hour time limit per session during which I viewed and reviewed as many books as possible. My methodology involved direct contact with the book and an engagement with the physical and the metaphysical. I held each book, I turned each page, I read each word (where text existed), I made my assessment and logged the results of the appraisal on my spreadsheet and photographically documented the book. It was a slow and intense process that has resulted in a significant resource which has the possibility to reveal interesting facts about the photo in the artists’ book.
An integral aspect of the review process was the haptic experience of encountering the book, opening its enclosure, clamshell or paper wrap, and sensing the book’s activation by this act. I found that these books were entities to themselves, a containers for sharing the artists’ vision, idea or narrative. Some perhaps were being read for the first time in a while. And in the quietness of the Repository the books revealed themselves to me… At the end of each 3-hour session I was quite exhausted. Although the ALA staff were always interested to hear my report of the favourite ‘book of the day’.
What intrigued me was the diversity of the media and the message that artists place in the creative vessel of the artists’ book. I found myself seduced as much by books of abstract, textural or other non-photo print forms as I was with books with photographs in them.
Working through the library’s catalogue I often found myself looking up obscure books, different editions of books, photographers, topics and references allied to my research interests. I would request these items and they would be delivered to me. I would stack and categorise these books relating to different research interests. Subsequently, as my desk grew with more and more books, I requested a printout of my personal loans. The librarian assisting me looked surprised as the printer spat out around 50 items. One of my life follys is collecting books and there came a time when this personal library-in-the-library would need to be returned, as I was to exceed my loan limit.
During my Fellowship I was able to develop and complete a significant paper outlining a way of categorising the presence of the photograph in the creative book production genres of artists’ books and photobooks. Entitled, A Photo Spectrum: Book genres and photography, it encompasses the limited edition livre d’artiste through artists’ books, zines, self-published photobooks, designer photobooks and limited edition deluxe photobooks. This paper is presently being held by an American publisher to be included in a book on the contemporary photobook. I intend to discuss this outcome in the seminar. Another paper about contemporary photobooks written during the Fellowship entitled, Everyone a publisher, was published in the recent special issue on artists’ books in the State Library of Victoria’s La Trobe journal. I also coordinated and chaired a forum on The OTHER Photobook – Artists’ books and Zines at the Photobook Melbourne event in February, and in May I spoke on Encountering a photobook at the Talking Culture Symposium of the Auckland Photo Festival. The Siganto Fellowship assisted in providing me with time and a place where my activities could be dedicated in the pursuance of my research.
As a result of the Fellowship I am working on projects that include the presentation to the SLQ of a strategy for the continuing purchase and collection of contemporary photobooks in the ALA. Still in development is the preparation and design of a book of selected works from the ALA collection that were fundamental to my research thesis on the photo in the book.
At the Siganto Artists’ Book Seminar (Click here for the Blog post) I will present a paper outlining the curious and interesting aspects of my ALA review including amazing books that need to be seen, held, and pages turned so that they can share the maker’s communiqué, and stimulate the reader to encounter … the photo in the book.
Dr Doug Spowart
2014 Siganto Artists’ Book Research Fellow
I’m particularly excited to announce that a copy of my essay on Photobooks published in the State Library of Victoria’s La Trobe journal is now available as a free download. Here are some details and links
The photobook: everyone a publisher?
Digital technology, indie DIY and print-on-demand photobooks have transformed contemporary photography book publishing, however the creative and innovative influence that graphic designers have brought to the artists’ book is now extending into the photobook artform.
Over recent years the photographically illustrated book has undergone a massive makeover, in effect freeing it from traditional publisher controls. Digital technologies have been the major cause of this paradigm shift due to the democratisation of photography, new production technologies, and new funding and marketing platforms. The 19th-century polymath Henry Fox Talbot, inventor of the positive/negative process for photography, was so enthusiastic about the potential for his discovery that he made a prediction for a future where: ‘Every man [would be] his own printer and publisher’. It would now seem that Talbot’s prediction has come to pass. Increased public access to book publishing is particularly important for those photographers and artists who employ the camera and the photograph in their art practices.
- Photographers desire books
- A new term emerges
- A new critique forms for the photobook
- A new accessibility to book production
- The happy self-publisher
- The artist book and self-publishing
- A new challenge emerges: design my book
- In conclusion
Features a commentary on Ying Ang’s Gold Coast and photos of books by Louis Porter, Lloyd Stubber and Mimmo Cozzolino.
CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO DOUG SPOWART’s ESSAY DOWNLOAD
LINKS TO OTHER DOWNLOADS
- [Front matter] (pdf,276.52 KB)
- · Des Cowley, Robert Heather & Anna Welch – Editors’ introduction (pdf,105.18 KB)
- · Helen Cole – Public collections of artists’ books in Australia (pdf,617.45 KB)
- · Andrew Schuller – A history of the Croft Press (pdf,859.45 KB)
- · Sasha Grishin – Books in the Canberra region: the golden years (pdf,1011.85 KB)
- · Steven Tonkin – A defining decade: Australian artists’ books in the 1970s (pdf,461.45 KB)
- · Artists’ books from the State Library of Victoria: a photo essay (pdf,5.3 MB)
- · Caren Florance – The changing face of contemporary letterpress in Australia (pdf,493.65 KB)
- · Peter Anderson – Conceptual and perceptual: the early artists’ books of Robert Jacks (pdf,503.25 KB)
- · Marian Macken – Reading time: the book as an alternative architectural practice (pdf,1.28 MB)
- · Doug Spowart – The photobook: everyone a publisher? (pdf,523.78 KB)
- · [Back matter] (pdf,274.28 KB)