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ZINES IN MELBOURNE: Sticky Institute’s Festival of the Photocopier

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Town Hall foyer sign

Town Hall foyer sign

 

On Sunday 12 February the Melbourne Town Hall and was packed with sellers, lookers and buyers attending the Sticky Institute’s Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair. At a guess, there could have been around 100 zine tables with a variety of zine-makers: both showing their own work, or representing other zinesters. For the visitor to the Fair there was an opportunity to see and handle almost any kind of communication that could put onto a sheet of paper, or into collated pages – folded, stapled, glued, stitched and sewn. Each ‘publication’ representing a personal approach to what the medium “zine” means to the author. And, as the ‘Zine’ is a slippery medium those within the discipline keep pushing the limits by integration of opportunistic technologies and ideas gleaned from contemporary media.

 

PHOTO: Doug Spowart - Stickies Festival of the photocopier zine fair 2017

PHOTO: Doug Spowart – Stickies Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair 2017

 

The content of the zines presented to us were from a broad church of visual and written media including: text as prose, poetry or as visual typographic forms, and calligraphy. There was a rich diversity of illustration from photo-realism to comic flat field work, photographs and even, in one sighted example – the ancient art of marbling. The narrative forms in these publications ranged from concrete poetry, prose, comic stories and disjointed stream of consciousness curated visuals.

In keeping with the tradition some zine makers aired their political opinions while others shared a fascination of contemporary everyday life. There were groups that concentrated on gender issues, music and issues of the street, while others presented dreamy naive and whimsical scenarios, adventures in suburbia, the road and outer space, nonsensical ghoulish and vampire episodes.

Our specific interest were zines based on or utilising photos sometimes referred to as photozines, as well as others that use photomontage in their narrative or conceptual work. Examples seen dealt with topics like the destruction of traditional family homes in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, skateboard stories, and a faux streetscape made up of photos of distressed buildings.

The Fair was a place to network. Greetings were made with like-minded people across the display tables and discussions took place about zines, life and art. We caught up with a few people we knew – David Dellafiora, Gracia and Louise and Glen Smith – Queensland’s zine hero Jeremy Staples was in the building somewhere but we didn’t get to meet. Zine-makers, or sellers, were keen to engage with us to tell the story of the work and where it fits with their practice and their life.

But did anyone sell anything? Many visitors were seen toting quite a few brown envelopes and calico bags filled with new additions to their personal collections. Perhaps a personal experience might shed some light on how success for such an event could be measured. It was right at the end of our shop, we had spent our budget and were talking to two young zinesters who were actually making their little photo zines on demand at their table. Their selling price was $3 and we wanted one of each but could only scrape together $5 in coin. One of the zinesters said ‘that’s fine, I’ll take the $2’, and stated that, ‘it’s important to have my zine out there…’

Being out there with your work. That is what zines are all about … your message in print as a democratic multiple … telling your story, was always what zines were about. That tradition it seems, continues…

 

Doug Spowart

February 13, 2017

 

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SOME ZINES ADDED TO OUR COLLECTION

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Trudi Treble at the Fair

Trudi Treble at the Fair

Trudi Treble: united states of america – october 2017 – november 2017, my diary.

Trudi Treble: united states of america – october 2017 – november 2017, my diary. #6/25.

Trudi Treble  Instagram: trud.i

 

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Johanna Ng at the Fair

Johanna Ng at the Fair

 

Johanna Ng: carlingford twitter poetry

Johanna Ng: carlingford twitter poetry

 

 

 

Glen Smith at the Fair

Glen Smith at the Fair

 

Glen Smith: Constructed Landscape

Glen Smith: Constructed Landscape

Glen Smith: https://nofrillsart.net/

 

 

Gracia and Louise

Gracia and Louise

Gracia Haby: Under the water with a two-colour eye-glass, something similar (2014) #49/100

Gracia Haby: Under the water with a two-colour eye-glass, something similar (2014) #49/100

Gracia and Louise: www.gracialouise.com

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martinpf: At least we’re not your kids – a photozine. #81/100. Published by Russian Glue Press

martinpf: At least we’re not your kids – a photozine. #81/100. Published by Russian Glue Press

martinpf@hotmail.co.ukRussiangluepress@gmail.com

 

 

David Dellafiora Field Studies

David Dellafiora Field Studies

Field Study (David Dellafiora): Wipe No.88

Field Study (David Dellafiora): Wipe No.88

Field Study – https://daviddellafiora.blogspot.com.au/

 

 

Alice Fennessy at her table

Alice Fennessy at her table

Alice Fennessy: Blood Vessels – A collection of poems about me memories

Alice Fennessy: Blood Vessels – A collection of poems about me memories

Alice Fennessy Instagram: @alicefennessy

 

 

Claire Wakeford and her zine

Claire Wakeford and her zine

Claire Wakeford: Untitled

Claire Wakeford: Untitled

Claire Wakeford: www.clairewakeford.com

 

 

Ning Xue: An Urban Village

Ning Xue: An Urban Village

 

Ning Xue: http://www.xuening.me/me.html

 

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UNTIL NEXT YEAR …

 

PHOTO: Doug Spowart - Sticky Institute's Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair 2017

PHOTO: Doug Spowart – Sticky Institute’s Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair 2017

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Copyright in the zines is retained  by the authors. All photographs + text + video ©2017 Doug Spowart

 

 

 

 

 

FIELD STUDIES INTERNATIONAL 2016: Our contribution

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Signing the Field Studies 2016 contribution

Signing the Field Studies 2016 contribution

 

We have been busy the last few days completing our contribution to the 2016 Field Study International report project. Led by David Dellafiora in Geelong the Field Study project is now in it’s 22nd year. Field Study Report contributions are called emanations and can include all kinds of things including: ‘documentations of performances, actions and exhibitions, tracts, rants, instructions, manifestoes, reflections and experiments.’ They are a mashup of Fluxus, DaDa, Surrealist inspired, zine-ish paste-up, rubber stamps, torn up letter ransom notes and concrete poetry. The Field Study Report becomes a snapshot of artistic, social and/or political commentary at the time of its publication.

 

Our submission for 2016 is a commentary on our present nomadic lifestyle. Since moving from Toowoomba 2½ years ago we have been house-sitting, doing artists in residence projects, staying with friends and renting – we have lived in approximately 15 places.

For our submission we made a diptych of original cyanotype images recently while staying on the beach at Wooli. One print represents a starry night above a line of houses. The other print is a selection of of different keys –referencing all the houses we have stayed in. The two cyanotype prints were copied, scaled and arranged on the one sheet with the captions: ‘Keys to the homes where we have lived …’ and, ‘A Field Study Emanation for 2016 by Victoria Cooper + Doug Spowart’.

Each A5 print is numbered and signed and the edition is 100. Each contributor gets a copy of the assembled works and some copies are sold to support the project and the group that helps make it happen.

 

Cooper+Spowart Field Studies 2016 contribution

Cooper+Spowart Field Study 2016 contribution

 

Submissions for 2016 are now closed however, get ready for 2017. For more information about Field Study and other projects see: https://daviddellafiora.blogspot.com.au/

About Field Study:

Field Study began in 1993 as a way of reclaiming the negative spaces between art and life. Activities stemming from Field Study are emanations and group emanations are manifestations. Field Study sees each work as a manifestation of a collective spirit. Everyone is welcome to become a member of Field Study, irrespective of their arts practice, and contribute to the Field Report. Field Study also produces the assembling publications WIPE and ReSite, and, in collaboration with Karingal, KART.

 

An earlier WOTWEDID Blog post has more detail… Check it out:

https://wotwedid.com/2013/01/05/field-study-international-our-contribution/

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PUMPING-UP the VOLUME on PHOTOBOOKS

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Screen dump on Volume site

Screen dump on Volume site

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I attended Volume: Another Art Book Fair in Sydney on the weekend of September 11+13, 2015. The event was a collaboration between Artspace, Perimeter Books and the American artists’ book not-for-profit book shop Printed Matter. Packed into the Artspace building in Woolloomooloo were around 100 ‘Art Book’ makers, publishers and sellers all vying for the attention of potential purchasers. The table holders had spread before them all things book – let’s not try and get into discussions around what an ‘art book’ is, but rather celebrate the range of published products from thin stapled zines and comics, to self-pub photobooks, artists’ books and gallery catalogues, and further to trade-styled ‘fine art’ books and livre d’artiste productions.

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Some of the Volume Art Book Fair table participants included:

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Shannon Michael Cane from Printed Matter

Shannon Michael Cane from Printed Matter

Printed Matter

 

Cameron Cope

Cameron Cope

Cameron Cope

 

The Perimeter Books table

The Perimeter Books table

Perimeter Books

 

Bloom Publishing Lloyd Stubbers + Jay Dymock

Bloom Publishing Lloyd Stubbers + Jay Dymock

Bloom Publishing: Lloyd Stubbers + Jay Dymock

 

Richard Tipping and Max Ernst (David Dellafiora)

Richard Tipping and Max Ernst (David Dellafiora)

Thorny Devil Press: Richard Tipping

 

George Voulgaropoulos

George Voulgaropoulos

Pneuma Publishing: George Voulgaropoulos

 

Deanna Hitti

Deanna Hitti

Deanna Hitti

 

Libby Jefferies MomentoPro after a long day on Sunday

Libby Jefferies MomentoPro after a long day on Sunday

MomentoPro: Libby Jefferies

 

Anita Totha Remote Photobooks NZ

Anita Totha Remote Photobooks NZ

Anita Totha: Remote Books

 

Kate Golding

Kate Golding

Kate Golding

 

Stephen Dupont

 

John Ogden Cyclops Press

John Ogden Cyclops Press

John Ogden Cyclops Press

 

Helen Frajman - m.33

Helen Frajman – m.33

M.33: Helen Frajman

 

Chloe Ferres

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Selling books to interested collectors and lovers of books is one thing but as is the case with the emergent trend in self-pub everyone wants to have their own book. To cater to this growing group of keen makers the program included many free forums, workshops and lectures by a variety of key makers and commentators on various aspects of the disciplines of writing and self-publishing (self-pub).

 

Why Publish panel

Why Publish panel

 

As my interest is in topics related to photobooks I attended two sessions: Why Publish and Designing Photobooks. The why-pub panel consisted of Helen Frajman (m.33), Daniel Boetker-Smith (Asia-Pacific Photobook Library), Brad Haylock, Jack Harries and Geordie Cargill and Shannon Michael Cane from Printed Matter. Attendees, of which there were around 30, heard discussions relating to the usual issues of publishing, getting a designer, edition numbers, marketing, selling and getting your work into the right hands including the international market. Brad Haylock suggested the key themes for photobooks were:

  • Technologies and organizational forms
  • Social relations
  • Institutional and administrative arrangements
  • Production and labor processes
  • Relations to nature
  • The reproduction of daily life and the species
  • Mental conceptions of the world

Ultimately the overall message seemed to be ‘Give it a go’!

 

Designing for Photo Books panel

The Designing for Photo Books panel

 

Associate Professor Christopher Stewart from University of Technology Sydney chaired the Designing for Photobook panel. Each speaker showed examples of their work and discussed design concerns associated with their books. Heidi Romano from Unlessyouwill spoke of her history in design, her passion for the photobook and her experience of the international world of book design. She cited her interest in advancing Australian photobook design as being a driver for her establishment of Photobook Melbourne. Esther Teichmann, and artist from the UK discussed her exhibition work and the challenge of bringing wall-work into the space of the book as well as her experiences, not always pleasant ones, with book designers. Tom Evangeledis, Black Eye Gallery  described his interest in encouraging exhibitors at his gallery to consider a book to support the exhibition but also to enhance the opportunity for the artist’s work to be extended beyond the exhibition dates. Chloe Ferres, probably kept the most on track with the topic of book design by presenting a range of works that in some ways subvert the idea of the book being a vessel to hold photographs that express a narrative – she considers the book structure as also important to the narrative and uses a range of design interventions to disrupt the preciousness that many photographers seem to consider important when they make books.

Christopher Stewart posed questions to the panelists to draw out aspects of the topic but when asked if there were questions from the floor Daniel Boetker-Smith asked about how we can make photobooks that are more about the ‘fetish’ of the book – ‘some books all look the same – I’m interested in all kinds of books. A young photographer in Myanmar stapling a bunch of photographs together to make a book is just as important to me as some “coffee table tome”!’ An attendee agreed and responded that books often look the same as they as designed from a dummy where all decisions about the book are considered at the beginning and immutable – whereas another less formal method is the development of a book in a process where opportunities for review and discovery are made along the way allowing the book to be like a collaborator with the artist…

 

Bella Capezio making Insta Photobooks for APPA

Bella Capezio making Insta Photobooks for APPA

Make your own Photobook with Garry Trinh

Make your own Photobook with Garry Trinh

 

While some attendees attended these lecture sessions others were busy making books. The print-on-demand company BLURB offered bookmaking workshops over the weekend led by photobook self-publisher Garry Trinh. Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive presented a selection of their books at the event and founder Daniel Boetker-Smith and Bella Capezio led photobook-making sessions as well.

 

Victoria Cooper and Ruyin Yang

Victoria Cooper and Ruyin Yang

 

The biggest book-making venture over the weekend was a special project coordinated by Onestar Press who, with Artspace and other supporters including Surry Hills Print & Design Konica-Minolta, design students from University of New South Wales – Art &Design. The project, entitled ‘Book Machine’, brought together a designer with a ‘content provider’ (artist or photographer), and over the course of 3.5 hours the two work together to design a book. Overnight the book was printed and made available to its collaborative participants.

 

Alexie Glass-Kantor – introduces the Book Machine commentators

Alexie Glass-Kantor – introduces the Book Machine commentators

 

Late on Sunday afternoon the Artspace coordinators drew together a distinguished panel of erudite book critics and commentators including Brianna Munting – NAVA, Simon Barney Artist, Alexie Glass-Kantor – Executive Director Artspace, Maddalena Quarta – One Star Press, Bella Capezio – Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive, Philip Keir – publisher and artists’ book collector and Nicholas Tsoutas – Curator and Art management executive. A crowd gathered to hear this discussion and celebrate this unusual project.

 

Book Machine

Book Machine

 

Towards the end of the day on Sunday I rushed around to catch up with people that I still hadn’t spoken with and books not yet seen. I felt something of the heightened energy levels with which these table holders had been operating in the preceding days. Did they sell enough books…? Did they make contacts with people who will do future business with them or provide content for future books…? Did they get a chance to check out what everyone else was doing…? Did they get to do a Book Machine project…? Buy a pie at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels or take-in the harbor, the Finger Wharf and the view of naval ships at Garden Island.

 

Harry's Cafe de Wheels

Harry’s Cafe de Wheels

 

Volume: Another Art Book Fair was a major undertaking for the visionaries who conceived it and then brought it into fruition. There were so many activities, add-on events, presentations and booksellers and books available for artbookophiles in which to luxuriate. There was a real sense of community created in this art book fair that can only advance the disciplines associated with it. One thing is for certain, at least for me, is that I know I have just attended one of the most significant art book fairs to be held in this country to date. When, and where the next one will be is something we’ll await with much anticipation…

 

Doug Spowart

14 September 2015

GEORGE PATON GALLERY: Artist’s Books (reprised) Exhibition

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Selfie

Artists’ Book Selfie

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Digging in the archive: past and present

 

Artist’s Books (reprised) [artists’ books 1978-2014]: George Paton Gallery, University of Melbourne

Dates: 26 August to 5 September

 

A recent show entitled, George Paton Gallery, Artist’s Books (reprised), promoted that it would be showing “four decades of investigation into the possibilities and limitations of the artists’ book form.” Whilst the exhibition as presented had some gaps in the chronology, it did live up to its claim of presenting a significant collection of contemporary works alongside a carefully curated group of seminal artists’ book works from shows presented at the George Paton Gallery in the 1970s and 80s.

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George Paton Gallery Website notice

George Paton Gallery Website notice

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Visitors to the gallery encountered a space resembling a reading room with trestle tables and bookshelves presenting the contemporary books for viewing, handling and reading. Some books were marked as ‘white-gloved’ handling whilst the majority was available for direct tactile experience. Enclosed in vitrines were the historical books on loan from the University of Melbourne archives. Interestingly during the 1970s and 80s these books would have only cost a few dollars to buy but now they attract significant values. Included in this prized collection of books are: Ed Ruscha’s Small Flres and Milk; 1964; Marcel Broodthaers’ A Voyage on the North Sea; 1973; Sol LeWitt’s Grids – using all combinations of straight, not- straight and broken lines; 1975; Richard Long’s The North Woods, 1977 and Dieter Roth’s, Gesammelte Werke, Band 7, 1974. These books were sourced from past exhibitions held by the George Paton Galley: Artists’ Books/Bookworks from 1978 and Artist’s Books and Not (e) Book! from 1982, the latter curated by Canadian Tim Guest.

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George Paton Gallery

George Paton Gallery

 

In all just over 100 books were available for viewing essentially coming from a ‘call out’ for artists book makers to present work for the show. There were some interesting names; Peter Lyssiotis, Theo Strasser, Sandra Bridie, mail artist David Dellafiora, zinesters Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, and photo-newspaper publisher Jacob Raupach. Anyone with a preconceived idea of what an artists’ book is, or should be, may have been challenged by some of the works in the show – but what an experience it was to be challenged in that way. It was a rare opportunity to view and compare such a diverse and historical collection of artists’ books.

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Exhibition installation

Exhibition installation

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Antoni Jach’s Faded World and books by other artists

Lyssiotis, Theo Strasser books

Books by Peter Lyssiotis, Theo Strasser and others

 

After spending a couple of hours in the exhibition space I searched for a way of describing the show. Then I found a text that offered a perceptive critical evaluation of the artists’ book genre. Some relevant passages from this text follow…

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Artists’ books can most simply be described as those books which have been conceived, designed and produced by visual artists. As distinguished from those books about artists, such as a monograph of catalogue raisonee, or about art, artists’ books are instead complete artworks in themselves: they are artworks that are presented in the form of books.

 Since about 1960 a distinct genre of artists’ books has appeared. These are by artists who are self-consciously exploring the possibilities of printed books: the social dynamics of a reproducible vs. a unique art object; the aesthetics of the mass print media vs. fine art prints or deluxe editions.

 The contemporary genre of artists’ books is now a widespread phenomenon. Practically every significant development in western art has been reflected in the ongoing publication of artists’ books. There are books coming out of the movements of pop art, minimalism, arte povera, performance art, fluxus, happenings, and new image painting. Conceptual artists of the 1960’s and 70’s in particular, utilized the book form as a method of realizing artworks. We can regard these books now as a vein which runs through many areas of contemporary art and includes diverse movements, interests and preoccupations.

Or have the interests been so diverse? Pop art, minimalism, performance art, arts provera, were all movements distinct from (even antagonistic to) one another, yet they all belonged to a general tendency towards “non-objective” art… Briefly, this tendency has been reflected in a desire on the part of artists to explore new media, in an attempt to abandon the traditional (modernist) disciplines of painting and sculpture. It was/is in favour of the widened scope of the flux and flow of a multi-disciplinary approach. For example, an artist may be involved in sculpture as easily as film, performance, video, photography and/or books. Perhaps most significantly there has been a conscious determination to undercut the reification of artworks – society’s valuation of art – by concentrating on the non-objective. This has meant, for instance, producing works from common industrial or throw away materials (art povera, fluxus), works constructed only in theory (conceptual art, language art), imagery stolen from the banal repertoire of mass media (pop art) ….. All this seems to have been more successful as an ideal than as an actual practice. Minimal sculpture in the late 60’s was quite successful in the art marketplace. Conceptual art has been immensely influential, popular, and saleable. As much as these artworks were determined in opposition to the bourgeoise reification of art they were inevitably complicit with it. That is because capitalism is a social system which seems to embrace new ideas but in fact appropriates and establishes a commercial value for then.

 

Bling book - title and maker to be added soon

A book by Dianne Dickson

 

Artists’ books typify this interest in non-objectivity and reflect the internal contradictions of such an ideal in a particular way. In contrast to the traditional “livre d’artistes” of deluxe editions, artists’ books are usually inexpensively produced and sold. They are affordable, accessible and as plebeian as an art object can be. In fact they are almost too exemplary of the non-objective ideal.

As books they are not commercially viable simply because they defy the expectations of a mass market by presenting avant-garde information. Yet they have few patrons in the art world because their affordability to the public represents a low profit for a dealer. Also, books can not [sic] be viewed in the same way as other art objects; they must be held in one’s own hands and read. It is remarkable then that despite the contradictions and foils of art’s survival, artists’ books have become such a highly evolved genre of contemporary art, as evidenced by the works in this exhibition.

 

Suzannah Griffith's While The City Sleeps

Suzannah Griffith’s While The City Sleeps

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To illustrate means to make something clear by example, or to adorn a book with pictures. Within a publication, an illustration can be a picture, a drawing, a photograph, a design, or an ornament. Illustration is, of course, a prominent element in all mass media publishing. To consider all illustrations as a single genre is, in a way, quite boggling. It means imagining all magazines in the world and all the printed pictures.

With this imagining I try to analyze these pictures but have only an individual response to guide me. In principle my inquiries and suggestions are all subjective, my curiosity is intuitive, my critical remarks are speculative. These habits of mind and predilections constitute the trail of my argument. Because illustration operates as such an enormous social phenomenon, it is difficult to grasp its total meaning as a genre. It is too huge a concept. Yet paradoxically, all is intimately familiar.

 

Sarah McConnell's 29 2011

Sarah McConnell’s 29 2011

 

Practically everyone looks through magazines, sees the pictures, knows what they mean. But try to separate yourself from a simple recognition of the picture and examine the picture as a conceptual model and you may understand how difficult it can be. An illustration is not simply a picture of an object or thing. In that object’s absence a picture is a way of visualizing it, recalling it or conjuring it. Then all together the medium of illustration is a way of visualizing the world. As illustration is a mass medium, it is certainly a very powerful and influential instrument of ideas. As a conceptual model, a picture is showing us how to think and what to think about.

Art characteristically departs from conventions. In leading the way from these conventions and artists can end up revealing and/or inventing upon a given culture, popular or otherwise. Furthermore, the artists’ books in this exhibition occupy a middle ground between the hermetic region of high art and the mass culture of popular illustration. They also embody a comparison between the two; they have been produced as a way of participating (in theory at least) in the mainstream of popular culture at the same time as they are an extension of art, extending beyond galleries and museums, and outside of the realm of the rarified art object.

 

Jon Hewitt's feel the confidence 2011

Jon Hewitt’s feel the confidence 2011

 

 

It may be noted that the photo works included in the exhibition are not photography books in the usual sense. For example in some books, the artist has exchanged the customary fine detail and high quality printing found in most art photography books for the flat, grainy, aesthetic of newswire or snapshot photographs, with all their vernacular associations. In other books the artist may manipulate the photographic frame by cropping it tightly to draw attention to narrative details or expanding it to the edge of the page for a window effect. Some books here constitute a repertoire of personalities through a wide array of photographic self-portraits. Others are collections of images specific thematic subject matter which suggests an interpretation of the complex meanings of culture and its institutions through the examination of its artifacts.

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Yasmin Heisler's formed in air 2014

Yasmin Heisler’s formed in air 2014

 

In opposition to the conventions of art photography, which dictate an aesthetic around the “integrity” of an individual print, these photo books, to some extent, are each engaged with the qualities inherent in reproduction by offset and other printing processes. The artists represented in this exhibition are utilizing photographs as something other than a clear, well-composed picture. In their books they manipulate the “natural reality” of photographs and so inform our recognition of photographic images with their mannered inventiveness.

There are also a few books included here which are constructed sculpturally to introduce a tactile sensation to the fingertips and so expand the act of reading illustrations into the field of sensory awareness.

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Bridget Hillebrand's Book of Chalk 2014 and Book of Stone 2014

Bridget Hillebrand’s Book of Chalk 2014 and Book of Stone 2014

 

Finally, just as the works in this exhibition are included towards an exploration of the social and aesthetic attributes of illustration, they also demonstrate a way of looking at and experiencing the world. Theses artist’s books reveal and embody a way of reading deeply into they dimensions of contemporary culture. As much as they foster an incipient consciousness they ask for sensitivity on the part of the reader.

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Tim Guest, the curator's essay for the 1982 George Paton Gallery Artist's Books and Not (e) Book!

Tim Guest, the catalogue for the 1982 George Paton Gallery Artist’s Books and Not (e) Book!

 

These words come from Tim Guest, the curator for the 1982 George Paton Gallery Artist’s Books and Not (e) Book! A copy of his catalogue for the show was made available at the exhibition. Guest’s commentary is as relevant today as it was in the early 1980s, and while we have moved on, and now view the artists’ book works of that time with a degree of comfort and acceptance, the new artists’ book works continue, as Guest points out to, ‘demonstrate a way of looking at and experiencing the world’. For me it emphatically confirms that artists’ book are still ‘edgy’ and still pushing limits.

 

Doug Spowart

September 5, 2014

 

DOWNLOAD the contemporary list of artists’ books gpg artists books list of works

 

DOWNLOAD the books on loan from the University of Melbourne ArtistsBooksloanselectionGPG2014 docx

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Part of the associated activity for the show – an artists’ book making event outside the gallery led by Michele and Laine. It was a a sunny and warm late winter’s day in Melbourne.

Michele Grimston and Laine Stewart and their Free Artist's Book activity

Michele Grimston and Laine Stewart and their Free Artist’s Book activity

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BOOKS AS ART: 30 YEARS IN THE MAKING – Catherine McCue Boes

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BOOKS AS ART: 30 YEARS IN THE MAKING by Catherine McCue Boes

Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery – 14 May – June 29, 2014

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An observation of artists and artmaking in the regions…

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Artmaking and artists from the regions are constantly sidelined by the power of proximity that pervades these ‘blessed’ centres of art and culture. People who make ‘real art’, it seems, come from places where populations are concentrated, like ‘big cities’ or localities where a place of learning (university) or an uber vibrant arts community exists. In Australia the place names of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart and perhaps Bris-vey-gas, are part of a roll call of significantly charged places for artmaking, presentation, commentary and critique. *[Note: artists’ books have a wider community of practice that is more inclusive due to the fact that regional centres tend to present events, awards and workshops that bring the city and country together. SEE https://wotwedid.com/2013/05/13/2013-libris-awards-the-judges-view/]

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With this in mind, then consider my surprise when I recently encountered an exhibition of artists books at the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery. The main gallery held one of the largest exhibitions of artists books I’ve seen for some time. The show was more impressive because it was essentially the book works of one person with additional books by others coming from the artist’s collection. The exhibition, entitled Book as art: 30 years in the making, was by Catherine McCue Boes a local Bundaberg artist. As the title implies the exhibition encompasses a significant period of time and the life of the artist.

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Exhibition frontpiece

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Engaging with the artists books on display was a challenge – I walked around the space, glancing at and visually grazing the works on display. In keeping with the gallery display norm for artists book display the books were not for touching with many in vitrine glassed cages. Many books were the concertina form that allowed for easy reading and connection with the narrative. The artist also presented alongside the books wall works to give the reader an idea of the contents of the book.

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Exhibition installation of 'Books as art'   Photo: Doug Spowart

Exhibition installation of Books as art: 30 years in the making

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After my initial viewing, the sheer volume of the work on display and the demands that such a volume of complex and at times conceptually dense places on the viewer, I had to go away and come back to the gallery for a second viewing.

On my return I was drawn to a number of the accessible concertina books. The first of was, In Paris 2012, which dealt with the artist’s personal experience of walking in Paris and the extraordinary things experienced. The book’s plain white paper surface is inscribed with diaristic jottings, a quick unfinished drawing of the Eiffel Tower, a textural pattern element, and deep-etched monochrome photographs of sculptures and architectural details. A pink abstracted form with a pigment-bled edge repeats over many pages – is it a memory of a figure walking in the rain with an umbrella or is it a self-portrait?

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Books as Art: 30 years in the making Catherine McCue Boes Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery

In Paris 2012, Catherine McCue Boes

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In another work, Preserved in Australia, an old Kodak folding camera has the concertina bellows extended ready for use. Spilling from the rear of the camera explodes a concertina of 20 or so images attached to the viewing hood. The book is derived from a period of time where the artist worked in Roebourne in Australia’s north west. The photos are from the early 1900s, loaned by their owners – residents from Roebourne as well as from the local Historical Museum. McCue Boes has metamorphosed the camera and it’s image legacy into a device for viewing history.

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Books as Art: 30 years in the making Catherine McCue Boes Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery

Preserved in Australia, Catherine McCue Boes

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An early book, First Revolution (Macbeth) Lithographs 1989, represents the artist’s reference to the Shakespearian theatrical character of the same name. These stone lithographs are accompanied by screen-printed texts on the verso page. In the style of the livre d’artist this large format book with it’s thick deck-edged pages and codex binding make it a strident piece of work. Whilst the book is firmly enclosed in a vitrine and opened to one page only, individual prints from other pages of the book are presented as a framed artworks on the wall.

The First Revolution is also referential to the artist’s major influence, an 1800s book of rococo etchings she discovered in the 1980s and bought at an auction. She states in the exhibition materials that: ‘this was the catalyst for me to not only collect artist books but also create them’. The binding, its construction, materials and its red covering are echoed in many works.

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A New Book of Shields 1770-1800

A New Book of Shields 1770-1800

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Books as Art: 30 years in the making Catherine McCue Boes Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery

First Revolution (Macbeth) Lithographs 1989, Catherine McCue Boes

 

The hybrid mix of traditional printmaking and digital techniques creates an opportunity for McCue Boes to extend the artist’s vision and the nature of the outcome. In the 2005 book The Red Shoes, Mark 3 the artist references the Hans Christian Anderson children’s story of the same title. Seven linocuts have been enhanced through scanning into the computer, being redrawn and with text added – the result is a blending of the tradition of print with the graphic elements of typography to convey the story.

Catherine McCue Boes works with other artists in international mail art projects that are presented in another section of the exhibition. A collaborative work curated by the artist, entitled, Life Line, Flood project 2014, brings us back to the idea of the artist’s work being affected by the places they come from. In 2013 devastating floods inundated Bundaberg and upper reaches of the Burnett River. The swollen river gouged out land, animals, houses, trees and farms and significantly affected the land and people of the whole region. McCue Boes curated a collection of photos and texts from friends and assembled a concertina book that carries the sentiments of the contributors. The book is a narrative of many voices with text and image carrying the emotion and the spirit of the contributors. Art often has a dual role, that of the healing catharsis and also to present accounts that can inform those who did not witness the grief first-hand. While this work may be a little uneven in its attempt to blend the individual contributions it is profoundly successful in its purpose and outcome.

Working around to other books in the show a persistent source of inspiration is the artist’s surroundings and environment. I’m reminded of Lucy Lippard’s statement that: ‘Everybody comes from someplace, and the places we come from–cherished or rejected–inevitably affect our work[i]’. This is most notable in a body of work arranged on an island-like plinth towards the rear of the gallery. Assembled is a collection of books that relate to mining environments. McCue Boes works with photographic images, irony and conceptual play to present a variety of book forms and commentaries.

The book, Inspiration from the Artificial Environment 2012, consists of 16 photographic images and borders printed on canvas that are presented in a form that mimics wallpaper, soft furnishing and curtain material sample books. The patterns are photo elements flipped and flopped to form plausible, although somewhat 1960s dated looking designs for decorating your home. The reality of the source images is that they are the detritus of mining workspaces and consist of rusting drums, cable, pipes waste and pondage.

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First Revolution (Macbeth) Lithographs 1989,

Inspiration from the Artificial Environment 2012, Catherine McCue Boes

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Other books, some that are more book-like sculptural forms, are part of this body of work. Presentation includes commercial boxes, simulated strips of black and white negatives, abstracted photographs and industrial labels – one stating, ‘Danger – This energy source has been LOCKED-OUT’.

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Books as Art: 30 years in the making Catherine McCue Boes Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery

Fragile 2012, Catherine McCue Boes

 

.A major contribution to this environmentally themed piece is the book/s, Fragile 2012, which is a collection of 12 small concertina books each containing 10 photographs. When assembled the covers create a full-sized image of flaming torch-like structures. The unsuspecting viewer may encounter these little photobooks as a pleasant visual wander through shapes, forms and colours. However the artist has seductively blind-sighted the viewer – these are not pretty and benign subjects. The accompanying didactic explains the photographs were made while participating in an artist in residence in a gas mining plant in Queensland. The artist adds to the didactic that: ‘The work demonstrates my concern for the environment and the depletion of the country’s resources.’

A position pervades many works in the show and I’m reminded of Lucy Lippard’s closing comment in the catalogue for the exhibition Weather Report: Art and Climate Change, where she speaks of the artist as a commentator, communicator and as one who acts as a provocateur. Lippard proposes, ‘… it is the artist’s job to teach us how to see.’ (Lippard 2007:11) Through these works McCue Boes is as an artist ‘teaching us to see’. The strength of her communiqué in these political works is achieved through with irony and humour, and the association with reality of the photographic image.

Books as Art: 30 years in the making is not an exhibition about art, or about making, or even about books. It is an exhibition about the very stuff of life and the human experience of the world – an experience that needs to be shared.

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Portrait: Catherine McCue-Bowes

Portrait: Catherine McCue-Bowes

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I’ve made a note also about the importance of proximity in regional centres as well – the ‘big city’ should come visiting sometime. They may be amazed!

 

Doug Spowart

July 28, 2014


VISIT CATHERINE McCUE BOES Website: http://catherinemccue.blogspot.com.au/

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Reference:

[i] Lippard, L. R. (1997). The Lure of the Local: Sense of Place in a Multicentered Society. New York, The New Press. P36.

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Review text © 2014 Doug Spowart

All photographs  © 2014 Doug Spowart

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Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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A BOOK ABOUT DEATH: Now in Australia

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Book-about-death-72

Doug’s contribution to A Book About Death

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A new exhibition at the Tweed River Art Gallery presents an exhibition of mail art contributed by artists from all over the world which that deals with the topic of death. Entitled, A Book About Death (ABAD), this exhibition is the most recent iteration of the concept that began in 1963 by Mail Art ‘father’ Ray Johnson – The difference on this occasion being that most of the artists represented in the show are Australian. The coordination and curation of this ABAD exhibition has been overseen by Julie Barrett and Heather Matthew.

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The following background information comes from the ABAD website:

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The Australian exhibition is is the 27th exhibition of A Book About Death. Paris based artist Matthew Rose instigated the first A Book About Death exhibition in 2009 in New York. Five hundred artists submitted five hundred copies of their artwork to the exhibition in the Emily Harvey Gallery. On the opening night people came with plastic bags and collected the free artworks and so were able to create their own (unbound) book about death. Many people then went on to exhibit their collections at other galleries and so the exhibition grew into an international phenomena with artists curating their own exhibitions and calling for new artworks to be created for the new exhibitions. Matthew Rose created the exhibition as a tribute to the ‘father’ of mail art Ray Johnson.
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Here’s what Mark Bloch from New York who knew Ray Johnson wrote:
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First and foremost, the American artist Ray Johnson (1927-1995) the founder of the New York Correspondence School deserves all the credit for creating the concept of A Book About Death because he was really onto something when he came up with the concept in 1963. Between March of that year and February 1965, he sent out 13 pages or so of something he called A Book About Death. In framing one piece of a paper as one page of a conceptual book, he anticipated many literary developments of the four decades that have followed. Ray Johnson’s A Book About Death connects to hypertext, cyberpunk, the internet, as well as devices like the Kindle, a device that is an accumulator of electrons that shows its user pictures on a screen of what can be thought of as a book. But the Kindle, one of the possible signposts of what the future of reading will be like, cannot show us an entire book. It can only show us one page at a time.
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Vicky's contribution to the ABAD exhibition

Vicky’s contribution to the ABAD exhibition

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Vicky’s statement about the work:

Through the microscope I saw the death of a leaf as a metaphor for the forest.

In this leaf I could see

The searing flames of a bush fire,

The decay and recycling of its flesh and bones,

The crystallization of time

A fossil

The past and the future

The story of the forest

In the death of a leaf . . .

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AN EVENT ASSOCIATED WITH THE EXHIBITION

Death Cafe Event

Death Cafe Event

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FOR MORE INFORMATION: http://abadaustralia.blogspot.com.au/
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FOR AN ABC INTERVIEW WITH HEATHER MATTHEW: http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2013/10/17/3870941.htm.
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© 2013 Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart….ABAD Website and ‘About Us’ text Copyright ABAD Australia.

Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.euThe Cooper+Spowart text and work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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2012 FIELD STUDY MAIL ART PROJECT: Our contribution

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On December 7, 2012 we mailed off to David Dellafiora in Geelong our contribution to the 2012 Field Study. We met David at the Artspace Mackay Artists Book Forum in 2010 where he presented a lecture on mail art and coordinated a collaborative project which dealt with the idea of the assembling book as a democratic multiple.

David_Dellafiora Photo: Doug Spowart

David Dellafiora Photo: Doug Spowart

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David Dellafiora is a quietly spoken person and not one to push his significant history and activities in the world of mail art. He was however an enthusiastic distributor of A5 fliers, call-to-action invitations to participate in numerous mail art projects that he coordinates. Field Study, Kart, Wipe and others are projects that are essentially ‘assembling books’, where artists worldwide submit multiple artworks by mail to David. At specific times throughout the year David coordinates a team that assembles, packages and mails out to all contributors a copy of the compiled project. A part of the production run is retained with copies being offered for sale to artists, galleries and collectors. The income from this activity finances the production costs and the return postage. Field Study publications are included artists book collections such as the V&A, Museum of Modern Art New York, State Library of Victoria and the Ruth & Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete & Visual Poetry.

The Field Study contributions are called emanations and can include all kinds of things including: ‘documentations of performances, actions and exhibitions, tracts, rants, instructions, manifestoes, reflections and experiments.’ A selection of pages can be seen in the illustrations from last year’s report at the end of this post. They are a mashup of Fluxus, DaDa, Surrealist inspired, zine-ish paste-up, rubber stamps, torn up letter ransom notes and concrete poetry. In its assembled form the power of Field Report is apparent as it becomes a snapshot of artistic, social and/or political commentary on the times that are current at the time of its publication.

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Our Field Study infographic about extractive mining industries in the Seurat Basin

Our Field Study infographic about extractive mining industries in the Surat Basin

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This year we contributed a piece that related to our commentary on extractive mining industries overtaking our regional communities. This is a variant to the Artists’ Survey Book #12 that has featured in past WOTWEDID posts. The page was printed using a high quality photocopier and each page, 100 in all, were signed and numbered by both of us. It was remarkable to see our workbench covered with the repeating pattern of 100 pages taking up an area of about 3 square metres.

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Signing our contribution

Signing our contribution

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We look forward to receiving a package from Field Study International later on this year. And, for anyone interested in future Field Study projects, check out the Field Study Blog or review some of the accompanying documents that follow in this blog post.

Cheerio

Doug

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The call for 2012 contributions

The call for 2012 contributions

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2011 Field Report cover

2011 Field Report cover

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2011 Field Report pages

2011 Field Report pages

2011 Field Report

2011 Field Report

2011 Field Report pages

2011 Field Report pages

A page of participants - 2011 Field Report

A page of participants – 2011 Field Report

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Kart Mail Art Project

Kart Mail Art Project

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