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ABBE 2017 – The academic artists book conference

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ABBE Logo

 

The second Artist Book Brisbane Event (ABBE) promised an academic conference dealing with the artists book as a folded and risky space. The event consisted of three elements at the Queensland College of Art and a fourth satellite pop-up exhibition at the State Library of Queensland. Drawn to ABBE 2017 were artists bookmakers, thinkers, commentators, teachers, lecturers and tinkerers from across Australia. All came with a desire to contribute to, or participate in, perhaps this Australia’s penultimate artists book gathering.

 

Dr Tim Mosely ABBE coordinator and chair

The event was convened and chaired by QCA lecturer Tim Mosely and was launched by Griffith University’s Dean Academic, Arts, Education and Law Professor Ruth Bereson who spoke about the book as art and the need for that the discipline has for scholarly discourse. She commented that the Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research ABBE program and its connection with Columbia University’s JAB (Journal of Artists Book) publication of selected papers would contribute to this discourse. Significant keynote speakers, Uta Schneider and Ulrike Stoltz from Germany and Clyde McGill from Western Australia headlined the event. Other program contributors came from practitioners, academic staff, students, and recent graduates from institutions in the USA, New Zealand and around Australia.

 

Ulrike Stoltz & Uta Schneider

 

The first keynotes were Uta Schneider and Ulrike Stoltz who presented a paper entitled betwixt & between. Presenting in tandem their voices were almost like a turning of the pages – recto and verso. They teased out and formed the conference theme of ‘folding’ into an ordered analysis of the physical and metaphorical ways that books fold. They connected the theme ‘folding’ with their own individual and collaborative works and the concepts, philosophies and discussions about artists books that informed them. Mythology, Martin Heidegger on contemprality and the ekstaticon, Carrion, Gillies Deleuze and ‘thinking means folding’ and Michel Serres and ‘the crumpled nature of time’.

The lecture then proceeded to a review of book forms with terms like:

  • Folded paper
  • Cross fold
  • Sharpness of the fold
  • Container folds
  • Staging folds
  • French fold
  • Inside folding outside
  • Concertina and multi-concertina folds
  • Wormholes and science fiction

The works they illustrated their paper with were refined and exquisitely designed. They featured wordplay and poetry, folded page spaces, transparency using ‘show-through’, typography and graphic design elements. As an introduction to the topic, the hour long presentation provided a solid and exciting insight into ways of considering the fold, its forms and the way it can connect with the reader, as receiver of the communiqué.

 

A K Milroy + Brad Freeman presenting

Other presentations on the program included:

  • Marian Macken Reading Volume: Between Folded Drawings and Collapsible Models
  • Caren Florance & Angela Gardner  Unfolding to refold: collaborative wordings
  • Paul Uhlmann Meditations on process: Three artists books, letters to the land, sea and sky
  • Caren Florance An Instrument of Collaboration: Unfolding the GIW Legacy
  • Monica Oppen Eclectic items: early books by Australian artists
  • Ana Paula Estrada “Memorandum”, from concept to publication
  • Wim de Vos Air, edge, surface image – concertina books
  • Nicola Hooper The Citronella Artists Book as an Augmented Narrative
  • Amy E. Thompson Folding and the potential of Artists’ Books
  • A K Milroy & Brad Freeman Folding and unfolding in JAB41: cultures, research, pages
  • Tess Mehonoshen DISINTEGRATE:  the destructive folding of materials
  • Marian Crawford A lively phantom: the rare and popular artists book
  • Carolyn Craig Unfolding(s)
  • Isaac Brown Relationship risk and ethics in photographic artist books
  • Monica Carroll & Adam Dickerson Unfolding the episteme of artists’ books
  • Bridget Hillebrand Handling folds: an intimate encounter
  • Julie Barratt & Virginia Barratt The exquisite fold, the immanent word
  • Maren Götzmann The Anarchist Notebooks

 

While most papers were read from the dais with carefully illustrated PowerPoint slides the second keynote speaker Clyde McGill emerged on the stage with a device that could be called a ‘bibliophone’. McGill had altered a range of book titles by folding back the pages and attaching a sound pick-up to the book cover and then connected the 7 books to an amplifier. Volunteers from the audience were given bonefolders as plectrums and, on McGill’s guidance were instructed to make the various movements of hands and object associated with hand-making a book. The haptic actions were converted to sound and the room filled with the noise of ‘making’ associated with a great deal of laughter.

 

Making book music with Clyde McGill

 

McGill continued his presentation with a detailed investigation of the idea of folding books. Where possible his own works were referenced. At other times he created new books by playful investigation… bending and folding light was a particularly humorous but gave those present an insight into how the artist’s off-tangential and obtuse thought processes process can lead to new conceptual and visual discoveries.

 

Julie and Virginia Barrett’s performance

Another departure from the read-the-paper format was a performance by Julie Barratt and her sister Virginia Barratt. Attendees, on returning to the lecture theatre after morning tea, found the space darkened except for two sharply defined spotlit circles. One pool of light was vacant, just the floor’s carpet – in the other artists’ book maker Julie Barratt was busy unfurling paper, measuring it and tearing of lengths and positioning them in a stack on the table before her. Also on the table were scissors a ball of thread and other bookmaker’s things. The unroll>measure>cut>position sequence was progressing methodically for some time making the sheets one might guess that would go to making a book. A soundtrack began with a female voice expressing thoughts ideas, word associations sometimes repeated – perhaps the thoughts of the bookmaker? There was a rustling sound – stage right. Gradually a large dome-like white shape appeared and moved towards the empty spotlight area. The shape was covered in what looked like pages – ominous maybe… the audio continued and Julie Barratt left her table and proceeded toward the shape and picked up a folded sheet and returned to the table – flattening out the sheet it was melded with other sheets. The performance continued. What was it about? What came to my mind was that the shape was like the book working with Julie so its story could be told as in Paul Carter’s ‘material thinking’. At the end of the performance it was revealed that Virginia Barratt, Julie’s sister, was the artists book ‘monster’.

 

Another aspect of the conference presentations were two papers by photographers Ana Paula Estrada and Isaac Brown both featuring bookwork’s that they had created. Estrada, as a State Library of Queensland Siganto Foundation Creative Fellow, discussed concepts of memory, photography and old age as the inspiration for her project. She detailed the process of design, making maquettes, refining and working with commercial printers and binders to complete the project. Brown spoke of the integration of his project and PhD study focussing on his relationship to his father, a Vietnam veteran. Aspects of text and dialogue were addressed as well as Brown’s own recent fatherhood. What was interesting was the informal narrative and connection with audience that both presenters had and the expanding space of the artists book being inhabited by photographers.

 

Wim de Vos presents his work

Wim de Vos made an animated presentation and several helpers as his concertina books by the metre unfolded across the width of the theatre and tunnel books expanded, evidence of the pre-eminence of his artists book practice in Queensland.

 

Midway through the academic papers a ‘plenary’ session consisting of a panel of artists’ book ‘movers and shakers’ discussed several issues relating to the discipline. The session quickly became absorbed with the perennial issues of nomenclature, the dearth of private and public purchasers of bookworks and the grooming of possible artists book collectors. The impact of the term ‘Art Book’ was mentioned and the way events associated with the term has grown in popularity worldwide and has come to encompass artists books, photobooks, zines, art books and institutional catalogues. Another topic mentioned was the importance of research and critical commentary on the discipline. A suggestion was made for the formation of a ‘double-blind peer review’ collective.

 

Noreen Grahame at the QCA Library and her ‘… & So’ artists book show

On the evening of the first day Robert Heather, Director, New England Regional Art Museum opened the exhibition “… & So” at QCA Library. The exhibition features a significant collection of seminal Australian and international artists books and multiples sourced predominately from Noreen Grahame’s Centre for the Artist Book collection and her numero uno publications alongside artists’ books from the Queensland College of Art.  A list of the selected works can be downloaded here. ALA Books for abbe 2017 … $ so Exhibition list

 

Mid afternoon on the second day the State Librarian and CEO from the State Librarian of Queensland Vicki McDonald opened the 6th artists’ books + multiples fair. Twelve tables presented a hand-to-eye experience of books by significant makers of contemporary artists’ books. These included:

 

A silhouette view of the Grahame Galleries tables

Stand 1 – grahame galleries + editions

Barbara Davidson

Stand 2 – Barbara A Davidson

Caren Florance

Stand 3 – Caren Florance – Ampersand Duck

Stand 4 – QCA

Photo from ABBE Artists Book Conference July 6-9 2017 at the Queensland College of Art

Stand 5 – 5 Press Books

Stand 6 – INDIVIDUAL ENTRIES

Anne-Marie Hunter

Stand 7 – Psyclonic Studios – Anne-Maree Hunter

Sue Poggioli

Stand 8 – Sue Poggioli

Adele Outteridge & Wim de Vos

Stand 9 – Studio West End

Ulrike Stoltz & Uta Schneider

Stand 10 – Usus – Germany

Brad Freeman

Anita Milroy

Lyn Ashby

Stand 11 – Milroy-Australia / Freeman-USA / Ashby-Australia

Sue Anderson

Stand 12 – Impediment Press

SLQ Australian Library of Art artists book exhibition

To complement the theme of the ABBE conference a special collection of concertina and folded books was curated by Christene Drewe of the Australian Library of Art at the State Library of Queensland. Open only for 2 hours on the Saturday morning of the conference this satellite event was well patronised. The Australian Library of Art is recognised as Australia’s premier public collection of artists books and the range of works presented was a testimony to the variety and depth of the collection. A list of the books displayed can be downloaded here. ALA Books for abbe 2017

In keeping with the conference theme the community of practice for artists books in this country is supported by the ‘folding’ and ‘unfolding’ of ideas, theories, concepts, access to exemplar book samples and the social connection that ABBE provides. While selected ABBE 2017 papers will be published in JAB, beyond that, the influence and impact of this gathering highlights the need for ABBE to provide this ongoing forum in Australia.

 

Dr Doug Spowart

 

All photographs and text ©2017 Doug Spowart

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ABBE: Artists books Brisbane Event 2015

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ABBE Logo

ABBE Logo

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 presents her keynote lecture

Sarah Bodman presents her keynote lecture

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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 presents his keynote lecture

Brad Freeman presents his keynote lecture

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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 presents his keynote lecture

Lyn Ashby presents his keynote lecture

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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.

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Doug Spowart performs his lecture 'I'm about to 'read' a book'

Doug Spowart performs his lecture ‘I’m about to ‘read’ a book’

Photo from ABBE Artists Book Conference July 16, 17 & 18 2015 at the Queensland College of Art

Victoria Cooper presents her lecture ‘The Grafted Image: The Montage’

Tim Mosely presents in the lecture room

Tim Mosely presents in the lecture room

Presenting/Participating at the conference

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  • 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
Invite – 'Books by Artists'

Invite – ‘books by artists’

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books by artists’ in the Webb Gallery, QCA

The ‘books by artists’ exhibitors

  • Isaac Brown
  • Blogger_dad
  • 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

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THE ABBE ARTISTS BOOK FAIR

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Artists Book Fair

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Artists Book Fair stallholders

Sue Anderson + Gwen Harrison

Sue Anderson + Gwen Harrison

Lyn Ashby

Lyn Ashby

Sara Bowen (no image taken)

Photo from ABBE Artists Book Conference July 16, 17 & 18 2015 at the Queensland College of Art

Deidre Brollo with Christene Drewe and Helen Cole

Penny

Penny Carey-Wells

Centre for Regional Arts Practice (Cooper+Spowart) (no image taken)

Marian Crawford with Sarah Bodman

Marian Crawford with Sarah Bodman

Daniel Dell-Bosca with Victoria Cooper

Daniel Dell-Bosca with Victoria Cooper

Robyn Dempster + Fiona

Robyn Foster + Fiona Dempster

Caren Florance

Caren Florance

Robyn Foster (no image taken)

Brad Freeman  JAB

Brad Freeman JAB

Angela Gardner

Angela Gardner

Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research (no image taken)

Impress Printmakers: Sue Poggioli + Jennifer Stuerzl

Impress Printmakers: Sue Poggioli + Jennifer Stuerzl

Institute of Modern Art

Institute of Modern Art

Sheree Kinlyside

Sheree Kinlyside

Clyde McGill

Clyde McGill

Heather Matthew

Heather Matthew

Anita Milroy book – 'Biography of a Physicist'

Anita Milroy book – ‘Biography of a Physicist’ (Image supplied by the artist)

Adele Outteridge + Wim de Vos

Adele Outteridge + Wim de Vos

QCA Gold Coast (no image taken)

silverwattle bookfoundry

silverwattle bookfoundry (Tim Mosely)

Peta Smith

Peta Smith

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ABBE participants also visited Grahame Galleries, The Studio West End and the State Library of Queensland

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The SLQ White Gloves team Christene, Helen and Jeanette

The SLQ White Gloves team Christene, Helen and Jeanette

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ABBE Logo

ABBE Logo

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

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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.

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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