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BOOKEND: Photobook Melbourne — what a read?

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Peter Lyssiotis looking at an Aperture Book

Peter Lyssiotis looking at an Aperture Book

 

We all know that feeling when you are really getting into a book, its narrative and flow, and then you reach the point where, as the last page is turned, you wish it could go on, and on… Photobook Melbourne (PM) was something of that kind of experience. The books seen, perhaps around 300, the exhibitions seen, and the people met now all vividly reside in memory and digital capture code.

 

The Photobook Melbourne event took place between February 12 to 22 it was coordinated by Heidi Romano and Daniel Boetker-Smith. It was always an ambitious undertaking. Its vision was to connect international photobook world with makers and lovers of the book from around Australia… and New Zealand. This was achieved through numerous exhibitions, library displays, photobook awards, forums and workshops.

Daniel Boetker-Smith + Heidi Romano  PHOTO:  Lauren Dunn www.artdocumentation.com.au

Daniel Boetker-Smith + Heidi Romano PHOTO: Courtesy of Lauren Dunn www.artdocumentation.com.au

 

Photobook Melbourne can only be described as a massive success. The photobook community of practice needs events like these so they can band together to affirm their interest and belief in the importance and creative power of the photobook. For once, the world of photobooks has come to us, or at least Melbourne, and for that we are a stronger and more informed cohort of makers, readers, collectors and lovers of photobooks.

 

Some of the attendees have responded to a request for comments – others are posts from Blogs and Facebook posts…

 

FROM JACOB RAUPACH: Photobook Melbourne was an amazing week full of a genuinely insightful mix of talks, exhibitions and book exhibitions, with the fair during the first weekend proving to be a great networking point for the rest of the week that followed. …  I felt that the inaugural festival set an amazing benchmark for the following years! Looking forward to 2016.

FROM HARVEY BENGE‘s BLOG: On a zero to ten scale I’d give the festival a ten!  Visit his site for more commentaries about photobook

FROM CHRIS BOWES: For someone naïve to the world of photobooks, Photobook Melbourne was an eye opening experience. Although coming in as a virtual outsider to this rapidly expanding art scene, I sank my teeth into as many of the talks, exhibitions and book collections I could manage, and came away a lot more informed than I was going in. Personal favourites were the Paris Photo – Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards exhibition, where the content of the books was engaging and the calibre unmatched, and ‘The Other Photobook Forum’, where in particular Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison showed that with a little creativity and business sense one can make a buck and do what they love.

FROM LIBBY JEFFERYMomento Pro: The number of participants, visitors, books and buyers at Photobook Melbourne were fantastic and they confirmed that small press and self publishing is alive and well in Australia. The Awards and Book Fair also proved that a selection of high standard work is being created here, but a collaborative promotion and showcase of Australian photo books to the global market would benefit everyone.

FROM: ANGEL LUIS GONZALEZ FERNANDEZ  Facebook Comment     Back in Dublin after an amazing first edition of PHOTOBOOK MELBOURNE, having discovered tons of new work and books from Australia, New Zealand, and more -and having met a truckload of awesome people.

FROM KELVIN SKEWES: As someone that attended almost all of the events that were part of Photobook Melbourne I can only describe it as a tour de force for lovers of the Photobook. The festival opened on February 12th at the Centre for Contemporary Photography with Robert Zhao Renhui’s exhibition

A Guide To The Flora And Fauna Of The World and with a smoking ceremony by the traditional owners to welcome the festival to their land. Also announced on the opening night was the Australian Photobook of the year which was won by Raphaela Rosella for her unpublished book ‘We Met a Little Early But I Get to Love You Longer’ and I was humbled to be the runner up with my newspaper as photobook ‘Nauru: What was taken and what was given’. …

The main event for the first weekend of the festival was the Photobook Melbourne Book fair at CCP an event at was full of frenetic energy and far too many photobooks to browse let alone buy; amongst the many booksellers highlights included the infatigable Perimeter book with titles from Mack and Spector books and Anita Totha from Remote books who is doing to sterling job promoting photobooks from New Zealand. …

 Great thanks are due to the entire Photobook Melbourne team so thank you Heidi Romeo, Daniel Boetker-Smith, esteemed guests Ángel Luis González Fernández, Ron Jude and the Dysturb Photo Collective, festival partners and sponsors Momento Pro, Photography Studies College, Copyright Agency and venues CCP, MGA, Strange Neighbour, Colour Factory, Neo Space, Baron Said and James Makin Gallery and to all the volunteers without whom this could not have happened so thanks to Felix Wilson, Kate Robinson, Bella Capezio, Katrin Koenning and countless others.

See you next year!

MORE COMMENTS WILL BE ADDED AS THEY BECOME AVAILABLE…

 

WHAT FOLLOWS IS A PERSONAL DIARY OF PHOTOBOOK MELBOURNE

 

Our arrival on the first weekend was delayed by my recent medical incursion so we fly into Melbourne on Wednesday. Through a friend we were able to stay in an apartment right in the middle of the city and our journeys out and about were by tram, train and lifts given by friends.

 

The MGA - The Home of Australian Photography

The MGA – The Home of Australian Photography

THURSDAY: We attended two book related exhibitions at the Monash Gallery of Art. Badged as the ‘Home of Australian Photography’ the gallery presented two photobook exhibitions, one of images from the collection that featured the theme of books and reading and was entitled ‘Light Reading’. The other was The Natural Collection an assemblage of books by The Photobook Club’s Matt Johnston and co-curated by Lucy Johnson. The Natural Collection brings together photobooks that explore “the harmony, tension and play” that occurs in the human relationship with nature and the natural landscape.

Heidi, Steph and Vicky discussing a book

Heidi, Steph and Vicky discussing a book

The exhibition space was setup for readers to sit and work their way through a most interesting selection of Euro/American centric responses to the theme. Grand trade books sat next to simple fold ‘n’ staple zine-like booklets. We were there with Heidi Romano, Simone Rosenbauer from Sydney and MGA Gallery’s Education and Public Programs officer Stephanie Richter. We engaged in a spirited debate about book design; production methods and how to evaluate books.

That evening we attend a dinner for PM speakers, contributors, supporters and sponsors. By this stage it was acknowledged that the PM had been an enormous success so congratulatory statements were announced and a great feeling of an Australian photobook community being well and truly launched by this event.

Bohemian Vicky+Doug

Bohemian Vicky+Doug

Bohemian Melbourne portrait wall

Bohemian Melbourne portrait wall

Bohemian Melbourne

Bohemian Melbourne

FRIDAY MORNING: A breakfast of avocado, bacon and relish was partaken at a suburban street café while being interviewed by Australian Photography contributor Anthony McKee for a feature on photobooks. Morning tea with Robert Heather and Des Cowley at the State Library of Victoria and a visit to the SLV exhibition Bohemian Melbourne – a fascinating reflection on the creative, musical and arty sub-culture of Melbourne. Rennie Ellis’ photos contributed much to this history as well as poster art, paintings and the ephemera and memorabilia of the different eras represented by the theme.

 

The Library Project @ PSC

The Library Project @ PSC

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: We visited Photography Studies College to view ‘The Library Project’, a collection of photobooks brought to PM by Ángel Luis González Fernández from PhotoIreland. ‘The Library Project’ aim is to collect contemporary publications based on photography to create a public resource library. We viewed many books that are not easily available to see in Australia including Cristina de Middel’s Afronauts.

 

The 'OTHER' Photobook Forum – a question from the floor

The ‘OTHER’ Photobook Forum – a question from the floor

FRIDAY EVENING: Later that evening we were involved with The ‘OTHER’ Photobook Forum – Artists’ Books, Zinesters and the Photobook took place. We have been working on this project for a couple of months now and we were able to bring together key practitioners from these ‘other’ photobook disciplines who discussed and provided commentary on their use of the photo in the book. The participants included photomonteur Peter Lyssiotis, zinesters Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, artists’ book maker Dr Lyn Ashby, Des Cowley from the State Library of Victoria and Victoria Cooper who stood in for Georgia Hutchison who was unable to attend due to extenuating family issues.

It was an event that stirred much interest with artists like Deanna Hitti and Theo Strasser attending as well as Momento Pros’ Libby Jeffery, and photobook makers Kelvin Skewes, Daniel Boetker-Smith and Chris Bowes.

 

Jacob Raupach @ CCP

Jacob Raupach @ CCP

Aperture Books on display @ The Baron Said

Aperture Books on display @ The Baron Said

SATURDAY: A day to attend artists talks at the Centre for Creative Photography by, amongst others photobookmaker Jacob Raupach and the exhibition FELL – Bought a copy of his latest book WEALTH. Following up with visits to the Momento Pro Australian Photo Book of the Year Award at the Asia Pacific Photobook Archive and the Aperture Photobook exhibition @ The Baron Said and a stimulating lunch with Peter and Tess Lyssiotis @Babkah.

Lunch with Tess + Peter

Lunch with Tess + Peter

Photobooked-out we headed back to the city by tram and had a chance meeting with Lismore artist and Siganto Artists Book Fellow Jan Davis who was attending a Print Council meeting – Only in Melbourne could strange intersections like that could happen.

 

SATURDAY EVENING: Melbourne White Night event

450,000 Melbournians took over the streets of the CBD – everything stayed open and performances and projections, bands and music were everywhere. Amongst other things we went to see the projections in the Dome at the State Library of Victoria at 10.30 at night – queued in line for 30 minutes with 1000s of others what a night…!

 

SUNDAY

A day of traveling home to cyclone weather drenched Brisbane.

 

UNTIL NEXT TIME —- For PHOTOBOOK MELBOURNE 2nd EDITION….

 

BEING [photo]BOOKED @ QLD COLLEGE OF ART

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Heather introduces Doug's lecture...

Heather introduces Doug’s lecture…

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Last week we were guest presenters at the Queensland College of Art on the Gold Coast. We worked with photo media and digital media students and their lecturer Heather Faulkner discussing the topic of the contemporary photobook.

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Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart talking about photobooks....PHOTO: Heather Faulkner

Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart talking about photobooks….PHOTO: Heather Faulkner

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Doug presented a lecture on the history of the photobook and brought students up to date with the contemporary photobook including Ying Ang’s latest book ‘Gold Coast’. Students then were given an opportunity to hold, handle and view a range of contemporary photobooks from Australia and overseas including books by, Alec Soth and Brad Zellar, Martin Parr, Garry Trinh, Daniel Milnor, George Voulgaropoulos, Jacob Raupach, Lloyd Stubber, Emma Phillips, Kelvin Skewes, Joachim Schmid, James Mollison, Paul Graham, Gracia and Louise as well as a selection of zines from the Sticky Institute. We also presented a selection of our own photobooks and artists’ books. Of particular interest to the students was the structure, construction, printing and binding of photobooks.

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Students working on a sequencing task with Heather Faulkner

Students working on a sequencing task with Heather Faulkner

 

An important part of an accompanying tutorial covered ideas around the sequencing of images in photobooks and the ways in which narrative could be expressed. Students were then tasked to work with a series of images using unusual sequencing strategies that we suggested.

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We enjoyed the opportunity to engage with these students and discuss one of our favourite topics and share amazing books from our photobook library. Thank you Heather Faulkner for arranging this event…

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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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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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