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Queensland, it seems, is the place to be if you are interested in artists’ books (ABs). Queenslanders have one of the countries most significant collection of artists’ books in the State Library of Queensland, another significant private collection held by Noreen Grahame, herself a major contributor to the AB in this country. Other collections and events coordinated by Artspace Mackay including the Focus on Artists’ Books Forum and Libris Awards. There are also major practitioners of the art living and working in Queensland including Katherine Nix, Adele Outteridge, Wim de Vos, Ron McBurnie, Stephen Spurrier, Helen Malone, Jack Oudyn, Judy Barrass, and many more.

CODEX Event graphic

CODEX Event graphic

In this fertile space for ABs a small band of interested practitioners recently met to discuss the idea of forming a special interest group dedicated to the discipline. The invitation came as an email under the auspices of a CODEX 9 event with the following statement:

books by artists / artists books

printmaking, letterpress, papermaking and more

artists interested in making books are invited to

join an Impress Printmakers discussion group

located in Brisbane to foster and promote

contemporary artists book practice

Meeting on level 4 of the State Library of Queensland the 10 attendees represented a broad range of artists many of whom have had significant activity within the AB discipline, some had experiences of working as teachers using the book as a learning tool, some had academic links to ABs apart from their practice of making books, all had a definite interest in the discipline and wanted to engage in the idea of the discussion group as proposed in the invitation.

CODEX Event + Impress Printmakers AB discussion meeting

CODEX Event + Impress Printmakers AB discussion meeting

During the meeting many topics were raised including:

  • The dogged question of ‘what is an artist’ book?
  • What is not an artists’ book?
  • Where does the apostrophe go in the term artists book and why does it move
  • The Duchampian view of the ‘found object’ as art and his often cited idea that ‘it’s art because I say it is, and I’m an artist’
  • If it has a colophon then it’s an AB(?)
  • Scrapbooks as AB and the silent ‘s’ in the term scrapbook
  • Ideas of sharing knowledge about the gamut of the discipline

One participant presented a polemic to the group, proposing that a freestanding 3D object on the table before us could be an AB – how would we know? The object was a folded “No food or drink allowed” SLQ sign. Discussion ended and reinforced the group’s interest in being challenged, as through such knowledge and understanding emerges.

a polemic for an artists book

a polemic for an artists book

Other structural matters relating to the group’s future activities, meeting schedule, email and communications methods were discussed. Some requested a degree of anonymity at this time. It was noted that the SLQ will be hosting the next Siganto seminar with the topic being the trouble with artists’ books. It was agreed that it will be a ‘must attend’ event.

The meeting concluded in a convivial mood with most attendees going for a coffee, and we guess, some more conversations about the idea of the artists book …


Doug and Victoria


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