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ARTISTS BOOKS+AUSTRALIA: Comment for CODEX Journal

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CODEX X Papers – Journal Cover+Text Page

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Early in 2019 Vicky and I received an email from Monica Oppen and Caren Florance inviting our contribution to a report commenting on news and updates on book arts activity in the Antipodes that they were preparing for the Codex Foundation‘s new journal The Codex Papers. They mentioned that they were asking for those involved with projects, conferences, workshops, collections and awards to send through their comments and plans so the local scene could be collated into the report.

Monica and Caren added that, Your commitment to the photo books and also to documenting events for the past years (or is it decades now?!) has lead us to decide that we must ask you what you see as the trends and key events of the past couple of years. Any feedback (your personal view) on the state of the book arts in Australia at the moment would also be of interest.

We were particularly excited to have been invited to contribute and over the days following the request we collaborated on a document that outlined our view of the scene. Photo documents that we had made were reviewed and prepared and forwarded, along with our text to Monica and Caren. The task of collating and blending the individual responses into a single report was completed and forwarded to the Codex Foundation.

Early this year the report was published and we received a contributor’s copy. We were impressed with the journal and the many interesting commentaries on the book arts from around the world. It was interesting to see the complete report and to read the individual contributor’s comments.

Published below is our text and some of the photographs we contributed in response to Monica and Caren’s invitation.

 

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Notes on the Antipodean book arts in the Antipodes for Caren + Monica

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Noreen Grahame in the exhibition Lessons in History Vol. II – Democracy 2012

 

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the world of the artists’ book in Australia was an exciting place. In Brisbane Noreen Grahame, through her Grahame Gallery, Numero Uno Publications, Editions and the Centre of the Artists’ Book championed the Australian artists’ book discipline. Grahame efforts were directed towards artists’ book exhibitions which started in 1991, art book fairs the first of which was held in 1994 and special invitation themed artists’ book exhibitions featuring clique of prominent national book makers.

Artspace Mackay under the directorship of Robert Heather hosted the first of 5 Focus on Artists’ Book (FOAB) Conferences in 2004. Over the years FOAB brought to Australia some of the world’s noteworthy practitioners and commentators on the discipline including Marshall Weber, Keith A Smith and Scott McCarney and juxtaposed them with local key practitioners. For the next 6 years those interested in artists’ books gathered to participate in lectures, workshops, fairs and a solid community of practice developed. In 2006 Artspace Mackay added the Libris Awards: The Australian Artists’ Book Prize that, with a few breaks, continues to be the premier curated artists’ book exhibition and award in Australia.

 

Noosa 08 Artists’ Book exhibition – Noosa Regional Gallery

Queensland also had 10 years of artists’ book exhibitions and 5 years of conferences from 1999-2008 at Noosa Regional Art Gallery. In many ways Queensland was the place to be if you were into artists’ books.

 

Southern Cross Artists’ Book Award 2007

In this period a few other artists’ book awards took place including the Southern Cross University’s Acquisitive Artists’ Book Award from 2005-2011.

 

Throughout the 1990s and until fairly recent times State Libraries and the National Library of Australia actively collected and built significant artists’ book collections. These included many forms of the artists’ book including: private press publications, significant book works by recognised international and Australian practitioners, books as object/sculpture, zines and the emergent photobook.

 

Now around the country major libraries are feeling the push by managers to move access to the library’s resources online thus the importance of the physical object and the tactile connection with items such as artists’ books is now not considered part of the service that the institution needs to provide. For example, the State Library of Queensland’s Australian Library of Art, which houses one of the largest artists’ book collections in the country, is now without a dedicated librarian. Research fellowships and seminars that were once administered by the Library and supported the Siganto Foundation are no longer available. Information and advice about the collection and other exhibitions or group viewings of artists’ books from their extensive collection have been significantly affected.

 

In recent years two Artists Book Brisbane Events coordinated by Dr Tim Mosely at Griffith University has facilitated a significant connection between the American and European scenes with guest speakers like Brad Freeman (Columbia University – Journal of Artists Books), Sarah Bodman (Centre for Fine Print Research – The University of the West of England), Ulrike Stoltz and Uta Schneider (USUS). The conferences also have included a place for discussion and review of the discipline by academics and emergent artist practitioners from Masters and Doctoral programs. These two ABBE conferences have provided a platform for academic discourse.

The artists’ book medium has been principally the realm of the printmaker as their artform easily enabled the production of printed multiples. Digital technologies, new double-sided inkjet papers as well as print-on-demand technologies have enabled the emergence of a range of new self-publishers – particularly photographers.

In 2011 I completed my PhD the title of which was Self-publishing in the digital age: the hybrid photobook. From my experiences in the artists’ book field as a practitioner and commentator and my lifelong activities in photography I saw a future for the photobook which could be informed by the freedoms and the possibilities for the presentation of narratives. While some aspects of this prophecy have been the case with some photographers, particularly those involved in academic study, the main thrust for the contemporary photobook has been towards the collaboration with graphic designers. These books take on various design and structure enhancements including special bindings, foldouts, mixed papers, page sizes, inclusions and loose components that can, at times, dilute the potential power of the simple photographic narrative sequence. The contemporary photobook has developed into its own discipline and through the universal communication possibilities of social media, conferences and awards a new tribe has emerged quite separate from and unaffected by the artists’ book community.

 

NGV Melbourne Art Book Fair 2017

Over the last 5 years the National Gallery of Victoria has presented the Melbourne Art Book Fair. In keeping with the art book fair worldwide movement participants man tables selling their publications. These can range from Institutional/gallery catalogues, trade art publications and monographs, artists’ books, photobooks and zines. The umbrella-like term and the spectacle of the ‘Art Book Fair’ as an event to witness and participate in has captured the individual disciplines and united the various tribes into one, not so homogeneous – community.

 

A quick review of the 2019 Melbourne Art Book Fair’s 86 table-holders there were only a handful of artists’ book-makers, perhaps a similar number of photobook publishers and a large contingent of zinesters and self-published magazines. The bulk of the tables were held by book distributors, bookshops, arts organisations, educational institutions and art galleries. The discipline of artists’ books was not significantly represented in this space. Was that due to the National Gallery of Victoria’s selection of table-holders or was it to do with artists’ book practitioners not considering the event as a relevant opportunity to show and sell their works?

 

Ultimately the question is – what is the status of the artists’ book in Australia at this time? My impression is that one of artists’ books key strengths was its closeness to the printmaking discipline and the cohesive bond of makers, critics and commentators, educators, journals, collectors and patrons. As many of these are connected to the tertiary academic environment and collecting libraries, both of which are fighting for their relevance in a changing education and library world, could it be considered that this is a defining moment in the history and the future of the artists’ book in this country?

 

Doug Spowart co-written with Victoria Cooper

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All photographs ©Doug Spowart

 

 

 

THE QLD PHOTOBOOK CONSORTIA – SUCCESSFUL SUBMISSION National Gallery of Victoria ART BOOK FAIR 2019

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The Queensland Photobook Consortia

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Over the last few weeks we’ve put together a submission from Queensland photobook authors and self-publishers for next year’s National Gallery of Victoria ART BOOK FAIR. The Fair is a huge event attendances of 12-16,000 over the three days of the event have been recorded. The who’s who from collecting institutions, private collectors and fellow exhibitors all view, read – and sometimes purchase books…!  Apart from networking and selling or trading books the Fair has associated with it a program from the Melbourne Design Week.

To celebrate photobooks and to bring together Queensland authors, designers and self-publishers we have formed a group called THE QUEENSLAND PHOTOBOOK CONSORTIA.  Over the next week or so we will find out if our submission has been successful – In the meantime we are interested in hearing from any Queensland photobook maker that we can add to our list of contacts.

HERE IS SOME MORE INFO about the Fair and the Consortia’s submission…

WE WERE SUCCESSFUL….!   Got the news 21st of December

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BLURB FROM THE NGV

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About the Melbourne Art Book Fair

Melbourne Art Book Fair returns for its fifth year in 2019. Since the event began, the publishing and broader creative landscape has undergone many shifts. MABF 2019 asks: what is publishing now? What is encompassed by the term and how can publishing bring about positive change on multiple fronts?

Featuring diverse emerging and established local and international publishers, artists and writers, Melbourne Art Book Fair 2019 presents a four-day program of ideas, discussions and book launches at the National Gallery of Victoria. The 2019 program explores ideas around experimental and discursive publishing, challenging how we think about the publishing field. Guests ask the question: what can books do? How might the form change? How might publishing provoke and influence other creative and social phenomena such as fashion diffusion lines, capsule collections, event spaces, activist movements and community development?

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The submission is only the first stage of the process. If successful we will seek some extra participants – HERE ARE THE MAIN ANSWERS IN OUR SUBMISSION….

 

 

QUESTION: Please tell us what you do, and why:

The Queensland Photobook Consortia is a group of photobook and artists’ book makers and self-publishers from Queensland who, through their publishing projects, provide comment on contemporary issues relating to life and times, not only of their home state Queensland but also Australia and the rest of the world.

The opportunity to present Queensland photobooks within the premier event of the NGV Art Book Fair will enable this substantial group of artists to share their creativity and visual stories. It is our proposal to showcase this group of contemporary emerging and established Queensland practitioners and their latest works.

Their backgrounds are many and varied and include the following:

 

Ana Paula Estrada

ANA PAULA ESTRADA is a Mexican–Australian artist based in Brisbane. For the last seven years her art practice has focused mainly on the documentation of life stories of older Australians by combining photography, oral history, and the artist book. She is currently completing a Master of Visual Arts by research degree at the Queensland College of Art. In 2016, she self-published an artist book called Memorandum in an edition of 200, which has been recognized and exhibited broadly nationally and internationally.

http://www.anapaulaestrada.com

 

Tammy Law

TAMMY LAW documents stories that are reflective of her experiences of being a child of Chinese migrants, and the bubble of Asian/Australianness within which she lives. Her travels through Asia—mostly in Japan, China, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma—and the differences between Asia and the West propel her to focus on concepts of migration, home and belonging. This book’s development and production has been supported by the celebrated Tokyo based Reminders Photography Stronghold.

http://www.tammylaw.com/

 

David Symons

DAVID SYMONS is a Brisbane based artist. The idea that the photograph sits precariously on the edge of the real and imagined is the great appeal of the medium to David. Born in Scotland, he studied photography in Western Australia in the 1980s. David has exhibited locally and nationally and has been a finalist prizes including The Olive Cotton Award and the IRIS Award. His photographic work is held in The Art Gallery of Western Australia Collection.

http://www.davidsymons.com.au/about-2/

 

Louis Lim

LOUIS LIM is a Brisbane-based photographer and photobook-maker whose work explores the diversity in human conditions, specifically those that are under-represented in mainstream media. His work has been exhibited in several Australian galleries and presented internationality.

Lim has exhibited his photobook with live bookbinding demonstration in Central Embassy Open House as part of Photo Bangkok Festival. Lim has attended the highly regarded Reminders Photography Stronghold Masterclass and is currently developing his personal photobook project in a collaboration with Beth Jackson.

http://louislzm.com/contact/

 

 

Dane Beesley

DANE BEESLEY is an Australian photographer who has created photography books, exhibited widely, and his photographs are held in public and private collections. Beesley has been described as a “leading Australian rock photojournalist” by Melbourne street press Beat Magazine. Marei Bischarn, photo editor at Rolling Stone Australia, described his work as “honesty in photos; nothing planned or fabricated – just pure energy and great times”.

http://danebeesley.com/

 

 

Victoria Reid

VICTORIA REID is a freelance photographer based in South East Queensland. She is interested in documenting the human condition and provides a voice for injustices in society. Reid is about to graduate from the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, with a Bachelor of Photography (Honours) with a major in Photojournalism and Social Documentary.

https://www.victoriareidphotography.com.au/

 

Victoria Cooper

VICTORIA COOPER’s work traverses both personal and political territories in the investigation and representation of an Australian “site” and “place”. She creates visual narratives in response to, and informed by, contemporary social and environmental issues intertwined with historical, scientific and mythological insights intrinsic to each site. Her books are held in major artists’ book collections including the National Library of Australia, the State Libraries of Queensland and Victoria and Artspace Mackay.

http://www.cooperandspowart.com.au/

 

Doug Spowart

DOUG SPOWART has an extensive involvement in Australian creative industries as an artist, educator, curator, commentator and reviewer. For over 25 years he has made photobooks and artists’ books. Many of these books are held in private, regional and state public galleries, national and international photography and artists’ book collections.

http://www.cooperandspowart.com.au/

 

What are some of your recent titles?

 

SOME RECENT TITLES FROM MEMBERS OF THE QLD PHOTOBOOK CONSORTIA

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I was there V.I by Ana Paula Estrada

I WAS THERE V. I & II by Ana Paula Estrada consists of a two-volume artist book that tells the life stories of Kevin and Esta, two participants aged over eighty, with whom she has been collaborating. Merging the fields of documentary practice, oral history and fine arts, and influenced by visual poetry, her books explore the combination of text, image and the blank space of the page.

http://www.anapaulaestrada.com/book-preview/

 

The shadow inside by David Symonds

THE SHADOW INSIDE by David Symons is a noir photobook.  The book stylistically revisits the visual languages of the pulp noir genre and police evidence photograph of the mid 20th Century.  A low-voltage current of psychoanalytical and surrealist themes run through the pages weaving the narrative in and out the real and imagined. This is a game constantly played out in the viewers mind. For the author the mystery is where the door is between the two states.

https://tinyurl.com/ycx9tdws

 

Permission to belong by Tammy Law

PERMISSION TO BELONG by Tammy Law explores themes of migration, home and belonging through the everyday lives of refugee families from Myanmar. Living against the backdrop of decades of repressive rule and civil war, countless families live between a place of home and homelessness, belonging and unbelonging. The negotiation and renegotiation of identities is as complex as the history and future of Myanmar.

http://reminders-project.org/rps/permissiontobelongsaleen/

 

Yelseeb Enad by Dane Beesley

YELSEEB ENAD by Dane Beesley deals with the mythic place that the road occupies in the American west. It is a romanticised Kerouac/Dylanesque view of the road captured in small moments and big cars invested with meaning. There’s an honesty, a quest for truth, perhaps a naiveté in the images reminiscent of cinéma vérité that captures the adolescent wanderlust it seeks to document.

http://danebeesley.com/book/

 

… There is no end by Louis Lim and Beth Jackson

… THERE IS NO END a collaboration between Louis Lim and Beth Jackson deals with grief, loss and upheaval from two separate encounters that intertwine through the process of photobook making. The book was shortlisted in the Singapore International Photography Festival Photo Book Showcase 2018, and the 2018 Libris Award with acquisition by Artspace Mackay.

The final version of the book is in current production for release in early 2019.

http://sipf.sg/photobook/there-is-no-end/

 

liberté by Victoria Reid

LIBERTÉ by Victoria Reid is her first self-published book. This book of photographic work examines the search for sexual freedom in a society in which tightly prescriptive sexual norms prevail. This project focuses on people who create meaning in their worlds outside of what is considered ‘normative’ behaviour. Exchange of power, consent, trust, role-playing and gender identity are explored. The intention of this project is to promote dialogue around existing sexual stereotypes and stigmas.

https://tinyurl.com/y8puyzho

 

 

We’ll keep in touch to let you know how our submission got on….

AND, If you are from Queensland and have a book do get in contact with us….

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The Queensland Photobook Consortia.

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NGV ART BOOK FAIR: See my books on the MomentoPro table

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NGV Art Book Fair webpage

 

SEE MY PHOTOBOOKS Channeling Harvey Benge and A Compendium of New Zealand and Australian Photobooks on the MOMENTOPRO table at the NGV Art Book Fair in Melbourne over March 16, 17 & 18, 2018.

MomentoPro printed my latest two books and they have them on their table as examples of the work that they do.

 

Libby Jeffery’s invitation to visit her table – just love the T-Shirts

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Book 1.  Channeling Harvey Benge

Channeling Harvey Benge book cover

The text from the colophon:

In 2015 I was invited to make a
presentation on photobooks at the
Auckland Art Gallery as part of the
Auckland Festival of Photography.
One of my photobook heroes is
Harvey Benge who was overseas
at the time and was unable to
attend the symposium.
I documented my attendance at
the Festival and created this
personal narrative relating to my
few days in New Zealand.
This little book also doubles as
homage to Benge’s book ‘A short
history of photography’.

A MomentoPro Preview of the book can be seen here: SPOWART-Channelling Harvey Benge-book

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Book 2. A Compendium of New Zealand and Australian Photobooks

The dual covers of the Photobook Compendium

 

A-D part of the Australian listing in the Compendium

Preface page of the COMPENDIUM

An events page in the COMPENDIUM

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Hope you can visit the ART BOOK FAIR and see my books …

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