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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

 

 

 

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’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

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