Report by Dan Haddigan, artist and Philagrafika 2010 intern
In our super fast world of websites and blogs and tweeting and instant information and jagtags and chatroulette, it can be pretty easy to forget about the status of the book in contemporary culture and its place in the art world. The Open Book event held at the Print Center last Saturday, March 20 reminded everyone just how awesome the book is.
For anyone interested in the history of the book as an art object, the Print Center offered a crash course in the history of the artist’s book. Whether you were an artist’s book connoisseur, or just a book newbie, there was plenty of information to be gleaned from the presentations of famed Philadelphia collective Space 1026, Chicago printers, publishers, and provocateurs Temporary Services and New York artist’s book heaven Printed Matter. (Transatlantic New York-based collaborative Dexter Sinister’s books were on display, but unfortunately the artists were not able to attend the event). Attendees wandered throughout both levels of the Print Center, perusing the books on display and meeting and talking with the artists.
Temporary Services checking out the people checking out Temporary Services' books
While the artist’s book has lost some of the radical, populist pizzaz it boasted at it’s birth in the 60’s, it remains as an important, if overlooked, avenue for artists to distribute their artwork en masse, and it still remains as the most wallet-friendly way for the common person to collect their favorite artist’s work and for the artist to get their art in the hands of as many people as possible. Space 1026 takes this to heart, as Roman Hasiuk, Leah Mackin and Mike Gerkovich explained how the collective’s artists regularly make and distribute inexpensive zines and artists books, many of which were on display and for sale at their table.
Temporary Services artists Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin and Marc Fisher explained their history as a collective and how they continued in the tradition of using the book as a for-the-masses communication tool. In answering questions from the crowd about their work, they shed some light on their collaborations with other artists (such as a book about prison inventions with an artist incarcerated in California and their Temporary Conversations interview series), their desire to expose the artist in everyone (and art that isn’t shown in a gallery).
Max Schumann from Printed Matter talks about their selection of artists books on display
In the gallery shop, a selection of books from the Printed Matter accompanied a lesson on the history of the artist’s book from its very beginning to its place now. Max Schumann’s presentation tied together the common theme of the day: the celebration of the book as the true art form of the people. Printed Matter even operates a submission program, so not only can the average Joe art fan own a work by the Richard Princes and Ed Rushas of the world, but they can share the store’s shelf space with them as well.
Books galore in the Gallery Shop
The artist’s book still has, and always will have its place in contemporary art. The physical presence of a printed object will always win over the fleeting, transitory and intangible nature of the website or blog. (“Book” even sounds better than “blog”, doesn’t it? Not that blogs don't have their place, though, keep reading this one!) Exciting artists like the ones featured at the Print Center continue to extend and enhance the book’s changing life.
Brett, Marc and Salem hiding with staff from Philagrafika and the Print Center