Week 39: 10th – 16th June
I’m in another exhibition and this time it’s at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, which feels like something of a coup in artistic terms. The exhibition is a continuation of the 16 project, which was organised by AMBruno and has previously been exhibited in Leeds and Bristol. Now the 16 project had been selected to be part of the BALTIC Artist Book Fair, curated by North East based artist Theresa Easton, as part of an overall programme entitled ‘Fabulous Books, Fantastic Places’.
Fabulous Books, Fantastic Places
The programme, spread over several levels of the BALTIC Centre, encompassed a range of bookmaking activity and exhibitions, including artist books, handmade stationery, photo books and zines. The marketplace on Level 1 was a hive of exhibition stalls and interactive archives. The exhibitions continued in the library on Level 2 with Yvette Hawkins’ collection of travelling suitcases, ‘The Book Apothecary’ and works by graduates of Cleveland College of Art and Design.
Sumi Perera’s exhibition of handmade books (15:1), which were created during her teaching visit at Beijing’s Central Academy of fine Arts (CAFA) in 2007, explored experimental book structure and paper engineering. Workshop practice was also integrated into the exhibition programme with ‘The Sunderland Book Project’, an exhibition of books created by workshop participants which explored print and bookmaking techniques in response to themes of storytelling, identity and social history.
Recently when I’ve attended book fairs, I’ve tried to buy works for my own collection, as it’s a good way of collecting affordable artworks and it supports the artists directly. The two purchases I made from this fair were ‘Theory of the Celestial Motions’, a limited edition screen printed book based on Copernican astronomy by Theresa Easton, and ‘This is an Artist’s Book’, by Laura Little of Pink Parrot Press, detailing descriptions of artists’ books by authors in the field.
I tend to use a number of factors when selecting books to buy including price, value (based on edition size, media, etc), aesthetic, function, relevance to my research, and even sometimes the friendliness of the artist. Each of the books I buy appeals to me for different reasons. For example, the Celestial Motions book is interesting from an aesthetic and research point of view, as it uses historical sources of mapping and world view to create pseudo pocket guides as part of a contemporary book practice. The second book uses self-referentiality to explicitly investigate what a book is, a sort of meta artist’s book.
The BABL archive
Although I was only visiting for the day and had support from fellow invigilators, Julie Johnstone and Barbara Greene, I found it quite tiring, due to the sheer amount of visual stimulation and inspiration. It was fortunate therefore, to stumble upon Lucy May Schofield’s project, BABL (Biliographic Artist Book Library), a touring archive of books collected for their affective (and supposedly healing) qualities. As part of the installation, Lucy was on hand to discuss your needs and choices, as a sort of travelling apothecary. Each of the books had been purchased from, or donated by artists, and categorised according to meanings derived from conversations with the artists.
I found the project really interesting, as it seemed to deal with a number of concerns related to the exhibition and interpretation of artists’ books, namely audience interaction; art vs artefact; affectiveness and agency. The conversations seemed to create more layers of meaning, and it would be interesting to see if and how those conversations permeate through later incarnations of the project.