Every year the Whitechapel Gallery celebrates the best of international contemporary art publishing with the London Art Book Fair. This is the chance for all the movers and shakers of the publishing and art worlds to showcase their wares – alongside some talks – and the chance to get their mitts on the odd rare book or two. We spoke to alternative publishing gurus Publish and Be Damned about why they’re awesome and who else you should check out at the fair this weekend.
Publish And Be Damned
‘Publish And Be Damned is an ongoing project for discussing and promoting alternative directions in publishing outside the mainstream. The project began with a fair and exhibition and is currently run by Kit Hammonds, Kate Phillimore and Louise O’Hare. PABD have taken over the Foyle Reading room at the Whitechapel Gallery with their archive, and the glass shelves of the usually tidy space are now overflowing. Visitors are invited to search through their uncatalogued collection of self-published material (pamphlets, zines, books and other printed matter) sent to the organisers over the years or donated during the annual self-publishers fairs PABD have run since 2004. The archive continues to grow and publishers will be adding to it over the London Art Book Fair weekend.’
‘Lubok Verlag started in 2007 when artist Christoph Ruckhäberle found an old letter press and was able to take advantage of the ability to print large number editions from original plate, the organisation has continued pursuing its aim to make affordable artists’ printed matter. The Lubok Series has now reached number 10. Each volume has a free and open theme but fixed format – black and white linocuts. Numbers one to nine contained approximately 80 lino cuts by about ten artists – some established, some students – many of whom hadn’t worked in lino cut before. They also print more traditional catalogues and have just started a series of 16 page monographs, each of which is simply named after the artist. Lubok Solo is on issue seven and has featured Oliver Kossack, Alexander Tovborg, and Katharina Immekus. They say they don’t really see the point digital printing – why not just look at it on the computer? But they do have a website…’
‘Onomatopee’s main mode of production is through what they simply call ‘research projects’. They take a theme and work through it with numerous contributors – architects, urban planners, graphic designers, cultural critics, marketers, politicians… These projects always end up manifesting as an exhibition in their project space in Eindhoven and a publication. They also work on four projects a year with what they describe as ’emerging/low visibility/local voices’, and work in collaboration. Recently they have produced a book on the mutation of publishing since 1894 by Alessandro Ludovico, Chapter 1 of which is entitled ‘the death of paper (which never happened)’. Onomatopee are based in the Netherlands and where possible their publications are in both Dutch and English.’
‘Book Works started putting on exhibitions in the space under a railway arch by London Bridge nearly 30 years ago and have continued to develop projects with new and emerging artists ever since. They have a yearly open submission, and genuinely seem to strive to look beyond the usual gallery and social networks to find people to work with. Between 2008 and 2010 they invited the prolific self-publisher Stewart Home to commission a series of books which aimed to find new ways of using narrative and ended up with, among others, Jana Leo’s Rape New York, The Dark Object by Katrina Palmer, Bridget Penney ‘s Index and Stewart Home’s own Blood Rites of The Bourgeoisie. Most recently they have been touring an exhibition based on distribution and the archive called Again, A Time Machine.’
The London Bookshop Map
‘A project, we confess, by one of us, The London Bookshop Map compiles 100 independent bookshops across the city. It’s a brilliant I-can’t-believe-noboby-thought-of-this-sooner idea. The bookshops featured are crucial to the distribution of independent publications, which is one of the biggest challenges for artists and writers trying to get their work out to the public. Although fairs like the ones we host annually are a useful way to get works seen and meet other publishers, these bookshops are dedicated to supporting alternative publishing year-round. The only shades of grey you might find in these shops are on photocopied zine pages. A new map is printed annually, with an artist commissioned to create a new piece of work specifically for the map. The list of artists so far includes David Batchelor, Katrina Palmer and the latest edition by Hannah Rickards. Designed by Ray O’Meara and Luke Gould, it’s also a beautiful object in itself.’
Mark Pawson and Disinfotainment
‘Mark Pawson doesn’t restrict himself to the printed page. Disseminating his work in all forms and materials from perspex signs, badges, comics, artist books and zines, Mark has been involved in the self-publishing scene since the 80’s. My initial introduction to Mark was through Crap Hound Magazine, a publication filled with found imagery culled from catalogues, advertising and obscure publications. Each edition has a theme such as ‘Superstition’, ‘Church and State’ or the idiosyncratic ‘Clowns, Devils and Bait’. The magazine is visual eye candy, but also explores and questions the meaning of the symbols and iconography that we have regularly encountered and taken for granted for decades, even centuries. Make sure to pick up the most recent edition – ‘Death Telephone and Scissors’!’
For more info, see the London Art Book Fair listing.