It's decided: artists' books are the way to go. Opening night, the New York Art Book Fair preview at PS1 was abuzz with bespectacled young and old art professionals and literary types, wandering through sprawling tables and crowded halls. With the mass of cheap zines requited to an outdoor tent in front of the museum, I was bankrupt before I even entered the building. I’ll be returning to see more of the fair — it’s impossible to see all of it in only a couple of hours –but here are few last minute highlights for those attending today.
E-flux has parked a winnebago in front of PS1/MoMA’s steps. Inside, their book co-op hosts a large collection of art books from independent sellers, artist-run spaces, and international art sellers. In the tent directly behind the e-flux think tank, are very wide range of zines . These include, from adjective/noun, a literary zine made by a senior at Brown, Cinders, a gallery in Brooklyn that shows, among other things, handmade books and our favorite well-established gay magazine, Butt. A sentiment often voiced inside this space ran something to the effect of, “Make books! You can actually sell these things!”
Semina — first floor conference room
Wallace Berman's collective publication “Semina”, displayed on walls and in glass cases, marks what is perhaps the beginning of zine culture. A collection of images and words submitted by a tight-knit group of artists defined the publication, each arranged so as the viewer could rearrange as he/she pleased. The magazine ran from 1955-1964, and while hard to read beneath the display, it isa fitting prelude to the zine boom outside. There’s a great piece on Semina Culture here.
Sharing the conference room with “Semina” are Andrea Francke and Eva Weinmayrr of “The Piracy Project.” The project put out an open call for artists to send pirated books, and the altered publications were placed on the shelves of the library. This is related to book pirating in Peru, where chapters and endings may be altered to texts without the readers’ knowledge. For example, artist Simon Morris randomly rearranged the words in one of Freud's texts in a piece titled “Re-writing Freud” and reprinted it with the original cover (a sample sentence reads “distortion of Now of own the Love confusion.”) The project became an investigation into copyright issues, which are obviously, very relevant to zine culture and photography.
Andrew Roth, Inc. — third floor, Room M
The punk room on the third floor of PS1 is a wall of fanzines, mapping out the progression of D.I.Y. culture over the course of ten years. Toby Mott of Andrew Roth, Inc. calls them “artifacts” and displays them as such. Each rest in plastic sleeves that hang over the words “WE ARE THE WRITING ON THE WALL.” The corresponding book is concise and elegant; it is simply a chronological collection of fanzine cover images that map a steady aesthetic transformation and cultural change. It’s hard not to wonder if the zine is inherently short-lived, given this post-mortem display of punk fanzine culture and Wallace Berman's now defunct “Semina” highlighted earlier in this post.
I’m going back to see Little Big Man again, just beyond the punk room, in Room N, on the third floor. They publish photography books which use sequential images to tell a narrative particular to a book format. Surf Riot is a lush, large series of photos in which the artist used only one roll of film to document a riot. The lighting and composition of each photo amounts to a cinematic experience. Sensitivity to such viewing, which can only happen through publishing, was a particularly compelling element throughout the fair.
Today I am excited to see The Martha Wilson Source Book on the third floor at the Independent Curators Int'l (ICI) table, followed by her panel talk scheduled for Sunday at 1 P.M. in the Conference Room. The pioneering feminist artist will be discussing her performances, video, and photo-text compositions, and the book documents decades of her art-related research.