Whitechapel Book Art Fair visit

Yesterday, Friday the 11th September, I visited the Book Art Fair in Whitechapel. The vast majority of the books on exhibition/sale were in the typical and ubiquitous book format: binded, handprinted and beautifully made. Some were printed-on-demand, there were some distributors, i,e, Anagram books, all related to art publications, and other independent smaller publishers, and several artist's publications. I must confess, I was disapointed with the fact that not a lot of books were of a subversive nature in regards to their format. I found only 3 artists who were of a more sculptural nature, or that used format to complement the content of the book subversively. One of them was Dario Zeruto, who uses existent poetic works and rebinds the books (generally of his favourite authors) in ways that appeal to the reading experience in tune with the content of the book. One of the most kinetic experiences, was a series of three poems which you had to squeeze to be able to read. Another one, entilttled 'Giro' (which in Italian means spiral) was fold and bound in a spiral, which meant that you had to physically turn the book, or yourself, to be able to read the book.

Another, in my opinion, excellent aproach to the book, was that of Mariya Ustymenko. 'Fear of Disappearance' is the result of a residency with UCA, through Akina, a photobook press thought out to explore the ways in which the book discloses, rather than shows the artist's interests. This does come thorugh Mariya's book, and even more so through the fact that she has three options for the reader: an affordable collection of the images she edited to be in the book, an artist's version of the book hand-bound and featuring some of the materials she used in the more sculptural version, in which format related to the content and the reader's experience: the book is about how we go to places and when we revisit them, not only they have changed (or not) because of this, and of time, our relashionship with them changes. Her sculpture incorporated concrete (a material I am super keen to experiement with), lazer printed perspex and metal. All arranged in a way to portray urban space, however, the book could be rearranged by the reader. The printed images could feature in whatever order the reader saw fit to illustrate the changes suffered by the space.

In the meantime, I have met many other artists, but of relevance I should mention the Scandinavian stalls, which were strongly represented, and which poetic and philosophical/theorical flair was neatly presented. I took specially a long time talking to Kurt Johannessen, who initiated activity in 1984 (when I was born!) and lured me into his books by his simplistic presentation of simple philosophical silogisms, or funny takes on other works of art, like the Cistine chapel. Another interesting initiative is Grafters, a free newspaper, with lots of relevant and current literary and art related discourse. Stretching to South Korea and Ireland, worth mentioning because of their colourful and poetic collage approach is RedFoxPress, which are inspired by Dadaism and Futurism.

The photobook -I- possibly -liked -the -most-award goes to Highchair editions, where Edward (the artist) has talked me through his creative process when he was in Paloma, which ended up turning into a delicate and golden rusty book, which gave me a palpable feeling of what Paloma is like. However, Moon Space Books and its Moon Space One photographic book is in direct competition for this award. It is gracious and clever.

More on the content side of the book, 'The hidden story of Os' is a very interestingly layed-out book, focusing on the presence of the letter 'o' throughout the book. Strategy and tool I have used before in my books, however as a means of carrying a message, rather than a poetic graphic display that intertwines the whole thematic of the book itself - clever!


On my way out, I encountered Valiz, a publishing house from which I purchased a book, just the day before I visited the Book Fair. I learnt that the term 'fair' doesn't mean 'cheaper'. This publisher is dedicated to art and theory, but with a pertinent current view on subjects that are of my interest: politics, activism, community, education. Lastly, I met Alex Parry, the editor of the Wellington art school. She devises the free newspaper, inviting contributors and students to respond to an open call on a theme that has been approached by the school in their curriculum and publishes their work. It was very useful to talk to her, as she informed me that their school offered a Fine Art GSCE to the parents of the children taking the main courses as a form of integrating their understanding of what their children were studying. A social educational initiative I am keen to explore the workings of. Something to further my research into as a case-study.


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