It’s not often that conversation is encouraged in a room full of books but discussion was part of the appeal at the Vancouver Art/Book Fair on the weekend.
Presented by Vancouver-based publisher Project Space, the two day fair showcases artists’ books, magazines, zines and other printed works as part of a wider program held across four floors at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
The event was launched Friday night with a reception at the Project Space bookstore on East Georgia Street, where the public were invited to bring their own loose pages to contribute to a collaborative bookmaking project.
The fair itself opened at noon Saturday and a curious assortment of printed items were on display. Some were intriguingly weird, like a collection of images of people urinating in Ellen Jong’s book Pees on Earth. Others, such as the illustrated book Baba Yaga and the Wolf by the Toronto artists known as Tin Can Forest, were aesthetically beautiful.
Photography books were prevalent in the show, but not the glossy, coffee-table kind. Many were hand-stapled zines and tiny books of illustrations, some with hand-decorated covers, but even the designs of the sleeker publications were largely modest.
Collections of writing and poetry were also among the exhibits, as were illustrated novels and abstract collections of words, an artwork in themselves.
Although the sheer number of books on display was overwhelming, guidance was on offer from exhibitors who were eager to share some of the stories behind the books. The discussion helped this writer negotiate a wealth of material so big that an afternoon wasn’t long enough to see it all.
Among the highlights was the exhibit by 88Books, where Ho Tam and Cosmo Kwan explained how their independent press helps provide freedom of expression to emerging artists from China by presenting their work in artists’ books produced in Vancouver. The resulting items, consisting mostly of photo-based art, are stunning, intriguing, and extremely varied. Tam also presented a collection of his own books spanning his career, from prints produced in the 1990s to the more recent “Poser” portrait collections, and Hotam #1, which chronicles his life in images accompanied by a timeline of world events.
At the Artists’ Books Cooperative exhibit, Washington-based artist David Schulz outlined the chain of events which led him to produce his photo book The Terrorist’s Handbook. It combines photographs of New York City infrastructure, such as the Manhattan Bridge, with text from an online handbook for making bombs and explosives. He was inspired to produce the book through his own experiences with police while photographing the structures.
Formal discussions were also held at the fair, starting on Saturday with a talk by Vancouver artist Willie Brisco. Sessions were also held with Andrew Berardini, co-founder of The Art Book Review in Los Angeles, the UK design collective OWT Creative. Vancouver writer Amber Dawn performed I Fell In Love With Black, an adaptation of a short-story about an attraction between a child and a sculpture.
On Sunday, Patricia No and Antonia Pinter from Portland-based Publication Studio discussed their founding principles and book projects, Brooklyn artist and publisher Jesse Hlebo outlined the role of independent publishing in his practice, Andres Fresneda offered an insight into art publishing in Colombia and international photographer Deniz Merdano ran a workshop explaining the creation of a photo book from start to completion. Editors Asli Serbest and Mona Mahall also used Google maps to discussed their magazine, Junk Jet.
Written by Alicia Bridges
Alicia Bridges is an Australian reporter and features writer starting a new chapter in Vancouver. Exploring the city’s cultural side and its current affairs.