Everything is About to Happen (Porto): Artists’ Books and Editions
Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto
15 Oct 2016 - 12 Feb 2017
Works by Patrícia Almeida and David-Alexandre Guéniot, Karl Holmqvist, Janice Kerbel, Sara McKillop, Kristen Mueller, León Muñoz-Santini, Preston is My Paris, Simon Popper, Erik Steinbrecher, Fritz Welch, Nicole Wermers.
‘Everything is About to Happen (Porto): Artists’ Books and Editions’ is dedicated to the most recent developments in the field of artists’ books as a medium and context for contemporary art. The exhibition presents more than 200 works ? many of them published in small, hard to find editions ? to give an overview of the most recent developments in the field of artists’ books. Through them it looks at burlesque reversals, authorship fluidity, sub-activism, unproductive labour, nonsensical and non-linear languages as tools to reaffirm and question our collective desire for collectivity. It suggests that artists’ books should be seen both as individual artistic expressions and as participants in a forum whose culture and freedom are essential to our future.
For the duration of the exhibition, the Serralves bookstore will become an integral part of the show and present recent artists’ books that respond to the concerns it articulates. The bookstore selection is curated by Gregorio Magnani in collaboration with Motto, Berlin.
Artists’ books, works of art that adopt the format and particular modes of distribution of the book, first came to prominence in the mid-1960s. They offered artists a cheap and easily distributed art form that responded to the widespread desire to bring art out of the gallery context. After almost disappearing from view in the 1980s, artists’ books found new energy as a form of artistic expression in the mid-1990s. Then, the wide availability of increasingly affordable digital editing and printing technologies paired with the ease of communication afforded by the internet made it relatively easy to publish or self-publish a book or fanzine. Artists could adopt the book as their chosen medium and become publishers of themselves or choose to rely on a vast network of artist lead, small, adventurous, and often short lived, publishing houses. It was a media that allowed them to be in full control of their own work ? from the first glimpse of an idea, through its development in editing and publishing, to its final marketing. This was liberating: it allowed free experimentation that bypassed the need for institutional support and validation and relied instead on an alternative peer-to-peer network. It also responded perfectly to the 1990s dream of self-empowerment embodying its promise to make each of us a one-man-act on a constant path of self-reinvention. Today the hope of a non-exploitative relation between capital and independent cultural producers seems as unrealistic as the 1960s notion of liberation through commerce. In the creative arts, self-expression reads more and more as labour performed as entertainment for somebody else’s gain. But the productive power of the shared language that constituted the community around artists’ books remains. It relies on low costs, high affective investments, peer-to-peer exchanges and on the focus on the ability of the book to create social exchanges. Threatened by capital’s capacity to survive its crisis through the consumption and production of social spaces, it reaffirms its communal energy by acknowledging the dangers it faces.
‘Everything is About to Happen (Porto): Artists’ Books and Editions’ is organized by the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, and is curated by Gregorio Magnani.
Photos: Filipe Braga © Fundação de Serralves, Porto.