Conversations with Canadian Publishers at the Vancouver Art Book Fair 2015

By Justina Bohach

The 4th annual Vancouver Art/Book Fair took place from October 17 and 18, 2015 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The event was presented by Project Space; a local non-profit that concentrates on publishing within the artistic realm. Located within 3 floors of the building, the VA/BF spanned the main lobby, first floor event room, the library, and two spaces within the Annex that were courtrooms in a past life, and still physically reminiscent of this previous function. There were rows of booths arranged and aligned, with a plethora of printed matter, the court benches repurposed as a No Shoes Reading Room by Christian Vistan (Vancouver) and Paradise Plus (Brooklyn,NY) running The Trading Post and DJ booth, the fair feels like a type of intervention or happening in the theatrical space that is anything but neutral – a more standard practice for art book fairs across the globe. The two-day event included local, national and international booths of various formations including bookstores, independent publishers, project-based booths, printers and artist-run centres.

With a full lineup of programming and events, visitors were able to attend numerous talks in the library. Some highlights included: experimental publisher Ward Heirwegh (Sleeperhold Publications, Antwerp), it is a 10 volume project that takes on a variety of forms, and will then terminate; Sara Kaaman and Stina Löfgren (Girls Like Us, Stockholm, Amsterdam), a magazine that concentrates of women of all genders within the arts and literary endeavours; and JP King (Paper Pusher, Toronto), an experimental print and design studio that focuses on Risograph printing processes.

There were also ongoing and momentary projects, as well as performances amongst the hallways and vestibules. This included fortune telling at the Hammock Nook by Heidi Nagtegaal and Sylvie Ringer (Hammock Residency,Vancouver), taking a ride in the Annex elevator and you were also met with performer Robert Azevedo (commissioned by  No Shoes Reading Room, Vancouver) interjecting the small space with loose limbs. There was also a Sunday iteration of LIT LIT LIT LIT (Vancouver); an ongoing reading event hosted by Emma Metcalfe Hurst (Access Gallery, Vancouver) and Steffanie Ling (CSA Space, Bartleby Review, Vancouver).

After thirty years of working as the chief librarian at the VAG, Cheryl Siegel spent the last days of her career at this year’s fair, working the library’s annual used book sale/fundraiser. Which was one of the busiest aspects of the fair. Cheryl’s stories and enthusiasm will be treasured and missed by all who knew her, and her legacy will live on through her meticulous archiving that has become such an important part of the gallery.

With the recent unveiling of the conceptual design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery building, it is hard not to think about what types of new spaces and places will soon come into fruition for events such as the VA/BF. It has been very exciting to watch the VAG move into their next chapter, and the VA/BF’s success over the last few years, cementing the appreciation for printed matter within the community.

Below are interviews with eight booths at the fair this year, with a concentration on local and national participants. Everyone was given the same three questions to answer that relate to their practice around publication.

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Justina Bohach is an independent project manager, writer and consultant. Her background is in Critical and Cultural Studies and she has a particular interest in facilitating various modes of cultural production within contemporary art. She acted as Geoffrey Farmer’s studio manager from 2012-2015, which included project management and onsite installations such as Leaves of Grass at dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel and National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; The Surgeon and the Photographer at Barbican Centre, London; and How Do I Fit This Ghost In My Mouth? at the Vancouver Art Gallery. She will curate an exhibition titled Matter Trace at CSA Space (Vancouver) in December 2015.

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ACCESS GALLERY, VANCOUVER, BC
Interview with Emma Metcalfe Hurst, Curatorial Assistant

AccessGalleryImage by Emma Metcalfe Hurst

What is your background and how did it bring you to your current practice in regards to publications?

Access Gallery has a long history of publications, specifically with releasing publications alongside exhibitions. The initial examples of this started with interviews of exhibiting artists in the form of pamphlets and commissioned parallel texts, artist manifestos and book works. Access’ current director/curator Kimberly Phillips has a deep interest in printed matter, and for the intersection of visual art and the written word. She has a clear aesthetic and vision for how they might exist alongside exhibited work to to “thicken” or “worry” the experience of a project. She works with artists, poets, writers, and designers who are interested in experiential forms rather than didactic material.

What are your goals within your community?

We frequently collaborate with our local community, including Publication Studio, Brick Press, Moniker Press and the recently retired Ho Sun Hing Printing Company, to produce and disseminate printed matter. East Georgia Street, where Access Gallery is located, has a long history of printed matter. The 100 year-old  Ho Sun Hing Printing Company closed last year, which was a great loss to the community. Our book Eight Ounces Half A Pound (which was published alongside an exhibition of the same name in June 2014) addressed the impact of this closure and is bound with some of the last remaining cover stock from the shop.

What is a current project you are working on and what brought you to it?

We are currently working on two publication projects: we’re bringing the exhibition and book series titled Far Away so Close to culmination; there are three book works within the series. We launch the third and final book in this series on Thursday October 29, 2015 with a performance and reading. Far Away So Close explores ideas of distance and the idea that bridging distance (possibly inherent to the artistic act) might inevitably be a quixotic gesture. Each book in the series invited two writers (in Part I, Raymond Boisjoly and Vanessa Kwan, in Part II Stephen Collis and Andrea Torreblanca, and in Part III Steffanie Ling and Tanya Lukin Linklater) to contribute a text that considered ideas of distance in different ways. We are also working on producing an artist book for Laura Piasta’s upcoming solo exhibition (opening November 27, 2015), Sounding the Ultraviolet. The second project we are working on is with Laura Piasta. This book work will be beautiful: letterpressed cover, with French folds, and concerning Laura’s explorations in marbling which itself has a long history alongside the production of printed matter.

BRICK PRESS, VANCOUVER, BC
Interview with Ryan Smith, co-founder of Brick Press

BrickPress_STATEOFARTImage courtesy to Brick Press

What is your background and how did it bring you to your current practice in regards to publications?

Hi, my background is self taught. I started to take interest in publishing in the late 2000’s. It all started with friends at Kinkos making DIY zines. The itch never really went away and the need to publish closer to home (or a studio) was the next step. Finding free or inexpensive printers/copiers and other equipment on Craigslist became a habit. Risograph copiers were what I collected most of and I used them for the last four years or so. They’re all in storage or recycled due to them all eventually breaking down. Fast forward to now: We have a specialized print shop with a two colour A.B. Dick offset press, a 19″ guillotine cutter, book binding machines of all types, hot foil stamper/embossing machine, collator, vinyl plotters etc. A lot of this equipment was purchased from closed down print shops with the help of my girlfriend and co-founder of Brick Press, Kelin.

We operate a busy print shop, printing for smaller commercial clients and with our free time and money from our shop we print and publish books of artists who we choose to collaborate with us.

What are your goals within your community?

As a print shop our goals within our community are to provide high quality printing services of all kinds to customers big and small, who we work closely with to provide a more personal experience and properly executed projects. As publishers, our goal is to use our free time and revenue from our printing business to subsidize the costs of printing and publishing our own books. We see this as a way to disseminate important information into the hands of people and organizations and give access to work that may not be seen otherwise.

What is a current project you are working on and what brought you to it?

Our most recent publication is titled: The State of Art, Chapter One: How to Look at Art in the 21st Century by Annette Avalon. It’s the first chapter of two more to come. It’s a satirical art theory book that was made into a paperback pocket book. It’s worth a read and will surely make those who read it laugh, or not… Hahaha.

EMILY CARR UNIVERSITY OF ART + DESIGN, VANCOUVER, BC Interview with Beth Howe, Associate Professor, Print Media

Emily Carr_IMG_2130Image by Shamin Zahabiou

What is your background and how did it bring you to your current practice in regards to publications?

This booth represents self-published production from the Emily Carr community. Staff, alumni, and predominantly students. We have had a booth here for the last 3 years.

What are your goals within your community?

Within an educational setting, we are interested in developing the discourse and practice of artist publishing. The fair is an opportunity for our community to distribute printed matter to a larger audience.

What is a current project you are working on and what brought you to it?

The university now has an Art and Text minor for students from any discipline who want to work with the intersection of art and text, including but not limited to publishing.

OR GALLERY, VANCOUVER, BC
Interview with Kate Noble, Gallery & Publications Assistant and Bookstore Manager

OR_477t
Image courtesy of Or Gallery

What is your background and how did it bring you to your current practice in regards to publications?

Or Gallery has been around since 1983. Its mandate is largely based around critical and conceptual art and idea-based practice, so text-based work and artists’ publishing are kind of a natural fit for us. In recent years we have been publishing more artist books, such as Aaron Carpenter’s Exercises in Kinesthetic Drawing and Other Drawing and Ten Shows by Barb Choit. We have also republished the Vancouver Anthology, a collection of seminal essays on art and culture in Vancouver edited by Stan Douglas. We have been running a small bookstore within the gallery since 2010.

What are your goals within your community?

Publishing is a good way to reach a wider audience. Books can circulate beyond the confines of the art gallery, and hopefully have a longer life-span than a gallery exhibition. With the bookstore, we are trying to provide distribution for artists or small local publishers and presses that may not otherwise have a means to circulate their work, and we also try to provide publications to our audience that are difficult to find within Vancouver or elsewhere in Canada.

What is a current project you are working on and what brought you to it?

Over the next year or so, we will be co-publishing a new anthology, edited by Duane Linklater, in partnership with SFU Galleries. The book, titled The Woodland School Critical Anthology, will be a collection of writing about art by contemporary Indigenous artists. With this project we are hoping to help fill the void that exists in terms of discussion and criticism around contemporary Indigenous art. The publication of the book will also be preceded by a series of public talks and discussions presented by the contributors on their work, in the style of the Vancouver Anthology.

THE CAPILANO REVIEW, VANCOUVER, BC
Interview with Andrea Actis, Editor; Matea Kulic, Editorial Assistant; and Dylan Godwin, Managing Editor

TCR 3.27 cover

Image by David Ogilvie

What is your background (background of the publication) and how did it bring you to your current practice in regards to publications?

The Capilano Review was founded in 1972 by Vancouver-based artist and writer Pierre Coupey. He and fellow faculty members at Capilano College were looking for a platform to publish experimental writing and visual art. This was at a moment in Vancouver’s history when local magazines (TISH, The Georgia Straight) were directly engaged with the labour movements and radical politics. TCR has always been concerned with expanding the boundaries of conventional forms while at the same time remaining committed to place: to Vancouver, the West Coast, the wider reaches of Canadian culture. Today that focus continues with an expanded sense of place. Our most recent issue, “Pacific Poetries,” gathered work from all around the Pacific Rim. We continue to publish emerging and established writers side by side, visual and literary art side by side, and host readings, workshops, and an annual writer-in-residence program.

What are your goals within your community?

With major funding cuts at Capilano College in the last year, The Capilano Review was forced to become an independent magazine. In a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign last November to “Save The Capilano Review,” our community raised over $20,000 to keep us alive. We have since moved into a new collective arts space in the middle of the city. Moving down from the North Shore mountains and into the urban core means we are now more than ever directly engaging with the community. The new location allows us to continue our old relationships within the arts community (with artist-run centres such as the Western Front, Project Space, Artspeak) as well as forge new connections with neighbouring galleries and literary hubs. Our goals are to remain relevant within our community in the same way the original editors imagined, in an eco-political context that is both a continuation and break from four decades ago.

What is a current project you are working on and what brought you to it?

Our Fall issue is obsessing us. We’ve been losing all our sleep to it, and it goes to press in two days. It features work by unknowns (David Ogilvie) and knowns (William Kentridge), and voices old and new. It’s technically an open issue but somehow turned into a bestiary and a beautiful-angry chronicle of the last year in North American cultural politics. It really came together stunningly well. Oh, and we’re hosting Fred Moten this weekend too! In the pipeline: an upcoming issue on food, collaborations with Talonbooks and Presentation House Gallery, and a new series of digital chapbooks featuring brilliant writers from across North America. We’re also planning to host CAConrad in the spring. It’s a good time for us.

WESTERN FRONT, VANCOUVER, BC
Interview with Jacquelyn Ross, Curatorial Assistant

WesternFrontImage courtesy of Western Front

What is your background and how did it bring you to your current practice in regards to publications?

Since 1973 the Western Front has served as a platform for artists interested in experimentation within interdisciplinary forms. Over its 40+ year history, the artist-run centre has held dedicated programming streams in a variety of disciplines including Literary Arts, Performance Art and Movement Arts, and currently maintains programs in Exhibitions, Media Arts and New Music. From 1985-2011 the Western Front published Front Magazine: a quarterly publication (distributed free across the Lower Mainland) that included new work by emerging and established artists, writers and other members of the community.

Though Front Magazine was formally retired in 2011, the Western Front continues to incorporate the literary arts into its exhibitions and events, only occasionally producing dedicated print publications. Recently we’ve held a number of screenings of material from the archive, much of which documents the incredible readings held here by poets and writers through the decades. Literary heavyweights including Kathy Acker, bill bissett, George Bowering, Peter Culley, Daphne Marlatt, and many others have graced our stage throughout the Western Front’s history. Other current programming, including our ongoing Scrivener’s Monthly series (a “periodical that talks”) draws on this heritage, by inviting artists, writers, scholars and thinkers from Vancouver and abroad to give presentations on a variety of topics in order to explore the potential for “live” publication.

The Western Front continues to publish books in print, albeit at a different pace than it did in prior years. In 2012, Western Front Exhibitions published an extensive exhibition catalogue for artist Arvo Leo, for example, and continues to support publications and artist books published parallel to our exhibitions (for example, The Chef’s On Vacation by Mark Delong, published by Publication Studio in 2014).

What are your goals within your community?

We’d like to continue to be a platform for the literary scene in Vancouver. Vancouver has a long history of conversations between the literary and the visual arts, and given its unique potential as an interdisciplinary institution, the Western Front is an ideal position to continue to foster these exchanges.

What is a current project you are working on and what brought you to it?

Scrivener’s Monthly continues this fall, now in its fourth season! We have an amazing lineup of guest presenters scheduled, including Fred Moten (LA), Dory Nason (Vancouver), Martine Syms (LA) and Charles Mudede (Seattle). All of these events are free, and will likely tie people over until our next Western Front publications.

EAST IS THE NEW WEST, FREDERICTON, NB
Interview with Sophia Bartholomew, Project OrganizerEast is the new West 02Image by Sophia Bartholomew

What is your background and how did it bring you to your current practice in regards to publications?

I guess I did quite a lot of writing and printmaking when I was in school, in the visual arts program at UBC, and started making books when I was away on exchange in Paris. Books and publications continue to make sense to me as a time based medium, like video. You can gather disparate things together to form complex systems inside of a publication. It provides the time and space for nuanced ideas to unfold.

I also work as associate director of Connexion ARC, an artist-run centre in New Brunswick, and prints and publications have been an important way of adding depth to our existing programming.

I came to the Vancouver Art / Book Fair with a project called East is the New West, which is a gathering of printed matter, artist multiples and non-traditional publications from Atlantic Canada. I worked on the project in partnership with Connexion ARC. Mireille Eagan co-curated the work from Newfoundland and Labrador, Katie Belcher at Eyelevel Gallery co-curated works from Nova Scotia.

What are your goals within your community?

To keep making art; to live my life through art; to support other artists in making their best work…

Fredericton is a city of about 50,000 people, so our community is interested in art, but most people don’t have a visual arts background. We’re still able to present challenging artwork, but it has to interface with the rest of the world in a heightened way. I think contemporary art is important for non-art people, and visa versa.

What is a current project you are working on and what brought you to it?

Along with other artists’ work, I brought my most recent book project with me to the book fair. “Hello, Parka” comes out of a project I’ve worked on over the last three years – hosting artists’ projects inside of my winter coat. People have done residencies and performances and exhibitions in the parka, and have used the coat as a sculptural object to make work… The publication exists as sort of an extended architecture for some of these artworks, and I like how the sheaf of pages relates materially to membranes and to the ideas of protection and warmth which come up when you’re using a winter garment as a loose organizing concept. You can find some materials from “Hello, Parka” here, online: http://cargocollective.com/resoluteparka.

YESTERDAY WAS ONCE TOMORROW, WINNIPEG, MB
Interview with Kegan McFadden, Project Organizer/Exhibition Maker/Publisher/Gal About TownIMG_9724Kegan McFadden discussing the work &READ by Lawrence Weiner as part of the University of  Winnipeg Gallery 1C03 exhibition, A Putting Down of Roots: 40 Years of Contemporary Verse 2.

What is your background and how did it bring you to your current practice in regards to publications?

I studied creative writing/English as well as Art History in my undergrad. Then I went on to get a Curatorial Studies MA. The whole time I had been interested in artists who use language, or the way artists use language, or maybe the way language uses art. I’ve always been a writer … I remember writing short stories as a kid, and then poetry as well. I started a small press when I was 21. That press, As We Try & Sleep, has published chapbooks, flipbooks, zines, artistbooks, catalogues, broadsheets, etc. Through As We Try & Sleep, I have partnered with numerous artists to explore the intersection of the visual and literary arts; we’ve collaborated with artist-run as well as university and commercial galleries on publications in relation to exhibitions. We’ve hosted readings in gallery spaces, taken part in events in public parks, bookfairs, salons, and so on.

What are your goals within your community?

If I were to pinpoint a singular goal for myself in my community, it would be to promote activity. In Winnipeg, where I’m from/where I choose to make a life, we have a long and sorted past (speaking in terms of the arts). We forget this past constantly, a fresh page with every morning. And so sometimes we forget that it was a small group of artists that started the plethora of artist-run centres we have to this day in our city; sometimes we forget that it was the hard work of editors who continue to publish arts magazines (and who have done so for nearly 40 years and beyond) in this city; we forget that, unlike larger centres with more capital floating around, that ingenuity and labour are the backbones of our city and so that is the way things happen, including activity in the arts worth remembering. Whenever I meet with an artist, whether casually or through a studio visit, I always encourage activity and more often than not, I encourage them to explore publishing.

What is a current project you are working on and what brought you to it?

I’ve just curated an exhibition in recognition of 40 years of the poetry journal Contemporary Verse 2. CV2 is Canada’s longest running poetry quarterly and the poet Dorothy Livesay started it because she saw the lack of critical activity taking place in Canada. Her first editorial was titled ‘A Putting Down of Roots’ and it was a call to action for more discourse concerning poetry in Canada. I borrowed her title for the name of the show, and it opened in September at the University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03. The show contains a reading station with all 40 years of published journals, as well as archival letters and correspondence, notes, photographs, and postcards in vitrines. The walls are left for contemporary art by eight artists of international / intergenerational / cross cultural perspectives, including: Ben Cove, Hock E Aye VI Edgar Heap of Birds, Divya Mehra, Natasha Peterson, Erdem Taşdelen, Lawrence Weiner, John Will, Laurel Woodcock. Each of these artists incorporate text in their artwork… so there’s a lot to read in the show. The response has been very positive. We’ve also been hosting readings by local poets during lunch hour, and will close the exhibition with a symposium Nov 13th, following the launch of the 40th anniversary issue.

http://www.uwinnipeg.ca/art-gallery/

My next project will be to edit and publish an artistbook outlining the activity of a short-lived/much loved punk band here in Winnipeg from the late ‘70s – Mondo Trasho. They were the ‘house band’ for Arthur Street Gallery (ala: Plug In Inc.) and they were together for about three months, most of which was spent rehearsing their sound and cultivating their look. They performed only once, but there are hundreds of photos and press clippings, and set lists and lyric sheets in the personal archive of Suzanne Gillies and Douglas Sigourdson, the co-founders of Plug In and the leads of Mondo Trasho. So I’m putting together a book of all of this material as a way of pointing to past activity. That’s the most important thing I took away from my time in grad school at UBC, was that a city can take itself seriously. Winnipeg never took itself seriously, and so we’ve lost a whole number of histories. I’m just doing my part in pointing to some activities that took place before they’re forgotten too.

Earlier this year Plug In Institute of Contemporary presented my curatorial exhibition, Yesterday was Once Tomorrow (or, a brick is a tool). The show was an investigation into 5 short-lived artist-published magazines in Canada during the ‘90s and included Boo (Vancouver), Texts (Calgary), The Harold (Winnipeg), Flower (Toronto), and Cube (Montreal). I have always been drawn to these types of  wayward underground publications / zines / projects. This show was the first time these particular publications had been considered in concert, and I was very excited to be able to resuscitate conversations with the editors of these magazines as well as their contributors. It was exciting to make links between seemingly disparate activity taking place across the country. The editors had no idea of the other projects going on in other cities. Remember, this was pre-Internet! The show included a wallpaper treatment giving form to the contents of these magazines, as well as original artwork pulled from their pages, and a new work by Geoffrey Farmer based on a poem he had written for Kathy Acker nearly twenty years ago. We hosted a number of readings and performances by the likes of Jeanne Randolph, Colin Smith, and Angie Keefer turning the gallery into a generative space. There will be a re-staging of Yesterday was Once Tomorrow at Artexte in Montreal in 2016.