A week or so before the recent NY Art Book Fair at PS1, Nicholas Gottlund of independent publisher Gottlund Verlag posted a ten-second clip from Seinfeld to his blog. ”What is this obsession people have with books?” Jerry asks George, “They put them in their houses like they’re trophies. What do you need it for after you read it?”
George’s response—”They’re my books!”—is typical of George and probably plenty of other bibliophiles out there. But, even as many people (including my own parents) do the lion’s share of their reading on a Kindle these days, there are plenty of other less selfish reasons to go on clinging to the printed page. At the NY Art Book Fair, the profusion of independent publishers made a fine case for clearing out space on the shelves for books, whether they’re destined to be trophies or not.
Established in 2007, Gottlund Verlag is one of them. “Verlag” is the German word for “publisher,” and although Gottlund isn’t based in Germany (he works out of studios in Baltimore, MD and Kutztown, PA) the Teutonic flavoring is no mere affectation. The studio is housed in a picturesque nineteenth century Pennsylvania Dutch barn. There’s even hex signs painted on the walls. From this enchanting space, Gottlund collaborates with artists like photographers Coley Brown and Ed Panar on every step of the book’s design before producing them by hand in the studio. He and many of the other publishers were on hand at the fair to sell their wares and talk shop.
The entire fair was ripe with confabbing. I tripped into it myself in a corner room of PS1 given over to Werkplaats Typografie, a graduate design program in Arnhem, The Netherlands. The room had been turned into the “Mary Shelley Facsimile Library” of print media scanned and reproduced by current students in the program. As one of the students, Laure Giletti, explained to me, each student compiled a list of sources they’re interested in and wrote a text stringing them together. These “Frankensteined” annotated bibliographies were bound into nifty booklets and sold for three bucks each. Unlike Frankenstein’s monster, the booklets are held together by glue, not stitching. The room was outfitted with coffee and cookies to encourage fellow bookworms to hang out and swap more references. Giletti reminded me of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book and I went on and on about the Whole Earth Catalog I had pored over earlier in the day.
Other folks were sharing their reference points too. Golden Age was also at the fair with their book Reference Work, published during a recent exhibition at the MCA Chicago. In it, proprietors Martine Syms and Marco Kane Braunschweiler share their favorite business books, self-help resources, a business course syllabus, and personal notes on operating their store in Chicago. As they note, there’s no clear roadmap for running a successful art book shop. This makes searching out business aids that do exist—think of that aisle in any chain bookstore with the cringe-inducing covers—a necessity. The unapologetically commercial world of business self-help publishing might seem like the last place artists might look to for value, but Syms and Braunschweiler make the case that, if properly distilled, the references gathered in their book might actually prove helpful. It seems to me that this is the most any bibliophile could ask of the shelves sagging under the weight of his or her books. Rather than becoming trophies, one might hope that some volatile drops of wisdom might seep out from the shelves and, pooling together, set off sparks that bring the monster to life.
GUEST POST BY ELIZABETH CORR
A few weeks ago, some friends and I attended the opening of Twice Removed: A Survey of Take Away Work at Golden Age. I was excited to see a show entirely dedicated to this concept, a concept that one of my favorite artists, Félix González-Torres, explored throughout his career.
Curator Karly Wildenhaus requested submissions of take away art from the personal collections of individuals, and not surprisingly, she amassed a great set of work hailing from places as far away as London and Antwerp, in addition to more local pieces from Chicago, Minneapolis, and Brooklyn, to name a few. (You can read the full exhibition description here and see additional images from the show.)
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of audience participation and multiplicity in art – two ideas which take away art knowingly references, but then pushes to a new level by creating an entirely removable installation.
What’s so compelling about the take away object is that audience participation is fundamental to the pieces’ meaning as a whole. The viewer, at zero cost, leaves with a multiple, and at the artist’s encouragement, is sent out into the world to re-appropriate the object in whatever way they see fit. This element of freedom, and the open-ended nature of the artwork’s new life, is both exciting and disruptive to the ways in which people traditionally experience art (i.e. in an institutional setting).
As an integral component of the work, viewers are invited to step into the role of collector, a role traditionally inaccessible to the masses for a variety of reasons. And for this particular moment, the “new collectors” dictate the rules of the game by choosing when, where and how to display their newfound pieces, all the while challenging the idea that increased production (many multiples) devalues artwork both in a market sense and in an ideological sense.
Twice Removed draws attention to all of these issues, bringing together an impressive selection of work from well known artists such as Félix González-Torres, Bruce Nauman and Adrian Piper, while also including the work of lesser known artists such as Rivane Neuenschwander (I’m still regretting not having a chance to see her show at the New Museum this past summer).
Walking through the show, I found myself not necessarily thinking about what it meant for these objects to be literally “twice removed” (initially from the museum or gallery, and then yet again by Karly for the purposes of this show), but instead lost in thought about the period in between – what life was like for the object inside the collector’s home. Sure, displaying the work as individual pieces this second time around reinforces the transient nature of take away art, and highlights how insubstantial the materials actually are (candy, postcards, pins, ribbon etc.). But, the pieces I was most drawn to were those that the collector had personalized, imbuing the object with an additional layer of meaning and sentimentality.
One great example came in the form of a homemade candy box. This particular collector visited the Guggenheim numerous times to see Félix González-Torres’ piece Untitled (“Public Opinion”). Each time he went, he gathered a piece of black licorice candy, and once happy with the quantity accumulated, created a display case for them. I loved seeing the transformation from the original installation to this collector’s interpretation, although it definitely made me wish that I hadn’t just haphazardly eaten my Félix González-Torres candies.
It’s been weeks since I saw the show, and I really haven’t stopped thinking about it since. The weather is starting to improve, so make the trek to Golden Age to see Twice Removed before it’s over. If for some reason you can’t make it, there will be an accompanying website and pamphlet published by Golden Age after the show’s run.
Elizabeth Corr received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in African Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her graduate work focused on contemporary African art in post-apartheid South Africa. She lives in Chicago and works at NRDC, an environmental nonprofit.
Organized by Karly Wildenhaus.
Golden Age is located at 119 N Peoria St. #2D. Reception is Friday from 6-9pm.
Work by Zak Arctander presented as part of the ACRE Exhibitions program.
The New Gallery is located at 1344 W. 18th Pl. Reception is Friday from 6-9pm.
3. (Fig. 4) at Pentagon
Work by Anthony Creeden, Bret Schneider, Liam Murtaugh and Xavier Jimenez.
Pentagon is located at 2655 W Homer St. Reception is Saturday from 7-10pm.
Artist talk with float builder extraordinaire Ben Fain and 3Walls co-founder Shannon Stratton.
moniquemeloche is located at 2154 W Division St. Artist talk is Saturday at 1pm.
Work by Erik L. Peterson presented as part of the ACRE Exhibitions program.
Happy Collaborationists Exhibition Space is located at 1254 N. Noble St. Reception Saturday from 6-10pm.
December 21, 2010 · Print This Article
I like the concept of this exhibition so much I had to blog it here – the more submissions the organizers receive, the better this show will be, don’t you think? Karly Wildenhaus, who runs the invaluable online Chicago visual arts calendar On the Make, is currently working with Golden Age on an exhibition of individual pieces of “take-away” art. The show is called Twice Removed. Right now, Karly is seeking submissions of take-away art from personal collections. All submissions (if accepted) must be mailed or dropped off at Golden Age by January 18th. Full details below. If you’ve got one of Félix González-Torres’ pieces of candy lying around – now’s the time to share! (Funny – I never thought of saving mine. I just thoughtlessly ate it. What is wrong with me??).
Encountering the “take away” artwork, consisting of unlimited or large-run editions whose individual pieces are free for the taking, has become a common occurrence in contemporary art exhibitions. A strategy notably employed in Félix González-Torres’ “stack” works, the take away has been used by many other artists with a variety of intents and forms. The spirit of generosity, an exploration of dispersion and the attempt to circumvent the art market are just a few of the potential motivations cited for generating take away works. Twice Removed aims to provide a venue where the multiplicity of meanings and post-exhibition life implied by the take away model can be considered by exhibiting single units of these works together.
Golden Age is soliciting individual pieces of take away artworks from personal collections for temporary loan during the length of the exhibition. To contribute, please send a brief description of your items for further submission and loan information. Items must be received by mail or dropped off at Golden Age’s location in Chicago by January 18, 2011. Any further questions? Contact email@example.com.
Written and overseen by Meg Onli, our beloved BAS teammate, Black Visual Archive is a terrific new blog/website dedicated to contemporary black and post-black visual culture that launches this week. What’s more, the website is designed by another invaluable BAS colleague, Martine Syms, who as you all know also runs Golden Age. I love the crisp look of this site, and the range of subject matter, which promises to be pop-y, eclectic, smart yet fun, too. Right now, Black Visual Archive has a beautifully written review of Kerry James Marshall’s exhibition catalog Mementos from his 1998 exhibition at the Renaissance Society in Chicago, which looks at the thematic and conceptual implications of the book’s design and content. They’ve also posted on a performance of Nina Simone’s “Feelings” at the Montreau Jazz Festival and the Berry Brother’s Fascination’ Rythym. A brief excerpt from “Kerry James Marshall | Mementos” follows:
Historically, a souvenir painting is a literal interpretation of an event, however, instead of painting the march from Selma to Montgomery or a portrait of the Little Rock Nine, Marshall’s “Souvenir” paintings all depict the interior of a middle-class household. In Souvenir I, (1997) the home becomes sanctified with the souls of black folk who hover above a couch. Their visages, reproduced with screen-prints, which are a sharp contrast to Marshall’s hand, are of deceased men, women and children with angel wings. In gold glitter the phrase “in memory of” is scrawled just below them. Is this our souvenir? The ability to ascend to a higher social status? Are these men and women our post-Movement saints? Powell notes, “one gets the sense that the ‘Souvenir’ paintings have just as much to do with process of memorializing as they do with the ‘idea’ or ‘theme’ of the memorial: painting likeness and building effigies to the one-time mortals-but-now-gods; creating a functioning, commemorative alter in one’s home; and constructing a hierarchy of African-American sainthood.”
There’s much more to come, so check out the site on a regular basis, or subscribe to the RSS feed for more.