Eyes on Norway at This Year’s New York Art Book Fair

Each year, a new country and its small-scale publishing is in focus at The New York Art Book Fair. This year it is Norway. 

From 'Album #2'

From ‘Album #2’

‘A handful of independent, small-scale Norwegian publishers and artistic projects have been selected to showcase an active demand for publishing at this year’s Art Book Fair in New York. There, they’ll come face to face with an international market at what is nevertheless a fair where the bar is set lower, providing the displaying artists and publishers with unique exposure on an international arena,’ says coordinator Randi Grov Berger.

The New Nork Art Book Fair (NYABF) will be held for the ninth time on September 26 – 28, at MoMA PS1, with NY-based indie bookshop Printed Matter, Inc. as primary organizer. This year, as last, one country has been particularly represented for its work in the world of small-scale publishing. Following Switzerland last year, this time it is Norway’s turn, with Randi Grov Berger coordinating the Norwegian project. Grov Berger says that what makes the Norwegian scene interesting are the numerous self-organized and artist-established publishing companies that have arisen in later years, with a dynamic and organized scene noted for its spirit of cooperation. She highlights that artists often work on a number of publishing projects at the same time, and that those chosen to contribute to NYABF are either artists who produce their own publications or publishers who work very closely with the artists they represent.

NYABF casts a wide net as far as showing artist books, fanzine ephemera, and artist activism are concerned. What might the reason that self-organized publishing having grown so popular these last few years?

‘A important point is that artist books, fanzines, journals, and magazines are distributed through other channels than the typical commercial ones. Dissemination of ideas happens a lot easier in a format that doesn’t require a gallery and that doesn’t cost a lot to produce. Printed Matter, Inc. has – since it started in 1973 – been an idealistic non-profit with open submission. Self-publishing is a democratic display format; it’s something nearly everyone has access to, and can easily distribute. It’s usually not commercial stuff, free to distribute and traded or sold for a nominal sum. The fact that fewer publications are made and fewer copies printed, makes a possible a richer spectrum of different publications, which have the freedom to be completely offbeat. It gives room for more voices – a more democratic spread.

‘In addition, several independent booksellers who also publish show up as part of more established institutions. That opens up more arenas to be present in, and strengthens the field, which is part of the reason we have all this attention now. The invitation to participate at NYABF is based on recognition of a strong and diverse scene with good artists, illustrators, editors, and book designers. It’s a result of idealistic publishing companies furthering the attention publications receive outside domestic borders. I hope that our participation in this year’s fair creates networking contacts for younger publishers, and inspires more of them to participate in fairs going forward, so that – in that way – they can make their projects stronger and hopefully keep making investments in future. At NYABF, they’ll meet around 300 booksellers and independent publishers from around 25 countries and around 25 000 visitors at one of New York’s very finest institutions: MoMA PS1.’


From 'Album #1'

From ‘Album #1’

Bokforum has chosen two new publications that will be launched at NYABF.

One of these is ALBUM, published by Primary Information and Teknisk Industri. ALBUM is a series of fanzines created in 2008 by Eline Mugaas and Elise Storsveen. The fanzines are whole page illustrations and ads taken from a plethora of sources found at jumble sales around Oslo. The contents reflect the pictures typical to Scandinavian households from 1960 to 1980: cookbooks, travel magazines, knitting books, glossy fashion magazines, and sex manuals. The chosen images are beautifully and meticulously laid out in analogue, using tape, scissors, and a ‘Xerox’ machine at the back of a gallery made available to them at night.

You use collage and appropriate material from various other printed media. How and why do you cooperate artistically on this technique?

ALBUM started as a joint project, leading off from out talks on pictures and our respective collections of books and magazines from jumbles and the like. We’ve known each other almost all our lives, so these talks go way back, and we wanted to do something as overflow project besides our individual artistic endeavours. Even though we use the simplest form of collage as our technique, combining two pictures from different sources, which, when put together, create a new story, we don’t really think of it as “collage”.

‘For us, it’s a way of looking at and making a point of what we see in a picture, beyond the obvious motif. One of the fundamental ideas behind ALBUM is working with visual material completely independently of words. To appropriate extant imagery is to borrow other people’s visual eye and ideas. We use the images largely uncropped, straight out of a book or glossy, and have to the formats and qualities those things have, since the pictures aren’t handled on computer, but assembled the “old fashioned way”, with scissors and glues, and then copied up (200 copies) on a “Xerox” machine.

‘Using an old fashioned technique holds no particular significance for us, but it is important for the process and the idea that it be as simple as possible. It should – first and foremost – be about looking at pictures. Every issue builds on a theme or idea. These themes are always based on the body of images we have. In other words, we register and discuss what types of pictures and motifs keep recurring, and give us the chance to work out a sort of narrative.

‘The book ALBUM is being published in cooperation with Primary Information and Teknisk Industri. It brings together the first ten issues of ALBUM, a collection encompassing the lonesome male, femininity, architecture, family, space, and nature.’

The Video Art Archive 

Jeremy Welsh, Slide Paintings, dias projection series. From the book Lives and Videotapes: The Inconsistent History of Norwegian Video Art (Feil Forlag)

Jeremy Welsh, Slide Paintings, dias projection series. From the book Lives and Videotapes: The Inconsistent History of Norwegian Video Art (Feil Forlag)

The other publication Bokforum would like to highlight is Lives and Videotapes: the Inconsistent History of Norwegian Video Art, which will also be launched at NYABF, this one by Feil Forlag [tr. Wrong Publishing Company]. Kjersti Solbakken, who runs Feil toghether with Andreas Johannesen Delsett, tells us a little about how the company works and the launch.

You have written that ‘our motivation derives from a longing to publish art. We want to publish art projects based on the projects’ own ideas. In each individual case, there are specific formats that are best suited.’ Tell us more about your collaboration with the Video Art Archive!

‘Feil Publishing experiments with different formats, sizes of printing, and launch platforms to provide a space for projects that do not fit into any normal arrangement, and precisely that is something key to the nature of video art. Video art is not well represented in Norwegian art collections, and little has been written about its history. The fact of the matter is that large segments of Norwegian video art are in danger of being worn out. That was the backdrop against which the Video Art Archive was founded. Feil is involved in this book project because it brings you close to a really interesting body of work, and because it grants a better understanding of Norwegian art history. The book is very true to source and show great respect for artists as a source of knowledge and experience.

‘The book Lives and Videotapes: the Inconsistent History of Norwegian Video Art is being published to shed light on how artists have used the medium of video, and how the medium has affected a general understanding of art in Norway. The words are Marit Paasche’s, a research supervisor at the Video Art Archive, and detail six in-depth interviews with the following artists: Marianne Heske, Terje Munthe, Kjell Bjørgeengen, Inghild Karlsen, Morten Børrresen and Jeremy Welsh. Mike Sperlinger, who was previously assistant direct at LUX, has written the foreword.

Lives and Videotapes: the Inconsistent History of Norwegian Video Art attempts to find out how, why and in what context many of the earliest pieces of video art in Norway came into being. How did the artists understand video as a medium? What references did they have? What artistic concept were they opposing? The artists illuminate various aspects of the early history of video art in Norway that we feel are prominent: their relation to other art forms, like sculpture, music, performance, theatre, conceptualism, the role of the art academies and institutions, as well as new media.’

The interview was also published in the printed edition of KUNSTforum 3–2014. For subscriptions, please click here

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