Sitting here on the edge of another holiday, of another year, I wanted to write a brief post to let you know, dear reader, what is coming down the road.

I have re-collected the early work of NewLights (first four years, 2000-2004), so now I can begin cataloging all of the books for this (and future) website(s). I intend to start doing that on top of regular posting. There will be one catalog entry at a time, in reverse chronological order, so that when the whole subject string is viewed the newest book is first. So, gulp, the first book I will be posting will be my first book, in all of its not-quite-rightness. (But I was so proud back then, so in love with the idea of making books, reeling from that utilitarian revelation.)

There will also be some more serious writing as well, some review type things and more essay sketches, possibly more sign-chains. I think first on deck for review (that word doesn’t seem quite right, but I’ll use it anyway) is Mimeo Mimeo #2, which I, bursting with excitement, received right before Xmas. Great journal—the sheer fact of its existence makes me happy.

I hope everyone has a good New Year. I miss you all terribly.



Begin (Vivi)Section 1: Lupton, Ellen, Thinking With Type, (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004), 29.::::::::::::::::::::“In the early 1990s, as digital design tools began supporting the seamless reproduction and integration of media, many designers grew dissatisfied with clean, unsullied surfaces, seeking instead to plunge the letter into the harsh and caustic world of physical processes. Letters, which for centuries had sought perfection in ever more exact technologies, became scratched, bent, bruised, and polluted.+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
++++++Barry Deck’s typeface Template Gothic, designed in 1990, is based on letters drawn with a plastic stencil. The typeface thus refers to a process that is at once mechanical and manual. […]” [italics mine]::::::::::::::::::End (Vivi)Section 1&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&Begin (Vivi)Section 2: Foster, Hal, The Return of the Real, (Cambridge: MIT Press/October Books, 1996), 63-66&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&“In time, however, seriality could not be avoided, and this recognition led to demonstrations and counter-demonstrations of its logic. Consider, for example, how Rauschenberg tests this logic in Factum I and II (1957), each canvas filled with found images and aleatory gestures that are repeated, imperfectly, in the other. Yet not until minimalism and pop is serial production made consistently integral to the technical production of the work of art. More than any mundane content, this integration makes such art “signify in the same mode as objects in their everydayness, that is, in their latent systematic.” And more than any cool sensibility, this integration severs such art not only from artistic subjectivity (perhaps the last transcendental order of art) but also from representational models. In this way minimalism rids art of the anthropomorphic and the representational not through anti-illusionist ideology so much as through serial production. For abstraction tends only to sublate representation, to preserve it in cancellation, whereas repetition, the (re)production of simulacra, tends to subvert representation, to undercut its referential logic. (In future histories of artistic paradigms, repetition, not abstraction, may be seen to supersede representation—or at least to disrupt it most effectively.)++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
++++++++++Since the Industrial Revolution a contradiction has existed between the craft basis of visual art and the industrial order of social life. Much sculpture since Rodin seeks to resolve this contradiction between “individual aesthetic creation” and “collective social production,” especially in the turn to processes like welding and paradigms like the readymade. With minimalism and pop this contradiction is at once so attenuated (as in the minimalist concern with nuances of perception) and so collapsed (as in the Warholian motto “I want to be a machine”) that it stands revealed as a principal dynamic of modern art. In this regard, too, the seriality of minimalism and pop is indicative of advanced-capitalist production and consumption, for both register the penetration of industrial modes into spheres (art, leisure, sport) that were once removed from them. […] Both minimalism and pop resist some aspects of this logic, exploit others (like mechanization and standardization), and foretell still others. For in serial production a degree of difference between commodity-signs becomes necessary; this distinguishes it from mass production. Indeed, in our political economy of commodity-signs it is difference that we consume.”::::::::::::::::::::::::End (Vivi)Section 2:::::::::::::::::::::::::



Figs. 12.08.05, 12.08.06, 12.08.07, 12.08.08
05 and 06 are of the Proofs & Ephemera binder. 07 and 08 are of the Functional Analysis.

Above are some more images from the IDE(A/O)LOG(Y/UE). Two images each of the other two binders from the first iteration.
I’ve slowly been coming to terms with the fact that I won’t have a full website operational by Feb. Or at least I won’t if I want to get anything else done, which I do. So this blog will do for the time being, thus

I will be building the catalog of NewLights books on this site. That starts by

Going home (the PA) for the holiday. Overnight flight to Pittsburgh, then 4 hours by car…



I’ve been thinking about that last post all weekend. I realized by the end of writing it that I had irresponsibly gone into territory that I couldn’t fully explore under the time/space constraints of the blog (Normally, I write these posts in the morning before I go to work. That may change.). Thus the abrupt “TO BE CONTINUED!” What follows is an explanation/retraction from the last post, some more measured reflections on the subject of definitions in the field of artists’ books, and a brief assessment of how these definitions do and do not shape the output of the NewLights Press.

First of all, an apology to Johanna Drucker and The Century of Artists’ Books, about the line “she pretty much ignores un-imaged fine press books, and calls the kind with pictures livres d’artistes.” The word “ignores” is not accurate. She does in fact discuss fine press editions, and in doing so she shows why they are outside of the scope of the rest of her book. Her book is not about fine press books, thus, she doesn’t talk about them. That is the kind of decision every writer has to make whenever they are writing, so the word “ignores” is unfair, as it connotes some sort of scholarly irresponsibility or prejudice.

Also from the last post: “Bookarts/Artists’ Books is a discourse with a particularly pernicious definition problem.” Here is the opening of Betty Bright’s No Longer Innocent: Book Art in America, 1960-1980 (Granary Books, 2005):

The story of book art in America in the 1960s and 1970s is a story of persistent identity crises and of fierce allegiances as well as dissensions. Much to the chagrin of critics and the frustration of artists, the enduring debate over the years has turned on the most basic of questions: What is and what isn’t an artist’s book? In his essay “The Rise of the Book in the Wake of Rain,” printer Jim Trissel laments that too often the critics of artists’ books have resorted to an “effort to segregate kinds of books into categor[ies] and to proclaim something now called the ‘artist book’ the emergent and superior species.” By this, Trissel refers to writers who claim for art one kind of artist’s book to the exclusion of all others. To the uninitiated, such hair-splitting may appear confusing, even mean-spirited. Why the polemic?
A preoccupation with definition is perhaps understandable given the diversity in artists’ books, which appear in dramatically different forms and with radically divergent content. […] (p. 1, italics mine)

So the problem is that there are so damn many of the things, and that they are all so different. And of course, books have their own history that was separate from art as such—until the emergence of the term “artists’ book.” But all this confusion is what makes the field interesting. There is a long history as well as a sense of newness and exploration.

Normally, I try not to let the field’s definition problem bother me too much. But it’s come up recently as I try to organize my work for presentation on the web. For the record, I have decided not to list books by “type,” they will only be listed by author(s) and by date.

The definition problem does have its broader consequences as well. As a practitioner of the bookarts, as a publisher of literature, and as a maker of art in book form, where does one (myself, many others) belong? I very deliberately pull from traditions of craft printing and binding, of independent publishing, ‘zines, and a rapidly expanding indie culture, trade publishing, as well as avant-gardist strategies usually associated with the visual arts. I distribute my work over the web, at “trade shows” and book fairs, through bookstores, and at art galleries. Having an education in the visual arts, I feel a strong, compulsive need to show in galleries. But the nagging question: Should I be?

Books are interstitial objects. By definition they occupy a series of planes simultaneously. So the book, so the book artist. Provisional solution: buckle up, bite down, and see where this thing takes us.



In the post below (NewLights Mission Statement), I mentioned a few different “types” of books, all of them produced by NewLights. I want to take a few moments today and try to define those types; but first, a few things about definitions in general.

Definitions, while extremely useful and even necessary sometimes, are tricky things. They often provide the illusion of stability, of some kind of authority filling the hollowness of the word. It is in that sense that they are misleading—they mislead in the fact that they make promises against such a thing. Definitions are not stable, and they are not finite—they are zones, porous and soft, and they bend to the will of their user.

Bookarts/Artists’ Books is a discourse with a particularly pernicious definition problem. The first question is always: “What is an artists’ book?” When one starts to look at the books though, there is the inevitable, “What is a book, anyway?” One could posit that every artists’ book starts with that question. But I do not intend to go down that road today. I want to speak more locally and immediately.

Do-It-Yourself Books: Starting with the easy one. The NewLights Press DIY Books are a series of books that are available in two different forms: a) as pre-printed, unbound, packaged pages, generally distributed at gallery shows, and b) as pre-designed digital files, available for downloading and printing. Both forms come with binding instructions so that the reader gets a free book and learns to make them at the same time. Up until now, only public domain texts have been published as DIY Books, but someday, someday, there will be new, original books made specifically for the format.

Chapbooks are, generally speaking, small books of poetry (I suppose one could have a chapbook of prose, right?). The magic number seems to be 20 pages. NewLights chapbooks are a little longer, are usually made in an edition of 50 or 100 (depending on how popular I think they’ll be), and almost always have a letterpress printed cover and digitally printed pages. Sometimes there is some sort of dustjacket as well. They are also sold cheap, anywhere from $5 - $20. This definition starts to fall apart when the emphasis on the object is cranked up to equal the writing. Is it still a chapbook, or does it make the leap to artists’ book? Or fine press book? This was the case with the somewhat infamous silver standard.

Fine Press Books are the older, more refined siblings of the chapbooks. Usually a fine-press book is thought of as an edition of a book (it could be old or new, Shakespeare or Brian Evenson) that is designed, printed, and bound by hand, with a great deal of attention being paid to materials and craft. In my somewhat limpid definition, they can contain text and/or image. In Johanna Drucker’s The Century of Artists’ Books (Granary Books, 1994), the classic text on artists’ books, she pretty much ignores un-imaged fine press books, and calls the kind with pictures livres d’artistes (“artists’ books” in French). A NewLights fine-press book could be all text, all image, or all both (heh). So far there have been two, and they both have text and images. NLP fine-press books are more elaborate productions and are printed in smaller editions that are sold for considerably more money. Question: is the difference between the fine press book and the chapbook economic?

Artists’ Books are the last and most porous category. Quick definition: a work of art realized in, meant to be, inseparable from, the form of the book. Implicit in the term and definition is a value judgment, hinging on the old art/craft divide. Fine press/chapbooks/mass produced literature is craft and design, artists’ books are art. This judgment also hinges on traditional separations between form and content. But more on that at another time.

So for the NewLights Press, artists’ books tend to be the books that are extremely specific to their own form and the form of the book in general. Things that I can perhaps safely call “not literary.” (But that falls apart immediately. This is a useless gesture.) They can be unique or editioned, precious or cheap. At the moment, all NLP artists’ book production is focused on large, unique, altered book works….




Fig. 12.08.04
Binding tools, after 2 days of use in a gallery.

The NewLights Press is an independent printer & publisher of experimental literature and artists’ books, concentrating on where the two can and do overlap. All of the books (so far) are printed & bound “by hand,” using a variety of different techniques, ranging from the obsolete (letterpress) to the utilitarian (laser printing). We try to maintain inclusive (& purposefully problematic) definitions of such mutable terms as “experimental literature,” “artists books,” and “printing techniques,” and to be similarly inclusive in the types of books that we produce (Chapbooks, Fine Print Editions, Do-It-Yourself Books, & Artists Books), in an attempt to allow the different kinds of production to merge, separate, and converse with one another. We believe in the actual use value of art objects as tools or channels for individuals & communities to articulate their thoughts, identities and roles, which leads us to support engaged, critical cultural production, be it individual or collaborative, dreadfully serious or dreadfully funny; and we try to do our part in making sure that spaces for alternative vision remain available to producers and receivers alike. We represent only one of the many meeting points of a vital and diverse community of active, thoughtful people, and our work would mean nothing without that community. The production of books is our own way of telling the rest of the world that we believe in them. Currently, the only items on the Press’s Five Year Plan are: MAKE BOOKS. MAKE MAKING BOOKS COUNT.

Next Episode: That old bookarts downfall—definitions!



Dear Internet,

I had an idea last night, and I am going to need your help. I was thinking about how I haven’t seen any sites that are profiling young, innovative independent presses and makers of artists’ books. Do these sites exist? Doesn’t every site exist somewhere? I know that there are other sites like the Flurry blog, which has its “Titans of Letterpress” series. But enough about the “old masters.” We will, of course, continue to learn a great deal from them, maybe even rely on them for equipment, but it’s time to look elsewhere as well. It’s time to begin to critically assess what those crazy kids are doing.

But first I’ve got to find them. That’s where you come in, Internet. If anyone out there knows of the kind of press that I’m talking about--one that’s doing interesting, experimental bookwork, in both form and content and/or production and distribution, let me know. Send me information. And then I’ll find out what I can, maybe even interview them, and write about their work, right here on this blog.



Figure 12.08.03

The question, as always, is where to begin. One could begin from the beginning, but that idea quickly becomes as slippery as the present. And besides, why not skip right to the good parts? What are the good parts? Which good part should I begin with?

There will be no strict order to these sketch posts. They will be written as they can, against the field of the morning quiet. At least I got something done today.

It is, more than ever, a question of work and productivity. This is the machine life. These are its spasms. It wants so badly to do what it does. I want to be a machine. The artist is an idea that is the machine that makes the art.

The calendar endlessly bears down. Is it Monday already? It wants so badly to do what it does. Machines endlessly grinding together. Machines beginninglessly grind to a halt. It was over before it began.

Here it is. I took a lot of trouble with it. Here it is. Because we’re keeping it apparently. Here. It was nothing at all.



Spent the day at the studio today, giving Brandon Mise of Blue Barnhouse his final lesson on the Heidelberg windmill. You can read about his experiences with the machine on his blog (which is, by the way, very well written, informative, entertaining, and funny). After looking at the website of Cuneiform Press, I tried to write a post on the history of the NewLights Press, but stopped because it was getting too long and self-indulgent (I do, believe it or not, try to keep these posts at a reasonable length). So I thought I’d take some time now and lay out my plan for the blog over the next few weeks.

As I prepare to write the NewNewLights manifesto, I need to make notes and sketches of the various ideas that I want to address. And making those essay sketches is the main IDEA (of the) IDE(A/O)(B)LOG(Y/UE). Thus, a list of possible topics:

  • Constraint and Freedom
  • Inspiration, Originality, and Genius (a brief against)
  • DIY Ethic and the Current State of Spectacular Artworks
  • Between Spaces, or Operating in the Nexus
  • The Hand-Mechanical
  • Book Arts, Printmaking, and the Expanded Field, or Rethinking Form & Content
  • & many, many more.

Another highlight of the weekend: volunteering for both days of the San Francisco Center for the Book’s Holiday Fair: tons of fun, lots of nice work, really nice people. I’m looking forward to becoming more involved with the Center down the line. If you live in the Bay Area and like books, you should really check it out. Places like that are one of the reasons that this kind of work is so fun & rewarding. Not many other disciplines have such an open, dynamic, and engaged community. I am continually amazed & thankful.

(PS: In case anyone was wondering, I intend to try to post every weekday morning, and occasionally on the weekends. I will, undoubtedly, not be able to post everyday, and I have no intention of posting unless I have something worth saying.)

(PPS: I’m sure that you millions, nay billions, of faithful readers that this blog has gathered in a week were deeply disappointed by the lack of a new post this Friday last. I am so very, very sorry. My apologies to you and your families.)



In December of 2007, just about 1 year ago, I completed my graduate studies at Arizona State University, achieving a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Printmaking. Unlike many of my colleagues, I chose not to go the academic route, and instead I got a full-time job. So I moved to one of the most expensive cities in the country, where I don’t know anyone, to work 40+ hours a week and try to be an artist on top of that. It seems like a silly decision, I know.

But my job is great. I work full-time as a letterpress printer for Hello!Lucky. This provides several advantages: 1) I like what I do and the people I work with. At other jobs, I always had a hard time getting up in the morning. Not so now. 2) Everyday I print, thus everyday I become a little bit better at printing. If you really want to learn a process, do it 8 hours a day for five days a week. 3) I get full access to a top of the line letterpress studio with superfast & accurate German presses. So, my job, in a sense, not just supports, but somehow is, partially, my studio practice. A good situation for a young artist to be in.

I’ve been thinking lately that artists, generally speaking, are too afraid of full-time jobs. The thing is, if you want to work, if you’re going to make work, you will find a way to do it despite how broke and/or tired you are at the end of the day. When I was in Baltimore last month, my good friend Justin and I spent a fair amount of time talking about work habits, discipline, and productivity. He works a 9-5 as well, except he has flexible hours, so he goes in around 6-7 and gets off around 2-3. And then as soon as he gets home he spends at least a couple of hours writing, without fail. It’s about discipline, or as Ted Berrigan said, “cultivating the habit.” Just working in the “studio,” everyday, even if you’re not actually productive, is one of the most important things. I’m not quite as disciplined as Justin; on most days I don’t sit down to work until 9 – 10 PM, unless I’m working at the (job) studio, then I start around 6. Finishing The Drownable Species was a personal achievement, because it proved to me that I could still pull obscenely long hours under deadline pressure while I was still working 8+ hours a day. I could (job)work from 10-6, then (studio)work from 6-1, go home, go to sleep, and do it again the next day.

Whenever I’m working on a piece with a deadline, there’s a point when someone asks me, “Are you going to get it done?” My answer is, “I’ll get it done, I always do. The question is how much it’s going to hurt from here to there.”

Discipline and punish.



Some of you may be wondering where that ridiculous blog title comes from. It’s actually a riff off of an earlier, on-going piece that this blog is essentially an extension of. That piece is called IDE(A/O)LOG(Y/UE). What it is, very simply, is a log of the ideas that I have for pieces.

Fig. 12.08.1
The front and back of the “Taxonomy and Notes” section of the IDE(A/O)LOG(Y/UE). Shown here is the entry for the IDE(A/O)LOG(Y/UE) itself. Note the negative conception date.

Taxonomy & Notes
I designed myself a form to fill out every time I have a specific idea. The front of the form (Fig. 12.08.1, left side) has boxes for: Conception Number (date of conception plus one extra number to
distinguish it from different ideas entered on the same day), Working Title, Source (stolen, adapted, or constructed), Form (what it is & made of), Description (a detailed physical description of the piece), Commentary (my thoughts on the piece as it develops, potential problems, etc.) Connections (artworks, of mine and others, that the piece relates to somehow), Final Title, and Reception Number (date of completion plus one number). The back (Fig. 12.08.1, right side) simply provides space to expand the Description and Commentary sections as the piece develops. Initial entries are typed in on a PDF form, which is then printed, 3 hole punched, and placed in a binder. Every time that I change the idea or something in general happens with the piece, I make handwritten additions/changes to the forms. When a piece is finished, it gets a “MADE” and date stamp in red in the Status section.

The IDE(A/O)LOG(Y/UE) goes through “iteration cycles.” An iteration of the log ends when it is displayed (generally at a NewLights solo show, although I think the current cycle may end at the Codex Symposium). When an iteration is complete, the status of all pieces in it must be assessed and accounted for, receiving stamps such as “PENDING” or “ABANDONED.” Other stamp possibilities: FUTILE, FAILED, SOLD, COMBINED, etc. The new iteration begins with its first entry. All “PENDING” entries from the previous cycle are photocopied and placed in the new binder.

Proofs & Ephemera

There is a second binder, referenced to the first, which collects documentation of the process of each piece in the log--sketches, order forms, receipts, print set up sheets, and other scraps. If a piece is actively worked on through two or more iterations, its documentation remains inside its original binder.

Functional Analysis

The third binder appears at the time of display. It is more or less a guest book for a gallery show, providing forms for people to leave their contact info and whatever comments they wish. I was pleasantly surprised to see that many people used the comments section as a place to leave their own artwork, so in the end the “Functional Analysis” became a multi-person collaboration.

Completed IDE(A/O)LOG(Y/UE) iterations will be scanned and released via the NewLights Press website.

So, hence the title, hence the blog itself.



At the beginning of November (before the existence of this blog) the NewLights Press (finally) released The Drownable Species, which features a never-before-published-in-its-entirety short story by Brian Evenson, and image-object manipulations courtesy of NewLights Press: Aaron Cohick (writing this post). The specs: 48 pages, hardcover, printed and bound by hand. The text is letterpress printed in Palatino from photopolymer plates on Somerset Book Heavyweight Wove paper. The images are individually hand manipulated inkjet prints, made by printing on top of gesso (which keeps the ink from absorbing into the paper and drying immediately) and then pouring water, ink wash, and/or more gesso on top of the still wet prints. Variable edition of 40 plus 10 artists’ proofs. The image here shows the title page spread.

This was a really fun and interesting project to do. It was definitely the most complicated book that I’ve produced in an edition to date. I worked on it, off and on, for three years. (Brian was very patient the whole time—he never asked me when it would be done. But when it was, finally, he flew out to Baltimore for the release reading.) The challenge of the book, as with all of the collaborative books that I do, is how to make the book in such a way as to a) make it as strong as the writing, b) make it integrate with the writing in an interesting way (form and content), and c) make it connect to my broader concerns as an artist (production and reception). Generally, fulfilling requirements “b” and “c” lead to the satisfaction of requirement “a.” Things start to work really well when requirements “b” and “c” are fulfilled simultaneously, with a single, unified approach. So with this book I got to use an appropriate image and image-making process for the story (a man’s face/photo, water damage) (requirement “b”) and have that image-making process open out to broader concerns in the field of artists’ books—ideas about proper design (transparency vs. objectness), the preciousness of the handmade book, the “lack of physicality” of digital printing, chaotic systems/variable editions, and hand-mechanical processes (requirement “c”).

33 books remain for sale, at $400 each. Contact me at newlightspressATgmailDOTcom if you’re interested in purchasing a copy. There will eventually be a PDF version of the book released.



The NewLights Press has existed for about 8 and 1/2 years. Throughout those years, everyone has told me, "You should have a website." And they are absolutely right. There have been several provisional attempts in the past (see OTHER SITES OF INTEREST on the sidebar), but this time I am finally getting serious about it. What follows is a vision of what the site will include.

First of all, the site should not be a simple "portfolio" site, as used by many other artists, mainly because the production of the press, though channeled through an individual, is purposefully different from a traditional studio artist (even one working in "non-traditional" media). So instead of a portfolio site it will be a new publishing arm for the press. It will have the usual trappings: a list of the books and their specs, a list of artists/authors and their bios, links to various resources, and background info. But on to the good stuff.

As a way to further the life of the books (almost always in a limited edition or unique) I want to include viewable, readable, and downloadable PDF files of the books in their entirety, from cover to cover and every page in between. Some of the longer and bigger altered books will be too much for the website, though. But I have another idea about that (see below). These digital versions (with the consent of any collaborators) will be free and released under a Creative Commons license.

There will also be a central place to download the NewLights DIY Books, a series of free books that are set up as pre-designed packages, with printing and binding instructions. There will also be general binding instructions, separate from the individual books, for personal and/or classroom use.

And finally, to further the NewLights critical and pedagogical mission, a place to publish essays on the following general topics: book arts, printmaking, experimental art/literature, intertextuality, collage/appropriation, book/print/art pedagogy, functionality in art, art & politics, and art & economics. There will be an ongoing, open call for essays, so if any of you have any thoughts about these topics be sure to let me know... I would like to publish the essays under Creative Commons licenses as well. (This blog will also be a place where essay subjects may start as sketches).

The first step to implementing all of this is to re-learn how to build a site. The plan is to have the first iteration of the site up by February 1st. We'll see how it goes...

Other Big Ideas floating about in the Press-Mind:

New DIY books: William Blake's poetry, Make This Book, a series of essays about artists' books by yours truly.

Electronic releases of the long altered books, distributed on CD. High res images of every page, expanded text, maybe extra layers of commentary, hand printed and constructed (but simple) packaging.

New NewLights manifesto.

New altered book (in the works).

But I suppose that everything is always in the works.


Welcome to the official blog of the NewLights Press. This blog (which will eventually be integrated into the under construction NewLights website) is meant to function as an evolving journal, documenting and commenting upon the activities of the NewLights Press and other members of the book arts, printmaking, experimental literature & art, and independent publishing communities. It is a place for announcements, reports, reviews, interviews, sketches, and ideas. We hope you'll stay tuned as it grows.

As always, thanks for reading.