...to do everything that one wants to before a big show like Codex, which is approaching fast. Posts will be sporadic for this week and the next, as I use my mornings to make stuff.... More stuff!



A statement: Right now there are more artists’ book publishers/makers and small presses than ever before.

That may be true—the form has had many years to take root in the culture, there are far more academic programs today (than in the 60s), there are various “Center[s] for the Book” around the country, and letterpress printing and other “obsolete” technologies are enjoying a commercial comeback as specialty services.

That may also not be true. There might be fewer small presses, etc. now (there was a great deal of activity, especially in small press publishing, in the 60s on through the 80s), but it might just seem like more, because now, it’s much, much easier for us to know about them.

In the 60s, when the artists’ book (as an idea of its own) was coming into being, and when the Mimeo Revolution was in full swing, getting the word out about what a press/publisher/artist was up to was much more difficult than it is today. There were a few options: word-of-mouth (Hey, look at this thing I got/Hey, look at this thing I made), random distribution (place a stack at a gallery/coffeeshop/bookstore, droplifting), mail distribution (which requires building a list of addresses, and postage for every piece of every mailing), advertising (in other books, magazines, and businesses), and/or through a distributor (Printed Matter, Small Press Distribution, etc.).

But now we have an Internet. An artist/press/publisher can have a website, cheaply (or free, like this one) and easily. (Of course the more sophisticated sites take a great deal of time, money, and knowledge, but one can get pretty far with little of any of those.) And once that site exists, anyone with an Internet connection can find it, read about the press, see the work, and purchase it. When this kind of artwork was developing, that process of finding/reading-viewing/purchasing could have taken weeks, depending on how far away the publisher and reader were from each other (the finding part, well that could take years—we’re still finding little known presses from those days). And that immediacy makes the other distribution methods above that much more effective. Word-of-mouth: a new book or project can go viral through email and blogs. Random Distribution: this strange little publication/sticker/button/object I found has this web address…. Mail distribution: one announcement goes out to many recipients simultaneously at no cost. Advertising: when a reader sees the ad, they don’t have to just rely on that, they can go see the work, and get a much better idea of it.

The idea of, or role of, the distributor becomes problematic.

I don’t think any of the above comes as news to readers of this blog. You are, after all, reading a blog. We all know how much more convenient email is than real mail. And I don’t want to blow the trumpet of technological utopianism. But the communication infrastructure that is now embedded in our daily lives radically changes the relationship of the small press/publisher/artist to their audience. Now, we can actually get the work directly into people’s hands. And that direct relationship has become the most common method of distribution. I can say with confidence that the following is true:

Right now, the multiples made by small presses/publishers/artists are more accessible than ever before.

But are they more “democratic?”



“One day I’d like to see artists’ books ensconced in supermarkets, drugstores, and airports and, not incidentally, to see artists able to profit economically from broad communication rather than from the lack of it.” –Lucy Lippard [1]

An introductory post here, for a new thread, linked to the “Reception Is Production” posts…

Emily Larned’s presentation at the College Book Art Association conference, called “Splits, Trades, Reviews, & Distros: Zine Culture as Model” talked about the distribution network for zines in a pre-networked world. Zinesters got their work out, to each other, to new audiences, and they did it by helping each other and sharing resources. It was from that presentation that I learned about the Temporary Services store/distro called Half Letter Press (posted earlier). That presentation and some other conversations (with Emily and others) have helped to open up some new thoughts (or the desire for some “new” thoughts anyway) about the “democratic multiple” and how that idea fits into the form-content-production-reception field. This is about reception. This is about how all of those things are linked.

The idea of the “democratic multiple” is an idea that still often shows up in discussions in artists’ books, despite the fact that we’re supposed to consider it a dead idea; dead at least in terms of artists’ books, which have not, and most likely will not, obtain a cultural ubiquity that makes them “democratic.” (see quote above) But this idea of the “democratic multiple” came into currency during a very different time (1960s), both in the art world and in the larger world, and maybe now it’s time to reconsider, to see what’s changed, and to see if the idea can be adapted for current and future use.

Book artists have struggled to gain access to the gallery world for a long time. They have struggled to be seen as “real” artists by the larger art world. Books should be seen as a form equal to painting, sculpture, photography, (even though a single book can contain all of those things) and installation (the connections/interplay between books & installation are many and there’s a lot of material to work with there (more on that later)). And I respect that struggle for legitimation. But “legitimation” comes at a price, and do we need or want it from the gallery/market system?

One of the most exciting (and probably, in retrospect, heartbreaking) things about the artists’ book in the 1960s is that it offered a way to get the work out directly to people, to bypass the gallery system. Artists tried. Distros like Printed Matter started up, books were made, cheaply, and sold, cheaply. But no one made a living off of book production alone, and distribution never came anywhere close to the scale of commercial publishing. The democratic wave retreated. But now, particularly now, as the technology of the Internet is embedded thoroughly in our lives, and new technologies of textual distribution are clamoring for space, we need to look again. Things have changed. The fact that I, the proprietor of a small, small press can write this and that (hopefully at least a few) people will read it, and that those people could be anywhere in the world, is a big deal. This simple act was impossible in the 60s. Sure, one could write, but how were you going to get it out, easily, quickly, and affordably?

But here we are, or here we were. Let’s continue soon.

1. Lucy Lippard, “The Artist’s Book Goes Public,” Artists’ Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook, ed. Joan Lyons (Rochester: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1985), 48.



Finally, I have gotten the blog for The Press at Colorado College up and running. I won't go into too much of an explanation here, as the post up right now on that blog gives all the details, but let's just say it will be 1) an archive of the activities of The Press at CC, and 2) (hopefully) a resource for other book artists/educators and students.

My first post is up, as well as all of the posts from the former incarnation of The Press Blog.




Half Letter Press, a publishing and distribution venture for artists’ books and other interesting things, brought to you by Temporary Services. The books that they’re making and selling look great, but the way that they are doing that making and selling is important too. Check out all of the info, the FAQs, the bartering, etc. This is a politics of reception/distribution.


The new issue of the great little magazine Mimeo Mimeo is out. Here’s the description from the website:
Featuring interviews with Tom Raworth, David Meltzer, and Trevor Winkfield; essays by Richard Price, Ken Edwards, and Alan Halsey; a selection of letters from Eric Mottram to Jeff Nuttall; and a long out-of-print statement by Asa Benveniste, poet and publisher of London’s legendary Trigram Press. Cover by Trevor Winkfield.
Buy one here.



The College Book Art Association Biennial Conference took place this past weekend at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. It was, to say the least, a great deal of fun.

I have written many times, both on this blog and in books, about how important the book community (artists, writers, teachers, readers, collectors, critics, students, etc.) is to me and to what I do. Books are public things, existing in the world, irrefutably a part of the world, and it is always an honor and a pleasure to get to spend time in that world, with the rest of the book arts community. & so we can all be a part of that world together.

There were too many interesting presentations to see, but the ones that I did get to were great. Some highlights were a presentation about teaching chapbooks (in a writing class at an art school) by Casey Smith, “relational aesthetics” and the book arts (Book Bombs, ILSSA, Temporary Services) by Bridget Elmer, a talk that described the distribution models of ‘zines and proposed them as models for distributing artists’ books, by Emily Larned, and a presentation about a public, sustainability-focused book project done at Wellesley College, by Katherine Ruffin and Amanda Nelsen. & there were many more. & I will be able to draw from all of those things for years to come.

This was my first time attending one of these conferences. I knew some people there (two good friends that I was really looking forward to seeing couldn’t come at the last minute, alas!) but not many. There were around 200 attendees in total, which is small enough to see & meet just about everyone, but large enough for there always to be someone new to talk to. At other large academic conferences I have found it difficult to meet and talk to people. Not so at this one—everyone was friendly, welcoming, approachable, and interested in who you were, and what you were up to.

So join up. Get involved. Be welcomed & welcome others. We are all, always & marvelously, thankfully, in this thing together.



Ah, the first day back at work. Ah, the last day of work this week. I'm hitting the road again tomorrow, heading for the blue grass of Kentucky and then off to the College Book Art Association conference in Bloomington, Indiana. I will be there through the end of the week, so posts will resume next Monday. If you're planning on going to the conference, I'm looking forward to seeing you.




These past few weeks have been particularly scribal. (De)Collage is nearing completion. All of the text is written and stenciled into the newsprint mock-up. I am now in the process of stenciling the text into the actual book. Then cutting, then peeling, then binding. The full, final text is below. It is the same as posted earlier, with just a little bit added to the end:

The method of constructing from parts. It is the synthesis of colourless, white or grey-black areas of colour, or the arrangement of unexpected proportions. Written in the graphics of a powerful weapon aware of the very different demands of concluding that the system of montage is dialectic. It is a statement, after all, that neither Klutsis or Lissitzky could have made; nor Heartfield or Hoch, “Lyricism is the crown of life: Constructivism is its already existing soft-porn surfaces, even, on occasion, a castrating machine. Yet the most persistent motif is one that only collage as a device could generate: the softness of parts not only indexically presented but eroticized as a purely photographic contrast of textures: grass, gravel or wood, inside barbed-wire, in the midst of dry leaves, or in one case, inverted on the body and placed against the austere brick superstructure.

Such works not attempted hitherto: the minutest visible variations in photographic color and tone, magnified by the tell-tale curves of the paper’s scissored edges. By systematically excising one and placing it against a subtly contrastive one, an interval, a gap, which is in itself stimulating. ‘It is sight’, he had suggested, proposing desublimation of the senses: ‘The optical environment in which ‘the development of a bland, large, balanced, Apollonian art…in which an intense detachment this detachment that enabled him to see a Cubist collage by Picasso or Braque in a radically anti-illusionistic way: ‘the Cubists always emphasized the identity of the picture as a flat and more or less abstract pattern rather than a representation’. To choose between them is preferable to ambiguity: collage had now attained to the full and declared three-dimensionality we automatically attribute to the notion “object”, and was being transformed, in the course of a strictly coherent process with a logic all its own, into a new kind of houses we live in and furniture we use’. rectangles littered with small rectangles are references to technology, the industrial process, heavy machinery. Thirdly, as a physical object it occupies a kind of middle ground between the single, exhibitable object and the flickering succession of a moving film. Turning its pages is a one-person affair, addressed to relatively private experience as opposed to the collectivity of a show. Yet politics was never far away. To that extent it may be mourning the flowering of quiet defiance: she knew such works could not be exhibited. But she was increasingly vulnerable. She was being watched and possibly denounced, she managed to escape attention.

text written in opposition to works of ‘degenerate’ modernism is positioned close by. The art historian T. J. Clark has studied the problem: the work to annihilate the negation of the negation’. she boldly mangled several works to produce collage of her own. The background to this benevolent act of ‘completion’ is inevitably complicated by Krasner’s relationship to Pollock. ‘”Waste not, want not”, open it out and let space back in, it turns out that Krasner had her own adventure tumbling, thinking that Krasner soon became disenchanted with the work.

My studio was hung with a series of black and white drawings I had done. I hated them and started to pull them off the wall and tear them and throw them on the floor…. Then another morning began picking up torn pieces of my drawings and re-glueing them. Then I started. I got something going I started. People would just come and wouldn’t put on a show or entertain. They came happily and sat down and left four hours later: you’d listen to some music and you’d look at things. What I enjoyed was not the conversation but the things we looked at…there were evenings where there was not much talk.



And here we are in 2011. Nice to see you, as always. These past weeks I have had collage and de-collage on my mind. Below I have retyped and pasted in sections from a passage in Collage: The Making of Modern Art, by Brandon Taylor. That is the book that I have delaminated for the NewLights (De)Collage, and yes, all of the text is gone from my copy. But the text is still there in my other copy—I liked the book so much that I got two, knowing that one would be made into something entirely different. That book is the best broad survey of collage that I have read, and one of the main reasons for that is that it includes really interesting European artists (like Jiři Kolář, described in the passage below) that I had never heard of before reading the book. [Note: the book from which these passages were taken is a British book, hence the single quotes, etc.]

Jiři Kolář

Story, 1952
A confrontage.


It was not until the end of the 1950s however that [Jiři] Kolář embarked on the vast experiment with the divided image for which he has become justly celebrated since. In a curious historical parallel, it was in the first years of French Lettrisme that Kolář’s unique experiment with the verbal image began, first as a ‘cut-up’ technique applied to given items of printed matter ranging from labels, recipes, mathematical formulae, and texts on medicine and astrology: such poems were collectively called ‘Instructions for Use’ and immediately endeared Kolář to concrete poetry movements further west. ‘From the beginning’, Kolář has said, ‘my concern was to find the interfaces between the fine arts and literature. All previous attempts in this direction seemed inadequate, and above all not consistent’. Imprisoned for most of 1953 and officially debarred from publishing until 1964, he nevertheless created from 1961-2 entire series of sign-poems, number-poems, puzzle-poems, and eventually ‘silent’ poems composed of hyphens, question-marks, commas and other resources of the typewriter (some were dedicated to the memory of Malevich). Soon came object-poems, or things subjected to essentially literary structures such as repetition, rhyming, or inter-leaving, or books themselves which are ruined, torn or glued, as if evading the censor of his poetry by craftily switching into another medium. ‘Someday’, said Kolář, ‘it will become possible to make poetry out of anything at all’.

Jiři Kolář
Baudelaire (Les Fleurs Du Mal) Series, 1972
I believe that this is a rollage, because it is made from two copies of the same image. One is inverted, which creates the strange mirroring-repetition.


In prollage (another invented term) he takes two or more images, and having cut them into identical width strips reassembles them in sequence: prollage stretches images lengthways, giving a behind-bars appearance that is also a simultaneity-effect whose purpose is to tease the mind and the eye. A variation known as rollage (from 1964) meant cutting several copies of the same image into strips and then mounting them in staggered sequence, creating a dazzling ‘optical’ effect not unlike Op Art in the West. ‘My head was bursting when I realized the possibilities which opened up for me when I put together the first two reproductions for the first time. I was permeable and so was the whole world; a non-illusionistic space could be created…’.


‘Rollage has enabled me to see the world in at least two dimensions’, he has said; ‘the stratifications made me realise just how many unknown layers make up life and just how many unknown deposits exist within each of us’.


Not trained as an artist, he has seldom invented a line or cut a silhouette that was not already given in the image in front of him—this too confirms his status as a writer for whom ‘poetry’ resides in images that resemble, dissemble, repeat or inhabit each other, and perhaps never more so than in the recent series known as intercollage which exploits the Magritte-effect of silhouetting one reality into (or through, or against) another


True to his writer’s mission, Kolář compiled a Dictionary of Methods, published in Paris in 1986, in which he articulates all the other techniques of his invention such as ventillage, crumplage, kinetic collage, and which underline further still his affinity to conceptual classification, lexicography, systematization, seriality: not only an implacably anti-Romantic attitude to the image, but one attuned to the linguistic as such. ‘The world attacks us directly’, he has said, ‘tears us apart through the experience of the most incredible events, and assembles and reassembles us again. Collage is the most appropriate medium to illustrate this reality’.


Jiři Kolář

Cow Having Eaten Up Canaletto, 1968
An intercollage.

Full Citation!
Brandon Taylor, Collage: The Making of Modern Art (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004), 181-186.