THE NEW YORK ART BOOK FAIR 2012: A Recollection
Another year, another art book fair. I honestly can’t believe how one subjects themselves to such an anxiety inducing event such as NYABF on an annual basis. That’s why I’m glad I gave myself two years before returning. The last time I went to the fair in 2010, I was on a date, which caused my mind to panic a bit more than it did this time. Worrying about the guy AND the thousands upon thousands of printed text and images before you was enough to make your head explode.
Cut to 2012, THE PRESENT, I was pretty excited for this year’s fair as I had a stronger understanding of which booths and publications I wanted to see. I was going to bring a person with me again this time, but I was actually quite relieved when they decided not to accompany me, and I was forced to brave it alone without a worry that they were getting bored or developing agoraphobia. Here’s what I can report after three hours in PS1 this past weekend:
It was fucking hot as BALLS. Some rooms had industrial fans in them just to circulate the already sweltering heat that was lingering within the first floor of the museum. A strong contrast to the chilly autumn weather that was taking place outside.
I quickly made my way past booths like EAI (Electronic Arts Intermix) which I thought a bit peculiar to be exhibiting at the fair seeing how they’re a video art archive. They were selling DVDs (not art books) and giving away these cute little trading cards featuring the likes of Shana Moulton, Ryan Trecartin, Carolee Schneeman, General Idea, and Takashi Murata among others (I guess that sorta counts).
In the same section was the publication Boo-Hurray which had just recently put out some books on the subject of punk featuring bands like Crass. I didn’t really care. My friend Alex worked with the publisher this summer and gave me a free copy of their brilliant book on drag star Ed Wood entitled “ED WOOD’S SLEAZE PAPERBACKS”. It was a nice collection of all the covers of Edward Davis Jr. Wood’s pornographic pulp fictions. Check out the images included in that link.
Working my way out of the swampy environment of the first floor, I was greeted with what I found to be my favorite exhibit within the whole fair: another art book fair. So meta, right? Werkplaats Typographie is a masters program based out of the Netherlands that is “centered on practical assignments and self-initiated projects.” Their exhibit was incredible, and consisted of a series of “cubbies” containing the works of 17 international exhibitors (I’m guessing their students?) as well as a bookshop and a cafe for visitors.
The works ranged from zines printed with invisible ink exposed under black light to one giant book occupying the entire space. Others included a daily comic drawn by the artist, inviting the viewer to post caption on a sticky note.
The winner would be chosen each day and would appear on another wall of its cubby. One cubby consisted of just a crank machine with little books inside for the cost of a $1 token.
There were fliers around the room as well advertising “space available” for any artist interested in exhibiting their own work. Shows like this really stretched the idea of what an exhibition can be, and how publications were turning their presentations of art into artistic installations themselves.
Ascending to the third floor, the crowds had mostly subsided and the space was much better air-conditioned. People seemed generally more happy up here, and the content was well, a lot more queer. Here I stumbled upon the French publication GAYHOUSE.
Each review they publish is a large format/poster sized zine that focuses on one individual artist and their own vision. Their latest release featured an artist I knew, Elijah Burgher, who was one of the first residents of the Fire Island Artist Residency last year. I saw a sticky note on one of the zines saying Elijah had been signing in person an hour and a half before, something happening just as I got there. It really sucked I was too late as I hadn’t seen him in two years.
Right adjacent to GAYHOUSE was queer artist Paul Mpagi Sepuya‘s booth. Having recognized his unforgettable face from past BUTT articles and most recently a tagged Facebook photo of him with a mutual friend, I awkwardly introduced myself (as I always do) and got to chat a little bit. I ended up buying his “Studio Work” zine from 2011 after our conversation.
Good things come in three right? Adjacent to Paul was recent SUNY Purchase MFA graduate Aaron Karch and his booth of books. I first met Paul when I was re-attending a class I had already taken called Queer Media Convergence.
He filled me in a new project he just completed called “The Author of this Book Committed Suicide”. For this sculpture Aaron went to the New York Public Library with a list of authors who had committed suicide and checked out their books. He then placed a stamped message with the title of the piece inside the title page of each book. He then stacked each of the books based on their dimension inside a gallery. His intent was to see how this fact seemingly unconnected to the content of the writing changed perceptions to the reader and what they were reading. Authors included novelists, philosophers, etc. An interesting project which he said, “pissed off a lot of librarians”.
I had completed everything in the main building and was making my way outside to the zine tent when I stumbled into Genesis P. Ohridge from Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle. Like any stupid gawking fan I didn’t have any words and just thrust my hand out to introduce myself and be dumb. It was received just as confused as I was by them.
Onto the zine tent, it was my last stop at the fair for the evening. Directly in front was the owner of the independent comic shop in Williamsburg: Desert Island. They had a nice assortment of zines as well as comics by a wide selection of independent comic artists. Having seen the first volume of Ryan Sands and Michael DeForge‘s erotic comic anthology “Thickness” on the table, I asked if he had the elusive third volume that had been so hard to come by. Gabe, the owner, having emailed me a few weeks prior from the store that they had gotten copies in, didn’t even have them on display. He pulled out a cardboard box and there they finally were! I snatched it up quick. The third volume is special as it contains one of the first English translated copies of legendary Bara manga artist Gengoroh Tagame. If you don’t know what Bara is, follow that link and find out for yourself why it hasn’t come to English readers until now. NSFW of course.
Also included in this edition is the works of Andy Burkholder with his comic “QVIET“. Andy’s works are incredibly strange, and feature some of the most bizarre transitions between imagery of any comic I have ever seen. It’s both incredibly intriguing and awesomely disgusting.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the fair to me was stumbling upon Portland, OR’s Social Malpractice Publishing and its owner, artist Sean Joseph Patrick Carney. Awhile ago I was browsing the stacks at Printed Matter, Inc. in Chelsea when I happened upon his first zine “Social Malpractice: A Practical Guide to Making Socially Irresponsible Work”. Here Carney outlines a satirical manifesto on how to navigate the contemporary art world. My favorite chapter being: “HOW TO POSE AS A QUEER ARTIST IN ORDER TO OBTAIN MORE GRANT MONEY”. His prose is so hilarious and witty that I myself did a reading of it last year for my personal Tumblr. Carney received a Google alert from me doing so, and reblogged the video asking who I was. It eventually stared a brief correspondence between us at the beginning of the summer ending with the idea of meeting up whenever he happened to be in New York. This idea fell short until I ran into his table and asked if it was him. In the end he gave me his newest release: “Precession of Simulacra”. An American translation from an English translation of the original French by Jean Baudrillard. Yeah.
Finally I found my way to what would be known as the “Queer Quorridor” or “Queer Ghetto” of the NYABF. For some reason they lined up a bunch of queer identified publishers in arow together.
First up in this queer runway of printed matter was the trans-male quarterly publication “Original Plumbing” run by visual artist Amos Mac and rapper Rocco Kayiatos. “Original Plumbing documents diversity within trans male lifestyles through photographic portraits and essays, personal narratives and interviews.” OP has 10 issues out already and have been going strong since 2009.
After that was the FAQNP booth. If you’re wondering what it stands for, they explain it in the beginning of each of their issues (and on their site for a matter of fact). FAQNP stands for “FAQNP’s A Queer Nerd Publication” a play on recursive acronyms made popular by programmers in the late 70’s and 80’s a la Richard Stallman. It’s run by Ray Cha and Erich Nagler. FAQNP just released their fourth issue recently and gave me a copy to enjoy. In this latest issue they cover all things sci fi and fantasy ranging from articles on Dr. Who, to Sailor Moon and how its queer characters were edited for American audiences, to Battlestar Gallatica slash fiction.
Overall I was very impressed with this year’s fair, and always by its turn out. So many people turn out each year to sprawl the exhaustive display of printed matter of art and culture from around the world. This turns into a fun way to gawk at cute and fashionable boys who share common interest with you. I’m also happy with the amount of queer content that’s splashed into the heteronormative atmosphere. I can’t wait to go back next year.