Print is in no way subsiding, if anything, Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair stands testimony to a flourishing of innovative and striking print formats.
Review by Lisa A. Bernhoft-Sjødin.
The crowds browsing through this evergrowing, already massive fair (39.000 of them this year!) enjoy catalouges, artists' books, prints and ephemera from foldouts of the entire installation process of Mathias Glas' Die chronologie Der zelle at the Berlin-based Hammann & Von Mier table to the purely sculptural and delicately laser-cut A potential space by sculptor Juliana Cerquiera Leite at the London-based Trolley Books table. The wide range of aesthetics is remarkable.
Entering the (XE)ROX&PAPER + SCISSORS and the Small Press Dome, the zine format is as versatile as its hard cover cousins. It has become a multitude of formats following aesthetic lines and modes. With its uncensored freedom of expression, the particular strain of art zines based on photography, the photozine is one of the most forward-thinking and potensially provocative areas of current photographic practice and as raw and experimental as poetical and ephemeral.
The artist Sergej Vutuc's new release, the Abforge #1, is a co-production with We Make It Berlin. Vutuc´s work is deeply devoted to the skater scene in urban landscapes as is the Abforge-zine. Its photographs are high-contrast black and whites printed on detractable risograph sheets over two pages encouraging the viewer to recombine the various prints and make their own cityscape. The prints themselves are a far cry from manifestoic nature of the art zines of the 70-ties and 80-ties, though the high-contrast multilayering of the photos reminds us of the xeroxed nature of the era, but softer, creating a more delicate narrative of the subject matter.
A fair share of the photozines takes their cues from the photobook aesthetics. The access to cheap, fine printing on risograph paper has lunged the zine format into more poetic language, as with the Silent Face Project. The project is an artist-run collective dedicated to photography. Their publications are brightly coloured minimalistic beauties with loosely narrative sequenced photos. Innovative pamphlets like Dillon DeWaters' Weapon, Shapely, Naked, Wan, from their newly established Scattered Material-series, contains excerpts of Walt Whitman's Song of a Broad-Axe that opens up to a poster of DeWaters' work.
Poetics are also at work in 643 collective's City Projects-series, the photographs shown side by side dedicated to the cityscapes of Shanghai, Los Angeles, Berlin, Sao Paulo, New York, Paris and Seoul. It's an ABC zine collection, with 26 themes according to the letters of the alphabet, A for anonymous, D for desire and so forth. Each topic works as a dialogue between the six members of the collective, and explores and collects their urban experiences of big city living.
But then again, there’s the combination the urgent and socially engaged subject matter and the poetically elusive. The Milan-based Cesura's publications include a Cesura periodical zine as well as artists' books. Their works are founded in clearly established themes founded in social awareness, as with Found Photos in Detroit (2012). It's a selection of the extensive archive Found Photos In Detroit 2009-2010 collected by photographers Arianna Arcara and Luca Santese. The archive counts thousands of photos, mugshots, prints and letters of which 167 photos are collected in the publication from 2012. The photos are published in their found state, mostly weathered, creating a sense of absurdity and deformation, seeping into our understanding of the crisis Detroit.
The zines are often numbered and signed, the mark of the limited editionned art object, an alternative art history. They're a vital part of the undertow of mainstream concensus, though fragile in this digital era.