Offprint London

Housed within the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, the art book fair Offprint London attracted self-publishers, artists, graphic designers, bloggers, writers and book enthusiasts from around the world to present their wares.

Review by Rachael Vance


Offprint Projects, best known for establishing Offprint Paris l has earned a reputation for curating a diverse mix of printed matter that aims to evolve the definition of art publishing. The boundary between publication and art object often difficult to discern. The emphasis on photobooks at Offprint London was one of the many connections to photography and photographers that also found parallels throughout the city in the inaugural Photo London art fair running in unison. The Tate Modern’s photography and international art curator, Simon Baker was instrumental in realising Offprint London. Intent on providing a direct and open engagement between creatives and their projects with the general public, Offprint London’s philosophy stands in contrast to traditional museum models approaches purporting a certain distance when dealing with art.

The accessible and intimate nature of the fair was its greatest attribute. With just under 150 stall holders presenting a variety of editioned and unique publications, topics concerning print runs, binding and printing techniques, paper quality and distribution could be overheard in every corner of the venue. A shared love and excitement for the physicality of books was omnipresent. Offprint London highlighted the embrace and rise of independent publishing that has coincided with an increasingly digital age; a consequence of the search by creatives for new, autonomous exhibition platforms.

   Artists Arvida Byström and Maja Malou Lyse hosted aerobics classes as creative selfie-stick tutorials.


Artists Arvida Byström and Maja Malou Lyse hosted aerobics classes as creative selfie-stick tutorials.

Such a communal atmosphere was heightened by the interactive fair program of events led by fair producers Yannick Bouillis and Colette Olof in collaboration with Bruno Ceschel’s curatorial project Self Publish, Be Happy (SPBH). Amid the frenzy of posters, book signings, zines, artist catalogues and interior architecture created from industrial plastic containers, a Speakers’ Corner was set up whereby visitors were invited to talk about books they love, while French artist Thomas Mailaender presented a photography tattoo workshop. There was also a selfie-stick aerobics class...

Best in show stalls included Artisan Books’ presentation of hand-crafted publications, upholding age-old artisanal practices. Also from the United Kingdom, Nobody Books’ offering of self-published works by leading photographer – and self-publishing poster boy – Stephen Gill continued to ensure his photography was presented to his specifications. With somewhat of a cult following, fans lined up to have their copies signed by Gill in person. GOST Books included the work of iconic photobook photographer Martin Parr in ‘Hong Kong Parr’. 

Additionally, local educational institutions were present. Unearthing new talent, the London College of Communication and Royal College of the Arts (RCA) presented work from their Visual Communication and Printmaking programmes.

Taking its name from the transparent envelope used to package zines, Italian based BlisterZine had a table full of beautiful treasures. Focusing on art and photography in their publications, ‘VOLTA’ was the most captivating. This unique handmade book covered in hand painted Finnish birch was created by Francesco Carone. Inspiration for the book’s content was taken from the Italian painter Giotto’s gold leaf paintings from the 1300s. Very simply on the white paper, gold circles danced across the pages in differing constellations existing as a contemporary re-interpretation of halos and planetary maps.

VOLTA, Francesco Carone, 2015

VOLTA, Francesco Carone, 2015

Specialising in the “creation of curated provocative contemporary titles by emerging avant-garde photographers”, Éditions du LIC’s slick publications on display at Offprint London included the work of French photographer Tiane Doan na Champassak. The artist was present to sign the pages of her publication "Sunless" that depicted monochromatic images of urban architecture and the human form captured on Ilfochrome film.

Founded in 2007 by designer Winfried Heininger, Swiss art publishing project Kodoji Press’ motivation to establish a communicative platform for non-commercial projects was clear. A selection of high quality artists' books were on display. Titles by artists such as Stephanie Kiwitt and Peter Tillessen were of particular interest.

“HELLO IS IT ZINES YOU’RE LOOKING FOR” emblazoned across Catalogue Library’s tote bags at their stand signalled a call to action. Encapsulating the ethos of the zine most succinctly, Catalogue Library provided a range of simply printed zines made from basic materials with fun messages.

The Netherlands had a strong contingent with stands by Foam Magazine and seasoned book fair participant Roma Publications. Founded in 1998 Dutch artist Mark Manders (who represented The Netherlands at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013) and graphic designer Roger Willems, Roma Publications’ active collaboration with artists, writers, designers and institutions was evident in their varied offering of books ranging in large and small print runs.

Portugal-based artist-run publisher Pierre von Kleist Editions presented their specialization of photo books. Duo André Príncipe and José Pedro Cortes’ publications are distinguished by a drive to push the limits of photography in print via a globalised perspective. The sequential, narrative style imagery expressed in José Pedro Cortes’ photographs in ‘COSTA’ and ‘THINGS HERE AND THINGS STILL TO COME’ were standouts. Conveying a reportage approach, each book was akin to a poetic road trip through the landscape of Lisbon and urban jungle of Tel Aviv respectively.

Costa, José Pedro Cortes, 2013

Costa, José Pedro Cortes, 2013

Melbourne’s multifaceted Perimeter Books – existing as a bookstore, art space and publisher – represented Australia with a plentiful offering. Noteworthy publications from their Perimeter Editions included the newly released ‘Composite Journal #2/2015’ which featured the couple Fiona Lau and Kain Picken behind the Chinese fashion label and art project ffiXXed, ‘YOU’ exploring Australian-born artist Polly Borland’s distinctive photographic practice focusing on the human form and ‘Everyday’ examining Melbourne-based artist Emily Ferretti’s paintings limited to an edition of 700.

Publishing stalwarts such as American-based Semiotext(e) – best known for its introduction of French theory to American readers – and Argobooks from Germany, were also present imbuing an academic tone through their art theoretical, political and philosophical titles. Argobooks is responsible for founding the FRIENDS WITH BOOKS book fair in Berlin and regularly partners with curators and public institutional programming.

Fresher entrants such as Paper Journal and RRose Editions showed real promise. Founded by Patricia Karallis, Paper Journal began as an online platform that has organically extended to print. Paper Journal’s ‘Paper Journal Best Of Instagram Vol. 1’ photobook on display derived its content from Instagram, embracing the intrusion of the mobile phone camera in everyday life. RRose Editions invited LA based artist Sean Raspet to present his interest in chemistry via a didactic artist book that acted as an art project in itself, highlighting the expansive mix of stalls at Offprint London; a rich mélange.

New Structures: Azomethine Variations, Sean Raspet, 2015

New Structures: Azomethine Variations, Sean Raspet, 2015


Facing the Music - Allan Sekula

Travis Diehl on Facing the Music: Documenting Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Redevelopment of Downtown Los Angeles, a project by Allan Sekula.

Allan Sekula,  Prayer for the Americans 4 , 2003/2005 © The Estate of Allan Sekula. Courtesy of East of Borneo.

Allan Sekula, Prayer for the Americans 4, 2003/2005 © The Estate of Allan Sekula. Courtesy of East of Borneo.

Those immune to the power of metaphor sometimes scoff at the idea that Mr. Gehry’s architecture is democratic. Herbert Muschamp, The New York Times

If the soaring street-level lobby of the Walt Disney Concert Hall is, as its architect and longtime Santa Monica resident Frank Gehry somewhat solipsistically claims, the living room of the city, then its rooftop gardens are the patio. Here on the public plaza, dwarfed by the building’s characteristic steel sails, two teenage couples dressed in prom formalwear run back and forth as a woman tracks them with a camcorder. Nearby, a small camera crew angles a foil reflector at another woman posing near the outer wall in her Sunday best. A girl in lipstick and pearls splashes water in the cobalt-blue, blossom-shaped fountain donated by Gehry to the memory of Lillian Disney, the Hall’s first patron. A photographer clicks his shutter. On this cool, Spring afternoon in Los Angeles, photographers and models flock to a building described by the senior architecture critic of the Los Angeles Times as so sculptural that no bad photo of it exists.

Of course, photos are notoriously mercenary. Through a similar set of photographs of this rooftop, made during its planting, artist Karen Apollonia Müller tells the story of an elderly Culver City woman named Daisy, who every day for years opened her mail in the shade of her pink puffball tree – until the builders of the Disney Hall came knocking. ‘She needed money to replace a tire on her truck and to repair her roof’, Müller writes, ‘so she could not resist the agreement that allowed the landscape architect to have her tree uprooted and hauled away’. Her beloved tree became the largest of the handful shading the travertine plaza of the Disney Hall’s Blue Ribbon Courtyard – and the only transplant, ironically, not to survive. The price Daisy received was a fraction of the market value of her mature Dombeya wallichii. For Müller, the process of transplanting full-grown trees offers a metaphor for the violence perpetrated by this building on the city. 

Karin Apollonia Müller,  Fountain , 2002. Courtesy of East of Borneo.

Karin Apollonia Müller, Fountain, 2002. Courtesy of East of Borneo.

Müller’s project is one of four solicited by Allan Sekula in the early 2000s as part of what became the April 2005 exhibition Facing the Music: Documenting Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Redevelopment of Downtown Los Angeles. The catalogue, recently printed after much delay, and with contributions by Louis Adamic, James Baker, Edward Dimendberg, Laura Diamond Dixit, Anthony Hernandez, Karin Apollonia Müller, Leonard Nadel and Billy Woodberry, is more properly a monograph on the Disney Hall itself, including a comprehensive foreword, and a previously unpublished essay by Sekula – the only one by the artist to focus on Los Angeles. The Concert Hall is indeed a perfectly photogenic building, yet the artists commissioned by Sekula, ‘slyly evade this trap’.  Filmmaker Billy Woodberry videotapes the slow process of constructing the inside-out steelwork that necessarily, if ingloriously, supports the iconic skin. Anthony Hernandez depicts the Belmont High School project (now the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center) and the Los Angeles River in photographs that, according to Sekula, share ‘an uncanny kinship with uncelebrated structures, and with a pictorial modernism free from baroque aspirations’. Hernandez’s photos pair the semi-built school with the unfinished, bare studs under the concert hall’s facade, which appears as an unremarkable box on top of a massive parking deck. Hallways and conduits display a morphology similar to sewers and drains: pipes for culture or for waste, both structurally obscured.

When Sekula first began organising Facing the Music, Belmont was a ‘folly’ – half built, partially demolished, since ‘no one thought to test the subsoil for methane bubbles or earthquake faults’.  Of course, for many of the city’s critics, nearly any building near 1st and Grand would be a folly after the original sin: scraping a shabby but thriving working-class neighbourhood from the face of Bunker Hill, beginning in 1955, in order to plunk down a proper modern downtown. A short walk from the Disney Hall are the Los Angeles Cathedral, an architecturally striking arts high school, the monolithic Water and Power building, an opera house, MOCA, the Broad, the California Plaza mall and towers, the Bank of America tower, the Bonaventure Hotel, LAPD headquarters, City Hall and several courthouses. Sekula compares the result to scrunching New York’s landmarks – from PS1 to Lincoln Center to the Tombs – into a few adjacent blocks. Disney Hall seemingly anchors a forced Manhattanism; downtown is one of the few places in Los Angeles built on a grid, a system stubbornly maintained, despite the topographical inconvenience of Bunker Hill, via irregularities such as tunnels, tiered roads and severe ramps.

If Grand Avenue is the spiritual/cultural axis (the Cathedral on one end, the Grand Central Library on the other), 1st Street between City Hall and Belmont is the municipal/political axis. The Disney Hall is there at the crossroads, an expressive monument capping what Sekula tirelessly reminds us is still the parking deck for jurors. His video Gala, represented in the catalogue by several spreads of tiny stills, centres not on the Disney Hall’s opening celebration itself, but on the stream of well-heeled guests waiting for their cars afterwards, and the young, pony-tailed valets bringing them – a scene filmed, pointedly, from the clogged intersection of 1st and Grand. Diagrams of parking lots and plans for curb-parking zones appear towards the end of the volume, including on the endpages. The various texts hint at the privileging (and, ironically, the almost piratical tolling) of cars in downtown’s development. They provide – in good Sekulian style – a subtle, unacknowledged skew line to the artists’ main arguments. While the essays and photographs explode the significance of one dominant set of Disney Hall’s codes, another adjacent set unfolds in layout. Not least of these is the constellation of water between the Department of Water and Power building, the sail-like Disney Hall and the other terminus of the exhibition’s scope, the Los Angeles River, which empties into San Pedro bay, near where Sekula grew up and site of the second-largest container port in the United States.

Photograph by James Baker. Courtesy of East of Borneo

Photograph by James Baker. Courtesy of East of Borneo

LA’s downtown is home to a handful of conspicuous jails and courthouses – a municipal and legal infrastructure a stone’s throw from the concentrated culture of Grand Avenue. The catalogue’s first essay, a text accompanying the 2005 show, is Sekula at his most densely vitriolic. The piece begins with the strange motif of prisoners perhaps glimpsing the unfinished slab of the concert hall from the windows of the Sherrif’s bus on their way to the municipal courthouse – ‘some making the journey for the third and last time’.  Darkly, this first paragraph ends not where Sekula left it, but with a long addendum by the editor, who (rightly) finds it necessary to unpack the author’s reference to California’s overly punitive ‘three strikes’ rule, by which some repeat offenders receive automatic life sentences. The area is also home – in part because of the jail – to one of the largest transient populations in the country. Against this unsavory backdrop, it may seem easy to deflate boosterist rhetoric as high-flown as that surrounding Gehry’s building. Yet such discursions have less to do with the Concert Hall itself than with the ‘forgetting’ that it, and much of the Bunker Hill development, seem to encourage.

The grim but loving aim of Sekula’s project is to counter such shiny civic abstractions – all the more necessary given that the particularly Angelino brand of urbanist fantasy is nothing new. The Facing the Music catalogue includes a facsimile of a 1930 article by one of Sekula’s favorite writers, Louis Adamic: ‘Los Angeles! There She Blows’, first published in Outlook and Independent, a liberal New York weekly. Adamic traces the Los Angeles boom, which began in the 1890s and more or less continues today, starting with the infamous story of the Owens Valley, the LA aqueduct and how the ‘go-getters’ of the day swindled the ‘folks’ into approving an unnecessary water bond (the basis of Roman Polanski’s film Chinatown). In fact, this early conspiracy of landowners was not to provide for an immediate shortage, but rather looked ahead a generation or more to when Los Angeles’ population would crest six million. No one could stop them. ‘The crooks have taken money from the fools’, writes Adamic, paraphrasing an area newspaper. ‘What difference does it make? The money stays in Los Angeles. It is helping to build the city.’ And so it goes. For the next century the city grew not according to the needs of its working class, but instead was steered into the future by unscrupulous boosters, out for their own gain. It is the Wild West, after all; Adamic notes that Los Angeles was settled by folks so rough they got kicked out of San Francisco.

Gehry has often, somewhat naïvely, compared his building to a ship: the orchestra’s stage to a floating platform, the facade to steel sails. Throughout the catalogue, though Sekula never quite makes it explicit, one detects the sweet smack of irony as he extends the social metaphor of the ship – as if not only the Gehry project but the whole city were commanded by plutocrats, lording it over regular folks, taking the city wherever they pleased. Gala, one of Sekula’s least sympathetic portrayals of the ruling class, becomes a rare glimpse of the captains of entertainment and industry – the Hollywood elite – stranded in the city’s eastern backwater. The New York Times critic Herbert Muschamp likened the building to the ‘silver screen’, and to the reflectors used on film and photo sets, and Gehry made no secret of the fact that he would have preferred a westside site for his reluctantly populist building.

Anthony Hernandez,  Los Angeles # 3,  1971. Courtesy of East of Borneo.

Anthony Hernandez, Los Angeles # 3, 1971. Courtesy of East of Borneo.

Facing the Music was staged in the gallery at REDCAT (the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) located inside the Disney Concert Hall. CalArts (where Sekula taught until his death, and where I was briefly his student) was founded by Walt Disney as a suburban institute in Valencia, and REDCAT, with its basement theater, gallery and coffee shop, became its urban outpost in 2003. The catalogue is published by East of Borneo, an online arts journal based at CalArts and edited by Thomas Lawson, the art school dean. The resulting invective is thus a complicated but unusually well-positioned dance: a critique from within, and one that, to the credit of Sekula and his collaborators, spares no one – least of all Gehry, at whom only a few critics have aimed such articulately harsh words. Like the mature trees transplanted to simulate historical depth in an instant downtown, the idea of Gehry’s genius – or that of any architect – should not be read as natural, this catalogue asserts. Such treatment is double-edged. In the Disney Hall gift shop, above a pile of copies of the gushing Gehry monograph Symphony is a display of Facing the Music. Nearby is a shelf of souvenir models of the building, marked Made in China – another irony too slight for even a footnote in a complex, Melvillian tale of globalisation, corruption and ingrown dreams.

Sekula passed away in 2014. His final project, the Facing the Music catalogue, takes on the urgency of a mandate to those who would use their art for politics – those who would confront the city on the basis of its metaphors. Even though it was released a decade after Sekula’s exhibition, Facing the Music is a timely book. Disney Hall’s new starchitecture neighbour, the museum designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro for the personal collection of Eli and Edythe Broad, opens in September 2015. Just a few months ago, the County Supervisors approved Gehry Partners’ plan to redevelop ‘Parcel Q’ on Grand Avenue, directly east of the Disney Hall. Gehry means to compliment his ‘symphony’ with a combination of mixed-use retail and residential buildings, anchored by a signature high-rise hotel and an office tower. Dimendberg notes in his introduction to Facing the Music that downtown is undergoing rapid gentrification, especially along the historic Broadway Corridor, where flophouses and warehouses alike have been converted into ‘artist’ lofts – billed as New York living in LA. The completed Edward R. Roybal Learning Center is now the second most expensive public school in the country, its $377m budget exceeded only by the folly of the  $578m Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools campus in Mid-Wilshire. Grand Park, another subject of Müller’s lens, reopened in 2013 as a twelve-acre greenspace connecting the Music Center to City Hall.

The trees on the Blue Ribbon plaza now seem healthy enough. Daisy’s pink puffball tree has been replaced by a new specimen. A young man photographs a model as she squats against a knotted trunk, under a canopy of dried orange blooms. It’s breezy on the roof, even a bit chilly, as the sun slides behind the Promenade Condominums on Hope Street. But the buffed-steel building still lends golden light to a garden dotted with edible plants. And if the sun goes down today, leaving the Disney Concert Hall in the shade, at least tomorrow one can expect a return to relentless good weather and a matinee concert of rustling leaves and chirruping songbirds. And yet, wafting over Sekula’s book, left open on the gray table, is the unmistakable note of ripe trash.

Allan Sekula,  Prayer for the Americans 3 (Disney Stockholders) , 1997/2005 © The Estate of Allan Sekula. Courtesy of East of Borneo.

Allan Sekula, Prayer for the Americans 3 (Disney Stockholders), 1997/2005 © The Estate of Allan Sekula. Courtesy of East of Borneo.

The black comb-binding club



David Kennedy Cutler and Sara Greenberger Rafferty,  PAPER CUTS 2

David Kennedy Cutler and Sara Greenberger Rafferty, PAPER CUTS 2

In the southeast corner of the book fair’s dense acreage—a booth-city large enough to have separate districts for collectables, glossy monthlies, photobooks, zines, porn—was Paper Cuts 2, a display by artists David Kennedy Cutler and Sara Greenberger Rafferty. Hung on the wall above boxes of faux kale and cast iPhones, on peeling wallpaper decorated with blue OS X folders, were six pads of tear-sheets, across which marched columns of PDF icons. Texts by Abate, Michelle; Abing, Hans; Acconci, Vito; and Ackerman, Chantal; preceded dozens by Adorno, Theodor and Benjamin, Walter, in a seamless flight of perfectly laid-out documents—a digital realization, seemingly, of the mechanized library envisioned by Fuller, Buckminster. (Indeed, each text is marked with a green Dropbox icon: successfully shared.) Scanned or otherwise exported from print, each file bore a tiny picture of its first page, top corner folded over as if turning, a strip of black comb binding along the left edge. Amid this proliferation of the art-critical canon, which in six posters barely gets into the Bs, the little texts propose a literally iconic relationship to “real” binders of the sort containing reports, fakebooks, classroom readers—semi-legal compilations for “educational use only.” This detailed PDF icon is Apple’s latest embellishment to the metaphor of the “desktop,” that indispensable surface of human/machine interaction. Even as it evaporates into the cloud, text clings to the suggestion of depth, weight, and substance.

Super String Theory, Candace Hicks, 2014

Super String Theory, Candace Hicks, 2014

With Rafferty’s prints as map, one could imagine floating over the fair, above the museum’s many partitions, afforded a perfectly perpendicular view of booths and wares locked to what from this height looks like an orthogonal grid. Yet the “feel” of books is surely one reason for their continued popularity. It’s tempting to see the enthusiastic throngs at the latest LA Art Book Fair, the city’s third, as evidence that print is here to stay. From the ground, the fair spilled over into a dizzying variety of tactile objects—books, posters, zines, stickers, sculptures, drawings, tote bags, even foods—many of which resisted any clean transmutation into binary data. A book of photographs of camouflage screens by Jason Vaughn, for example, came courtesy of TBW Books in a limited-edition wooden box, sealed with a uniquely marred piece of real plywood. Candice Hicks unveiled her Super String Theory, a cloth facsimile of a ruled notebook in which every letter and drawing has been embroidered in thread. A photo by Allen Ruppersberg, however, caddishly propped beside the entrance of the “classroom” (formerly the museum’s reading room, presently cleared of printed matter), perhaps summed up a weary undercurrent: depicting the artist supporting a wavering stack of thick tomes, its title is Too Many Books.

Providing a welcome break from glassy-eyed browsing, the classroom’s discursive program narrowed the fair’s expanded field into a series of presentations, with everyone from artist Lucas Blalock to Bidoun magazine pushing their latest projects. On hand on Saturday afternoon to share their current research with a packed room of sweaty fairgoers were two representatives from the trend-forecasting artist group K-HOLE (whose reports, incidentally, appear on their website as enlarged icons of PDFs fastened by black comb bindings). Best known for spawning the “normcore” meme in the fashion world, they took this unintended proliferation and distortion of their term as the starting point of their talk, which speculated on how their concept of “basic” fashion became, a couple of years later, the misguided “Dress Normal” ads for Gap clothing. One hypothesis was that streamlined, simplified ideas are better primed for transmission than rich ones. Too much context prompts people to parse and parse again, until context falls away. Perhaps, too, there were once fewer “outlets” in the media, restricted to reliable voices and thinkers, while today—witness the sprawl of the LAABF—there are as many pundits as there are people. The group terms the heat death that follows Consensus Collapse. Not that this is a bad thing—or a good one. K-HOLE, like any self-respecting (self-reflexive) think tank, frame their observations with ambivalence. And it does seem true that the current intellectual biome favors those small but sturdy ideas able to survive a harsh separation from context. K-HOLE noted, not without pleasure, that the Gap campaign was a failure—and indeed, how could an idea so hopelessly abstracted from its original complexity hope to register anything more than desperation? Normcore, which became, simply, “New Yorkers dressing like midwesterners,” started as a utopian strategy born of “the belief that we can still control our symbols,” and thus still transmit meaning, even amid the present overload. But how? With artists, maybe, as forecasters and guides.

LAABF teemed with folks who still value a complex context over legibility; the content of a carefully crafted book remains irreducible to viral form. The fair itself, though, as an abstract whole—not so much. Dozens of photos on Instagram tagged with #LAABF show a set of prints dominating another neighborhood of the fair: the letters CRYING AT THE ORGY, superimposed on roses. Ironic it is not—ambivalent, yes. It is an ambivalent age, after all, that joins print products in the Internet of Things.

On the way to the ramp leading up to the mezzanine was The Book Machine, an instant micropublishing effort: visitors could bring and output their very own books—from PDFs, of course. Elsewhere, a psychic laser printer by designer Becca Lofchie answered yes or no questions. How did it work? This digital oracle was powered by a twenty-sided die. Forget sales and attendance numbers: such a glib magic act was as good a predictor as any for the coming state of art books. Meanwhile, one thing is certain: for three and a half days, the LAABF codified with almost meme-like clarity exactly what you, young creative, should be doing with your weekend. K-HOLE darkly hinted as much when they screened parts of lifestyle ads by AT&T and Zara, in which weirdly well-off freelancers drift through bright white live-work spaces, passing over the crisply kerned tools of their trades. As if you required more proof that the products you now “need” in order “not to fail” in your unmoored and artsy profession go not on your bookshelves, but on your desktop.

Still from K-HOLE’s research presentation at the LAABF (image courtesy of K-HOLE)

Still from K-HOLE’s research presentation at the LAABF (image courtesy of K-HOLE)

Travis Diehl is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. His video work has been shown at Curtat Tunnel, Lausanne; Anthony Greaney, Boston; Human Resources, Los Angeles; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. His writing appears in P&Co, Night Papers, X-TRA, Salon, and Artforum. He is a 2013 recipient of the Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant. He edits the artist-run arts journal Prism of Reality.


Visual Narratives

Visual narratives

The new series NEGATIVE bring together practical artistic perspectives and theoretical viewpoints on photography. We asked one of the editors, Hans Hedberg about the series first three titles: Imprint, Broken and Auto.

Objektiv: “In times when cameras are ubiquitous and the general public is experimenting with the narrative possibilities of photography more than ever before, a survey of the current status and potential of the photo book is highly relevant.”  This quote is from the book Imprint, and with contributors like Gerry Badger and Michael Mack you want to explore the photographic language, please tell us more about this survey.

Hedberg: The photo book is probably the most important player - more influential than exhibitions - in terms of spreading knowledge about various photographic approaches and aesthetics.  It applies both internally to photographers as well as to the audience. Our aim has been to highlight this influence, to discuss it, but also try to describe the specific conditions prevailing in the transmission of photographic works in books.  It can be about the way content of the photographs are influenced by layout, combinations, formats, rhythm, sequences, etc.

Objektiv: The book Auto deals with selfies and the blurring between professionals and amateur photographic practices. You also claim that the everyday digital photography of our times challenges notions of autobiography, interactivity, and democracy?

Hedberg: The books are structured around a series of essays by various authors approaching similar issues from different perspectives. The amount of autobiographies in todays digital media exposes a shift of boundaries between public and private, but does it create a similar shift between the unique and conformity? These questions is artist Willem Popelier discussing in his essay Digital Narcissim. Sarah Kember discusses how our personal onlineprofiles are used by the market and can be victims of an increasingly sophisticated surveillance. Louise Wolthers writes about how artists create strategies of resistance to these conditions.

Objektiv: The third title Broken looks further into environmental photography. How did the idea on the series come about? And could you tell us more about the future titles?

Hedberg: There is a steadily growing field within contemporary art and philosophy that is working with a critical view on the anthropocentric perspective that has been a condition for our culture during a very long time. This also applies to photography. It's about the human place in ecology/landscape and how humans deal with natural resources. We believe that a new field of landscape photography is established as a part of this movement. Liz Wells, Ann Noble, Chris Wainwright, Mark Klett, Colin Westerbeck, Kate Palmer Albers, are in different ways, as artist and as writers, trying to discern and describe, this new aesthetics..
Coming titles relate to the photographic archives and strategies for writing photographic history.

The series NEGATIVE is a collaboration between the Hasselblad Foundation, the University of Gothenburg and Art and Theory Publishing.