Back again for the third year, the Vancouver Art Book Fair is something that you should get uber excited about! Even though it doesn't start until next week, we wanted to give you an early heads up, because you can easily spend - all day - both days - there!
This year's fair runs from the 4th, 5th and 6th this October, but there are also a myriad of fantastic events that take place off-site from the fair that start even earlier. We met with VA/BF Director Tracy Stefanucci and she gave us the goods on what to expect this year. So get out your tote-bag and get ready to immerse yourself in the world of artist publishing!
VANCOUVER ART BOOK FAIR
October 4-6 - Vancouver Art Gallery Annex - 1pm-5pm
Members preview October 3 from 6-8pm, followed by an open reception after that at Unit/Pitt Projects
Next week we'll be chatting with a duo of participants from the fair to learn about one of the abundant unique artist published works at the VA/BF, stay tuned!
INTERVIEW WITH TRACY STEFANUCCI DIRECTOR OF THE VANCOUVER ART BOOK FAIR
VIA: You are the current director of the Vancouver Art/Book Fair and Project Space, can you give VIA readers a quick summary about what Project Space does and how the VA/BF fair came to be?
Project Space is a non-profit organization dedicated to publication as an artistic medium. Our main project is the Vancouver Art/Book Fair, but we also publish books as Project Space Press, other projects as OCW Magazine
and a blog at projectspace.ca
VA/BF was founded in response to an absence of art book fairs in Canada and on the West Coast (though after we founded the fair we were pleased to see Printed Matter launch an LA Art Book Fair). Our city and country have active and vibrant artist publishing communities, and fairs are an ideal place to circulate books, generate discourse, engage new publics and foster relationships between artists, publishers and the public. VA/BF acts as an invaluable piece of cultural infrastructure; it seemed absolutely necessary to launch one here. In Vancouver in particular, we have a fairly sizable community that is producing art books—though we are still working on helping to make the various smaller communities that make up this broader community more visible and connected.
VIA: The Vancouver Art/Book Fair first happened in 2012, in 2013 it grew and doubled its programming and attendance. This year it seems to be even bigger and better. Can you describe three key benchmarks that have been achieved in this year's iteration of the fair?
This year there are more artists' projects on display (from curator Nathan Jones' exhibition of work by Capetown-based artist Sebastian Borkenhagen and Vancouver-based artist Justin Gradin to Poetry Is Dead's exhibition of digital poetry chapbooks), more free tote bags to be handed out at the door and an Art & Coffee Lounge where visitors can drink free fair trade and organic coffee from our Official Coffee Sponsor Ethical Bean and view artwork available through the Vancouver Art Gallery's Art Rental & Sales.
Another key development has been the launch of our Membership
program, which is critical to our goal of fostering a community of people who are passionate about artist publishing. Our Members receive exclusive first access to VA/BF the night before it opens to the public at our first Members Preview (October 3 from 6–8pm); limited-edition artist prints, postcards and totes that were donated by artists and publishers who are also committed to our goals; copies of our new book by award-winning Nisga'a poet Jordan Abel, Un/inhabited
, which is published by Project Space Press in collaboration with Talonbooks; and discounts on our publications and books at The Paper Hound Bookshop.
VIA: Accompanying the fair VA/BF also has created Artists' Books Week (Sept 29 – Oct 5), a celebration of artist publishing, looks like a great platform and program of events. Can you share with VIA readers a couple of enticing highlights from this busy and exciting week?
We are excited to partner with Real Vancouver Writers' Series and Toronto-based magazine Double Dot to host a launch party for Un/inhabited at The Paper Hound Bookshop on Wednesday, October 1 at 6:30pm, which will feature performances by Jordan Abel, Chelsea Rooney and Ben Rawluk. Dynamo Arts Association is also hosting an edition of Print Ready, which will act as a preview and pre-sale of works they will have on display at the fair, on Thursday, October 2 at 7pm. We are also happy to extend free cover to our Members for the VA/BF Afterparty and SAD Mag launch party that is taking place at Make Gallery at 7pm on Saturday, October 4.
VIA: The VA/BF has started also attracted publishers from across Canada and further afield. Please do tell us about a couple of the national and international participants this year.
Since its inception VA/BF has been an internationally oriented fair with a substantial amount of our programs and exhibitors coming from across the country and around the globe. As of 2014 we will have had participants from North America, Europe, South America, Asia and Africa (and we are working on Australia/New Zealand for 2015!). This year some highlights include Hugh Frost of Landfill Editions, a Stockholm-based publisher that produces books as well as various other art objects; Rachel Gontijo Araujo of A Bolha Editora, a Sao Paulo–based publisher that is committed to disseminating under-represented Brazilian works in other countries; Lauren Mackler, founder of Los Angeles' Museum of Public Fiction, which produces an art journal that compiles print artist projects and texts in connection with thematic group exhibitions; and Helena Keeffe, a San Francisco–based artist whose project Standard Deviation discusses valuation of artistic labour.
VIA: What percentage of VA/BF publishers are collectives, are there any solo publishing artists who are participating?
Collectives and independent artists are less common at VA/BF. It is more often publishers, artist-run centres or artist bookshops that participate—and often organizations that are some combination of this. Of course many independent artists are represented at VA/BF through the artists' books on display. Some independent artists that are operating their own exhibitor tables are Halifax-based Kasia Klimpel and Surrey-based Cora Li-Leger
VIA: It seems as though the VA/BF is focused on contributing to a larger conversation on arts/artist publishing. Can you tell us a bit about how the VA/BF also used as a space for publishing cross-pollination?
Yes, publishing is unique in that it exists at an intersection of art, literature and graphic design, and often involves collaboration or co-production. With this in mind, Project Space is also interested in work that is created on the fringes of visual arts communities, in areas where there is overlaps with literature and graphic design. For example, our forthcoming book Un/inhabited is by a poet whose work is very process-oriented and also functions as text-based art. It was important for us to take the opportunity to situate his work in a visual art context—as previously it has been presented in a literary context—and have curator Kathleen Ritter write a text about the piece in order to expand the possibilities for and audience of his work.
VIA: Artists always have a vested interest in all types of publishing. The VA/BF promises to exhibit books, zines, magazines, printed ephemera, and other forms of experimental publication. Over the past three years, have you noticed any increases or decreases in particular media?
I haven't really noticed any fluctuations in that regard, but I am seeing more of a community develop in general in Vancouver. For example, Nathan Jones and Michael Lachman's Print Ready exhibitions at Dynamo Arts Association are fostering a community around artists' zines. Or 221A's recent collaboration with Brick Press for Dan Starling's bookwork The Part of No Part
is a good example of an artist-run centre collaborating with another art publisher. We've also been posting art publishing–related events to our blog at projectspace.ca
, and are impressed by the number of groups hosting such events and how frequent they are.
VIA: Can you tell us a little bit about the VA/BF library? It seems like a fantastic legacy project, does the library also exist as a reference tool outside of when the fair is on?
The VA/BF Library & Archive Project is a library and archive of publications that are donated to the fair on an ongoing basis and that are presented at the fair each year (publishers submit two copies, one for the archive and one for the library). We now have a substantial enough collection that we were able to invite a curator, Sarah Davidson, to work with and present this year's iteration. She noticed a theme arising around space and architecture, so she has titled it New Understandings of Space.
Our long-term vision is to open our studio to the public as a space where people can access the reference library, do research, work on projects, connect with the community, etc. However, at this point in time we don't have the capacity to do so. The Membership program is a "first step" in getting this going, as it allows us to create a base of loyal community members and to generate some funds that could be put toward such a goal.
VIA: Are you still looking for Volunteers to assist with the fair? If so how should they get in touch?
Yes! The fair requires a substantial number of volunteers to run smoothly. All volunteers receive access to the Members Preview, discounts on our publications and a lot of appreciation. To volunteer, contact our Volunteer Coordinator Jessie McNeil at email@example.com.
VIA: Is there a favourite little gem of a publication that you are going to acquire yourself this year?
The exciting part is that I won't find out which gems I want until I see the fair (there will definitely be more than one); I love the element of discovery that is inherent to going to a book fair—even for someone like me that is so actively involved in selecting exhibitors and presenters. I always come home with way more books than I intended to buy, but I encounter so many great works and it feels so good to put my money "where my mouth is" by actually financially contributing to the creation of work that really impacts me.
VIA: For someone who has never been to the VA/BF or any other art book fair, what are three things that you would say to get them excited and keen to visit?
The passion evident in the work on display at VA/BF is palpable. There is nothing quite like talking directly to an artist or publisher about the work they've created—hearing the backstory and the intention from someone who is incredibly passionate about it.
The range of work on display is outstanding, meaning there is something for all kinds of book lovers and also that it is almost impossible to not discover anything new and exciting.
Of course, there are also things like free tote bags and free fair trade, organic coffee—which doesn't hurt ;). Give yourself lots of time, as there are many rooms of books and artists' projects to explore, as well as hourly talks and performances. And, you can always visit both days—it's a free event, you've got nothing to lose.