How it unfolded: Artist Book Brisbane Event (ABBE) 2017

Above: Di Fogwell’s work at the artists’ book and multiples fair.
Right: Monica Oppen
Below: Noreen Grahame from Grahame Galleries and Editions.
Below right: Clyde McGill’s volunteers warm to their instruments.

Marian Crawford reports on ABBE 2017, held at Griffith University Queensland College of Art, Brisbane, on 6-7 July, held at the same time as the 6th artists’ books and multiples fair.

Convened by Queensland College of the Arts’ Dr Tim Mosely, the event looked a lot like a conference and talk-fest for some 65 thinkers, makers and a host of other keen participants who’d come to Brisbane from around Australia and beyond. Mosely called for papers that addressed the theme of ‘the fold’, drawing on philosopher Gille Deleuze’s thoughts about that edge that is not an edge, ‘the ideal fold is Zweifalt, a fold that both differentiates and is differentiated’.[1]

Two early-bird 8.30am keynote presentations set the tone. First, German collaborative duo USUS (Ulrike Stoltz and Uta Schneider) described the ways the fold might be found and employed in a book – the uncut page-fold waiting to be guillotined, horizontal folding folios or the vertically folded concertina, the thick folded fore-edge, the mountains and valleys of folds, and the inside-outside/verso-recto confusion of pages printed both sides. Divided into chapters, their presentation drew on philosopher Michel Serres’s understanding of crumpled time and space, and on Martin Heidegger’s concept ‘Ekstatikon’.

The second, more discursive, keynote presentation gave the audience a chance to make a music of sorts from books Clyde McGill had converted into sound-producing objects. Folded books wrapped in wiring were plugged into a mixing desk, and as the volunteers warmed to their new instruments and McGill’s suggestions – can we make the sound of binding a book? – a pleasing and musical cacophony filled the room. McGill also acknowledged Australia’s original inhabitants and their elders past and present in a discussion of his dark book Witness.

A day of shorter presentations followed each keynote. The artist book was described as having a ‘not-ness’ of exciting possibilities that are not book, artwork or architectural model (Marian Macken), and then as a ‘deformance’ where text is disrupted, letterpress type tipped on its tail and printed (Caren Florance & Angela Gardner). Protest and a vision of prisoners gazing towards the freedom of the sky was evoked by trembling hands and fold‘s publications (Paul Ulhmann). The inventive legacy of ANU’s Graphic Investigations Workshop was noted (Florance), and a new history of Australian art and artist books proposed (Monica Oppen). Personal and private histories were very sensitively revealed, and it was acknowledged we can never be ‘on the same page’ as the other (Ana Paula Estrada de Isolbi, Isaac Brown). The reciprocal nature of touch was linked to rock-climbing (Bridget Hillebrand) and also to a sense of belonging and hence to topography and place that was aptly demonstrated in a folded fabric made from soil and concrete (Tess Mehonoshen). The deviant woman was proposed as a disruptive stance to establish a subjectivity beyond copy culture (Carolyn Craig). The book was performed as a crawling paper being, shedding its pages to reform and be re-made and shed again (Julie and Virginia Barratt). ‘Knowing’ as dynamic activity was made distinct from given and static ‘knowledge’, in a possible theorisation of the book reaching back to Aristotle and Plato (Monica Carroll & Adam Dickerson).

And this is to mention just a few of the ideas tossed into the ring. Many of these papers will be published by Brad Freeman in JAB, the legendary Chicago based Journal of Artists’ Books. Freeman’s presentation and very attendance added lustre to the occasion.

Mosely, closing the gab-fest, suggested that we-the-audience might be the generators of the next book ‘event’. Given the thoughtful quality of the papers presented and the enormous goodwill, warmth and enthusiasm generated by the event, this seems a very likely scenario.


[1] Quoted by Arkady Plotnitsky in “Algebras, Geometries and Topologies of the Fold” in Between Deleuze and Derrida, Edited by Paul Patton & J Protevi. Continuum, London, 2003, p. 104. Accessed 11.7.17