Associate Director Max Schumann in Norway and Finland – PART 1, Bergen

October 15 - 18, 2013

Printed Matter’s Associate Director Max Schumann has been invited to give several talks in Norway and Finland this week. Here’s a dispatch from his first stop:

So I arrived in Bergen (finally, after a 48 hour scramble due to being denied my scheduled flight due to a “mutilated” passport and a frantic passport re-newal and rebooking by the amazing back-uo crew - ie the Printed Matter staff) on Saturday morning and gave a bleary eyed talk on artists books at the Hordaland Arts Centre. My talk was on the political economy of artists’ book production (I hope) in light of the current “renaissance” in artists’ book publishing by a new generation of enthusiasts. On the one hand, this seems to reinforce the vitality of the book as an art form and its aspiration as a democratic and accessible practice - and that I would place it in the very broad context of the current resistance against the cultural monolithic trending of global corporate capitalism. But what are the realities of a sustainable form of artists’ publishing in the current economic context? I would argue that it is still largely sustained by a gift economy. However, again in a much broader context of the emergence of alternative economies, the artists’ publishing impulse has great and realistic possibilities of independent cultural production.

The talk was followed by a book launch for the first in a new series of artists’ books the Hordaland will be producing. Dublett, by the sister team Annette and Caroline Kierluf of Bergen, a beautiful and compelling production, which accompanied the artists’ exhibition currently up at the Arts Center.

Today, I did a workshop, also at the Hordaland Art Centre, basically a show and tell talk on some 40 samplings of artists books from Printed Matter’s inventory, from the 1960’s to the present, in which the books were passed around and questions were fielded.

After the workshop we had a lunch meeting with a couple of the organizing team for Bergen’s first Art Book Fair, scheduled for late November, which sounds like it will be a lively and productive event - which will create a new platform through which the regions many independent publishers can develop and build relationships to move their creative and experimental publishing projects forward.

Afterwards I visited with Kurt Johannessen at his studio, also near to the center of Bergen. Kurt has been producing artists books since 1984, and has some 70 titles under his belt, many of which Printed Matter has carried from the mid 1980’s and continues to carry. Kurt gave me a preview of his newest series, a wonderful set of four small scale book of “scientific” (a science of Kurt’s own distinctive making) diagrammatic drawings with captions. When the English versions are ready,

Many thanks to my gracious and generous hosts at the Hordaland Arts Centre, Director Anne Szefer Karlsen and the rest of the Hordaland team, Petra Rahm and Maria Lyngstad Willassen!