“Gold is the most noble of the noble metals. Its properties are unaffected by air, water, or time. Thus, its alchemical associations with perfection and immortality persist today. its celestial associations are rooted in materiality as well, as virtually all gold on the planet arrived here by meteorite. Two billion years ago, an asteroid collision created the largest accessible gold deposit on earth, the Witwatersrand basin. The most gold ever mined has been extracted from the south ridge of this astronomical depression, now called Johannesburg, South Africa. Here, the noble metal is liquefied by heavy metals for ease of extraction, making mining a type of reverse transmutation, an anti-alchemy, turning land from gold to mercury.”
- Liz Sales on Jason Larkin’s Tales from the City of Gold in the Alchemy Issue of Conveyor Magazine published September 2014. Check out our digital preview here of the issue here and purchase a print copy here!
All Images by Jason Larkin.
We are so proud of Conveyor Magazine editor Liz Sales, who wrote a fantastic piece on Hannah Whitaker for the new Talent Issue of Foam Magazine. Two of our favorites in packed in a great feature - check it out!
Preview of the 2014 Foam Talent Issue:
For more information, or to pick up a copy: http://www.foam.org
Elisabeth Tonnard. One Swimming Pool. Elisabeth Tonnard: The Netherlands, 2013.
Book made from swimming pool: Installation size ± 648 x 648 cm. Book size 14.8 x 18.8 x 19 cm. Full color digital print, 3164 pages, bound in 9 sections attached to each other, plus inserted fold-out sheet with overview and instructions for installation.
Liz Sales: You’ve made exceptionally structured books including a book that is a portable swimming pool that can be put on a bookshelf, a small book that comes with a magnifying glass and a book that is completely invisible. How would you define the word “book”? How do you decide which form will best embody which book project?
Elisabeth Tonnard: I have to admit that I would at the start define the book in quite a boring and mechanistic sense, a stack of sheets bound together in a cover, that has had a particular role in our culture of conveying information in an orderly fashion. It is also an apparatus that has a nice feature of portability included. Like a hammer, it is a machine that in a few hundred years can still be used without recourse to additional tools or accessories or power supplies or instructions. I love that simplicity combined with the fact that this little machine can come to mean a whole lot of different things. In a sense it is a finite thing that is infinite in its possible manifestations, sort of like the alphabet itself. The parts of the machine that interest me most are the pages, the fact that there is a consecutive order of sheets that flip over, and the fact also that every page has its double right next to it across the gutter. The reader is in constant interaction with the book, without the reader the book is just limp, dead. So, I like to make my work for readers, rather than for viewers. Part of the decisions about form are informed by these notions, but the form is often already included in the project itself, such as in the examples you mention (which all happen to be books that are in one way or another amplifications of form). The small book Another World is about tiny little insects making love. The photos in which the insects appear are paired in the book with news flashes of big events elsewhere in the world. The book and the type is small so that the reader feels there is a distance physically, it takes effort to see what is going on. The handling of the book is clumsy on purpose and the magnifying glass really only shows you more pixels, not more information. In this way I wanted to show how both these worlds felt equally distant and incomprehensible, the world of the insect that we spot in front of us and the world of the media flowing around us talking about things from afar that we are supposed to care about but that most of the time we really don’t have any direct relation to. So, the form of the book is not separate from the content, it goes hand in hand.
Elisabeth Tonnard. Whiteout. Elisabeth Tonnard: New York, 2006.
LS: Works like “Let us go then, you and I”, which is written in white ink and “Whiteout“, which conflates the definition of meteorological whiteout with the clerical product, Whiteout, seem to play with the space between presence and absence. Could you talk about your interest in exploring specter states (if that is an apt description)?
ET: Mmm I like that description, had not thought of it as specter states before. White space always attracted me as a space where the reader comes in with his or her own imagination. Similar to how I love the world in wintertime when there is snow everywhere, it gives more freedom than a world that is completely filled out with details. The odd thing is that Let us go then, you and I, and also We are small, are books that employ the product whiteout to actually reveal information through the act of hiding information. They reveal information that was already present but almost invisible in the amount of information on the page. In both these books I have applied whiteout over and over again to only one text, in the one book a T.S. Eliot poem, in the other book a letter that I received. On each page the same text is present, but parts are painted white. By doing so new texts are revealed that were already there, but lost in the crowd. Once you start leaving things out, you see how incredibly packed with information everything actually is all the time. It is only because we constantly filter all input already that we aren’t going completely mad. Your phrase specter state is also apt I think in the sense that I am often interested in small transformations of a state that is never quite stable or present. It is like being on the way towards a fixed state but never reaching the destination, the only thing present is constant flux, repetition of absence.
Elisabeth Tonnard. The Man in The Crowd. Elisabeth Tonnard: The Netherlands, 2012.
LS: Literature is another strong motif in your work, “In This Dark Wood” contains 90 different English translations you collected from Dante’s "Inferno", “The Man of the Crowd” is based upon a short story by Edgar Allen Poe, and “Speak! eyes ― En zie!“ consists of poems made from existing works of literature. What is your relationship to these works and to literature in general?
ET: Right, I am tuned into literature, and interested in working in a literary tradition. This is why I started making books. I had the idealistic notion that they could broaden the field of literature a bit (which in The Netherlands is a rather tight field from which some necessary developments seemed to be missing, for instance the incorporation of other languages or of found texts). Right now my books have come to light in the field of artist’s books, but I feel many of them should be seen as literary works as well. We talked already about what a book is as a thing, to elaborate on that, for me books do also refer specifically to the field of literature. Literary books are the books that I grew up with and that I feel at home with and that I always come back to. I held an MA degree in literature before I went to study fine arts and am also for instance publishing poetry. My books are referring to and alternating on the form and conventions of literary books. This is all not so much a conscious effort I suppose, just a consequence of having read things which then later turn up in relation to other phenomena, which was for instance the case in The Man of the Crowd which you mention. I saw a situation in a street in Paris and was immediately drawn to understand it as a scene from Poe’s story.
Elisabeth Tonnard. The Gospel of the Photographer. Elisabeth Tonnard: The Netherlands, 2013.
LS: "The Gospel of the Photographer” is a rewrite of the gospel according to Mark, casting photography a religion and “The History of the Invisible Book” is a set of visible postcards tracing the history of “The Invisible Book”. Could you expand upon your interest in alternate/counterfactual/secret histories?
ET: I don’t take myself too seriously as a producer of alternate histories. As fakes my rewritings are totally unconvincing. It is obvious that they are manipulated, they are rather grotesque and it’s all in plain sight. I am interested however in seeing how small changes can affect texts and meanings. How for instance you can replace one word and come up with an entirely different reality, even though the reader is in on the fact that this is not an actual reality at all. It becomes a joint imagination. Part of the action is showing in broad daylight how easy and crude the manipulation is, rather than hide it away and create a perfect illusion. In The Gospel of the Photographer I enjoyed it that the resulting text with Jesus taking photographs all the time had this ambivalence of sounding both logical and entirely incongruous at the same time. A new perspective was created by changing just a few words. Another example is the booklet Enduring Freedom, The Poetry of the President in which speeches by George W. Bush are presented as his poetry. All it took were some simple line breaks and there were his poems! I haven’t explored this thought fully, but while thinking about your question I am wondering if there is a connection between these alternate histories as you identify them and the concept of metaphor. In a metaphor you use one thing to describe another thing, even though on a literal level everyone knows it is false. You introduce a new notion with the help of an old one; both new and old are present simultaneously (maybe this should be called a specter state as well). If there is one thing to take from this, it is that it only makes sense to publish an invisible book if all the other ones are visible.
For more information visit: http://elisabethtonnard.com/
The International Center of Photography’s Triennial, A Different Kind of Order, includes a spectacular installation of photographic artists’ publications, curated by my friend and colleague, Matthew Carson. His desk at the ICP Library, where he works as a librarian and archivist extraordinaire, is several feet from my own, so, I thought I might ask him about the show…
LS: What was motivation behind including a photobook installation in this years ICP Triennial?
MC: Artists’ photobooks are extremely relevant right now, for the last five or so years they have enjoyed an increasing popularity. The making of books is very much part of a photo based artists process and practice. The ICP triennial A Different Kind of Order is a show that is truly about the now of contemporary art and artists’ photobooks are very much part of the now. They had to be included.
LS What lead to the decision to house the exhibition in a specially built 3-story metal structure?
MC: With any group exhibition in a relatively small space (the ICP gallery is not the largest) there is always a lot of competition for art real estate. The curators and the architects worked together to maximize the spaces available. The three tiered scaffold for the photographic artists’ books is built in a new space that wasn’t there before for other ICP shows. Essentially it was a smart use of space. The books are showcased at the center of the gallery on a very sublime scaffold. It’s fun and it works. I like to think of it as being a book shanty town. It will be a shame to see it go.
LS: How were the self-published and independently published photobooks included in the installation selected?
MC: They cover the time period of roughly the last 3 years – although a few are from 2009. The photobooks are a core sample of what is happening in the photobook self-publishing and independently publishing world as of now. We selected photobooks that reflected the types of materials that are being made by bookmakers from newsprint to print-on-demand to the more hand-crafted. The selection is a core sample of the extraordinary photobooks to show to the museum going audience. The uninitiated museum going audience is a little different to the knowledgeable crowd that attends the book fairs and zine festivals. We wanted to reach out to this new audience while maintaining as much of the feel of the former. Hence the photobooks on the scaffold can be handled, touched and sniffed. Accessibility is vital for making sense of these photobooks. A vitrine showing a particular page spread is essentially meaningless for these photobooks. In terms of content we were looking to include books that were highly experimental and the book installation is very much about a Library as photobook laboratory.
LS: For the purpose of the exhibition, how did you define “photobook”?
MC: Photographic Artists’ Books is the term we used for the installation. The term I prefer is photographic artists’ publications. I feel that photographic artists’ publications is a broader definition and a more accurate description. Artists’ publications includes the hand-made and hand-sewn and craftily made, but also the POD (print-on-demand), the small press, the zine and the newsprint, etc. That said we went broad and we didn’t get hung up on the definition of the materials we were talking about. When you see them it is easy to know them as being something more distinct to that of the more mainstream photobook.
The last monuments to the human race will not be the great Pyramids of Giza or the cave paintings at Lascaux but the satellites that circle Earth. Long after we and everything we’ve we have created are is gone, our space junk will continue to orbit our planet. Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures is based on the premise that these satellites will ultimately become the ruins of humanity that future space alien visitors will find.
After four years of interviews with scientists, philosophers, anthropologists, and artists, Trevor Paglen developed a collection of one hundred images to represent our contemporary civilization. Paglen, as an artist in residence at MIT, worked with scientists to develop an ultra-archival disc for these images. The disc is capable of lasting in space for billions of years. Finally, in September 2012, the television satellite EchoStar XVI lifted off with this selection of images etched onto a golden silicon disc, entered orbit and began broadcasting images. The satellite will power down when it nears the end of its broadcasting life. Nevertheless, it will continue orbiting the Earth among the ring of machines that will become the longest living monuments to human civilization, until, billions of years from now, the Sun will expand into a red giant and engulf it.
The 100 images included in Trevor Paglen’s newest book, The Last Pictures, a hardcover exhibition catalog published by Creative Time Books in conjunction with the project, are those that were selected by the artist for the EchoStar XVI. This selection seems more critical than it would have been had the images been chosen for the book alone. These images will out live us, our race, and almost everything else we have created.
For more information visit: http://creativetime.org/projects/the-last-pictures/
We are visual creatures, dependent on our sight to understand almost every aspect of our lives. In spite of this, there are countless sights to which we are totally blind. Our unaided vision is both our most essential tool and a narrow window onto an infinite and awesome universe.
Immense in both size and scope, Mikhael Subotzky’s Retinal Shift is a 300 page, 7-½ x 10-1/4”, retrospective, designed by Michael Aberman and Emmet Byrne, edited by Ivan Vladislavic and published by Steidl. It explores both the practice and physiology of looking through the technical history of photography, the history of Grahamstown, South Africa, and Subotzky’s own history.
The five-pound, hardcover publication has a blood-red cloth binding beneath two deep matte prints, one mounted on each cover, depicting Subotzky’s left and right retinas. To open the book, is to look between the artist’s eyes. Subotzky says, “I was fascinated by this encounter. At the moment that my retinas, parts of my essential organs of seeing, were photographed, I was blinded by the apparatus that made the images.“ The orbicular images were made in collaboration with the Subotzky’s optometrist and allude to the substance of work: the tension between the seen and the unseeable.
For more information visit: http://www.steidlville.com/books/1321-Retinal-Shift.html
I have long fantasized about sequestering myself somewhere warm and comfortable, with soft light spilling in through north-facing windows, curled up with copious amounts of Yunnan-base Earl Grey Tea and reading every single issue Cabinet magazine back-to-back. And now I have the Renaissance Kunstkabinett weekend of my dreams ahead of me. A new encyclopedia-size publication will, in the way only a book can, convert my Brooklyn apartment into a chamber of wonders and curiosities.
This is all thanks to Cabinet Books, who, in honor of their tenth anniversary, have published Curiosity and Method: Ten Years of Cabinet Magazine,a mammoth 528-page, 9 x 11.25 inch, illustrated anthology with more than one hundred entries from the first forty issues of the Brooklyn quarterly, most of which are out of print. And as if that were not a delightful enough proposition, the publication offers seven new essays which I’ve never laid eyes on, all on Cabinet-esquethemes such as pleasure, curiosity, collecting, and the everyday.
I’m absolutely giddy to frivolously burrow down into art, history and—as Cabinet so graciously allows it to meet me halfway—science, and feed my non-academic intellectual life a diet of lists and taxonomies and insights and emerge in a world much more magical and not quite as disorderly as it seems now.
For more information visit: http://www.cabinetmagazine.org
Ön, Soner. The Light in the Dark with the Neon Arms. New York: S. Ön, 2011. Print.
Soner Ön says his artist’s zine, “The Light In The Dark With The Neon Arms”, was inspired by religious pamphlets, with their imagery of light breaking through clouds, that he came across daily in Flatbush, Brooklyn. All the images he selected for his artist’s zine were lifted from Google image search results for ‘God’.
“The Light In The Dark With The Neon Arms” takes its name from the Kate Bush song “Symphony in Blue”:
“When that feeling of meaninglessness sets in,
Go blowing my mind on God:
The light in the dark, with the neon arms”
The sixteen page, seven by ten inch, Risograph printed, edition of 200 speaks to the strong religious culture in poorer Brooklyn neighborhoods and the search for God in the age of science and technology.
For more information visit: http://soneron.com
De Middel, Cristina. Text by Kojo Ngue. The Afronauts. Self-Published, 2012
The Afronauts is Cristina De Middel’s re-imagining of the wonderfully true story of Edward Makuka Nkoloso and his attempt to propel Zambia into the space-race by sending twelve people and ten cats to the Moon.
Edward Makuka Nkoloso was a Zambian high school teacher who, in an attempt to make his newly independent African country a world-wide contender, became the Director General of the unofficial Zambian National Academy of Space Research and created a makeshift space-training center. Predictably, the Zambian mission to the Moon went the way of Buckmister Fuller’s Dymaxion Car but, not before would-be astronauts rolled down hills in oil drums in order to simulate weightlessness.
Experimental photojournalist, Christina de Middel rebuilds this story in The Afronauts through her own her personal photography, as well as technical illustrations and typed correspondence which fragilely fold out from the publication.
Middel's photography is as elegant as the publication is artfully crafted and stitched. And its beauty allows Middel’s darker message to slip past our defenses and enter our consideration: We hold a general condesencetion towards Africa and we don’t belive that they will ever really reach the moon.
For more information visit: http://thisbookistrue.wordpress.com/the-book/
Join us on Saturday, September 29th from 6:00 to 8:00pm to celebrate the freshly minted publicationThis Folder May Contain Clippings and Other Ephemeral Material… by artist and bibliophile Liz Sales. The folders, created in an edition of fifty, each contain a unique combination of loose material filed under the subject heading “camera” in various ephemera collections in and around New York City, such as The New York Public Library Picture Collection and the The International Center of Photography.
The launch event will take place at the Conveyor Arts Book Table at the DUMBO Arts Festival, presented as part of United Photo Industries’ FOTO/PODS on Main Street, between Water and Plymouth Street, in Brooklyn.
ABOUT THE PUBLICATION // An ephemera file (sometimes known as an artist’s file, a subject file, or a vertical file) is a folder within the collection of a library, archive, or historical society containing loose material such as magazine and newspaper clippings, postcards, and pamphlets. These folders are organized by surname or subject matter and provide original material for researchers. They often do not circulate due to their unique, fragile, and irreplaceable nature. Unlike a bound anthology, the contents of this work are not confined to a stationary page and cannot trace a linear history. The artifacts cannot be completely clipped from their original context nor can they help but change in this new environment.This Folder May Contain Clippings and Other Ephemeral Material… is a reminder that no reality is mutually exclusive from another; history is capable of meandering no matter how purposeful our attempts are to contain it.
ABOUT THE ARTIST // Liz Sales is cataloged as a bibliographic item with International Center of Photography Library. A bibliographic item can be any information entity (e.g., books, computer files, graphics, realia, cartographic materials, or in Liz’s case, Liz) that is considered library material as far as it is relevant to the catalog and to the patrons of the library in question. Liz is the only human being recognized by the Library of Congress as a library holding and has an assigned Library of Congress and ISBN #. For more information about Liz, look up her library record at WorldCat.
EDITIONS ARE ALSO AVAILABLE HERE IN OUR ONLINE BOOKSHOP // AND WILL BE AVAILABLE AT THE ICP/BARD TABLE AT THE NY ART BOOK FAIR
SPECIAL THANKS TO UNITED PHOTO INDUSTRIES FOR PRESENTING CONVEYOR ARTS AS PART OF THEIR FOTO/PODS PROGRAMMING AT THE 2012 DUMBO ARTS FESTIVAL
Trace: Cameraless Records of Radioactive Contamination. New York: Shika Inc, 2012. Print.
Trace: Cameraless Records of Radioactive Contamination is Shimpei Takeda’s 6” x 4 3/8″, 38 page, soft cover edition of 250, published by SHIKA earlier this year.
Shimpei Takeda is a Japanese photographic artist born in Fukushima. For Trace, he created a physical record of the Fukushima nuclear disaster using cameraless processes.
Radiation exists along the same spectrum as light visible so, Takeda was able to use photographic sensitive material to expose radiation emitted by contaminated particles from the disaster.
Starting this year, Shimpei accompanied by hip-hop activist, Shingo Annen and architect Keisuke Hiei, collected soil samples from 12 locations. Shimpei chose locations for their psychic impact (temples shines, battle sites and ruins and the hospital in Sukagawa-City, 40 miles from the nuclear plant , his birth place and his grandparent’s home).
The resulting prints, made from this radioactive soil, look like starscapes.
Trace #7 Nihonmatsu Castle (Nihonmatsu, Fukushima) - Moss #1
For more information visit: http://www.shika-inc.com/store/trace-book/
NASA successfully landed Curiosity, a Mars rover, in Gale Crater this week. Curiosity is investigating the possibility of life on Mars, as well as its habitability, by studying its climate and geology, and collecting data for future manned mission to Mars.
Curisoity has been outfitted with a stereoscopic navigation cameras, which has beamed to Earth its first 3-D photos of Mars, with more to come.
I am hopeful these images, in addition to answering paradigm shifting questions about life on Mars, will result in a campy 3-D photo book complete with red/blue glasses.
I do not believe my hopes are entirely misplaced. This would not be the first photo book of Martian images. Jim Bell’s publication, Postcards from Mars: The First Photographer on the Red Planet contains an edit from the 150,000 photographs captured, often at 100 megabytes, by Curiosity’s predecessors, rovers Spirt and Opportunity.
Postcards from Mars is not a campy book. In fact, its images have a subtle, understated dignity. This survey of the surface of Mars oddly resembles the photographs of Yosemite Valley captured by Jim Bell’s hero, Ansel Adams. While this photographic acheivement has a place in my heart and a space on my shelf, I think Curiosity’s stereoscopic outfit presents the opportunity for something different, something that captures the whimsy a robot photographer in outer-space.
For more information about Curiosity visit: http://www.nasa.gov
For more information about Postcards from Mars visit: www.postcardsfrommarsbook.com
I recently discovered Albin Biblom's seven and a half inch by ten inch pamphlet photobook released by Biblom Press, which documents of the last dancing bears in Bulgaria and their owners.
The Roma tradition of dancing bears, which been passed down through generations is coming to end as animal rights organizations have built a bear reserve where these dancing bears will live out the rest of their lives outside the town Belitsa, south of Sofia, Bulgaria. Before bear owners were compensated and let their bears go to this reserve, Albin Biblom decided to document their special relationships in the photography series and a documentary film, Mechkar.
The photography book born from this project includes images of dancing bears and their owners, texts by the bear owners and animal rights workers and a historical essay about the tradition of dancing bears. Within it, modern ideas of animal cruelty are complicated by the sadness that comes with the of the end of a rich tradition and the forced dissolve of the individual friendships between each man and his dancing bear.
For more information visit: http://www.albinbiblom.com
Flash + Cube (1965-1975) is the culmination of three years Marget Long’s research surrounding the Sylvania flashcube in book form. The Sylvania Flashcube is a flash photography devise that was in production from 1965 to 1975.
Long’s seven by nine inch, one hundred and sixty page, softcover book tells the story of this space-age device and the culture that produced it, through a selection from her archive of materials, including newspaper and magazine clippings and technical drawings, as well as the artist’s own photographs and photomontages.
The archive, as Long explains in her introduction, is not neutral. Ergo, her archive feels quite personal, not only as a result of the inclusion of the artist’s own work but, also, though her selection and sequencing of found material, used to confess her reverence for this nostalgic devices, while simultaneously creating dark juxtapositions between American consumer culture in the 1960’s and 70’s and The Vietnam War.
For more information visit: Punctum Books
Rizzoli has published Ryan McGinley: Whistle for the Wind, a brawny eight x nine inch, 240 page, hardcover retrospective of the photographer’s work. Going through the comprehensive collection of McGinley’s work to date, complete with contributions by Chris Kraus, John Kelsey and Gus Van Sant, it was hard not to draw parallel’s between the fantastical quality of the images and the artist’s own origin myth, which, like any origin fairytale, is told ad nauseum.
Ryan McGinley has spent his childhood photographing on the small island of Neverland as the leader of gang of naked hipsters. In 2000, he exhibited this work in an abandoned SOHO gallery. In conjunction with the show, McGinley created handmade photobooks. He sent these books to people he admired, including, Tiger Lily, the proud, beautiful princess of the Piccaninny Tribe, Smee, the boatswain of the Jolly Roger and Sylvia Wolf, a curator of photography at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
In 2003, Wolf mounted an exhibition of his work, making McGinley the youngest artist to ever have a solo show at The Whitney. She recognized the essential quality that draws us all, myself included, to McGinley’s work: youth and beauty can be frozen outside of time and space, we have nothing to fear, we will never grow old and die.
For more information visit: Rizzoli