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photo: Yuula Benivolski

In line with her work on collective and collaborative practices focussing on artists publications, artist, writer and curator Danielle St-Amour will invite artists and the public to engage with the historical precedents and contemporary applications of radical artists’ publishing as Curator in Residence, SBC 2019.


Emerging from the complex and heated political moment of the 1960s, artists' publishing entered the contemporary art dialog as a proposed curative, an attempt to “democratize” the creation and production of artwork. Combining the capacities of the political pamphlet, the narrative flexibility of the artists’ book and the low-cost accessibility of the artists’ multiple, the political artists’ book aimed to bring the means of production directly to artists. However, as editor Brian Wallis, stated in the Printed Matter catalogue of 1986 -- “the very term “political artist’s book” enfolds a contradiction. It attempts to bridge the political function – requiring action, assertion, persuasion, engagement – and the artist’s book – a precious form, produced in relatively small numbers, for a specialized audience and market, and with inefficient means of distribution.”


At present, the artist book maintains its democratic status within the artworld, and still functions as a medium of resistance, doing so in a moment when labour is immaterial and the means of distribution are legion. Against the significant paradigm-shifts in today’s artist publishing realm, the innate politicality of artists' publishing continues to be haunted by this contradiction, subject simultaneously to overwhelming popular misapprehension and/or veneration within contemporary art. With a heavy focus on the commitment to print and aesthetics, the complex systems that allow these practices to take shape often evade our scrutiny.  


The upcoming programming cycle will investigate the underlying systems that motivate, create and move contemporary artists’ publishing as it grapples with its spirits, new and old, embracing and battling its innate contradictions. Working with local and international artists who directly attack or actively evade the paradox of the political artists’ book via design, production, distribution and even administration, this exhibition cycle brings to the fore both the scaffoldings and the skeletons of artists publishing. Bringing these new models into conversation with an archive of purported antecedents, we’ll look at and imagine new ways of decolonizing, decentralizing and resituating the artists’ press.


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