Library of the Printed Web
It’s August and I’m already looking at the end of my time at NEW INC. I’ll move out of 231 Bowery by the end of this month. It’s been an intense year, a very good one, for lots of reasons. This studio space here and the incredible community in the New Museum’s incubator helped me focus on writing, teaching and special publishing projects — as Counterpractice. It’s the first time that I’ve opened up my studio to a wider range of non-client work, in a more formalized way (please, no more “side-projects”). The balance was never perfect but I’ve learned to stay alert for unexpected alignments and frictions. I’m learning from all of it. In May I was asked to be a contributing editor at Rhizome, so I now have another outlet for writing and developing special projects and extending my experimental publishing research.
After the launch of Printed Web 3 at Offprint London (and on Rhizome) at the end of May, I headed to Germany. I’d been invited by Olia Lialina to teach a one-week Library of the Printed Web workshop at Merz Akademie in Stuttgart, which was just coming to the end of asparagus season.
The students were excellent and we presented a mini collection of zines, postcards and printed matter to Olia for the school’s library.
This was my first LotPW workshop and creating a site-specific collection of materials in real-time is a beautiful format. I’ll use it again.
While I was there I gave my “Performing Publishing” talk at Stadtsbibliothek Stuttgart (the city’s new public library that feels like a set from the Matrix). This library knows how to make speakers feel welcome. No, this is not a rendering.
And then I was Paris-bound, where I had been invited by Fondation Galeries Lafayette to deliver a talk (“Making Public”) and conduct a two-day workshop for an awesome mix of artists, media critics, designers and curators (including Alessandro Ludovico, Raphael Bastide, Oliver Laric, Neil Cummings from Wolff Olins, Joachim Hamou and Nicolas Delaforge, a semantic web engineer). The scenario was to imagine how the new OMA-designed art institution opening in 2018 would treat the artifacts of artistic production, from archiving to publishing.
Making public became a kind of mantra for me while I spent the week in the Marais writing the talk and posing questions around posting, multiple publics, memory, temporality, poor media and physical space. I’d love to develop this talk into a broader text about the role of publishing for artists and art institutions.
In September I’m back at RISD. I’ll be full-time on a year-long term appointment, teaching the core design studio for graphic design juniors as well as Experimental Publishing Studio (this time as an undergrad elective). I’ll try to spend more time in Providence, which might be easier now without the need to rush back to my studio on the Bowery. I’ll be writing and designing and putting my fall projects together from Rhode Island, as much as I can.
— Paul Soulellis (@soulellis) July 26, 2015
In September I’ll participate in Yami-Ichi Internet Black Market at the Knockdown Center in Queens, and then you’ll find me in the zine tent at the NY Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 (Sept 18–20).
All issues of Printed Web (1–3) will be available at both of these events (except the Chinatown Edition, which is sold out), as well as the first of my new Printed Web Editions — one-off artist project zines.
Also this fall — I’m developing the next issue of Printed Web, which will be a special commission for the International Center of Photography. This will be for the museum’s inaugural exhibition in their new location on the Bowery in early 2016. And in February, I’ll be back in Paris for the opening of L’image Inframince at xpo gallery, a show I’m curating around the current condition of the image on the network and in physical space.
Meanwhile, Library of the Printed Web continues to grow. Please direct all web-to-print projects my way for consideration! Someday, I’ll properly conserve these artifacts and develop a proper home for this collection. The works deserve to be treated better than my sorry bookcases at home.
Earlier this year, I announced an open call for the third issue of Printed Web, a semi-annual publication dedicated to web-to-print discourse. I received a stunning array of files from recognized artists like Olia Lialina, Kim Asendorf, and Clement Valla, but the real beauty of the open call was connecting with a new group of people working with material found or created on the web — 147 contributors in all. A particularly diverse view of networked culture formed on my desktop through an accumulation of notes, attachments, tweets, and downloads. Gathering this community around Printed Web was immensely satisfying for me, and I wanted to include every submission in the issue — but having received hundreds of PDFs, JPGs, PNGs, and GIFs, the logistical challenges to this have been considerable.
My intention had always been to publish all of the files in a single print edition, but as submissions poured in, I decided that “scattering” the material across different networked versions would allow the project to occupy multiple positions in a way that suited its multiplicitous content.
A cheap, black-and-white, print-on-demand paperback book becomes just one of the physical artifacts of Printed Web 3. All of the artists’ files come together in this Index/Reader as a “defense of poor media,” prioritizing accessibility and circulation over craft and polish. Potent texts by Alexander Galloway (an interview) and Silvio Lorusso (a manifesto), grabbed from the web, provide some context and framing.
A collection of 10 print-on-demand zines focuses the material into curated groupings. A tight selection of 10 images printed onto neoprene fabric slows some of the work down even further, wrapping PDFs around books like insulating skin.
If the books, zines, and skins are a meager attempt to fix some stability into the work as printout matter, the files are also offered for download in several different formats, allowing “readers” of Printed Web 3 to perform their own versions of the material. A 147-page-frame GIF compresses all the material into a single loop, while all 329 files submitted to the open call are organized into artist folders as an archive (in the order that I received them). These files, available via Dropbox or a server directory on rhizome.org, may be browsed, downloaded, printed, posted, and circulated.
Since I started Library of the Printed Web last year, and launched the first two issues of Printed Web this year, the project has gained a good amount of international attention from design students, artists, curators, critics, collectors, librarians and others interested in the so-called post-internet moment, appropriation, collecting, photography and technology. And from the talks, panel discussions and feedback that I’ve received, I’ve started to develop a more critical stance regarding the value of digital work in the context of the printed page.
Why is printing the web so compelling? How does it relate to larger conversations about materiality, circulation and the new ease of independent publishing?
When I first started to articulate my thoughts about this (Search, compile, publish), I focused on the more obvious aspects of web-to-print — like the tactility of the printed page (its thingness), speed of consumption and the basic techniques being used by artists working in this space, like hunting, grabbing, scraping and performing.
I always suspected I could go further, but that’s only come with a bit of time and a lot of dialogue. So I’ve written a text that tries to get at it — to position this moment in a more critical fashion, especially as it relates to independent publishing and the artist’s practice in a networked context.
I’m continuing to work on it, so it’s still a draft, but in the spirit of continuous, ongoing publishing (and working in public) — read the full text here.
ABCEUM will be featured at Offprint Paris this weekend. ABCEUM is a collaborative bookwork created by 16 of us at ABC [Artists’ Books Cooperative]. I’ll be there with several members of ABC to represent the project, which was recently shown at the Brighton Photo Biennial.
Our own individual works will also be featured at the ABC table and I’ll have both issues of Printed Web available for purchase.
14–16 Nov 2014
Beaux-arts de Paris, l’école nationale supérieure
14 Rue Bonaparte 75006 Paris
And on Saturday at 2pm, I’ll moderate a discussion about printing the web with
Mathieu Cénac and David Desrimais [Jean Boîte Éditions]
Tarek Issaoui [Rrose Editions]
Yannick Bouillis [Offprint Projects]
I’ve moved into my new studio at NEW INC and Counterpractice is real. And it feels different. Overnight, how I work has changed. I’m in a huge studio space filled with creative people and we’re all stretching into new territory. Working here is public and social. The stimulation is infectious. I haven’t felt this motivated in a long while.
And just off of the quiet of Portlander, I’ve landed in a September frenzy. A good frenzy though. Printed Web No. 2 is about to launch and a nice series of talks and exhibitions is coming up. Here’s what’s happening:
- Tonight, It Narratives opens at Franklin Street Works in Stamford, CT. Curated by MoMA fellow Zanna Gilbert and Brian Droitcour, who asked me to present a selection of print-on-demand titles from Library of the Printed Web, including Printed Web #1. Also part of this show: David Horvitz’s call for mail art. I sent over a copy of Portlander from England last week, so I hope it’s there.
- I wrote an essay on the printed web for CODE X, a new book published by Bookroom Press in London (edited by Emmanuelle Waeckerle and Danny Aldred). The book launches at the London Art Book Fair at Whitechapel Gallery (September 26–28). Alessandro Ludovico, Emmanuelle Waeckerle, Delphine Bedel and Colin Sackett will talk about the project on September 27. Wish I could be there.
- I’m launching Printed Web No. 2 at Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1. There’s an artists’ talk on Sunday, September 28 at 1pm, part of “The Classroom” (organized by David Senior, MoMA Library). More about that soon.
- ABC [Artists’ Books Cooperative] is launching a major new project called ABCEUM. 20 print-on-demand publications by 16 of our artist members. Each book is a room in a museum; together, the collection is a museum exhibition in print. I’m participating with NEW MEDIA (420 Videos). ABCEUM launches at the NYABF, as an installation at the Brighton Photo Biennial in England (October 4–November 2) and at Offprint Paris (November 14–16).
- I’m speaking about my work at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on October 8.
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has invited me to participate in the Hanes Visiting Artist Lecture Series as part of a panel discussion (with Larissa Leclair and Taj Forer) on photobooks and self-publishing on October 30.
- I’ll be at Offprint Paris with Printed Web No. 2 and ABCEUM (November 14–16).
- And finally, I’m offering an all-day Printed Web Workshop at The Type Directors Club on November 21.
Experimenting with creating a new version of Library of the Printed Web as a Google spreadsheet, which can be saved locally, embedded in other websites, printed, exported as a PDF etc. in a single command. I love that the entire site can be packaged up like this but still figuring out how to point to it — as far as I know, I can’t direct a unique domain address to a google doc. Perhaps I can park it somewhere, or continue to use the tumblr but direct all links to this (which is much more useful and database-like)?
Something about this just feels right. As a technique, it’s a bit of a hack — stretching an existing platform into a new direction, instead of building something new from the ground up. Like a zine.
@soulellis Google docs has all the banality and utility of a copy machine. And yet, magic, beauty, and multiplicity can spring from it.
— Jennifer Brook (@jenniferbrook) April 19, 2014
The Design Office graciously hosted a Providence, RI launch for Printed Web #1 on March 17. Lots of RISD students and faculty were there and we had an inspiring discussion about the work with Clement Valla and Benjamin Shaykin. These terrific photos are by Sarah Verity.
Printed Matter hosted a NYC launch event for Printed Web #1 last night. Artists Clement Valla, Am Schmidt, Sean Benjamin, Chris Alexander, Penelope Umbrico and Benjamin Shaykin joined me to talk about some of the themes brought up by the project: identity, memory, artist-as-archivist, the collective and web-to-print practice. The discussion and the audience questions were stimulating and I really wish I’d recorded it.
It was a joy for me to see so many familiar faces (as well as new friends) turn up in support and to participate in the conversation. Thank you to everyone who attended.
I was invited to give a few talks in Los Angeles earlier this week (at UCLA and Art Center), while I was there for Printed Matter’s L.A. Art Book Fair. Library of the Printed Web was the attractor, I think, especially at the Graduate Media Design Practice program at Pasadena. But I took the opportunity to present a more general overview of my work, including the larger trajectory from designer (and all of the brand/creative/director/strategist roles that go with it) to artist, teacher, curator and publisher.
While artist and teacher are fairly new roles for me, I feel like I’ve been wrestling with them for some time now, even if abstractly. But it’s the last two concepts—curator and publisher—that are entirely new. Creating Library of the Printed Web exactly one year ago (for the excellent Theorizing the Web conference) introduced me—somewhat unknowingly—to curatorial and publishing situations that I never imagined.
Publishing Printed Web #1 is an experiment. It’s provisional and experimental because I didn’t approach the project like a traditional publisher, or with any real business model (I didn’t “start a publishing company” or small press or anything like that). I formed the project as a way to present new work from artists who interest me (artists who enact a web-to-print practice in some way). I consider the publication to be, primarily, an exhibition in print. Printed Web #1 is “primary information” in the Seth Siegelaub sense (at least, he was the primary inspiration). The issue is not a catalogue—it is not “about” the work—it is the presentation of the art. “You don’t need a gallery to show ideas” (Siegelaub).
The reception at the fair was great. People get it. Visitors to the table were curious, and when I told them that each artist got six pages to do whatever they want, from web-to-print, they wanted to see all of the projects. Most people stood there and flipped through all 64 pages.
I was asked a few times about newsprint. Why use a light, ephemeral kind of printing when presenting ephemeral (web) work in a new context? It’s a good question and it could be argued that the desire for slowness, thingness and permanence would be better served by a more high-end presentation of the project. But I wanted to keep the publication accessible ($12) and stay far away from the “rare,” out-of-print photobook frenzy. For now, newsprint works.
I sold 135 issues of Printed Web #1 at the fair and 50 more are going to Motto in Berlin. And I’ve sold about 50 more in the online shop. If you’d like one and you’re in the NYC area, you can avoid the shipping charge by coming to Printed Matter on March 1 for a launch event. More details about that soon.
Printed Web is an experimental publishing project because my goal (for now, at least) is to be a part of the conversation. To spread the thing around in an interesting way and talk and chew on the issues embedded in this kind of work (circulationism, acceleration, materiality, copyright, a new web-to-print artist’s practice).
Earlier this year, when I started Library of the Printed Web, I had no idea what it would become or where I’d go with it. Since then, the collection grew, I presented it at Theorizing the Web at CUNY, I carried the entire collection in a suitcase to Italy and talked about it during the opening of the Venice Biennale, published a catalog, presented it to DCrit at SVA, was written about in Milan and Melbourne and was featured in The New Yorker—twice.
But best of all, I’ve been introduced to a ton of new work and I’ve met some incredible artists. And I’ve created a critical space—a kind of home, a platform—for work that interests me, as well as my own work. I thought about this a lot in Iceland, and decided that while LotPW continues to grow, it needed a physical venue to present new work.
Either a physical space, or a publishing space.
Seth Siegelaub passed away in June. I definitely had him and his work on my mind this fall when I decided to ask a dream team of web-to-print artists to contribute to an exhibition in publication form. I said they could each have six pages to do whatever they want, as long as the content came from the web. I was thrilled that each of them immediately said yes.
Printed Web #1 was born, featuring new work from Joachim Schmid, Christian Bök, David Horvitz, Penelope Umbrico, Clement Valla, Benjamin Shaykin, Chris Alexander, Mishka Henner and &. Kenneth Goldsmith interviewed me for his six pages, which turned into this piece, so he asked me to print it out and publish it. So that’s in there too.
And so I’ll launch this thing next month at Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair at MoCA. 64 pages, $12, edition of 1,000. I’ll make another announcement about it in early January and open it up for pre-purchase before the fair.
UPDATE: Purchase Printed Web #1.