Venice

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The Book Affair

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↑ David Horvitz hiding.

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↑ AA Bronson.

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↑ My talk.

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↑ Photos above by Automatic Books.

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Here are some scenes (and lots more) from Automatic Books‘ The Book Affair, a three-day book fair during the opening of the Venice Biennale. Unlike the larger, more well-known fairs, this was small, intimate, casual and every single table was of remarkable quality. There were presentations by Giorgio Maffei, Dexter Sinister and David Horvitz in the evenings and ongoing talks throughout the two days, including mine. We got lots of traffic, even in the rain. Reactions to Library of the Printed Web were really satisfying, which has got me thinking about what to do next. I have to admit that I much preferred presenting and selling other artists’ work, rather than my own. It’s becoming obvious that one idea is to work directly with some of the artists in the collection to produce new work, either as a publisher and/or in a physical space (gallery). Lots to think about for the fall…

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Book of books.

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Published on the occasion of Library of the Printed Web at The Book Affair, at the opening of the 55th Venice Biennale (29–31 May 2013). This print-on-demand book is the first presentation of inventory. Every item in the collection is documented with photography, texts and specifications.

Library of the Printed Web
Spring 2013 Presentation of Inventory
5 in. x 8 in.
124 pages
Black-and-white printing on cream uncoated paper
$9 ($15 after June 3)
Purchase here.

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Venice

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I’ll present Library of the Printed Web at The Book Affair, at the opening of the 55th Venice Biennale, 29–31 May. I’ll have (most of) the collection with me in a specially constructed wood box (my mobile device), and a small selection of items will be available for purchase. I’ve designed a print-on-demand catalogue of the entire inventory and this will be also be available for purchase at the fair, as well as online (coming soon).

A talk is planned for Thursday 30 May, 12pm.

The presentation will include over 50 book works (and zines, postcards, etc.) by 30+ artists, including Penelope Umbrico, Joachim Schmid, David Horvitz, Fraser ClarkMishka Henner, Guthrie Lonergan, Lauren Thorson, Clement Valla, Elisabeth Tonnard, Karolis KosasBenjamin Shaykin, Jason Huff, Silvio Lorusso, Stephanie Syjuco, Federico Antonini, Jonathan Lewis, Andreas Schmidt, Doug Rickard, Heidi Neilson, John Zissovici and many others.

As Library of the Printed Web grows, I intend to keep the collection focused on self-published works. Many items coming to Venice are rare or one-of-a-kind.

The Book Affair
Biblioteca Castello
S. Lorenzo-Castello 5065
Venice, Italy
29–31 May 2013

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Sélavy

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It all started with this tweet.

I was designing a visual identity and catalogue for Library of the Printed Web, a collection of artists’ books in a box that I’m presenting at the Venice Biennale next month. And I wanted to reference the dotted letterforms on the cover of Marcel Duchamp’s notorious 1934 Green Box, which have always intrigued me. The punch-cut letters feel both mechanical and handmade; somehow both analog and digital. They seem to float somewhere between the early 20th century and today. These are ambiguities that echo the core themes of Library of the Printed Web.

Just two-and-a-half hours later, Nina Stössinger posted this sketch.

I was startled. Nina’s response was generous, and what it implied (a new font for my project) seemed too good to be true. I had expected my question to yield a link or two, or a few ideas, but not a customized typeface. More back-and-forth followed on Twitter, and then we moved to email, as Nina continued working.

It’s difficult to believe that casual correspondence on Twitter might yield something as formal and designed as a font. But as we got further into it, and as I realized that Nina was game (and dedicating serious talent to the project), I thought: of course this is happening. This is the beauty of Twitter. The best of the web. I’m engaged with a stellar community of creative people online and I’ve met many of these talented folks in person, including Nina (last summer, in Weymouth). It’s a very real community, and at times, feels like the natural extension of a private studio practice into public space. And that’s exactly what happened when Nina posted the work-in-progress to Typophile for feedback—an intense, supportive discussion suddenly developed around the font, directly impacting (and improving) the work. Openness and generosity of spirit (and vulnerability) lead to serendipitous collaboration, which leads to beautiful new work.

But without Nina’s enthusiasm and remarkable talent, none of this would have happened.

Just two weeks later, Sélavy is complete. This fully-realized, exquisite display typeface (254 glyphs), composed entirely of identical dots, was designed by Nina and based on the original 13 punched-out caps of Duchamp’s 1934 Green Box («LA MARIEE MISE A NU PAR SES CELIBATAIRES MEME»). Today, in the same spirit of generosity that created this work, we are releasing the font publicly as a free download under an SIL Open Font License. Download and enjoy! Looking forward to seeing how it’s used.

Sélavy download page

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Venetian suite 2

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The second in a set of four books created for the Venetian Suite project in Italy, May-June 2010. I posted the first book (“77 palazzi on G.Canal”) here. Read more about the project and trip with SVA here.

0-100 in S.Marco

Every doorway in Venice is numbered. Each number marks an actual door, or a window that was formerly a door, or part of a wall where a doorway once was. The hand-painted numbers are distinctive: always red, always in a white oval or rectangular shape, outlined in black.

The numbers were put in place in the mid-19th century to replace a much older system that had ordered Venice’s doors for hundreds of years. All of the original civic numbers (“numeri civici”) are maintained to this day, whether the door is functional (or even there), or not.

I discovered that the grand entrance to the Basilica in Piazza San Marco is “#0.” It’s unmarked, of course. Doorways #1, 1a and 2 are also unmarked (the Doge’s Palace). The first marked number is “3″ — a gelato shop in the piazza, across from the Palace. The numbers continue from there, wrapping around the piazza through the arcades, and continuing on into every street, canal and corner of Venice (many thousands of hand-painted numbers).

One way to explore the city is through these numbers. Venice can be unknowable, unpredictable, chaotic; the numbers project a sense of order and organization, a guiding rationale. But they’re also enigmatic.

Early on a Saturday morning, from a consistent vantage point, I photographed each of the first 100 numeri civici in the piazza. Each photo documents a number (at the center/top) but also contains fragments of doorways, people, interiors and signage. Some numbers are missing; I noted those on blank pages. Look closely at the photographs and you’ll also discover, in the reflections, what was behind me — beautiful moments of deep space and light containing palace, piazza, basilica, people and sky.

A selection of the photographs used in the book are on Flickr.

Download the entire PDF here (4.8MB).

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Venetian suite.

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I just returned from an extraordinary two weeks studying design history and typography with Louise Fili, Steven Heller and Lita Talarico in the SVA Masters Workshop in Venice and Rome. I blogged the whole thing here.
Venice in four movements was the final result of my first week in Italy. The four little books are a set: a study of the different structures I discovered there. They suggest something expansive (77 palazzi, 39 doorbells…etc.) but in fact they’re narrow: focused concepts that stay close to one very specific idea. An attempt to produce something spacious and beautiful from a simple, methodical framework.
I’ll feature each book in separate posts.
77 palazzi on G.Canal.
Process: I photographed every facade on the Grand Canal, numbered and plotted the palazzi on a map, sampled each palazzo’s color from its photo, and paired each color with its original family name. The book — a particular kind of color study — paints a meditative portrait of Venice by suggesting a deeper history of the city (the family names), light (how the colors were rendered during my partly cloudy, mid-morning one-hour journey) and urban geography (the cut of the “S” through the entire width of the city).
In this case, as in all four of these books, process becomes content. I try to tell a story through disciplined research, and expose something poetic from the structure.
The fat little book is a giant accordion fold that can be experienced page-by-page or as an unfolding palette, kind of like the Grand Canal itself.
Download the PDF (2.3 MB).