Saturday, 11 July 2009

London artist-publishers old & new

In the suitable venue of the Bridewell Hall at St Bride's Printing Library on Wednesday, there was a party to celebrate the 25th birthday of the magnificent Book Works, who commission and publish books by artists (as well as selling publishing-related services to others). Commitment, focus and acumen must all play a part in their success, as well as (by the accounts of the artists involved) being great to work with. Now they are launching a Friends scheme: for £35 p.a. you don't get any free books, but launch invitations, newsletter and the warm glow of being a patron, which increasingly substitutes, in this busy life at least, for the white heat of personal creativity ... My cheque's in the post.
Among the hundreds of cool party guests I met the editors of London's newest artist-periodical, Stone Canyon Nocturne (a.k.a. apparently 9-09), who had their inaugural launch party (they called it a wayzgoose) a week before. Using an Adana proofing press and a weird and wonderful collection of old types, and citing Bob Cobbing among its forebears, this is a broadsheet series whose wholemeal materiality is rather different from the subtle adaptation of trade values that enables Book Works publications to 'pass' in bookshops. Nonetheless, the first SCN is a short, funny text made by Clive Phillpot, the great curator-librarian and champion of artists' books, who happens also to be Book Works' Chair of Trustees.

The 9-09 title references Vito Acconci and Bernadette Mayer's '60s mimeo magazine 0-9, but 'Stone Canyon Nocturne' is the title of a poem by Charles Wright, which seems aesthetically at odds with everything else about the venture. A moment's web truffle however reveals (in an article by Marjorie Perloff, quoting this poem) that Wright & Acconci were exact contemporaries at the University of Iowa -- so there you go, it's ironic I suppose ... I love the SCN mission statement anyway: "to conflate the fractured vernacular and dissemination systems of the twenty first century with the production processes of the nineteenth". Go guys! That's another cheque in the post then.

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