China in Print: OFFPRINT London 2015 at Tate Modern

This weekend, after a very birthday-celebratory filled week for many people including myself (apparently I’m 32 now), I was in London for a (fleeting) family visit to Highgate to celebrate the 99th birthday of manaXi’s incredible Grandpère. On Saturday, we had the afternoon to do the usual wordgirl London thing of trying to squeeze in as much (art) as possible…firstly feeding my love of, and training in, bookbinding, books arts and artists’ books, and self-publishing, at the Offprint London art publishing fair in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, which this year focussed on photobooks. These kind of events are one of my favourite encounters…a place to wander, find, search, rifle through, lose time in, read, watch and so much more.

Offprint London 1

Offprint London 2

The event showcased approximately 150 artists, independent and self-publishers of print ephemera, music, sound, books, print series and more…some of whom I knew well as they are friends and colleagues, others I’d never heard of before. With my Chinese contemporary arts hunting hat on (as usual…which I also asked manaXi to wear too), I wanted to see what in the way of publishing from, and of/about, China was out there in the world at the moment, also what was cutting-edge of its kind…and I was surprised at how little. From the handful I came across (given, I was there for a very limited time), books included:

  • ‘COASTLINE/海岸线’ by Zhang Xiao – documenting the journey from 2009-2013 along the coastline of China. 192 pages, plus 16 folding pages, 118 colour pictures, Clothbound Hardcover in a Limited Edition run of 600, all numbered, published in August 2014 by Jiazazhi available from Antenne Books, London;
  • ‘SHANXI’ by Zhang Xiao – photographs were taken in Shanxi Province in northwest China. They document old customs originating from pagan ritual practices, available from Antenne Books, London;
  • ’10 Days in Kraków’ by Yuan Yuan Yang – presented in the form between a travelogue and a scrapbook with a fragmented structure, three chapters unfold themselves – War, City, and Connection (from there to here / from I to you). The book consists of snapshots, diaries and found images created or collected during the artist’s 10 days stay in the city, as well as fragments (film stills and text excerpts) from three existing work, available from Antenne Books, London;
  • ‘Dear Navigator’ by Hu Fang – a collection of ten short stories that reflect on contemporary society, politics, and the human condition. The author takes us on a journey across time and space to hidden realities where we meet culture workers, astronauts, airplanes, Zen masters, and hunger artists, available from Sternberg Press.

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Offprint London 11

Shanxi by Zhang Xiao Offprint London

Offprint London 9 10 days in Krakow

Offprint London 8

Offprint London 3 Hu Fang

Umberto Eco How to write a thesis

manaXi bought a copy of Umberto Eco’s ‘How to write a thesis’ (as shown above) as a gift for me to fuel my final PhD writing moments…and to make me smile. It has a rather helpful sub chapter on ‘Is is necessary to know Foreign languages?’ that is directly relevant to my PhD’s ethics. I’m looking forward to reading this more tonight before sleeps.

As I was traversing the stands, tables, people and installations, I bumped into Mengxi Zhang, a photographer who I’d worked with last year for ‘The Temporary: 01′, the first in ‘The Temporary’ project series, my new transcultural exchange platform. Great to see her and here about the possibilities of her future photographic projects. During the hunt for “China in print”, I was reminded of ‘The Chinese Photobook’ exhibition currently on show at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, a project that explores the history of photobook publishing from 1900 to 2014, and the Kassel Fotobook Award as part of LOOK/15 in Liverpool. I’ll being blogging about both of these exhibitions soon!

Arts publishing from and of/about China is a growing area of research for me…publishing as a tool to speak and talk about – translate – China from global different viewpoints and perspectives. One day, I hope this research will turn into something more “concrete” (as in a project or platform)…watch this space as I always say.

Offprint London 4

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Offprint London 15


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