Over half the exhibitors at this year’s Printed Matter NY Art Book Fair are based in the United States, but international exhibitors, as always, have a strong presence, arriving from all corners of the world. What we may overlook in our frenzy to purchase their publications is how much extra effort these presses and booksellers have to put in to prepare for the annual affair at MoMA PS1, which many herald as one of the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world. Of course, every vendor has to deal with international hurdles that may reach nightmarish levels — Dutch artist Anouk Kruithof has 1,000 copies of a book stuck on that stranded Hanjin Shipping vessel, and may now only offer it for pre-order. But planning to reach Queens from Sri Lanka, as newcomer Raking Leaves did, for instance, is way tougher than hopping on the subway from another borough. Exhibitors traveling from abroad face more financial burdens and often have to organize themselves early on: the Singapore-based Knuckles & Notch told Hyperallergic its team plans for the fair a year in advance. As Anita Tótha of Remote Photobooks — who flew nearly 9,000 miles from Auckland — simply put it, “There’s a lot more at stake.”
This year, heavy representation from abroad arrived from countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Japan, but the fair also offers the opportunity to get a little familiar with printed matter from the creative communities in Estonia (Lugemik), Israel (Artport Tel Aviv), and Slovenia (Zavod P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E.). Below, we spotlight five exhibitors among those who racked up the most miles to reach the fair.
nos:books (booth N08); Taiwan, flew ~ 7, 800 miles
Founded in 2008, the small publisher represents artists from both within and beyond Taiwan and features books that pay close attention to craft, with every page simply lovely to touch. It’s celebrating its third year at the fair, and among the wares you’ll find some very tiny but thick publications; an accordion book on sultry sculptures based on food; and my favorite, drawings of museum-goers in New York by Hai Hsin Huang in the beautifully bound title, There Is No Future.
“Every time I come to the New York fair, it’s an eyeopener,” publisher Son Ni told Hyperallergic. “But it’s hard work. We always hope to give people new books to see, so we work really hard for the fair. Then it’s presentation time for us.”
Einstein Studio (booth 018); Japan, flew ~6,700 miles
Claiming to have the smallest book is the Tokyo-based Einstein Studio. Placed among minimally designed items from plastic bags to caps to enamel pins (every vendor this year seems to have caught the pin fever), the “smallest book” is simply an empty and clear plastic sheet. “It’s kind of a riddle — but also a joke,” its publisher told me.
Known more for its promotion of young Japanese photographers, Einstein Studio this year presents photo books by Yoshinori Mizutani — most famous for his stunning Tokyo Parrots series — but also offers gems for those who want an overview of the current photography scene in Japan. Tokyo/Japan features the works of 50 photographers capturing their city within the month of June, and — were it not for the booth’s cash-only policy — I would have immediately snagged a copy of New Japan Photo, filled with the work of 180 up-and-coming Japanese photographers.
Remote Photobooks (booth W04); New Zealand, flew ~ 8,806 miles
An equally enticing hoard of publications lies on the table of Remote Photobooks, which collects and distributes some of the most impeccably designed photobooks from New Zealand. Tótha previously lived in New York, and she said the connections she maintains here are instrumental to promoting her booth in the weeks leading up to the fair.
Among Remote’s offerings this year: a collection of Yvonne Todd‘s strange but enticing portraits, Izaac Encisco‘s richly colored, conceptual street photography, and Darren Glass’s A Field Guide to Camera Species, which showcases 90 pinhole and slit cameras Glass built out of everything from matchboxes to logs. Accompanying each one are individual design specifications as well as an overview of Glass’s results from taking his constructions out for walks.
Knowledge Editions (booth A51); Australia (flew ~10,300 miles)
Over in the zine tent, I found the Melbourne-based Knowledge Editions, which is interested in “archiving, producing work in a digital world,” as its founder Tim Coghlan told me. “Printing stuff makes it more holistic.” Exemplifying that notion is a zine by Matthew Bellosi, essentially a printout of a GeoCities-era website where the Philadelphia artist has written his fictional version of the Zodiac Killer’s history with a deeply personal touch. Coghlan’s own book, Homogeneous Observation Redux, presents a bizarre dichotomy of images: Coghlan had scanned images from National Geographic magazines and fed them into Google’s reverse image search; he then paired the original image with its often incongruous results. Coghlan wasn’t really there to make money, as he told me, but made the long journey to simply be a part of the huge fair.
“Self-publishing is just taking off at the moment in Australia,” Coghlan said. “It’s booming, and it’s kind of in vogue with a tight-knit community, but also it’s very photo-oriented.”
Knuckles & Notch (booth A46); Singapore, flew ~9,500 miles
In the past, the Southeast Asian publishing studio has had to receive grants to reach overseas fairs. This year, which marks its second appearance at MoMA PS1’s zine tent, Knuckles & Notch is entirely self-funded. It also proudly lays claim to a new workshop space back home in Singapore, where its team has been busy printing eye-catching risograph prints served up with humor (such as scenes of Disney characters in the middle of very adult actions).
Djohan Hanapi, one of its three founders, was manning the booth yesterday despite having landed in New York less than 24 hours before. He was excited but a little dazed, and I realized he was battling an obstacle most other exhibitors don’t even have to worry about: jetlag.
Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair continues at MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, Queens) through Sunday, September 18.