The Hybrid Book

THE HYBRID BOOK CONFERENCE brought together established and emerging artists, scholars, librarians and educators to explore a variety of topics. The conference began with an interview of two of the artists featured in the Hybrid Book exhibition, Gunnar A. Kaldewey and Hedi Kyle, by Steve Miller of the University of Alabama, artist and originator of the Book Artists and Poets podcast series. The discussion covered parallels in their lives and connections between their bodies of work and was followed by an opening reception for the conference exhibitions. The heart of the conference, eight panel discussions, took place the next two mornings. The conference concluded with a dinner and a critical response to the conference and fair by Roberta Fallon of artblog and Anabelle Rodriguez, a Philadelphia-based artist, curator and visual anthropologist.

Opening Remarks

This panel explored the unifying factors that help to define book arts as a focus of study and practice within the academy. Moderated by Karen Wirth, Chair of Fine Arts, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, MN, the discussion featured Carrie Galbraith discussing her teaching at City College of San Francisco and the San Francisco Center for the Book, Susan Johanknecht addressing her experiences as Course Leader in the MA Book Arts Program at London's Camberwell College of Art, and Kyle Schlesinger of Cuneiform Press discussing his experiences teaching design at the University of Buffalo and other institutions.

The artist’s book most often finds its audience via Special Collections or the gallery, but what happens when the artist’s book is put in the hands of the people by other means? Moderator Barbara Dash, Special Collections Librarian at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, introduced the panel with images from Cuba’s Ediciones Vigía and Russian satirical journals. Panelists Drew Cameron and Jon Turner of the Combat Paper Project and Warrior Writers, Burlington, VT, Courtney Dailey of the Mobilivre Bookmobile Project, San Francisco, CA, and Amos Paul Kennedy of Kennedy Prints! A Letterpress Printery, Gordo, AL, discussed alternative modes of both production and distribution that bring the artist’s book to different audiences and engage the book format as a vehicle for social change.

Book Art in the Social Sphere

Moderated by Peter Kruty of Peter Kruty Editions in Brooklyn, NY, this panel looked at the role of letterpress printing in contemporary book art and addressed whether the advent of digital processes has helped or harmed the medium. Independent scholar Betty Bright, Minneapolis, MN, and educators and artists Ashley John Pigford, Assistant Professor, Department of Art, University of Delaware and Inge Bruggeman, Textura Letterpress Printing and Ink-A! Press, Portland, OR, shared the enthusiasm of students first discovering this tactile medium. Panelists addressed a recent resurgence of interest in this antiquated art form and the issues of craft and quality that accompany such an increase in popularity.

The Future of Letterpress

Moderated by artist Michelle Wilson, this panel highlighted several interdisciplinary projects. William Snyder, Founder and Director of the Kayinamura Foundation in State College, PA, shared the inspiration behind his book-based interactive installation, 800,000, created to educate the viewer about the tribal genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Artist Tate Shaw from Visual Studies Workshop and Preacher’s Biscuit Books, Rochester, NY, and composer and musician Andrew Sallee, from Kansas City, MO, presented an explanation of their inspiration and conception of their collaborative, multimedia work, God Bless this Circuitry, following a performance of the piece, which they had performed at the Hybrid Book Fair the previous day. Professors Pierre LeBlancMarlene MacCallum, and David Morrish, from the Visual Arts Program at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, presented on a project entitled Sillis, Sequential Imaging Laboratory/Laboratoire d'Imagerie Séquencielle, a collaborative research project that investigates the creation of book works using an integrated approach to old and new image making processes.

Intersection + Intermedia

The complexity of the artist’s book often makes collaboration desirable or even necessary in producing sophisticated work that encompasses text, image, structure, and a high level of craft. Both Macy Chadwick of In Cahoots Press, Oakland, CA, and Lisa Hasegawa of ilfant press, Seattle, WA, moderated this panel and discussed their own long-distance collaborative methods. Panelists described multiple approaches to engaging collaborative relationships in both the conceptual and material processes of creating an artist’s book. Steven Daiber of Red Trillium Press, Williamsburg, MA, focused on his work with artists in Cuba; Marshall Weber for Organik, Brooklyn, NY, spoke of Organik’s work to find a truly experimental space for collaborative spontaneous creation; and Pod Post, comprised of Carolee Gilligan Wheeler and Jennie Hinchcliff, San Francisco, CA, discussed their in-person zine generating processes as well as their mail art projects.

This panel explored the medium of offset in an age of online publishing. The subject was introduced by Tony White, Director of Indiana University's Fine Arts Library in Bloomington, IN, and guest editor of Journal of Artists' Books 25, which was dedicated to offset printing. Clifton Meador, Director of the MFA Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts at the Columbia College of Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts, and Patty Smith, Associate Professor of Printmaking/Book Arts at the University of the Arts, shared their experiences as offset artist/printers. Amanda D’Amico, offset enthusiast and panel moderator, wrapped up the session by sharing several books created over the last two years by students in the Borowsky Center for Publication Arts at the University of the Arts, which just celebrated its twentieth anniversary.

Lori Spencer, Chair of Printmaking/Book Arts at the University of the Arts, moderated this panel, which explored the way digital tools have changed the face of book arts. Panelists Sue O’Donnell, Assistant Professor of Digital Art, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg, PA, Margot Lovejoy, Professor Emerita, SUNY Purchase, Purchase, NY, and Pattie Belle Hastings, Associate Professor of Interactive Digital Design, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT, shared work of their own, as well as work by other artists, that showcased the potential digital media has for book artists, ending with a rousing call-to-arms by Hastings to embrace the book-like potential of products like the iPhone and the Kindle. 

The Reciprocity of Books and Digital Media

Focusing on the importance of writing as a practice and form, this panel discussion explored text in the hybrid book: as a source material or generative process, a narrative journey for both the maker and the viewer, and a destination that brings the book into conversation with other art forms. The panel was organized by Elysa Voshell, previously of Philadelphia’s Institute for Contemporary Art and now at Venice Arts in Los Angeles, CA. Mary Tasillo was moderator. Panelists Robin Price of Middletown, CT, Jen Bervin of Brooklyn NY, and Julie Chen of Flying Fish Press, Berkeley, CA, engaged in discussion of their varying approaches to producing and incorporating text into their book works.

Text and the Hybrid Book