2022: WritingPrintRoom PresentsEVB
Welcome to PrintRoom, a presentation space for books in Rotterdam. A space where artistic strategies of independent publishing are shared, discussed, and archived in a public space before a live audience. It is magical multi-functional space for the multi-activities of artist publishing. These could be categorised as: *
* activating, appropriating, archiving, arranging, audiences, borrowing, binding, brainstorming, browsing, citing, co-authoring, coding, collecting, collating, commissioning, connecting, conversing, copying, delivering, delving, designing, destroying, digitising, displaying, discussing, distributing, drawing, drinking and eating, editing, emerging, enabling, exchanging, exhibiting, finding, flipping, folding, forming, giving, guiding, hawking, hosting, illustrating, introducing, inviting, inserting, interacting, issuing, joining, juxtaposing, launching, learning, listening, mending, making, mailing, networking, opening, participating, parading, performing, pirating, playing, posting, presenting, printing, producing, promoting, proofing, publishing, reading, reciting, researching,remixing, reflecting, reprinting, responding, revealing, reviving, selling, servicing, sharing, shelving, shopping, showing, situating, socialising, speaking, staging, street facing, streaming, supporting, swapping, talking, teaching, translating, trimming, understanding, unearthing, unwrapping, visualising, walking, welcoming, workshops, writing…. to name a few.
The sign on the door is an outline of an open book, which could also be the a corner of two walls intersecting. An allegorical transition from the two dimensional page to the three dimensional space illustrating what this presentation space offers. Artist books; often projects for the page, are given room here to be opened up and experienced. PrintRoom was originally called ‘ROOM’ back in 2003 when it began as a travelling and growing collection of artists’ publications. In 2010 it settled in this side street in central Rotterdam. PrintRoom now performs as a studio, print facility, classroom, gallery, stage, archive and bookshop. It has become a vibrant hub for promoting and selling publications by artists, designers and small publishers from all over the globe.
‘To present’, is to give, as much as to show, and each event is an offering (more than a happening) beginning with an invitation to join. ’Everyone is welcome’, promises an invite to an evening of events, ‘there will be drinks’. Through the practice of regular hosting PrintRoom knows how to host well and there is a generosity to the audience as well as the publishers.
The presentations aren’t primarily for selling books but for opening them up, sharing content, and testing ideas with ‘readers’. A bookshop that is divested of a solely commercial factor suddenly has a different ontology, or way of being. The book becomes an ‘anchor’ of the live event, not just a product from the launch. When an artist presents their book (or writer, designer, or publisher) instead of a sales person, the potential for distribution as a creative activity can transform this point of sale.
Publishing as a medium has become free form, since electronic media liberated it from the fixed form of the printed book. We’ve been presented with new ideas of how we can create content, and how and where we share it, that can be applied to print and digital processes. Publishing has become a verb and we’re all doing it in some form or another. Traditional publishing models have been picked apart producing volumes of new possibilities for potential publishers. Places like PrintRoom give room for artists to play with publishing in a fluid space, with support, facilities, context and a platform to stage events.
Karin de Jong is PrintRoom’s director, who directs both the book collection, and the interweaving programme. She selects books and books acts, bringing people and publications together. She also plays several characters; from front of house, to fundraiser, print manager to producer. Karin is always there, at every event, but is rarely seen, giving centre stage to the books, publishers and artists that PrintRoom presents. In a library of authors she often resists authorship, rarely receiving visibility for her leading role.
On the shop floor, the PrintRoom team are accessible and ‘available for conversation’, answering questions, sharing advice, greeting old and new artists who walk through the doors. These daily social interactions and spatial conditions determine how the books are presented. Karin regularly commissions new work for the programme from resident publishers, local artists, and international publishers who are passing through the city. PrintRoom is a working production space with print facilities to use at low entry costs enabling artists to make their own books and prints. The visible facilities become part of the presentation space and process of production can be performed by the printer, publisher or the public.
AN EVENT IN THE ARCHIVE
The heart of PrintRoom is its collection of books, which are archived and accessible in the physical space. It is packed full of printed formats; some lusciously designed, others small flipbooks or photocopied zines. It is a fluid collection that is regularly updated, often with publications which have been produced or launched in the space. These bustling events take place amongst the collection of books, which act like a set, and create a context and dialogue through their presence.
Many of these books in the collection have personal stories and histories, an uncharted map of networks. A colophon of collaborations. A ‘publishing family’* tree connecting how artists met designers, how publishers meet readers, who books were assembled with.
*‘Think about your publishing family. Bookstore people are you family.’ Marc Fischer, Towards A Self Sustaining Publishing Model, 2021
The ongoing activities and the ideas that they generate are the daily practice and life blood of PrintRoom. How are these events given visibility in the collection? We’ve been thinking of how to bring together PrintRoom’s books, publishing activities, stories and networks, so they are all present in the archive.
THE ARCHIVE AS AN EVENTCould we think of the PrintRoom collection as an event? With the archivist as an actor, less concerned with ‘preserving history’ than with creating history The hosts of these spaces innovate and shape the collection through their regular activation. The concept of ‘The Living Collection’ was discussed at a PrintRoom event with librarian David Senior,independent curator Charlotte Cheetham and Arnaud Desjardin, author of The Book on Books on Artists’ Books. They were invited to a live conversation on how collecting can be seen as an activity that moves beyond the limits of creating an archive.
Archives as artworks, bookshops as sculptures, presentations spaces for projects for the page, and the stage (and back again). Spaces for ‘the social life of the book’, spaces making space for others in the archive. These practices, often performed by artists and their collaborators, are rarely recognised by institutions, but imitated by them greatly as they get mislabelled as ‘alternative organisations’ rather than interdisciplinary art practices. Each space has its own set of interests and methods for activating, critiquing and distributing books. They are part of the ecology of artist publishing, and the inclusion of where and how a book has been launched, presented, discussed, distributed, could help to archive these spaces, alongside the activities and books.