The 2021 Contemporary Artists’ Books Conference (CABC) will focus on “The Temperature of Art Book Criticism and Scholarship.” As the scale of participation in and range of approaches to artists’ books and publishing have blossomed in recent years, now is a key time to develop new critical tools for assessing artists’ books and their broader impact on the cultural and artistic practice. Artists’ book criticism in the 21st century must contend not only with the book as an artistic medium, but also art books’ engagement with a range of cultural histories and publishing traditions.
Across 7 panels representing artists, scholars, writers from across the globe and from a wide range of backgrounds, the conference will explore these questions and look to progress the conversations on what artist book criticism and discourse can be. The subjects covered will include the roles of institutions, how artist books are functioning in times of crisis, perspectives on insider vs. outsider makers and marginalized communities, and the book in the face of oppression and censorship.
Many types of institutions play a role in the discussion and presentation of artists’ books (universities, associations, journals, museums, bookstores, etc.) and Artist’s Book Criticism Beyond the Book will explore how these organizations shape the interdisciplinary conversations within and beyond the academy and how that discourse compares with the wider art world.
The role of the artist book in times of crisis and conflict is especially visible now and Urgent Publishing After the Artist’s Book will discuss aspects of the anti-capitalist take of such books and the impact on the making and reception of them. Zine Steganography will look at how books made in the presence of active oppression and censorship may force the work to be hidden and how that impacts the ability and context of writing and talking about them.
Makers of artist books are another key theme to be explored. Books on Places & Books from Places will investigate the implications of work made by an outsider or visitor to a place vs. the view expressed in locally produced books. Outsider Book Arts: Contemporary and Historical Approaches to Alternative Publishing Practices looks at how books function as record and archive when presenting non-mainstream narratives and which operate without the support of major institutions. Nine Artists|Nine Months|Nine Perspectives will present in detail the work of 9 mature Black woman artists and how the artist book serves as a platform for telling their stories and for collaboration.
Content through Structure: the Critical Focus on the Artist’s Book as Object will look at the expanding range of non-traditional formats for the artist book today and how those objects shape and augment the language of the book and its reception.
These interrelated sessions are planned to encourage conversation during the conference, between the many speakers, and amongst the wider audience about the role and future of artist book criticism. These conversations will help to identify future topics for investigation and to generate ideas and suggestions for how to strengthen, expand and enhance the practice.
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