This year, 27,000 people attended Printed Matter’s NY ART BOOK FAIR. The three-day fair held annually at MoMA PS1 is free to the public, an inspiration for book nerds everywhere and, due to the crowds, morbidly hot. It’s so hot that water sells for more than a sandwich, and conversations like this one are overheard everywhere: “I can’t find her! I don’t know, she said she wanted a copy of Lovely Daze. I can’t, it’s too hot. I CAN’T!”
After several years of attendance and one spent working the fair, I’ve discovered a cure for the inevitable claustrophobia-induced heat shock: The second you feel sweaty pinpricks of anxiety running up your arm, walk up to the nearest booth and engage. The heat and incessant buzz will quickly fade, and you’ll end up realizing why thousands of people flock to this balmy, beautiful paper orgy: other people.
This year, the best conversation I had was with Social Malpractice Publishing. Their work is smart, beautifully produced and unapologetically hilarious — as is founder Sean Joseph Patrick Carney. Unfortunately, due to the temperature, I forgot most of what we talked about, so I caught up with Sean a few days later to get his take on the fair. The finer points:
Elizabeth Karp-Evans: How many years have you participated in the NYABF?
Sean Joseph Patrick Carney: This is the second year that we’ve participated in the fair. We also did the 2013 LA ART BOOK FAIR at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.
What’s the best part of being in the ‘Zine Tent?
The best part about the Zine Tent is, unequivocally, the insane energy that happens inside. There are so many young, emerging artists/publishers pushing boundaries that it’s an exciting environment to be in over the weekend. Additionally, it’s always fascinating to witness the diverse spectrum of publishing that’s happening all around the world. We value greatly the opportunity to meet like-minded, small publishers.
I think we already know the worst part.
Ha ha, this year it didn’t factor in as much. Last year the heat and humidity (plus a couple of rain storms) made the damn place smell like the combination of an old university library plus Burning Man.
Did you have a favorite booth this year?
There are so many booths that we find each year that excite us. One of the fair classics is obviously Retard Riot by Noah Lyon. He’s always got some crazy new buttons (which we’ve all seen at every major museum bookstore). One group that blew our minds this year was Packet, a biweekly publication group based in Brooklyn. All of their pieces were amazing, but the one that seriously fucked us sideways was Klein-Fünke by artist Chris Nosenzo.
What type of publication is it?
It’s beautiful. It makes the circumstantial assertion that the character Tobias Fünke from Arrested Development is based on the practice of Yves Klein. It maneuvers beautifully, starting with the relationship between Klein’s signature blue color and Fünke’s desire to join the Blue Man Group, into images of Klein in photographs that are later referenced (supposedly) in screen captures of Fünke from Arrested Development episodes.
We were pleased to be included by Sara Greenberger Rafferty and David Kennedy Cutler in their booth Paper Cuts for a unique edition of letterpressed cards called the Easy Critique Card Set. The entire booth was outstanding, and it’s an honor to have our piece included. We’re always blown away by the production quality and progressive publication efforts of THE THING Quarterly out of SF.
What was your most popular publication at the fair?
Every fair is different, but we generally find that the “Art Theory for Americans” series is quite popular. I translate seminal works of art theory from English to American, rewriting them in common vernacular, including contemporary images plus a healthy dose of profanity and marijuana references. This year, SMP exhibited translations of Walter Benjamin, Allan Kaprow and Jean Baudrillard. The Walter Benjamin translation sold out in the first two days of the fair. Also popular was a split ‘zine by Portland-based artists Travis Nikolai and Thomas John Gamble called 4chan Saves Lives/Suicide Comics.
How did Social Malpractice Publishing begin?
It was started completely unintentionally in 2009. I had just finished graduate school in Portland and felt a revulsion for the amount of relational aesthetics/social practice projects that were being produced in the city. The very first volume, Social Malpractice, was a guide to creating “socially irresponsible work.” After that gained some traction courtesy of AA Bronson and Printed Matter, it evolved into a label that produced editions of my own writing plus works by other visual artists and writers that were not properly represented publicly.
I do like your logo.
We received an insane email from a woman about a year ago demanding to know why we were using an “anti-Christ” symbol. We wrote her back explaining that the founder (me) had gone to Catholic school and that we were employing a Petrine Cross. In Catholic mythology, Saint Peter was crucified upside-down because he didn’t believe that he was worthy of being crucified in an identical manner of Christ. Really though, we just thought the bumper sticker of Oregon with a green heart in it was ridiculous and wanted to make something offensive.
SELF HELP is a beautiful book and quite weird. When you’re approached with projects, do you consider their accessibility or is it a personal decision what to publish?
We do accept proposals, but we give preference to artists that we know have a compelling and ultimately weird-ass vision. The artist who wrote/developed SELF HELP is Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary maker Michael Welsh. We’ve actually done two previous publications with him: SWEET TOOTH (2011) and HISTORIC NATIONAL MONUMENT PRESERVATION SOCIETY (2012), which includes a phenomenal poetic essay by artist Daniel J. Glendening.
Let’s call Oprah the main character of SELF HELP. I don’t watch her show but was pretty drawn to the appropriated images and text. Do you think it’s unavoidable to have subliminal pop culture fixations nowadays?
We’re huge proponents of the collapse of high and low culture. It’s no secret (to us) that Oprah is as culturally valid as Damien Hirst. Further, in terms of what’s comedic, we’re equally intrigued by Jackass as we are by artists like David Shrigley or Maurizio Cattelan. There is, in terms of Social Malpractice’s perspective, no separation between what is pop and what is critical.
What are some of the limitations of a small press?
Quite simply, the ability to provide a larger distribution model to works that we believe have a serious cultural importance. That’s what’s great about the fair.
Elizabeth Karp-Evans is a New York-based freelance writer and editor. She has written for various websites (Fader, Dish Pig) and worked as an editor on numerous fine art publications, most recently Doug Aitken: 100 YRS and Damien Hirst’s Freedom Not Genius. In her free time, she enjoys going to galleries, eating Mexican food, occasionally playing her clarinet and watching other people’s dogs play in the park.
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