In the art context, the production of a book drifts away from conventional publishing processes in order to activate other material, individual, and collective agencies. These lead to the assembly of different components and ambitions, crystallizing into an artifact that we may call exhibition catalog, artist book, printed object, among other denominations. Any of these names, always approximative, represents the possibility to rethink the principles of use, format, circulation and limits of the book as a cultural device that, in a given creative ecosystem, can be radicalized. “I don’t know of any other bomb than a book,” Mallarmé declared in December 1893, four years before the detonation of his poem Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard. The possibilities of the artist’s publication would find in the historical avant-gardes their foundational moment of outbreak, on a linguistic axis that went from the poem to the manifesto and another cultural one between propaganda and abstraction. But thinking about the potential of the book in the contemporary sphere implies not only dealing with key precedents, but also transcending them at a historical, geographical, and narrative level. Additionally, it requires us to assume a decidedly anachronistic take on technique, to reject the idea of innovation and, rather, focus on that of singularity.
POSSIBLY RADICAL OBJECT is an online seminar where we will address artist publications from multiple perspectives and cultural domains. Starting from a critical revision of the historical and conceptual bases of artist books, we will analyze their economy and circuits of production as well as the technical knowledge of some leading professionals of this medium. Together with a number of case studies and practical presentations, a theoretical development will emphasize the dimension of the text-as-image and the broader notion of writing as construction, as well as vice-versa. There, the practices of artists such as Etel Adnan, Ulises Carrión, On Kawara, Jenny Holzer, and many others will gain particular relevance, alongside most recent productions of contemporary figures. Likewise, underground artifacts such as the fanzine and the samizdat will emerge, opening the way to a reflection on the relevance of the book within a post-internet horizon of political and economic survival, and of ecological emergency.