Manystuff: Could you please present yourself and your activities?
Caroline Niémant: Peeping Tom is a non-profit organization and “a collective of curators and publishers” as we arbitrary call ourselves: in reality, we are only two permanent members – Stéphane Blanc (art director and graphic designer) and myself (Caroline Niémant curator and editor) – but we include a myriad of punctual contributors (artists, curators, writers…etc.) in most of our projects, blurring the notion of our authorship, responsibility and definition. Peeping Tom was created in 2006 in a desire to give more visibility to emerging artists (mostly photographers at first and now open to any kind of artistic discipline and expression) while familiarizing a profane audience to contemporary art.
As a seeker of new talents, we conceive and realize special projects, showcasing our discoveries through exhibitions, auction sales, lectures, concert programs, performances, video projections and diverse collaborations with art institutions, galleries, festivals and magazines. In September 2008, Peeping Tom also became a publishing house, editing an annual journal entitled “Peeping Tom’s digest” (each issue focuses and describes a particular geographic art scene – a city, a country or a region – the point of departure being a residency of our collective lasting several months in the chosen country) and a collection of artists’ books (Lucio Girondo, Simone Gilges, Constant Dullaart, Jan Adriaans, Heinz Peter Knes. Upcoming titles 2011: Paul Kooiker, Ozlem Altin, Lodge Kerrigan…and maybe more.)
Manystuff: What do you think is the role of an independent publishing house? Do you feel having responsibilities and a duty? Is the act of publishing a kind of activism and what for? What about your environment you are part of, how do you identify it?
Caroline Niémant: I think to be an independent publisher is a political gesture in itself, considering that it involves so much work for so little financial reward. I genuinely admire people who have been doing it for many years.
Our initial role at Peeping Tom is to promote artists regardless of their notoriety or their potential commercial value. Essentially, our main interest lies in the relationship we established with the artist(s). How each one of us is nourished by the collaboration. We are asking ourselves what we can bring to the artist, to try and make the artist grow within his practice and the book format is a very efficient tool to review and have a global outlook on one’s work : a good exercise for an artist which often helps him/her to close a chapter and move on to the next step. Books give a sense of closure, way more than an ephemeral exhibition, as if it was graved in stone and it triggers a lot of thinking and sense of responsibility from the artist’s point of view. And on the other hand, I get my fuel by understanding the different art practices : I am not an artist myself and their perspectives and lifestyles have been a great source of inspiration for my own personal input on things.
I might be very naive but I also feel that we have the responsibility to give to the younger generation the desire to read and go away from computers and television. In that sense, I trully believe that it is very a noble and honorable job to be a publisher.
Manystuff: Some says that “Print is dead”. What resources and new kind of artistic relationships are in contradiction with that point of view? Is the increased complicity between “curator/author/graphic designer/printer/publisher/distributor” the proof of the contrary?
Caroline Niémant: I really don’t think print is dead. I know a lot of people around me – included myself – who can’t stand to read more than one page on a screen. I also believe that fetishism is a unescapable human condition and the relationships with the actual book object can’t be replaced by a computer, i-pad, i-phone or whatever will come up next.
From our experience, there is indeed a tremendous solidarity within the publishing world, not only between the different positions in the publishing chain of responsibilities but also between the publishers themselves. A marginal attitude comparing to any field I worked in before: fashion, advertising or the photography and art contemporary markets (galleries, fairs, auctions…etc). The competition is so harsh probably only because there is so much money involved in these businesses.
I don’t know if this solidarity exists because print is dying or because it has never been so alive and meaningful. I am too young in this profession to know if it is a new condition or has always been like this.
Manystuff: Could you mention one book/publication, or publishing actor, or artist, or graphic designer, or printer, or exhibition, etc… that made you work in the field of independent publishing area? What inspired you?
Caroline Niémant: German fanzine called Freier – a magazine for states of mind by German artist and photographer Simone Gilges. Created in 2003, it has been a great source of influence to me thanks to its freedom in voice, contributions, graphic design, themes and economy (close to zero!). It just opened my mind to the possibility of doing whatever you want without any restrictions and also to the idea of the printed project as a way to gather people and talents.
I could also quote : AA Bronson/Printed Matters (USA), Nieves (Switzerland), Pazmaker by Perros Negros ( Mexico), Famous & Fake Real by Tsunami Addiction (France), Permanent Food by Maurizio Cattelan (Italy), Dot-dot-dot (USA)…
Manystuff: Could you please introduce one of your upcoming project you are now working on?
Caroline Niémant: Peeping Tom’s Digest #2: Mexico : the second issue of Peeping Tom’s Digest (our yearly publication) dedicated to the Mexican contemporary art scene and to be released next month. Based on an empirical and experimental approach, we spent 2 months in Mexico in 2009 meeting hundreds of artists and actors from the contemporary art world in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Oaxaca. The book contains 50 articles about Mexican artists representative of our experiment, conducted by prominent Mexican art agents (collectors, curators, art historians, journalists, critics, gallerists…etc). The Mexican art scene is so far the most inspiring and pertinent we encountered : this is the project I am the most proud of up to today.