Independent publishing plays a key role in the dissemination of arts and ideas, not just by what gets published but also by how. The authors, artists, printers, poets, and designers working within this context use methods that question traditional ways in which we understand how to make and read publications. Editions ranging from 5 copies to 500 allow an emphasis on the book as object and make way for investigations into how form contributes to comprehension. Independent publishers explore models of production and distribution that provide alternatives to mass market imprints and center around readers’ needs versus market numbers. Designers and book artists challenge everything from typography and page structure to whether a book needs pages at all. Ever present is the idea that a publication is an exchange between an author and a reader, and that the act of reading is also an act of creation, bringing a publication to life. The question is, when authors take big chances, will readers follow?
Shelf Life invites a diverse group of bookmakers (and book-lovers) to the Henry to share their relationship to books and independent publishing. Located in the lobby of the Henry, Shelf Life brings Portland-based Publication Studio as publishers-in-residence, features lecture-performances by Sandra Kroupa (University of Washington Book Arts and Rare Book Curator), and hosts poets-in-residence from Wave Books.
Poste Restante, an exhibition created by Western Bridge curator Eric Fredericksen and originating at ARTSPEAK in Vancouver, B.C. (April 2011), comes to Shelf Life in the midst of its transformation into a book. Stand Up Comedy from Portland presents a compilation reel of videos about books and book design. The Emancipated Spectator and Gentle Reader, two casual discussion groups, convene monthly to talk about selections from reading lists that include Claire Bishop’s Participation and Alberto Manguel’s A Reader on Reading. In addition, a rotating selection of books from UW Special Collections will be on display, curated by Sandra Kroupa.
Visitors are also welcome to explore the independent publications featured on the Shelf Life letter shelves or bring their own publications to read and relax with in the Shelf Life reading lounge.
July 7, 2011, 7pm, What Good Are Bookstores?
Matthew Stadler , writer and co-founder of Portland-based Publication Studio, looks under the hood of literature’s future by asking “what good are bookstores?” If writers and readers can connect directly, if publishers can reach readers online or through digital applications, what good are high-rent, dedicated retail spaces for the healthy future and economy of literature? Stadler sees enormous value and use for such spaces, but in a drastically changed configuration, one that argues for smaller, more idiosyncratic shops and against the old model of the large, comprehensive bookstore.
Exhibition until October 16, 2011
Henry Art Gallery, Seattle