Authors don’t write books. They write on pages or on screens, but not the ones readers will hold. Their texts need proofreaders, editors, typographers, graphic designers, paper makers, printers, binders, as well as softwares, presses, and other machines before they become books. Yet sometimes, authors do make books. Maybe this doesn’t seem so unusual today, and it has become harder to understand what it means for a text to pass from the body of the author to that of the composer setting up letters and characters, and to leave the world of language for the space of the sheet of paper. There’s a world of difference when the hand that writes also prints and the materiality of the text measures itself to the surface of the page, inscribing, covering, scratching, cutting into it.
Between the early 1970s and the mid 1980s, Orange Export Ltd. was a peculiar adventure in French publishing, where such an experiment was conducted. Raquel, who was first of all a painter, and Emmanuel Hocquard first decided to publish a book together, Le Portefeuil using silkscreen. Then they developed their imprint with a group of poets, writers and artists – friends who gathered in Raquel’s house, in the suburbs of Paris. Her studio became the workshop where the books were made, meaning: conceived, written, typeset, printed and bound, by hand, by Hocquard himself. A few copies at a time.
What’s left from that enterprise is not only an impressive collection of titles – in which feature almost the whole French poetry scene of the 1970s and early 1980s. It’s also a way of conceiving books through their making; and a passion for this physical process so strong that we end up wondering: what if this was the production line of happiness? How far are the pragmatics of publishing and the dynamics of friendship related? How to deal with a public, when you know you can only print 9 copies of a book a day? If, as Hocquard wrote, printing books meant learning again how to write, should we now, connecting Orange Export Ltd. to our screens and keyboards, learn again how to read? On view from June 26, at at castillo/corrales, Paris.