Publishing as a tool of discovery.
AND is an interdisciplinary platform for artists’ books and art-related publications. Their premise is theoretical and experimental, presenting a rich terrain of versatile publications and concepts that consider printed matter and the role of the publisher today. AND originated from an inquiry concerning the concept of print on demand at a time when attitudes to publishing were shifting and everyone was talking about the death of the printed page. For AND, publishing is about creating a dialogue and connecting their readers to different concepts surrounding artists’ books. Founded by Eva Weinmayr and Lynn Harris at the Byam Shaw School of Art in 2009, AND devises a strong collaborative element in the making of publications. Their recent project at The Showroom, "Working in the Edges," discussed the idea that in communally sharing tools, publications can be constructed critically, conceptually, and practically. By bringing practitioners together to discuss publishing, its constraints, and its possibilities, the project allowed participants to develop a sense of community, making it possible to share ideas. From this perspective, publishing becomes a tool to make discoveries.
AND incorporates writing and publishing as an artistic practice, as a predominantly experiential platform to discover new and dynamic means of creating artists’ publications. I met with Eva Weinmayr and Lynn Harris in their beautiful East London studio; a quiet, solitary space where books fill the shelves from floor to ceiling, and the wooden floors creak as we settle down with some wine to discuss their publishing platform and the unique projects they curate.
Hatty Nestor Let’s begin by discussing the name AND. Where does it originate?
Eva Weinmayr I came across this text by Deleuze, and his notion of “and” some years ago. AND derived from my own practice, where I was dealing and experimenting with publications and what it means to make writing public. I published a few different pieces with small as well as big publishing houses and it became important for me to extend my practice and create a bigger platform that would incorporate a more collaborative element. Instead of creating these objects, which were then circulated, I wanted to construct a dialogue with people I worked with. This is where Deleuze is important—he talks about “and” as a conjunction and it being a very constructive and accumulative way to work; it does not separate or isolate, but allows for a variety of different components and voices to exist alongside each other, collaboratively while still being their own individual entities. Multiplicity is important. The complexities of collaboration are embedded in Deleuze’s thought.
HN I suppose “and” is an interesting word to employ within this realm of the collaborative because it has a temporal element—it presumes something to come in the future. Writing is always speaking about something beyond the self.
EW Oh, I agree. Many conceptual artists used publications as a medium to circulate their ideas, and this is the exciting thing about publishing—distribution and the potential to be easily circulated to the viewer, the reader. This is a much more horizontal way of encountering an idea or concept. The reader creates relationships to the book. You carry it around in your pocket and activate it wherever you like, be it a bus or the beach.
HN Why work with print on demand?
EW There is this wonderful Ed Ruscha quote, saying that one of his mistakes was to number his books. By doing this they became limited editions, and he wanted them to be books. He wanted his books to circulate, to be accessible, not to become objects locked away in private collections. AND uses digital printing processes in order to allow for small print runs, very small print runs, up to just one copy. We use print on demand, which is quite different from traditional publishing procedures like offset printing, where you normally have print runs of five hundred copies minimum. This immediacy in the production process eliminates the problem of securing funding upfront. Print on demand is an instantaneous way of working—you create the work, print it, then circulate it. This is not a new phenomenon: in a way, independent artists’ publishing is an old exercise, really since the photocopier was invented in 1959.
HN Does this nature of print on demand construct a new framework in which publishers operate?
EW Yes—the feeling that you create a temporal relationship between reader and producer by virtue of the book being printed and published. We actually just re-published these short essays by Gregory Sholette, which were online, and he gave us permission to print physical copies. We included a printed version of these essays in the Ulises Carrion exhibition Gossip, Scandal and Good Manners at The Showroom in London, where the visitor could ask the gallery staff to print a copy “while you wait” for £1. This process was very elusive, in terms of distribution and how instant it can be. You see it on the shelf, it’s printed out for you, because you want a copy and you have the material take it away with you. This certainly creates a different quality of relationship and engagement. It evokes rigor and motivation in the buyer as they sought after the material object in relation to the small amount of time it takes to receive the printed matter.
HN Can you talk about this in comparison to a regular bookstore? How does the reader’s commitment differ in this distribution system?
EW I think that term engagement is really important. If you see an AND book at our kiosk at the ICA bookshop in London, for example, you can’t take away the display copy. You order the book online and you know it’s been printed specifically for you, because you ordered it. The attention of the reader is crucial, whether the process of the publication is printed on demand or regularly. Our webpage gives context to these different mechanisms of printing. AND has two strands—one is AND Public, the open self-publishing platform, where anybody can self-publish a print on demand book. AND Public is not a print on demand service; instead it sits in relation to other printing services and advocates the use of digital print, but is not one itself. The other is AND, where we have a stronger creative and editorial hand and we actively develop and commission publications for it. Here, for example, we are currently developing a new strand that furthers feminist publishing. You won’t believe it, but it’s still the case that citation politics—at least in academic publishing—are heavily gendered.
AND Public has a curating and facilitating function that encourages particular kinds of work; providing advice about different print on demand sites and hosts print on demand books where we have discussed content, approach or material form. We have built a reputation around particular kinds of work, which attracts similar artists. Ours is an investigation into how this material process can give an artist agency and how this automated process can be responded to very personally. This again is Deleuze and his notion of multiplicity. It’s quite interesting, in my own practice I tend to work really distinctly by finality, only producing a project or publication when I felt it has met its full potential. This is a limitation, and something we hope AND Publishing diminishes. It invites experiments, and takes the pressure out.
HN So I suppose uncertainty generates more possibilities?
(Joined by Lynn Harris)
EW Exactly! This is how we use technology and its immediacy. Most people contact us when they are already in the process of developing a publication—we then consult them on their ideas and invite them to come to the studio and check out the publications we have previously printed. It’s really helpful to look at examples and their materiality, paper, binding, print technique. The studio space here used to be my artist studio, but we moved here because as our relationship with Central St Martins became difficult, we found it difficult to institutionalize our ideas within the current art school environment. We were called a “free floating anomaly” and with all the streamlining in the new building at King Cross we felt we better move on. It was a strange relationship, as students would drop by freely and asked for advice about publications and writing. Everything was streamlined, and it felt right to construct our own identity separate from an institution. When Central St Martin’s moved into their new space it felt very …
EW Yes! I do miss being immersed in an art school though…there were these sudden encounters and conversations with students and staff, which made our work there exciting. It certainly has its advantages.
Lynn Harris Being in an art school, there is always a feeling something new might happen, different conversations occurred that do not necessarily happen here in our studio.
HN So perhaps without the intuitional backing of an art school—AND had to seek out new areas for dialogue to happen?
EW It’s more deliberate. We are still invited to do a lot of workshops, which is always great, but these incidental encounters are missing, but it is channeled in a different direction.
LH We were in an interesting position because we were a part of the research group, loosely, but also not directly dictated by the groups decisions, we allow our own ideas and concepts for artists book publishing to flourish from our own conversations in the studio. But here we have artistic freedom to individually and collectively work on projects and ideas.
HN How many publications does AND publishing usually produce in a year?
EW At the moment we are working on four different projects.
LH We usually oversee about thirty projects and books a year—this is not necessarily projects which are finished! They are often just conversations and dialogues, where content and practical ideas are conversed. AND Public, for this reason, should be perceived as a platform which can be dipped in and out of, a framework where your ideas can develop freely and naturally. Critical advice can be provided around concepts, and even simple queries about digital printing are answered, but it’s the fluidity and openness of this platform which construct its function. I think it can be quite a lonely process, putting together a book or publication.
EW We live in a time of austerity and lots of people are moving toward writing and publishing, looking for alternatives to making expensive artworks. I think in relation to writing being a lonely process, it’s interestingly different when working collaboratively with other people on a publication. In a larger publishing house this isolation—when writing feels like such a lonely process— isn’t as present due to all the people contributing to a particular project, the sharing of expertise, copy editing, proofreading, graphic design, and so forth. That is a kind of distributed knowledge.
HN What are your different roles at AND? Just how collaborative is the workload?
LH I think it naturally developed. We both approach and take and give different ideas to projects. Our authorship is constructed by the relationships and multiplicities of those we work with—this fluidity is really an ongoing critique and very beneficial for us as creative practitioners.
EW Yes, our individual authorship is often constructed through the framework of projects we are working on.
LH I agree, it furthers us to query the role of authorship without creating territories, whilst communicating that we have participated in different areas of a project.
HN So authorship becomes another multiplicity in which everyone engages?
EW Yes, this multiplicity is present within authorship. It is also important to keep our individual voices within this collaborative work. Each project isn’t about a shared unity per se. It’s good to address the differences between voices and their roles in a publication. We have also recently been joined by Andrea Francke, who brings yet another voice to AND.
HN How does collaboration affect creativity and authorship?
EW I am working at the moment on publishing a script for a play with New Documents. Downing Street is a collaborative writing piece; it was constructed using an online real-time writing pad. It meant that when you typed a word, the other writers could finish your sentence, or you would be inspired by something “half baked” from my side. So the developing is transferable, instantly from all the writers involved in the project. It was not about the individual authors’ voices—it became something bigger. This makes the process anonymous, as its hard to tell who wrote what, and at what time.
HN So the lines are blurred, quite literally?
EW Well yes. It was an amazing experience, which was made possible by technology. When it was printed, there was no indication of who was the author of any particular sentence. This goes back to Deleuze—you can’t map anything and multiple authorship means collaborative dialogue. I would say print on demand provides a similar concept.
LH It completely destroys any ideas we previously have about the functionality of a book. It is final knowledge, it has been edited, and this is the final product.
HN Is there ever a time when publications feel unfinished, or the project could continue as a dialogue beyond the final printed book?
EW I suppose, in a sense, books are always unfinished, and this is part of the process which is so interesting. It is an ongoing dialogue. Our recent reader, Borrowing, Poaching, Plagiarising, Pirating, Stealing, Gleaning, Referencing, Leaking, Copying, Imitating, Adapting, Faking, Paraphrasing, Quoting, Reproducing, Using, Counterfeiting, Repeating, Translating, Cloning, which we launched at the New York Art Book Fair in the context of The Piracy Project is a good example. It is an unfinished book, a reader of commissioned essays, which will grow as we develop the project. As such it’s not the endpoint of a process—as books often are—here the publication is the starting point of a conversation. In other words, this book is a platform that creates conversations: Essays in one version may be re-written in a later one. Passages may disappear completely as new discoveries, possibilities, and ideas come up or as the landscape we’re exploring simply shifts beneath our feet. The implications of this are very interesting—a librarian would probably just faint, because how could such a multiplicity be archived?
LH I actually think this project is a true reflection of knowledge, development, and acquisition. Written history is composed from a particular perspective, there is nothing definite, and the project articulates this in a practical and material way.
HN So this project, in a sense, vacates publishing from the feeling of beginning and end—when the end is the printed book?
LH Yes, which is difficult to achieve because you are also trying to communicate, when the concept doesn’t fit a traditional format, for instance, reading from front to back, then you have to construct something totally new in order to make it accessible and understandable.
HN By changing, reducing, and experimenting with the book’s format, does the volume of work decrease?
LH We find ourselves reducing more and more, and certainly in my practice before AND everything was reduced down to the smallest series of marks or words possible.
EW Here it might be interesting to talk about binding. There is an interesting relationship between the fragment and the sequence. When we think about bookbinding, there is a certain numerical chronology involved in pagination. However there are other ways to respond to the content. Some books have posters in them, flaps, different printed matter.
HN So the books’ material existence is allowed to change?
LH Yes, and this really expresses the idea of a book as an artwork. Some of our favorite books, and something we look for, are books which are full concepts as full pieces within themselves. Meaning that the publication becomes its own concept, and not a projection or explanation of a preexisting idea. It’s a hard task to do, but can be very successful and generate extremely engaging work.
HN How would you advise someone to achieve this? Do writers and publishers experiment with the layout of a publication to advocate the notion of the book as artwork?
EW Especially in our workshops we try and push this concept—to reflect the formatting, layout and visualization of publications. People who publish with AND Public are usually more interested in this approach. This again is the real difference of an artist’s book: it’s a book that reflects its own materiality and format. It reflects itself and its potential the way it functions.
LH I feel we are at a time when the printed book is a luxury, and AND Publishing is definitely not in the luxury market! But in terms of preciousness, I think we embody this description effectively. Purchasing books via the Internet has become a ritual, reading PDFs, looking for the cheapest version. Many of our projects are printed in formats which are quite disposable, or take away from the luxurious element of printmaking. By doing this, the reader’s focus is challenged and resituated to consider the conceptual elements of the publication, not just the material.
EW It’s funny to think about this moment, when you are initially drawn to a book, that one publication you want to purchase from the sea of other products/books.
LH I think that is the moment of you wanting to remember something, almost in apprehension of the future. You want to visually see it, engage with it, remember it. I have loads of books I never read!
HN Does this mean there is a physical engagement with physical books which you cannot retract from?
LH Yes, and you have it on your shelf to remind yourself of that thought, reaction, and feeling.
HN Perhaps this is hoarding for the future, and revisiting that past feeling.
EW It’s funny because it is also a way to fix things. We were just talking about books being fluid, but in fact the printed book is almost trying to fix something at a certain moment. The Piracy Papers are a good example: they transform texts which are already available online into a printed format, often pamphlets which are published in irregular intervals in connections with our research around books, intellectual property, and the relationships between written works. The Piracy Papers make paramount and question the systems which guarantee truthful “transformations” of written material. For instance James Bridle’s text “The Author of Everything” is about the instability of texts, we really loved it because the narrative plays nicely with our interest in the unpredictability in reproduction and regurgitation. Similarly, with Michael Eddy’s email conversation with his Grandpa, who lives in the American Jackson Hole, about a visit in China’s replica of the famous skying village, where Dick Cheney used to go on vacation. The Piracy Papers really have a strong curated aspect, as we translate ideas, which are circulated in different places, into print and give them a new frame so they develop a dialogue with each other.
LH This notion of objects is very important, as it orients you. It helps you walk and construct associations of the world around you. Books are a part of this transitional aspect of our being in the world. In a sense, it’s an armor we have for the abstract thoughts we have when we materially feel things.
HN Is there a way to make books a more emotional, or physical experience?
LH Different formats can achieve this, by turning books, listening to them, etc. When you have to make a decision about how you move around a book, it becomes more your own journey through them.
EW Spiral binding can achieve this and articulate our predetermined idea of a book, because, for example, the readers always have to search for the front cover. The way you guide the reader through the narrative—in a loop—is a very different specification.
HN So words become the limit because you have to decide for yourself when the ending is?
LH Printing companies are interesting, especially since their restrictions help in making final decisions. The material outcome of an artist’s book is very much restricted by the machine, papers, binding, and costs involved. Each company has its own niche and it brings different motivations and approaches to printing. These material restrictions weigh heavily on the reading of the work, they give you the visual impression of a given publication. In translating the concepts or themes found within a publication, being familiar with different printing companies allows the decision to become cemented and grounded through the ethos and services they can provide.
HN Would you say AND Publishing is a publishing company?
LH No, a publishing activity. We are both artists and therefore it is a platform for creativity.
For more on AND Publishing, visit their website.
Hatty Nestor is a writer living in London. She is interested in spatial theory, art writing as practice and artists publications.