AboutâPlease do not place drinks on vitrines or books', curated by Arnaud Desjardin, is an exhibition of publications and compendiums on artists' books specifically designed for Focal Point Gallery's new project space.
Starting with Germano Celant's exhibition pamphlet and catalogue from 1972, Book as Artwork, and continuing through examples from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s to new publications, the show aims to present an overview of the reception of a relatively recent critical art form. This wide variety of material, which ranges from exhibition catalogues to artists' monographs, reference books, dealers' lists and booklets, not only constitutes the accepted secondary literature on artists' books; it reflects the intersection of art and publishing, and shows how this subject has been appraised and understood over a significant period of time.
The question of the boundary between art and books is relevant to this exhibition. Publishing is an essential aspect of art: magazines, exhibition catalogues, ephemera and invitation cards connect the real and symbolic economy of visual art; if this production and diffusion of printed matter mediates and reproduces art, it also often becomes an art form in its own right.
Yet considering a book as an artwork in its own right is not as straightforward as it first seems, and the continuously vexing question of the definition of the term âartist's book' owes a lot to the ever-changing nature of art's definition. In one respect, the function of the book as a medium conspires to create a multiple art that claims a democratisation or anti-elitism, yet the field is also littered with contradictory statements on the nature and definition of the artwork.
In essence, the purpose of this particular project is to give visibility to a marginal art publishing activity, as well as books that document and survey a specific form of production that has taken place over the last sixty years. Perhaps it is fitting that Desjardin's project about artists' publishing should take place within a gallery in a regional public library, a minor site where the book and artwork co-exist. Within this context, Desjardin's index or catalogue of information will in turn become a new book printed during the period of the exhibition, and the gallery will become the location for the production and distribution of this new piece of printed matter, appropriately named the âBook on books on artists books'.