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The nature of the unique work has a touch of sovereignty, not unlike an absolute monarchy, somewhat clumsy. In the face of this model of governing aesthetics, the artist frequently passes to the more popular and secular republican front, of the exercise of publishing. Books made by artists have been and continue to be, and now even more so, an option in the market for more accessible and less speculative works. Luckily there are many cases of studies and a variety editorial experiences of book objects, in unlimited editions, that propose we read, in the whole plenitude of the term, the artist’s project, without having to pass through the contributing trading floor. Books, not catalogues, where the author sets in motion his critical speculation and working process. Editions, which for just a few euros or even free give us a theoretical proximity, and the author’s most intense deliriums.
The latest publication by David Bestué, has just appeared in the shops, prone to these exercises on paper, that along withAndrea Valdés, undertakes the heroic task of a serial publication about our own little history of art, literature and modern society: ‘La línea sin fin’ (The endless line). The chronicle of this first instalment opens with a date and a process: 1848, industrialization and the first utopias. On each page the collage of texts and images, from Wikipedia to literary testimonies of grand figures, through disparate diachronic registers, shelters a singular investigation into the historic process of Catalonia that is also the same universal passage. The highbrow and the popular, the historic and the motley are grafted into a critical and sarcastic documentation of concepts, names and episodes that construct an official and heteroclite Catalan culture. An austere, irreverent publication, without any prejudices, that names the sad events of the ‘Semana Trágica’ as a final outburst, the end undoubtedly of the illusion of social justice in a modern political context. The first instalment deals with the origins, the latest (they’ve announced six instalments) indicates a new origin: 2005-2013 RYAN AIR. The final chapter will talk of the tripartite, Teresa Forcades, irony and cynicism, indicating predictions for the future. A booklet devoid of luxury, a multiple birth for careful reading, that in the classic manner of serialised publications promises continuity and content. But undoubtedly is apt neither for circumspect teachers nor rationalist graphic designers. A Bestué edition, easy to identify, where one can recognise the literary talent of Andrea Valdés, the drawings of Jonathan Millán and Jeleton, and the eccentric graphics of Setanta. A collection of booklets, full of enthusiasm and imagination, entertaining and educational, one not to be missed, apt for all the family.
Another artist who has just presented an edition is Serafín Alvarez. A compilation of diverse visual materials, from the project ‘Equation of Time’, that was presented in La Capella in Barcelona. The book functions as a micro-archive of images as well as speculative and real data, surrounding an event of scientific observation that documents a hitherto unheard of eclipse, a discrepancy between the real sun and the fictional sun. In the manner of a post-it, the pages compile images, graphics, objects and data that relate the period of observation in a low-tech register about the time factor. Impossible to access the textual presence of the artist; as usual Serafín Alvarez explores the subsoil of science, art and intelligence, in the most absolute literary vacuity, to trace a narrative map of his obsessions. Despite this, the book is a classic narrative, with a beginning, a climax and a dénouement: ‘Today, 1 September 2011, the real sun and the fictitious sun will shine simultaneously’. A publication that is halfway between a catalogue and an artist’s book, with no page numbers or other protocols of graphic design that successfully describes the artistic particularity of its author.
Something, that is quite different, for me a real discovery of a very young artist, is the publication ‘Salvar un elefante’ by Cristian Herrera Dalmau. Quite a revelation, humour sin rictus and reality without embellishment. Page by page the author relates the process of inventing and constructing one of his latest pieces, as well as its definitive installation in a place that isn’t visible in the Faculty of Fine Art: a life sized wire elephant. The writing of the artist relates the action in the mode of an everyday thriller, seriously records the facts, in detail and for this it is fascinating. Nothing happens, apparently. The artist’s chronicle documents the action, from the beginning to the end: ‘In the end, we place the padlock in its place and go up on the roof of the central building. Nothing more.’ This publication forms part of the project coordinated by Sonia Fernández Pan and Hablar en Arte, ’Blue Seven Phenomenon’, as part of a commission from Sant Andreu Contemporani.
A few years ago I decided to buy fewer books and have a more zen house, devoid of aesthetic junk and nests of paper. I now write enthusiastically about something that I’ve always enjoyed handling as an aesthetic object. Artists’ editions offer the possibility of transcending the time period of an exhibition, the price of a piece of work or the hierarchy of some cultural models. I believe that paper editions are a very appropriate form of artistic format in these times of budgetary despondency and disrepute of the monarchy.
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)