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Fragments from the CBAA 2014 Conference and Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City

15/01/2014

Report by Samuel Teixeira

The biennial conference and annual meeting of the College Book Art Association (CBAA), entitled “Print, Produce, Publish”, took place at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, between January 2-4, 2014. Samuel Teixeira, student of the Doctoral Program in Materialities of Literature (University of Coimbra), participated with the talk “Remediation of Artists’ Books”. Previously, in 2009, Professor Manuel Portela had attended the CBAA Conference, held at the University of Iowa, with the paper “Codex Codes: The Syntax, Semantics, and Pragmatics of Bookscapes”.

On January 2, the Conference started with opening remarks by board members welcoming approximately 300 participants, and paying tribute to book artists, such as Betsy Davis, who were distinguished for their work and career. Following these preliminary statements, Craig Dworkin, one of the invited speakers, gave a stimulating lecture about the ontological and representational limits of digital archives and the specificity of book forms. This was an inspiring outset for a successful and intensive symposium. After the talk, members went to the Marriott Library to the exhibition reception, an installation of artists’ books and prints, created by CBAA book artists.

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On January 3, P3 Conference began with three simultaneous sessions. At Session A, Anne Royston investigated a hybrid reading between artist’s book and theoretical text in Derrida’s Glas. Next Peter Bushell presented typographic exercises and artists’ books made by his students. At the same time, in a different panel, Steve Woodall was debating with the audience the question of digital artists’ books and the potentialities of new media as a way to expand the way books are produced and published. There was also an interesting discussion about technological obsolescence, contextual design and reading experiences. At the biennial Member’s Showcase (Session B), CBAA members had the opportunity to display and share their past and present projects. Brad Freeman exhibited two recent photo-books, inspired by his journeys to Japan, particularly Japanese cultural symbols, such as the geisha, sumo wrestling, or salmon slicing. Curiously, Catarina Figueiredo Cardoso, student of the Materialities of Literature Doctoral Program, appears in one of these photographs. There were other fine-looking and thought-provoking bookworks, paperwork and projects by Betsy Davis, Karla Elling, Dan Mayer, Robin Ami Silverberg, Warren Lehrer, Peter Thomas, Daniel Mellis, among many others. At session C, in the panel entitled “The Artist’s Book as Historical Narrative”, Karen Zimmermann and Anna Sigrídur Arnar examined the graphical, sculptural, and archival representation of history and experimental narratives in artists’ books.  Between Zimmerman and Arnar’s lecture, Warren Lehrer gave a dynamic and compelling performance based on his illuminated novel “A Life in Books: The Rise & Fall of Bleu Mobley”.  After this session, it was time for the Annual Member’s Meeting, in which affairs of the association were discussed, and in which Julie Chen first spoke as new CBAA President. Afterward, the members watched the screening of ‘Animated Type’, a selection of short films.

On January 4, at Session D, Cami Nelson moderated the panel “Cultural impact of evolving production technologies”, with speakers Melissa Green and Samuel Teixeira. In Session D, entitled “Dissemination: contemporary, publishing and publicity”, Tate Shaw, Brad Freeman and Laura Russel presented three different approaches to book artists’ publications:  photo-bookworks, The Journal of Artists’ Books (JAB), and applied marketing.  The roundtable “Content/context: teaching the same class in as many different ways as possible” (Session E) considered three different teaching methods of book arts class at The Press at Colorado College, presented by Robin Price, Matvei Yankelevich, and Bridget Elmer. The Conference concluded with a memorable highlight: the eloquent and emotional talk via Skype by invited speaker Lesley Dill. The artist first presented and discussed her 2008 performance “Divide light” that explores the opera as a time-space sequence like a book. Next she described and commented upon her artistic and personal career, presenting selected episodes of her life (memories) and works of art, including photographs, installations and performances. Concluding the Conference, there was a banquet and a live auction, which included selected bookworks from the members’ exhibition.

There were other significant happenings besides the above mentioned, including interesting talks that the narrator couldn’t attend, or demonstrations as the initiative “[in code]”, a collaborative work that connected social media (twitter posts, updated by CBAA members using specific hashtags) to a “temporary installation and collaborative printing experience that extends the dialogue of CBAA to a broader audience.” Closing the cover of the present edition, CBAA Conference 2014, Salt Lake City, was an important event for the book studies community. Now CBAA members are looking forward to the next edition.

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