Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Hybrid Book: Intersection and Intermedia, Alisa Fox, Dorothy Krause, and Shawn K. Simmons

A report by Alisa Fox, Dorothy Krause, and
Shawn K. Simmons.

The word hybrid is defined by Webster’s as “anything
derived from heterogeneous sources, or composed of
elements of different or incongruous kinds.” Does, combining
in unexpected ways materials, language or anything meant to
convey information, ideas, and emotions fit this definition?
I think it clearly describes the nature of our book arts
world as we move forward into the 21st century. Book
artists are constantly challenged with defining art and craft,
looking to the past for tradition and forward for new possibilities.
The Hybrid Book Conference hosted by the University of the
Arts in Philadelphia June 4-6, 2009, was successful in creating
a dialog that challenged and discussed those directives. The
panel-based conference focused on the flexible and complex nature
of the book, through both its multiple levels of interpretation –
two dimensional, three-dimensional and time-based – and its
relevance to many different fields of study. The speakers
explored the past, present and future of book arts in such
varied areas as printing (letterpress, offset, and digital),
academia, artist collaboration, technology and content
generation. In total, eight intriguing panels were offered,
two during every panel session with each attendee able to
enjoy four full panels throughout the conference. Regrettably,
attendees were not able to see all the panels.

The Opening

The event began on Thursday evening with introductory
comments by Susan Viguers, Director of the MFA Book Arts/
Printmaking program at UArts and Conference Coordinator,
as well as remarks from the President of UArts, Sean T.
Buffington, and Dean of the College, Stephen Tarantal,
emphasizing the impact and relevance of both the Book
Arts program and this conference on the community. This
was followed by Steve Miller of the University of Alabama’s
MFA in the Book Arts Program interviewing with Gunnar
Kaldewey and Hedi Kyle - an enlightening and powerful
kickoff to the conference. The question and answer structure
demonstrated that our similarities and differences as artists
show up in very distinct ways. Kaldewey and Kyle have
interesting similarities in their German background. However,
their work processes are very different. Hedi Kyle’s past as
a graphic designer shows itself in her design of both pages
and structures and her experience as a book conservator
has influenced the way she works with tactile materials and
creates forms.
These fanciful,interactive musical arrangements of color, folds,
and found objects challenge our visual intellect. But what is
particularly exciting about Kyle’s work is her ability to
constantly take risk and challenge her process, as seen,
for example, in her piece Soap Opera, where she layered
digital translucent images of soap ends.
Gunnar Kaldewey also uses materials in a profound way but
through a more traditional press approach. His background
as a rare book dealer impacts his work. Frequently
collaborating with other artists and writers, Kaldewey
creates an extraordinary sense of purpose to a particular
text. Paper artists, visual artists, writers, and bookbinders,
under Kaldewey’s guiding hand, breathe new life and vision
into ideas. Embossment, metal, foil and handmade paper are
examples of the material connections that Kaldewey makes
with a diversity of texts that span time and countries.
Irma Boom was not part of the evening interview, but was
a key participant in the exhibition at the Rosenwald-Wolf
Gallery, The Hybrid Book: Irma Boom, Gunnar A. Kaldewey,
and Hedi Kyle, that allowed us to see three very different
book artists. Boom takes a hold of graphic design and color
and punches forward using offset printing to her advantage.
Gatefolds, tabs and the pure physicality of 200 plus pages that
have been trimmed to reveal strata give us a new way to look
at books.

The Conference

The panels were successful in inspiring ideas from current
letterpress and typography practice to the impact of current
social and political content/practice. Technology today is
always a conversation and the discussion of the world of offset
and digital tools and applications lets us see that we continue
to push our current boundaries. We tend to get caught up in
the immediate issues in front of us–
whatever those issues
may be – but an environment such as the Hybrid Book
Conference challenges us to look outside our bubble. Miller,
Kaldewey and Kyle, with Boom in the exhibition, managed to
provide a solid platform to address many issues.
The conference began in earnest on Friday morning with
four possible sessions to attend. In the first session, speakers
looked to the future of the book arts from academic and
pragmatic directions with two coinciding lectures: Book Arts
in Academia (see inset for further discussion) and The Future
of Letterpress. In the second session, attendees could choose
from Modes of Production: Collaborative Processes or Offset
Applications: Then and Now.
The latter session provided a thoughtful and intelligent
conversation about the use and relevance of offset printing
within its historical context. After Tony White’s complete
account of offset’s timeline, Clifton Meador then proceeded
to expose offset as a subjective medium, a technology
just like any other which fits into, or possibly reflects, the
culture of the time as well as an artist’s interest in form. He
reminded us that the process of offset printing has its own
voice and meaning related to its place in history; because we
think of offset as the norm, as somehow neutral, we tend to
forget that this tool does have a voice, with variations and
translations of color, by reflecting its history in commerce and
advertising, in implying its neutrality. In contrast to Meador’s
relatively academic perspective, Patty Smith finished the
session with a personal history of her relationship with offset,
framing it with the many dichotomies she finds while using
the process. She explained that offset can be both rigid and
versatile, genderless and macho, demanding and easy-going,
amongst other pairings.
Panels on day two explored the hybrid nature of
relationships that occur in bookmaking: text relating to form
and image, collaborations between artists, the book relating
to culture through environment and technology. In Text and
the Hybrid Book, panelists considered the many ways a book
artist might approach the use of text in context, content and
form. Of note in this session, which was moderated by Elysa
Voshell with panelists Jen Bervin, Julie Chen and Robin Price,
was the discussion surrounding generating and finding text,
and the journey to determine, manipulate, and edit it once
found. Chen revealed her brainstorming and mind-mapping
techniques for text generation, while Bervin and Price shared
personal methods and rules to finding and editing secondary
One of the final sessions, The Reciprocity of Books and
Digital Media, moderated by Lori Spencer with panelists Patti
Belle Hastings, Margot Lovejoy and Sue O’Donnell, focused
on the importance of bookmakers keeping technology in their
sights as we move forward in the field. O’Donnell effectively
explained that books and websites have much in common
when looking at the relationship of author to audience: both
involve touch, movement, the ability often to add comments
and interact, and therefore the opportunity for the audience
to become, in part, author as well. This was underscored all
the more when the final speaker, Hastings, pointed out how
people today covet their mobile devices much as they might a
well-read and beloved book.
O’Donnell, and later Lovejoy, pointed out that bookmakers
can expand on both the experience for the audience and
the scope of readership by embracing different modes of
technology in bookmaking by using many media: web,
motion, twitter, interactivity, print on demand, PDFs, etc.
Finally, Hastings completed the panel with an entertaining
and thoughtful discussion of how the digital form is not
only influencing the landscape of book arts, but also how
bookmakers are now commenting on the subjective form
of these digital tools through their work (reminiscent of
Meador’s remarks from the previous day), most notably Rob
Cockerham’s “Kindling: the Wireless Wooden Reading Device
(see kindling01.shtml>).
As a final note, Susan Viguers has informed us that The
Hybrid Book volunteers are expecting to have podcasts of
all the conference sessions available to the general public at
you read this review. We highly recommend visiting them to
further explore these relevant and inspiring panels.

The Hybrid Book Fair

The Hybrid Book Fair accompanied the panel discussions
and consisted of 150 exhibitors occupying 74 tables on
two floors of UArts’ Gershman Hall. So that there were no
conflicting programs the fair was scheduled in the afternoons
after the panels allowing conference attendees to devote their
full attention to the work being exhibited.
Participating artists, presses and organizations were
diverse. While most of the artists and presses were showing
their books, Shana Leino had a table selling her elegant steel
and carved elk bone tools and Oak Knoll had both books
published by their press and a selection of books related to the
book arts. Drew Cameron, Co-Director of the Combat Paper
Project and contributing founder of the Warrior Writers
Project, was part of the panel “Book Art in the Social Sphere”
and also had a booth on the book fair floor selling paper and
books made from the uniforms of veterans. The conference
organizers encouraged student participation with a reduced
price on shared tables and they were well represented with
innovative offerings including Robert Lewis papers made
from fruits and vegetables. Exhibiting organizations included
the Delaware Valley Guild of Book Workers; the Center for
Book Arts in NYC; Philadelphia Center for the Book; and the
Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester.
Two of the largest displays were by booksellers Priscilla
Juvelis at one entrance and Bill and Vicky Stewart of Vamp
& Tramp across the room at the opposite entrance. Occupying three
tables each, they were exhibiting the books of artists they
represented and were also looking to add new artists, which they
both were able to do. Since most book artists are happier making
books than marketing them, there are some very happy book artists.
Viewers included exhibitors and vendors, when they could get away
from their tables, conference attendees, speakers, and the general
public. Ruth Rodgers (Wellesley College), Jae Rossman (Yale), Laurie
Whitehall Chong (RISD) and Arthur Jaffe (Jaffe Center for the Book,
Florida Atlantic University) were among the diligent curators
and special collections librarians who spent the entire 10 hours the
fair was open looking carefully through the work that was
presented, and despite budgetary constraints, purchased
books to add to their collections.
Adjacent to the book fair, on the upper level, was 800,000:
Acknowledge. Remember. Renew. This installation of
800,000 pages in 2,500 books was displayed in 100 coffinlike
crates – one page for each victim and one crate for each
day of the tribal genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994.
Viewers could make a donation and place their handprint
on a page of one of the books. William Snyder, who created
this project, presented it at the panel, “Intersection +
At 4 pm on the second day, awards and purchase prizes
were given by Bright Hill Word and Image Gallery, the
College Book Art Association, Columbia University, The
Free Library of Philadelphia, The Jaffe Center for Book Arts,
Journal of Artists’ Books, Philadelphia Center for the Book,
Swarthmore College, Temple University, The University of
the Arts, the University of Pennsylvania, Wellesley College
and Yale University. Three of the awards were received by
Sun Young Kang, a 2007 MFA graduate of the UA program,
whose elegantly cut and burned boxes deserved all the
acclaim she was given. Final notes: A project as large as
this conference can’t be perfect and requires a tremendous
amount of work, in this case by graduate and undergraduate
students, alumni, faculty and volunteers. The small but
dedicated leadership team showed a vision that for a first
conference was overwhelming. The Hybrid conference 2009 was
born successfully, with many things learned along the way. It’s
important to note that none of this would have happened
without the inspiration and hard work of Susan Viguers,
Amanda D’Amico, Michelle Wilson and Mary Tasillo.
These four women, all artists in their own right, took the
last two years, to build this “hybrid” conference. All in all,
these women managed to create an environment ripe with
opportunity for the whole book arts community. The only
complaint was that UArts has no plans to host similar events
on a regular basis.
As a final note, in addition to the podcasts of the panels,
JAB26 (Fall 2009) Brad Freeman will review the work of
William Snyder and Antonio Serra both of whom received
the JAB Emerging Artist Award for Exemplary Work at the
Hybrid Conference. Snyder’s work encourages viewers to
participate in a larger project of building basic infrastructure
in Rwanda. Serra’s altered publications, pretending to be
mainstream magazines, in fact deliver information that
the US media generally ignore about our wars in Iraq and
In addition, Amanda D’Amico and Michelle Wilson have
written a review of the Hybrid Conference which includes
descriptions of the panels, the exhibitions (Kaldeway, Kyle),
the alumni exhibition, and the book arts fair.
Alisa Fox is currently a print, paper, installation and
book artist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her work
focused on texture and tactile exploration based on the
social structure and the culture in rural Nebraska. She has
recently completed her Masters of Fine Art degree at The
University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She has exhibited
internationally and nationally, most recently curating and
working with the Iraq Veterans Against the War and the
Peoples Republic of Paper in an exhibition in Martha’s
Vineyard, Massachusetts. She currently is exhibited and
represented by Editions Limited Gallery of Indianapolis,
and was previously Associate Professor/Program Chair of
the Fine Art department at Ivy Tech Community College
in Indianapolis. She is online at
Dorothy Simpson Krause work includes large-scale
mixed media pieces, artist books and book-like objects
that bridge between these two forms, but until this book
fair had never shown her books for sale. She is the author
of Book + Art: Handcrafting Artists’ Books published by
North Light in 2009 and co-author of Digital Art Studio:
Techniques for combining inkjet printing with traditional
art materials, published by Watson-Guptill in 2004. She
can be reached at or
Shawn Kathleen Simmons is a book artist and graphic
designer based near Kent, Ohio where she is an Assistant
Professor of Visual Communication Design at Kent
State University. She received her Master of Fine Arts
from Rhode Island School of Design in 2007, where she
studied design and bookmaking. Inspired by her love of
photography, literature, art history and anthropology,
Shawn has focused her most recent creative explorations
on unusual formats and structures with which to convey
her ideas. She can be reached at>.

above copied from:
The BONEFOLDER — Volume 6, No. 1, Fall 2009

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