__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1

THE SALES REP WILL BE RIGHT BACK

Are Not Books & Publications as Performative Publishing, or Notes on Productive NonDocumentation


The Sales Representative Will Be Right Back


The Sales Representative Will Be Right Back Are Not Books & Publications as Performative Publishing, or Notes on Productive Non-Documentation

Are Not Books & Publications


Contents 1. A General Description of the Are Not Books and Publications Project...................................1 1.1. Performative Publishing............................. 4 1.2. Graphic Design in the White Cube...........6 1.3. Collaboration’s Discontents..................... 7 2. Are Not Books & Publications as a Functioning Publisher of Print and Electronic Books............................................ 13 2.1. The Are Not Books Catalog..................... 15 2.2. Editorial Method...................................... 16 2.3. Production Method..................................17 2.4. Marketing Strategy.................................. 18 2.5. An Instance of Publishing...................... 20 3. Are Not Books & Publications as an Academic Research Program........................ 21 3.1. Academic Research.................................24 3.2. Research Methodology...........................25 3.3. Knowledge Production...........................28

Appendix 1. Exhibiting the Are Not Books Project in Academic Conference, and Trade Book Fair Contexts.............................. 37 Appendix 2. Exhibiting the Are Not Books Project in Museum, Gallery, and Art Book Contexts ......................................................... 47


Chapter 1 A General Description of the Are Not Books & Publications Project


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

Publishing as the Critical Practice of Graphic Design. Wheaton, IL: Are Not Books, 2014, 108 pages. 2


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

The Are Not Books & Publications project is both a functioning publisher of print and electronic books, and an academic research program. Are Not Books & Publications has published more than twelve titles (fifteen printed volumes), all of which were written or edited, designed, and typeset by the Are Not Studio. All titles are available to read online, or to be purchased as print-on-demand paperbacks at the cost of printing (without a publisher’s markup). This project begins with an understanding of design as an opportunity “to infiltrate and use the system of other disciplines by stealth.” 1 The intention of the Are Not Books & Publications project is to utilize a strategy of “infiltration by stealth,” 1. The phrase is from James Goggin, in Ericson, Magnus. Iaspis Forum on Design and Critical Practice: The Reader. Stockholm: Iaspis, 2009, p. 33. 3


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

while applying it to the field of academic and scholarly publishing; encroaching strategically on this field’s disciplinary territory, for the purpose of critical reflection. 1.1. “Performative” Publishing Are Not Books participates as an exhibitor at academic confernces, trade, and art book fairs. Are Not Books also exhibits in museum and gallery contexts. In all cases, the intention is to exhibit “performatively”—presenting books, artifacts, and physical objects as if they are being promoted for sale. While exhibiting in an academic conference, trade, or book fair context, table and display methods are virtually indistinguishable from the commercial and non-profit participants. As a result, publications are distributed, while simultaneously (if subtly and almost imperceptably) reflecting on the current state, recent changes, and ongoing

4


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

conditions within the field of academic and scholarly publishing.2 In a museum or gallery context, the sales table is in an entirely different set and setting. The performative quality of the display in this case, is focused on the museum’s institutional context, generally, and on the problematic role of graphic design in the “white cube,” more specifically. 2. Some of the “ongoing issues” within scholarly publishing include predatory for-profit publishing practices; concerns about the effectiveness of the peer review process; and an over-acceleration of editorial, vetting, and publishing processes resulting from pressures on junior academics to produce quickly and regularly. For a summary of these issues see The Enemies of Promise: Publishing, Perishing, and the Eclipse of Scholarship, by Lindsay Waters, Executive Editor for the Humanities at Harvard University Press (Waters, Lindsay. The Enemies of Promise. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2004). 5


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

1.2. Graphic Design in the White Cube Graphic design does not always fit well in a museum or gallery setting. As Rachel Berger explains, most graphic design is small and flat. Small and flat, of course, lends itself well to mass reproduction and wide distribution, but it does not command a room. Once the product of a design practice does begin to command a room, people no longer think of it as graphic design. The gallery and the museum are the natural habitat Over-accelerated production cycles are also caused by the increased efficiency made possible by digital production and electronic distribution. See Triple Canopy, Inc. Invalid Format: An Anthology of Triple Canopy (New York: Canopy Canopy Canopy, Inc, 2011); A. Williamson, “What Happened to Peer Review?� Paper presented at an International Learned Journals Seminar, London, April 12, 2002 (accessed at alpsp.org); and 6


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

of a precious singularity. The dollar store, in Berger’s example—the trade show, or academic conference, in the case of the Are Not Books project—is the “temple of the multiple.” 3 1.3. Collaboration’s Discontents Graphic design is not easily compared to the “relational aesthetics” movement as defined by Nicolas Bourriaud. Instead, design engaged in what is often called “social practice” or “participation art,” must go beyond the merely dialectical, or relational, to include an aesthetic or conceptual element capable of surprising, confusing, frustrating, or enlightening.

Karen Coyle, “Predatory Publishing/Peer to Peer Review,” Library Journal April, 2013; accessed at libraryjournal.com. 3. Rachel Berger, in Sueda, Jon, The Way Beyond Art: The Wide White Space (San Francisco, CA: CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, 2012), p. 74. 7


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

The goal in the case of critical design is to introduce an awkward distance, slowing-down, slippage, or critical space into the pre-existing relational situation always already present in the work of graphic design. At the risk of stating the obvious, the difference between art and design is that design has the relational element “built-in.” Graphic design engages with a client, user, reader, or customer without the additional mediation of a gallery or museum. In a similar way, the Are Not Books project, functioning as a critical form of design, remains “on the street,” engaged with “everyday life” outside the gallery, studio, or showroom. Unlike conventional, merely instrumental, design, critical graphic design simultaneously performs a reflection on, or examination of, the “everyday” situation with which it is in dialogue.

8


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

“Collaboration’s discontents,” according to the art historian Claire Bishop, are those who would require relational art to be more than merely socially engaged, or discursive.4 Works of art and design capable of blurring the line between art and life—between objects of contemplation and artifacts of quotidian utility—must provide an aesthetic jolt in the tradition of the historical avant-garde.5 Museums and gallery spaces make the art object autonomous. Socially engaged art imposes an instrumentality, or utility on the work of art. 4. Claire Bishop, “The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents.” Artforum, February 2006, p. 183. 5. Bishop traces this defining characteristic of the historic avant-garde back to its origin in the Dada Season, or Grand Saison Dada, of 1921 (Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, London: Verso, 2012, p. 66). As Grant H. Kester puts it, “the avant9


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

The goal is not just “discourse,” in other words. The discursive is minimally productive or beneficial. Instead, the

garde work of art should radically challenge [the viewer’s] faith in the very possiblity of rational discourse. This tendency is based on the assumption that the shared discursive systems (linguistic, visual, etc.) on which we rely for our knowledge of the world are dangerously abstract and violently objectifying. Art’s role is to shock us out of this perceptual complacency, to force us to see the world anew. This shock has borne many names over the years: the sublime, alienation effect, l’amour fou, and so on. In each case the result is a kind of epiphany that lifts viewers outside the familiar boundaries of a common language, existing modes of representation, and even their own sense of self” (Grant H. Kester, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004, p. 12; cited in Koskinen, Design Research Through Practice, p. 106). 10


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

goal of a design project like Are Not Books is to introduce something of the odd, absurd, eccentric, awkward, poetic, or pleasurable into the routine, everyday activities of communication, documentation, production, and distribution.

11


Chapter 2 Are Not Books as a Functioning Publisher of Print and Electronic Books


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

A Useless Guide to Book Design, Wheaton, IL: Are Not Books & Publications, 2013, 245 pages. 14


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

As a functioning publisher of print and electronic books, Are Not Books operates as an examination, and an example, of what has been called “micro-publishing.� The publishing taken up by such critical, small-scale publishing ventures is entirely controlled by the designer, along with a small group of collaborators. Writing, editing, design, production, and distribution roles are restricted so as to be minimally influenced by outside concerns. As a result, the form and content of the publications can be critically and reflexively about the practice of design and publishing. 2.1. The Are Not Books Catalog Are Not Books has published twelve books and pamphlets (fifteen printed volumes by 2014). Titles include The Tree of the World; Saints and Guides; A Distant Ecclesiology; Protestant Erotics; Wisdom, Like Style, Is; Rust City Renovation; The Is Not Baseball 15


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

Book; Johann Arndt (Four Volumes); Selections from W.B. Yeats; Publishing as the Critical Practice of Graphic Design; A Useless Guide to Book Design; and Notes On Design Education. 2.2. Editorial Method The Are Not Books & Publications editorial strategy can be described as wandering, flaneur-like, addressing any idea that might be interesting at the time. Our method is something like a recuperation of the Situationist technique of dérive, “operating within the archive, allowing the discovery of hidden ambiences.”1 Each book and edition simply grows out of conversations the author, friends, and associates happen to be having at the time.2 1. McKenzie Wark, 50 Years of Recuperation of the Situationist International (New York: Buell Center/FORuM Project, Columbia University, and Princeton Architectural Press, 2008), pp. 15–20. 16


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

2.3. Production Method The Are Not Books & Publications project’s printed books are produced like websites. Print-on-demand technology allows each copy to be an independent edition. Editorial changes can, and often are, made between each printing. Technological developments are embraced while being utilized in a slowed-down fashion.3 The resulting hybrid print-and-digital artifact look final, complete, and total, 2. Mai Abu ElDahab quotes Stuart Bailey as describing the editorial process of Dot Dot Dot this way in Mai Abu El Dahab, From Berkeley to Berkeley: Objectif Exhibitions 2008-2010 (Berlin: Sternberg, 2011), p. 5. 3. Compare to Triple Canopy’s stated intention to “slow down the internet,” in Triple Canopy, Inc., Invalid Format: An Anthology of Triple Canopy (New York: Canopy Canopy Canopy, Inc, 2011); and Triple Canopy, “The Binder and the Server.” Art Journal Volume 70, Number 4 (Winter 2011), pp. 40–57. 17


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

while remaining partial, contingent, provisional, and mutable. Graphic designer and artist Will Holder’s practice has been described in a similar way:

Will Holder is a British typographer who edits and publishes. The work, always grasped by enjoyment, genuinely being worked out, and yet, the proper form seems never (humorously, nicely) totally arrived at. Increasingly, each publication by Holder seems to be edited with the knowledge of some future edition (like how one edits previous pages after completing the final pages, then edits the final pages again, then the previous pages again, etc.), as if Holder’s work were a single thing that is being released in burps.4

2.4. Marketing Strategy Our method for taking each publication “to market” follows very closely a strategy described by curator and critic Anthony Huberman: “trust in the self4. source: yucontemporary.org/holder 18


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

selecting process whereby those who are interested in what [you] do will find their way to [you] and get in touch.” 5 We only care, in other words, about those who care. The goal is cultural transactions that are not based on competition, or the accumulation of capital. We are interested, instead, in a gift economy made up sympathies; of “friends who care.” 6 This will necessarily involve smaller groups of people, as Huberman puts it, and “if that sounds apolitical or timid, it isn’t.” Huberman quotes critic and curator Jan Vorwoert on this topic: “a culture governed by the economic imperative makes good manners the closest you might get to civil disobedience.” 7 5. Anthony Huberman, “How to Behave Better,” Bulletins of the Serving Library (New York: The Serving Library, 2009), p. 7. 6. Compare to Lewis Hyde, The Gift (New York: Vintage, 2009). 7. Huberman, “Behave Better,” p. 7. 19


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

2.5. An Instance of Publishing The original books, pamphlets, posters, and other publications on display have all been written, edited, and designed by Are Not Books & Publications. Exhibiting these publications can be understood to constitute an instance of “publishing”—making public the formal, linguistic, and other artistic content of the printed material and installation. The term publication refers in this case to both the individual copies of the printed material on display, and the overall exhibition. The experience and interaction of the viewer with the installation opens up the meaning of publication to include a participatory, performative element not always found, or explicitly intended in more commercial instantiations of “publishing” activities.

20


Chapter 3 Are Not Books as an Academic Research Program


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

The Is Not Baseball Book. Wheaton, IL: Are Not Books & Publications, 2013, 67 pages. 22


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

As a research program, Are Not Books is a practice-based inquiry into publishing as critical graphic design. It is constructed to operate as an instance of critical design investigating the nonmodern and emblematic elements intrinsic to the practice of graphic design. In this context, “graphic design” is being defined expansively, as having to do with the combined written and visual elements of contemporary knowledge production.1 It is important to note that 1. On contemporary knowledge production and (nonmodern) visual metalinguistics, see especially Joseph Grigely, Textualterity: Art, Theory and Textual Criticism (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1998); Joseph Grigely, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, and Zak Kyes, Joseph Grigely: Exhibition Prosthetics (London: Bedford Press, 2010); and “The Emblem: Words & Pictures, Visual Metalinguistics in the Renaissance,” in A Useless Guide to Book Design (Wheaton, IL: Are Not Books, 2013). 23


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

the task of knowledge production is not to be confused with, or limited to, the the more narrow tasks of knowledge communication or documentation. 3.1. Academic Research We have chosen to describe this work as “academic” because its primary function is to produce textual and graphical scholarship and design research (for more on why we choose to describe this work as “research,” see the “research methodology” immediately below). The work of Are Not Books & Publications might also be described as “academic” because its field of activity includes academic conferences and exhibitions. If for no other reason, this project is “academic” because it has been given form in an educational environment. It was developed in school, under the auspices of an educational program.

24


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

3.2. Research Methodology Our research method follows what Stuart Walker has described as “practice-based design research.” 2 Such a process, Walker writes,

might be better described as “design scholarship” or “scholarly research,” both of which imply academic learning and attainment but without such strong connotations of systematic method and primary data acquisition.” 3

2. Stuart Walker, “Imagination’s Promise: Practice-Based Design Research for Sustainablity,” in in Stuart Walker and Jacques Giard, eds. The Handbook of Design for Sustainability (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), pp. 453 ff. Thanks to Professor Dennis Doordan for making us aware of this text. 3. “For the discipline of design,” Walker writes, “practice is a primary mode of discovery and a significant facet of the learning process, but its contingent nature tends to defy systematization” (“Imagination’s Promise,” p. 447). 25


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

Similarly, critical design researchers Ramia Mazé and Johan Redström have suggested that research within the field of critical design, specifically, also always begins with practice. “In critical practice,” they write, “the designed object might be understood as a sort of materialized form of discourse.” The “‘object as discourse’ and ‘design as research’ provides an essential basis for thinking about how to combine intellectual and operational modalities for contesting and further developing design from within.”4 The Are Not Books research method procedes according to the following protocol. We engage in the practice of writing, editing, designing, producing, and distributing books and publications. The process of 4. Ramia Mazé and Johan Redström, “Difficult Forms: Critical Practices of Design and Research,” Research Design Journal, January 2009, p. 33. 26


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

design and production is then followed by the performance of the books’ display in conference, trade show, museum, gallery, and online settings. Finally, the “performative” display of each publication, in conference and exhibition settings, is presented as the outcome, result, or deliverable, of the research process. The performance, it should be noted, is documented, but the resulting published documentation should not be construed as the outcome of the research. Instead, the publication of all performance documentation takes its place alongside the previously produced books and publications, to be included in the next performance, or display. The documentation of research results and findings, is, in other words, to be taken only as a continuation of our design practice, and not as an additional outcome, or result.

27


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

3.3. Nonmodern Knowledge Production As already stated, the Are Not Books project is intended to operate as an instance of critical design investigating the nonmodern, symbolic, and emblematic elements required for the process of contemporary knowledge production. What, one might ask, is that supposed to mean? First, it should be pointed out that we are using the word “knowledge” (as in “knowledge production”), here, very loosely. It is intended to mean something more like a subtle emotional response, sympathy, or experience; an interaction, participation, or communication with an object of knowledge. As it relates to the command or mastery of information, data, or expertise, “nonmodern knowledge” indicates something more like inquiry, exploration, or not-knowing. An ancient example of what we are here calling 28


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

“nonmodern knowledge” is the famous Socratic dictum: “I know that I know nothing.” It is not intended to indicate a positive, rational knowledge, but rather a quality of interpretation, participation, or collectively arrived-at knowing. It is no coincidence that both the Socratic method, and recent critical methods of design are described as “discursive.” “Nonmodern” can simply be taken to mean “contemporary.” To the extent that the modern indicates a discrete historical period,5 the contemporary, or 5. “Modernity” as a historically discrete period is, of course, not uncontroversial. Marshall Berman contrasts an oversimplified modern era from: (1) “modernity,” a generalized mode of experience; (2) “modernization,” a set of world-historical, social processes; and “modernism,” an ideology intended to make people both the subjects and objects of modernization. (Berman, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity [New York: Penguin, 1988], pp. 15–16). 29


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

“nonmodern,” is meant to be taken as distinct from the modern. Less simply, and more closely pertaining to graphic design and design research, “nonmodern” is a necessary indicator of what the philosopher and art theorist Boris Groys has described as the contemporary “obligation to selfdesign.” 6 The work of the contemporary designer has become radically deprofessionalized when compared to the work of the (high-)modern designer. As a result, “nonmodern” design work is no longer subject to aesthetic, visual categories. Instead, like conceptual art, it is best evaluated according to the formal logic of discourse, linguistics, poetics, and rhetoric. As Groys puts it, conceptual art marks the point at which “the relations between objects are the basis of the artwork.” 7 6. Boris Groys, “The Obligation to SelfDesign,” in Going Public (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2010). 30


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the discourse around art and design was dominated by the aesthetic point of view. Today, however, a shift has occurred from aesthetics, to poetics and rhetoric. The modern era approached art and design, in other words, from the point of view of the spectator. Now we approach art and design from the point of view of the producer. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Groys explains, professional artists and designers were in the minority, while spectators made up the majority of the general population. As a result, a professional academic discourse developed from the perspective of the highly trained, expert spectator. Today, however, in what we are describing as the “nonmodern” 7. Boris Groys, “Introduction—Global Conceptualism Revisited,” e-flux Journal, November 2011, p. 1. 31


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

era, designers far outnumber nondesigners. Anyone who has created a public persona on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, for example, has designed a brand, and promoted a rhetoricallydetermined identity. Cultural producers have become the norm, while cultural participants operating exclusively from the perspective of spectators are increasingly rare. We are all obliged to (self-) design.8 Another set of “nonmodern knowledge” categories include the ongoing interest in “object oriented ontologies” and “actor-network theory.”9 Ideas like these can be 8. Boris Groys, “Introduction—Global Conceptualism Revisited,” e-flux Journal, November 2011, pp. 1–11 9. This phrase is, of course, Bruno Latour’s, from whom we have also taken our use of the term “nonmodern.” See especially We Have Never Been Modern (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1993), chapter 5.4: “The Nonmodern Constitution.” 32


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

understood as reactions against (1) a sense of dematerialization resulting from the widespread production of digital artifacts, and (2) the effect postfordist (non-factory), and immaterial labor conditions have on our perception of the body. Knowledge production in this context might begin with what Bruno Latour suggests as a shift from an increasingly cheapened notion of “object” (as in a monographic, unified, smoothly articulated, discrete entity, or fact), toward the original meaning of the word “thing.” As readers of Heidegger know, Latour writes, “the old word ‘thing’ or ‘ding’ designated originally a certain type of archaic assembly.” 10 10. Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, eds. Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2005), pp. 22–23. See also Martin Heidegger, What Is a Thing?, translated by W.B. Barton, Jr., and Vera Deutsch (Chicago: Regnery, 1968). 33


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

Elsewhere, according to critic and curator Dieter Roelstraete, Heidegger described books as “voluminous letters written to friends.” Anyone who has ever “made” a book, Roelstrate continues, will immediately grasp the depth of feeling communicated in this admittedly romantic view of the book publishing business. No matter how strained the relationship between writer, editor, translator, designer, publisher, printer, and book-seller can become, there is no denying the intimacy that is engendered by poring over the book as a labor of love that has required the ‘befriending’, however formal and economically dictated, of so many different parties.11

Solitary individuals, producing traditional, socially progressive, modern works of creativity, novelty, innovation, and authenticity have been completely 11. Dieter Roelstraete, “Art Books Now: Seven Theses (From An Accomplice’s Point of View).” Dot Dot Dot 12, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006, p. 64. 34


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

co-opted by business interests. As John Thackara put it in 1988, “the commodity production of knowledge has become central to corporate profit-making, and the urge to increase efficiency in this process has led to the growing fragmentation of tasks.�12 The work of Are Not Books is, by way of contrast, intended to be synthetic and de-specialized. Each book is produced by a highly contingent, provisional set of ideas loosely held together. Groups of ideas and quotations are allowed to inform one other. Each book functions as a partial inquiry; it looks finished, but does not presume to be authoritative or final. Because each role is taken on by one person, or small group of people working together, the tasks of the editor, author, and designer are transgressed and de-specialized. Our explicit intent is to produce a different kind of 12. Thackara, Design After Modernism (London: Thames and Hudson, 1988), p. 28. 35


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

“knowledge,” by reversing the modernist tendency toward instrumental efficiency through the division of tasks. Theoretical sources and precedents for this type of work can be found in Walter Benjamin’s “Author as Producer;” 13 the “Death of the Author,” by Roland Barthes;14 and Umberto Eco’s “Form as Social Commitment.” 15

13. Walter Benjamin, “The Author as Producer” (1934), collected in Selected Writings Volume 2, Part 2 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005), pp. 768–782. 14. “Death of the Author,” in Roland Barthes and Stephen Heath, Image, Music, Text (New York: Noonday Press, 1977), pp. 142–148. 15. Umberto Eco, The Open Work (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 123–157. 36


Appendix 1 Exhibiting the Are Not Books Project in Academic Conference and Book Fair Contexts


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

Exhibiting the Are Not Books & Publications project at an academic conference & book fair. 38


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

As stated more briefly above, while exhibiting in academic conference and trade fair contexts, the Are Not Books tables and displays are virtually indistinguishable from other commercial and nonprofit booksellers. As a result, the Are Not Books project is able to publish and distribute books while simultaneously (if subtly and almost imperceptably) reflecting on the current state, recent changes, and ongoing conditions within the field of academic and scholarly publishing.1 1. As noted in chapter one, above, some of the “ongoing issues� within scholarly publishing include predatory for-profit publishing practices; concerns about the effectiveness of the peer review process; and an over-acceleration of editorial, vetting, and publishing processes resulting from pressures on junior academics to produce quickly and regularly. For a summary of these issues see The Enemies of Promise: Publishing, Perishing, and the Eclipse of Scholarship, by Lindsay Waters, 39


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

Writing, design, publishing, sales, marketing, and distribution in such a setting can be understood as a productive performance. The publication you are reading, for example, is not only a documentation of several academic and cultural

Executive Editor for the Humanities, Harvard University Press (Lindsay Waters, The Enemies of Promise [Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2004]). Over-accelerated production cycles are also caused by the increased efficiency made possible by digital production and electronic distribution. See Triple Canopy, Inc. Invalid Format: An Anthology of Triple Canopy (New York: Canopy Canopy Canopy, Inc, 2011); A. Williamson, “What Happened to Peer Review?” Paper presented at an International Learned Journals Seminar, London, April 12, 2002 (accessed at alpsp.org); and Karen Coyle, “Predatory Publishing/Peer to Peer Review,” Library Journal April, 2013; accessed at libraryjournal.com. 40


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

exhibitions, but an additional production to be performed—published, distributed, “marketed,” and “sold”. Sales Methodology First sales pitch (interaction): Disappointing the “buyer.” This exchange is essentially the same as it is when a trade show attendee or “customer” is merely looking for free stuff. The sales pitch in this case is limited to telling the person about the (non-)order form. Essentially: “you can read the entire book online, or print one at-cost (without a publisher’s markup).” Second sales pitch (interaction): Engaging with the already interested person. This very rewarding experience involves talking to someone who’s sympathetic and informed. 1. One such person, for example, is an art and religion editor (he mentioned that he established the religion line at a well-known academic publisher). 41


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

He currently works as a publishing director for a large international art museum. Because the subject of several of our titles are religious, this interlocutor mentioned that he finds ways to get his publisher of art books to take on religion titles by describing them as “cultural.” He generously took us through his most recent catalog of publications, pointing out the religion titles he’s managed to insinuate into the list. 2. Another participant is a graduate student in Media Studies, researching “political media, activist and advocacy media, cybernetics, and industrialized consciousness.” This interlocutor had a deep knowledge of religion and theology (the subject, again, of several of our books). We discussed Medium Religion, by Boris Groys, and he mentioned theopoetics and ecoprocess theology. 42


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

Third sales pitch (interaction): Disappointing the interested person because they are informed, and we are not. With one customer / interlocutor, a well-known author and professor at a midwestern art school, we started the conversation, but then let it drop. The conversation had quickly became one-sided. When we told this particular customer-participant that Are Not Books is an exercise in performative publishing he / she was understandably not happy. Fourth sales pitch (interaction): An Associate Professor of Art History at a large midwestern university engaged us in discussion about the book Rust City Renovation: Toledo, Ohio. She mentioned that she teaches a course on Detroit. Toledo is a similar, nearby city that doesn’t get the credit it deserves, she said. Toledo is especially deserving of attention, according to this interlocutor, because of the great 43


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

Progressive Era Mayor Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones (1846–1904). Fifth sales pitch (interaction): An editor from a University Press photographed our “Sales Representative Will Be Right Back” sign, saying: “My favorite sign of all time.”

44


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

Insincere signage: The Are Not Books trade show letter board (top), and a plaque from Marcel Broodthaers’s Museum (Brussels, 1968), photo by Andrew Russeth. 45


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

Exhibiting the Are Not Books & Publications project at the Snite Museum of Art.

46


Appendix 2 Exhibiting the Are Not Books Project in Museum, Gallery, and Art Book Contexts

Note: this appendix repeats material already presented in chapter one, above.


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

In a gallery or museum, the Are Not Books & Publications sales table is in an entirely different set and setting. The performative quality of the display in this case, is focused on the museum’s institutional context, generally,1 and on the problematic role of graphic design in the “white cube,” more specifically (see chapter one, above). 2

1. For our approach to the institutional context of the museum, we take as our model Marcel Broodthaers’s “insincerity.” 2. Compare to Rachel Berger, in Jon Sueda, The Way Beyond Art: The Wide White Space (San Francisco, CA: CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, 2012), p. 74. Graphic design does not always fit well in a museum or gallery setting. As Berger explains, the gallery and the museum are the natural habitat of a precious singularity. The dollar store, in Berger’s example—the trade show, or academic conference, in the case of the Are Not Books project—is the “temple of the multiple.” 48


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

Graphic Design in the White Cube Graphic design does not always fit well in a museum or gallery setting. As Rachel Berger explains, most graphic design is small and flat. Small and flat, of course, lends itself well to mass reproduction and wide distribution, but it does not command a room. Once the product of a design practice does begin to command a room, people no longer think of it as graphic design. The gallery and the museum are the natural habitat of a precious singularity. The dollar store, in Berger’s example—the trade show, or academic conference, in the case of the Are Not Books project—is the “temple of the multiple.” 3

3. Rachel Berger, in Sueda, Jon, The Way Beyond Art: The Wide White Space (San Francisco, CA: CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, 2012), p. 74. 49


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

Collaboration’s Discontents Graphic design is not easily compared to the “relational aesthetics” movement as defined by Nicolas Bourriaud. Instead, design engaged in what is often called “social practice” or “participation art,” must go beyond the merely dialectical, or relational, to include an aesthetic or conceptual element capable of surprising, confusing, frustrating, or enlightening. The goal in the case of critical design is to introduce an awkward distance, slowing-down, slippage, or critical space into the pre-existing relational situation always already present in the work of graphic design. At the risk of stating the obvious, the difference between art and design is that design has the relational element “built-in.” Graphic design engages with a client, user, reader, or customer without the additional mediation of a gallery or museum. 50


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

In a similar way, the Are Not Books project, functioning as a critical form of design, remains “on the street,” engaged with “everyday life” outside the gallery, studio, or showroom. Unlike conventional, merely instrumental, design, critical graphic design simultaneously performs a reflection on, or examination of, the “everyday” situation with which it is in dialogue. “Collaboration’s discontents,” according to the art historian Claire Bishop, are those who would require relational art to be more than merely socially engaged, or discursive.4 Works of art and design capable of blurring the line between art and life—between objects of contemplation and artifacts of quotidian utility—must provide an aesthetic jolt in the tradition of the

4. Claire Bishop, “The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents.” Artforum, February 2006, p. 183. 51


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

historical avant-garde.5 Museums and gallery spaces make the art object autonomous. Socially engaged art imposes an instrumentality, or utility on the work of art.

5. Bishop traces this defining characteristic of the historic avant-garde back to its origin in the Dada Season, or Grand Saison Dada, of 1921 (Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, London: Verso, 2012, p. 66). As Grant H. Kester puts it, “the avantgarde work of art should radically challenge [the viewer’s] faith in the very possiblity of rational discourse. This tendency is based on the assumption that the shared discursive systems (linguistic, visual, etc.) on which we rely for our knowledge of the world are dangerously abstract and violently objectifying. Art’s role is to shock us out of this perceptual complacency, to force us to see the world anew. This shock has borne many names over the years: the sublime, alienation effect, l’amour fou, and so on. In each case the result is a kind 52


The Sales Rep Will Be Right Back

The goal is not just “discourse,” in other words. The discursive is minimally productive or beneficial. Instead, the goal of a design project like Are Not Books is to introduce something of the odd, absurd, eccentric, awkward, poetic, or pleasurable into the routine, everyday activities of communication, documentation, production, and distribution.

of epiphany that lifts viewers outside the familiar boundaries of a common language, existing modes of representation, and even their own sense of self” (Grant H. Kester, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004, p. 12; cited in Koskinen, Design Research Through Practice, p. 106). 53


1st edition, March 2014 2nd edition, March 2014 3rd edition, September 2014 Retypeset edition, August 2018 Are Not Books & Publications Wheaton, Illinois and Temple, Texas arenotbooks.com Are Not Notes are published by Are Not Books & Publications As artists, writers, and designers, not author-ities, we are intellectually curious and thoroughly critical, but with no aspiration or pretense to anything like expertise or authority. Indeed, our goal is to remain anonymous, and to acquire no reputation. This print-on-demand edition was not copy-edited or proofread. Every reasonable attempt has been made to identify owners of copyright. Errors or omissions will be corrected in subsequent editions.


THE SALES REP WILL BE RIGHT BACK

Are Not Books & Publications as Performative Publishing, or Notes on Productive NonDocumentation

Profile for Are Not Books & the Nonnus Studio

Salesrep issuu  

A few notes on performative publishing and non-documentation.

Salesrep issuu  

A few notes on performative publishing and non-documentation.

Profile for nonnus