Sunday, February 6, 2011

On the runway, preparing for take off

One of the interesting things about planning anything is the way the project can quickly gain its own momentum, and head off in a direction that while not completely unexpected, wasn’t what you had anticipated when you started off.  And so it is with Happily Ever After (HEA)…

In the beginning, Caelli and I had thoughts of a small but beautifully executed exhibition of artists’ books, displayed tastefully in pristine glass cases in a white gallery space, everything feeling rather cool, remote and museum-esque. I don’t quite know what happened to that idea. Somewhere along the way we remembered that we loved books, we loved reading and handling them, and that other people would probably like this too. We started talking about spaces designed to help people enjoy books: good coffee shops, libraries, old fashioned reading rooms with leather wing backed chairs and open fires, the bookshelves in second hand booksellers, comfy chairs, seedy sofas and coffee machines.

Caelli got out her black pen and magic marker and started drawing up an entirely different way of exhibiting artists’ books. Basically it’s a mix of the pristine and the accessible: books in glass cases and books on bookshelves, with plenty of comfortable spots to sit down and enjoy them, everything painted white so it’s like a cross between a contemporary art gallery and a library. We’re still discussing whether we can get a decent coffee machine into the gallery. The idea is to get people to not just walk around, look at things and leave, but to sit down and actively engage with what the artists and writers have created.

The organization of the show began to follow this visual plan. We decided to split the show into two sections: an invitation only section and an open section. Basically the division corresponds to the way we’re going to display the books. The invite only section books will mainly be in display cases, while the open section books will be placed in an accessible library section and rotated through a display case. We’re planning to scan and project images from all books onto one of the gallery walls. So far we’ve sent out about forty invitations to the former section, and once we’ve confirmed acceptances we’ll send out an open call for books to the latter section. 

So far we’re delighted to confirm the participation of a growing list of artists, bookmakers and writers including: Deborah Williams, Emma Van Leest, Tony Flowers, Patricia Wilson-Adams, Monica Oppen, Pamela See, Rick Kellum (UK), Nicola Cutter (US), Yvette Sullivan (UK), Karen Robinson Smith, Annemaree Hunter, David Hampton, Samara McIlroy, Donna Townend, Pam Poulson…