Image 4 / 7: Shelf Life. (installation view).
Image 5 / 7: Shelf Life. (installation view).
Image 6 / 7: Shelf Life. (installation view).
Image 7 / 7: Shelf Life. (installation view).
“Somewhere to begin, with the most available of formats, the book. At times merely polemical or critical, using such availability as comment on itself — an intimate object in public space.” — Simon Cutts, forward to Some Forms of Availability
Independent publishing plays a key role in the dissemination of arts and ideas, not just by what gets published but also by how. The authors, artists, printers, poets, and designers working within this context use methods that question traditional ways in which we understand how to make and read publications. Editions ranging from 5 copies to 500 allow an emphasis on the book as object and make way for investigations into how form contributes to comprehension. Independent publishers explore models of production and distribution that provide alternatives to mass market imprints and center around readers’ needs versus market numbers. Designers and book artists challenge everything from typography and page structure to whether a book needs pages at all. Ever present is the idea that a publication is an exchange between an author and a reader, and that the act of reading is also an act of creation, bringing a publication to life. The question is, when authors take big chances, will readers follow?
Shelf Life invites a diverse group of bookmakers (and book-lovers) to the Henry to share their relationship to books and independent publishing. Located in the lobby of the Henry, Shelf Life brings Publication Studio for a week-long residency, features lecture-performances by Sandra Kroupa (University of Washington Book Arts and Rare Book Curator), and hosts poets-in-residence from Wave Books. Poste Restante, an exhibition created by Western Bridge curator Eric Fredericksen and originating at ARTSPEAK in Vancouver, B.C. (April 2011), comes to Shelf Life in the midst of its transformation into a book. Stand Up Comedy from Portland presents a compilation reel of videos about books and book design. The Emancipated Spectator and Gentle Reader, two casual discussion groups, convene monthly to talk about selections from reading lists that include Claire Bishop’s Participation and Alberto Manguel’s A Reader on Reading. In addition, a rotating selection of books from UW Special Collections will be on display, curated by Sandra Kroupa. Visitors are also welcome to explore the independent publications featured on the Shelf Life bookshelves or bring their own publications to read and relax with in the Shelf Life space.