Presentation Ian Whittlesea at PrintRoom Rotterdam, 2018
Printed matter paradise – an afternoon with Karin de Jong at PrintRoom – Boekenweek 2018
I spent an afternoon in animated conversation with Karin de Jong about PrintRoom, a presentation space and shop for artists’ publications. It is located in the center of Rotterdam and houses a large collection of artists’ publications from flipbooks, photocopied zines to innovatively designed flyer-booklets to full coloured publications. It is a vibrant hub that not only promotes and distributes artists’ publication but functions also as a space where people meet, share ideas and where new projects can be developed and artistic strategies of independent publishing explored.
A variety of publications in all colours and sizes are on display on the wall behind De Jong and spread out on the table between us is a selection of the publications of Ian Whittlesea from the most recent book presentation. Her eyes light up as she explains the significance of artist’s publications. According to her, publishing enables artists to share their ideas, find audiences without being dependent on galleries or other institutions and, most importantly, they can control the whole production process.
Before she dives into the start and development of PrintRoom De Jong stresses the importance of collections, not just of PrintRoom’s collection but of all collections. We are first and foremost familiar with books through libraries and for many the library has played an important role in their lives. As the library is slowly changing and shrinking its public collections, museums are quietly getting rid of their book collections as well. It shows the importance of thinking about book collections. For De Jong that means thinking of the selection process, the responsibility and care for its content, and looking to the future of the collection. Not only the future of the PrintRoom’s collection, also that of others. Since 2014 PrintRoom has been selecting artists’ publications for the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. A project that is coming to an end this year but which she hopes to continue somehow.
For De Jong collecting books involves getting to know the publisher, the artist and the publication. Most of the publications are found at artist book fairs, others through artists and publicists in her network.
[blockquote]In a time of slowly changing libraries and shrinking public book collections, PrintRoom shows the importance of thinking about how and why to keep on collecting
At the very beginning, PrintRoom started as an event and exhibition around artists’ publications at ROOM, which is Dutch for ‘cream’. ROOM was an artist-run space that De Jong founded with three other artist in 1999. It was an alternative space where local artists could exhibit and experiment. De Jong was particularly interested in experimenting with alternative exhibition formats. A pivotal point in the making of PrintRoom was “Shop” a project exploring artist’s parallel practices. She goes on to explain that its open call asked for work of whose status the artists were unsure of. The open call had an international response and along with other mediums, received a fair amount of printed matter. From here the “Shop” became the “Traveling Shop”, as from 2001 to 2002 it travelled to Norway and the South of Italy among other places, always accommodated with a reading room. The amount of printed matter they received made them aware of the importance of the medium of print for artists and designers and of the importance of an alternative space to provide a space for artists and designers to be able to present them, especially since there were hardly any places to see or buy publications at the time.
Self-publishing and self-organising creates independence, PrintRoom tries to take this idea further
In 2003 they had an exhibition on publications, which De Jong describes as a “printed matter paradise”. Through the open call they had an international response and received “heaps of printed matter”. The exhibition showed publications by international artists and publicists alongside a program of performances and workshops. Within the exhibition a reading room was installed. This became the first edition of PrintRoom and the start of its artists’ publications collection, featuring work by Manuel Raeder, Ben Schot, Isabel Carvalho, Mark Pawson, Sally Allato’s Sara Ranchouse Publishing, Miek Zwamborn, to name a few. The following edition was presented at Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art during its research project Social Actors in Transformation. From here the collection of printed matter traveled with De Jong to Melbourne, Australia where she went on a residency at the Gertrude Art Space. Following years the collection travelled within the Netherlands and abroad, at each stop adding new publications to its collection. In 2005 PrintRoom started publishing Parazines, a series of small publications related to PrintRoom’s presentations, that are inserted into related publications found in local art bookstores and museum shops.As the publishing field exploded De Jong wanted to create a space where people could meet, exchange, reflect, share ideas and where new projects could be developed. In 2010 PrintRoom gained a space at the Schietbaanstraat 17, Rotterdam. It enables PrintRoom to be the inviting party, set a program and budget. It became a vibrant hub that not only distributes artists’ publications but hosts talks, presentations, performances, book launches and workshops. PrintRoom purchased a Riso printer in 2011 and then became a space for production as well.
Self-publishing and self-organising creates independence, PrintRoom tries to take this idea further. This is evident in the two latest publication of PrintRoom: NETbooks, first published in 2017, which is a series of publications by PrintRoom and X Marks the Bökship which takes self-publishing as a starting point for other “self-reliance” projects. These projects bring a small group of artists and designers together to zoom in on a particular field of knowledge often through a collaborative activity or workshop. Each of the NET books is based on a selection of findings from the project with an emphasis on process, sharing and collective experience. The first NETbook Seaweed investigates the applications of seaweed. It is a result of a field trip to Neeltje Jans, a small artificial island located just off the Dutch North Sea coast, to gather seaweed guided by experts from Wildwier. The fieldtrip was followed by a collaborative workshop at Aletta de Jong’s studio. Aletta de Jong’s research revolves around discussions on energy, food and ownership. Inserted in the booklet, as Parazines are placed into related publications, is Submerged a poetic text by Miek Zwamborn.
In a time where almost everything can be found online, PrintRoom creates a space where one not only can find a selection of the vast variety of artist’s publications, it also creates a space where artists can meet, exchange and reflect
The second edition of NETbook is Rainwater Autumn Ale the result of a workshop co-hosted by Henriëtte Waal and PrintRoom at the SNV Volkstuin in Blijdorp, Rotterdam. Participants created a local beer from rainwater and autumn leaves with Waal’s Buitenbrouwerij (“outdoor brewery”), a mobile brewing installation. Inserted in Rainwater Autumn Ale is a poetic yet informative text from Vytenis Burokas: Fieldwork: Cloud in a bottle.
The most recent book presentation in PrintRoom from 13 January to 13 February, was Some books and light to read them by; books and an installation by Ian Whittlesea. The presentation consists of books he has published over the last decade together with printed matter that inspired their production. An illustrated booklet with an essay on Ian Whittlesea by Eline Verstege was published by PrintRoom to accompany the presentation. The typeface used for this booklet is Sol San, a typeface designed by Whittlesea. Sol Sans typeface is based on Sol LeWitt’s handwritten publication Sentences on Conceptual Art (1969).
In a time where almost everything can be found online, PrintRoom creates a space where one not only can find a selection of the vast variety of artist’s publications, it also creates a space where artists can meet, exchange and reflect. A space where new ideas can be developed , present and shared. A space to find audiences and like minded people.
Nicole Sciaroneis stagiaire bij Metropolis M