Ahead of the second installment of the Artist Self-Publishers’ Fair (ASP), which brings together over 70 artist self-publishers, organisers Dan Mitchell and Sara MacKillop discuss what self-publishing can mean, and what's different this year.
Defining artists and self-publishing is not easy, but in 2015 we achieved something special with ASP. The feedback from the artists involved was tremendous and we are very grateful for all of their efforts and willingness to turn up and show their work. This is the primary reason we have decided to do it again. ASP is unique among fairs in providing a place for artist self-publishers to show their wares to the public, and now we have the opportunity to be even more inclusive as the fair is 50% bigger than last year. We can't say at this stage whether that will work out as a good thing, but we hope it does: more equals merrier.
Looking at what gets represented in ASP, there is so much possibility for fluidity: to let ideas drift in and out of the finished publications, to let the publications drift from one form to another, from hand-made to industrial process, one-offs to multiples. This lack of enforced structure means that the self-published material can act as either the artists’ actual practice, as an experiment, or as something in between. Ideas can come up that fit a format, or the format can fit an idea. The work can stand alone or be dependant on an event, such as a catalogue. There are no rules.
Ideas can come up that fit a format, or the format can fit an idea. The work can stand alone or be dependant on an event, such as a catalogue. There are no rules.
The medium can be very fast or very slow. Worked out in an hour or two and sent to print, or months can go by as material, ideas and collaborators are collected together, with days spent printing pages and assembling the finished work. This variety in the medium seems to be present in its inception, working and launching. Some of these works are easy to find through the internet, others nearly impossible, only popping up from time to time. Some have been going for over 40 years, others appear once and are never seen again.
The publications-as-products tend to defy 'luxury' branding, but can become highly collectable. ASP concentrates on the reasonably affordable, and not on the luxury end of the market with bespoke or highly-prized editioned works. This is evidenced by our core aim of keeping all display stalls for artists at ASP absolutely free. We would never like to see the day when we felt it was okay to charge people for a table to display their work. Self-publishing isn't about money, it's about freedom. This may seem at odds with our statement that "all publications must be for sale", but in fact publications that are free tend to be funded, and as such have a prohibitive effect on the sales at fairs. If the audience gets something for free, then it gets harder for them to part with their money. Artists need money because it allows them to keep making work, so if we can sell enough publications to have another fair then we are being successful from all points of view.
We would never like to see the day when we felt it was okay to charge people for a table to display their work.
We hope to make an ASP the Third, but at this point we have no idea if that's possible or desirable. The challenges we face over the next twelve months will be the same for other people: how to get out of bed in the morning, what to do, how to deal with the world around us, what does this mean, what does that mean. So basically we have no idea. The process seems to be: talk about it for a bit, feel your way through and then either make a commitment to put in some action or not.
The main point—or indeed the only point—is to come along. Come down to the ICA on 10 September, meet the artists, buy some of their work, and have some fun. See what you like, see what disturbs you, see what makes you laugh, see what makes you want to get out the matches and build a little fire. ■
Artist Self-Publishers’ Fair (ASP) - The Sequel takes place at the ICA on 10 September.