Bridging the gap between contemporary art and publishing

The Prairie Art Book Fair returns to Plug In

The Prairie Art Book Fair aims to bridge the relationship between print publishing and contemporary art. (Supplied photo)

The Prairie Art Book Fair, hosted by Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, celebrated artist books and publishing from Sept. 9 to 11. The event welcomed artists, galleries and publishers to come together and display their work.

According to Erin Josephson-Laidlaw, bookstore manager at Plug In, the Prairie Art Book Fair aims to bridge together the relationship between publishing and contemporary art, allowing for wider distribution.

Josephson-Laidlaw says the relationship between the publishing industry and contemporary art allows for sharing work around the world and throughout different communities.

“Physical publishing is ... a wonderful way for those interested in collecting contemporary art to pick up something accessible, tactile and inventive,” Josephson-Laidlaw says.

“Writing about contemporary art also helps one grow their understanding of (the) work, (as well as the) back and forth between theory and practice in that art. Writing informs the creation of artwork, and art inspires and challenges art criticism.”

Events that took place this year included karaoke, hosted by artists Jimmie Kilpatrick and Peter Morin, a panel discussion lead by Katheryn Gwun-Yeen 君妍 Lennon and Kayla Pascal of Hungry Zine, and a writing workshop hosted by Rebecca La Marre of Apophony Press.

This year marked the third Prairie Art Book Fair. The first event took place in 2018, while the second was held online in 2020. Luther Konadu, the exhibit’s assistant curator, says the first iteration of the fair launched with a regional focus.

“The central intention (of the fair) was looking at how the arts today can exist and extend through printed matter, be it posters, periodicals, zines, postcards, photo books,” Konadu says. “The idea was that publishing printed artifacts gave more access to wider audiences and helped document some of the critical conversations being had in contemporary art today.”

The Prairie Art Book Fair was first introduced as a response to other similar events, such as the Vancouver Art Book Fair and Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair. Travelling to these coastal fairs can be expensive, Josephson-Laidlaw says, so the Prairie Art Book Fair was created to provide a more local fair for people from the Prairies.

“We recognized the importance of these fairs as a way to connect artists and publishers to a receptive audience and to each other,” she says. “We wanted to create a fair that could take place within the Prairies – a place where local art-book makers could gather and share their work and knowledge,” Josephson-Laidlaw says.

More than 15 exhibitors took part in this year’s Prairie Art Book Fair to share that knowledge and experience, including collectives, art galleries, publishers and artists.

Published in Volume 77, Number 02 of The Uniter (September 15, 2022)

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