Held at the McCarren Park Pool, the first Brooklyn Art Book Fair, co-produced by Bruce High Quality Foundation University and Endless Editions, kept to the DIY roots of its featured zine-makers and independent publishing companies. Fair attendees moved past gym-goers and community center regulars into the shallow shoebox of a gymnasium lined with colorful booths. The squeaky-floored gym, hand-written name tags, and visibly excited participants evoked pleasant memories of the annual grade school Scholastic Book Fair. The rejection of a typical or “expected” venue resulted in a refreshing focus on the artists and publishers rather than the event itself.
Many of the provocative, experimental works on display responded to the ephemera of the 100-day mark of the new Republican administration. Caroline Paquita, founder of the “feminist, queer total-art-freaker” publishing company, Pegacorn Press, laid out her pink and blue zines that read “Primordial Cooch II” (not to be mistaken for “Primordial Cooch I”) and “Bar Dykes”, alongside an array of floral handkerchiefs with the word “CUNT” printed on them in alternating colors. Paquita created “Primordial Cooch II” after this past election as an homage to representations of fertility throughout time and different cultures. “It’s crazy to think our natural bodies are considered gross, it wasn’t always like this,” she told me. A few booths down, Press Press gave out copies of “The Chilly Smart Model,” a funky-font pink and red newspaper showcasing works from student refugees. The neighboring table was covered in gritty, neon comics and intricate, otherworldly spreads; Desert Island Comics owner Gabe Fowler supplies his store with comics and prints from a handpicked group of international artists and publishers. Whether blatantly liberal or silently globalizing, every booth at the Brooklyn Art Book Fair made a statement.
In our tech-driven world, art is often consumed remotely and quickly — we can scroll through hundreds of images in a blink of an eye and we can just as quickly send off those images to another party who engages with it at an even further level of remoteness. Oftentimes, people are so caught up in memorializing the wonders of a piece of art that they don’t look at it first-hand but instead take it in through the viewfinder of their phone. The intricacies, dimensionalities, and messages of book art almost forcibly require the viewer to put down the phone or camera. A work’s full impact can only be felt through a physical engagement with the piece; This kind of interaction makes tangible art books particularly important, requiring the reader to slow down and fully absorb the work in its fullness. Brooklyn Art Book Fair’s featured works demonstrated thoughtful cultural and political criticism and provoked fair-wide reflection. I encourage those who enjoyed the Brooklyn Art Book Fair to join me in exploring more impactful work at the upcoming NY Art Book Fair.