Exploring the economy and circulation of printed matter within the art world

Credit: Plastiques Photography

Credit: Plastiques Photography

castillo/corrales (f.2007, France) is a non-profit organization run on a volunteer basis by a group of artists, curators, writers and graphic designers. castillo/corrales’ project The Social Life of the Book is a collection of commissioned texts considering how books engage with the circulation of ideas and the agency of social situations. It brings together artists, publishers, writers, designers and booksellers who consider books less as finished objects than spaces of disruptive potential with the ability to produce new relationships, publics and meanings. For Frieze Projects 2015, in response to the complex interplay of art writing, publication and production at the fair, castillo/corrales will commission new limited-edition publications that respond to the economy and circulation of printed matter within the art world. To entice readers into the ecosystem of knowledge, writing and publishing, castillo/ corrales will present a series of events throughout Frieze Week and a specially designed environment at the fair. 

Since its inception in 2007, it has been conceived of as a self-sustainable project – a new type of art space in Paris that provides artists, professionals and audiences with an intimate and informal environment conducive to experimentation, discussion and learning. castillo/corrales founded the bookstore Section 7 Books, and the publishing house Paraguay Press to consider the “space” of the book as an extension of artistic, critical and curatorial thinking into a graphic, mobile, democratic and durable form. castillo/corrales also operates as a curators’ collective and has organized exhibitions and events in venues such as Yale Union, Portland (forthcoming, 2015); Art Metropole, Toronto (2013); Culturgest, Porto (2011); Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis (2010); ICA, London (2009); Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie, Berlin (2009); and the Nam June Paik Art Center, Seoul (2008). 

Frieze Projects is a non-profit programme of artists’ commissions realised annually at Frieze London and supported by the LUMA Foundation.

Additional support for Frieze Projects is provided by Arts Council England.

A conversation between castillo/corrales and Frieze Projects Curator Nicola Lees

Nicola Lees: Perhaps the best place to start is the first publication in the series The Social Life of the Book, by Oscar Tuazon. He was one of the founding members of castillo/corrales in 2007, and his book was very much about the production of books, so it embodies the project in its construction. How did the project begin and how does it relate to the content of Oscar’s book Making Books (Faire des livres) (2011)?

castillo/corrales: Oscar’s text was mostly personal, and it was connected to his own work—it wasn’t conceived of as a manifesto or a blueprint for the series. We think it’s important that with this first text Oscar was putting together a totally different set of questions and points of reference than those that are ordinarily acknowledged in the traditional discourse about artists’ books. On the other hand, like most projects at castillo/corrales, The Social Life of the Book grew organically from different discussions connected to books. We have always treated books at the same level as artworks, as objects in connection with other objects or propositions by artists. Pretty early on we decided that the gallery would also be a bookstore and a place where books would be discussed, exchanged, bought and sold. On a broader scale, several independent initiatives in the art world were at the same time developing out of a concern for publishing and graphic design—Dexter Sinister and Primary Information to name a few —and it was possible to reconsider the connection between publishing, art and gallery spaces. Books were an inspiring form in a new way, almost at the level of a chemical activity. The DIY aspect that Oscar mentions in his book echoes what we started when we began the gallery. It was about taking matters into our own hands and using a small space, not only to do exhibitions, but also to invite writers and publishers to assemble an audience for their work. This was not something that was so usual in Paris at the time. One of the first people we invited from abroad after we opened was a friend of Oscar’s, Matthew Stadler, who was living in Seattle at the time. He was really important for us in fostering a conversation around publishing. He spoke at castillo/corrales about what to do with texts besides just publishing them: how to introduce books to new audiences and keep a conversation going once something is published. In 2008, we invited Stadler to be part of a seminar in Spain, at Centro Cultural Montehermoso Kulturunea,
with other artists, writers and publishers — Will Holder, Melanie Gilligan and Kim West among others. It was a very stimulating moment, opening new and unexpected directions of thinking. That was the beginning of The Social Life of the Book.

NL: How did you decide on the structure of the project?

c/c: We had discussed making a publication after that first seminar, but with distance and time, the conversation started to trail off. Later we were invited by Lorenz Benedetti, then the director of De Vleeshal, in Middelburg (NL), to curate a show in a series they were doing around books and publishing structures. We organised a really small afternoon of lectures —Will Holder was there again, as well as other graphic designers including Linda van Deursen, Louis Lüthi and David Bennewith. During our time there we spoke again about how we could continue this reflection on the role of printed matter in the social sphere, how it connects the individual and the private. The idea of a collection of small, simple pamphlets issued one by one came then. The initial conversations already involved so many people living and working in different places. It became clear to us that this was a research project: something that could only happen over time. It was wiser to develop the project so that writers could respond to one another, rather than commission everyone at the same time, collecting the texts and publishing them all in one volume. We came to the idea that The Social Life of the Book should develop piecemeal, as a collaborative process of research and thinking. It is like building a book chapter by chapter, meaning that we imagine each text not only as a 16-page pamphlet, but also as an installment of a larger book in the making, and that these texts will be gathered at some point as a collective proposition. For each installment graphic designer Will Holder, who is conceiving the series with us, can slightly adapt the design and layout according to the needs of each text. If one book asks what it means to have four voices in the same text and another questions what is an annotation or a margin, we can consider how we would like these pages to be structured and read. Another characteristic of doing it this way, and this was one of Will’s ideas, was to picture the community of readers on the back cover of each pamphlet and see it grow from one instalment to the next. We’re experimenting with a subscription principle and we’ve organised workshops and classes around this series. So, the idea of enacting, through publication, the construction of a social life around this publication is really interesting to work with. Again, the project involves more than making a book —throwing it in the world and seeing what happens —rather, it tends to the construction of a public and the complexity of authorship and readership.

NL: How many have you produced so far?

c/c: At the moment six pamphlets have been published. It is important to us that each text is a contribution to the total volume and that we can give each new author the text that has been published before. This has ended up setting the pace for the project.

NL: The Frieze project is going to speed that process up again.

c/c: Yes, this takes us back to the starting point of the project, when we were able to gather a group of people together. Frieze Projects is a very challenging way of creating another situation that accelerates the project, allowing this chemical reaction to happen again. It is an intense moment in which we are able to continue the conversation with different people and consider the future of the project. That is why we are thinking not only about the importance of the publications, but also the importance of being able to bring a group of people together at one time. The environment we’re conceiving for Frieze will also reflect this particular dynamic.