Tique | art paper asks eight questions to an international art book publisher about its motivation, practice and role today. This week: Avarie.
What motivated you to start publishing?
My literary and academic background have given me a longstanding and generalized passion for books and these helped me see in the book, the ideal form with which to express my world view. But, above all, founding a publishing house was an act of survival. These days, university research, especially in literature and the visual arts, is becoming more and more difficult; Avarie is for me a place where I can practice as independently as possible. Moreover, it was born in the context of a very specific project: the publication of texts by the photographer Antoine d’Agata for the first time in English and in Italian. Since it was impossible to find a publishing house willing to do it, to take on the responsibility and the business risk, in 2012 I decided that was the best opportunity to start this kind of activity and to embark on a career in the independent publishing world. I was also motivated by a reduction in production and printing costs at that time, as well as by a renewed interest in the book as an object, in its materials and manufacture.
How would you describe your role in the creation of a publication?
My role is very active, and it ranges from creation to sales, going through the entire production process (paper, ink, printing and binding) including marketing, distribution and accounting. I consider myself not only a publisher, but also a curator. I don’t see the book as a place for a ready-made project, but as a space for research and creation in close collaboration with the artist and the graphic designer, a construction built in a conceptual, autonomous and organic way. The book becomes an artwork in its own right, standing independently from the work of art that inspired it.
What do you look for in a project?
The desire to work with an artist on a particular project always arises from an initial question posed by his or her work; from a kind of doubt raised by images or words that pushes me to undertake the project in an attempt to decipher or understand this ambiguity.
It’s also very important to have some affinity with the artist in terms of research and objectives, so that every single project is a coherent part of a wider design which draws, book after book, a strong common thread through the publishing house. Each book should be the result of a perfect balance between form and content that ultimately makes some kind of sense.
What advice would you give to anyone planning to make a publication?
Always start from a genuine need: ask yourself whether the idea is really important and whether a book is the most suitable form to explore it. Getting personally involved in an experimental path which shouldn’t succumb too much to the demands of the book market. Conceiving the book not as something to read quickly, but as an object that requires time, effort and also represents a degree of difficulty. That is important if you want your project to be strong enough to resist and distinguish itself from an art or photo book market that is increasingly saturated with publications that contaminate and circumscribe the reader’s gaze. Feed yourself on books, of course, but also be inspired by non-literary sources and personal experiences, in order to avoid being excessively influenced by current trends and to avoid the trap of predictability.
What do you consider to be your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is a kind of struggle that, every time, I have to undertake against the closed form of a book: how to convey the movement, the vibration and thus, the life into a “fixed” form; how to express time into the book space; how to overcome structural and physical limits. At the same time, these difficulties bring extraordinary freedom and fuel the imagination. Scarce economic means help to sharpen one’s wits in pursuit of new strategies to survive as publisher who aims at quality, and not at quantity.
As a lot specialized (art)bookstores are disappearing, is it harder to present the publications to a wide audience? Are you using new channels to reach them?
As independent publishers, we are maybe caught in a kind of paradox: on the one hand, the attempt to offer books with a certain quality and sensitivity that are bound to address a niche; on the other hand, the desire to grow the market, to make these publications accessible despite their expense, an inevitable consequence of the lack of financial support for their production.
Since we have less bargaining power to achieve greater visibility through traditional channels and since many art bookstores are struggling, social networks (such as a website, an online shop and Facebook in our case) are really helpful nowadays. But it’s also very important to take part in festivals and fairs, to organize talks and shows, to travel directly to visit art spaces, to meet booksellers and other professionals not only to avoid distribution/diffusion costs, but also to be able to support books in a more authentic way and maintain a strong connection with reality.
What do you find the most rewarding?
First of all, the relationship I build with the artist, then with the audience. Making a book is a question of encounters and exchanges. The collaboration is a mutual act of trust: the artist doesn’t only entrust me with his/her work, but also with the responsibility to give him/her back a book which is honest, true and respectful of his/her activity. The advantage of being independent is the possibility of having a direct exchange with the public too in fairs, festivals or through social networks. All this, together with the creative process itself, allows for a kind of personal and professional development and a deeper awareness of the role of the publisher that goes beyond mundane results and achievements. Finally, the journey from an idea to a virtual file and then on to a physical object that one can hold and smell is an endless surprise and an incomparable feeling.
What does the future hold?
As Avarie makes one book at a time, for the moment we are at the stage of promoting our latest publication, From static oblivion by Ion Grigorescu.
So, in the near future, there are several photo festivals, art book fairs, workshops and talks about our editorial projects, video projections and book presentations, at least until the beginning of the autumn term. But I’m already studying and getting inspired by the next project I fell in love with.