Book as Venue: Interview with Gean Moreno of [NAME] Publications

[NAME] Publications was founded in 2008 by Gean Moreno, a Miami-based artist and writer whose own recent works in the form of texts, prints and sculpture (undertaken collaboratively with Ernesto Oroza) document and ruminate on the building blocks of contemporary material culture. Moreno made the leap from newsprint, milk crates, speaker boxes and cast concrete to the hardcover book with the intention of offering artists an exhibition venue in book form.

The imprint’s newly released fourth title is Nicolas Lobo’s Album Graphics. The book documents the artist’s foray into the contemporary D.C.-area Go-Go music scene, a genre rooted in 70’s funk and early rap with an emphasis on live performance, in the guise of a graphic designer. Lobo’s web-based negotiations with Go-Go musicians and promoters via genre-specific online forums are documented with much of the formatting and informal spelling intact. The book is full of Myspace screen captures, t-shirt designs, photo backdrops, video stills and promo flyers for Go-Go shows, some of which were produced by Lobo. Album Graphics archives an artist’s project that, while deeply engaged with unsanctioned modes of cultural production, would otherwise remain formless.

Below, Gean Moreno delves into some questions about form, formlessness and invisible architectures.

CHRISTY GAST: How does a book become a venue?

GEAN MORENO: Through a kind of willed ignorance. Although I’ve always been into books, particularly graphically odd ones (the lineage that comes down from Tristam Shandy) and other kinds of less formal publications, I know nothing about book production or design. Instead of learning about these things, I told myself that a book was like an exhibition venue, confusing two different kinds of containers. That’s the experiment. What I like about thinking of the book as a “venue” is that this in turn invites artists to stick in books what they would usually stick in buildings–works. That is, it suggests the possibility of thinking the book as a space onto which the ideas that inform their practices can spill, or extend, or simply cross. (Rather, I supposed, than be contained, as it usually happens with monographs and other book-books.)

CG: What parameters do you give artists at the beginning of a project?

GM: The books should be 6″x9″, hardcover, about 100 pages, 4-color. That’s it.

CG: You describe [NAME] Publications as a “malleable platform for book-based projects,” implying that the default format is rigid or inflexible, and the proper position from the artist’s standpoint is to hack or deform the book. How have the first four publications from the imprint approached the book as an object?

GM: I think the “malleable platform” bit was a kind of preemptive move, something said to justify any turn away from actual books in the future. What has been most interesting about the books produced thus far is how they have had to negotiate the book as a physical and generic artiact and the technologies that organize our lives. Daniel Newman’s WWW and Nick Lobo’s Album Graphics are “internet” books. Newman, making a contemporary version of the 18th century dictionary of ideas, went to the same place we all go to collect information and ideas these days. He not only employed the internet as a resource, but allowed it to stand emblematically for the source or generator of our contemporary knowledge. He literally downloaded 120 pages-worth of material, alphabetized the textual parts, and…that’s it. The result, of course, is much more interesting than this description suggests.

Beatriz Monteavaro took the opposite approach in Quiet Village–opposite, up to a point. She produced a scrapbook. It’s filled with her drawings and her notations. It’s a total return of the personal, of the author, etc. And yet, at the end, she just scanned everything. One almost sees this feeding of her unique drawings into the scanner as a  kind of stand-in for her feeding them into the vast generic universe of endless reproduction and strict digital codes. And this, I think, changes everything, complicates this return to the intimate and the personal. There is something interesting at the frictional interface or faultline between “obsolete” books and digital technologies (and the generic systems these generate). These books, as a collection, seem to be setting up camp at the edge of this faultline.

CG: Is there a common thread, conceptually or otherwise, linking the artists you selected for the first four publications?

GM: The selection is a bit intuative. If an artist is working with an interesting set of ideas and it’s difficult to know how this would translate into a book–this is usually enough to make me start thinking about them.

CG: What’s next for [NAME] Publications?

GM: Viking Funeral is up next.

CG: Where are the books sold?

GM:, Printed Matter in New York, Boekie Woekie in Amsterdam, Sweat Records, Books & Books, Miami Art Museum, and the Bass Museum in Miami.

~Christy Gast