Volume control: Temple gallery installation allows visitors to bind their own books
October 1, 2012By Peter Crimmins
A book in the hand is worth two on the shelf. So hope those running the gallery at Tyler School of Art, recently renamed Temple Contemporary.
The gallery has been outfitted with a computer, printer, guillotine paper cutter, and a glue binder. Together they can download a manuscript, print it, cut it, and bind it into a book in about 15 minutes.
The system is modeled after Publication Studio, a storefront project based in Portland, Oregon, that commissions manuscripts of original art, fiction, and essays, then prints them to order for about $15. There are hundreds of exclusive titles available online.
The printing setup at Tyler is available to anyone who cares to browse that inventory in the cloud, and bind a book of their own.
"We are trying to make available to everyone, as much as possible, the opportunity to get stuck into the creative process," said gallery director Robert Blackson. "For many people, that's working with books."
Books bound to order can be more-cost-effective than large print runs, which must be shipped to retail stores. When they don't sell, the books are shipped back to the publisher and sometimes pulped.
Blackson brought the printing process into an art gallery to encourage visitors to interact with the space. Just a few feet from the glue binder is an electric kiln firing coffee cups molded from Marcellus Shale clay. Nearby is a tricycle outfitted with a stand-up piano, ready to be pedaled and played.
"As an art school, people come were with the expectation that things are being made all the time, so we would like to capitalize on that expectation by making the gallery also the site of production," said Blackson. "So, for some people, that's coming to a lecture. For others, it's taking part in a meal or getting stuck into one of these workstation we have available."
An intriguing process
The printing equipment is being set up with the help of Daniel Fuller, director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the Maine College of Art. Fuller recently launched a Publication Studio in the windows of his own gallery.
"Whenever we're out there making books, right out in the windows, every time, without fail, people come in and wonder what we're doing," said Fuller. "What are the books? What are those machines? All day long. It actually makes it a little difficult to make books, because you're constantly answering questions."
There are Publication Studios in museums and storefronts in six cities in the U.S. and Canada, and each site contributes to the online cloud of titles. Fuller has commissioned and published original fiction from Maine residents. Blackson is soliciting manuscripts from Temple's departments of poetry and photography.
The Publication Studio will be on view, and active, until February.